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JFK, Trump, Russia, and the Deep State

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 16, 2019

Ever since I began writing on the JFK assassination, there have been those who have said to me, “What difference does it make whether this was a regime-change operation? Most everyone who engaged in it is dead by now anyway. What relevance does the assassination have for us living today?”

The answer: We are still living under the governmental structure that pulled it off, the same structure that has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation of President Trump to determine whether he is a secret agent of the Russian government and, therefore, a threat to “national security.”

While such an investigation appears absolutely ordinary to the mainstream press, it actually is a very shocking notion. After all, the president is the ostensible head of the executive branch of the federal government. Here we have people working in what are ostensibly subordinate parts of the executive branch carrying out a secret counterintelligence investigation of the man at the top.

To understand what is occurring here, it’s important to put the matter in a historical context.

The U.S. government began as a limited-government republic. That’s the type of governmental structure that the American people called into existence when they approved the Constitution.

In the beginning of the republic and for the next 100 years, there was no Pentagon, military-industrial complex, large and permanent military establishment, CIA, NSA, or FBI. There was only a relatively small sized army.

The powers that the Constitution delegated to the federal government were few and limited. The Bill of Rights expressly restricted the powers of the federal government. The foreign policy of the U.S. government was one of non-intervention – that is, not to get embroiled in alliances, wars, revolutions, civil wars, and famines in Europe and Asia.

Everything changed after World War II, when the federal government was converted into what is known as a “national-security state.”

Even though it is never emphasized in America’s public schools, that was a watershed event in American life, much more so than the conversion of America’s economic system to a welfare state and regulated economy in the 1930s. A national-security state is inherent to totalitarian regimes, vesting omnipotent power within the military-intelligence establishment to do whatever is necessary to protect “national security.” Nazi Germany was a national-security state. So was the Soviet Union. Cuba. North Korea. And many more, including post WW2 America.

Under the republic form of government, the army was in the executive branch, which was headed by the president. What happened after the conversion, however, was a completely different system, one that, as a practical matter, entailed four different branches of government, not the three branches that every schoolchild is taught in public schools. This fourth branch isn’t even located in Washington, D.C. It is based outside the District, in the neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland.

That fourth branch is the national-security branch, which, owing to its extremely large power, immediately assigned itself the authority to decide matters relating to “national security.” The other three branches — executive, legislative, and judicial — quickly began deferring to the national-security branch whenever some matter would arise relating to national security.

The way to think about this is the following: The Constitution did not expressly delegate to the Supreme Court the power to declare unconstitutional the laws and actions of the other two branches. Nonetheless, the Court declared that it had the power to do that, and the other branches deferred to that judgment and that power.

The principle is similar with respect to the national-security state. Even though the Constitution doesn’t provide for a national-security state, the national-security establishment — i.e., the military, CIA, NSA, and, to a certain extent, the FBI — effectively decreed that they were the final judges on matters relating to “national security” and wielded the omnipotent power to do whatever was necessary to protect the nation from what it decided were threats to national security.

Practically from the very beginning, the other three branches deferred to the national-security branch when it came to “national security.” That’s how we ended up with a nation whose governmental officials wield such totalitarian powers as assassination, torture, indefinite detention, regime-change operations, coups, alliances with dictatorial regimes, an empire of overseas military bases, a domestic empire of military-intelligence bases, secret surveillance, a military-industrial-congressional complex, and ever-increasing military-intelligence spending.

Most of the time the president and the national-security establishment are on the same page. That’s how the CIA was able to effect regime-change operations in places like Iran, Guatemala, and Chile. The president was on board with those operations.

But the question naturally arises: What if the worst happened? What if a democratically elected president himself is deemed to be a threat to national security. With respect to a foreign democratically elected leader who is deemed a threat to U.S. national security, the answer is clear: Eliminate him, either with a coup or through assassination. That’s what the regime-change operations against Mossadegh in Iran, Arbenz in Guatemala, Lumumba in Congo, Castro in Cuba, and Allende in Chile were all about.

But what if the same thing were to happen here in the United States? The answer is clear: By converting the federal government to a national-security state, the Constitution, as a practical matter, was implicitly amended by providing the national-security establishment with the omnipotent authority to investigate a president to determine whether he was a threat to national security and, equally important, to do what was necessary to resolve the issue.

That’s what President Eisenhower was alluding to in his Farewell Address, when he stated that the military-industrial complex posed a grave threat to the democratic processes of the American people. It was what his successor, John Kennedy, was alluding to when he had the novel Seven Days in May made into a movie.

As Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s, points out in his FFF ebook, JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated, that is precisely what happened in the Kennedy assassination. While the deep state today is investigating whether or not Trump is operating as an agent of the Russian government, the deep state back then definitely concluded that Kennedy’s actions and policies toward Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union and the communist world posed a grave threat to U.S. national security.

Since the very beginning of America’s national-security state, its driving force was anti-communism, which revolved around a deeply seated animus toward Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam, and other communist states. The Reds were coming to get us, they said. National security was constantly under siege. This was a war to the finish.

Kennedy’s war with the national-security establishment began with the CIA’s Bay of Pigs disaster, when Kennedy fired CIA Director Allen Dulles and reputedly vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the winds. His war with the military evolved from what they perceived to be his weakness and cowardice toward Cuba and the Soviet Union, especially with the deal he reached to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis, which left Cuba permanently under communist control.

But it was what Kennedy did after that the Cuban Missile Crisis that sealed his fate as a threat to national security. He threw the gauntlet down at American University on June 10, 1963, when he said that the entire Cold War was a crock and that he was declaring it to be over. From then on, he said, the United States and the Soviet Union and the communist world would live in peace and friendship, which the national-security establishment steadfastly maintained was an impossible fantasy.

He then entered into a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets, which the military and the CIA viewed as akin to disarming in the face of the worldwide communist threat. He then ordered a partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam and told close aides he could complete it after winning the 1964 election. He proposed a joint moon project, which would necessarily entail sharing rocket technology with the Russians. Worst of all, from the standpoint of the Pentagon and the CIA, he entered into secret personal negotiations with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, totally circumventing the U.S. national-security establishment.

They didn’t need to investigate Kennedy. They “knew” that his policies of peace and friendship toward Russia, like those of Mossadegh, Arbenz, Lamumba, Castro, and Allende, were much worse than anything Trump has supposedly done. Kennedy’s policies, they concluded, were taking America down to the road to a communist takeover.

In the war between Kennedy and the national-security establishment over Russia and the future direction of the United States, there could only be one winner. That winner did not turn out to be Kennedy. We have been living with the consequences ever since.

January 16, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia-gate Evidence, Please

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | January 15, 2019

For those interested in evidence — or the lack of it— regarding collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, we can thank the usual Russia-gate promoters at The New York Times and CNN for inadvertently filling in some gaps in recent days.

Stooping to a new low, Friday’s Times headline screamed: “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” The second paragraph noted that FBI agents “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

Trump had been calling for better relations with Russia during his presidential campaign. As journalist Michael Tracy tweeted on Sunday, the Times report made it “not a stretch to say: the FBI criminally investigating Trump on the basis of the ‘national security threat’ he allegedly poses, with the ‘threat’ being his perceived policy preferences re: Russia, could constitute literal criminalization of deviation from foreign policy consensus.”

On Monday night CNN talking heads, like former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, were expressing wistful hope that the FBI had more tangible evidence than Trump’s public statements to justify such an investigation. Meanwhile, they would withhold judgment regarding the Bureau’s highly unusual step.

Evidence?

NYT readers had to get down to paragraph 9 to read: “No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.” Four paragraphs later, the Times’ writers noted that, “A vigorous debate has taken shape among former law enforcement officials … over whether FBI investigators overreacted.”

Brennan: “I don’t do evidence.” (White House photo)

That was what Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy was wondering when he grilled former CIA director John Brennan on May 23, 2017 on what evidence he had provided to the FBI to catalyze its investigation of Trump-Russia collusion.

Brennan replied: “I don’t do evidence.”

The best Brennan could do was repeat the substance of a clearly well-rehearsed statement: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign … that required further investigation by the Bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”

That was it.

CNN joined the piling on Monday, quoting former FBI General Counsel James Baker in closed-door Congressional testimony to the effect that FBI officials were weighing “whether Trump was acting at the behest of [the Russians] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.” The problem is CNN also noted that Lisa Page, counsel to then FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, testified that there had been “indecision in the Bureau as to whether there was sufficient predication to open [the investigation].’ “Predication” is another word for evidence.

Within hours of Comey’s firing on May 9, 2017, Page’s boyfriend and a top FBI counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok texted her: “We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy [McCabe] is acting [director].” After all, if Trump were bold enough, he could have appointed a new FBI director and who knew what might happen then. When Page appeared before Congress, she was reportedly asked what McCabe meant. She confirmed that his text was related to the Russia investigation into potential collusion.

Comey v. Trump Goes Back to Jan. 6, 2017

The Times and CNN, however unintentionally, have shed light on what ensued after Trump finally fired Comey. Apparently, it finally dawned on Trump that, on Jan. 6, 2017, Comey had treated him to the time-honored initiation-rite-for-presidents-elect — with rubrics designed by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

It seems then-FBI Director James Comey rendered a good impersonation of Hoover that day when he briefed President-elect Trump on the scurrilous “Steele dossier” that the FBI had assembled on Trump. Excerpts from an interview Trump gave to the Times (below) after the firing throw light on what Trump says was at least part of his motivation to dump Comey.

To dramatize the sensitivity of the dossier, Comey asked then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper and the heads of the CIA and NSA to depart the room at the Trump Tower, leaving Comey alone with the President-elect. The Gang of Four had already briefed Trump on the evidence-impoverished “Intelligence Community Assessment.” That “assessment” alleged that Putin himself ordered his minions to help Trump win. The dossier had been leaked to the media, which withheld it but Buzzfeed published it on Jan. 10.?

‘This Russia Thing’

Evidently, it took Trump four months to fully realize he was being played, and that he couldn’t expect the “loyalty” he is said to have asked of Comey. So Trump fired Comey on May 9. Two days later he told NBC’s Lester Holt:

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Comey: Pulled a Hoover on Trump? (Carciature by DonkeyHotey)

The mainstream media and other Russia-gater aficionados immediately seized on “this Russian thing” as proof that Trump was trying to obstruct the investigation of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. However, in the Holt interview Trump appeared to be reflecting on Comey’s J. Edgar Hoover-style, one-on-one gambit alone in the room with Trump.

Would Comey really do a thing like that? Was the former FBI director protesting too much in his June 2017 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee when he insisted he’d tried to make it clear to Trump that briefing him on the unverified but scurrilous information in the dossier wasn’t intended to be threatening. It took a few months but it seems Trump figured out what he thought Comey was up to.

Trump to NYT: ‘Leverage’ (aka Blackmail)

In a long Oval Office interview with the Times on July 19, 2017, Trump said he thought Comey was trying to hold the dossier over his head.

“… Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff. … the dossier … Now, that was totally made-up stuff,” Trump said. “I went there [to Moscow] for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful. It was so disgraceful.

“When he [James B. Comey] brought it [the dossier] to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal. … I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phony stuff.”

The dossier, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign and compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, relates a tale of Trump allegedly cavorting with prostitutes, who supposedly urinated on each other before the same bed the Obamas had slept in at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel. [On February 6, 2018, The Washington Post reported that that part of the dossier was written Cody Shearer, a long-time Clinton operative and passed it along to Steele. Shearer ignored a request for comment from Consortium News. [Shearer had been a Consortium advisory board member who was asked to resign and left the board.]

Trump told the Times: “I think [Comey] shared it so that I would — because the other three people [Clapper, Brennan, and Rogers] left, and he showed it to me. … So anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there. … As leverage.

“Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, ‘You have every right to fire me,’ blah blah blah. Right? He said, ‘You have every right to fire me.’ I said, that’s a very strange — you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.”

McGovern lays out more details during a 12-minute interview on Jan. 10 with Tyrel Ventura of “Watching the Hawks.”


Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A CIA analyst for 27 years and Washington area resident for 56 years, he has been attuned to these machinations. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?

Ndola, Zambia, showing the roof of the memorial museum and Dag Hammarskjöld’s DC-6 as it would have appeared coming through the trees onto the crash site.
By Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson | CounterPunch | January 11, 2019

Background to the Crash

A plane carrying the Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, crashed while approaching the Ndola (Zambia) airport on September 18, 1961. The exact time of the crash is unknown, although it was around midnight. The DC-6, named Albertina, had flown a circuitous route from Kinshasa, the capital of the Congo, to Ndola, a large town in what was then Northern Rhodesia. The purpose of the flight was to bring Secretary Hammarskjöld to a meeting with Moise Tshombe, the president of the breakaway republic of Katanga, in which many western (British, French, Belgian and American) investors had large stakes in various mineral deposits.

Those corporate interests had supported independence for Katanga after the Congolese leadership, notably Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, had advocated closer relations with the Communist bloc. (Lumumba, himself, was assassinated in January 1961, in what some researchers now believe was part of a Central Intelligence Agency plot to get rid of him.)

For his part, Hammarskjöld believed that the Congo ought to remain one country, and toward that end he was flying to Ndola (just over the border of Northern Rhodesia from Katanga) to have ceasefire talks with Tshombe, in the hope of mediating a settlement to the conflict. Instead, his plane crashed in the darkness, killing fifteen of the sixteen passengers and crew aboard the DC-6. One security officer for Hammarskjöld survived for about eight days.

Since the fatal crash, various investigative instruments, including UN committees and independent aviation groups in the United Kingdom and Sweden, have looked into the cause of the crash. The initial investigation, conducted by colonial authorities in 1961, concluded that the pilots of the DC-6 (an experienced Swedish crew) had misjudged the night landing on an unfamiliar approach and flew the plane into the ground. A UN inquiry at the same time, however, failed to reach the same conclusion, although it was at a loss to explain the crash.

More recent inquiries, including one chaired by Stephen Sedley and with Hans Corell and Richard Goldstone as co-panellists, have come to more nuanced conclusions, saying that earlier investigators lacked a true picture of the situation on the ground and in the air around Ndola that night to come to definitive conclusion about what happened to the Albertina. It has led to new inquiry, originally supported by then Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and approved by the UN Security Council, to reopen the investigation under the direction of the former chief justice of Tanzania, Mohamed Chande Othman, although for the moment the budget approved for such an exercise is little more than $300,000 (and the information needed is literally all over the world). 

All of the recent re-examinations of the crash have concluded that the first conclusions of pilot error might well be in inaccurate. For example, the 2013 UN Hammarskjöld Commission, for example, concluded: “There is persuasive evidence that the aircraft was subjected to some form of attack or threat as it circled to land at Ndola, which was by then widely known to be its destination.” The 2017 report of Judge Othman concludes:

Based on the totality of the information that we have at hand, it appears plausible that an external attack or threat may have been a cause of the crash, whether by way of a direct attack causing SE-BDY to crash or by causing a momentary distraction of the pilots. Such a distraction need only have taken away the pilots’ attention for a matter of seconds at the critical point at which they were in their descent to have been potentially fatal. There is a significant amount of evidence from eyewitnesses that they observed more than one aircraft in the air, that the other aircraft may have been a jet, that SE-BDY was on fire before it crashed, and/or that SE-BDY was fired upon or otherwise actively engaged by another aircraft. In its totality, this evidence is not easily dismissed. 

Both reports cite evidence that British, American, French, South African, or Belgian governments might hold but which remain unreleased, and they urge its release for the purpose of understanding exactly what happened to Hammarskjöld’s plane.

On November 8, 2018, when Judge Othman last updated the UN on the progress of his investigation, he concluded (with some frustration): “… the fact that certain Member States have not responded to repeated requests in 2018… or to engage with this process at all, has a crucial bearing on the success or failure on the full implementation of the above General Assembly resolution.”

It is where this case has gone—from the crash zone outside Ndola to the files of the great powers—but many countries, notably the United States and South Africa, have refused to cooperate or done so grudgingly.

* * *

In addition to the various international investigations of the crash, a professor at the University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Dr. Susan Williams, has published a book about what could have happened to Hammarskjöld’s plane. The title of the book is Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa, and it was originally published in 2011, laying the ground for the later UN inquiries.

In the book Dr. Williams lays out the facts of the plane crash and outlines various theories—including pilot error of the kind imagined after the plane went down—that could explain the crash. She also talks about the possibility that French or Belgian mercenaries had access that night to trainer Fouga Magister jets or other attack aircraft, and that one or several of those planes might have shot at SE-BDY or tried to force the Albertinato the ground (perhaps by shining spot lights into the cockpit or by dropping flash bombs). She examines the case for pilot error, noting that the pilots had flown a long way across the world, beginning on September 12, 1961, when they picked up the Secretary General in New York City). She discusses the possibility that the pilots mis-programmed the altimeter on the DC-6 or that someone placed a bomb on the doomed flight.

Dr. Williams also examines theories that have speculated on possible CIA interference with the Hammarskjöld mission, making the point that the anti-communist CIA had strong vested interests in wanting his African diplomacy to fail. Dr. Williams ends her book strongly hinting that her belief is that western mercenaries were more likely than pilot error to have brought down the Hammarskjöld plane, and she outlines many incongruent aspects of the fatal night in Ndola, such as the closure of the local airport (even though it was expecting the Hammarskjöld plane) and the local witnesses on the ground spoke about hearing or seeing a large flash and bang before the “big plane” came down.  

The Williams book is not a polemic for any one theory about the Hammarskjöld plane crash. Instead, as a serious academic, she prefers to indicate the range of possible fates for the flight and to leave it to the reader to come to his or her own conclusions.

* * *

In my case, after reading the Williams book in 2017, I decided to visit the Hammarskjöld crash site outside Ndola and to compare what I would see and hear there on the ground with the words in the book. I had been planning for some time to visit Africa and to write about it, but having the Williams book in hand gave my visit to Zambia a direction and purpose, even though I am not an air-crash investigator or even a licensed pilot. Still, I decided it would be easier to read the many Hammarskjöld reports if I could visualize how far from the airport the plane had crashed and what local residents were saying on the ground about the plane.

Given the vagaries of African travel, I was not able to spend as much time on the ground in Ndola as I had planned. My train, from Dar es Salaam to the Zambian city of Kapiri Mposhi, was three days late, and I had other appointments in southern Africa, which made it hard to spend more than a day in Ndola. Nevertheless, I did get to the crash site, and there I met with some local investigators and museum officials, all of whom had their own ideas about what might have happened to the Albertina. (Most dismiss out of hand that pilot error was the cause.)

In particular, I learned that one local researcher had spoken with more than twenty eyewitnesses to the crash. Many of them were convinced that several smaller planes had swarmed around the larger DC-6 on its landing approach and that, prior to the crash, many people living in the bush near the crash site saw large flashes of light, consistent with the dropping of a bomb or bombs onto the Albertina. But because these witnesses were African natives of the area, their testimony was largely ignored by colonial authorities in Northern Rhodesia when in fall 1961 the first inquiry was held.

For my part, I came away from the crash site unable to believe that Hammarskjöld’s experienced Swedish crew had simply flown the Albertina into the ground. Maybe if the landscape of the crash site had been mountainous or even hilly, I could have imagined a sophisticated group of pilots—at night in Africa—making some fundamental errors of navigation. But two things made me think otherwise. First, the terrain around the crash site, while not a completely flat plain, is devoid of any serious hills. All I saw as I drove up to the crash site in a taxi and as I walked around the memorial were open fields and small clusters of forest land, none of which were very dense. The Albertina did not crash into the jungle or a mountain; it came down in the outskirts of Ndola where now there is open farmland that is part of a broad African plain.  

Second, I doubted that the Swedish pilots misread the altitude of the plane, especially on a clear night. These were professional pilots, and that’s a rookie mistake. Nevertheless, early investigators in Northern Rhodesia concluded that the Albertina was the victim of what in the airline world is called Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT). But standing at the somber Ndola memorial to the lost flight, I came to the conclusion that something other than pilot error had driven the plane into the ground on that fateful evening. To me it felt like an ambush.

I also concluded, while poking around the memorial in Ndola, that my brother-in-law, Joseph Majerle III, is the one person I know who could make sense of the technical details in the Williams book and in some of the many Hammarskjöld reports. Joe, as I call him, works in aviation in Alaska, and in his long career he has visited many crash sites and repaired many damaged planes. He is also a voracious reader of history, especially about aviation matters. Joe has also spent much of his adult life talking with other pilots about various aircraft and their deficiencies. If anyone could help me sort out the complexities of the Ndola crash, it would be Joe, and shortly after I got back from Africa, I mailed him a copy of the Williams book.

Joe read the book twice, took ample notes, discussed his thinking with other pilots in Alaska (some of whom are still flying on the DC-6), and answered my questions in several long emails, which I have copied here but which I also have edited (although only for the sake of clarity).  

What follows might best be understood as a colloquy on the Williams book between two people who are struggling to make sense of a crash that happened more than fifty years ago.

* * *

Why does the Hammarskjöld crash still matter? It matters because Secretary General Hammarskjöld had undertaken his mission just as many countries in Africa were seeking their independence from the colonial world. Hammarskjöld was ahead of his time in pushing back against what today we might call the deep state—that confluence of interests between corporate investors, intelligence agencies, and governmental power brokers, all of whom were eager to siphon profits out of the breakaway territory of Katanga. Hammarskjöld thought that Katanga (and its extensive mineral wealth) belonged in the newly independent Republic of the Congo, and the purpose of his mission was to oppose independence for Katanga, which otherwise would fall under the spell of various French, British, Belgian and American multinational corporations.

If you believe—as I do—that Hammarskjöld was the victim of a plot, it can be concluded that the truth about his death has been covered up to shift the blame away from the usual suspects, including the CIA and various mercenary organizations that were then arming themselves across southern Africa. Hammarskjöld and his liberal internationalism were getting in the way of corporate profits, if not Cold War politics, and it was decided—somewhere, somehow—to cut him down to size. Maybe the plotters did not intend to kill him? Maybe they simply wanted to scare him away? But the facts about the Hammarskjöld crash have never been fully available, in part because invaluable transcripts (picked up in particular by US government eavesdropping on that night) have never been released.

What follows are the questions that I posed to Joe, and his responses, based on his reading of the Williams book and his lifetime as a pilot and in aviation. Neither of us pretends that what follows is anything approaching a “last word” in the Hammarskjöld investigation. At the same time it shows how much several concerned citizens, and a budget of $1500 (the cost of my African train travels), can discover. Let’s hope that the new UN investigation can take the Hammarskjöld matter much further. The Secretary’s exemplary life and work demand that the truth of his death be known. — Matthew Stevenson

* * *

Stevenson: Is it possible that pilot error was responsible for the crash of the Albertina?

Majerle: The facts that investigators admitted to in their original reports tell a different story from their conclusions. To me, their conclusions are laughable. This crash was not pilot error.

Per the chart at the beginning of the Williams book, it shows the crash site very close to the turn-back circle (on a safe instrument approach) of the official instrument approach path, which means that the Swedish pilots knew exactly where they were. I don’t think any accident investigation board in the world would dispute that that they were properly executing the published instrument approach procedure for Ndola airport.

The official report admitted that they were at least nominally executing the instrument approach properly, except that they were 1700 feet lower than they were supposed to be, and that was the pilots’ error.

On page 70, according to A. Campbell Martin, the controller on duty, the last communication received from SE-BDY (the code for the Albertina) was confirmation of 1021 millibars—the altimeter setting—which is something I and every pilot I have ever flown with has never failed to reset at the instant we are told the new number.

To me it is inconceivable that the Albertina pilots didn’t know their altitude at that time. If the controller had said he never got around to telling them the current millibars setting, they would have had a basis to sow doubt on that subject, even though that would have been a flimsy excuse in itself, for the following reason.

Explain to me how it is unlikely that the Albertina pilots flew the plane into the ground.

The radio (radar) altimeter came into widespread use in military and commercial airplanes by the end of WW2, even in single-seat fighters such as the P-38. I would bet that, without exception, every DC-6 was equipped with one when it left the factory. And it is the device you base your instrument approach on, if you have one, because a radio altimeter is more accurate and has large graduations up to 1000 feet AGL (Above Ground Level).

Even if the Albertina pilots didn’t have a current altimeter setting, they would have been using their radar altimeter anyway, assuming it was in working order. If not, I think it’s very likely the pilot would have informed the controller of that fact. Which, again, points to the fact that they knew exactly where they were, in all three dimensions.

In the book Dr. Williams writes that an evasive strategy to “lose height, veer and head for the airfield as quickly as possible… may possibly offer some explanation for the low height of SE-BDY as it made its approach to Ndola—about 1700 feet lower than it should have been.”

This conclusion is at the heart of her book and research, and any new investigation needs to focus on what she has written here.

To me it indicates that the Albertina pilots were already planning to evade an attack by getting low enough to prevent another airplane from getting beneath SE-BDY, which to an attacker is the easiest and most preferred way to shoot down another airplane—and there would have been no better way to do that at night than basing it on a radar altimeter.

Explain some of the discrepancies between the official crash report, and the data that Dr. Williams includes in her book, especially in regard to the crash site.

The official report stated that the ground scar at the wreck site was 150 yards long, which is 450 feet. The published stall speed of the DC-6 with flaps down is 92 mph, which is almost exactly 135 feet per second. That is the absolute slowest speed at which it would stay in the air—not the speed at which you would make an approach.

The original Jeppesen approach plate chart for the Ndola airport would have contained a sidebar that would have given the time, in seconds, required to reach the airport at several different approach speeds, usually spaced by 30 mph and 60 mph increments, which simplifies the mental calculations the pilot would need to make or eliminates them if it’s practical for the aircraft to fly at one of the stated speeds exactly.

I would estimate that, in this situation, for a light-to-moderately loaded DC-6, the pilots would have used either 150 or more probably 180 mph, which would be 220 or 264 feet per second of forward velocity.

If, as the official report says, the pilots misjudged their altitude and just flew the plane into the ground while making their final approach, it is beyond a stretch of the imagination that 80-to-90 thousand pounds of airplane would come to a stop in no more than 2.04 seconds, and that every last piece of it would be contained in a mere 450 feet.

This is just very basic math that a 4th-grader could do nine out of ten times and get right. It is an insult to human intelligence to suggest that that’s what happened.

Have you ever examined the crash site of a DC-6 airliner?

Many years ago I had opportunity several times to walk over the crash site of a DC-7 [very similar to the DC-6] that crashed shortly after takeoff due to an out-of-control engine fire in which the pilots tried to crash-land into a recently logged parcel of land.

The fuel dealer told me that he watched as an engine caught fire almost as soon as the plane started its takeoff run, but apparently the pilots didn’t realize it until they were committed to fly. But after clearing the end of the runway, they immediately angled off and headed for the clear-cut area, obviously in an effort to get the plane back on the ground.

It had been nine years since it happened when I first saw the site, and in that rain forest the vegetation had regenerated quite a bit, but the wreckage path of the DC-7 was still obvious. The crew had left the gear and flaps down in takeoff configuration, obviously intending to put it down at as slow a speed as possible in this off-airport area.

My recollection of the debris path was that it was at least 1200 feet long, with no standing trees throughout the path. The largest piece of wreckage at the end of the path was stopped and literally wrapped around what was at least a 6 foot diameter tree, in the flight engineers compartment. Control cables and wiring bundles were literally wrapped all the way around that tree. I would guess that the site is still that way today.

There are some fairly close parallels between that crash and Hammarskjöld’s. The DC-6B and DC-7 are very similar airplanes; sharing the same basic wing and fuselage with the DC-7 employing another short section of fuselage, more powerful engines and a higher gross weight due to the extra power, and with a higher cruise speed also because of the power. But they are both listed on the same type rating for pilots. Sitting side by side, you would have to study them carefully to see the differences.

In these two cases, both planes made it to the ground before impacting any real solid objects; in Hammarskjöld’s case it was the anthill and in the Yakutat crash it was tree stumps. In both cases, the immovable objects turned the airplanes sideways while they still had a lot of momentum, which began the breakup process while the kinetic energy just kept them going.

If they had been able to continue moving straight ahead they might have had a chance, more so for the passengers aft of the cockpit bulkhead. There isn’t a lot of metal in the nose ahead of the pilots compartment to crush and absorb energy.

The DC-7 was known to be overloaded with fresh salmon but would have been light on fuel. Hammarskjöld’s plane would have had a lighter cabin load but would have had considerably more fuel. I would assume that the DC-7 was somewhat heavier overall, but probably not by an amount that would have required a significant speed difference to stay airborne.

What I am getting at here is that in both these cases the airplanes probably hit the ground at roughly equivalent speeds. And the DC-7’s ground scar was about three times as long as Hammarskjöld’s, and still had some energy when it wrapped itself around a tree.

If Hammarskjöld’s pilots had inadvertently flown the aircraft into the ground, I think it is reasonable to assume that it would have traveled much farther before all the pieces came to rest.

This did not happen, which to me indicates that the physics of the official reports are all wrong—at least when matched to their conclusions.

What can we conclude from the configuration of the Hammarskjöld plane as it hit the ground?

The official report stated that the landing gear was down and locked, and the wing flaps were extended to the 30 degree position. I would have loved to cross examine the local accident board and ask them which pilots they know that would be 8-to-9 miles out on an instrument approach and have 30 degrees of flaps down at that point, to say nothing of having the gear down.

Thirty degrees of flap down on a DC-6 is a lot of flap; probably about optimal for a low speed approach over obstacle-free terrain to make a short-field landing. Maximum flap down angle on a DC-6 is 50 degrees, which you would normally only use to bleed off a lot of excess altitude, and it would require a lot of engine power with which to maintain altitude.

In my experience no pilot would drop the landing gear until about the point that you had crossed the “final approach fix,” in this case the non-directional (radio) beacon, which is at four miles or so from the end of the runway.

At four miles out the pilots would have had plenty of time to drop the gear and double check it before reaching the runway end roughly 90 seconds later. Experienced crews normally do that as late as they can just to get there sooner. This accident board didn’t even know how to lie to make the facts fit their case.

Recently I had opportunity to talk to a friend of mine that flew DC-6s about thirty years ago. He currently owns and flies two DC-4’s, a freighter and a fuel tanker, around the state.

He confirmed to me—as I thought earlier—that a DC-6 pilot would have flown that instrument approach at 156 to 160 knots (180 to 184 miles per hour) and would absolutely not have had gear and flaps down 8 or 9 miles from the runway.

And if he found his wing on fire, unless on short final to a runway, his only thought would be to get it on the ground.

What do you think happened?

To me, all of the admitted evidence (in UN reports and in the Williams book) adds up to one thing. The crew made a desperate attempt to save their lives by getting the airplane on the ground, most probably because they knew they had a wing fuel tank on fire.

A gasoline fire at night, to my experience, is very bright and from the cockpit side windows of a DC-6 you can see to the inboard nacelle without straining your neck. If it was a wing fire, the pilots would have known it. It would have taken all of their strength not to panic and just continue to do what needed to be done.

And here I take issue with one of the advisers to Dr. Williams—a Mr. Kjell Peterzén—who is quoted in the book as saying: “There is no way he would have gone down into the darkness and the woods…” I can name six incidents here in Alaska since 1977 in which pilots have descended into the woods, or whatever was below including a mountain ridge, to deliberately crash burning airplanes in an attempt to save their own lives.

In one of these cases—coincidentally it was a DC-6—the pilot hesitated because he didn’t want to have to do that, even though the cockpit voice recorder picked up other crew members urging him to get the airplane “on the ground, NOW!” But he didn’t. The wing folded up and moments later they all crashed to their deaths.

In all of the other cases the pilots understood how few seconds they had to live if they didn’t “put it on the ground.” Remarkably, most of the crews survived, although some had bad injuries.

I would say—at least from my corner of the world—that pilots will attempt a crash into the unknown if they understand how quickly an airplane made from aluminum can disintegrate in a raging fire.

Aluminum, of the kind used in the making of the Hammarskjöld DC-6,yields at 925 degrees Fahrenheit and liquifies at 1225 degrees Fahrenheit. When the fire gets much above the 1225 degrees Fahrenheit point, the metal itself actually ignites and burns up, which is why there is normally so few pounds of airplane left after one has burned uncontrollably.

Pilots know this, and will respond instinctively when they see, for example, one of their wings on fire.

What’s your reaction to the conclusion that the Albertina was simply flown into the ground, so-called Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT)?

As for all of the talk about pilot error and CFIT, I still cannot believe that no-one ever mentions the fact that they had gear and flaps down when they were still at least three minutes from the runway, which you just wouldn’t do, unless you’re planning to land “very soon.”

I thought it curious when I read in the Williams book: “It was as if the aircraft was making a perfect landing…” That conclusion is a very astute observation. That doesn’t happen in CFIT situations.

In my experience, CFIT planes start breaking little things and leaving little pieces over a long area before you start seeing the larger pieces and more ground disturbance. If you see something that looks like a landing attempt was being made, it usually is. And this explains why the crash site itself was so contained in such a small area.

In the Williams book, Virving states that “an explosion a few yards from the aircraft could have dislodged vital control wires from their pulleys…” My reaction to that thesis: “Ah, no, generally not.”

All type certificated aircraft are required to have a cable guard at every pulley station to retain them and to prevent that very thing from happening. In all my time working on airplanes (some forty years), I have never seen that happen unless the whole pulley mounting structure was ripped away from the primary structure, in which case the pulley and guard assembly would still be hanging on the cable. But that requires the wing or fuselage or tail component itself to be massively damaged. In this case, the airplane was obviously under control when it started hitting the sapling trees—in order to be “making a perfect landing.”

It has occurred to me that, in a sense, the British investigators were right when they said that it was a CFIT accident. But they left out the part that it was an INTENTIONAL controlled flight into terrain accident.

Right now, it seems really hard to believe that the original 1962 UN report did not ever advance that notion, i.e., that no-one they consulted ever suggested that as a possibility. To me it seems obvious.

In any new UN investigation (led by Judge Othman) of the Hammarskjöld crash, one of the keys to discovering the truth about what happened could be found on intercepted transcripts of the voice communication from the Albertina, which, as Dr. Williams reports, were picked up at a CIA listening post on Cyprus. How would that have been possible in 1961?

In the Williamsbook, someone who was at the airport that night states that while waiting for Hammarskjöld’s plane to arrivehe “heard an airplane start up but never took off.”

I would speculate that what he heard would have been one of the USAF DC-3’s (C-47) that were parked that night at Ndola, and which explains how a CIA listening post in Cyprus would have intercepted the Albertina’s voice communications.

Here’s some background: At least some of the military C-47’s that were kept in service after World War II had radio rooms, for lack of a better word, that had gear that could transmit or receive (or both) on every frequency from LF through UHF. These rooms were state of the art. All of this gear and their trays, mount brackets, and bulkheads weighed over a thousand pounds.

In 1978 I did some work on a DC-3C that had recently been surplussed, sold, and converted from a VC-47D. I had opportunity to see all that analog electronic stuff on a shelf for about a dozen years after that and was always impressed.

I would suggest that the source of the radio conversation that Charles Southall listened into on Cyprus originated from a keyed HF microphone held into a headset speaker on the VHF frequency of Ndola airport by the crew of an idling USAF C-47.

They would have needed to have an engine generator online to run an inverter because some of that radio equipment was using AC voltage. And if it was going to take very long, they would have run down the batteries without a generator operating.

One of the persistent theories about the Hammarskjöld crash is that mercenaries, perhaps flying Fouga CM.170 Magister or other aircraft, might have intercepted SE-BDY on its approach, and either bombed it or caused the larger plane to crash. There is speculation that a De Havailland Dove might have been involved. What do you think?

About the speculation that aDe Havilland Dove might have been modified to drop small bombs from above the DC-6, I think not. That configuration has been tried since WW I with virtually nosuccess; when it worked it was a fluke.

In WWII, the Germans experimented with it a little and the Japanese more, and all with a very low success rate. The Dove also could have only kept up with the DC-6 in the landing pattern; the DC-6 was capable of roughly twice the Dove’s speed.

The Percival P.56 Provosts that were on the Ndola field at that time and had forward firing armament could have had some chance against the Albertina, but, as I recall, they were not thought to have flown that night.

But a single tracer round from even a 30-caliber gun at even 500 yards range could punch through the DC-6’s relatively thin aluminum skin and ignite a fuel vapor chamber that would break seams loose in the resulting explosion and doom any airplane. The Fouga Magister was known to have two such guns with a tracer in every fifth clip of the ammo belts.

Dr. Williams cites some of the Fouga’s performance and range specs, although other sources that I know give them as considerably lower. But, still, if you ask me, this operation was well within its capabilities.

When I visited the Ndola museum and spoke with some of the guides, they explained that the Hammarskjöld plane was flying away from the airport, in the direction of the plane replica at the site, which is headed west. You think it was heading toward the Ndola airport. Why?

I’m sure you heard the guide correctly; the problem is that the guide probably does not understand what happened. Which is really not at all surprising; even if the guide was someone that had seen it before the pieces were hauled away, the crash site would have appeared to be mostly chaos in a big charred spot with a lot of garbage laying around at random, especially if they weren’t familiar with airplanes.

Can you describe the crash site?

The UN chart tells the story, which is corroborated by Björn Virving’s account of the crash site. [Virving, a Swedish citizen, was an observer to the early investigation of the crash.]

Abeam the ant hill, way ahead of the main body of wreckage where it came to rest, was the warning horn, the primary function of which is to alert the pilots to the fact that the landing gear is still up if the throttles are retarded and is below a certain airspeed, and it is mounted in the cockpit area.

Coming a bit closer to the main body of wreckage (MBW), identified items are almost all from the fuselage nose area, except for a small piece of heavy spar section and wing fairing (fillet)—the spar section almost certainly being from the left wing.

Included in the distant cockpit area wreckage is the radio (radar) altimeter, I have just noticed for the first time. This is where the pilots’ bodies start to appear also. So there is no doubt now that it had a radar altimeter.

At the point about dead abeam the MBW, the airplane was pivoting on its belly to the left, the left wing was folding back and the fuselage ahead of the wing was splitting open and folding to the left also. The right hand horizontal stabilizer was probably catching on the tree stumps left after the right hand wing mowed the trees down and twisting the tail-cone loose before being sheared off completely.

The tail control cables evidently held and didn’t fail in tension in this case; otherwise the tail-cone section would have ended up near the right hand tailplane.

The left wing, compromised not only by impact with the ant hill but with the alleged inflight fire, is folded back to lie alongside the aft fuselage with to me, surprisingly, its engines in approximately their correct positions. I could easily have imagined them to be found up near the ant hill. The other surprising thing is that the main landing gear stayed under it, in place, which is almost unheard of in a wheels down landing out in the woods.

The chart doesn’t show, or at least so far I haven’t found, where the main nose gear strut came to rest. Associated parts are right where I’d expect them to be in the first third of the wreckage path. The DC-6 pilots I know say that the nose gear is a bit fragile; if it digs in to soft ground it will fold up or tear off and needs to be treated carefully.

If the Albertina hadn’t had the misfortune to hit he anthill, the skinny trees would probably have arrested its forward movement in a fairly short distance and the passengers, if they were strapped in, would have had a pretty good chance of walking away.

If the chart is to scale, and it appears to be, the airplane had already lost a lot of its momentum, i.e., it didn’t travel more than about eighty feet or so past the ant hill, which is not very far for a one hundred foot long fuselage. It might even have come to a stop still standing on all three gear. Just about like a Navy plane (on an aircraft carrier) missing the arresting cables and running into the net barrier.

The UN chart shows the Ndola runway orientation to be magnetic 100 – 280, or only 10 degrees from east-west. It says that the aircraft was on a heading (it should say “course,” because a heading is a course when corrected for wind) of 120 degrees, which would have been aiming them toward the non-directional beacon, to line them up with the runway. As I have said, they were very close to where the instrument approach procedure wants you to be for the procedure turn.

Can you hypothesize Hammarskjöld’s last moments? Alone of the passengers he was found propped up against an ant hill at the crash site, and he was not burned in any way.

In my view, Hammarskjöld himself was probably standing in the cockpit bulkhead doorway, behind the flight engineer, who sits behind and in between the pilots, facing forward in the DC-6, and all three of them would have been strapped into their seats.

After bouncing over the ant hill, the nose would have broken open as it would have been the first thing to hit the ground, and Hammarskjöld, not being fastened in, would have just been thrown out or fallen out through the opening.

The still-moving, burning remainder of the airplane just kept on moving past him, and was arrested by the trees as it swung around. It all fits, really, and has been seen to happen that way many times in history.

Can you sum up your thinking about what happened to Hammarskjöld’s plane, SE-BDY?

I would surmise that SE-BDY (Albertina) was attacked at the beginning of the procedure turn to return the plane to the non-directional beacon bearing. (To me the attacking planes had to have had the capacity to shoot bullets or tracers. I don’t believe anyone tried to bomb the DC-6.)

The pilot then quickly decided to finish the turn back toward where he knew there to be light and to get the plane on the ground as soon as he could, knowing that the runway, some three minutes away, was way too far to expect a burning wing to get him to.

In my opinion, the pilots (by name—Captain Per Hallonquist, Captain Nils-Erik Åhréus and Second Pilot Lars Litton) came very, very close to pulling it off and should be commended for their bravery and professionalism. They knew what they were doing.

What would you like to see the new investigation of the crash look into?

Keep in mind that all of the evidence from the crash site, at this point, has been compromised, by age or the dictates of the earlier crash examiners, who came to the wreckage only with the intent to blame the pilots for the accident. What we got from the first 1962 inquiry into the crash was a political judgment—not the informed thinking of experienced pilots or crash investigators. Since that time, most of the primary evidence has been lost to time.

Most of all I would like to see the Swedish crew and especially its pilot in command exonerated for blame in this crash. As I said before, the pilots acted heroically and professionally in trying to land a burning plane on the ground in order to save the lives of their passengers. Instead of being recognized for their valor, the crew, themselves victims, was blamed for the crash.

I would love to believe that physical evidence of the crash might help new investigators come to some conclusions about the crash, but the fact is that the plane was made of a zinc alloy aluminum that will have turned to mud and paste after more than fifty years under ground. I am not optimistic that the physical evidence will reveal anything new in the inquiry.

Instead, investigators should turn their attentions to old photographs, video, and audio recordings that might be found in archives around the world, and from these files try to reconstruct the last moments of the doomed flight. They might also make a microscopic reexamination of the original report for just the kinds of contradictions that even a reader like myself picked up in some of the files quoted in the Williams book. There have to be a lot more inconsistencies in the files that professionals of today would find.

If the files of the listening post on Cyprus were to have any transmissions from the flight deck (personally, I don’t think they exist), we might learn more details of what was said once it was discovered that their left wing was on fire. But cockpit recorders were not around in those days.

Please sum up what you think happened

In conclusion, let me state again what I think happened: I think one of the mercenary aircraft, operating around Ndola on that night, fired a tracer bullet into the fuel tanks of the Hammarskjöld plane, causing the left wing to catch on fire. Fearing that the left wing would fold up into the fuselage of the plane, the pilots did the only thing that was available to them: to configure the plane for a controlled (so to speak) crash landing in the short amount of time available to them. That action explains the 30 degrees of flaps setting on impact (nine miles out from the Ndola runway!), the relative slow speed at impact (they were just above the stall speed), and the compact crash site (not consistent with CFIT). The pilots had no choice but to put the plane “on the ground… now!” and that they did, skillfully, in my mind.

Had they succeeded and been able to tell their own story at the inquests, we would now have a clearer picture of what happened on that fatal approach. Because the crew was killed on impact or in the subsequent fires, it was left to colonial administrators—in places such as Northern Rhodesia—to whitewash the crash scene and to blame the pilots, who along with Hammarskjöld and his team were also the victims. Exonerating the pilots would go a long way in correcting an injustice that has lingered since 1961.

Finally, I hope the publishers of Dr. Williams’ book encourage her to release yet another edition of the book. (An updated edition did come out in late 2016.) Perhaps she might be able to integrate into her book the more recent findings of Judge Othman? I would hope so. As much as anyone outside the UN system, Dr. Williams has kept alive the tragic story of what happened to Secretary Hammarskjöld in Ndola, and I commend her for all of the excellent work she has done to uncover the truth. If someone wants to know more about this case, her book, Who Killed HammarskjöldThe UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa, is the best place to begin.

Matthew Stevenson is the author of many books, including Reading the Rails and, most recently, Appalachia Spring, about the coal counties of West Virginia and Kentucky. He lives in Switzerland and was in Africa at the crash site in 2017.

Joseph Majerle has worked in aviation for the last forty-one years, both as a mechanic and a pilot, and he has worked on a number of historic planes. He lives in Alaska.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Nighttime Trip to Iraq Confirms the Debacle

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 11, 2019

What better proof of the Iraq debacle than President Trump’s middle-of-the-night trip to that country at Christmastime to visit U.S. troops who are still occupying the country some 15 years after the Pentagon and the CIA invaded?

The U.S. national-security establishment has had a decade-and-half to bring its federally planned paradise into existence. From the very first day of the U.S. conquest of Iraq, a country that had never attacked the United States, the Pentagon and the CIA wielded total control over the country, being able to install whatever type of regime they wanted, with no pesky constitutional restraints to inhibit whatever they wanted to do.

After 15 years of building their paradise with such things as bombs, bullets, arrests, raids, indefinite detention, torture (e.g., Abu Ghraib), and assassination, the U.S. commander in chief has to leave Washington under cover of secrecy and darkness, land in Iraq in the middle of the night, talk to the troops for just a short while, and then skedaddle back to Washington in fear of being shot at by some disgruntled Iraqi who opposes the foreign invasion and occupation of his country.

If that’s not pathetic, I don’t know what is. Why can’t a U.S. commander in chief bravely and courageously fly into Iraq during the daytime the same way he would fly into London? Why can’t he freely travel into Baghdad and stay at a local hotel for a few days? Why can’t he meet with whoever happens to be the current U.S. puppet who is running the Iraqi government? Why does Trump have to instead sneak in and quickly sneak out of a country that the Pentagon and the CIA have had 15 long deadly and destructive years to convert into a paradise?

After all, the president of Iran doesn’t do this. He flies into Baghdad, stays several days in a hotel, and takes the time to meet with Iraqi officials. But not Trump. He and his national-security team think that it would just be too dangerous to do that in the paradise that the Pentagon and the CIA have constructed over a period of 15 years.

For that matter, notice that not one member of Congress has ever taken one of the prized congressional junkets to Iraq. Not even a family vacation. What’s up with that? Wouldn’t you think that they would relish traveling to a country that has been invaded and occupied by troops who they never cease thanking for “their service” in Iraq?

If there is anything that should cause the American people to reject the conservative-liberal paradigm of foreign empire, intervention, regime-change, and wars of aggression, it should be Iraq. Trump’s sneaky in-and-out trip to visit the troops in Iraq 15 years after they invaded and began occupying the country and turning it into their paradise says it all.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | 2 Comments

The War on Populism

CJ Hopkins | Consent Factory | January 10, 2018

Remember when the War on Terror ended and the War on Populism began? That’s OK, no one else does.

It happened in the Summer of 2016, also known as “the Summer of Fear.” The War on Terror was going splendidly. There had been a series of “terrorist attacks,” in Orlando, Nice, Würzberg, Munich, Reutlingen, Ansbach, and Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, each of them perpetrated by suddenly “self-radicalized” “lone wolf terrorists” (or “non-terrorist terrorists“) who had absolutely no connection to any type of organized terrorist groups prior to suddenly “self- radicalizing” themselves by consuming “terrorist content” on the Internet. It seemed we were entering a new and even more terrifying phase of the Global War on Terror, a phase in which anyone could be a “terrorist” and “terrorism” could mean almost anything.

This broadening of the already virtually meaningless definition of “terrorism” was transpiring just in time for Obama to hand off the reins to Hillary Clinton, who everyone knew was going to be the next president, and who was going to have to bomb the crap out of Syria in response to the non-terrorist terrorist threat. The War on Terror (or, rather, “the series of persistent targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America,” as Obama rebranded it) was going to continue, probably forever. The Brexit referendum had just taken place, but no one had really digested that yet … and then Trump won the nomination.

Like that scene in Orwell’s 1984 where the Party switches official enemies right in the middle of the Hate Week rally, the War on Terror was officially canceled and replaced by the War on Populism. Or … all right, it wasn’t quite that abrupt. But seriously, go back and scan the news. Note how the “Islamic terrorist threat” we had been conditioned to live in fear of on a daily basis since 2001 seemed to just vanish into thin air. Suddenly, the “existential threat” we were facing was “neo-nationalism,” “illiberalism,” or the pejorative designator du jour, “populism.”

Here we are, two and a half years later, and “democracy” is under constant attack by a host of malevolent “populist” forces …. Russo-fascist Black vote suppressors, debaucherous eau de Novichok assassins, Bernie Sanders, the yellow-vested French, emboldened non-exploding mail bomb bombers, Jeremy Corbyn’s Nazi Death Cult, and brain-devouring Russian-Cubano crickets. The President of the United States is apparently both a Russian intelligence operative and literally the resurrection of Hitler. NBC and MSNBC have been officially merged with the CIA. The Guardian has dispensed with any pretense of journalism and is just making stories up out of whole cloth. Anyone who has ever visited Russia, or met with a Russian, or read a Russian novel, is on an “Enemies of Democracy” watch list (as is anyone refusing to vacation in Israel, which the Senate is now in the process of making mandatory for all U.S. citizens). Meanwhile, the “terrorists” are nowhere to be found, except for the terrorists we’ve been using to attempt to overthrow the government of Bashar al Assad, the sadistic nerve-gassing Monster of Syria, who illegally invaded and conquered his own country in defiance of the “international community.”

All this madness has something to do with “populism,” although it isn’t clear what. The leading theory is that the Russians are behind it. They’ve got some sort of hypno-technology (not to be confused with those brain-eating crickets) capable of manipulating the minds of … well, Black people, mostly, but not just Black people. Obviously, they are also controlling the French, who they have transformed into “racist, hate-filled liars” who are “attacking elected representatives, journalists, Jews, foreigners, and homosexuals,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron, the anointed “Golden Boy of Europe.” More terrifying still, Putin is now able to project words out of Trump’s mouth in real-time, literally using Trump’s head as a puppet, or like one of those Mission Impossible masks. (Rachel Maddow conclusively proved this by spending a couple of hours on Google comparing the words coming out of Trump’s mouth to words that had come out of Russian mouths, but had never come out of American mouths, which they turned out to be the exact same words, or pretty close to the exact same words!) Apparently, Putin’s master plan for Total Populist World Domination and Establishment of the Thousand Year Duginist Reich was to provoke the global capitalist ruling classes, the corporate media, and their credulous disciples into devolving into stark raving lunatics, or blithering idiots, or a combination of both.

But, seriously, all that actually happened back in the Summer of 2016 was the global capitalist ruling classes recognized that they had a problem. The problem that they recognized they had (and continue to have, and are now acutely aware of) is that no one is enjoying global capitalism … except the global capitalist ruling classes. The whole smiley-happy, supranational, neo-feudal corporate empire concept is not going over very well with the masses, or at least not with the unwashed masses. People started voting for right-wing parties, and Brexit, and other “populist” measures (not because they had suddenly transformed into Nazis, but because the Right was acknowledging and exploiting their anger with the advance of global neoliberalism, while liberals and the Identity Politics Left were slow jamming the TPP with Obama and babbling about transgender bathrooms, and such).

The global capitalist ruling classes needed to put a stop to that (i.e, the “populist” revolt, not the bathroom debate). So they suspended the Global War on Terror and launched the War on Populism. It was originally only meant to last until Hillary Clinton’s coronation, or the second Brexit referendum, then switch back to the War on Terror, but … well, weird things happen, and here we are.

We’ll get back to the War on Terror, eventually … as the War on Populism is essentially just a temporary rebranding of it. In the end, it’s all the same counter-insurgency. When a system is globally hegemonic, as our current model of capitalism is, every war is a counter-insurgency (i.e., a campaign waged against an internal enemy), as there are no external enemies to fight. The “character” of the internal enemies might change (e.g., “Islamic terrorism,” “extremism,” “fascism,” “populism,” “Trumpism,” “Corbynism,” et cetera) but they are all insurgencies against the hegemonic system … which, in our case, is global capitalism, not the United States of America.

The way I see it, the global capitalist ruling classes now have less than two years to put down this current “populist” insurgency. First and foremost, they need to get rid of Trump, who despite his bombastic nativist rhetoric is clearly no “hero of the common people,” nor any real threat to global capitalism, but who has become an anti-establishment symbol, like a walking, talking “fuck you” to both the American and global neoliberal elites. Then, they need to get a handle on Europe, which isn’t going to be particularly easy. What happens next in France will be telling, as will whatever becomes of Brexit … which I continue to believe will never actually happen, except perhaps in some purely nominal sense.

And then there’s the battle for hearts and minds, which they’ve been furiously waging for the last two years, and which is only going to intensify. If you think things are batshit crazy now (which, clearly, they are), strap yourself in. What is coming is going to make COINTELPRO look like the work of some amateur meme-freak. The neoliberal corporate media, psy-ops like Integrity Initiative, Internet-censoring apps like NewsGuard, ShareBlue and other David Brock outfits, and a legion of mass hysteria generators will be relentlessly barraging our brains with absurdity, disinformation, and just outright lies (as will their counterparts on the Right, of course, in case you thought that they were any alternative). It’s going to get extremely zany.

The good news is, by the time it’s all over and Trump has been dealt with, and normality restored, and the working classes put back in their places, we probably won’t remember that any of this happened. We’ll finally be able to sort out those bathrooms, and get back to paying the interest on our debts, and to living in more or less constant fear of an imminent devastating terrorist attack … and won’t that be an enormous relief?

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Photo: Zakaria Abdelkafi – AFP

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

President Bolton? Or Worse?

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 10, 2019

President Trump excited many non-interventionists when he publicly announced that he was ordering an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Quite quickly, however, Trump bent to pressure and agreed to extend the withdrawal deadline to four months. That caused me to write an article on January 2 entitled “It’s Too Soon to Celebrate Trump’s Syria Withdrawal.”

Then came the stunning announcement by National Security Advisor John Bolton declaring that no U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Syria until ISIS has been totally defeated and only after Turkey has promised not to attack Kurdish forces, which have assisted Trump with his Syria intervention. Bolton’s announcement necessarily means that Trump’s deadline has now been extended far beyond the four-month extension. Indeed, for all practical purposes it implies that U.S. troops are going to remain in Syria indefinitely, the very thing that Trump initially said he was going to end immediately.

The question naturally arises: Who’s in charge here — Trump or Bolton? Wouldn’t one ordinarily think that it’s the president, not the person working for the president, who gives the orders with respect to U.S. troops?

The real answer is that neither Bolton nor Trump is in charge. The entity in charge of U.S. foreign policy is the national-security establishment, which consists of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. They, not Trump or Bolton, decide whether and when U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Syria or anywhere else. They are clearly the ones who have decided that U.S. troops shall remain in Syria.

I highly recommend a book entitled National Security and Double Government by Michael J. Glennon: professor of law at Tufts University. The book explains how the national-security branch is where the real power of the federal government lies. The Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA permit the other three branches to maintain the veneer of power and permit them some latitude but in the final analysis, it is the national-security branch that is actually calling the shots.

It never really made sense that Trump would hire Bolton. He’s one of the fiercest foreign interventionists in the conservative movement. While Trump never professed to be a principled non-interventionist during his presidential campaign, his perspectives on foreign interventionism were extremely at odds with those of Bolton.

By the same token, the fact that Trump immediately surrounded himself with generals after taking office didn’t make much sense either, given Trump’s anti-foreign-wars, America First campaign rhetoric.

So, why did Trump do it? Why did he hire Bolton and all those generals rather than hire people whose views more closely resembled those of Trump?

There exists the possibility that Bolton and those generals weren’t hired by Trump — that they were instead hired by the national-security establishment and sent to work in the White House to keep a tight rein on Trump. That would certainly explain why Bolton would feel comfortable issuing an order contradicting the president. If he was placed in his White House position by the Pentagon and the CIA, he wouldn’t have to concern himself with upsetting the president by issuing a contradictory order. He would simply be carrying out the orders of his real boss, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.

It is extremely difficult for any of us to realize the tremendous pressure that the national-security establishment can bring against a president to ensure that he doesn’t go off the national-security state reservation.

Consider the federal judiciary. It wasn’t long after the U.S. government was converted into a national-security state after World War II that the judiciary caved and adopted a policy of extreme deference to the national-security establishment. That’s why we have ended up with a government that wields the totalitarian powers of kidnapping, indefinite detention, torture, coups, regime-change operations, and even assassination, all legal thanks to the federal judiciary, which simply decided to overlook the fact that none of those actions are authorized by the U.S. Constitution.

Consider the members of Congress. They don’t dare take on the national-security establishment. The military will threaten to cancel projects or close bases in their districts, which will cause the local media to go ballistic and label that member of Congress as ineffective.

The only president who has had the courage and fortitude to take on the national-security establishment directly was President Kennedy. Not only did he reputedly vow to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces after its Bay of Pigs fiasco, he also threw down the gauntlet at his Peace Speech at American University in June 1963, where, without consulting or advising the Pentagon or the CIA, he publicly declared an end to the Cold War and then proceeded to enter into secret negotiations with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban President Fidel Castro to normalize relations between the United States and the communist world. He also ordered a partial withdrawal of 1,000 troops from Vietnam, which was considered much worse than Trump’s Syria withdrawal, and told close aides that he intended to pull all of them out after winning the 1964 election.

It’s not difficult to understand the extremely adverse reaction of the national-security establishment to Kennedy’s actions. They considered him to be an incompetent, foolish, cowardly, and even treasonous president who was leading America to disaster at the hands of the communists. Take the U.S. national-security establishment’s current anti-Russia mindset with respect to Trump and multiply it by about 1,000 to see how they felt about Kennedy. Also, see FFF’s ebook JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne.

Kennedy was fully aware of the danger of taking on the national-security establishment in such a direct way, especially with respect to foreign policy and its official attitude toward Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union. For one thing, he had listened to President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, where Ike warned about the dangers that the “military-industrial complex” posed to the liberties and democratic processes of the American people. Kennedy had also played a major role in causing the novel Seven Days in May, which posited a military takeover by the Pentagon, to be made into a Hollywood movie. He wanted the movie to serve as a warning to the American people. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, his brother Robert Kennedy told a Soviet diplomat that the president was facing the possibility of a military coup over his handling of the crisis. And Kennedy had once told a friend that if the national-security establishment were to conclude that he was unable or unwilling to take a strong enough stand against the Soviet Union, they wouldn’t hesitate to remove him from office. And, of course, the CIA had done precisely that to the prime minister of Iran in 1953, the president of Guatemala in 1954, and the president of Congo in 1961.

While Trump is periodically willing to make waves, he clearly does not want to go as far as Kennedy did in confronting the national-security establishment. Just look at how he has folded on Syria.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

How a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media

It will soon become almost impossible to avoid Newsguard’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | January 9, 2019

Soon after the social media “purge” of independent media sites and pages this past October, a top neoconservative insider — Jamie Fly — was caught stating that the mass deletion of anti-establishment and anti-war pages on Facebook and Twitter was “just the beginning” of a concerted effort by the U.S. government and powerful corporations to silence online dissent within the United States and beyond.

While a few, relatively uneventful months in the online news sphere have come and gone since Fly made this ominous warning, it appears that the neoconservatives and other standard bearers of the military-industrial complex and the U.S. oligarchy are now poised to let loose their latest digital offensive against independent media outlets that seek to expose wrongdoing in both the private and public sectors.

As MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh recently wrote, MintPress was informed that it was under review by an organization called Newsguard Technologies, which described itself to MintPress as simply a “news rating agency” and asked Muhawesh to comment on a series of allegations, several of which were blatantly untrue. However, further examination of this organization reveals that it is funded by and deeply connected to the U.S. government, neo-conservatives, and powerful monied interests, all of whom have been working overtime since the 2016 election to silence dissent to American forever-wars and corporate-led oligarchy.

More troubling still, Newsguard — by virtue of its deep connections to government and Silicon Valley — is lobbying to have its rankings of news sites installed by default on computers in U.S. public libraries, schools, and universities as well as on all smartphones and computers sold in the United States.

In other words, as Newsguard’s project advances, it will soon become almost impossible to avoid this neocon-approved news site’s ranking systems on any technological device sold in the United States. Worse still, if its efforts to quash dissenting voices in the U.S. are successful, Newsguard promises that its next move will be to take its system global.

Red light, green light . . .

Newsguard has received considerable attention in the mainstream media of late, having been the subject of a slew of articles in the Washington Post, the Hill, the Boston Globe, Politico, Bloomberg, Wired, and many others just over the past few months. Those articles portray Newsguard as using “old-school journalism” to fight “fake news” through its reliance on nine criteria allegedly intended to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to online news.

Newsguard separates sites it deems worthy and sites it considers unreliable by using a color-coded rating — green, yellow, or red — and more detailed “nutrition labels” regarding a site’s credibility or lack thereof. Rankings are created by Newsguard’s team of “trained analysts.” The color-coding system may remind some readers of the color-coded terror threat-level warning system that was created after 9/11, making it worth noting that Tom Ridge, the former secretary of Homeland Security who oversaw the implementation of that system under George W. Bush, is on Newsguard’s advisory board.

As Newsguard releases a new rating of a site, that rating automatically spreads to all computers that have installed its news ranking browser plug-in. That plug-in is currently available for free for the most commonly used internet browsers. NewsGuard directly markets the browser plug-in to libraries, schools and internet users in general.

According to its website, Newsguard has rated more than 2,000 news and information sites. However, it plans to take its ranking efforts much farther by eventually reviewing “the 7,500 most-read news and information websites in the U.S.—about 98 percent of news and information people read and share online” in the United States in English.

A recent Gallup study, which was supported and funded by Newsguard as well as the Knight Foundation (itself a major investor in Newsguard), stated that a green rating increased users likelihood to share and read content while a red rating decreased that likelihood. Specifically, it found 63 percent would be less likely to share news stories from red-rated websites, and 56 percent would be more likely to share news from green-rated websites, though the fact that Newsguard and one of its top investors funded the poll makes it necessary to take these findings with a grain of salt.

However, some of the rankings Newsguard itself has publicized show that it is manifestly uninterested in fighting “misinformation.” How else to explain the fact that the Washington Post and CNN both received high scores even though both have written stories or made statements that later proved to be entirely false? For example, CNN falsely claimed in 2016 that it was illegal for Americans to read WikiLeaks releases and illegally colluded with the DNC to craft presidential debate questions.

In addition, in 2017, CNN published a fake story that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of President Donald Trump was under Senate investigation. That same year, CNN was forced to retract a report that the Trump campaign had been tipped off early about WikiLeaks documents damaging to Hillary Clinton when it later learned the alert was about material already publicly available.

The Washington Post, whose $600 million conflict of interest with the CIA goes unnoted by Newsguard, has also published false stories since the 2016 election, including one article that falsely claimed that “Russian hackers” had tapped into Vermont’s electrical grid. It was later found that the grid itself was never breached and the “hack” was only an isolated laptop with a minor malware problem. Yet, such acts of journalistic malpractice are apparently of little concern to Newsguard when those committing such acts are big-name corporate media outlets.

Furthermore, Newsguard gives a high rating to Voice of America, the U.S. state-funded media outlet, even though its former acting associate director said that the outlet produces “fluff journalism” and despite the fact that it was recently reformed to “provide news that supports our [U.S.] national security objectives.” However, RT receives a low “red” rating for being funded by the Russian government and for “raising doubts about other countries and their institutions” (i.e., including reporting critical of the institutions and governments of the U.S. and its allies).

Keeping the conversation safe for the corporatocracy

Newsguard describes itself as an organization dedicated to “restoring trust and accountability” and using “journalism to fight false news, misinformation and disinformation.” While it repeatedly claims on its website that its employees “have no political axes to grind” and “care deeply about reliable journalism’s pivotal role in democracy,” a quick look at its co-founders, top funders and advisory board make it clear that Newsguard is aimed at curbing voices that hold the powerful — in both government and the private sector — to account.

Newsguard is the latest venture to result from the partnership between Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz, who currently serve as co-CEOs of the group. Brill is a long-time journalist —  published in TIME and The New Yorker, among others — who most recently founded the Yale Journalism Initiative, which aims to encourage Yale students who “aspire to contribute to democracy in the United States and around the world” to become journalists at top U.S. and international media organizations. He first teamed up with Crovitz in 2009 to create Journalism Online, which sought to make the online presence of top American newspapers and other publishers profitable, and was also the CEO of the company that partnered up with the TSA to offer “registered” travelers the ability to move more quickly through airport security — for a price, of course.

While Brill’s past does not in itself raise red flags, Crovitz — his partner in founding Journalism Online, then Press+, and now Newsguard — is the last person one would expect to find promoting any legitimate effort to “restore trust and accountability” in journalism. In the early 1980s. Crovitz held a number of positions at Dow Jones and at the Wall Street Journal, eventually becoming executive vice president of the former and the publisher of the latter before both were sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2007. He is also a board member of Business Insider, which has received over $30 million from Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in recent years.

In addition to being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Crovitz proudly notes in his bio, available on Newsguard’s website, that he has been an “editor or contributor to books published by the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.” Though many MintPress readers are likely familiar with these two institutions, for those who are not, it is worth pointing out that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is one of the most influential neoconservative think tanks in the country and its “scholars,” directors and fellows have included neoconservative figures like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and Frederick Kagan.

During the George W. Bush administration, AEI was instrumental in promoting the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq and has since advocated for militaristic solutions to U.S. foreign policy objectives and the expansion of the U.S.’ military empire as well as the “War on Terror.” During the Bush years, AEI was also closely associated with the now defunct and controversial neoconservative organization known as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which presciently called, four years before 9/11, for a “new Pearl Harbor” as needed to rally support behind American military adventurism.

The Heritage Foundation, like AEI, was also supportive of the war in Iraq and has pushed for the expansion of the War on Terror and U.S. missile defense and military empire. Its corporate donors over the years have included Procter & Gamble, Chase Manhattan Bank, Dow Chemical, and Exxon Mobil, among others.

Crovitz’s associations with AEI and the Heritage Foundation, as well as his ties to Wall Street and the upper echelons of corporate media, are enough to make any thinking person question his commitment to being a fair watchdog of “legitimate journalism.” Yet, beyond his innumerable connections to neoconservatives and powerful monied interest, Crovitz has repeatedly been accused of inserting misinformation into his Wall Street Journal columns, with groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation accusing him of “repeatedly getting his facts wrong” on NSA surveillance and other issues. Some of the blatant falsehoods that have appeared in Crovitz’s work have never been corrected, even when his own sources called him out for misinformation.

For example, in a WSJ opinion piece that was written by Crovitz in 2012, Crovitz was accused of making “fantastically false claims” about the history of the internet by the very people he had cited to support those claims.

As TechDirt wrote at the time:

Almost everyone he [Crovitz] sourced or credited to support his argument that the internet was invented entirely privately at Xerox PARC and when Vint Cerf helped create TCP/IP, has spoken out to say he’s wrong. And that list includes both Vint Cerf, himself, and Xerox. Other sources, including Robert Taylor (who was there when the internet was invented) and Michael Hiltzik, have rejected Crovitz’s spinning of their own stories.”

The oligarch team’s deep bench

While Brill and Crovitz’s connections alone should be enough cause for alarm, a cursory examination of Newsguard’s advisory board makes it clear that Newsguard was created to serve the interests of American oligarchy. Chief among Newsguard’s advisors are Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and Ret. General Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, a former NSA director and principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy seeking to “advise corporate clients and governments, including foreign governments” on security matters that was co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who also currently serves as the board chairman of major weapons manufacturer BAE systems.

Another Newsguard advisor of note is Richard Stengel, former editor of Time magazine, a “distinguished fellow” at the Atlantic Council and Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy under President Barack Obama. At a panel discussion hosted last May by the Council on Foreign Relations, Stengel described his past position at the State Department as “chief propagandist” and also stated that he is “not against propaganda. Every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”

Other Newsguard advisors include Don Baer, former White House communications director and advisor to Bill Clinton and current chairman of both PBS and the influential PR firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe as well as Elise Jordan, former communications director for the National Security Council and former speech-writer for Condoleezza Rice, as well as the widow of slain journalist Michael Hastings — who was writing an exposé on former CIA director John Brennan at the time of his suspicious death.

A look at Newguard’s investors further illustrates the multifarious connections between this organization and the American political and corporate elite. While Brill and Crovitz themselves are the company’s top investors, one of Newsguard’s most important investors is the Publicis Groupe. Publicis is the third largest global communications company in the world, with more than 80,000 employees in over 100 countries and an annual revenue of over €9.6 billion ($10.98 billion) in 2017. It is no stranger to controversy, as one of its subsidiaries, Qorvis, recently came under fire for exploiting U.S. veterans at the behest of the Saudi government and also helped the Saudi government to “whitewash” its human rights record and its genocidal war in Yemen after receiving $6 million from the Gulf Kingdom in 2017.

Furthermore, given its size and influence, it is unsurprising that the Publicis Groupe counts many powerful corporations and governments among its clientele. Some of its top clients in 2018 included pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and Bayer/Monsanto as well as Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, McDonalds, Kraft Heinz, Burger King, and the governments of Australia and Saudi Arabia. Given its influential role in funding Newsguard, it is reasonable to point out the potential conflict of interest posed by the fact that sites that accurately report on Publicis’ powerful clients — but generate bad publicity — could be targeted for such reports in Newsguard’s ranking.

In addition to the Publicis Groupe, another major investor in Newsguard is the Blue Haven Initiative, which is the venture capital “impact investment” fund of the wealthy Pritzker family — one of the top 10 wealthiest families in the U.S., best known as the owners of the Hyatt Hotel chain and for being the second largest financial contributors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Other top investors include John McCarter, a long-time executive at U.S. government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as Thomas Glocer, former CEO of Reuters and a member of the boards of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., financial behemoth Morgan Stanley, and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a member of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board.

Through these investors, Newsguard managed to raise $6 million to begin its ranking efforts in March of 2018. Newsguard’s actual revenues and financing, however, have not been disclosed despite the fact that it requires the sites it ranks to disclose their funding. In a display of pure hypocrisy, Newsguard’s United States Securities and Exchange Commission Form D — which was filed March 5, 2018 — states that the company “declined to disclose” the size of its total revenue.

Why give folks a choice?

While even a quick glance at its advisory board alone would be enough for many Americans to decline to install Newsguard’s browser extension on their devices, the danger of Newsguard is the fact that it is diligently working to make the adoption of its app involuntary. Indeed, if voluntary adoption of Newsguard’s app were the case, there would likely be little cause for concern, given that its website attracts barely more than 300 visits per month and its social-media following is relatively small, with just over 2,000 Twitter followers and barely 500 Facebook likes at the time of this article’s publication.

To illustrate its slip-it-under-the-radar strategy, Newsguard has gone directly to state governments to push its browser extension onto entire state public library systems, even though its website suggests that individual public libraries are welcome to install the extension if they so choose. The first state to install Newsguard on all of its public library computers across its 51 branches was the state of Hawaii — which was the first to partner with Newsguard’s “news literacy initiative,” just last month.

According to local media, Newsguard “now works with library systems representing public libraries across the country, and is also partnering with middle schools, high schools, universities, and educational organizations to support their news literacy efforts,” suggesting that these Newsguard services targeting libraries and schools are soon to become a compulsory component of the American library and education system, despite Newsguard’s glaring conflicts of interest with massive multinational corporations and powerful government power-brokers.

Notably, Newsguard has a powerful partner that has allowed it to start finding its way into public library and school computers throughout the country. As part of its new “Defending Democracy” initiative, Microsoft announced last August that it would be partnering with Newsguard to actively market the company’s ranking app and other services to libraries and schools throughout the country. Microsoft’s press release regarding the partnership states that Newsguard “will empower voters by providing them with high-quality information about the integrity and transparency of online news sites.”

Since then, Microsoft has now added the Newsguard app as a built-in feature of Microsoft Edge, its browser for iOS and Android mobile devices, and is unlikely to stop there. Indeed, as a recent report in favor of Microsoft’s partnership with Newsguard noted, “we could hope that this new partnership will allow Microsoft to add NewsGuard to Edge on Windows 10 [operating system for computers] as well.”

Newsguard, for its part, seems confident that its app will soon be added by default to all mobile devices. On its website, the organization notes that “NewsGuard will be available on mobile devices when the digital platforms such as social media sites and search engines or mobile operating systems add our ratings and Nutrition Labels directly.” This shows that Newsguard isn’t expecting its rating systems to be offered as a downloadable application for mobile devices but something that social media sites like Facebook, search engines like Google, and mobile device operating systems that are dominated by Apple and Google will “directly” integrate into nearly every smartphone and tablet sold in the United States.

A Boston Globe article on Newsguard from this past October makes this plan even more clear. The Globe wrote at the time:

Microsoft has already agreed to make NewsGuard a built-in feature in future products, and [Newsguard co-CEO] Brill said he’s in talks with other online titans. The goal is to have NewsGuard running by default on our computers and phones whenever we scan the Web for news.”

This eventuality is made all the more likely given the fact that, in addition to Microsoft, Newsguard is also closely connected to Google, as Google has been a partner of the Publicis Groupe since 2014, when the two massive companies joined Condé Nast to create a new marketing service called La Maison that is “focused on producing engaging content for marketers in the luxury space.” Given Google’s power in the digital sphere as the dominant search engine, the creator of the Android mobile operating system, and the owner of YouTube, its partnership with Publicis means that Newsguard’s rating system will soon see itself being promoted by yet another of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

Furthermore, there is an effort underway to integrate Newsguard into social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, as Newsguard was launched, co-CEO Brill stated that he planned to sell the company’s ratings of news sites to Facebook and Twitter. Last March, Brill told CNN that “We’re asking them [Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google] to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem.”

On Wednesday, Gallup released a poll that will likely be used as a major selling point to social media giants. The poll — funded by Newsguard and the Knight Foundation, which is a top investor in Newsguard and has recently funded a series of Gallup polls relating to online news — seems to have been created with the intention of manufacturing consent for the integration of Newsguard with top social media sites.

This is because the promoted findings from the study are as follows:“89% of users of social media sites and 83% overall want social media sites and search engines to integrate NewsGuard ratings and reviews into their news feeds and search results” and “69% would trust social media and search companies more if they took the simple step of including NewsGuard in their products.” However, a disclaimer at the end of the poll states that the results, which were based on the responses of 706 people each of whom received $2 to participate, “may not be reflective of attitudes of the broader U.S adult population.”

With trust at Facebook nose-diving and Facebook’s censorship of independent media already well underway, the findings of this poll could well be used to justify its integration into Facebook’s platform. The connections of both Newsguard and Facebook to the Atlantic Council make this seem a given.

Financial censorship

Another Newsguard service shows that this organization is also seeking to harm independent media financially by targeting online revenue. Through a service called “Brandguard,” which it describes as a “brand safety tool aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated [i.e., Newsguard-approved] news and information sites, big and small.”

At the time the service was announced last November, Newsguard co-CEO Brill stated that the company was “in discussions with the ad tech firms, leading agencies, and major advertisers” eager to adopt a blacklist of news sites deemed “unreliable” by Newsguard. This is unsurprising given the leading role of the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s largest advertising and PR firms, has in funding Newsguard. As a consequence, it seems likely that many, if not all, of Publicis’ client companies will choose to adopt this blacklist to help crush many of the news sites that are unafraid to hold them accountable.

It is also important to note here that Google’s connection to Publicis and thus Newsguard could spell trouble for independent news pages that rely on Google Adsense for some or all of their ad-based revenue. Google Adsense has long been targeting sites like MintPress by demonetizing articles for information or photographs it deemed controversial, including demonetizing one article for including a photo showing U.S. soldiers involved in torturing Iraqi detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison.

Since then, Google — a U.S. military contractor — has repeatedly tried to shutter ad access to MintPress articles that involve reporting that is critical of U.S. empire and military expansion. One article that has been repeatedly flagged by Google details how many African-Americans have questioned whether the Women’s March has aided or harmed the advancement of African-Americans in the United States. Google has repeatedly claimed that the article, which was written by African-American author and former Washington Post bureau chief Jon Jeter, contains “dangerous content.”

Given Google’s already established practice of targeting factual reporting it deemed controversial through Adsense, Brandguard will likely offer the tech giant just the excuse it needs to cut off sites like MintPress, and other pages equally critical of empire, altogether.

An action plan for the genuine protection of journalism

Though it is just getting started, Newsguard’s plan to insert its app into every device and major social-media network is a threat to any news site that regularly publishes information that rubs any of Newsguard’s investors, partners or advisors the wrong way. Given its plan to rank the English-language U.S. news sites that account for 98 percent of U.S. digital news consumption, Newsguard’s agenda is of the utmost concern to every independent media page active in the United States and beyond — given Newsguard’s promise to take its project global.

By linking up with former CIA and NSA directors, Silicon Valley Giants, and massive PR firms working for some of the most controversial governments and corporations in the world, Newsguard has betrayed the fact that it is not actually seeking to “restore trust and accountability” in journalism, but to “restore trust and accountability” in news outlets that protect the existing power structure and help shield the corporate-led oligarchy and military-industrial complex from criticism.

Not only is it trying to tank the reputations of independent media through its biased ranking system, Newsguard is also seeking to attack these alternative voices financially and by slipping its ranking system by default onto all computers and phones sold in the U.S.

However, Newsguard and it agenda of guarding the establishment from criticism can be stopped. By supporting independent media and unplugging from social media sites committed to censorship, like Facebook and Twitter, we can strengthen the independent media community and keep it afloat despite the unprecedented nature of these attacks on free speech and watchdog journalism.

Beyond that, a key way to keep Newsguard and those behind it on their toes is to hold them to account by pointing out their clear conflicts of interest and hypocrisy and by derailing the narrative they are carefully crafting that Newsguard is “non-partisan,” “trustworthy,” and true guardians against the scourge of “fake news.”

While this report has sought to be a starting point for such work, anyone concerned about Newsguard and its connections to the war machine and corrupt corporations should feel encouraged to point out the organization’s own conflicts of interests and shady connections via its Twitter and Facebook pages and the feedback section on Newsguard’s website. The best way to defeat this new tool of the neocons is to put them on notice and to continue to expose Newsguard as a guardian of empire, not a guardian of journalism.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Paul Whelan a Spy?

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.01.2019

The media has a new bit of speculation that fits neatly into the flagging Russiagate narrative. It concerns Paul Whelan, a high school graduate Marine Corps dishonorable discharge, who is currently working in corporate security for a Michigan-based auto parts manufacturer. Whelan, who lives alone, is self-taught in Russian and has engaged in tourist travel to the country a number of times. He was reportedly arrested late last month in Moscow while ostensibly attending a friend’s wedding and charged with espionage. Forty-eight year-old Whelan is clearly an odd duck and is notable for having four passports – Great Britain, Ireland, Canada and that of the United States.

Press coverage of the incident has nearly unanimously decided that the spying charge against Whelan is phony and that he is being held as bait to arrange for an exchange with Maria Butina, who is in jail in Virginia after being charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the Russian government and engaging in conspiracy. The media and the usual pundits base their conclusion on absolutely no evidence whatsoever apart from their conviction that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a bad man who would do almost anything to irritate the United States and overthrow its system of government. Oddly, the press watchdogs fail to note how the current federal government is doing a damned fine job destroying itself without any assistance from the Kremlin. If Putin really wanted to damage the US, he would be best advised to leave it alone and let Congress and the White House do the heavy lifting for him.

Unlike the mainstream media, I rather expect that the charges against Whelan could be more-or-less correct, though not in the way the press has framed the story, which is that Whelan is such a flawed character that he could not possibly meet the requirements to be working for any sophisticated spy organization. The New York Times in its coverage of the story interviewed several former CIA officers who had served in Russia, but asked the wrong questions. The reporter wanted to know if Whelan could possibly be an employee of US intelligence. The ex-Agency officers replied “no” because of his criminal record while a Marine and other oddities in his career, which included some marginal involvement with low-level law enforcement.

The former spooks were correct to state that Whelan would not pass the security hurdles for employment as a staff officer, but there is also a whole other level of possible engagement with the Agency, DIA or JSOC – cooperating as one of the sources which intelligence organizations recruit and run to collect information. The flawed but nevertheless useful Whelan would be a perfect target for recruitment as an intelligence source, referred to in the business as “agents.”

Unusually for a foreigner, Whelan has a social media account on Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, which is quite likely how he came to the attention of CIA or the Pentagon. And The New York Times, interestingly, describes his friends on the site as “men with some sort of connection to academies run by the Russian Navy, the Defense Ministry or the Civil Aviation Authority.” That alone would be enough to generate considerable interest in American intelligence circles as sources with that kind of access are hard to find.

And the details of Whelan’s arrest, if true, are completely consistent with how a low- to mid-level source might be run and used by a US government case officer. According to Russian accounts published in Rosbalt, a news agency close to the Kremlin, an unidentified intelligence source revealed that Whelan was trying to recruit a Russian citizen to obtain classified information regarding employees at various government agencies when he was caught in flagrante. He was arrested five minutes later in what was clearly a sting operation after having received a USB stick that included a list of all of the employees that he apparently had requested.

It may turn out that Paul Whelan is completely innocent and is merely a pawn in a tit-for-tat chess game being played by Washington and Moscow. If so, it is to be hoped that he will be proven innocent and released, but no one should rule out his having been recruited and exploited by a US government agency. Spying is not a game. It is a dangerous business, with serious consequences for those who are caught.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Assassination Is Not Justice

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 9, 2019

President Trump and his national-security establishment are celebrating the Pentagon’s latest assassination, this one killing Jamel Ahmed Ali Al-Badawi, who was accused of having participated in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole, during a refueling stop in Yemen, in October 2000. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded 39 others. Referring to the assassination, Trump tweeted:

Our GREAT MILITARY has delivered justice for the heroes lost and wounded in the cowardly attack on the USS Cole. We have just killed the leader of that attack, Jamal al-Badawi. Our work against al Qaeda continues. We will never stop in our fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism!

The Pentagon confirmed the kill, and an unnamed U.S. official told CNN that that the assassination was the result of a joint U.S. military and intelligence operation. That, of course, means that it was likely that the CIA was involved, especially since it has long been the premier assassination organization in the world, at least since the 1960s.

According to the Daily Caller, Navy Commander Kirk Lippold, who was commanding the USS Cole during the attack, told Fox News that he felt “extremely gratified” for the killing. He stated:

It sends a strong signal the U.S. government is still willing to invest the time, intelligence assets, and, most importantly, the ordinance that if you kill or harm Americans, we’re going to find you, and we’re going to hold you accountable. We wait for the moment — patiently, thoughtfully, deliberately—and then when the opportunity presents itself, like it evidently did in this case when he was along outside the capital, we got him with a drone strike.

Trump and the U.S. national-security establishment are wrong, however. Al Badawi’s assassination does that reflect that justice was done. Instead, it reflects how the national-security establishment and its interventionist foreign policy and perpetual war on terrorism have nullified the U.S. Constitution and fundamentally altered the criminal-justice principles on which America was founded.

The first thing to keep in mind is that as a terrorist act, the bombing of the USS Cole was a criminal act, not an act of war. How do we know this? Several ways:

  1. Terrorism is listed in the U.S. Code as a federal criminal offense.
  2. In 2003, the U.S. Justice Department secured a federal criminal indictment against al-Badawi, charging him with the federal criminal offense of having participated in the bombing of the Cole.
  3. The Justice Department offered a $5 million reward for information leading to al-Badawi’s arrest.
  4. U.S. military prosecutors have charged another man, Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, with murder for allegedly having planned the attack on the Cole. The Pentagon has kept him incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay for 12 years without a trial but with the ostensible aim of ultimately providing him with a criminal trial before a military tribunal.

To put things in a historical context, the U.S. Constitution brought into existence a limited-government republic, a type of governmental system that is the opposite of the type of governmental system under which Americans today live, which is a “national-security state.”

At the time the Constitution was being proposed to the American people, Americans were extremely leery, especially since then had been operating under the Articles of Confederation for some 13 years, which provided for a federal government with very weak and few powers. Americans were concerned about calling into existence a government that might end up wielding vastly new and dangerous powers.

Among people’s concerns was that this new government might start killing people who were suspected of criminal offenses without first giving the victims due process of law, a procedural protection that stretched all the way back to Magna Carta in 1215. Due process requires the government to provide a person with notice of the charges against him, such as with a grand-jury indictment, and then the opportunity to defend himself against such charges, such as with a trial by jury.

That’s why Americans demanded the enactment of the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments. They wanted to be sure that federal officials clearly understood that before they could kill anyone, including foreign citizens, they would have to comply with the restrictions and requirements in those amendments, including the right to be notified of the charges (e.g., through grand-jury indictment) and the right of trial by jury.

That’s the way things stood for more than 150 years, until the U.S. government was converted after World War II from a constitutionally limited-government republic to a national-security state, which is a type of governmental structure that is inherent to totalitarian regimes. A national-security state consists of a vast, powerful military-intelligence establishment that wields omnipotent powers, including the power to assassinate people without due process of law.

Practically from its beginning in 1947, the CIA began specializing in the art of assassination as well as the cover-up of its role in state-sponsored assassinations. In fact, in the 1990s, during the term of the Assassination Records Review Board, which was charged with enforcing the release of official records relating to the assassination of President Kennedy, people discovered a top-secret assassination manual that the CIA was developing and using as far back as 1953, in the run-up to its Guatemala regime-change operation, which targeted Guatemalan officials with assassination.

Under our system of government, the only way to legally change the Constitution is through constitutional amendment. An act of Congress won’t do it. Neither will a decree of the president. That’s because the Constitution is the higher law that controls the actions of Congress and the president.

Yet, as a practical matter, that’s precisely what the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state did. It effectively amended the Constitution by empowering the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA to nullify the Bill of Rights, so long as their actions related to protecting “national security.”

No better example of this phenomenon could be found than Al-Badawi’s assassination. Here you have a criminal defendant, one charged by a civilian federal grand jury with terrorism and murder. Under our system of government, Al-Badawi is presumed innocent. The federal government bore the burden of bringing him to trial and proving his guilt with competent evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. He had the right of trial by jury and the right to defend himself.

Yet, the Pentagon and the CIA short-circuited that process by simply deciding to use military force to snuff the man’s life out. Damn that federal indictment. It’s just a technicality. We know he’s guilty. We don’t need no stinking jury trial and no pesky criminal-defense attorneys. We know what’s best for national security. Fire the missile and kill the bastard. That’s the mindset of Trump and the national-security establishment. That’s the way things now operate in the United States of America.

And make no mistake about it: The federal judiciary will do nothing about it except confirm and support it. Ever since the Kennedy assassination and maybe even before, the federal judiciary has shown an extreme deference to the supremacy and authority of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA. When it comes to issues of national security, the federal courts have effectively held, the national-security establishment trumps the Constitution, especially when it comes to actions like coups, assassinations, torture, indefinite detention, and assassination.

Trump and the national-security establishment are clearly viewing the killing of Al-Badawi as vengeance for what he supposedly did in the bombing of the USS Cole. But let’s not confuse vengeance for justice. Moreover, a dark irony in all this is that the terrorists who attacked the Cole did so in vengeance for what the U.S. national-security establishment had been doing in the Middle East prior to that time, including killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children with sanctions as well, no doubt, U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright’s infamous public line in 1996 that the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it.”

What will happen if people in the Middle East seek vengeance for Al-Badawi’s assassination by, say, attacking another U.S. warship thousands of miles away from American shores? That act of vengeance will be blamed on hatred for America’s “freedom and values,” and more extra-judicial assassinations will be carried out in vengeance by the US. national security establishment. And the perpetual war on terrorism will continues onward, along with the ever-increasing taxpayer-funded largess to pay for it all.

January 9, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

A Look Back at Clapper’s Jan. 2017 ‘Assessment’ on Russia-gate

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | January 8, 2019

The banner headline atop page one of The New York Times two years ago today, on January 7, 2017, set the tone for two years of Dick Cheney-like chicanery: “Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says.”

Under a edia drumbeat of anti-Russian hysteria, credulous Americans were led to believe that Donald Trump owed his election victory to the president of Russia, and that Trump, according to the Times, “colluded” in Putin’s “interference … to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

Hard evidence supporting the media and political rhetoric has been as elusive as proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003. This time, though, an alarming increase in the possibility of war with nuclear-armed Russia has ensued — whether by design, hubris, or rank stupidity. The possible consequences for the world are even more dire than 16 years of war and destruction in the Middle East.

If It Walks Like a Canard…

The CIA-friendly New York Times two years ago led the media quacking in a campaign that wobbled like a duck, canard in French.

A glance at the title of the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) (which was not endorsed by the whole community) — “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” — would suffice to show that the widely respected and independently-minded State Department intelligence bureau should have been included. State intelligence had demurred on several points made in the Oct. 2002 Estimate on Iraq, and even insisted on including a footnote of dissent. James Clapper, then director of national intelligence who put together the ICA, knew that all too well. So he evidently thought it would be better not to involve troublesome dissenters, or even inform them what was afoot.

Similarly, the Defense Intelligence Agency should have been included, particularly since it has considerable expertise on the G.R.U., the Russian military intelligence agency, which has been blamed for Russian hacking of the DNC emails. But DIA, too, has an independent streak and, in fact, is capable of reaching judgments Clapper would reject as anathema. Just one year before Clapper decided to do the rump “Intelligence Community Assessment,” DIA had formally blessed the following heterodox idea in its “December 2015 National Security Strategy”:

“The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine. Moscow views the United States as the critical driver behind the crisis in Ukraine and believes that the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych is the latest move in a long-established pattern of U.S.-orchestrated regime change efforts.”

Any further questions as to why the Defense Intelligence Agency was kept away from the ICA drafting table?

Handpicked Analysts

With help from the Times and other mainstream media, Clapper, mostly by his silence, was able to foster the charade that the ICA was actually a bonafide product of the entire intelligence community for as long as he could get away with it. After four months it came time to fess up that the ICA had not been prepared, as Secretary Clinton and the media kept claiming, by “all 17 intelligence agencies.”

In fact, Clapper went one better, proudly asserting — with striking naiveté — that the ICA writers were “handpicked analysts” from only the FBI, CIA, and NSA. He may have thought that this would enhance the ICA’s credibility. It is a no-brainer, however, that when you want handpicked answers, you better handpick the analysts. And so he did.

Why is no one interested in the identities of the handpicked analysts and the hand-pickers? After all, we have the names of the chief analysts/managers responsible for the fraudulent NIE of October 2002 that greased the skids for the war on Iraq. Listed in the NIE itself are the principal analyst Robert D. Walpole and his chief assistants Paul Pillar, Lawrence K. Gershwin and Maj. Gen. John R. Landry.

The Overlooked Disclaimer

Buried in an inside page of the Times‘ Jan. 7, 2017 report was a cautionary paragraph by reporter Scott Shane. It seems he had read the ICA all the way through, and had taken due note of the derriere-protecting caveats included in the strangely cobbled together report. Shane had to wade through nine pages of drivel about “Russia’s Propaganda Efforts” to reach Annex B with its curious disclaimer:

“Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents. … High confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong.”

Small wonder, then, that Shane noted: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. This a significant omission.”

Since then, Shane has evidently realized what side his bread is buttered on and has joined the ranks of Russia-gate aficionados. Decades ago, he did some good reporting on such issues, so it was sad to see him decide to blend in with the likes of David Sanger and promote the NYT official Russia-gate narrative. An embarrassing feature, “The Plot to Subvert an Election: Unraveling the Russia Story So Far,” that Shane wrote with NYT colleague Mark Mazzetti in September, is full of gaping holes, picked apart in two pieces by Consortium News.

Shades of WMD

Sanger is one of the intelligence community’s favorite go-to journalists. He was second only to the disgraced Judith Miller in promoting the canard of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in March 2003. For example, in a July 29, 2002 article, “U.S. Exploring Baghdad Strike As Iraq Option,” co-written by Sanger and Thom Shanker, the existence of WMD in Iraq was stated as flat fact no fewer than seven times.

The Sanger/Shanker article appeared just a week after then-CIA Director George Tenet confided to his British counterpart that President George W. Bush had decided “to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” At that critical juncture, Clapper was in charge of the analysis of satellite imagery and hid the fact that the number of confirmed WMD sites in Iraq was zero.

Despite that fact and that his “assessment” has never been proven, Clapper continues to receive praise.

During a “briefing” I attended at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington several weeks ago, Clapper displayed master circular reasoning, saying in effect, that the assessment had to be correct because that’s what he and other intelligence directors told President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump.

I got a chance to question him at the event. His disingenuous answers brought a painful flashback to one of the most shameful episodes in the annals of U.S. intelligence analysis.

Ray McGovern: My name is Ray McGovern. Thanks for this book; it’s very interesting [Ray holds up his copy of Clapper’s memoir]. I’m part of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.  I’d like to refer to the Russia problem, but first there’s an analogy that I see here.  You were in charge of imagery analysis before Iraq.

James Clapper: Yes.

RM: You confess [in the book] to having been shocked that no weapons of mass destruction were found.  And then, to your credit, you admit, as you say here [quotes from the book], “the blame is due to intelligence officers, including me, who were so eager to help [the administration make war on Iraq] that we found what wasn’t really there.”

Now fast forward to two years ago.  Your superiors were hell bent on finding ways to blame Trump’s victory on the Russians.  Do you think that your efforts were guilty of the same sin here?  Do you think that you found a lot of things that weren’t really there?  Because that’s what our conclusion is, especially from the technical end.  There was no hacking of the DNC; it was leaked, and you know that because you talked to NSA.

JC: Well, I have talked with NSA a lot, and I also know what we briefed to then-President Elect Trump on the 6th of January.  And in my mind, uh, I spent a lot of time in the SIGINT [signals intelligence] business, the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.  There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever.  The Intelligence Community Assessment that we rendered that day, that was asked, tasked to us by President Obama — and uh — in early December, made no call whatsoever on whether, to what extent the Russians influenced the outcome of the election. Uh, the administration, uh, the team then, the President-Elect’s team, wanted to say that — that we said that the Russian interference had no impact whatsoever on the election.  And I attempted, we all did, to try to correct that misapprehension as they were writing a press release before we left the room.

However, as a private citizen, understanding the magnitude of what the Russians did and the number of citizens in our country they reached and the different mechanisms that, by which they reached them, to me it stretches credulity to think they didn’t have a profound impact on election on the outcome of the election.

RM: That’s what the New York Times says.  But let me say this: we have two former Technical Directors from NSA in our movement here, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity; we also have forensics, okay?

Now the President himself, your President, President Obama said two days before he left town: The conclusions of the intelligence community — this is ten days after you briefed him — with respect to how WikiLeaks got the DNC emails are “inconclusive” end quote.  Now why would he say that if you had said it was conclusive?

JC: I can’t explain what he said or why.  But I can tell you we’re, we’re pretty sure we know, or knew at the time, how WikiLeaks got those emails.  I’m not going to go into the technical details about why we believe that.

RM: We are too [pretty sure we know]; and it was a leak onto a thumb drive — gotten to Julian Assange — really simple.  If you knew it, and the NSA has that information, you have a duty, you have a duty to confess to that, as well as to [Iraq].

JC: Confess to what?

RM: Confess to the fact that you’ve been distorting the evidence.

JC: I don’t confess to that.

RM: The Intelligence Community Assessment was without evidence.

JC: I do not confess to that. I simply do not agree with your conclusions.

William J. Burns (Carnegie President): Hey, Ray, I appreciate your question.  I didn’t want this to look like Jim Acosta in the White House grabbing microphones away.  Thank you for the questioning though.  Yes ma’am [Burns recognizes the next questioner].

The above exchange can be seen starting at 28:45 in this video.

Not Worth His Salt

Having supervised intelligence analysis, including chairing National Intelligence Estimates, for three-quarters of my 27-year career at CIA, my antennae are fine-tuned for canards. And so, at Carnegie, when Clapper focused on the rump analysis masquerading as an “Intelligence Community Assessment,” the scent of the duck came back strongly.

Intelligence analysts worth their salt give very close scrutiny to sources, their possible agendas, and their records for truthfulness. Clapper flunks on his own record, including his performance before the Iraq war — not to mention his giving sworn testimony to Congress that he had to admit was “clearly erroneous,” when documents released by Edward Snowden proved him a perjurer. At Carnegie, the questioner who followed me brought that up and asked, “How on earth did you keep your job, Sir?”

The next questioner, a former manager of State Department intelligence, posed another salient question: Why, he asked, was State Department intelligence excluded from the “Intelligence Community Assessment”?

Among the dubious reasons Clapper gave was the claim, “We only had a month, and so it wasn’t treated as a full-up National Intelligence Estimate where all 16 members of the intelligence community would pass judgment on it.” Clapper then tried to spread the blame around (“That was a deliberate decision that we made and that I agreed with”), but as director of national intelligence the decision was his.

Given the questioner’s experience in the State Department’s intelligence, he was painfully aware of how quickly a “full-up NIE” can be prepared. He knew all too well that the October 2002 NIE, “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction,” was ginned up in less than a month, when Cheney and Bush wanted to get Congress to vote for war on Iraq. (As head of imagery analysis, Clapper signed off on that meretricious estimate, even though he knew no WMD sites had been confirmed in Iraq.)

It’s in the Russians’ DNA

The criteria Clapper used to handpick his own assistants are not hard to divine. An Air Force general in the mold of Curtis LeMay, Clapper knows all about “the Russians.” And he does not like them, not one bit. During an interview with NBC on May 28, 2017, Clapper referred to “the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.” And just before I questioned him at Carnegie, he muttered, “It’s in their DNA.”

Even those who may accept Clapper’s bizarre views about Russian genetics still lack credible proof that (as the ICA concludes “with high confidence”) Russia’s main military intelligence unit, the G.R.U., created a “persona” called Guccifer 2.0 to release the emails of the Democratic National Committee. When those disclosures received what was seen as insufficient attention, the G.R.U. “relayed material it acquired from the D.N.C. and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks,” the assessment said.

At Carnegie, Clapper cited “forensics.” But forensics from where? To his embarrassment, then-FBI Director James Comey, for reasons best known to him, chose not to do forensics on the “Russian hack” of the DNC computers, preferring to rely on a computer outfit of tawdry reputation hired by the DNC. Moreover, there is zero indication that the drafters of the ICA had any reliable forensics to work with.

In contrast, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, working with independent forensic investigators, examined metadata from a July 5, 2016 DNC intrusion that was alleged to be a “hack.” However, the metadata showed a transfer speed far exceeding the capacity of the Internet at the time. Actually, all the speed turned out to be precisely what a thumb drive could accommodate, indicating that what was involved was a copy onto an external storage device and not a hack — by Russia or anyone else.

WikiLeaks had obtained the DNC emails earlier. On June 12, 2016 Julian Assange announced he had “emails relating to Hillary Clinton.” NSA appears to lack any evidence that those emails — the embarrassing ones showing that the DNC cards were stacked against Bernie Sanders — were hacked.

Since NSA’s dragnet coverage scoops up everything on the Internet, NSA or its partners can, and do trace all hacks. In the absence of evidence that the DNC was hacked, all available factual evidence indicates that earlier in the spring of 2016, an external storage device like a thumb drive was used in copying the DNC emails given to WikiLeaks.

Additional investigation has proved Guccifer 2.0 to be an out-and-out fabrication — and a faulty basis for indictments.

A Gaping Gap

Clapper and the directors of the CIA, FBI, and NSA briefed President Obama on the ICA on Jan. 5, 2007, the day before they briefed President-elect Trump. At Carnegie, I asked Clapper to explain why President Obama still had serious doubts.  On Jan. 18, 2017, at his final press conference, Obama saw fit to use lawyerly language to cover his own derriere, saying: “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.”

So we end up with “inconclusive conclusions” on that admittedly crucial point. In other words, U.S. intelligence does not know how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks. In the absence of any evidence from NSA (or from its foreign partners) of an Internet hack of the DNC emails the claim that “the Russians gave the DNC emails to WikiLeaks” rests on thin gruel. After all, these agencies collect everything that goes over the Internet.

Clapper answered: “I cannot explain what he [Obama] said or why. But I can tell you we’re, we’re pretty sure we know, or knew at the time, how WikiLeaks got those emails.”

Really?

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27-year CIA career he supervised intelligence analysis as Chief of Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, as editor/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief, as a member of the Production Review Staff, and as chair of National Intelligence Estimates. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Caught in the act of spying’: US citizen detained in Moscow ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations

RT | December 31, 2018

An American citizen was apprehended during a “spying action” in Moscow, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said. He is currently being detained on suspicion of espionage.

FSB agents detained a US national named Paul Whelan on Friday during “a spying action,” the agency’s press office told TASS.

Criminal proceedings were launched against the man under Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code, which covers the crime of espionage.

No details of the suspect’s identity or facts surrounding the operation were immediately disclosed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the US Embassy in Moscow was notified of Whelan’s detention.

News of the American citizen’s arrest comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Russia. Washington has accused Moscow of meddling in its domestic affairs and of various spy activities.

In October, the US Ministry of Justice accused seven Russians of being GRU military intelligence officers, and charged them with hacking and committing wire fraud.

Four men belonging to that group were expelled from the Netherlands in April for allegedly attempting to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Moscow denied all allegations, dismissing them as “spy mania.”

Earlier this month, a Moscow court sentenced former police officer Aleksey Zhitnyuk to 13 years in prison for providing classified data to a foreign national. The trial took place behind closed doors, and the details of the case remain unknown. However, according to media reports, he was suspected of being in contact with the CIA.

December 31, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Obama, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 25.12.2018

There is a great uproar over the recent decision by US President Trump to pull US troops out of Syria, announcing his reason for doing so is that ISIS, the so-called Islamic State, has largely been defeated. What lies behind the decision and more important, what was behind the surprise emergence of ISIS across Syria in 2014 brings the spotlight to yet-classified documents of the Obama term. If the reorganized Justice Department is compelled to make these documents public in lawsuits or Freedom of Information requests, it could rock organizations such as the CIA and many in the Obama camp.

In 2010 the US Administration under President Barack Obama developed a top secret blueprint for the most ambitious and far-ranging series of US-backed regime change across the Islamic Middle East since World War I and the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot agreement. It was to set off a wave of wars and chaos, of failed states and floods of war refugees unimaginable to the most cynical veteran diplomat, and beyond the belief of most lay persons in the world.

In August, 2010, six months before Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution was launched by the Washington NGOs including the NED, the Soros Foundations, Freedom House and others, President Obama signed Presidential Study Directive-11 (PDS-11), ordering Washington government agencies to prepare for “change.” The change was to be a radical policy calling for Washington’s backing for the secret fundamentalist Islamic Muslim Brotherhood sect across the Middle East Muslim world, and with it, the unleashing of a reign of terror that would change the entire world.

According to US Congressional testimony of Peter Hoekstra, former Chairman of the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Obama Administration PSD-11 directive–as of March 2017 still classified Top Secret–“ordered a government-wide reassessment of prospects for political reform in the Middle East and of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the process.”

A Grandiose Task Force

To draft the contents of PSD-11, a top secret task force was established within the Obama National Security Council (NSC), headed by Dennis Ross, Samantha Power, Gayle Smith, Ben Rhodes and Michael McFaul.

The PSD-11 Task Force members were remarkable in many regards. Samantha Power, who would go on to become Obama’s UN Ambassador and lead the demonizing of Russia after the CIA’s Ukraine Color Revolution coup in 2014, was to play an instrumental role in convincing President Obama that Libya’s Mohammar Qaddafi must be militarily removed for what she called “humanitarian reasons.” Dennis Ross, accused by Palestinian opponents of being “more pro-Israeli than the Israelis,” co-founded the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-sponsored Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). He was Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director at the NSC for the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia when he was part of the PSD-11 task force.

Gayle Smith would later go on in 2015 to head the USAID, the CIA-linked State Department agency that funneled US taxpayer millions to finance the NGOs of the Arab Spring and other Color Revolution regime changes. Michael McFaul, who once described himself as a “specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions,” was later named Obama’s Ambassador to Moscow where he coordinated opposition protests against Putin.

The Top Secret PSD-11 report that the Task Force drew up was partially revealed in a series of legal Freedom of Information Act requests to the State Department. Released official documents revealed that the NSC Task Force had concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “viable movement” for the US Government to support throughout North Africa and the Middle East. A resulting Presidential directive ordered American diplomats to make contacts with top Muslim Brotherhood leaders and gave active support to the organization’s drive for power in key nations like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria, at the 2011 outset of the “Arab Spring.” The PDS-11 secret paper came to the bizarre conclusion that the Muslim Brotherhood’s brand of political Islam, combined with its fervent nationalism, could lead to “reform and stability.” It was a lie, a lie well known to the Obama PSD-11 Task Force members.

The True Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood or Ikhwan–Arabic for The Brotherhood–is a secret masonic-like organization with a covert  or underground terrorist arm and a public facade of “peaceful doing of charity.” It was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna who developed the cult’s guiding motto. The credo of his Society of Muslim Brothers was incorporated into a chant of six short phrases:

Allah is our goal; The Prophet is our Leader; The Qur’an is our Constitution; Jihad is our Way; Death in the service of Allah is the loftiest of our wishes; Allah is Great, Allah is Great.

Al-Banna created a secret or hidden arm of the Ikhwan in Egypt and later worldwide, known as the Special Section (al-nizam al-khass), or, as it was referred to by the British in Egypt, the Secret Apparatus (al-jihaz al-sirri). That was the military wing of the Brotherhood, in effect, the “assassination bureau.” Al-Banna taught his recruits, exclusively male, that “Jihad is an obligation of every Muslim.” He preached the nobility of “Death in the Service of Allah,” and wrote, Allah grants a “noble life to that nation which knows how to die a noble death.” He preached a death cult in which “Victory can only come with the mastery of the ‘Art of Death.’” For the Brotherhood that “mastery” was perfected in the killing of “infidels” in Jihad or Holy War in the name of Allah. The infidels could be other Muslims such as Shi’ite or Sufi who did not follow Al-Banna’s strict Sunni practice, or Christians.

Hasan Al-Banna called for adoption of the very strict Islamic Shari’a law, the complete segregation of male and female students, with a separate curriculum for girls, a prohibition of dancing, and a call for Islamic states to eventually unify in a Caliphate.

During World War II, leading Muslim Brotherhood figures spent exile from British-controlled Egypt by fleeing to Berlin where, among others, Al Banna’s close Muslim brotherhood ally, Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, worked intimately with the SS and Heinrich Himmler to create special Muslim Brotherhood terror units of the SS, so-called Handschar SS, to kill Soviet soldiers and Jews. In the 1950’s the CIA discovered the Nazi Muslim Brotherhood recruits in exile in postwar Munich and decided they could be “useful.”

Virtually every major Jihadist terrorist organization and leader has come out of the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama bin Laden, who worked for the CIA in Pakistan recruiting Jihadist Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, was a Muslim Brotherhood member who was recruited by the CIA and Saudi Intelligence head Prince Turki al-Faisal, to create what came to be called Al Qaeda. Other known terrorist members of the Ikhwan were Al Qaeda’s Ayman Al-Zawahiri, and the blind Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman who recently died in a US prison serving time for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Sheikh Omar was accused of conspiring to assassinate Egypt’s Mubarak and masterminding the Muslim Brotherhood assassination of Anwar Sadat in addition to the bombing of the World Trade Center.

The members of the Obama Administration National Security Council PSD-11 Task Force that recommended a US Government embrace of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood in Islamic countries of the Arab Middle East, knew very well who they were dealing with. Since the 1950’s the CIA had worked with the Ikhwan around the world. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iraq and in Syria, al Nusra Front in Syria, as well as the so-called Islamic State or ISIS all were created out of Muslim Brotherhood networks, changing names as a chameleon lizard changes color to suit its surroundings.

The origins of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria and later of ISIS , the murderous wars and chaos sweeping across the Arab Middle East and into Western Europe since 2010, could all be directly traced back to those Washington Obama policies, their so-called Arab Spring, coming from that August 2010 PSD-11 Presidential Task Force directive. This is what threatens to come out with declassification of US Justice Department files in the coming months. Some in Washington speak of treason, a strong word.

December 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments