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A Second Whistle Blown on the OPCW’s Doctored Report

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | December 3, 2019

Another whistleblower leak has exposed the fraudulent nature of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma, close to Damascus, on April 7 last year.

The first leak came from the Fact-Finding Mission’s engineering sub-group. After investigating the two sites where industrial gas cylinders were found in Douma and taking into account the possibility that the cylinders had been dropped from the air it concluded that there was a “higher probability” that both cylinders were placed at both sites by hand. This finding was entirely suppressed in the final report.

The engineering sub-group prepared its draft report “for internal review” between February 1-27, 2018. By March 1 the OPCW final report had been approved, published and released, indicating that the engineers’ findings had not been properly evaluated, if evaluated at all. In its final report the OPCW, referring to the findings of independent experts in mechanical engineering, ballistics and metallurgy, claimed that the structural damage had been caused at one location by an “impacting object” (i.e. the cylinder) and that at the second location the cylinder had passed through the ceiling, fallen to the floor and somehow bounced back up on to the bed where it was found.

None of this was even suggested by the engineers. Instead, the OPCW issued a falsified report intended to keep alive the accusation that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian Air Force.

Now there is a second leak, this time an internal email sent by a member of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on June 22, 2018, to Robert Fairweather, the British career diplomat who was at the time Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, and copied to his deputy, Aamir Shouket. The writer claims to have been the only FFM member to have read the redacted report before its release. He says it misrepresents the facts: “Some crucial facts that have remained in the redacted version have morphed into something quite different from what was originally drafted.”

The email says the final version statement that the team “has sufficent evidence to determine that chlorine or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical was likely released from the cylinders is highly misleading and not supported by the facts.” The writer states that the only evidence is that some samples collected at locations 2 and 4 (where the gas cylinders were found) had been in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom.

“Such chemicals,” he continues, “could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major element in household chlorine-based bleach.”  Purposely singling out chlorine as one of the possibilities was disingenuous and demonstrated “partiality” that negatively affected the final report’s credibility.

The writer says the final report’s reference to “high levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives detected in environmental samples” overstates the draft report’s findings. “In most cases” these derivatives were present only in part per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb, which is essentially trace qualitiea.” In such microscopic quantities, detected inside apartment buildings, it would seem, although the writer only hints at the likelihood, that the chlorine trace elements could have come from household bleach stored in the kitchen or bathroom.

The writer notes that the original draft discussed in detail the inconsistency between the victims’ symptoms after the alleged attack as reported by witnesses and seen on video recordings.  This section of the draft, including the epidemiology, was removed from the final version in its entirety. As it was inextricably linked to the chemical agent as identified, the impact on the final report was “seriously negative.” The writer says the draft report was “modified” at the behest of the office of Director-General, a post held at the time by a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Uzumcu.

The OPCW has made no attempt to deny the substance of these claims. After the engineers’ report made its way to Wikileaks its priority was to hunt down the leaker. Following the leaking of the recent email, the Director-General, Fernando Arias, simply defended the final report as it stood.

These two exposures are triply devastating for the OPCW.  Its Douma report is completely discredited but all its findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria must now be regarded as suspect even by those who did not regard them as suspect in the first place. The same shadow hangs over all UN agencies that have relied on the OPCW for evidence, especially the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, an arm of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

This body is closely linked to the OPCW and while both mostly hide the sources of their information it is evident that where chemical weapons allegations have been made, the commission of inquiry has drawn on the OPCW.

As of January 2018, the commission reported on 34 “documented incidents” of chemical weapons use by various parties in Syria. It held the Syrian government responsible for 23 of them and, remarkably, did not hold the armed groups responsible even for one, despite the weight of evidence showing their preparation and use of such weapons over a long period of time.

The commission has made repeated accusations of chlorine barrel bombs being dropped by government forces. On the worst of the alleged chemical weapons attacks, on August 21, 2013, in the eastern Ghouta district just outside Damascus, it refers to sarin being used in a “well-planned indiscriminate attack targetting residential areas [and] causing mass casualties. The perpetrators likely had access to the Syrian military chemical weapons stockpile and expertise and equipment to manipulate large amounts of chemical weapons.”

This is such a travesty of the best evidence that no report by this body can be regarded as impartial, objective and neutral.   No chemical weapons or nerve agents were moved from Syrian stocks, according to the findings of renowned journalist Seymour Hersh. The best evidence, including a report by Hersh (‘The Red Line and the Rat Line,’ London Review of Books, April 17, 2014), suggests a staged attack by terrorist groups, including Jaysh al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, who at the time were being routed in a government offensive. The military would have had no reason to use chemical weapons: furthermore, the ‘attack’ was launched just as UN chemical weapons inspectors were arriving in the Syrian capital and it is not even remotely credible that the Syrian government would have authorized a chemical weapons attack at such a time.

Even the CIA warned Barack Obama that the Syrian government may not have been/probably was not responsible for the attack and that he was being lured into launching an air attack in Syria now that his self-declared ‘red line’ had been crossed. At the last moment, Obama backed off.

It remains possible that the victims of this ‘attack’ were killed for propaganda purposes. Certainly, no cruelty involving the takfiri groups, the most brutal people on the face of the planet, can be ruled out. Having used the occasion to blame the Syrian government, the media quickly moved on. The identities of the dead, many of them children, who they were, where they might have been buried – if in fact they had been killed and not just used as props – were immediately tossed into the memory hole. Eastern Ghouta remains one of the darkest unexplained episodes in the war on Syria.

The UN’s Syria commission of inquiry’s modus operandi is much the same as the OPCW’s. Witnesses are not identified; there is no indication of how their claims were substantiated; the countries outside Syria where many have been interviewed are not identified, although Turkey is clearly one; and where samples have had to be tested, the chain of custody is not transparent.

It is worth stepping back a little bit to consider early responses to the OPCW report on Douma. The Syrian government raised a number of questions, all of them fobbed off by the OPCW.  Russia entered the picture by arranging a press conference for alleged victims of the ‘attack’ at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague.  They included an 11-year-old boy, Hassan Diab, who said he did not know why he was suddenly hosed down in the hospital clinic, as shown in the White Helmets propaganda video.

All the witnesses dismissed claims of a chemical weapons attack. Seventeen countries (Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the US) then put out a joint statement (April 26, 2018) expressing their full support for the OPCW report and dismissing the “so-called” information session at the Hague as a Russian propaganda exercise. Their statement claimed the authenticity of the information in the OPCW report was “unassailable.”

Russia followed up with a series of questions directed at the OPCW’s technical secretariat. It noted that the OPCW report did not mention that samples taken from Douma were “split” in the OPCW’s central laboratory in the Netherlands and not in the Syrian Arab republic. Fractions of samples were handed to Syria only after six months of insistent pressure (OPCW response: its terms of reference provided for Syria to be provided with samples “to the extent possible” but do not specify when or where samples should be ‘split’).

Russia also referred to the collection of 129 samples and their transfer to OPCW-designated laboratories. 31 were selected for the first round of analysis and an additional batch of 13 sent later. Of the 129 samples 39 were obtained from individuals living outside territory controlled by the Syrian army. Of 44 samples analyzed 33 were environmental and 11 biomedical: of the 44, 11 (four environmental and seven biomedical) were obtained from alleged witnesses.

As remarked by the Russian Federation, the OPCW report does not explain the circumstances in which these samples were obtained. Neither is there any information on the individuals from whom they were taken; neither is there any evidence demonstrating compliance with the chain of custody (OPCW response: there was respect for the chain of custody, without this being explained; the “standard methodology” in collecting samples was applied, without details being given.  It stressed the need for privacy and the protection of witness identities).

Russia observed that the samples were analyzed in two unnamed OPCW laboratories and on the evidence of techniques and results, it raised the question of whether the same laboratories had been used to investigate earlier ‘incidents’ involving the alleged use of chlorine. Of the 13 laboratories that had technical agreements with the OPCW, why were samples analyzed at only two, apparently the same two as used before?  Russia also observed that of the 33 environmental samples tested for chlorinated products, there was a match (bornyl chloride) in only one case.

Samples taken from location 4, where a gas cylinder was allegedly dropped from the air, showed the presence of the explosive trinitrotoluene, leading to the conclusion that the hole in the roof was made by an explosion and not by a cylinder falling through it (OPCW response: the Fact-Finding Mission did not select the labs and information about them is confidential. As there had been intense warfare for weeks around location four, the presence of explosive material in a broad range of samples was to be expected but this did not – in the OPCW view –  lead to the conclusion that an explosion caused the hole in the roof).

Russia pointed out that the FFM interviewed 39 people but did not interview the actual witnesses of the ‘incident’ inside the Douma hospital who appeared and were easily identifiable in the staged videos (OPCW response: the secretariat neither confirms nor denies whether it interviewed any of the witnesses presented by Russia at the OPCW headquarters “as any statement to that effect would be contrary to the witness protection principles applied by the secretariat”).

Russia also pointed out the contradictions in the report on the number of alleged dead. In one paragraph the FFM says it could not establish a precise figure for casualties which “some sources” said ranged between 70 and 500. Yet elsewhere “witnesses” give the number of dead as 43 (OPCW response: the specific figure of 43 was based on the evidence of “witnesses” who claimed to have seen bodies at different locations).

Russia also pointed out that no victims were found at locations 2 and 4, where the ventilation was good because of the holes in the roof/ceiling. Referring to location 2, it asked how could chlorine released in a small hole from a cylinder in a well-ventilated room on the fourth floor have had such a strong effect on people living on the first or second floors? (OPCW response: the FFM did not establish a correlation between the number of dead and the quantity of the toxic chemical. In order to establish such a correlation, factors unknown to the FFM – condition of the building, air circulation and so on – would have had to be taken into account.  It does not explain why this was not attempted and how it could reach its conclusions without taking these “unknown factors” into account).

Finally, Russia raised the question of the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. It referred to the lack of specific calculations in the OPCW report. The ‘experts’ who did the simulation did not indicate the drop height. The charts and diagrams indicated a drop height of 45-180 meters. However, Syrian Air Force helicopters do not fly at altitudes of less than 2000 meters when cruising over towns because they would come under small arms fire “at least” and would inevitably be shot down.

Furthermore, if the cylinders had been dropped from 2000 meters,  both the roof and the cylinders would have been more seriously damaged (OPCW response: there were no statements or assumptions in the FFM report on the use of helicopters or the use of other aircraft “or the height of the flight. The FFM did not base its modeling on the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. “In accordance with its mandate,” the FFM did not comment on the possible altitude of aircraft.  The OPCW did not explain why these crucial factors were not taken into account).

In its conclusion, Russia said there was a “high probability” that the cylinders were placed manually at locations 2 and 4 and that the factual material in the OPCW report did not allow it to draw the conclusion that a toxic chemical had been used as a weapon. These conclusions have now been confirmed in the release of information deliberately suppressed by the OPCW secretariat.

As the leaked material proves, its report was doctored: by suppressing, ignoring or distorting the findings of its own investigators to make it appear that the Syrian government was responsible for the Douma ‘attack’ the OPCW can be justly accused of giving aid and comfort to terrorists and their White Helmet auxiliaries whom – the evidence overwhelmingly shows – set this staged ‘attack ’up.

Critical evidence ignored by the OPCW included the videoed discovery of an underground facility set up by Jaysh al Islam for the production of chemical weapons.   All the OPCW said was that the FFM inspectors paid on-site visits to the warehouse and “facility” suspected of producing chemical weapons and found no evidence of their manufacture.  There is no reference to the makeshift facility found underground and shown in several minutes of video evidence.

Since the release of the report, the three senior figures in the OPCW secretariat have moved/been moved on. The Director-General at the time, Hasan Uzumlu, a Turkish career diplomat, stepped out of the office in July 2018: Sir Robert Fairweather, a British career diplomat and Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, was appointed the UK’s special representative to Sudan and South Sudan on March 11, 2019: his deputy, Aamir Shouket,  left the OPCW in August 2018, to return to Pakistan as Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s Europe division. The governments which signed the statement that the evidence in the OPCW report was “unassailable” remain in place.

Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.  His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

China rejects allegations of meddling in Australia affairs

Press TV – November 25, 2019

China says it has never been interested in meddling in the internal affairs of other countries amid claims that the Chinese Communist party sought to infiltrate Australia’s parliament.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing on Monday that some Australian media outlets had fabricated such allegations as China’s interference.

Some Australian politicians, organizations, and media, the official added, had “become seized with imaginary fears” on issues related to China.

“They constantly fabricate cases of so-called Chinese spies infiltrating Australia.”

“However bizarre the story, lies are still lies in the end, whatever new guise they wear.”

The allegations, first aired by local network Nine, claim that a suspected Chinese espionage ring approached a Chinese-Australian man to run as a member of parliament.

The channel report alleged that Chinese operatives offered one million dollars to Liberal party member Nick Zhao to run for federal parliament in the Melbourne suburban seat of Chisholm, now held by Hong Kong-born Liberal lawmaker Gladys Liu.

Zhao was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room after he reportedly approached the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) to discuss the plot.

On Sunday, Australia’s 60 Minutes program and affiliated newspapers said a suspected Chinese espionage ring had offered money to pay for a Melbourne luxury car dealer to run for a seat in the federal parliament.

The ASIO said it was investigating an alleged plot by China to install an agent in the parliament.

Following the report on Sunday, the ASIO director general, Mike Burgess, said the domestic spy agency “was previously aware of matters that were reported today, and has been actively investigating them.”

Describing the alleged plot as “deeply disturbing and troubling,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was determined to protect Australians from foreign interference and had bolstered laws to strengthen the powers of intelligence agencies.

However, he said he would not draw conclusions on an alleged Chinese plot.

The episode involving China and Australia comes at a time of friction between the West and Beijing.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently minced no words when he lashed out at the United States over Washington’s one-sided approach to world politics and its adversarial attitude towards Beijing.

“It (the US) has already become the world’s biggest destabilizing factor,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited the top diplomat as saying on the sidelines of a Group of 20 ministerial meeting in the city of Nagoya in southern Japan on Saturday.

November 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 4 Comments

Australian legislator uncovers Bureau of Meteorology fiddling with temperature records to hype warming

By Thomas Lifson | American Thinker | October 26, 2019

If global warming is real and a threat to the world, why do people keeping temperature records keep “adjusting” or “rectifying” the data to make it look like warming is increasing?

From Down Under, a member of the federal House of Representatives named Craig Kelly — a member of the Liberal Party, which is conservative — has caught that nation’s Bureau of Meteorology altering graphs showing the number of very hot days so as to obscure the fact that 1952 had more of them than recent years and adding a newly “discovered” hot day to a more recent year to make it appear that they are increasing.

I quote and use graphics from his Facebook account:

Not only did the Bureau’s graph showing the year 1952 as having the highest ‘number of very hot days’ (and the year 2011 with the lowest number) disappear down a memory hole — but a new ‘rectified’ graph has appeared in another section of their website.

And surprise, surprise — the year 1952 no longer has the highest ‘number of very hot days’. The old graph recorded 21 very hot days in 1952, while the new ‘rectified’ graph shows only 16 very hot days.

Further, for the year 2011 — which embarrassingly for Alarmists previously had the lowest ‘number of very hot days’ going back to 1910 — the Bureau has skilfully been able to find another very hot day for 2011, (I wonder where it was hiding ?) so that year no longer holds the lowest record !

As Orwell foretold in the novel 1984:

”There were the vast repositories where the corrected documents were stored, and the hidden furnaces where the original copies were destroyed. And somewhere or other, quite anonymous, there were the directing brains who co-ordinated the whole effort and laid down the lines of policy which made it necessary that this fragment of the past should be preserved, that one falsified, and the other rubbed out of existence.

October 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 1 Comment

Has climate change jumped the shark?

Climate Discussion Nexus | October 23, 2019

You might not think so, with time running out for deniers (again) except perhaps as psychiatric patients. But there are signs of fatigue with it in the political system. In Australia, a senior Labour figure has caused turmoil in his party by suggesting they not run in the next election on the hugely ambitious plans that cost them the last one. And when CNN and the New York Times sponsored the 4th, 3-hour debate among contenders for the Democratic nomination, the moderators didn’t ask a single question about climate and the candidates didn’t make it an issue. You might think it’s because everyone agrees. But what if it’s because nobody has anything useful to suggest and most people secretly don’t care?

Voters claim to be anti-global-warming, of course. But as we learned including from the Yellow Vest upheaval in France, and Canadians’ views on carbon taxes, and any number of similar issues in other countries, citizens aren’t willing to pay any significant price to take action against greenhouse gases, suggesting they don’t really think there’s a problem.

Except when all-in politicians push the agenda too far. For instance deep blue California’s governor is now in big political trouble over high gas prices and unreliable power. And remember, high prices for less available energy is a feature not a bug of the climate alarmist movement, soothing talk of wind power notwithstanding.

The problem isn’t really the cost of alternative energy, because except by accident politicians are not willing to raise the price of energy to levels that would discourage its use. There was some kerfuffle over a study finding that green energy policies cost Britain £9 billion per year, or £340 per household. But while an increase in energy bills means hardship to the poor, Britain is rich, and most households may resent the extra cost but are not unable to pay it. The problem is how much more it’s going to cost to try to get renewables up from their current trivial share… or what happens when you just can’t. (Wind farms, like solar farms, have thus far been cherry-picking sites.) On which politicians have little to say that is not both stale and unconvincing.

The hardcore believe that if voters are not willing to pay high carbon taxes and otherwise do without the conveniences of modern life, they are short-sighted idiots and democracy itself must give way in this climate emergency. Meanwhile most voters are happy just to virtue-signal, if only to avoid fights with their grade-schoolers trained to correct their pronunciation of Thunberg (it’s Toon-BUIY not THUN-berg). But they simply aren’t convinced that it’s the end of the winter and the world as we know it because out their window things are going pretty much as they always have. And since politicians are repeating implausible mantras about what’s supposedly happening and how to fix it painlessly, a lot of them just tune it out and go about their business.

Passionate opposition to climate change coupled with timid or nonexistent proposals to fight it must inevitably become a stale punchline.

October 23, 2019 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | 1 Comment

Australian media stages front-page ‘blackout’ to protest against govt clampdown on press freedom

RT | October 21, 2019

In a rare show of unity, all major news outlets in Australia have staged a mass protest against increasingly draconian secrecy laws passed by the government, which are infringing on press freedom and the public’s right to know.

Rivals News Corp Australia and Nine, among others, printed front pages which showed blacked-out, ‘redacted’ text emblazoned with red stamps that read “secret.”

The protest was organized by the Right to Know Coalition, with the support of numerous TV, radio, newspaper and digital outlets.

Collectively, the press are arguing against national security laws which are stifling the freedom of the press and, in doing so, creating a “culture of secrecy” in Australia wherein freedom of information requests relating to even the most trivial government affairs are being denied. Some 60 laws relating to secrecy have been passed in the past two decades.

ABC Managing Director David Anderson warned that “Australia is at risk of becoming the world’s most secretive democracy.” The Australian media argue the government is trying to penalize whistleblowing, criminalize journalism, and infringe upon the public’s right to know.

The protest comes after a series of high-profile raids on the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the home of a News Corp Australia journalist following the publication of articles detailing alleged war crimes and domestic spying carried out by the government.

Three journalists may face prosecution following the raids for their part in the whistleblower articles’ publication.

During these press investigations, it was revealed that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service had bugged the offices of Timor-Leste officials during a multimillion-dollar resource negotiation in 2004.

Meanwhile, Australian Tax Office whistleblower Richard Boyle is facing up to 161 years in prison for revealing abuse of powers by the Australian tax authority apparatus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that while press freedom was important, it is still subject to the rule of law, adding that “no one was above the law.”

“That includes me, or any journalist, or anyone else.”

A press freedom inquiry is under way, the findings of which will be revealed in parliament next year. The media are fighting for the right to challenge government applications for warrants against journalists, while calling for freedom of information and defamation law reform, and the introduction of special protections for journalists and public sector whistleblowers.

October 21, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | | 2 Comments

‘The Falcon Lands: CIA Interference in Australian Politics (2014)

21st Century Wire

Did the CIA interfere in 1970s Australian politics? Former US intelligence operative and convicted spy, Christopher Boyce, tells his story to Australia’s Dateline program. Boyce’s intervention was made famous by Hollywood’s theatrical release of The Falcon and the Snowman. Boyce reveals covert US ‘regime change’ operations in Australia which would eventually remove the Labour Prime Minister from power, as Washington sought to protect its key intelligence gathering facilities located Down Under. Watch:

Presented by Mark Davis
Producers: SBS Dateline (2014)

October 6, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 1 Comment

Trump-Zelensky-Ukraine: What is really going on here?

By Tony Kevin | OffGuardian | October 2, 2019

I have over several days reflected on the official White House record of the Trump-Zelensky conversation on Ukraine-US relations on 25 July 2019, a conversation held soon after Zelensky’s confirmed election victory, and declassified by Trump’s presidential order of 24 September 2019.

I have also been reflecting on the more recent Democratic Party decision to explore possibilities for impeachment of Trump, a decision fortified by the so-called ‘CIA whistleblower’ and his/her rather unimpressive revelations.

Here is my hypothesis of what may be going on here. As always, it is a complex mixture of domestic US politics, and Trump’s and Zelensky’s foreign policy goals. And a footnote follows on Downer.

Let’s start with the foreign policy goals.  Both Trump and Zelensky are operating in highly constrained and threatening foreign policy environments at home. At the time of their phone call, Trump still had the warmonger Bolton to deal with inside the house: and even now he is still under the watchful scrutiny of the Russophobe imperial state figure of his Secretary of State Pompeo, closely though undeclaredly linked to the Washington imperial party on Ukraine-Russia as on other East-West issues.

Zelensky is similarly constrained and threatened in Kiev by the anti-Russian fanaticism that has been indoctrinated in large sections of the Ukrainian population by decades of nationalist, often neo-Nazi, Russophobe propaganda.

It is a tribute to the instinctive good sense of the Ukrainian electorate that Zelensky was able to defeat in the polls the discredited NATO stooge Poroshenko so comprehensively and decisively. The maturity of this vote gives me renewed hope for Ukraine. But there is a long way to go still towards political normalisation and economic recovery there.

Zelensky is smart enough to see that his country must achieve a normalisation of relations with Russia, but knows that he cannot yet say this openly. Putin wants this also, very much. But both men know it will take a very long time after the accumulated bitter grievances on both sides over recent decades, and especially since the lethal and destructive civil war on Eastern Ukraine that was begun by Poroshenko in April 2014 – no doubt on American advice.

This war has had terrible human consequences: loss of life, wounded and disabled casualties, destroyed communities, massive forced refugee outflows. Neither side can get over this easily or quickly.

The reciprocal prisoner release on 7 September was an essential symbolic action. Putin’s release of the navy crews who took part in the provocative and foolish Ukrainian raid on the Kerch Strait bridge a year ago was a key part of building Ukrainian confidence and trust in Zelensky’s leadership.

Russophobes in the West are in consternation at new green shoots of possible hope for progress towards Kiev-Moscow normalisation under the Normandy diplomacy format.

They are desperate to derail this hope, by proposing impossible conditions for normalisation: in particular that any self-determination elections for Donbass (while remaining within  sovereign Ukraine) could only be held under an ‘internationally supervised’ election and with ‘international peacekeepers’ in charge.

See for example this recent piece by a European analyst, Gustav Gressel. East Ukrainians rightly see such a formula as a sure recipe for US infiltration and black regime change operations in Donbass. So it will not happen.

As I interpret the Trump-Zelensky conversation, both leaders were cautiously but in a friendly way exploring the boundaries of what might be possible for each of them as presidents to revisit the troubled history of the past few years. I see nothing dishonourable or intimidating in this conversation. Trump critics are reading into it only what they want to read.

Here I turn to the US domestic politics aspect.

Trump is still bitterly opposed by the US imperial state represented by people like Biden, Clinton, Bolton and McFaul  (and increasingly, I suspect, by Obama), but also the FBI-CIA national security dissident faction represented by people like Brennan, Comey and Clapper. These people have learned nothing from the embarrassing failure of the Mueller investigation to prove the false Russiagate allegations.

They are keen still to bring Trump down by whatever possible means.

They see the threat to the credibility of their cause if Trump and Zelensky should together succeed in finding evidence of Ukrainian underpinnings of the 2016-17 Russiagate conspiracy against Trump. They are desperate to have a last bash at Trump before he might finally expose any such improprieties, through evidence from Ukraine (or, for that matter, Australia – see below).

They were powerful enough in the Democratic Party to finally overcome the experienced Nancy Pelosi’s prudent and well-founded resistance to their plans. She knows that this impeachment process could destroy any Democratic Party hopes for power next year.

But these fanatics are ready to go for broke, in their rage and despair against Trump. The ‘CIA whistleblower’, whoever he or she may be, is their last desperate throw.

The pathetic, compromised figure of Joe Biden, with his damning Ukrainian nationalist connections, is their unlikely standard-bearer. Elizabeth Warren is a possible backstop.

For these folk, either Sanders or Gabbard would be a disaster as a candidate – because neither shares the imperial agenda, and both are morally strong enough to resist it.

Nancy Pelosi and Tulsi Gabbard know the realities. I suspect Bernie Sanders does too, but is awaiting his moment to speak out on this.

The US liberal print media led by the New York Times and Washington Post, and more sympathetic networks like MSNBC and CNN, are trying to keep the impeachment fire alive. Other networks like FoxNews are standing back from it more sceptically.

I predict – analytically – that Trump will survive this latest impeachment wave and come out even stronger for the 2020 election as a result. His indignant base will be energised to vote in strategically important numbers sufficient to regain for him the US presidency for four more years.

This is good news for prospects for peace between Ukraine and Russia, however problematical it may be in other areas of the world diplomatic arena (and I am no supporter of Trump).

But I do not expect early miracles in Ukraine, rather a slow normalisation and contact-building process between these two closely related nations.

* * *

And a late footnote on Trump, Morrison and Downer: with exquisite timing, Trump has now put the acid on Morrison to give his Attorney-General Barr access to Australian intelligence files on Downer’s alleged attempt to collect intelligence from, and possibly incriminate, George Papadopoulos in their alleged wine rooms encounter in London, while Downer was still Australian High Commissioner.

It would seem, according to the allegations, that Downer was trying to collect intelligence to support the Russiagate allegations against Trump.

Morrison is now between a rock and a hard place. He cannot reject Trump’s request outright. (As Australian Labor figures are thoughtlessly urging him to do). But nor can he pursue Trump’s request enthusiastically enough to expose any alleged anti-Trump secret activities of Australian intelligence agencies, who were under pressure at the time from visiting figures in the US FBI and intelligence world – Comey, Clapper and Brennan – to help them build the Russiagate case against Trump in the first year of his presidency.

A Five-Eyes operational dilemma indeed, that will test Morrison’s loyalties.

October 2, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Evaluate the Evidence of Contrarians – Scientifically

By Jennifer Marohasy | September 21, 2019

FUNDAMENTAL to the scientific method is the assumption that reality exists independently of our belief systems; that there is such a thing as evidence, and that it matters.

There seems to be general agreement on this point from both the left and right sides of Australian politics.

Indeed, in an article in The Weekend Australian newspaper (page 18) written by Graham Lloyd entitled ‘No place in debate for contrarian hijackers’, Misha Ketchell who is the editor of the influential academic publication The Conversation is quoted claiming to care so much about the evidence that the opinions of ‘sceptics’ must be excluded.

But this begs the question: how do we define scepticism, and on what basis do we discount the opinion of a so-called sceptic?

If their opinions are at complete odds with the evidence: then wouldn’t it be more useful to show this? To use them, and their wrong claims, to explain the truth within the theory of human-caused global warming?

It is claimed that sceptics like myself have an undue and powerful political influence, repeatedly successfully thwarting attempts to implement necessary public policy change.

Indeed, if my arguments are so devoid of evidence, this should be easily proven. Except that the skills scores from my rainfall forecasts, when compared with reality, are far superior to anything forecast by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

There has always been a role in science for models and predictions — that can be objectively tested against reality/the evidence —- so the predictions of sceptics could be juxtaposed against predictions from the consensus.

Another way of finding universal truths is through simple observation. If we have catastrophic sea level rise, for example, then this should be evident when we visit the beach, or somewhere like Sydney Harbour. It should be evident in our coastal landscapes. I explained some of this in a recent talk I gave at the Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club that the Institute of Public Affairs had filmed and that is now available on YouTube.

Given science is about real world phenomena, it should not be that difficult for Misha Ketchell to test the evidence repeatedly being put forward by particular individuals, like myself, against what comes to pass in the real world — what is observed.

But instead of relying on such simple tests of the truth — in my rainfall forecasts or in a coastal landscape or at a coral reef — those in authority, and who edit important journals and websites, have decided that I should be banned.

As Graham Lloyd explains on page 18 of today’s Weekend Australian, I’m listed, in, of all places, the journal Nature as a dangerous dissident who must be shunned, and denied, because, it is claimed, that I misrepresent the evidence. That so many of us are actively de-platformed is only just now being acknowledged, and I am grateful that it has today been explained in The Weekend Australian.

The conspiracy against me dates to at least 2008 when Bryant MacFie gifted $350,000 to the University of Queensland (UQ) in a donation facilitated by the Institute of Public Affairs to pay for environmental research scholarships. After I set all of this up, the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS) intervened and told the Law and Agricultural facilities that if the program was to go ahead it must be without me … because as someone sceptical of global warming I lacked integrity.

I was replaced by Richard Burns, as the team leader. And more recently, in January just this year, after another strategic intervention perhaps involving the Bureau this time, I was removed as team leader from a project with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

The University of Queensland program did go ahead without me back in 2008.

I moved to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. The Blue Mountains is, of course, a great place for bush walking, which is a great way to reconnect with the natural world. It is in nature that we find evidence for the universal truths that exist independently of any and everything Misha Ketchell, and other such Australian opinion leaders, choose to publish — or not.

So, while I have repeatedly tried to escape to nature, it draws me back to science … as a method for transcending the chatter now everywhere in our scientific institutions and their publications.

I have kept showing that David Jones and Blair Trewin at the Bureau of Meteorology keep changing the temperature record, and more recently that the journal Nature publishes incorrect information from David Wachenfeld, the chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, as detailed in the article that follows.

Science is a method, science is never settled. We must therefore always be open-minded, tolerant and ready to be proven wrong. But history will eventually show that it is Misha Ketchell who is wrong and that this editor is not using a reasonable, or in any way evidence-based, criteria for deciding what should be published. This is so very wrong and so very harmful to science, democracy and the capacity of other opinion leaders and academics to evaluate the evidence which is so necessary if they are to get to the truth in such matters as climate change.

****************

The following article was published in The Weekend Australian on 7th September 2019.

Coral death knell exaggerated, says rebel quality assurance survey

The death of inshore corals near Bowen had been greatly exaggerated, according to the findings of a rebel quality assurance survey by reef-science outsiders Peter Ridd and Jennifer Marohasy.

The shallow reef flats of Stone Island have played a key role in divisions over the health of the – inshore Great Barrier Reef and the impact of run-off from agriculture.
Dr Ridd was disciplined for attempting to blow the whistle on the widespread use of before and after pictures taken a century apart near Stone Island that suggested coral cover had disappeared.

A follow-up paper by Queensland University reef scientist Tara Clark, co-authored by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chief scientist David Wachenfeld, confirmed the coral loss.

Despite winning his unfair dismissal case against JCU and being yesterday awarded more than $1.2m by the Federal Court, Dr Ridd effectively has been dismissed as a crank by other scientists.

An expert scientific panel last month accused him of spreading scientific misinformation like pro- tobacco lobbyists and anti-vaccination campaigners.

But Dr Ridd and Dr Marohasy have spent the past two weeks documenting the corals around Stone Island, which they found were still very much alive. … continue

September 29, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Australia Furthers Its Cooperation With NATO

By Ramona Wadi | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 29, 2019

In 2001, Australia became involved in the US “war on terror”, coined by former US President George W Bush as the pretext for invading Afghanistan. The rationale behind Australia’s decision was the ANZUS Treaty – a non-binding security between Australia, New Zealand and the US purportedly in line with the principles of the UN Charter.

Despite the treaty relating to possible attacks on either party in the Pacific, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard invoked Article VI to justify Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan, which states, “This treaty does not affect and shall not be interpreted as affecting in any way the rights and obligations of the Parties under the Charter of the United Nations or the responsibility of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security.”

Since 2001, Australia has maintained a presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Adopting US rhetoric on security and terrorism, the Australian Defence Ministry described its presence in Afghanistan thus: “Our fundamental objective in Afghanistan is to combat a clear threat from international terrorism to both international security and our own national security. Australia cannot afford, and Australians cannot afford, to let Afghanistan once again become a safe haven and training ground for terrorist organisations.”

Needless to say, the war on terror accomplished a continuation of the terrorism fomented by the US in its plans to permanently destabilise the region. Following its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia has also cooperated with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) since 2005, thus prioritising security discourse at a national level.

In 2012, the Australia-NATO Joint Political Declaration established the foundations for cooperation and strategy – in other words, the prolongation of intervention abroad upon pretexts of security. The document recognises Australia as “one of the leading contributors to the NATO-led ISA mission in Afghanistan, which works under a UN Security Council mandate.”

Additionally, the declaration whitewashes foreign intervention through security concerns: “We understand the need to manage effectively risks and threats to our mutual interest, such as political instability from failed states, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and cyber-attacks.” This statement has been reflected in the recent partnership agreement signed by NATO and Australia earlier this month.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described Australia’s role as “helping us to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.” Days later, US President Donald Trump spoke about US presence in Afghanistan as a purported deterrent to prevent the country from becoming “a laboratory for terror.”

Far from deterring terrorism, international involvement in Afghanistan has created networks of terror which cannot be dissociated from foreign intervention. Dismantling terrorism in a failed state created by foreign intervention is the pretext for prolonged international presence.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as a non-NATO member has been one of the most prominent and reportedly in relation to training missions, although it was also involved in capturing and detaining alleged terror suspects.

As early as 2003 while working in close cooperation with the US, Australia not only was knowledgeable about the torture and abuse meted out at Abu Ghraib in Iraq – it was also a participant. Documents reveal that Australia’s representative at Abu Ghraib, officer and military lawyer George O’Kane, blocked the International Committee of the Red Cross access to detainees undergoing torture sessions. The Australian Government’s response to the revelations refuted responsibility, stating that the techniques applied against detainees were in concordance with the Geneva Conventions.

Australia was also one of the countries, among them NATO members and allies, participating in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) extraordinary rendition program, which involved the transfer of individuals suspected of terrorism to secret US detention and torture centres.

Speaking about the recently agreed framework, Stoltenberg highlighted Australia’s cooperation with NATO as focusing on preventing terrorism. “Training local forces is the best thing we can do in fighting terrorism; helping countries to stabilise their own countries.”

False premises instigated the war on terror. Maintaining it requires the regurgitation of past, dangerous lies. The West’s appropriation of what constitutes “individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law” has fomented perpetual war and subjugation to imperialist powers.

In the words of Australian Defence Minister as to the level of involvement of Australia in the region, “what we’re doing at the moment is assessing the ask from the United States, assessing what other allies are doing and how they’re considering this.” A simple statement that shows the Australian government has no consideration for the countries invaded by NATO, the mutating violence, dispossession of people and permanent instability. Neither, for that matter, will Australia assess its own involvement in terms of the human rights violations it helped to propagate. Dropping bombs in Iraq? Australia seems to have no problem with furthering an oppressive legacy.

August 29, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Australia joins US-led anti-Iran flotilla… in the name of national security & economic interests

RT | August 21, 2019

Australia will send a frigate and a spy plane in support of Washington’s dubious initiative to boost security in the Straits of Hormuz by filling it with foreign warships, increasing the risk of miscalculations and provocations.

“The government has decided that it is in Australia’s national interest to work with our international partners to contribute,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday morning. “Our contribution will be limited in scope and it will be time-bound.”

Following the US and UK lead, the former British colony will reinforce the sparse coalition with a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance plane this year and will dispatch a frigate next January for at least six months’ patrol, foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and defense minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement.

Besides this ‘limited’ contribution, Canberra also agreed to provide intelligence and other assistance, as the US faces an uphill battle trying to muster support for its “maritime policing” initiative. Previously, only the UK and Israel had volunteered to battle the much-hyped Iranian threat, following a series of mysterious attacks on oil tankers that were pinned on Tehran and reciprocal vessel seizures by Iran and the UK.

The Islamic Republic, meanwhile, believes the US is simply trying to enforce its unilateral oil sanctions through military pressure after failing to do it via political extortion.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 4 Comments

Did Bill Barr Call His Shot? Unanswered Questions about FBI’s Foreknowledge of the El Paso Shooting

William Barr’s warning that a “major incident” could occur “at any time” and “galvanize public opinion” around the unpopular encryption back-door policy he has been seeking seems to have come true in the weeks since the attorney general made those statements.

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | August 7, 2019

As a series of recent mass shootings have brought renewed demands for the U.S. government to do something to address the spike in “lone wolf” violence, the Trump administration’s decision to blame internet privacy, controversial websites like 8chan, and social media for the shootings has raised eyebrows from across the political spectrum, particularly in light of claims that Trump’s recent rhetoric about immigrants may have incited some of the shooters.

During a press conference on Monday, Trump blamed the internet for the three most recent mass shooting events:

We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts. We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start…. The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored, and they will not be ignored… We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless. We can and will stop this evil contagion.”

Yet, not long before the recent spate of mass shootings began, U.S. Attorney General William Barr gave a speech on July 23 in which he spoke of the need for all consumer electronic devices and encrypted software to have a backdoor for the government to bypass encryption, essentially calling for many of the same measures that Trump has proposed following the recent shootings.

Notably, Barr concluded his speech by stating that he anticipated “a major incident may well occur at any time that will galvanize public opinion on these issues.” In other words, just a few days prior to the recent spate of mass shootings, William Barr stated that he anticipated a public safety crisis that “may well occur at any time” and would reduce public resistance to the further erosion of civil liberties that he was advocating for in his speech.

Furthermore, the FBI, which operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and reports directly to William Barr, has now stated that it was aware of the El Paso shooter’s plan to murder civilians via a post made on 8chan at least two hours before the shooting took place. 8chan — a controversial website that the FBI is known to have used to incite violence as part of its controversial terrorist entrapment strategy — has since been banned in the shooting’s aftermath. In addition, less than two months ago, the FBI obtained a warrant for 8chan’s host — Ch.net — in which the Bureau demanded access to the entire contents of the accounts that were of interest in that specific investigation, suggesting that the FBI had increased access to information of hundreds of 8chan accounts in the lead-up to the recent shootings.

The overlap between Barr’s recent speech and Trump’s proposed solution to the massacres, as well as the FBI’s unusual recent relationship with 8chan, has led some to suggest that the Trump administration is taking advantage of the tragedy at El Paso and of other recent mass shootings to impose unpopular restrictions on civil liberties and increase the mass surveillance of innocent Americans.

An uncanny prediction

On Tuesday, July 23, Attorney General William Barr gave the keynote address at the 2019 International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) at Fordham University. The focus of Barr’s speech was the need for consumer electronic products and applications that use encryption to offer a “backdoor” for the government, specifically law enforcement, to obtain access to encrypted communications as a matter of public safety.

Early in his speech, Barr stated:

Service providers, device manufacturers and application developers are developing and deploying encryption that can only be decrypted by the end user or customer, and they are refusing to provide technology that allows for lawful access by law enforcement agencies in appropriate circumstances….

While encryption protects against cyberattacks, deploying it in warrant-proof form jeopardizes public safety more generally. The net effect is to reduce the overall security of society.”

Barr went onto say that “warrant-proof encryption is also seriously impairing our ability to monitor and combat domestic and foreign terrorists.” Barr stated that “smaller terrorist groups and ‘lone wolf’ actors” — such as those involved in the series of mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio that would occur in the weeks after his speech — “have turned increasingly to encryption.” Barr later notes that he is specifically referencing encryption used by “consumer products and services such as messaging, smart phones, email, and voice and data applications.”

Barr then laid out his vision of what the solution to this challenge posed by “warrant-proof encryption” would look like:

We believe that when technology providers deploy encryption in their products, services, and platforms they need to maintain an appropriate mechanism for lawful access. This means a way for government entities, when they have appropriate legal authority, to access data securely, promptly, and in an intelligible format, whether it is stored on a device or in transmission.

We do not seek to prescribe any particular solution. Our private-sector technology providers have immensely talented engineers who have built the very products and services that we are talking about. They are in the best position to determine what methods of lawful access work best for their technology.”

After laying out his vision, Barr stated that, while he would like to give private companies time to willingly cooperate and comply with his suggested solution to “warrant-proof encryption,” “the time to achieve that [government back-doors into electronic consumer apps and products] may be limited.”

To overcome the resistance by some private companies — who do not want to renege on their right to privacy by giving the government back-door access to their devices — and American consumers, Barr tellingly anticipates that a “major incident” will soon take place that will mold public opinion in favor of his proposed solution.

Barr concluded his speech by stating:

I think it is prudent to anticipate that a major incident may well occur at any time that will galvanize public opinion on these issues.

As this debate has dragged on, and deployment of warrant-proof encryption has accelerated, our ability to protect the public from criminal threats is rapidly deteriorating. The status quo is exceptionally dangerous, unacceptable, and only getting worse.

The rest of the world has woken up to this threat. It is time for the United States to stop debating whether to address it, and start talking about how to address it.” (emphases added)

On Thursday, July 25, the last day of the ICCS conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray also echoed Barr’s call for government back-doors into encrypted software and apps, stating in his speech:

Cybersecurity is a central part of the FBI’s mission. But as the attorney general discussed earlier this week, our request for lawful access cannot be considered in a vacuum. It’s got to be viewed more broadly, taking into account the American public’s interest in the security and safety of our society, and our way of life. That’s important because this is an issue that’s getting worse and worse all the time.

There’s one thing I know for sure: It cannot be a sustainable end state for us to be creating an unfettered space that’s beyond lawful access for terrorists, hackers and child predators to hide. But that’s the path we’re on now, if we don’t come together to solve this problem.”

A new phase of an old campaign

The speeches given by Barr and Wray are the most recent iterations of the Department of Justice’s years-long effort to evade and weaken the encryption used by certain electronic products and applications, particularly encrypted messaging apps. Indeed, the DOJ was particularly active in late 2017 in pushing for back-doors into encrypted software, citing the encrypted devices of past perpetrators of mass shootings as proving the need for federal law enforcement to easily and quickly bypass encryption in criminal investigations.

However, Barr’s and Wray’s speeches mark a new phase of this government campaign targeting encryption, a campaign that has picked up in the past two weeks just as a series of mass shootings in the United States have led to widespread calls for the government to do something to prevent further massacres.

At a Monday press conference, President Donald Trump gave his official response to the most recent shootings in Ohio and Texas, tragedies that he largely blamed on the internet and its “dark recesses” that are inaccessible to the government. “We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” Trump stated, before adding: “We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”

“The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored,” the president emphasized.

One of the main solutions Trump offered to what he alleged caused the recent shootings was to mandate the DOJ “to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies as well as social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.” Some interpreted this statement as suggesting the more widespread implementation of “pre-crime” software, such as Palantir, which was co-founded by billionaire Trump backer Peter Thiel, who is also on Facebook’s board.

Conveniently for William Barr, Facebook announced in May that the company is already developing just the “backdoor” that the attorney general has sought. This new initiative would implement AI-powered surveillance measures onto consumer devices, which would bypass end-to-end encryption on both the recently encrypted Facebook Messenger and the popular encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook in 2014. Though the measure was announced in May, it has received media attention only in the last week, following Barr’s speech at the 2019 ICCS.

Following Trump’s proposal for social media and the Barr-led DOJ to work together to monitor encrypted messages, it seems that Facebook will be one of the first major tech companies to offer its ready-made solution to the U.S. government. It is also worth considering the possibility that Barr may use the threat of his Silicon Valley antitrust probe to potentially strong-arm tech companies that would otherwise be unwilling to create a government back-door in their software or products. That probe was announced the same day that Barr spoke about anti-encryption measures at the 2019 ICCS.

In addition, between Barr’s July 23 speech and Trump’s August 5 press conference, there has been a concerted push from not only the DOJ but also the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, of which the U.S. is part, to weaken encryption or give governments access to encrypted applications.

On the heels of the 2019 ICCS, at which Barr and Wray spoke, there was a related cyber security summit in London — called the Five Country Ministerial — where “senior ministers from the U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States … reaffirmed their commitment to work together with industry to tackle a range of security threats.”

According to the U.K. government’s press release on the summit, which took place from July 29 to 30, the ministers in attendance “stressed that law enforcement agencies’ efforts to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes would be hampered if the industry carries out plans to implement end-to-end encryption, without the necessary safeguards.” William Barr attended that summit, representing the U.S., and echoed his speech given a week prior, stating:

We must ensure that we do not stand by as advances in technology create spaces where criminal activity of the most heinous kind can go undetected and unpunished.”

Notably, Australia last year implemented a law similar to that which Barr is seeking to enact in the United States. It has since been lampooned by expert cryptographers for its ineffectiveness and has caused damage to Australia’s tech industry. According to the Guardian, Microsoft revealed in March that companies and governments it works with say they “are no longer comfortable about storing their data in Australia as a result of the encryption legislation.” Perhaps predictably, what has happened since Australia’s enactment of this controversial encryption legislation is the Australian government’s use of its new “back-doors” to widely surveil its civilians without a warrant.

Barr’s Orwellian bent

Barr’s outsized involvement in this recent push for a government back-door into all encryption apps is notable given his past. For instance, prior to becoming attorney general under Trump, Barr worked at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, a firm that “represent[s] clients on matters relating to data and network security.” Kirkland & Ellis, in describing its own services, notes:

These matters are increasingly important to national security and international trade concerns such as government surveillance issues, state-sponsored cyber-attacks and espionage, and legal limitations on cross-border data transfers. The Firm represents clients in navigating these legal matters, including with respect to investigating security incidents/breaches and handling resulting litigation or government relations aspects of such incidents.”

Furthermore, Barr’s previous stint as attorney general, during the administration of George H.W. Bush, saw him push for increasing mass surveillance of innocent Americans. According to USA Today, in 1992, while serving as Attorney General under Bush Sr., Barr “launched a vast surveillance program that gathered records of innocent Americans’ international phone calls without first conducting a review of whether it was legal.”  The program “ultimately gathered billions of records of nearly all phone calls from the United States to 116 countries, with little oversight from Congress or the courts” and also “provided a blueprint for far broader phone-data surveillance the government launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” The program was partially carried out by the then-head of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Barr’s history of pushing for reducing privacy for citizens is troubling considering that, earlier in his career, he pushed for increased government secrecy while he was employed by the CIA in the late 1970s. For instance, while working at the CIA’s Office of Legislative Council, Barr attempted to circumvent the moratorium placed on the CIA that prevented it from destroying records and also stonewalled the Church Committee’s investigation into CIA abuses. Thus, Barr’s push for reduced privacy for citizens but increased privacy for the government bodes poorly for those who see government transparency and citizen privacy as important to keeping government overreach in check.

FBI foreknowledge

In the hours before the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas — and less than two weeks after Barr warned of an imminent “major incident” that would “galvanize public opinion” in favor of ending encryption free from a government back-door — the FBI was made aware of a manifesto published on the controversial website 8chan that is alleged to have been authored by the shooter, Patrick Crusius.

According to NBC News, the FBI was aware of the document prior to the shooting, but was unable to act quickly enough to prevent the attack. There have, however, been conflicting reports about exactly how long the FBI was aware of the alleged manifesto prior to the shooting.

For instance, soon after the shooting, CNN stated that three different sources had told the outlet that the manifesto had been “posted days before the shootings.” However, the FBI later stated less than a half hour before the shooting, while separate law enforcement sources told reporters that it was actually two hours before the shooting.

There is also a discrepancy regarding whether the manifesto was originally posted on 8chan and whether the shooter himself even posted it. Jim Watkins, who owns the 8chan message boards and has alerted federal authorities previously when past shooting manifestos were published at the site, stated:

First of all, the El Paso shooter posted on Instagram, not 8chan… Later, someone uploaded the manifesto. However, that manifesto was not uploaded by the Walmart shooter. I don’t know if he wrote it or not, but it was not uploaded by the murderer; that is clear.”

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said that it had disabled an Instagram account that belonged to Crusius and also noted that that account had been inactive for over a year.

In the past, 8chan administrators had deleted manifestos minutes after they were posted and warned federal authorities that the documents had been published. In the case of the El Paso shooting, Watkins claimed that the site had informed federal authorities as soon as they were aware that the manifesto had been uploaded to its page.

The facts that the FBI knew in advance of the manifesto, that the manifesto may not have been uploaded by the shooter, and that the FBI was quick to link that document to the shooting event soon after it took place have led to speculation about how the FBI was able to make that connection so quickly. For instance, lawyer Robert Barnes stated the following on Twitter:

How did [the] FBI identify the shooter before he began his attack from a post on an anonymous chat board? Usually, this means the shooter tipped them off either directly or indirectly (informant). Misuse of informants (including encouraging violence) is an underexplored problem.”

In addition, journalist Rachel Blevins posed a similar question on social media following the revelations, writing:

It took just hours for the FBI to both identify the suspect in the El Paso shooting and connect him to a manifesto posted on 8chan, which raises the question… was the suspect included in the FBI’s surveillance, and were their agents in contact with him before the shooting?”

This possibility is worth considering, given the well-documented history of the FBI’s policy of manufacturing domestic terror plots within the United States, most of which are ultimately foiled at the last minute by the Bureau. In many of those cases, many alleged terrorists would not have planned or attempted those attacks without goading and support from the FBI, leading critics to accuse the FBI of deliberately using entrapment. For instance, a 2014 study by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute found that “many of these people [in the cases examined in the study] would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts,” according to the study’s co-author Andrea Prasow.

There are several instances where the FBI sought out mentally handicapped and unstable individuals with no resources of their own, giving them incentives, fake weapons and even driving them to the scene of the planned fake terror attack. Two high-profile domestic terror cases have also had hints of FBI involvement — including the Pulse nightclub shooting, where the shooter’s father was later revealed to be a FBI informant and the FBI had attempted to goad the Pulse shooter into committing a terror attack years prior to the Pulse shooting. In addition, the family of the Boston Marathon bombers claimed that the FBI regularly visited their family home and had cultivated a close relationship with one of the bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, prior to the bombing.

Since late 2016, the FBI’s controversial policy of inducting individuals to commit acts of terror in the United States has expanded after a federal appeals court ruling in December of that year said that federal agents were allowed to target a person’s religious affiliation in order to “probe the attitudes” of an individual who may want to “do something to America” by entrapping them in fake terror act schemes. The ruling also permitted federal agents to create false friendships, referred to in the ruling as the “illusory cultivation of emotional intimacy,” as a means of manipulating individuals to commit acts of terrorism — as well as providing these unstable individuals with money, vehicles, businesses and even vacations to get them to agree to participate in fake attacks.

As a result of this troubling trend, and given the FBI’s foreknowledge of the manifesto and its ease in connecting that document to the shooter, it becomes important to ask whether the FBI had more foreknowledge of the situation than it has publicly let on.

Though history indicates that FBI foreknowledge of the shooter is definitely plausible, 8chan has been a recent focus of the FBI in recent months. For instance, after the alleged manifesto of the shooter responsible for the massacre at the Poway Synagogue earlier this year was published on 8chan, the FBI issued a warrant for hundreds of 8chan user accounts that had commented on the Poway Synagogue shooter’s thread, including both users that supported his statement of intent and those who were appalled by it.

According to the Bureau’s application for a search warrant, the FBI was seeking the “IP address and metadata information about [Poway shooter John] Earnest’s original posting and the postings of all of the individuals who responded to the subject posting and/or commented about it.” The FBI further instructed Ch.net, which hosts 8chan, “to make a digital copy of the entire contents of the accounts subject to seizure.”

It goes without saying that with the information on hundreds of 8chan users, the FBI would have had access to potential future informants and potential targets to be “groomed” by the FBI for a future domestic terrorism entrapment case. This is especially likely given that the FBI’s reasoning for obtaining this large amount of information in the warrant was to identify “individuals who are inspired by the subject posting [i.e., the Poway shooter manifesto].” One 8chan user who was contacted by the FBI after this search warrant and filmed the encounter, was asked by federal agents to help them with information-gathering on other 8chan users.

This possibility is further supported by the fact that the FBI agent who filed the search warrant application, FBI Special Agent Michael Rod, revealed that he had been active on 8chan and (perhaps inadvertently) revealed his user name on 8chan to be user “8f4812.” An archive of the Poway shooter’s 8chan thread, available here, reveals that Rod stated in that 8chan thread that Russia was to blame for the Poway shooting and Rod also claimed that he knew of the Poway shooting 15 minutes before it happened but was unable to warn the authorities because he “was shit posting and got tied up.”

In the wake of the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, 8chan was taken offline after internet infrastructure company Cloudflare declined to continue supporting the website.

A tragedy foretold and exploited

William Barr’s warning that a “major incident” could occur “at any time” and “galvanize public opinion” around the unpopular encryption back-door policy he has been seeking seems to have come true in the weeks since the attorney general made those statements. Given Barr’s influence over the FBI, which operates under his jurisdiction, it is important to scrutinize the evidence that the FBI had apparent foreknowledge of at least one of these recent shootings, and consider that the Bureau may have failed to act to prevent the tragedy, allowing Barr’s prediction just weeks earlier to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Trump’s proposed solution to the recent spate of mass shootings is focused on giving Barr a mandate to work with social media and tech companies to prevent another mass shooting before it occurs. It seems evident that this solution is set to involve surveilling encrypted communications to ostensibly prevent another shooting while also providing Barr, and the DOJ at large, the back-door into encrypted apps and consumer products that they have long sought but have been unable to sell to either the public or those same tech companies.

Now, a public safety crisis has emerged in the wake of Barr’s recent speech, tipping the scales — as Barr had predicted — so the public would favor further reductions to their civil liberties and right to privacy so that the federal government could provide increased public safety through increased surveillance. Yet, taking this alongside the well-documented fact that the FBI regularly manufactures domestic terror plots, it is worth asking whether some of these recent shootings were allowed to happen and whether public officials like William Barr are manipulating the public’s reaction to these tragedies to advance their own political agendas and further the build-up of state power.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Australia not going to host US missiles: PM Morrison

Press TV – August 5, 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that missiles belonging to the United States will not be deployed in Australia.

Morrison, who held talks with US officials over the weekend, said on Monday that Australia will not be hosting US intermediate-range missiles.

His comments came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departed Sydney following US-Australia talks.

The talks ended with a joint statement in which the two sides agreed to create a stronger front against Chinese advancement in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US won’t “stand by idly” while China “attempts to reshape the region to its favor,” Esper was quoted by US media as saying.

However, in an interview on Saturday after pulling out of a landmark arms control treaty, the new Pentagon chief told reporters that he aimed to deploy ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming months, raising serious concerns among the advocates of arms control.

China has described Beijing’s bilateral relationship with Australia as “unsatisfactory”.

After meeting his Australian counterpart last week, China’s top diplomat insisted that Beijing’s strained ties with Canberra needed to be ameliorated.

“During our diplomatic and strategic dialogue in Beijing last November, we agreed to calibrate and relaunch China-Australia relations, but the process of improving our ties has not been satisfactory,” said State Councilor, Wang Yi, after the Bangkok meeting which took place on the sidelines of a regional security forum.

Canberra claims the reason for severed ties was that Beijing had attempted to interfere in its internal affairs. Beijing rejects the claim, insisting it is does not, on principle, meddle in other countries’ domestic affairs.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 2 Comments