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As Mainstream Journalists acknowledge Douma Attacks were “Staged,” Syria Regime-Change Network tries to Save Sinking Ship

“Humanitarian” regime-change network increasingly desperate to protect its influence and the power of its narratives, not just in Syria but in future conflicts.

By Whitney Webb and Vanessa Beeley | MintPress News | February 18, 2019

LONDON — Over the past few days, notable journalists and other figures in mainstream media have acknowledged that the alleged chemical weapons attack that occurred last April in the Damascus suburb of Douma, Syria was likely “staged” by “activist” groups such as the White Helmets. Their comments and investigations have largely vindicated the many journalists and academics who cast aspersions on the precipitous Western media campaign to blame that alleged attack on the Syrian government. Many of the dissenting voices were derided as “conspiracy theorists” or ignored entirely by mainstream sources.

Yet, now that these revelations are being voiced by acceptable figures in mainstream media, those who have built their careers on promoting the White Helmets and regime change in Syria are working to discredit these new dissenting voices. Among those on the counter-attack are individuals connected to the oligarch-funded “humanitarian” regime-change network that was the subject of a recent MintPress exposé.

The alleged Douma attack — notably used as the justification for a military attack launched against Syria by the U.S., the U.K. and France — returned to the news cycle earlier this month following a report from James Harkin, a journalist who has written for The Guardian, Harper’s and the Financial Times, and is currently the director of the Center for Investigative Journalism. Harkin’s report, which was published in The Intercept, cast doubt on the prevailing mainstream narrative surrounding the events that occurred in Douma last April.

Harkin, in visiting Douma and the surrounding area, confirmed past reporting by other independent journalists that no sarin gas had been used — which was also confirmed by the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) interim report — and claimed that the scenes filmed at the Medical Point in Douma, which were widely circulated by the mainstream media as evidence that a chemical weapons attack had occurred, had likely been staged. Harkin lamented the staging of the hospital scenes as a casualty of “Syria’s propaganda war.”

Elements of Harkin’s rather rambling report were rapidly corroborated by BBC producer Riam Dalati, who revealed on Twitter that he had proof, after a six-month investigation, that those same hospital scenes had been staged.

Dalati had previously been the cause of some consternation among the pro-regime-change pundits when he had tweeted, immediately after the alleged Douma chemical attack, that he was “sick and tired of activists and rebels using the corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption.” Dalati was referring to the image of two children wrapped in a “last hug” that went viral on social media, eliciting sympathy for the “chemical attack” narrative.

Dalati pointed out that the two children had been photographed on separate floors in the building before being artfully arranged into the “last hug” position by the producers of this scene, which was picked up by the majority of corporate media and used to give the impression that the Syrian Arab Army had used chemical weapons against their own civilians as they were concluding final amnesty negotiations with Jaish Al Islam, the extremist group then occupying Douma.

Shortly after deleting the aforementioned tweet, Dalati protected his Twitter account before reiterating his observations in a less inflammatory tweet, while explaining that his first tweet had been “correctly deemed in breach of [BBC] editorial policy thru [sic] use of ‘sick/tired’ and by not providing context…”

Dalati had notably been a member of the production team of the notorious September 2013 BBC Panorama documentary “Saving Syria’s Children” — a report that was forensically investigated by independent researcher Robert Stuart, who concluded that “sequences filmed by BBC personnel and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a nearby school are largely, if not entirely, staged.”

So, Dalati, no stranger to controversy, appears to have once more broken with the ranks of mainstream media by admitting that the White Helmet “chemical attack” scenes in Douma Medical Point were “without a doubt” staged. One might ask why it took Dalati six months of investigation to arrive at the same conclusion as acclaimed journalist Robert Fisk and other on-the-ground journalists did just days after the attack occurred. At the time, those journalists had been labeled by Dalati and others as “conspiracy theorists.”

However, the recent statements made by Dalati and Harkin’s recent report have hardly created a consensus regarding the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma within the mainstream media. Instead, much the opposite has happened, with journalists and “experts” who have linked their professional reputations to the credibility of groups like the US/UK incubated and financed White Helmets now going on the offensive in an effort to trivialize the recent revelations regarding the events of April 7, 2018.

Following the renewed interest in the Douma incident as a result of Harkin’s report and Dalati’s subsequent tweets, Tobias Schneider — a research fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI) — accused people like Harkin and Dalati of “squabbling over the intricacies” of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, later calling these independent investigations and statements “madness.”

We must presume that Schneider’s Twitter accusation would also be directed at genuinely independent journalists and academics who presented evidence to counter the dominant Douma narratives produced by the usual suspects in corporate media and groups like the White Helmets affiliated to Jaish Al Islam, the brutal armed group in control of Douma. Among those are journalists who actually visited Douma immediately after the attack — Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, Robert Fisk of the Independent, Uli Gack from ZDF, Germany  and Pearson Sharp of OAN (One America News Network). Also, potentially in Schneider’s crosshairs are the members of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda Media (WGSPM) established by Professor Piers Robinson who produced an extensive briefing scrutinizing the media anomalies in the Douma attack.

Unwilling to stop there, Schneider also announced that the GPPI would be publishing the first analytical study “on the logic underpinning the Syrian regime’s systematic use of improvised chlorine bombs in particular” that would use “the broadest dataset compilable and break down tactical, operational, strategic patterns” in order to claim that, despite a lack of evidence for chemical weapons use in Douma last year, other separate incidents form a pattern that would incriminate the Syrian government in the events alleged to have taken place last April. The report has now been published and has been picked up by the usual purveyors and promoters of the “chemical attack” narratives that are designed to criminalize the Syrian government.

A look into Schneider’s background and the organization that employs him hardly paints a picture of an objective observer of the evidence surrounding this hot-button issue. Quite the contrary, Schneider and the GPPI are directly connected to the “humanitarian” regime-change network that was exposed in a recent MintPress series for its efforts to exploit the death of the late MP Jo Cox in order to manufacture consent for regime change in Syria and whitewash both the U.K.-government connections to the White Helmets and the White Helmets’ own troubling track record in facilitating and even directly committing war crimes.

Who is Tobias Schneider?

According to his bio at the GPPI website, Tobias Schneider is a research fellow at GPPI who focuses on “insurgency and counterinsurgency in the contemporary Middle East,” among other related issues. Prior to working with GPPI, Schneider worked as a consultant on Syria and Yemen for the World Bank, an influential financial institution that a WikiLeaks document recently confirmed; is used as a “financial weapon” by the United States military.

He has also worked at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), a pro-NATO think tank located in Washington. CEPA’s stated mission is “to promote an economically vibrant, strategically secure, and politically free Europe with close and enduring ties to the United States.” Its international advisory board includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once stated that the death of half a million Iraqi children from U.S. sanctions was “worth it;” and Brian Hook, current Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Zbigniew Brzeziński — former National Security Adviser in the Carter administration who is best known for his role in arming and creating the terror group Al Qaeda — was also a board member up until his death in 2017.

Currently, however, Schneider — in addition to serving as a GPPI research fellow — is an expert for the Atlantic Council’s “Rebuilding Syria” initiative. The Atlantic Council is a Washington-based think tank with strong ties to the U.S. military and NATO, and receives significant amounts of funding from American arms manufacturers, U.S. intelligence agencies, and foreign governments. This think tank, and its “Rebuilding Syria” initiative in particular have been particularly zealous in promoting regime change in Syria and in marketing hybrid groups like the White Helmets. This is hardly surprising given that the U.S. and U.K. governments have given millions of dollars to both groups and were instrumental in the creation of the White Helmets as a refined “propaganda construct”, their description by journalist, John Pilger.

Schneider also has made appearances at events hosted by “Friends of Syria”APPG (All Party Parliamentary Groups) the U.K. group that includes several MPs — including Jo Cox prior to her death — and has extensively promoted U.K. military intervention in Syria, with a particular emphasis on emotional appeals largely based on White Helmet testimony and footage. Chair of Schneider’s panel was Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP, former UK secretary of state for international development 2010-2012 and alongside Jo Cox, a fervent supporter of regime change in Syria and an unquestioning White Helmet acolyte.

Global Public Policy Institute’s place in regime-change network

Beyond Schneider’s conflicts of interests by virtue of his work history and current associations, the organization that employs him — the Global Public Policy Institute — is directly connected to an oligarch-directed and oligarch-funded regime-change network that specializes in manufacturing “humanitarian” justifications for Western military adventurism abroad. The main oligarchs who drive this network, as detailed in a recent articles series at MintPress, include Jeffrey Skoll, George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, and Ted Turner — philanthrocapitalists aligned with the neoliberal, globalist agendas of the U.S/U.K alliance.

In addition to its stated mission of “improving global governance,” in line with globalist designs, the GPPI is funded by the German and U.K. governments as well as the Open Society Foundations of controversial Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, whose many organizations have been intimately involved in promoting the White Helmets and related narratives that push for increased Western military intervention in Syria. Soros’ influence in the GPPI is demonstrated by the position his son, Alexander Soros, holds on the GPPI’s advisory board.

Another notable member of the GPPI advisory board is Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation, which is funded by the Omidyar Network, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and the U.S. State Department, among others.

However, the most damning connection between the GPPI and the “humanitarian” regime-change network used by Western governments and oligarchs is the GPPI’s director, Thorsten Benner. Benner.  According to Benner’s  GPPI bio, he previously worked with the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, the UN Development Programme in New York, and the Global Public Policy Project in Washington, before co-founding GPPI.

Most notably, however, Benner is a director at More in Common, the international initiative founded, after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, by members of  the Jo Cox Four — exposed by the authors of this present article to be at the center of the aforementioned “humanitarian” regime-change network — to exploit Cox’s death to push for Western military intervention in Syria.

Other directors of More in Common include Sally Osberg, former president of the Skoll Foundation; Will Somerville, former member of the U.K. Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit under Tony Blair and current U.K. program director of Unbound Philanthropy. Somerville is also a Senior Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, which is funded by the Open Society Foundations, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank, Walmart, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.K. government.

In addition, two other directors of More In Common, who also co-founded the group, are Tim Dixon and Gemma Mortensen. Both Mortensen and Dixon have been directly connected to regime-change efforts in Syria and elsewhere. Interested readers can find much more information about Dixon, Mortensen, More in Common and the “humanitarian” regime-change network to which they are connected here, here and here.

Our narrative and we’re sticking with it

As the Syria conflict appears to be winding down with the regime-change effort having failed in its effort to overturn Syria’s current government, perhaps more critical attention by those in mainstream and independent media has come to focus on the manufactured narratives used by powerful interests and governments to make a case for military intervention to the public.

With these efforts having failed, we have perhaps begun to see several mainstream journalists break from the pack, perhaps as these individual journalists have little personal investment in backing the push for regime change in Syria. However, those journalists and “experts” who have staked their professional reputations on these narratives — such as the ubiquitous chemical weapon attacks blamed on the Syrian government — and who systematically protect the White Helmets as serial “do-gooders” — are scrambling to keep those narratives together lest they be revealed for the hollow manipulation of cherry-picked facts, images and videos that they are.

Schneider’s report is unlikely to impress the far more independent and qualified experts and journalists who have consistently questioned the Syria “chemical weapons” narrative — which has taken on the mantle of “weapons of mass destruction,” a previously debunked government and media canard that took us to war in Iraq. Schneider’s GPPI initiative, however, may just be a stitch in time to suture the leaks that are now emanating from the mainstream media and in particular from the BBC, a traditional bastion of protection for U.K. government foreign policy directives on Syria.

Dalati may genuinely be a rogue maverick, sickened by what he has seen. He may also be working at the behest of the BBC directors — to limit the damage to the BBC’s reputation were the OPCW to release its final report any time soon. Imagine that the OPCW final report errs toward a conclusion that no chemical attack took place in Douma: where would that leave the BBC and colonial media establishment? The trust gap would widen exponentially. Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, Schneider’s report is indicative of the distress signals being emitted by the “humanitarian” regime-change network floundering on the rocks of its own failed campaign to destabilize Syria and overthrow the majority-elected Syrian government.

When Professor Piers Robinson of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM) heard of Schneider’s intention to produce the report, he told MintPress News:

It is extraordinary that, on the one hand, careful analysis of evidence in the case of Douma is being trivialized as ‘madness,’ while on the other, Schneider is suggesting that his think tank is about to publish careful and rigorous analysis regarding alleged chemical weapon attacks. He seems to be saying, in effect, that careful and detailed analysis and discussion regarding individual attacks is irrelevant to knowledge and understanding. This reflects very poorly both on him as a researcher and on the think tank that he works for.”

In his tweets, Schneider did indeed appear to trivialize serious research into the alleged Douma chemical attacks. This is extraordinary when one considers that the rush to judgment of corporate media, NATO-aligned think tanks and France/UK/US (FUKUS) government spokespersons led to the unlawful bombing of Syria only one week after the staged hospital scenes had appeared. Russia was accused of producing an “obscene masquerade” by bringing actual Syrian civilians to the OPCW headquarters in the Hague — to testify that no chemical weapons attack had taken place. The “obscene masquerade” had already taken place in Douma and had been marketed as truth by the media outlets invested in their governments’ destructive Syria campaign.

Schneider is very probably just another in a long line of willing instruments of the billionaire industrial complex, deployed to extinguish the failing “chemical weapons” narrative fire that threatens to consume their credibility for years to come. Douma and the exposure of all those who built and financed the edifice of lies surrounding this event may just be what brings the entire war machine grinding to a halt in Syria and beyond.

As much as Schneider and his backers continue to protect the propaganda producers — the White Helmets — the evidence building against this multi-million funded construct is overwhelming. The White Helmet concept will surely go down in history as one of the most elaborate propaganda heists that failed, thanks to the concerted efforts of very few to expose the true agenda of the group — an agenda which is driven by the same government agencies and predatory capitalists that have sponsored Schneider’s report.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and has contributed to several other independent, alternative outlets. Her work has appeared on sites such as Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire among others. She also makes guest appearances to discuss politics on radio and television. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist, peace activist, photographer and associate editor at 21st Century Wire. Vanessa was a finalist for one of the most prestigious journalism awards – the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism – whose winners have included the likes of Robert Parry in 2017, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Nick Davies and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism team. You can support Vanessa’s journalism through her Patreon Page.

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 3 Comments

Real ‘obscene masquerade’: How BBC depicted staged hospital scenes as proof of Douma chemical attack

By Vanessa Beeley | RT | February 16, 2019

In an extraordinary turn of events, corporate media appears to have been exposed again as an extension of state foreign policy, by a member of the establishment media cabal, manufacturing consent for regime change in Syria.

Riam Dalati is on the BBC production team based in Beirut and describes himself, on his Twitter page, as an “esteemed colleague” of Quentin Sommerville, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent. Dalati broke ranks with his UK Government-aligned media, on Twitter, to announce that “after almost 6 months of investigation, I can prove, without a doubt, that the Douma hospital scene was staged.”

The scenes in question are those manufactured by the White Helmet pseudo-humanitarian group and activists affiliated to Jaish al-Islam, the extremist armed group in charge of Douma at the time of the alleged chemical weapon attack on April 7, 2018. The scenes of children being hosed down, following a “chemical attack” were immediately accepted as credible and appeared alongside sensationalist headlines in most Western media outlets, including the BBC, CNN and Channel 4. Simon Tisdall of the Guardian wrote an opinion piece, with the headline ‘After Douma the West’s response to Syria regime must be military’ – only two days after Douma, effectively calling for all out war.

While Dalati’s tweets have clearly distressed some notables in the establishment camp, Dalati is no stranger to such controversy. Almost immediately after the alleged incident in Douma, he tweeted out his frustration that “activists and rebels” had used “corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption.” The emotive wording of Dalati’s tweet, he was “sick and tired” of such manipulation of events, suggested that this was not the first time children had been used as props in a macabre war theatre designed to elicit public sympathy for escalated military intervention in Syria disguised as a necessary “humanitarian” crack down on “Assad’s gassing of his own people.”

Dalati had been referring to the arranging of two children’s corpses into a “last hug” still life composition, a photo that went viral, rocketed into the social media sphere by activists who had collaborated with the brutal Jaish al-Islam regime while it tortured and abused the Syrian civilians under its control.

Perhaps Dalati’s apparent outburst could be explained by his participation in the production of the controversial September 2013 BBC Panorama documentary, ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. An independent researcher, Robert Stuart, has made it his life’s work to present a compelling argument that “sequences filmed by BBC personnel and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on August 26, 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a nearby school are largely, if not entirely, staged.” Perhaps Dalati had witnessed one too many stagings of events that would precipitate the potential for war in Syria between the US and Russia.

Whatever the reason for Dalati’s exasperation, the tweet was deleted before a watered down version appeared. Dalati claimed that a “breach of editorial policy” and lack of context was behind this alteration. Apparently BBC employees are not allowed to be “sick and tired” of the exploitation of children to promote a war that will inevitably kill more children. Simultaneously, Dalati’s account was protected, making tweets visible only to approved followers.

On two significant occasions to date, Dalati appears to deviate from the BBC narrative road map in Syria. However, Dalati had participated in the corporate media lynching of journalists and academics who had dared to question the dominant “chemical attack” narrative, at the time of the alleged incident in Douma, dismissing them as conspiracy theorists. These “conspiracy theorists” included acclaimed journalist, Robert Fisk and Uli Gack, an experienced war correspondent with ZDF, a German public media outlet. Independent journalist, Eva Bartlett, and Pearson Sharpe of One American News Network also reported evidence of staging and mainstream media distortion of events in Douma.

I visited Douma shortly after the alleged attack. I interviewed medical staff and civilians who were adamant that a chemical attack had not taken place. Doctors and nurses, some of whom were on duty on the night in question, told me that adults and children were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation. They described the panic generated by the activists and White Helmet operatives who arrived crying “chemical attack” before they hosed down the traumatised patients.

20-year-old Suleiman Saour told me: “At 7pm we had been receiving wounded people all day long. At 7pm someone came in carrying a little boy, he laid him on a bed and said he had been hit with chemical weapons. Basically I checked the boy […] he was suffering from smoke inhalation […] we washed his face, used a spray and Ventolin. Later on we found out the child had asthma and it got worse because of the smoke.”

Academics, Professors Piers Robinson and Tim Hayward, came under concerted attack as did other members of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media when they analysed the events and questioned the veracity of it being a chemical attack. In the UK, the Times published no less than four articles labeling myself and the “rogue” academics as “Assad’s useful idiots,” timed to perfection on the day that the UK, US and France launched their unlawful bombing campaign against Syria. A bombing campaign that was fully enabled by the ignominious rush to judgement by corporate media in the West.

It has taken Dalati six months to arrive at the same conclusion as those he condemned as compromised “conspiracy theorists,” therefore we must question his motives for suddenly releasing these conclusions. Peter Ford, former UK Ambassador to Syria, gave me his opinion on Dalati’s revelations.

“The UK joined Trump and Macron in illegally bombing Syria largely on the basis of a video clip shown ad nauseam on the BBC, which a BBC Syria producer has now said he has evidence was staged. The BBC in their statement are not denying the claim. The implications are shattering: firstly that the state broadcaster effectively connived at a manipulation of public opinion, and secondly that the British government launched its attack on Syria on a false and fabricated premise. This demands a public enquiry.”

Ford’s statement highlights the seriousness of Dalati’s statement which must surely raise questions about the possibility of previous “chemical attack” narratives also being manipulated, staged or fabricated. Swedish Doctors for Human Rights investigated the alleged chlorine gas attack in Sarmin, March 2015 and found the medical procedures conducted by doctors at the scene to be extremely questionable.

Dr Leif Elinder, a Swedish medical doctor and paediatric specialist, found that “after examination of the video material, I found that the measures inflicted upon those children, some of them lifeless, are bizarre, non-medical, non-lifesaving, and even counterproductive in terms of life-saving purposes of children.” This video, produced and presented by the White Helmets and their colleagues at the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), was shown during a UN Security Council “closed door” session to promote a no-fly zone which translates to protection for the US coalition-backed terrorist forces on the ground in Syria.

As BBC producer has stated publicly that the hospital scenes during the Douma “attack” are staged, the BBC has distanced itself by stating that these are the personal claims of an employee which do not mean an attack did not take place. The July 2018 OPCW interim report has already discredited the early sensationalism of western media reporting. “No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties,” it stated. No Sarin.

The OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) has not yet reached a conclusion that a chemical attack of any kind took place in Douma. The environmental samples were reported to contain chlorinated organic molecules such as trichloroacetic acid and chloral hydrate, which could be attributed to something as basic as chlorinated drinking water. Despite this ambiguity, the BBC initially ran with the headline that ‘Chlorine was used’ in the Douma attack before altering to ‘Possible Chlorine at Douma Attack Site’. Another mistake? Or another deliberate attempt to mislead and shore up the UK FCO regime change storyline in Syria?

Dalati’s revelations must also be viewed in context. They follow similar conclusions arrived at by corporate media colleague and journalist, James Harkin, a Guardian contributor who published a long-winded Douma investigation in the Intercept. Harkin also conceded that the Douma hospital scenes were likely staged and that the Sarin canard was a non-starter.

It is very unlikely, despite the BBC protestation, that Dalati would risk publishing his claims without approval from BBC hierarchy. Timing is always crucial when examining events that have the potential to expose colonial media, particularly the BBC, as the refined state PR agencies they are in reality.

Based on an informed and intelligent interpretation of events with historical context, we could speculate that the OPCW is about to release its final findings on the Douma attack. A report which has the potential to lay bare the full extent of the BBC’s deception and falsification of facts in Douma. A report which could raise unpleasant questions about corporate media reporting, particularly on alleged chemical weapon use by the Syrian government, throughout the 8 year conflict in Syria. Was Dalati’s shock information release nothing more than a damage limitation tactic by the BBC or is Dalati genuinely a rogue truth-teller? Only time will tell.

What Dalati has done is highlight the hypocrisy and bias of Western media and government officials. The BBC report on the Russian “production” of Douma-chemical-attack-denying witnesses at the HQ of the OPCW in the Hague emphasises the dismissal of the event as a “despicable stunt” by the UK, US and France who boycotted the proceedings. French ambassador to the Netherlands described the Syrian civilian testimonies as an “obscene masquerade.” The Guardian ran with this statement as its headline, reducing Russia’s attempt to bring some clarity to the Douma attack to the unveiling of “supposed witnesses” in order to discredit such attempts to derail their preferred narrative.

Now, it appears that the real obscene masquerade took place in the Medical Point in Douma, was constructed by the UK FCO-financed White Helmets, and was adopted by the BBC and other state stenographers as gospel in order to further criminalise the Syrian Arab Army just as the final liberation of Douma from Jaish al-Islam brutal rule was fast approaching. This obscene masquerade resulted in the unlawful bombing of Syria by the US, France and the UK. As Peter Ford stated, “this demands a public enquiry.”

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Western Media Haven’t Covered Syria the Way They Should’ – Prof

Sputnik – February 14, 2019

The video of people being treated after an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma was fabricated. This is what BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati wrote on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

Sputnik has discussed the development with Piers Robinson, co-director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies and professor at the University of Sheffield.

Sputnik: What is your reaction to Mr Dalati’s tweets?

Piers Robinson: It’s obviously very interesting that somebody in his position is now declaring that it’s his opinion that there was some element of manipulation or fabrication occurring in the events surrounding Douma. In some ways, of course, as you see in the recent Intercept article by [James] Harkin, the message of his idea is that there was an attack of some kind and Riam Dalati is saying that there was an attack.

But what kind of attack is unclear. So we really need to hear more from him. But at the very least, if it is the case that it is established that there were staging and manipulation going on, then it really just starts to raise a whole series of further questions about staging and manipulation in the case of Douma, running all the way through to the obvious question which is whether it was some kind of a false flag event.

That it was something that was carried out by opposition groups, Jaish al-Islam, in order to try to enable a military intervention, which obviously did occur six or seven days later with the bombing against Damascus. All of that is on the table now, undoubtedly.

And in some ways what Riam is saying does confirm what myself and many other academics, independent researchers and journalists have been saying for some time that there are serious questions about the official claims being brought forward by Western governments about what happened in Douma.

Sputnik: Moscow is now waiting for an official response from BBC to this tweet. What’re your thoughts? Will the BBC respond and what we can expect from them in the way of some kind of response based on, perhaps, past incidents?

Piers Robinson: I’m really not quite sure if I can guess how the BBC might respond. I think we need to wait and see what more comes out. I mean, it’s not very clear if Riam Dalati is referring to an article he has coming out, if that’s an article which is going to go to the BBC or independently, we just don’t know.

I guess most media organisations in general when they’ve got it wrong in the past tend to be fairly mealy-mouthed in their ability to either correct the record or to apologise for what has happened. We saw that in the case of the 2003 Iraq War, with some very limited apologies about their failure to scrutinise Western governments over WMD claims in Iraq.

So, I would suspect nothing more than a very cautious response from the BBC and they will probably want to wait and see what more Riam Dalati comes out and says over the coming days and weeks.

Sputnik: It’s interesting that there aren’t really [any] mainstream media reports about this at all. Do you think it’s just too early, or do you think there are some other reasons for that nobody has really picked up on this?

Piers Robinson: I think the reasons are well-known. We know that when it comes to, especially foreign policy, war and conflict, media in Western democracies, as is the case in pretty much every other country in the world, tend to toe the line of what governments are doing and saying. This is well established across the critical political communication literature; it’s for a whole number of reasons that this occurs.

Mainstream media, in the case of Syria, haven’t been covering it in the way they should have been because they have been beholden and co-opted by the government position and so on in relation to this conflict. We see it in every war time and time again; and it’s no different in the conflict in Syria than it was on the case of Iraq or going all the way back to Vietnam in the 1960s.

You see a real timidity and lack of confidence amongst journalists and editors to really ask difficult questions of their governments when their countries are involved in some kind of war.

READ MORE:

BBC Says Its Producer Expressed ‘Personal Opinions’ on Douma Incident

BBC Producer Says Footage of Alleged Gas Attack Victims in Syria’s Douma Staged<

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 Comments

BBC “Trying to Limit Damage” After Fake News of Syrian Chemical Attack – Journo

Sputnik – February 14, 2019

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati tweeted on Wednesday that the video of people treated after an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma had been fabricated. Sputnik has discussed the development with Vanessa Beeley, an independent investigative journalist who specialises in the Middle East and Syria in particular.

Sputnik: This doesn’t really look good though, does it, for Mr. Dalati. Why do you think he decided to speak up now? He is now contradicting himself basically.

Vanessa Beeley: Well, yeah, and effectively this is a damage limitation operation. One of their own, so to speak, James Harkin, who is a mainstream journalist, he writes in the Internet and he also writes for the Guardian, and the Guardian’s Simon Tisdall I believe it was, almost immediately after the alleged attack in Douma, which has, of course, been largely discredited by the OPCW report that has told us that no organic phosphates were used, there is still an element of doubt over whether chlorine was used. But the OPCW report itself has already negated the use of sarin in this attack.

But when Harkin himself is saying that this event was staged, then, of course, the BBC and Louisa Loveluck of Washington Post are immediately, in my opinion, trying to limit damage.

Sputnik: What do you think the BBC is going to do next? Do you think that they are going to have an official statement out on this? What can we expect?

Vanessa Beeley: I guess we should be waiting for Riam Dalati’s full investigation. He’s told us on Twitter that he’s been looking into this for six months and he’ll be providing further details soon. So we should be waiting to see whether the BBC will retract its previous statements; I mean it put out a very misleading report even on the use of chlorine after the release of the OPCW interim report. It basically stated on its leading report that chlorine had been used, it later changed that but it didn’t retract its storyline.

And I’ve just checked, for example, the Telegraph, on its timeline of chemical weapon attacks or alleged chemical weapon attacks inside Syria, it’s still stating that it is alleged that sarin was used in Douma. So, that is still standing on the Telegraph website.

So, fundamentally what these mainstream outlets do is put out a narrative which, as I’ve pointed out, effectively manufactured consent for the unlawful bombing of a sovereign nation, Syria, by the US, France and the UK post- the Douma alleged attack. But these storylines and these narratives are never retracted; so it remains to be seen whether the BBC will apologise to Syria for having manufactured the consent for the bombing, and whether Riam Dalati and the BBC will apologise to academics and to independent journalists that they smeared at the time for arriving at the same conclusion they’ve now arrived at.

Sputnik: If Mr. Dalati’s tweet is proven, what will it say about the White Helmets and their trustworthiness, not to mention their, perhaps, role in the whole event?

Vanessa Beeley: Of course, this raises huge questions. I mean, I’ve proven and I’ve written an open investigation based on testimony from civilians in Eastern Ghouta of the White Helmets staging at least one chemical weapon attack one month before Douma… which was actually derailed by the civilians themselves who exposed it on social media etc. The White Helmets have been proven time and time again to be staging events in order to serve the NATO member states’ regime change narrative inside Syria. This might start to raise questions over the veracity of the White Helmets reports, bearing in mind that the UK government document has publicly stated that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, rely extensively on the evidence of the White Helmets to produce their reports that, again, largely criminalise the Syrian government.

Sputnik: This alleged attack was actually used to justify a response, the bombing of the area by the US, UK and France; it was quite a significant military strike that was perpetrated after that attack. What would this mean for evaluating the legality or the justification of that attack?

Vanessa Beeley: The very fact that France, the UK and the US went ahead and bombed Syria, and as you said it was an extensive bombing operation that targeted alleged chemical weapons manufacturing facilities that were proven afterwards and also reported by OPCW to not be chemical weapons manufacturing facilities, brings into question the legality of that attack. It brings into question the legality of the entire regime change war that has been waged against Syria since 2011, of course instigated by those same nations that bombed after Douma.

But the fact that that the bombing went ahead without any OPCW investigation having been able to take place and based entirely on what is now proven or thought to be spurious information from groups like the White Helmets, that are being funded by the nations that carried out the bombing attack, I mean, this is an extraordinary event; this basically means that the US, the UK and France have completely violated international law time and time again inside Syria and this must be brought into the light, it must be investigated. And the media’s role in enabling this unlawful act must also be investigated.

READ MORE:

Assad Calls Douma Chemical Attack ‘British PR Stunt’ Straight to UK Media’s Face

BBC Producer Says Footage of Alleged Gas Attack Victims in Syria’s Douma Staged

Militants Engaged in Chemical Attacks Are Under Western Patronage – Sec. Council

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President

By Joe Emersberger – FAIR – February 12, 2019

The Miami Herald (2/8/19) reported, “Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro continues to reject international aid—going so far as to blockade a road that might have been used for its delivery.“

The “Venezuelan leader” reporter Jim Wyss referred to is Venezuela’s elected president. In contrast, Wyss referred to Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

Guaidó, anointed by Trump and a new Iraq-style Coalition of the Willing, did not even run in Venezuela’s May 2018 presidential election. In fact, shortly before the election, Guaidó was not even mentioned by the opposition-aligned pollster Datanálisis when it published approval ratings of various prominent opposition leaders. Henri Falcón, who actually did run in the election (defying US threats against him) was claimed by the pollster to basically be in a statistical tie for most popular among them. It is remarkable to see the Western media dismiss this election as “fraudulent,” without even attempting to show that it was “stolen“ from Falcón. Perhaps that’s because it so clearly wasn’t stolen.

Data from the opposition-aligned pollsters in Venezuela (via Torino Capital) indicates that Henri Falcón was the most popular of the major opposition figures at the time of the May 2018 presidential election. Nicolás Maduro won the election due to widespread opposition boycotting and votes drawn by another opposition candidate, Javier Bertucci.

The constitutional argument that Trump and his accomplices have used to “recognize” Guaidó rests on the preposterous claim that Maduro has “abandoned” the presidency by soundly beating Falcón in the election. Caracas-based journalist Lucas Koerner took apart that argument in more detail.

What about the McClatchy-owned Herald‘s claim that Maduro “continues to reject international aid”? In November 2018, following a public appeal by Maduro, the UN did authorize emergency aid for Venezuela. It was even reported by Reuters (11/26/18), whose headlines have often broadcast the news agency’s contempt for Maduro’s government.

It’s not unusual for Western media to ignore facts they have themselves reported when a major “propaganda blitz” by Washington is underway against a government. For example, it was generally reported accurately in 1998 that UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq ahead of air strikes ordered by Bill Clinton, not expelled by Iraq’s government. But by 2002, it became a staple of pro-war propaganda that Iraq had expelled weapons inspectors (Extra! Update10/02).

And, incidentally, when a Venezuelan NGO requested aid from the UN-linked Global Fund in 2017, it was turned down. Setting aside how effective foreign aid is at all (the example of Haiti hardly makes a great case for it), it is supposed to be distributed based on relative need, not based on how badly the US government wants somebody overthrown.

But the potential for “aid” to alleviate Venezuela’s crisis is negligible compared to the destructive impact of US economic sanctions. Near the end of Wyss’ article, he cited an estimate from the thoroughly demonized Venezuelan government that US sanctions have cost it $30 billion, with no time period specified for that estimate. Again, this calls to mind the run-up to the Iraq invasion, when completely factual statements that Iraq had no WMDs were attributed to the discredited Iraqi government. Quoting Iraqi denials supposedly balanced the lies spread in the media by US officials like John Bolton, who now leads the charge to overthrow Maduro. Wyss could have cited economists independent of the Maduro government on the impact of US sanctions—like US economist Mark Weisbrot, or the emphatically anti-Maduro Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez.

Illegal US sanctions were first imposed in 2015 under a fraudulent “state of emergency” declared by Obama, and subsequently extended by Trump. The revenue lost to Venezuela’s government due to US economic sanctions since August 2017, when the impact became very easy to quantify, is by now well over $6 billion. That’s enormous in an economy that was only able to import about $11 billion of goods in 2018, and needs about $2 billion per year in medicines. Trump’s “recognition” of Guaidó as “interim president” was the pretext for making the already devastating sanctions much worse. Last month, Francisco Rodríguez revised his projection for the change in Venezuela’s real GDP in 2019, from an 11 percent contraction to 26 percent, after the intensified sanctions were announced.

The $20 million in US “aid” that Wyss is outraged Maduro won’t let in is a rounding error compared to the billions already lost from Trump’s sanctions.

Former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield, who pressed for more sanctions on Venezuela, dispensed with the standard “humanitarian” cover that US officials have offered for them (Intercept2/10/19):

And if we can do something that will bring that end quicker, we probably should do it, but we should do it understanding that it’s going to have an impact on millions and millions of people who are already having great difficulty finding enough to eat, getting themselves cured when they get sick, or finding clothes to put on their children before they go off to school. We don’t get to do this and pretend as though it has no impact there. We have to make the hard decision—the desired outcome justifies this fairly severe punishment.

How does this gruesome candor get missed by reporters like Wyss, and go unreported in his article?

Speaking of “severe punishment,” if the names John Bolton and Elliott Abrams don’t immediately call to mind the punishment they should be receiving for crimes against humanity, it illustrates how well the Western propaganda system functions. Bolton, a prime facilitator of the Iraq War, recently suggested that Maduro could be sent to a US-run torture camp in Cuba. Abrams played a key role in keeping US support flowing to mass murderers and torturers in Central America during the 1980s. Also significant that Abrams, brought in by Trump to help oust Maduro, used “humanitarian aid” as cover to supply weapons to the US-backed Contra terrorists in Nicaragua.

In the Herald article, the use of US “aid” for military purposes is presented as another allegation made by the vilified Venezuelan president: “Maduro has repeatedly said the aid is cover for a military invasion and has ordered his armed forces not to let it in, even as food and medicine shortages sweep the country.”

Calling for international aid and being democratically elected will do as little to protect Maduro’s government from US aggression as being disarmed of WMD did to prevent Iraq from being invaded—unless there is much more pushback from the US public against a lethal propaganda system.

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

BBC-staged footage on Syria’s Douma Western media’s ‘theater of absurd’: Russia

Press TV – February 14, 2019

Russia says the latest revelations by BBC that the footage of an April chemical attack near the Syrian capital was fabricated proves the “theater of absurd” in Western media’s coverage of events in the Arab country.

“Over the past few years, and not just in Syria, we have been witness to a travesty being staged by the West and its media agencies, which on [the one] hand brags about brilliant democratic goals and support for civilians of a sovereign state, but on the other does not … give a damn about … international law, various forms of freedom and rights of a nation or a certain minority,” the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, told reporters in Moscow on Thursday.

The footage broadcast by BBC showed people being treated after a chemical attack in Douma.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the issue had been investigated for six months.

Zakharova added, “The culmination of this theater of absurd may be a statement by a BBC producer, who confirmed based on his own research that the footage [in Douma] had been staged with direct participation of [the so-called civil defense group] White Helmets.

She further pointed out that Russia wanted to listen to BBC’s explanation because it actively covered the events in favor of the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

The Western-backed White Helmets group, which has been repeatedly accused of cooperating with Takfiri terrorists and staging fictional chemical attacks, published a video in April 2018, alleging that Syrian government forces had launched a chemical assault in the city of Douma, located about 10 kilometers northeast of Damascus.

The US has warned it would respond to any possible chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces with retaliatory strikes, stressing that the attacks would be stronger than those conducted by American, British and French forces last year.

On April 14, 2018, the US, Britain and France carried out a string of airstrikes against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack on the city of Douma.

Washington and its allies blamed Damascus for the Douma attack, an allegation rejected by the Syrian government.

On September 11 last year, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov censured the US threats to use military force against Syria as part of Washington’s blackmail policy.

“Unlike the United States, Britain and their allies, Russia provides particular facts on a daily basis through its Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry as well missions in New York, The Hague and Geneva. We particularly name geographical points, where preparations are underway for certain terrorist groups backed by the US and its allies to carry out provocations,” Ryabkov said.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

BBC Says Its Producer Expressed ‘Personal Opinions’ on Douma Incident

Sputnik – February 14, 2019

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati, who wrote on Twitter that he could prove the video of the victims of the alleged chemical attack in Douma being treated in hospital was staged, was expressing his own opinion and did not deny the fact of the attack itself, the broadcaster’s spokesperson told Sputnik on Thursday.

“The producer was expressing his personal opinions about some of the video footage that emerged after the attack but has not claimed that the attack did not happen”, the BBC spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, the journalist tweeted that he could “prove without a doubt” that the Douma hospital footage had been staged and no fatalities had occurred in the hospital. He said the attack did take place but without the use of sarin gas and that the nature of any chemical used would have to be verified by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Previously, the RT broadcaster reported that Dalati had already expressed his scepticism about the Douma hospital video in a Twitter post. However, the journalist subsequently deleted his tweet, citing a breach of editorial policy.

The same month, Hassan Diab, 11, who was featured in the White Helmets video, in an interview with a Russian media outlet alongside his father, gave a detailed description of how the footage of people treated in the hospital was filmed. Diab said, among other things, that children were given food for participating in the video.

Moreover, Douma residents, interviewed by Sputnik, were unable to confirm that the attack had taken place there. They said they knew nothing about it and were not aware of anybody having been affected by toxic chemicals.

The reports about the attack and the publication of the footage by the White Helmets were followed by missile strikes carried out by France, the United Kingdom and the United States targeting alleged chemical weapons production facilities in Damascus.

Western states have repeatedly accused the Syrian authorities of having carried out the Douma attack, while Damascus denied any involvement in the incident. The Russian Foreign Ministry has said that the claims about the alleged use of toxic chemicals by the Syrian government were aimed at justifying external military action.

READ MORE: German Journalist Federation Calls on Regulators to Deny Broadcast License to RT

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

The Real Motive Behind the FBI Plan to Investigate Trump as a Russian Agent

By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | February 13, 2019

The New York Times and CNN led media coverage last month of discussions among senior FBI officials in May 2017 of a possible national security investigation of President Donald Trump himself, on the premise that he may have acted as an agent of Russia.

The episode has potentially profound political fallout, because the Times and CNN stories suggested that Trump may indeed have acted like a Russian agent. The New York Times story on Jan. 11 was headlined, “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” CNN followed three days later with: “Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia.”

By reporting that Russia may have been able to suborn the president of the United States, these stories have added an even more extreme layer to the dominant national political narrative of a serious Russian threat to destroy U.S. democracy. An analysis of the FBI’s idea of Trump as possible Russian agent reveals, moreover, that it is based on a devious concept of “unwitting” service to Russian interests that can be traced back to former CIA director John O. Brennan.

The Proposal That Fell Apart

The FBI discussions that drove these stories could have led to the first known investigation of a U.S. president as a suspected national security risk. It ended only a few days after the deliberations  among the senior FBI officials when on May 19, 2017, the Justice Department chose Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to be special counsel. That put control over the Trump-Russia investigation into the hands of Mueller rather than the FBI.

Peter Strzok, who led the bureau’s counter-espionage section, was, along with former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, one of those involved in the May 2017 discussions about investigating Trump. Strzok initially joined Mueller’s team but was fired after a couple of months when text messages that he had written came to light exposing a deep animosity towards Trump that cast doubt over his  impartiality.

The other FBI officials behind the proposed investigation of Trump have also since left the FBI; either fired or retired.

The entirety of what was said at the meetings of five or six senior FBI officials in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director on May 9, 2017, remains a mystery.

Closed-door Testimony

The CNN and Times stories were based on transcripts either obtained or, in the case of the Times, on portions read to it, of private testimony given to the House Judiciary and Government Oversight and Reform committees last October by Baker, one of the participants in the discussions of Trump as a possible Russian agent.

Excerpts of Baker’s testimony published by CNN make it clear that the group spoke about Trump’s policy toward Russia as a basis for a counter-intelligence investigation. Baker said they “discussed as [a] theoretical possibility” that Trump was “acting at the behest of [Russia] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.”

Baker went on to explain that this theoretical possibility was only “one extreme” in a range of possibilities discussed and that “the other extreme” was that “the President is completely innocent.”

He thus made it clear that there was no actual evidence for the idea that he was acting on behalf of Russia.

Baker also offered a simpler rationale for such an investigation of Trump: the president’s firing of FBI Director Comey. “Not only would [firing Comey] be an issue of obstructing an investigation,” he said, “but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security.”

But the idea that Comey’s firing had triggered the FBI’s discussions had already been refuted by a text message that Strzok, who had been leading the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians, sent immediately after the firing to Lisa Page, then legal counsel to Andrew McCabe, formerly the bureau’s deputy director who was then acting director.

“We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting,” Strzok wrote, referring to McCabe.

As Page later confirmed to congressional investigators, according to the CNN story, Strzok’s message referred to their desire to launch an investigation into possible collusion between Trump and the Russians. Strzok’s message also makes clear he, and others intent on the investigation, were anxious to get McCabe to approve the proposed probe before Trump named someone less sympathetic to the project as the new FBI director.

Why the FBI Wanted to Investigate

The New York Times story argued that the senior FBI officials’ interest in a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump and the Russians sprang from their knowledge of the sensational charges in the opposition research dossier assembled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele (paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign) that the Putin government had “tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.”

But the Times writers must have known that Bruce Ohr, former associate deputy attorney general, had already given McCabe, Page and Strzok information about Steele and his dossier that raised fundamental questions about its reliability.

Ohr’s first contacts at FBI headquarters regarding Steele and his dossier came Aug. 3, 2016, with Page and her boss McCabe. Ohr later met with Strzok.

Ohr said he told them that Steele’s work on the dossier had been financed by the Clinton campaign through the Perkins-Cole law firm. He also told them that Steele, in a July 30, 2016 meeting, told him he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” according to Ohr’s contemporaneous notes of the meeting.

So, key figures in the discussion of Trump and Russia in May 2017 knew that Steele was acting out of both political and business motives to come up with sensational material.

Strzok and Page may have started out as true believers in the idea that the Russians were using Trump campaign officials to manipulate Trump administration policy. However, by May 2017, Strzok had evidently concluded that there was no real evidence.

In a text message to Page on May 19, 2017, Strzok said he was reluctant to join the Mueller investigation, because of his “gut sense and concern” that “there’s no big there there.”

Why, then, were Strzok, Page, McCabe and others so determined to launch an investigation of Trump at about the same time in May 2017?

A CNN article about the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and senior FBI officials “viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment of the time.”

That description by anti-Trump law enforcement officials suggests that the proposed counter-intelligence investigation of Trump served as a means to maintain some leverage over his treatment of the FBI in regard to the Russia issue.

That motivation would be consistent with the decision by McCabe on May 15, 2017 – a few days after the discussions in question among the senior FBI officials – to resume the bureau’s relationship with Steele.

The FBI had hired Steele as a paid source when it had earlier launched its investigation of Trump campaign official’s contacts with Russians in July 2016. But it had suspended and then terminated the relationship over Steele’s unauthorized disclosure of the investigation to David Corn of Mother Jones magazine in October 2016. So, the decision to resume the relationship with Steele suggests that the group behind the new investigation were thinking of seizing an opportunity to take off the gloves against Trump.

The ‘Unwitting Collaboration’ Ploy

The discussion by senior FBI officials of a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump has become part of the political struggle over Trump mainly because of the stories in the Times and CNN.

The role of the authors of those stories illustrates how corporate journalists casually embraced the ultimate conspiracy theory – that the president of the United States was acting as a Russian stooge.

The reporters of the CNN story — Jeremy Herb, Pamela Brown and Laura Jarrett — wrote that the FBI officials were “trying to understand why [Trump] was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia.”

The New York Times story was more explicit. Co-authors Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos wrote that the FBI officials “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

The same day the Times story was published, the lead author on the piece, Adam Goldman, was interviewed by CNN. Goldman referred to Trump’s interview with NBC’sLester Holt in the days after the Comey firing as something that supposedly pushed the FBI officials over the edge. Goldman declared, “The FBI is watching him say this, and they say he’s telling us why he did this. He did it on behalf of Russia.”

But Trump said nothing of kind. What he actually said — as the Times itself quoted Trump, from the NBCinterview —was: “[W]hen I decided just to do it, I said to myself – I said, you know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” The Times article continued: “Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. ‘I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. ‘He’s the wrong man for that position.’”

Goldman was evidently trying to sell the idea of Trump as a suspected agent of Russia.

Goldman also gave an interview to The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, in which the interviewer pressed him on the weakest point of the Trump-as-Russian-agent theory. “What would that look like if the President was an unwitting agent of a foreign power?” asked Chotiner.

The Times correspondent, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, responded: “It is hard to say what that would look like.” Goldman then reiterated the concept. “People were very careful to tell me that: ‘It is wittingly or unwittingly.’” And in answer to a follow-up question, Goldman referred to evidence he suggested might be held by the FBI that “perhaps suggests that the President himself may be acting as a foreign agent, either wittingly or unwittingly….”

The idea that American citizens were somehow at risk of being led by an agent of the Russian government “wittingly or unwittingly” did not appear spontaneously. It had been pushed aggressively by former CIA Director John O. Brennan both during and after his role in pressing for the original investigation.

When Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee in May 2017, he was asked whether he had intelligence indicating that anyone in the Trump campaign was “colluding with Moscow.” Instead of answering the question directly, Brennan said he knew from past experience that “the Russians try to suborn individuals, and they try get them to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” And he recalled that he had left the government with “unresolved questions” about whether the Russians had been successful in doing so in regard to unidentified individuals in the case of the 2016 elections.

Brennan’s notion of “unwitting collaboration” with Russian subversion is illogical. Although a political actor might accidentally reveal information to a foreign government that is valuable, real “collaboration” must be mutually agreeable. A policy position or action that may benefit a foreign government, but is also in the interest of one’s own government, does not constitute “unwitting collaboration.”

The real purpose of that concept is to confer on national security officials and their media allies the power to cast suspicion on individuals on the basis of undesirable policy views of Russia rather than on any evidence of actual collaboration with the Russian government.

The “witting or unwitting” ploy has its origins in the unsavory history of extreme right-wing anti-communism during the Cold War. For example, when the House Un-American Activities Committee was at its height in 1956, Chairman Francis E. Walter declared that “people who are not actually Communist Party members are witting or unwitting servants of the Communist cause.”

The same logic – without explicit reference to the phrase — has been used to impugn the independence and loyalty of people who have contacts with Russia.

It has also been used to portray some independent media as part of a supposedly all-powerful Russian media system.

The revelation that it was turned against a sitting president, however briefly, is a warning signal that national security bureaucrats and their media allies are now moving more aggressively to delegitimize any opposition to the new Cold War.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on U.S. national security policy. His latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YouTube Will Determine What ‘Conspiracy’ Is and Stop Recommending Such Videos

By Michael Krieger | Liberty BlitzKrieg | February 11, 2019

While the evolution of Google’s YouTube from a free expression platform into something entirely different has been underway for a while, it just took another step in a very short-sighted and restrictive direction. NBC News reports:

YouTube has announced that it will no longer recommend videos that “come close to” violating its community guidelines, such as conspiracy or medically inaccurate videos… Chaslot said that YouTube’s fix to its recommendations AI will have to include getting people to videos with truthful information and overhauling the current system it uses to recommend videos.

There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s get started. First, it appears YouTube has announced the creation of a new bucket when it comes to content uploaded to the site. It’s no longer just videos consistent with company guidelines and those that aren’t, but there’s now a category for “conspiracy or medically inaccurate videos.” This is a massive responsibility, which neither YouTube or anyone else seems fit to be judge and jury. In other words, YouTube is saying it’s comfortable deciding what is “conspiracy” and what isn’t. Which brings up a really important question.

“Conspiracy” and covering up conspiracies is a fundamental part of the human experience, and always has been. It demonstrates extreme hubris for a tech giant to claim it can differentiate between a legitimate conspiracy to explore, versus an illegitimate one. One person’s righteous investigation is another’s conspiracy theory, with Russiagate serving as an obvious contemporary example.

Going back to the early 21st century, we witnessed a major conspiracy to start a war in Iraq based on lies; lies which were endlessly repeated uncritically throughout the mass media. Even worse, General Wesley Clark described an even larger conspiracy which consisted of starting multiple additional wars in the aftermath of 9/11. This conspiracy is ongoing and has continued to move forward in the years since, through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It’s pretty clear what will end up happening as a result of this tweaking to YouTube’s recommended videos AI. The “conspiracies” of your average person will be pushed aside and demoted, while government and mass media lies will remain unaffected. Google will assume mass media and government are honest, so government and billionaire approved propaganda will be increasingly promoted, while the perspectives of regular citizens will be pushed further to the margins. YouTube is simply not a platform anymore, but rather a self-proclaimed arbiter of what is ridiculous conspiracy and what is truth.

While YouTube says videos it deems conspiracy will still be available via search, it’s not a stretch to imagine this is just the first step and before you know it certain categories will be banned from the site entirely. Either way, I think there’s a silver lining to all of this.

As I outlined in a recent post, U.S. tech giants, particularly Facebook, Google and Amazon, aren’t simply private companies. They appear more akin to quasi-government entities that increasingly view themselves as instrumental gatekeepers for a discredited status quo. Moreover, their primary business models consist of mass surveillance and violating our privacy.

Ultimately, I think the increasingly nefarious and desperate behavior of these tech giants will lead to their demise. More and more of us have looked under the hood and seen the seedy and privacy-destroying nature of these entities. We’ve also seen what it’s like to have genuine free expression on the internet and we don’t want to turn the web into another cable news where Facebook, Google and Amazon become the new CBS, NBC and ABC. If we do, then the entire promise of the internet will have turned out to be a giant waste.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think most of us have had a taste of what’s possible, and agree that free speech and expression on the internet, the good, the bad and the ugly, is better than an internet censored by tech companies and their billionaire executives, who will always be biased toward the status quo point of view. It’s still not clear which platforms will emerge to replace the tech giants, but it seems fairly clear to me the best days are over for these companies, and it cannot come a moment too soon.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 4 Comments

Integrity Initiative: New leaks show UK-funded project sought £5.5m for Balkans influence campaign

RT | February 12, 2019

Hackers have released a sixth batch of Integrity Initiative leaks, this time focusing on how the project sought £5.5 million in funding from the British government to establish an influence campaign in the Western Balkans.

According to the leaks, Chris Donnelly, who heads the Institute for Statecraft (IfS) — the Integrity Initiative’s parent organization — used his NATO contacts and extensive background in military intelligence to try to secure the money for the program.

The Integrity Initiative (II) had been positioning itself as an “independent” anti-disinformation charity until hackers began dumping batches of internal documents last November which revealed its government funding and the fact that it was running Europe-wide anti-Russia influence campaigns using “clusters” of cooperative journalists, academics and politicians. In response to the leaks, the II wiped all content from its website and claimed that while some of the documents were “genuine,” others were “falsified” — but did not provide any proof that this was the case.

The latest leaks show that the Balkan program would be run in conjunction with global marketing and communications firm Edelman, which Donnelly said could help produce “advertising campaigns on TV promoting change,” English-language training promoting the “right messages” and even “a TV soap opera looking at the problem of corruption.”

To aid ‘Her Majesty’s Government’

In a letter to former MI6 employee Guy Spindler and good governance expert Keith Sargent — who would be a key figure in the Balkan effort — Donnelly explains how the project would need “local partners” in the WB6 countries. The partners will help find journalists “who can be allies” in their efforts and who could be brought “on trips to London, HQ NATO etc.”

Donnelly’s letter is dated October 15, but no year is given. It appears, however, that it is from 2018, based on the fact that the proposal documents for the Balkan project make reference to the year 2018 and January 2019 as the potential start date.

The letter focuses on the efforts to set up the “anti-corruption” and “good governance” influence campaign across the Western Balkans, which a separate document says would “contribute to the aims and strategy of HMG” (Her Majesty’s Government) and would shield the region from corruption “being used as a method of external influence.”

Stumbling blocks and help from the BBC

Perceptively, the document — which lays out the projected three-year costs of £5.5 million ($7.87mn) — also recognizes that the program itself could be “identified as external interference” in the domestic affairs of the Balkan countries. Another leaked document notes “Russian hostility” and “traditional Soviet ties” as potential stumbling blocks to the Western influence campaign.

One serious concern is that many Serbian organizations “promote friendly ties with Russia” and it is suggested that BBC broadcasts could help to “counter Russian fake news” in the region. The fact that Serbia, Russia and a number of other countries do not recognize Kosovo’s independence is also cited as a “major problem” for the project.

‘A Bellingcat for counter-corruption’

To achieve success Donnelly said they would need to “identify a national goal” that could be used as a “lever”— citing Macedonia’s efforts to join NATO as an example. Donnelly boasts about his efforts in Slovakia in the 1990s using MPs to teach businesses how they could lobby government “legitimately in a democracy” rather than using “their then model of cash in brown envelopes.”

Part of the so-called anti-corruption program would entail building “training courses for journalists, students and wider public activists” to help them obtain the relevant investigative tools. Such a program could be “a Bellingcat for counter corruption,” the proposal document states. Bellingcat shot to prominence as a controversial one-man investigative website, which later expanded, received money from the notorious US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and was also linked to the II.

Anti-Russia entertainment

The latest leaks also reveal contacts between IfS fellow Euan Grant and a number of journalists, academics and think tank lobbyists. Grant sent a “memorandum of cooperation” to US writer Martha Bayles after a “detailed Skype call” in July 2018. He was looking for her “input into media documentaries and fictional entertainment” to counter Russian narratives.

Governments seeking help from writers and the entertainment industry to counter Russian narratives is nothing new. The 2014 hack of Sony Pictures revealed that the US State Department enlisted Hollywood’s help with “anti-Russia messaging” for movies and TV shows. It appears from these leaks that the British government is also trying to use thinly-disguised entertainment propaganda to promote divisive anti-Russia messaging onto TV screens in politically volatile regions of Europe.

The leaks say that the II should “alert” the press, radio and TV journalists to the “relevance” of already-made entertainment like the BBC series ‘McMafia’ which focuses on a London-based corrupt Russian family.

‘Sympathy for Russia’ in Scotland

There was also contact between the IfS and Neal Stewart, an adviser to the Scottish National Party’s Westminster front bench about “considerable sympathy for Russia” in Scotland in general, but particularly within academia. The “significant Russian speaking presence in private schools and in the Universities could fuel such attitudes,” the document warns. Another leaked document also cites “academic sympathies with Russia” as an indicator of “malign influence and disinformation.”

Targeting academics and students for their ‘Russian sympathies’ brings up rather negative historical parallels, particularly with the McCarthy era in the US, during which entertainers, academics and left-leaning activists were aggressively accused of being Communist sympathizers or agents and were placed on industry blacklists.

More recently, in Britain, a group of academics were smeared on the front page of the Times for similar sympathies, based on the fact that they publicly expressed doubts over certain anti-Russia media narratives. One of the academics involved called it a“coordinated smear campaign” against anti-war journalists and activists. The authors of the Times report were later named in Integrity Initiative documents, proving the existence of collusion between the British government and pro-establishment journalists to target those who do not stick to certain narratives.

High profile names & media ties

In an II“weekly report,” Grant names University of Exeter Professor Jeremy Black and Sunday Times journalist Roland White as two people who expressed interest in collaborating with the II. Roderick Parkes of the Paris-based ISS think tank and Nigel Gould-Davies, an associate fellow at Chatham House, were also named.

The leaks also say that Deborah Haynes of Sky News (a co-author of the aforementioned Times report) and Jonathan Beale of the BBC attended a speech by Air Marshal Sir Philip Osborn on the future of intelligence and information warfare in May 2018. The speech was described in the document as “manna from heaven for the Integrity Initiative.”

Grant writes that the government-funded IfS has “particular links with the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and BBC TV and radio” but says that it needs to “strengthen” its relationship with the Mail.

Times writer and CEPA lobbyist Edward Lucas also crops up in the latest leaks and due to his “considerable interest” is named as the II’s way into getting “articles and references” in the Times. Lucas recently defended the II in an op-ed for the newspaper and argued that criticism of the project would “play into the Kremlin’s hands.”

NGOs and the ‘Australian cluster’

The documents also reveal that the II wanted to provide NGOs with manuals on Russian corruption. Among the named organizations are Transparency International, Global Witness and the World Wildlife Fund.

One of the newly leaked documents also shows just how far the II has extended its reach, referencing an”Australian cluster.” Given the issue of Russian and Chinese influence in that region, Grant writes that there is “scope for a lot of crossover with media in Europe” and Australia relating to “Russian issues.”

Presenting the new leaks, the Anonymous-linked hackers claim that the Integrity Initiative has been trying to “divert people’s attention from the organisation’s wrongful activity” since the documents were made public. The leakers bash the II’s “pathetic attempt” to cover its tracks and say all its efforts have been “shattered to pieces by irrefutable evidence” of wrongdoing that has been shared with the public.

RT sent requests for comment to the people named in the story who were linked to the Integrity Initiative in the latest leaks.

February 12, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Secret’ Pentagon Report: Climate Catastrophe Due Next Year

By Paul Matthews | Climate scepticism | January 18, 2019

A classic from the Guardian/Observer archives, from February 2004:

The article is so absurd that it hardly needs any commentary. After explaining that Britain will be Siberian by next year according to a suppressed report, it goes on to claim that the ‘findings’ of the report will embarrass the climate-denying president:

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the American military under Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Climate change ‘should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern’, say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network.

An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is ‘plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately’, they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

Later on we are told more details of the catastrophes that will occur by 2020:

Already, according to Randall and Schwartz, the planet is carrying a higher population than it can sustain. By 2020 ‘catastrophic’ shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations that could soon be repeated.

Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. ‘This is depressing stuff,’ he said. ‘It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat.’

Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. ‘We don’t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,’ he said.

Of course the authors of the report, Randall and Schwartz, aren’t climate scientists. But their report gets the glowing endorsement of two leading UK climate scientists — Sir John Houghton, former boss of the Met Office and IPCC co-chair, and former IPCC chair Bob Watson:

Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the Meteorological Office – and the first senior figure to liken the threat of climate change to that of terrorism – said: ‘If the Pentagon is sending out that sort of message, then this is an important document indeed.’

Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon’s dire warnings could no longer be ignored.

‘Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It’s going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush’s single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon,’ added Watson.

Hugely embarrassing indeed, but for Watson, not Bush. Why would a senior scientist like Bob Watson say that a report claiming global catastrophe by 2020 is non-wacko and should be taken seriously? Well there’s a hint that politics may be a factor, later on in the article:

So dramatic are the report’s scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush’s stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign.

The fact that Marshall is behind its scathing findings will aid Kerry’s cause. Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the Office of Net Assessment. Dubbed ‘Yoda’ by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of Defence’s push on ballistic-missile defence.

Is it not rather worrying that the defence of the USA is in the hands of people who produce such garbage?


This Pentagon report was cited in a recent article Climate Change and National Security, Part II: How Big a Threat is the Climate?

The consequences of abrupt, severe warming for national security are obvious in general, if unclear in the specifics. In 2003, the Defense Department asked a contractor to explore such a scenario. The resulting report outlined the offensive and defensive national security strategies countries may adopt if faced with abrupt climate change, and highlighted the increased risk of inter- and intra-state conflict over natural resources and immigration. Although the report may be off in its imagined timeframe (positing abrupt climate change by 2020), the world it conjures is improbable but not outlandish.

This is a bit like the doomsday cults that say that the world is going to end this year, and then when that doesn’t happen, say it’s going to happen next year. Even more comically, a few paragraphs before acknowledging that the 2003 report got it wrong, the article claims that “Scientists can predict the consequences of climate change to 2050 with some measure of certainty”.

That article also provides a link to the Pentagon climate report by Schwartz and Randall, dated October 2003.

By looking at the report, we can see to what extent it is in itself complete nonsense, and to what extent it was misrepresented by the Observer’s journalists. As usual in the game of Climate Chinese Whispers, there’s an element of both. The report starts with a boxed disclaimer, acknowledging that “We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.” The Observer journalists Townsend and Harris quite dishonestly only quote the second half of that sentence.

The report plays a common climate game — we’re not making a prediction, we’re setting out a scenario — but then sets out its scenario like this:

thereby making it very easy for a journalist to accidentally or deliberately interpret it as a prediction.

Where did Schwartz and Randall get all this from? Did they just make it up? At the beginning, they say that they “interviewed leading climate change scientists, conducted additional research, and reviewed several iterations of the scenario with these experts.”

But who were these leading climate scientists? As far as I can see, only one climate scientist is mentioned in the report — notorious fraudster Peter Gleick.

February 10, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Integrity Initiative – The HSBC Connection

Real Media | February 3, 2019

“2 Degrees of separation” – a theory whistleblower Nicholas Wilson has, that wherever in the world a financial scandal occurs HSBC is to be found nearby.

Nicholas has been campaigning for 13 years after blowing the whistle on a High Street fraud of excessive bank charges applied to store cards administered by HSBC. He has recently been vindicated by a Financial Conduct Authority ruling and HSBC have had to begin paying back some of the money defrauded from customers. He was dubbed “Mr. Ethical” by his boss at the time for refusing to defraud debtors.

In this first of several interviews for Real Media, he connects Government funding and the security services to the recently revealed psyops outfit, Institute for Statecraft and its ‘integrity initiative’.

He asks whether there might be a connection with the suspicious death of auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who was working for the Hermitage Fund there. HSBC bankrolled and jointly managed the Hermitage Fund with Bill Browder, who appears in Institute of Statecraft’s documents.

Browder, convicted of tax fraud in Russia connected with the Magnitsky affair, has spent years pointing the finger at the Russians over both the killing and the disappearance of nearly quarter of a billion pounds, but a film by Andrei Nekrasov casts suspicion on Browder and HSBC. If the film is to be believed, it would make sense that Browder is involved with a shadowy group set up to counter Russian “disinformation”.

Nicholas Wilson reveals the close associations between HSBC and the UK security forces, and asks whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be giving public funding to the Institute of Statecraft.

More HSBC revelations at nicholaswilson.com

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Video | , | 1 Comment