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Growing Indicators of Brennan’s CIA Trump Task Force

By Larry C Johnson | Sic Semper Tyrannus | November 2, 2019

The average American has no idea how alarming is the news that former CIA Director John Brennan reportedly created and staffed a CIA Task Force in early 2016 that was named, Trump Task Force, and given the mission of spying on and carrying out covert actions against the campaign of candidate Donald Trump.

This was not a simple gathering of a small number of disgruntled Democrats working at the CIA who got together like a book club to grouse and complain about the brash real estate guy from New York. It was a specially designed covert action to try to destroy Donald Trump.

A “Task Force” is a special bureaucratic creation that provides a vehicle for bringing case officers and analysts together, along with admin support, for a limited term project. But it also can be expanded to include personnel from other agencies, such as the FBI, DIA and NSA. Task Forces have been used since the inception of the CIA in 1947. Here’s a recently declassified memo outlining the considerations in the creation of a task force in 1958. The author, L.K. White, talks about the need for a coordinating Headquarters element and an Operational unit “in the field”, i.e. deployed around the world.

A Task Force operates independent of the CIA “Mission Centers” (that’s the jargon for the current CIA organization chart).

So what did John Brennan do? I am told by a knowledgeable source that Brennan created a Trump Task Force in early 2016. It was an invitation only Task Force. Specific case officers (i.e., men and women who recruit and handle spies overseas), analysts and admin personnel were recruited. Not everyone invited accepted the offer. But many did.

This was not a CIA only operation. Personnel from the FBI also were assigned to the Task Force. We have some clues that Christopher Steele’s FBI handler, Michael Gaeta, may have been detailed to the Trump Task Force (see here).

So what kind of things would this Task Force do? The case officers would work with foreign intelligence services such as MI-6, the Italians, the Ukrainians and the Australians on identifying intelligence collection priorities. Task Force members could task NSA to do targeted collection. They also would have the ability to engage in covert action, such as targeting George Papadopoulos. Joseph Mifsud may be able to shed light on the CIA officers who met with him, briefed on operational objectives regarding Papadopoulos and helped arrange monitored meetings. I think it is highly likely that the honey pot that met with George Papadopoulos, a woman named Azra Turk, was part of the CIA Trump Task Force.

The Task Force also could carry out other covert actions, such as information operations. A nice sounding euphemism for propaganda, and computer network operations. There has been some informed speculation that Guccifer 2.0 was a creation of this Task Force.

In light of what we have learned about the alleged CIA whistleblower, Eric Ciaramella, there should be a serious investigation to determine if he was a part of this Task Force or, at minimum, reporting to them.

When I described this to one friend, a retired CIA Chief of Station, his first response was, “My God, that’s illegal.” We then reminisced about another illegal operation carried out under the auspices of the CIA Central American Task Force back in the 1980s. That became known to Americans as the Iran Contra scandal.

I sure hope that John Durham and his team are looking at this angle. If true it marks a new and damning indictment of the corruption of the CIA. Rather than spying on genuine foreign threats, this Task Force played a critical role in creating and feeding the meme that Donald Trump was a tool of the Russians and a puppet of Putin.

November 3, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Russophobia | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Iranophobes on Parade

Will Iran be the target of the Trump regime?

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • November 29, 2016

One of the most discouraging aspects of the filling out of the Donald Trump cabinet is the array of Iran haters that seem to be lining up in the foreign policy and national security areas. Trump has been personally advocating sensible policies relating to Russia and Syria but he appears to have gone off the rails regarding Iran, which just might be attributed to those who are giving him advice. A reversion to the relationship that prevailed prior to last year’s signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) between Iran and the so-called P5+1 consisting of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and the European Union would be undesirable, to say the least, but that appears to be what is likely to develop. Or it could be even worse, finding bilateral support for “action” as a number of policy advisors in the presidential campaign from both parties were endorsing something like war against the Persians.

The irony is that the arguments made then and now for attacking Iran were based on the threat of Tehran deciding to build its own atomic bomb. With the JCPA agreement, however, most would agree that any remaining concerns that Tehran might even be considering the development of a nuclear weapons program were greatly diminished. Iran has since that time been in compliance with the agreement, possible nuclear proliferation has been avoided, and, apart from the fulminations of the inevitable anti-Iranian politicians in the United States, the signatories to the agreement have expressed their satisfaction with the outcome. It has been Washington that has failed to live up to its part of the agreement by easing remaining restrictions that are being imposed against Iranian financial institutions and regarding the purchase of some commercially available dual use technologies.

Candidate Donald Trump did not need much prompting to pick up on the prevailing anti-Iran sentiment. In a number of campaign speeches he denounced the JCPA as a bad deal and vowed to tear it up upon taking office. Some of that sentiment might well have been derived from his desire to distance himself from foreign policy positions promoted by President Barack Obama that were subsequently endorsed by Hillary Clinton so it is no surprise that since being elected he has somewhat modified his stance. He is now veering towards trying to renegotiate the agreement, which would likely be impossible given that it has multiple signatories. He could nevertheless disrupt it by continuing or increasing sanctions on Iran.

The thought of reverting to a state of unrelenting hostility towards Iran is disconcerting. One recalls joint CIA-Mossad operations between 2010 and 2012 that assassinated four civilian scientists connected to the country’s nuclear program as well as the creation of the Stuxnet virus that threatened to spread to other computers worldwide. It is generally accepted that Israel’s Mossad planned and prepared the killing of the scientists with a little help from the U.S., attacks which were almost certainly carried out by associates of the radical Marxist group Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK), which is now being seen favorably by several Trump advisors even though the group is Marxist, cult-like and has killed Americans.

The assassinations were based on the false premise that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that could be disrupted by killing the scientists and technicians involved. Two comprehensive studies by the American government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted in 2007 and 2011 determined that no such program existed and that Iran had never taken any serious steps to initiate such research. Israel was also aware that there was no program. Nevertheless, the Israeli and American governments took steps to interfere with Iran’s existing and completely legal and open to inspection atomic energy program by identifying then killing its scientists and also introducing viruses into its computer systems. This was in spite of the fact that Iran was fully compliant with international norms on nuclear research and it was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Israel, possessing its own nuclear arsenal, had refused to sign.

The history of the Iran-U.S. relationship is significant because several Trump advisors appear to be locked into a time warp regarding the Mullahs and the threat to Americans that they allegedly constitute. Former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) head Michael Flynn, who will be the Trump National Security Advisor, is the most prominent Iran hater and also the most outspoken.

Flynn, also an unapologetic Islamophobe, has said that Iran represents a danger to U.S. national security and that our friend and ally Israel “lives under the threat of total annihilation from Iran… something the United States must never allow.” He believes that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons as well as the ballistic missiles needed to deliver them on target and thinks that “regime change” is the only solution to the threat posed by the current government. And for Flynn, Iran is not alone, it is part of a “global alliance” that includes China and Russia which seeks to threaten the U.S. and its allies.

Flynn concludes that Iran is unmitigated evil and that Washington should have nothing to do with it, apart from recognizing the reality that it and its government must be destroyed. I personally attended a conference in Moscow last December at which Flynn asserted that Iran is solely responsible for nearly all the instability in the Middle East and is behind at least five wars in the region, an assertion that is just as ridiculous as it sounds.

One might suggest that Flynn is terribly uninformed about a subject regarding which he claims expertise. His comments would suggest that the capabilities of the DIA that he once headed were dangerously overrated, but reports from his former colleagues indicate that he was always guilty of serious overreach in his pronouncements, something they referred to as “Flynn facts”.

If Flynn were just one loud voice braying in the wilderness he would be bad enough since his job is important, particularly with a president who has no foreign policy experience, but the sad fact is that he is not alone. Congressman, West Point grad and former Army officer Mike Pompeo, who will head the CIA, is more-or-less on the same page when it comes to Iran. He supports new sanctions on the country and, regarding his appointment as Director, he had only one comment to make and it related to the JCPA, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” As in the case with Flynn and DIA one has to wonder what kind of “objective” intelligence CIA will be producing under Pompeo.

Finally, there is retired Marine General James Mattis, who is being considered for a senior position in national security, possibly as Secretary of Defense. He is yet another Iranophobe who opposed the JCPA and calls Iran a rogue state that constitutes the “greatest threat” in the Middle East. As part of the evidence for that assessment he cites Iran’s alliance with Syria, which is at least in part directed against America’s enemy number one ISIS, demonstrating once again how Establishment Washington has difficulty in understanding what constitutes actual national interests. Mattis, in fact, denies that Iran is actually fighting ISIS.

The neoconservative kingpin Bill Kristol is gloating, headlining in his Weekly Standard publication that the “Iran Deal Is Doomed!” He should be pleased. Team Trump’s attitude towards an alleged Iranian threat is delusional, more in sync with Kristol and some Israeli thinking than with any actual American interests. Just as neoconservatives always believe that it is 1938 and we are in Munich, Flynn, Pompeo and Mattis likewise seem to think that it is 1979 and the United States Embassy in Tehran is still occupied.

The three Trumpsmen are not stupid, far from it, but the problem appears to be that they cannot comfortably assess two or more conflicting concepts at the same time, which might be due to the linear thinking derived from their military backgrounds. The Middle East is awash with players, all of whom have separate agendas, few of which coincide with actual American interests. If one is fixated on or obsessed with Iran as the sole disruptive force in the region it becomes difficult to see how Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel are also problems. It is decidedly neoconnish to look at a complex foreign policy issue and only see black and white, but that is what the Trump national security team seems to be prone to do.

Hopefully someone will convince Donald Trump that the real answer to eliminating the “Iranian threat” is not war. It requires building on the relationship established by JCPA to bind Iran more closely to the international community, both economically and culturally. By all accounts, young Iranians, a majority of the population, are dismissive of the rigidity of their own government and are very open to Western ideas and lifestyle. Change will come to Iran if the United States and its European allies encourage more rather than less non-threatening contact. It will not come at the point of a bayonet as Flynn, Pompeo and Mattis appear to be promoting.

November 29, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

After Orlando, Democrats and Republicans Clamor for Expanded Police State

clinton trump

By Eric Draitser | Stop Imperialism | June 16, 2016

The horrific massacre in Orlando has once again thrust the specter of domestic terrorism into the limelight, and into the media space. Pundits and politicians alike have taken the incident as yet another opportunity to thump their chests about the need for even more counter-terrorism legislation, a further increase in surveillance state activity and, of course, more war abroad.

And while such opportunists posture as defenders of the American people, none care to face the inescapable reality that since 9-11, and the introduction of numerous pieces of draconian legislation ostensibly aimed at combatting terrorism, the agencies charged with surveillance and law enforcement have not managed to prevent attacks. Obviously, this raises the question of what exactly legislation such as the PATRIOT Act is really intended for if not to ‘keep Americans safe.’

But even more critical than retrospective criticism of the erosion of civil liberties after nearly a decade and a half of propaganda and fearmongering, is the need to oppose the further expansion of such legislation and domestic spying programs.  Indeed, while what were once considered rights are now seen as passé, the US is staring down the barrel of a presidential election where the leading candidates are calling for even more surveillance, expanded government databases, and more billions of dollars to be poured into the NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, and the rest of the alphabet soup that comprises Police State USA.

Clinton, Trump, and Death as Political Currency

In the immediate aftermath of the heinous slaughter in Orlando, the neoconservative-neoliberal chimera known as Hillary Clinton predictably called for an expansion of surveillance and the police state. Less than 48 hours after the attack, in a speech in Cleveland, Clinton proclaimed:

We already know we need more resources for this fight. The professionals who keep us safe would be the first to say we need better intelligence to discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out. That’s why I’ve proposed an ‘intelligence surge’ to bolster our capabilities across the board, with appropriate safeguards here at home.

As with all things Hillary, one must carefully deconstruct the statement to unravel the distortions and empty rhetoric, and distill her actual proposal. The first part of her statement is instantly suspect as the US has already grossly inflated its intelligence budget. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the 2017 intelligence budget will reach nearly $70 billion, with $50 billion being spent on the National Intelligence Program (NIP).  One would have to seriously question the logic in Clinton’s statement, namely the implied consensus about the need for more resources. How much more exactly will prevent incidents like the one in Orlando? Perhaps another $50 billion would do the trick?

The second fallacy embedded in the torrent of misinformation that is a Hillary Clinton speech excerpt is the specious argument that “better intelligence” would “discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out.” This vacuous statement must be dismissed out of hand after one considers the fact that the alleged Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, was investigated, followed, and interviewed by the FBI multiple times (he was also introduced to FBI informants whose responsibility was likely to keep tabs on him).

So, according to Clinton the US should spend tens of billions more dollars to fund the agencies and programs that already have the ability to single out a potential terrorist, do all the leg work to establish contact with him, invest human resources into his case, and yet still be unable to stop his alleged actions. To put it in terms Hillary’s Wall Street patrons would understand: sounds like a bad investment strategy.

The third unmistakably wrongheaded statement (I only selected three sentences, so she’s 3 for 3) is the absolutely odious suggestion of an “intelligence surge” to improve the capabilities of the intelligence community. In fact, what Clinton is actually suggesting is a massive increase in contracts awarded to private intelligence firms and military contractors, though veiling it as a boost to the intelligence community. This fact is made clear by the renowned investigative journalist Tim Shorrock in his 2008 book Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing where he notes that:

In 2006… the cost of America’s spying and surveillance activities outsourced to contractors reached $42 billion, or about 70 percent of the estimated $60 billion the government spends every year on foreign and domestic intelligence. Unfortunately, we cannot know the true extent of outsourcing, for two reasons. First, in 2007, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) refused to release an internal report on contracting out of fear that its disclosure would harm U.S. national security interests. Second, most intelligence contracts are classified, allowing companies like CACI to hide their activities behind a veil of secrecy.

Think about that figure for a second: 70 percent of the intelligence budget goes to outsourcing. In other words, government expenditure on surveillance and intelligence is an indirect subsidy to private corporations. This should come as no surprise considering similar indirect subsidies to energy companies, private mercenaries, and even big retail corporations.

Of course, Clinton knows all this perfectly well. So when she calls for an intelligence surge what she’s actually doing is making clear to her military-industrial-surveillance complex cronies that she will make sure to feed the goose that continues to lay the golden eggs. Just like her speeches to Goldman Sachs served to reassure Wall Street that she was their lady, so too does Clinton use the tragic events in Orlando to give a wink and a nod to Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International, and the rest.

As with all things Clinton, her words drip with cynicism like her hands drip with the blood of Libyans, Syrians, Iraqis, Serbians, and countless others.

It should be mentioned too that aside from just funding, Clinton undoubtedly represents a further rightward shift in terms of “anti-terror” legislation – the kinds of bills that she’d promote and sign into law as president would be, to put it bluntly, no different than the Bush era bills that she supported such as the PATRIOT Act.  As Conor Friedersdorf noted in The Atlantic in 2015:

[Clinton] served in the United States Senate from 2001 to 2009. She cast votes that enabled the very NSA spying that many now regard as a betrayal. And she knew all about what the NSA wasn’t telling the public. To say now that the NSA should’ve been more transparent raises this question: Why wasn’t Clinton among the Democrats working for more transparency?

Friedersdorf is being much too kind with his concluding rhetorical question. Clinton is perhaps one of the most hawkish surveillance state proponents in the US. Her total disregard for even the basic tenets of the US Constitution, let alone domestic or international law, make her not only unfit for office, but a dangerous criminal.

And then of course there’s the trainwreck made flesh, Donald Trump, who with his typically bombastic and utterly vacuous public statements has once again managed to make the criminal Hillary into the “sensible one.” In a speech on Monday June 13, Trump reverted to his usual racist demagogy that is light on actual policy prescriptions and heavy on xenophobia, racism, and outright lies. But in the midst of the Trump madness, there are indeed kernels of policy that should be worrying.

During the speech Trump called, once again, for a ban on Muslim immigration to the US, warning of “major consequences” for the Muslim community in the country. But Trump went further saying, “We have a dysfunctional immigration system, which does not permit us to know who we let into our country, and it does not permit us to protect our citizens properly.” Again, Trump provides no specific policy prescription, but the implication from his statement is an increase in surveillance of citizens domestically, as well as presumably the codification of a deeply racist immigration system which would discriminate based on religion and/or ethnicity.

Trump continued, saying “With these people, folks, it’s coming. We’re importing radical Islamic terrorism into the West through a failed immigration system and through an intelligence community held back by our president.” Here again Trump aligns with Clinton. While supposedly the two are opposed to one another, the fact is that both accept the false assumption that our problems would be solved if only we could just stop “holding back” the intelligence community. Clinton calls for a surge while Trump calls for taking off the training wheels. Sort of like an argument about which is better Pepsi or orange juice.

The Police State Is Not the Answer

While the Demopublican-Republicrat Party continues its political posturing, the assumptions that both have internalized are what need to be excised from the body politic. It is patently absurd to call for more surveillance in a country where, thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know the following:

  • The PRISM program allows “The National Security Agency and the FBI [to tap] directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs.” According to cybersecurity experts PRISM uses obviously illegal tactics to “circumvent formal legal processes… to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos.”
  • The BLARNEY system is utilized extensively. According to former AT&T technician Mark Klein and former Senior Advisor for Internet Technology at the FCC Scott Marcus, “Using a device called a ‘splitter’ a complete copy of the internet traffic that AT&T receives… is diverted onto a separate fiber-optic cable which is connected to a room which is controlled by the NSA.” Therefore, unlike PRISM, which the government and its apologists attempt to justify as being used to target key individuals, BLARNEY has no such capacity. Rather, it is designed solely to collect data, all internet data, to be used and likely stored.
  • The NSA has constructed enormous data storage facilities such as the Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. As one top security official told Wired, “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

Naturally, there is not nearly enough space here to detail all of the myriad surveillance programs. But, taking them together with what we know of government funding to private intelligence firms, how could anyone rightly argue that surveillance should be increased? If anything, the enormous expenditure has proven utterly useless.

Indeed, the legal framework developed in the post-9/11 era including draconian legislation such as the PATRIOT Act, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and many others, laid the foundation for the systemic and systematic stripping away of civil liberties and human rights. The technical infrastructure has been steadily evolving since 9/11 as technology continues to improve, providing the intelligence agencies with ever more tools for surveillance and intelligence gathering. The continued, unrestrained neoliberal policy of privatization has created a complex network of companies, contractors, and subcontractors, usually working independently of each other, all in the service of the security state. Finally, the political landscape in the United States has so thoroughly devolved that elected officials are more concerned about stopping the whistleblowers and leakers, than about addressing America’s continued descent into a fascist police state.

Such is the state of the union in 2016. And while the aspiring Mass Murderer-in-Chief Clinton continues to attack the political snake-charmer Trump, and The Donald does what The Donald does, the bodies of 50 innocent people are being laid to rest. Must the values and freedoms that the US allegedly once stood for also be buried?

June 20, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syria, ISIS, and the US-UK Propaganda War

By Eric Draitser | New Eastern Outlook | May 6, 2016

With the war in Syria raging in its fifth year, and the Islamic State wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it’s clear that the entire region has been made into one large theater of conflict. But the battlefield must not be understood solely as a physical place located on a map; it is equally a social and cultural space where the forces of the US-UK-NATO Empire employ a variety of tactics to influence the course of events and create an outcome amenable to their agenda. And none to greater effect than propaganda.

Indeed, if the ongoing war in Syria, and the conflicts of the post-Arab Spring period generally, have taught us anything, it is the power of propaganda and public relations to shape narratives which in turn impact political events. Given the awesome power of information in the postmodern political landscape, it should come as no surprise that both the US and UK have become world leaders in government-sponsored propaganda masquerading as legitimate, grassroots political and social expression.

London, Washington, and the Power of Manipulation

The Guardian recently revealed how the UK Government’s Research, Information, and Communications Unit (RICU) is involved in surveillance, information dissemination, and promotion of individuals and groups as part of what it describes as an attempt at “attitudinal and behavioral change” among its Muslim youth population. This sort of counter-messaging is nothing new, and has been much discussed for years. However, the Guardian piece actually exposed the much deeper connections between RICU and various grassroots organizations, online campaigns, and social media penetration.

The article outlined the relationship between the UK Government’s RICU and a London-based communications company called Breakthrough Media Network which “has produced dozens of websites, leaflets, videos, films, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and online radio content, with titles such as The Truth about Isis and Help for Syria.” Considering the nature of social media, and the manner in which information (or disinformation) is spread online, it should come as no surprise that a number of the viral videos, popular twitter feeds, and other materials that seemingly align with the anti-Assad line of London and Washington are, in fact, the direct products of a government-sponsored propaganda campaign.

In fact, as the authors of the story noted:

One Ricu initiative, which advertises itself as a campaign providing advice on how to raise funds for Syrian refugees, has had face-to-face conversations with thousands of students at university freshers’ fairs without any students realising they were engaging with a government programme. That campaign, called Help for Syria, has distributed leaflets to 760,000 homes without the recipients realising they were government communications.

It’s not hard to see what the British Government is trying to do with such efforts; they are an attempt to control the messaging of the war on Syria, and to redirect grassroots anti-war activism to channels deemed acceptable to the political establishment. Imagine for a moment the impact on an 18-year-old college freshman just stepping into the political arena, and immediately encountering seasoned veteran activists who influence his/her thinking on the nature of the war, who the good guys and bad guys are, and what should be done. Now multiply that by thousands and thousands of students. The impact of such efforts is profound.

But it is much more than simply interactions with prospective activists and the creation of propaganda materials; it is also about surveillance and social media penetration. According to the article, “One of Ricu’s primary tasks is to monitor online conversations among what it describes as vulnerable communities. After products are released, Ricu staff monitor ‘key forums’ for online conversations to ‘track shifting narratives,’ one of the documents [obtained by The Guardian ] shows.” It is clear that such efforts are really about online penetration, especially via social media.

By monitoring and manipulating in this way, the British Government is able to influence, in a precise and highly targeted way, the narrative about the war on Syria, ISIS, and a host of issues relevant to both its domestic politics and the geopolitical and strategic interests of the British state. Herein lies the nexus between surveillance, propaganda, and politics.

But of course the UK is not alone in this effort, as the US has a similar program with its Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) which describes its mission as being:

…[to] coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism… CSCC is comprised of three interactive components. The integrated analysis component leverages the Intelligence Community and other substantive experts to ensure CSCC communicators benefit from the best information and analysis available. The plans and operations component draws on this input to devise effective ways to counter the terrorist narrative. The Digital Outreach Team actively and openly engages in Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Somali.

Notice that the CSCC is, in effect, an intelligence hub acting to coordinate propaganda for CIA, DIA, DHS, and NSA, among others. This mission, of course, is shrouded in terminology like “integrated analysis” and “plans and operations” – terms used to designate the various components of the overall CSCC mission. Like RICU, the CSCC is focused on shaping narratives online under the pretext of counter-radicalization.

It should be noted too that CSCC becomes a propaganda clearinghouse of sorts not just for the US Government, but also for its key foreign allies (think Israel, Saudi Arabia, Britain), as well as perhaps favored NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF). As the New York Times noted:

[The CSCC will] harness all the existing attempts at countermessaging by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies. The center would also coordinate and amplify similar messaging by foreign allies and nongovernment agencies, as well as by prominent Muslim academics, community leaders and religious scholars who oppose the Islamic State.

But taking this information one step further, it calls into question yet again the veracity of much of the dominant narrative about Syria, Libya, ISIS, and related topics. With social media and “citizen journalism” having become so influential in how ordinary people think about these issues, one is yet again forced to consider the degree of manipulation of these phenomena.

Manufacturing Social Media Narratives

It is by now well documented the myriad ways in which Western governments have been investing heavily in tools for manipulating social media in order to shape narratives. In fact, the US CIA alone has invested millions in literally dozens of social media-related startups via its investment arm known as In-Q-Tel. The CIA is spending the tens of millions of dollars providing seed money to these companies in order to have the ability to do everything from data mining to real-time surveillance.

The truth is that we’ve known about the government’s desire to manipulate social media for years. Back in February 2011, just as the wars on Libya and Syria were beginning, an interesting story was published by PC World under the title Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda which explained in very mundane language that:

… the U.S. government contracted HBGary Federal for the development of software which could create multiple fake social media profiles to manipulate and sway public opinion on controversial issues by promoting propaganda. It could also be used as surveillance to find public opinions with points of view the powers-that-be didn’t like. It could then potentially have their “fake” people run smear campaigns against those “real” people.

Close observers of the US-NATO war on Libya will recall just how many twitter accounts miraculously surfaced, with tens of thousands of followers each, to “report” on the “atrocities” carried out by Muammar Gaddafi’s armed forces, and call for a No Fly Zone and regime change. Certainly one is left to wonder now, as many of us did at the time, whether those accounts weren’t simply fakes created by either a Pentagon computer program, or by paid trolls.

A recent example of the sort of social media disinformation that has been (and will continue to be) employed in the war on Syria/ISIS came in December 2014 when a prominent “ISIS twitter propagandist” known as Shami Witness (@ShamiWitness) was exposed as a man named “Mehdi,” (later confirmed as Mehdi Biswas) described as “an advertising executive” based in Bangalore, India. @ShamiWitness had been cited as an authoritative source – a veritable “wealth of information” – about ISIS and Syria by corporate media outfits, as well as ostensibly “reliable and independent” bloggers such as the ubiquitous Eliot Higgins (aka Brown Moses) who cited Shami repeatedly. This former “expert” on ISIS has now been charged in India with crimes including “supporting a terrorist organisation, waging war against the State, unlawful activities, conspiracy, sedition and promoting enmity.”

In another example of online media manipulation, in early 2011, as the war on Syria was just beginning, a blogger then known only as the “Gay Girl in Damascus” rose to prominence as a key source of information and analysis about the situation in Syria. The Guardian, among other media outlets, lauded her as “an unlikely hero of revolt” who “is capturing the imagination of the Syrian opposition with a blog that has shot to prominence as the protest movement struggles in the face of a brutal government crackdown.” However, by June of 2011, the “brutally honest Gay Girl” was exposed as a hoax, a complete fabrication concocted by one Tom MacMaster. Naturally, the same outlets that had been touting the “Gay Girl” as a legitimate source of information on Syria immediately backtracked and disavowed the blog. However, the one-sided narrative of brutal and criminal repression of peace-loving activists in Syria stuck. While the source was discredited, the narrative remained entrenched.

And this last point is perhaps the key: online manipulation is designed to control narratives. While the war may be fought on the battlefield, it is equally fought for the hearts and minds of activists, news consumers, and ordinary citizens in the West. The UK and US both have extensive information war capabilities, and they’re not afraid to use them. And so, we should not be afraid to expose them.

May 6, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese Hackers? US Propagandists Should Look in the Mirror

By Eric Draitser |New Eastern Outlook | November 4, 2015

Like millions of Americans, this past week I was sitting on my couch, drinking a cold beer, watching Game 1 of the World Series – professional baseball’s hallowed championship. Suddenly the satellite feed went out, the screen went dark. Naturally, as FOX Sports scrambled to get their live feed fixed, many of my fellow Americans took to twitter to speculate as to what had caused the outage. I was, sadly, unsurprised to see that the most common joke people were making was that China must have hacked the World Series.

On the one hand, it is understandable given the barrage of propaganda about Chinese hackers as a threat to corporate and national security; seemingly every week there is a new news item highlighting the great red cyber-menace. On the other hand, it is a perfect illustration of the hypocrisy and ignorant arrogance of Americans who, despite being citizens of unquestionably the most aggressive nation when it comes to both cyber espionage and surveillance, see fit to cast China as the real villain. It is a testament to the power of both propaganda and imperial triumphalism that a proposition so disconnected from reality, and bordering on Orwellian Doublethink, is not only accepted, but is ipso facto true.

But there is a deeper political and sociological phenomenon at play here, one that begs further exploration. How is it that despite all the revelations of Edward Snowden regarding US intelligence and military snooping capabilities across the globe, Americans still cannot accept the culpability of their own government and corporate interests – the two work hand in hand – in global cyber-espionage? Even if they explicitly or implicitly know about the NSA, CIA, DIA, and Pentagon programs (among many others), their instinctive reaction is to blame China. Why? The answer lies in the complexity and effectiveness of the anti-China propaganda.

In his landmark book Public Opinion, the renowned writer, commentator, and theoretician of propaganda, Walter Lipmann, defined the term “stereotype” in the modern psychological sense as a “distorted picture or image in a person’s mind, not based on personal experience, but derived culturally.” In other words, the stereotype is an image in our mind’s eye, one that is constructed by outside forces; it is information filtered through a particular societal or cultural framework that then creates a picture of how something is to be understood. Lipmann went further, noting that carefully constructed propaganda could be used to shape stereotypes, thereby allowing the powers that be the ability to construct and manipulate information and narratives.

And this is precisely the phenomenon at work here. By repeating it endlessly, the US political and corporate media establishment have successfully convinced Americans that China is the real threat when it comes to cyberspace, playing on the stereotype of Chinese people in general, and the People’s Republic of China specifically. But, I would argue something far different: rather than seeing China as a threat, perhaps Americans, and westerners generally, should shine a light on what their own countries are doing, thereby gaining a broader perspective on the issue. For China’s moves in this field pale in comparison to those of the US, and are clearly a response to them.

China and the US: Comparing the Rap Sheets

The corporate media is replete with stories of Chinese hacking of US institutions. From alleged Chinese hacking of the University of Virginia employees connected with US government programs directed at China, to the infamous breach of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management which resulted in the theft of the personal information of more than 20 million Americans, such stories help to construct an image of China as the world’s leading hacker-state. This week it is Chinese hackers targeting health care providers, last year it was stealing the secrets of Westinghouse and US Steel, and literally dozens of other such examples.

The purpose of this article is not to deny the veracity of these reports; I’m not a computer expert, nor do I have access to the information that an expert would need in making a determination. Instead, my purpose here is to show the grossly unbalanced, and utterly dishonest, way in which the issue is presented to Americans especially, and to probe why that might be. For any fair and balanced approach to the issue would present the simple fact that the US is the world leader in cyber-warfare, having actually conducted what are to date the only recorded live uses of cyberweapons.

Take for instance the joint US-Israel developed Stuxnet virus, a pair of highly complex and severely destructive, computer viruses launched at Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to a group of independent legal experts assembled at the request of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, the Stuxnet cyberattack was “an act of force.” Their report noted that “Acts that kill or injure persons or destroy or damage objects are unambiguously uses of force [and likely violate international law].”

Indeed, the US and its Israeli partners launched the very first true cyberweapon. As cyber security expert Ralph Langer wrote in Foreign Policy in 2013:

Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet’s smaller and simpler attack routine — the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and “forgotten” routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. It qualifies as a nightmare for those who understand industrial control system security… The “original” payload… attempted to overpressurize Natanz’s centrifuges by sabotaging the system meant to keep the cascades of centrifuges safe.

Essentially, the US and Israel employed the world’s first cyberweapon without even fully knowing the potentially destructive consequences. As the virus migrated out of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz and onto the internet, innumerable variables could have come into play, with the potential for disastrous outcomes.

But of course Stuxnet was not alone. The US and Israel also deployed both the Gauss and Flame viruses, two more sophisticated cyberweapons designed to cause major damage to online infrastructure. The Gauss virus, discovered by Kaspersky labs, one of the world’s most highly respected cyber-security firms, was designed to steal sensitive data such as financial records. According to the US officials who spoke with the Washington Post, the Flame virus was a: massive piece of malware [which] secretly mapped and monitored Iran’s computer networks, sending back a steady stream of intelligence to prepare for a cyberwarfare campaign… “This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action… Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.” said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today.

Clearly the US and Israel were not merely interested in surveillance and information-gathering, but actually having the ability to manipulate and destroy vital computer infrastructure in Iran. Any reasonable reading of international law should hold that such actions are, in fact, an act of war, though of course war with Iran has not come to pass. But just the very use of such sophisticated weapons, far more elaborate, technical, and dangerous than mere hacking by humans, should call into question the weepy-eyed condemnations of China for its alleged stealing of corporate and government information.

And then of course there is the seemingly endless supply of revelations from Edward Snowden regarding the US surveillance infrastructure, how all-encompassing it truly is, how it is used to manipulate political outcomes, how it is used as a weapon against foreign governments, and much more.

Just to name a few of the countless programs and initiatives of the NSA and the surveillance state designed to capture information for political purposes:

PRISM – allows “The National Security Agency and the FBI [to tap] directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs.”

BLARNEY – “Gathers up metadata from choke points along the backbone of the internet as part of an ongoing collection program the leverages IC (intelligence community) and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

Boundless Informant – “Details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.”

US & UK Target G20 Leaders – “The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government.”

US Spied on EU Offices – “America’s National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions… in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the European Union representation’s computer network was also infiltrated.”

But of course, the US has also specifically, and successfully, trained its cyber-espionage and cyber-warfare sights on China itself. Thanks to Snowden, we now know that US intelligence repeatedly hacked into Beijing’s Tsinghua University, China’s top education and research institute. As revealed in the South China Morning Post:

The information also showed that the attacks on Tsinghua University were intensive and concerted efforts. In one single day of January, at least 63 computers and servers in Tsinghua University have been hacked by the NSA… The university is home to one of the mainland’s six major backbone networks, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) from where internet data from millions of Chinese citizens could be mined. The network was the country’s first internet backbone network and has evolved into the world’s largest national research hub.

But it wasn’t only Tsinghua University that was targeted. Snowden also revealed that Chinese University in Hong Kong was the victim of US hacking; the university is home to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange, the city’s central hub for all internet traffic. In addition, it came out that US intelligence has repeatedly hacked into Chinese mobile phone companies, spied on users, and stolen data, including text messages. These are, of course, only what we know about thus far from the Snowden revelations. The scope of US hacking operations against China is not known, but could be safely assumed to be far-reaching.

In fact, the depth of US hacking and other intelligence operations targeting China, including those taking place inside China itself, has been alluded to repeatedly. The New York Times noted in August 2015 that the Obama administration was cautious about any retaliation against China for the breach of the Office of Personnel Management because “Intelligence officials say that any legal case could result in exposing American intelligence operations inside China — including the placement of thousands of implants in Chinese computer networks to warn of impending attacks.”

It is clear that what we do know about US cyberwar programs and tactics is really only the tip of the iceberg. It is likely that Washington has myriad other China-specific hacking programs and initiatives, including the much discussed attempts to subvert the oft referenced “Great Firewall of China.” Put simply, the US is engaged in the most sophisticated forms of hacking and cyber-subversion, and much of it is directed at China (and Russia and Iran). This should now be beyond question.

Keep this information in mind the next time another story about Chinese hackers attacking US interests runs in the corporate media. While the hack may or may not be true, it is the context within which such actions take place that really needs to be understood.

There is a cyberwar going on, of this there can be no doubt. But who’s got the biggest guns? And who fired the first shot?

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment