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How the UK press supports the British military and intelligence establishment

By Mark Curtis | Declassified UK | March 11, 2020

Britain’s national press is acting largely as a platform for the views of the UK military and intelligence establishment, new statistical research by Declassified UK shows.

The UK press, from The Times to The Guardian, is also routinely helping to demonise states identified by the British government as enemies, while tending to whitewash those seen as allies.

The research, which analyses the UK national print media, suggests that the public is being bombarded by views and selective information supporting the priorities of policy-makers. The media is found to be routinely misinforming the public and acting far from independently.

This is the second part of a two-part analysis of UK national press coverage of British foreign policy.

Elite platform

Numerous stories or points of information on Britain’s intelligence agencies, such as MI6 and GCHQ, are being fed to journalists by anonymous “security sources” – often military or intelligence officials who do not want to be named.

The term “security sources” has been mentioned in 1,020 press articles in the past three years alone, close to one a day. While not all of these relate to UK sources, it indicates the common use of this method by British journalists.

Declassified’s recent research found that officials in the UK military and intelligence establishment had been sources for at least 34 major national media stories that cast Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a danger to British security. The research also found 440 articles in the UK press from September 2015 until December 2019 specifically mentioning Corbyn as a “threat to national security”.

Anonymous sources easily push out messages supportive of government policy and often include misleading or unverifiable information with no come-back from journalists. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) says it has 89 “media relations and communications” officers.

Many journalists regularly present the views of the MOD or security services to the public with few or no filters or challenges, merely amplifying what their sources tell them. In “exclusive” interviews with MI6 or MI5, for example, journalists invariably allow the security services to promote their views without serious, or any, scepticism for their claims or relevant context.

That the UK intelligence services are regularly presented as politically neutral actors and the bearers of objective information is exemplified in headlines such as “MI6 lays bare the growing Russian threat” (in the Times) and “Russia and Assad regime ‘creating a new generation of terrorists who will be threat to us all’, MI6 warns” (in the Independent).

Press coverage of the RAF’s 100th “birthday” in 2018 produced no critical articles that could be found, with most being stories from the MOD presented as news. This is despite episodes in the RAF’s history such as the bombing of civilians in colonial campaigns in the Middle East in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s and its prominent current role in supporting Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, which has helped create the world’s biggest humanitarian disaster.

Similarly, for GCHQ’s 100th anniversary in 2019, the press appeared to simply write up information provided by the organisation. Only the occasional article mentioned GCHQ’s role in operating programmes of mass surveillance while its covert online action programmes and secret spy bases in at least one repressive Middle East regime were ignored by every paper at the time, as far as could be found.

The national press are generally strong supporters of the security services and the military. A number of outlets, from the Times and Telegraph to the Mirror, are strongly opposed to government cuts in parts of the military budget, for example.

The British army’s main special forces unit, the SAS, which is currently involved in seven covert wars, is invariably seen positively in the national press. A search reveals 384 mentions of the term “SAS hero” in the UK national press in the past five years – mainly in the Sun, but also in the Times, Express, Mail, Telegraph and others.

Critical articles on the special forces are rare, and the journalists writing them can face a backlash from other reporters.

In some press articles, MOD media releases are largely copied and pasted. For example, recent MOD material on RAF Typhoons in Eastern Europe scrambling to intercept Russian aircraft has often been repeated word for word across the media.

A press release from the UK’s Royal Air Force, and how it was covered by two British newspapers, The Sun and The Independent.

Such “embedded journalism” poses a significant threat to the public interest. Richard Norton-Taylor, formerly the Guardian’s security correspondent for over 40 years, told Declassified : “Embedded journalists — those invited to join British military units in conflict zones — are at the mercy of their MOD handlers at the best of times. Journalists covering defence, security and intelligence are far too deferential and indulge far too much in self-censorship”.

Some papers are more extreme than others in their willingness to act as platforms for the military and intelligence establishment. The Express may well be the most supportive: its coverage of MOD stories and vilification of official enemies, notably Russia, is remarkable and consistent.

The Guardian, however, has also been shown to play a similar role. Declassified’s recent analysis, drawing on newly released documents and evidence from former and current Guardian journalists, found that the paper has been successfully targeted by security agencies to neutralise its adversarial reporting of the “security state”.

Censorship by omission

Articles critical of the Ministry of Defence or security services are occasionally published in the press. However, these tend to be either on relatively minor issues or are reported on briefly and then forgotten. Rarely do seriously critical stories receive sustained coverage or are widely picked up across the rest of the media.

Often, reporters will cover a topic and elide the most important information for no clear reason. For example, there is considerable coverage of possible MI5 failures to prevent the May 2017 Manchester terrorist bombing — failings which may be understandable given the large number of terrorist suspects being monitored at any one time.

However, the government admitted in parliament in March 2018 that it “likely” had contacts with two militant groups in the 2011 war in Libya for which the Manchester bomber and his father reportedly fought at the time, one of which groups the UK had covertly supported in the past. This significant admission in parliament has not been reported in any press article, as far as can be found.

People lay flowers in St Annes Square on the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing in Manchester, Britain, 22 May 2018. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nigel Roddis)

Last September, veteran investigative journalist Ian Cobain broke a story on the alternative news site Middle East Eye revealing that the senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British army’s psychological warfare unit, the so-called 77th Brigade.

This story was picked up by a few media outlets at the time (including the Financial Times, the Times and the Independent ) but our research finds that it then went unmentioned in the hundreds of press articles subsequently covering Twitter.

Similarly, in November 2018, a story broke on a secretive UK government-financed programme called the Integrity Initiative, which is ostensibly a “counter disinformation” programme to challenge Russian information operations but was also revealed to be tweeting messages attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Our research finds that in the 14 months until December 2019, the Integrity Initiative was mentioned less than 20 times in the UK-wide national press, mainly in the Times (it was also mentioned 15 times in the Scottish paper, the Sunday Mail ).

By contrast, when stories break that are useful to the British establishment, they tend to receive sustained media coverage.

Establishment think tanks

The British press routinely chooses to rely on sources in think tanks that largely share the same pro-military and pro-intervention agenda as the state.

The two most widely-cited military-related think tanks in the UK are the London-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) which are usually quoted as independent voices or experts. In the last five years, RUSI has appeared in 534 press articles and IISS in 120.

However, both are funded by governments and corporations. RUSI, which is located next door to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, has funders such as BAE Systems, the Qatar government, the Foreign Office and the US State Department. IISS’s chief financial backers include BAE Systems, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Airbus.

This funding is mentioned in only two press reports that could be found – the Guardian reported that IISS received money from the regime in Bahrain while the Times once noted, “RUSI, while funded in part by the MoD, is an independent think tank”.

One Telegraph article refers to a “research fellow at RUSI who specialises in combat airpower”, without mentioning that its funder BAE Systems is a major producer of warplanes.

Although many senior figures in these organisations previously worked in government, press readers are rarely informed of this. RUSI’s chair is former foreign secretary William Hague, its vice-chair is former MI6 director Sir John Scarlett and its senior vice-president is David Petraeus, former CIA director.

The IISS’s deputy secretary-general is a former senior official at the US State Department while its Middle East director is a former Lieutenant-General in the British army who served as defence senior adviser to the Middle East. One of IISS’ senior advisers is Nigel Inkster, a former senior MI6 officer.

Media and intelligence

Richard Keeble, professor of journalism at the University of Lincoln, has noted that the influence of the intelligence services on the media may be “enormous” and the British secret service may even control large parts of the press. “Most tabloid newspapers – or even newspapers in general – are playthings of MI5”, says Roy Greenslade, a former editor of the Daily Mirror who has also worked as media specialist for both the Telegraph and the Guardian.

David Leigh, former investigations editor of the Guardian, has written that reporters are routinely approached and manipulated by intelligence agents, who operate in three ways: they attempt to recruit journalists to spy on other people or go themselves under journalistic “cover”, they pose as journalists in order to write tendentious articles under false names, and they plant stories on willing journalists, who disguise their origin from their readers — known as black propaganda.

MI6 managed a psychological warfare operation in the run-up to the Iraq war of 2003 that was revealed by former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter. Known as Operation Mass Appeal, this operation “served as a focal point for passing MI6 intelligence on Iraq to the media, both in the UK and around the world. The goal was to help shape public opinion about Iraq and the threat posed by WMD [weapons of mass destruction]”.

Various fabricated reports were written up in the media in the run-up to the Iraq war, based on intelligence sources. These included cargo ships said to be carrying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (covered in the Independent and Guardian ) and claims that Saddam Hussein killed his missile chief to thwart a UN team (Sunday Telegraph ).

More recent examples of apparently fabricated stories in the establishment media include Guardian articles on the subject of Julian Assange. The paper claimed in a front page splash written by Luke Harding and Dan Collyns in November 2018 that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly met Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy three times.

The Guardian also falsely reported on a “Russia escape plot” to enable Assange to leave the embassy for which the paper later gave a partial apology. Both stories appeared to be part of a months-long campaign by the Guardian against Assange.

The exterior view of Thames House, MI5 Headquarters, in Millbank, on the bank of the River Thames, London, Britain. (Photo: EPA-EFE/ Horacio Villalobos)

Demonising enemies

The media plays a consistent role in following the state’s demonisation of official enemies. The term “Russian threat” is mentioned in 401 articles in the past five years, across the national press. The Express may be the largest press amplifier of the government’s demonisation of Russia — the paper carries a steady stream of stories critical of Russia and Putin.

The British establishment has invoked Russia as an enemy in recent years due mainly to the poisonings in the town of Salisbury and policy in eastern Europe. Whatever malign policies Russia is promoting, which can be real, false or exaggerated, it is noteworthy that this has been elevated by the press to a general “threat” to the UK. As during the cold war, this is useful to the British military and security services arguing for larger budgets and for offensive military postures in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Russia’s alleged interference in British politics has received huge coverage compared to alleged Israeli influence. A simple comparison of search terms using “Russia/Israel and UK and interference” in press articles in the past five years yields seven times more mentions of Russia than Israel, despite considerable evidence of Israeli interference.

UK press reporting on Iran is also noticeably supportive of government policy. A search for “Iran and nuclear weapons programme” reveals 325 articles in the past five years. While this large coverage is driven by president Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, it is also driven by Iran being a designated enemy of the US and UK, which have deemed it unacceptable that Tehran should ever acquire nuclear weapons.

By contrast, “Israel’s nuclear weapons” (and variants of this search term) are mentioned in under 30 press articles in the past five years. Natanz, Iran’s main nuclear arms facility, has been mentioned in around four times more press articles than Dimona, the Israeli nuclear site, in the past five years.

The contrast in reporting on Iran and Israel is striking since Iran does not possess nuclear weapons, and it is not certain that it seeks to, whereas Western ally Israel already has such weapons, estimated at around 80 warheads.

An aerial view of Israel’s nuclear site at Dimona. (Google Maps)

Labelling goodies and baddies

The national press strongly follows the government in labelling states as enemies or allies.

States favoured by the UK are mainly described in the press using the neutral term “government” rather the more critical term “regime”. In the past three years, for example, the term “Saudi government” has been used in 790 articles while “Saudi regime” is mentioned in 388. However, with Iran the number of instances is reversed: “Iranian government” is used in 419 articles whereas “Iranian regime” is mentioned in 456.

The same holds for other allies. The “Egyptian regime” receives 24 mentions while “Egyptian government” has 222, in the past three years. The “Bahraini regime” is mentioned in 10 articles while “Bahraini government” is mentioned in 60.

The precise term “Iranian-backed Houthi rebels”, referring to the war in Yemen, is mentioned in 198 articles in the last five years. However, the equivalent term for the UK backing the Saudis in Yemen (using search terms such as “UK-backed Saudis” or “British-backed Saudis”) appears in just three articles.

The pattern is also that the crimes of official enemies are covered extensively in the national press but those of the UK and its allies much less so, if at all.

Articles mentioning “war crimes and Syria” number 1,527 in the past five years compared to 495 covering “war crimes and Yemen”. While the press often reports that the Syrian government has carried out war crimes, most articles simply suggest or allege war crimes by the Saudis in Yemen.

Indeed, the UK press has been much more interested in covering the Syrian war—chiefly prosecuted by the UK’s opponents—than the Yemen war, where Britain has played a sustained widespread role. As a basic indicator, the specific term “war in Syria” is mentioned in well over double the number of articles as “war in Yemen” in the past five years.

Furthermore, government enemies are regularly described in the press as supporters of terrorism, which rarely applies to allies.

In the past three years 185 articles mention the term “sponsor of terrorism”, most referring to Iran, followed by Sudan and North Korea with the occasional mention of Libya and Pakistan. None specifically label UK allies Turkey or Saudi “sponsors of terrorism”, despite evidence of this in Syria and elsewhere, and none describe Britain or the US as such.

Some 102 articles in the past five years specifically mention Russia’s “occupation of Crimea”. However, despite some critical articles on UK policy towards the Chagos Islands in the Indian ocean—which were depopulated by the UK in the 1970s and which the US now uses as a military base—only two articles specifically mention the UK’s “occupation of Chagos” (or variants of this term).

Similar labelling prevails on opposition forces in foreign countries. Protesters in Hong Kong are routinely called “pro-democracy” by the press – the term has been mentioned in hundreds of articles in the past two years. However, protesters in UK allies Bahrain and Egypt have been referred to as “pro-democracy” in only a handful of cases, the research finds.

The special relationship

While demonising enemies, UK allies are regularly presented favourably in the press. This is especially true of the US, the UK’s key special relationship on which much of its global power rests. US foreign policy is routinely presented as promoting the same noble objectives as the UK and the press follows the US government line on many foreign policy issues.

The term “leader of the free world” to refer to the US has been used in over 1,500 articles in the past five years, invariably taken seriously across the media, without challenge or ridicule.

The view that the US promotes democracy is widely repeated across the press. A 2018 editorial in the Financial Times, written by its chief foreign affairs commentator Gideon Rachman, notes that, “Leading figures in both [US political] parties — from John Kennedy to Ronald Reagan through to the Bushes and Clintons — agreed that it was in US interests to promote free-trade and democracy around the world”. In 2017 Daniel McCarthy wrote in the Telegraph of “two decades of idealism in US foreign policy, of attempts to spread liberalism and democracy”.

It is equally common for the UK press to quote US figures on their supposed noble aims, without challenge. For example, the Sunday Times recently cited without comment the US state department saying “Promoting freedom, democracy and transparency and the protection of human rights are central to US foreign policy”.

The press often strongly criticises President Donald Trump, but often for betraying otherwise benign US values and policies that it assumes previous presidents have promoted. For example, Tom Leonard in the Daily Mail writes of “Mr Trump’s belief that US foreign policy should be guided by cold self-interest rather than protecting democracy and human rights”.

The Guardian is especially supportive of US foreign policy. A sub-heading to a recent article notes: “The US once led Western states’ support of democracy around the world, but under this president [Trump] that feels like a long time ago”. One of its main foreign affairs columnists, Simon Tisdall, recently wrote that the US fundamental “mission” was an “exemplary global vision of democracy, prosperity and freedom”, albeit one which has been distorted by the war on terror.

The Guardian regularly heaped praise on president Obama. An editorial in January 2017 commented that Obama was a “successful US leader” and that “internationally” his vision “could hardly be faulted for lack of ambition”. It also noted Obama’s “liberalism and ethics” and that: “Mr Obama has governed impeccably for eight years without any ethical scandal”.

Although the article noted US wars and civilian casualties in Yemen and Libya, the paper brushed these off, stating “But to ascribe the world’s tragedies to a single leader’s choices can be simplistic. The global superpower cannot control local dynamics”.

Research covered the period to the end of 2019 using the media search tool, Factiva. It analysed the “mainstream” UK-wide print media (dailies and Sundays) over different time scales, usually two or five years, as specified in the article. Media search engines cannot be guaranteed to work perfectly so additional research was sometimes undertaken.

Mark Curtis is the co-founder and editor of Declassified UK, an historian and author of five books on UK foreign policy. He tweets at: @markcurtis30.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Is the UK a rogue state? 17 British policies violating domestic or international law

By Mark Curtis • Declassified UK • February 7, 2020

UK governments routinely claim to uphold national and international law. But the reality of British policies is quite different, especially when it comes to foreign policy and so-called ‘national security’. This explainer summarises 17 long-running government policies which violate UK domestic or international law.

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab recently described the “rule of international law” as one of the “guiding lights” of UK foreign policy. By contrast, the government regularly chides states it opposes, such as Russia or Iran, as violators of international law. These governments are often consequently termed “rogue states” in the mainstream media, the supposed antithesis of how “we” operate.

The following list of 17 policies may not be exhaustive, but it suggests that the term “rogue state” is not sensationalist or misplaced when it comes to describing Britain’s own foreign and “security” policies.

These serial violations suggest that parliamentary and public oversight over executive policy-making in the UK is not fit for purpose and that new mechanisms are needed to restrain the excesses of the British state.

The Royal Air Force’s drone war

Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) operates a drone programme in support of the US involving a fleet of British “Reaper” drones operating since 2007. They have been used by the UK to strike targets in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Four RAF bases in the UK support the US drone war. The joint UK and US spy base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, northern England, facilitates US drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. US drone strikes, involving an assassination programme begun by president Barack Obama, are widely regarded as illegal under international law, breaching fundamental human rights. Up to 1,700 civilian adults and children have been killed in so-called “targeted killings”.

Amnesty International notes that British backing is “absolutely crucial to the US lethal drones programme, providing support for various US surveillance programmes, vital intelligence exchanges and in some cases direct involvement from UK personnel in identifying and tracking targets for US lethal operations, including drone strikes that may have been unlawful”.

Chagos Islands

Britain has violated international law in the case of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean since it expelled the inhabitants in the 1960s to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.

Harold Wilson’s Labour government separated the islands from then British colony Mauritius in 1965 in breach of a UN resolution banning the breakup of colonies before independence. London then formed a new colonial entity, the British Indian Ocean Territory, which is now an Overseas Territory.

In 2015, a UN Tribunal ruled that the UK’s proposed “marine protected area” around the islands — shown by Wikileaks publications to be a ruse to keep the islanders from returning — was unlawful since it undermined the rights of Mauritius.

Then in February 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in an advisory opinion that Britain must end its administration of the Chagos islands “as rapidly as possible”. The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in May 2019 welcoming the ICJ ruling and “demanding that the United Kingdom unconditionally withdraw its colonial administration from the area within six months”. The UK government has rejected the calls.

Defying the UN over the Falklands

The UN’s 24-country Special Committee on Decolonisation — its principal body addressing issues concerning decolonisation — has repeatedly called on the UK government to negotiate a resolution to the dispute over the status of the Falklands. In its latest call, in June 2019, the committee approved a draft resolution “reiterating that the only way to end the special and particular colonial situation of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is through a peaceful and negotiated settlement of the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom”.

The British government consistently rejects these demands. Last year, it stated:

“The Decolonisation Committee no longer has a relevant role to play with respect to British Overseas Territories. They all have a large measure of  self government, have chosen to retain their links with the UK, and therefore should have been delisted a long time ago.”

In 2016, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf issued a report finding that the Falkland Islands are located in Argentina’s territorial waters.

Israel and settlement goods

Although Britain regularly condemns Israeli settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, in line with international law, it permits trade in goods produced on those settlements. It also does not keep a record of imports that come from the settlements — which include wine, olive oil and dates — into the UK.

UN Security Council resolutions require all states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. The UK is failing to do this.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza

Israel’s blockade of Gaza, imposed in 2007 following the territory’s takeover by Hamas, is widely regarded as illegal. Senior UN officials, a UN independent panel of experts, and Amnesty International all agree that the infliction of “collective punishment” on the population of Gaza contravenes international human rights and humanitarian law.

Gaza has about 1.8 million inhabitants who remain “locked in” and denied free access to the remainder of putative Palestine (the West Bank) and the outside world. It has poverty and unemployment rates that reached nearly 75% in 2019.

Through its naval blockade, the Israeli navy restricts Palestinians’ fishing rights, fires on local fishermen and has intercepted ships delivering humanitarian aid. Britain, and all states, have an obligation “to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law” in Gaza.

However, instead of doing so, the UK regularly collaborates with the navy enforcing the blockade. In August 2019, Britain’s Royal Navy took part in the largest international naval exercise ever held by Israel, off the country’s Mediterranean shore. In November 2016 and December 2017, British warships conducted military exercises with their Israeli allies.

Exports of surveillance equipment

Declassified revealed that the UK recently exported telecommunications interception equipment or software to 13 countries, including authoritarian regimes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Oman. Such technology can enable security forces to monitor the private activities of groups or individuals and crack down on political opponents.

The UAE has been involved in programmes monitoring domestic activists using spyware. In 2017 and 2018, British exporters were given four licences to export telecommunications interception equipment, components or software to the UAE.

UK arms export guidelines state that the government will “not grant a licence if there is a clear risk that the items might be used for internal repression”. Reports by Amnesty International document human rights abuses in the cases of UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, suggesting that British approval of such exports to these countries is prima facie unlawful.

Arms exports to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has been accused by the UN and others of violating international humanitarian law and committing war crimes in its war in Yemen, which began in March 2015. The UK has licensed nearly £5-billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime during this time. In addition, the RAF is helping to maintain Saudi warplanes at key operating bases and stores and issues bombs for use in Yemen.

Following legal action brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the UK Court of Appeal ruled in June 2019 that ministers had illegally signed off on arms exports without properly assessing the risk to civilians. The court ruled that the government must reconsider the export licences in accordance with the correct legal approach.

The ruling followed a report by a cross-party House of Lords committee, published earlier in 2019, which concluded that Britain is breaking international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and should suspend some export licences immediately.

Julian Assange’s arbitrary detention and torture

In the case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange — currently held in Belmarsh maximum-security prison in London — the UK is defying repeated opinions of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention  (WGAD) and the UN special rapporteur on torture.

The latter, Nils Melzer, has called on the UK government to release Assange on the grounds that officials are contributing to his psychological torture and ill treatment. Melzer has also called for UK officials to be investigated for possible “criminal conduct” as government policy “severely undermines the credibility of [its] commitment to the prohibition of torture… as well as to the rule of law more generally”.

The WGAD — the supreme international body scrutinising this issue — has repeatedly demanded that the UK government end Assange’s “arbitrary detention”. Although the UN states that WGAD determinations are legally binding, its calls have been consistently rejected by the UK government.

Covert wars

Covert military operations to subvert foreign governments, such as Britain’s years-long operation in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime, are unlawful. As a House of Commons briefing notes, “forcible assistance to opposition forces is illegal”.

A precedent was set in the Nicaragua case in the 1980s, when US-backed covert forces (the “Contras”) sought to overthrow the Sandinista government. The International Court of Justice held that a third state may not forcibly help the opposition to overthrow a government since it breached the principles of non-intervention and prohibition on the use of force.

As Declassified has shown, the UK is currently engaged in seven covert wars, including in Syria, with minimal parliamentary oversight. Government policy is “not to comment” on the activities of its special forces “because of the security implications”. The public’s ability to scrutinise policy is also restricted since the UK’s Freedom of Information Act applies an “absolute exemption” to special forces. This is not the case for allied powers such as the US and Canada.

Torture and the refusal to hold an inquiry

In 2018 a report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee found that the UK had been complicit in cases of torture and other ill treatment of detainees in the so-called “war on terror”. The inquiry examined the participation of MI6 (the secret intelligence service), MI5 (the domestic security service) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel in interrogating detainees held primarily by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay during 2001-10.

The report found that there were 232 cases where UK personnel supplied questions or intelligence to foreign intelligence agents after they knew or suspected that a detainee was being mistreated. It also found 198 cases where UK personnel received intelligence from foreign agents obtained from detainees whom they knew or suspected to have been mistreated.

In one case, MI6 “sought and obtained authorisation from the foreign secretary” (then Jack Straw, in Tony Blair’s government) for the costs of funding a plane which was involved in rendering a suspect.

After the report was published, the government announced it was refusing to hold a judge-led, independent inquiry into the UK’s role in rendition and torture as it had previously promised to do. In 2019, human rights group Reprieve, together with Conservative and Labour MPs, instigated a legal challenge to the government over this refusal–which the High Court has agreed to hear.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has formally warned the UK that its refusal to launch a judicial inquiry into torture and rendition breaches international law, specifically the UN Convention Against Torture. He has written a private “intervention” letter to the UK foreign secretary stating that the government has “a legal obligation to investigate and to prosecute”.

Melzer accuses the government of engaging in a “conscious policy” of co-operating with torture since 9/11, saying it is “impossible” the practice was not approved or at least tolerated by top officials.

UK’s secret torture policy

The MOD was revealed in 2019 to be operating a secret policy allowing ministers to approve actions which could lead to the torture of detainees. The policy, contained in an internal MOD document dated November 2018, allows ministers to approve passing information to allies even if there is a risk of torture, if “the potential benefits justify accepting the risk and legal consequences”.

This policy also provides for ministers to approve lists of individuals about whom information may be shared despite a serious risk they could face mistreatment. One leading lawyer has said that domestic and international legislation on the prohibition of torture is clear and that the MOD policy supports breaking of the law by ministers.

Amnesty for crimes committed by soldiers

There is a long history of British soldiers committing crimes during wars. In 2019 the government outlined plans to grant immunity for offences by soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland that were committed more than 10 years before.

These plans have been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture, which has called on the government to “refrain from enacting legislation that would grant amnesty or pardon where torture is concerned. It should also ensure that all victims of such torture and ill-treatment obtain redress”.

The committee has specifically urged the UK to “establish responsibility and ensure accountability for any torture and ill-treatment committed by UK personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, specifically by establishing a single, independent, public inquiry to investigate allegations of such conduct.”

The government’s proposals are also likely to breach UK obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges states to investigate breaches of the right to life or the prohibition on torture.

GCHQ’s mass surveillance

Files revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 show that the UK intelligence agency GCHQ had been secretly intercepting, processing and storing data concerning millions of people’s private communications, including people of no intelligence interest — in a programme named Tempora. Snowden also revealed that the British government was accessing personal communications and data collected by the US National Security Agency and other countries’ intelligence agencies.

All of this was taking place without public consent or awareness, with no basis in law and with no proper safeguards. Since these revelations, there has been a long-running legal battle over the UK’s unlawful use of these previously secret surveillance powers.

In September 2018, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that UK laws enabling mass surveillance were unlawful, violating rights to privacy and freedom of expression. The court observed that the UK’s regime for authorising bulk interception was incapable of keeping “interference” to what is “necessary in a democratic society”.

The UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which considers complaints against the security services, also found that UK intelligence agencies had unlawfully spied on the communications of Amnesty International and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

In 2014, revelations also confirmed that GCHQ had been granted authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged lawyer-client communications, and that MI5 and MI6 adopted similar policies. The guidelines appeared to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.

MI5 personal data

In 2019, MI5 was found to have for years unlawfully retained innocent British people’s online location data, calls, messages and web browsing history without proper protections, according to the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office which upholds British privacy protections. MI5 had also failed to give senior judges accurate information about repeated breaches of its duty to delete bulk surveillance data, and was criticised for mishandling sensitive legally privileged material.

The commissioner concluded that the way MI5 was holding and handling people’s data was “undoubtedly unlawful”. Warrants for MI5’s bulk surveillance were issued by senior judges on the understanding that the agency’s legal data handling obligations were being met — when they were not.

“MI5 have been holding on to people’s data—ordinary people’s data, your data, my data — illegally for many years,” said Megan Goulding, a lawyer for rights organisation Liberty, which brought the case. “Not only that, they’ve been trying to keep their really serious errors secret — secret from the security services watchdog, who’s supposed to know about them, secret from the Home Office, secret from the prime minister and secret from the public.”

Intelligence agencies committing criminal offences

MI5 has been operating under a secret policy that allows its agents to commit serious crimes during counter-terrorism operations in the UK, according to lawyers for human rights organisations brin

ging a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

The policy, referred to as the “third direction”, allows MI5 officers to permit the people they have recruited as agents to commit crimes in order to secure access to information that could be used to prevent other offences being committed. The crimes potentially include murder, kidnap and torture and have operated for decades. MI5 officers are, meanwhile, immune from prosecution.

A lawyer for the human rights organisations argues that the issues raised by the case are “not hypothetical”, submitting that “in the past, authorisation of agent participation in criminality appears to have led to grave breaches of fundamental rights”. He points to the 1989 murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, an attack carried out by loyalist paramilitaries, including some agents working for the British state.

The ‘James Bond clause’

British intelligence officers can be authorised to commit crimes outside the UK. Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act vacates UK criminal and civil law as long as a senior government minister has signed a written authorisation that committing a criminal act overseas is permissible. This is sometimes known as the “James Bond clause”.

British spies were reportedly given authority to break the law overseas on 13 occasions in 2014 under this clause. GCHQ was given five authorisations “removing liability for activities including those associated with certain types of intelligence gathering and interference with computers, mobile phones and other types of electronic equipment”. MI6, meanwhile, was given eight such authorisations in 2014.

Underage soldiers

Britain is the only country in Europe and Nato to allow direct enlistment into the army at the age of 16. One in four UK army recruits is now under the age of 18. According to the editors of the British Medical Journal, “there is no justification for this state policy, which is harmful to teen health and should be stopped”. Child recruits are more likely than adult recruits to end up in frontline combat, they add.

It was revealed in 2019 that the UK continued to send child soldiers to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite pledging to end the practice. The UK says it does not send under-18s to warzones, as required by the UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, known as the “child soldiers treaty”.

The UK, however, deployed five 17-year-olds to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2007 and 2010: it claims to have done so mistakenly. Previous to this, a minister admitted that teenagers had also erroneously been sent into battle between 2003 and 2005, insisting it would not happen again.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern at the UK’s recruitment policy in 2008 and 2016, and recommended that the government “raise the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces to 18 years in order to promote the protection of children through an overall higher legal standard”. Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, the children’s commissioners for the four jurisdictions of the UK, along with children’s rights organisations, all support this call. DM

Mark Curtis is editor of Declassified UK and tweets at @markcurtis30

February 9, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why a Shadowy Tech Firm With Ties to Israeli Intelligence Is Running Doomsday Election Simulations

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera for MintPress News
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | January 4, 2020

Election Day 2020: 32 Americans dead, over 200 injured, martial law declared and the election itself is canceled. While this horrific scenario seems more like the plot of a Hollywood film, such was the end result of a recent simulation examining the preparedness of U.S. officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Secret Service against “bad actors” seeking to undermine the upcoming presidential election.

Yet, this simulation was not a government-organized exercise but was instead orchestrated by a private company with deep ties to foreign and domestic intelligence services, a company that is also funded by investors with clear connections to individuals who would stand to benefit if such a catastrophic election outcome were to become reality.

Much of the rhetoric since the last presidential election in 2016 has focused on the issue of foreign meddling by U.S. rival states like Russia, while China has emerged as the new “meddler” of choice in American corporate media as the 2020 election approaches. Though time has revealed that many of the post-2016 election meddling claims were not as significant as initially claimed, the constant media discussion of foreign threats to U.S. democracy and electoral processes – whether real or imagined – has undeniably created a climate of fear. 

Those fears have since been preyed upon by neoconservative groups and the U.S. military-industrial complex, both of which are hardly known for their love of democratic processes, to offer a series of ready-made solutions to these threats that actually undermine key pillars of American democracy, including independent reporting and voting machine software.

However, many of the very same media outlets and groups that frequently fretted about Russia, China or another rival state meddling in U.S. democracy have largely ignored the role of other nation states, such as Israel, in efforts to sway the last U.S. election in 2016 and meddle in numerous elections in Africa, Latin America and Asia in the years since.

As a consequence of this climate of fear, it should be hardly surprising that the corporate media lauded the recent 2020 election simulation that ended in an abysmal failure for U.S. officials, the cancellation of the U.S. election and the imposition of martial law. Yet, none of those reports on the exercise noted that the company that hosted the simulation, called Cybereason, is led by ex-members of Israel’s military intelligence unit 8200, advised by former top and current officials in both Israeli military intelligence and the CIA. In addition, it is funded by and partnered with top U.S. weapons manufacturer and government contractor Lockheed Martin and financial institutions with clear and direct ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Also left unmentioned in media reports on Cybereason’s election simulations is the fact that Cybereason’s CEO, Lior Div, has openly admitted that he views his work at Cybereason as a “continuation” of his service to Israel’s intelligence apparatus.

With Cybereason planning to host more simulations in cooperation with federal agencies as the U.S. election inches closer, a deeper exploration of this company, its ties to intelligence and military contractors in the U.S. and Israel and its financial ties to key Trump allies both domestically and abroad warrants further investigation.

In this two part series, MintPress will not only explore these aspects but also how many of the technologies wielded by the “bad actors” in the Cybereason election simulation have been pioneered and perfected, not by U.S. rival states, but by Israeli companies and start-ups with clear ties to that country’s intelligence apparatus.

Also notable is the fact that Cybereason itself has covertly become a major software provider to the U.S. government and military through its direct partnership with Lockheed Martin, which followed the defense company’s decision to open an office at the Israeli military’s new cyber operations hub in the Negev desert. In examining all of these interlocking pieces, a picture emerges of a potentially sinister motive for Cybereason’s simulations aimed at gauging how U.S. federal officials respond to crisis situations on Election Day.

Understanding “Operation Blackout”

In early November, a team of “hackers” working for the private U.S.-based, Israeli-founded company Cybereason conducted a 2020 election simulation with members of various U.S. agencies, namely the DHS, FBI and the U.S. Secret Service. The simulation was organized by Cybereason and the law firm Venable and the U.S. agencies in attendance were invited and appear to not have been charged to participate.

The simulation, titled “Operation Blackout,” was set in a fictional swing state called “Adversaria” and pitted “ethical hackers” from Cybereason against a team of federal and local law enforcement officials. The opposing teams were supervised by a “white team” composed of members of Cybereason’s staff and Ari Schwartz — a former member of the White House’s National Security Council and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — who set the rules of the simulation and would ultimately decide its outcome. Schwartz also used to work for the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a major backer of Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software.

Operation Blackout did not involve hackers targeting election software or voting machines, instead, it focused on civilian infrastructure and psychological operations against the American citizens in the fictitious “Adversaria” on election day. The hacker team was led by Cybereason co-founder Yonathan Striem-Amit, a former contractor for Israeli government agencies and a former operative for the elite Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200, best known for its cyber offensives against other governments.

“In a country as fragmented as the US, the number of people needed to influence an election is surprisingly small,” Striem-Amit told Quartz of the exercise. “We attempted to create havoc and show law enforcement that protecting the electoral process is much more than the machine.”

Streim-Amit’s team completely devastated the U.S. law enforcement team in Operation Blackout by not only causing chaos but murdering numerous civilians. Hackers took control of city buses, ramming them into civilians waiting in line at polling stations, killing 32 and injuring over 200. They also took control of city traffic lights in order to cause traffic accidents, used so-called “deepfakes” to conduct psychological operations on the populace and created fake bomb threats posing as the terror group ISIS, which incidentally has its own ties to Israeli intelligence. Telecom networks and news outlets within the fictitious states were also hacked and flooded with deepfakes aimed at spreading disinformation and panic among U.S. citizens.

A map of targets in Adverseria is shown during Operation Blackout in Boston’s John Hancock Tower. Mark Albert | Twitter

The supervising team, composed of Cybereason employees and former NSC member Ari Schwartz, decided that the outcome of the face-off between the hacker and law enforcement teams was the outright cancellation of the 2020 election, the declaration of martial law by authorities, the growth of public fear regarding terrorism and allegations of U.S. government collusion with a foreign actor. Cybereason has stated that they will soon conduct another 2020 election simulation with federal authorities as the election draws closer.

Given how the simulation played out, it is quite clear that it is a far cry from the actual scope of alleged foreign meddling during the 2016 election, meddling which was allegedly the motivation behind Operation Blackout. Indeed, the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election amounted to $100,000 worth of Facebook ads over three years, 25 percent of which were never seen by the public, and claims that Russian state actors were responsible for leaking emails from the then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In contrast, Operation Blackout went well beyond any observed or even imagined “foreign meddling” related to the 2016 election and appears more like a terror attack targeting elections than a covert means of manipulating their outcomes.

Several mainstream publications have covered Operation Blackout but have failed to note that the company behind them has deep ties to foreign intelligence outfits and governments with a documented history of manipulating elections around the world, including the 2016 U.S. election.

Quartz framed the exercise as important for “preparing for any and all possibilities in 2020,” which “has become an urgent task for US regulators and law enforcement.” Similarly, CyberScoop treated the simulation as a “sophisticated exercise to help secure the vote.” Other articles took the same stance.

A series of simulations

In the weeks after the Washington area election simulation, Cybereason repeated the same exercise in London, this time with members of the U.K. Intelligence agency GCHQ, the U.K. Foreign Office and the Metropolitan Police. The law enforcement team in the exercise, which included the U.K. officials, was headed by a Cybereason employee — Alessandro Telami, who formerly worked for the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI). Like the prior simulation conducted in the U.S., Cybereason did not appear to charge U.K. government agencies for their participation in the exercise.

Cybereason has — with little fanfare — been promoting extreme election day scenarios since before the 2016 election. Cybereason’s first mention of these tactics appears in a September 2016 blog post written by the company’s CEO and former Israeli government contractor Lior Div — a former leader of offensive cyberattacks for the IDF’s elite Unit 8200 and a former development group leader at the controversial Israeli-American corporation Amdocs.

Div wrote that hackers may target U.S. elections by “breaking into the computers that operate traffic lighting systems and interfering with the ones around polling stations to create massive traffic jams, “hacking polling companies,” and “targeting live election coverage on cable or network television stations.” A follow-up post by Div from October 2016 added further meddling tactics such as “cut power to polling stations” and “mess with a voter’s mind.”

Two years later, Cybereason held its first election meddling simulation, touting many of these same tactics, in Boston. The simulation focused on local and state responses to such attacks and saw Boston-based Cybereason invite Massachusetts state and local officials as well as Boston police officers and a former police commissioner to participate. “Twitter accounts spreading fake news,” “turning off a city’s closed-circuit cameras,” “hacking self-driving cars and navigation apps,” and “targeting a city’s 911 call center with a DDoS attack” were all used in the simulation, which saw Cybereason’s “ethical hackers” attempt to disrupt election day. Media coverage of the simulation at the time framed it as a necessary preparation for countering “Russian” threats to U.S. democracy. Like the more recent simulations, the mock election was canceled and voter confidence in the electoral process was devastated.

This past July, Cybereason conducted a similar simulation with officials from the FBI, DHS and the Secret Service for the first time. That simulation, which also took place in Boston, was remarkably similar to that which occurred in November. One intelligence officer from DHS who participated in the July exercise called the simulation “very realistic.” Another claimed that the simulation was a way of applying “lessons learned from 9/11” by preventing the government’s “failure of imagination” that officials have long alleged was the reason for the government’s inability to thwart the September 11 attacks. Notably, The U.S. military simulated a scenario in which terrorists flew airplanes into the Pentagon less than a year before the September 11 attacks.

In this undated photo from Cybereason’s website, a faux ballot box is shown in the company’s Boston office.

Participating government officials, Cybereason staff and the media have consistently touted the importance of these simulations in securing elections against extreme threats, threats which — to date — have never materialized due to the efforts of foreign or domestic actors on election day. After all, these exercises are only simulations of possibilities and, even if those possibilities seem implausible or unlikely, it is important to be prepared for any eventuality.

But what if the very figures behind these simulations and the investors that fund them had a history of election meddling themselves? Cybereason’s deep ties to Israeli intelligence, which has a documented history of aggressive espionage and election meddling in the United States and in several nations worldwide, warrant a deeper look into the firms’ possible motives and the myriad conflicts of interest that arise in giving it such unprecedented access to the heart of America’s democracy.

What Does Cybereason Do?

Cybereason’s interest in terror events during elections seems out of place given that the company itself is focused on selling technological cybersecurity solutions like antivirus and ransomware protection software, software products that would be minimally effective against the type of threat encountered in the company’s election day simulations.

Cybereason is often described as offering a comprehensive technological defense platform to companies and governments that combines a next-generation antivirus with endpoint detection and response (EDR), which enables the company to respond to typical viruses and malware as well as sophisticated, complex attacks. The platform makes heavy use of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing and specifically uses Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is used by a litany of private companies as well as U.S. intelligence agencies.

While many cybersecurity platforms combine antivirus and antimalware with EDR and AI, Cybereason claims that their military background is what sets them apart. They have marketed themselves as offering “a combination of military-acquired skills and cloud-powered machine learning to endpoint detection and response” and actively cite the fact that most of their employees are former members of Unit 8200 as proof that they are “applying the military’s perspective on cybersecurity to enterprise security.”

In 2018, Cybereason’s former senior director for intelligence, Ross Rustici, described the platform to CBR as follows:

Our founders are ex-Israeli intelligence who worked on the offensive side. They basically wanted to build a tool that would catch themselves. We follow the kill chain model started by Lockheed Martin [now a major investor in Cybereason] and try to interrupt every stage once an intruder’s inside a target network.”

Lior Div, Cybereason’s CEO described the difference between his company’s platform and that of past market leaders in this way to Forbes :

The old guard of antivirus companies like Symantec and McAfee would install something to block endpoints and you needed to do a lot [of monitoring] to make sure you weren’t under attack. We came with a different approach to see the whole enterprise and leverage AI to be able to fully autonomously identify where attackers are and what they’re doing.”

Thus, in looking at Cybereason’s product and its marketing objectively, it seems that the only innovative component of the company’s system is the large number of ex-military intelligence officers it employs and its tweaking of a previously developed and automated model for threat engagement, elimination and prevention.

Instead, Cybereason’s success seems to owe to its prominent connections to the private and public sectors, especially in Israel, and its investors who have funneled millions into the company’s operations, allowing them to expand rapidly and quickly claim a dominant position in emerging technology markets, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced healthcare systems.

A screenshot from a live stream of a 2019 Cybereason cyber-attack simulation

Their considerable funding from the likes of Lockheed Martin and Softbank, among others, has also helped them to expand their international presence from the U.S., Europe and Israel into Asia and Latin America, among other places. Notably, while Cybereason is open about their investors and how much funding they receive from each, they are extremely secretive about their financial performance as a company and decline to disclose their annual revenue, among other indicators. The significance of Cybereason’s main investors in the context of the company’s election simulations and its ties to Israeli and U.S. intelligence (the focus of this article) will be discussed in Part 2.

Cybereason also includes a security research arm called Nocturnus, currently headed by a former Unit 8200 officer. Nocturnus will be explored further in Part 2 of this series, as it essentially functions as a private intelligence company in the tech sector and has been behind several recent claims that have attributed alleged hacks to state actors, namely China and North Korea. For now, it is important to keep in mind that Nocturnus utilizes Cybereason’s “global network of millions of endpoints” for its intelligence gathering and research, meaning the endpoints of every device to which Cybereason’s software has access.

Given what Cybereason provides as a company, their interest in offering election simulations to government officials free of charge seems odd. Indeed, in the simulations hosted by Cybereason for U.S. officials, there is little opportunity for the company to market their software products given that the simulation did not involve electronic voting infrastructure at all and, instead, the malevolent actors used deep fakes, disinformation and terror attacks to accomplish their goals. Why then would this company be so interested in gauging the response of U.S. law enforcement to such crises on election day if there is no sales pitch to be made? While some may argue that these simulations are an altruistic effort by the company, an investigation into the company’s founders and the company’s ties to intelligence agencies suggests that this is unlikely to be the case.

The People Behind Cybereason

Cybereason was created in 2012 by three Israelis, all of whom served together as officers in the Israel Defense Force’s elite technological and signals intelligence unit, which is most often referred to as Unit 8200. Unit 8200 has been the subject of several MintPress investigative reports over the past year focusing on its ties to the tech industry.

Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence, surveillance, cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is also well-known for its surveillance of Palestinian civilians and for using intercepted communications as blackmail in order to procure informants among Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank.

The unit is frequently described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, a senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.” Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on numerous projects, most infamously on the Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware.

Given the secrecy of the work conducted by Unit 8200, it is hard to know exactly what Cybereason’s co-founders did while serving in the controversial unit, however, a brief biography of the company’s current CEO and co-founder Lior Div states that “Div served as a commander [in Unit 8200] and carried out some of the world’s largest cyber offensive campaigns against nations and cybercrime groups. For his achievements, he received the Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed upon Unit 8200 members (emphasis added).”

Lior Div speaks during the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 25, 2019. Corinna Kern | Reuters

After having served in leadership positions within Unit 8200, all three Cybereason co-founders went on to work for private Israel-based tech or telecom companies with a history of aggressive espionage against the U.S. government.

Cybereason co-founders Yonathan Striem Amit (Cybereason’s Chief Technology Officer) and Yossi Naar (Cybereason Chief Visionary Officer) both worked for Gita Technologies shortly before founding Cybereason with fellow Unit 8200 alumnus Lior Div. Gita, according to public records, is a subsidiary of Verint Systems, formerly known as Comverse Infosys.

Verint/Comverse was initially funded by the Israeli government and was founded by Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, a former Israeli intelligence officer who was wanted by the FBI on nearly three dozen charges of fraud, theft, lying, bribery, money laundering and other crimes for over a decade until he was finally extradited to the United States and pled guilty to some of those charges in 2016.

Despite its history of corruption and foreign intelligence connections, Verint/Comverse was hired by the National Security Agency (NSA) to create backdoors into all the major U.S. telecommunications systems and major tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. An article on Verint’s access to U.S. tech infrastructure in Wired noted the following about Verint:

In a rare and candid admission to Forbes, Retired Brig. Gen. Hanan Gefen, a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200, Israel’s NSA, noted his former organization’s influence on Comverse, which owns Verint, as well as other Israeli companies that dominate the U.S. eavesdropping and surveillance market. ‘Take NICE, Comverse and Check Point for example, three of the largest high-tech companies, which were all directly influenced by 8200 technology,’ said Gefen.”

Federal agents have reported systemic breaches at the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, the State Department, and the White House going all the way back to the 1990s, breaches they claimed could all be traced back to two companies: Comverse/Verint and Amdocs. Cybereason’s other co-founder and current CEO, Lior Div, used to work for Amdocs as the company’s development group leader.

After leaving Amdocs, Div founded a company called Alfatech. Alfatech publicly claims to specialize in “professional Head Hunting and Quality Recruiting services,” yet it has no functional website. Despite its publicly stated mission statement, Israeli media reports that mention Alfatech describe it as “a cybersecurity services company for Israeli government agencies.” No reason for the obvious disconnect between the company’s own claims and those made by the media has been given.

Div left Alfatech in 2012 to found Cybereason alongside Striem-Amit and Naar. According to an interview that Div gave to TechCrunch earlier this year, he stated that his work at Cybereason is “the continuation of the six years of training and service he spent working with the Israeli army’s 8200 Unit (emphasis added).” Div was a high-level commander in Unit 8200 and “carried out some of the world’s largest cyber offensive campaigns against nations and cybercrime groups” during his time there. TechCrunch noted that “After his time in the military, Div worked for the Israeli government as a private contractor reverse-engineering hacking operations,” an apparent reference to his work at Alfatech.

Even deeper ties to intelligence

Not only do Cybereason’s own co-founders have considerable links to the Israeli government, Israeli intelligence and intelligence-connected private companies, but it also appears that the work of Cybereason itself is directly involved with Israeli intelligence.

The company periodically publishes reports by a secretive faction of the company called the Cybereason Intelligence Group or CIG. The only description of CIG’s composition available on Cybereason’s website is as follows:

The Cybereason Intelligence Group was formed with the unique mission of providing context to the most sophisticated threat actors. The group’s members include experts in cyber security and international security from various government agencies, including the Israel Defense Forces’ Unit 8200, which is dedicated to conducting offensive cyber operations. Their primary purpose is to examine and explain the Who and the Why behind cyber attacks, so that companies and individuals can better protect themselves (emphasis added).”

It is unclear how many members comprise CIG and if its members are employees of only Israeli government agencies, or if it includes officials from the U.S. government/Intelligence or other governments. However, what is clear is that it is composed entirely of government officials, which include active members of Unit 8200, and that the purpose of the group is to issue reports that place blame for cyberattacks on state and non-state actors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of CIG’s reports published by Cybereason focus exclusively on Russia and China. When discussing nation-state cyber threats in general, Cybereason’s website only mentions China, North Korea, Iran and Russia by name, all of which are incidentally rival states of the U.S. government. Notably, Israel’s government — listed as a “leading espionage threat” to U.S. financial institutions and federal agencies by the U.S.’ NSA — is absent from Cybereason’s discussions of state actors.

In addition to CIG, Cybereason’s cybersecurity research arm, Nocturnus, includes several Unit 8200 alumni and former Israeli military intelligence and government contractors and has assigned blame to state actors for several recent hacks. It also has claimed to have discovered more such hacks but has declined to publicly disclose them due to the “sensitive” nature of the hacks and companies affected.

Other hints at Cybereason’s connections to state intelligence can be seen in its advisory board. Robert Bigman, the former Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who oversaw the spy agency’s “commercial partner engagement” program (i.e. alliances with the private tech sector), is a key figure on the company’s advisory board. According to his biography, Bigman “ contributed to almost every Intelligence Community information security policy/technical standard and has provided numerous briefings to the National Security Council, Congress and presidential commissions. In recognition of his expertise and contributions, Bigman has received numerous CIA and Director of National Intelligence Awards.”

Cybereason’s leadership team features a who’s who of Israeli and US intel officials

Unmentioned in his biography published on his own website, or on Cybereason’s website, is that Bigman is also an advisor to another Israeli tech company, Sepio Systems. The chairman of Sepio, Tamir Pardo, is a self-described “leader” in the cybersecurity industry and former director of Israel’s Mossad. Sepio is funded by a venture capital firm founded by the creators of the controversial Israeli spy tech company NSO Group, which has received a slew of negative press coverage after its software was sold to several governments who used it to spy on dissidents and human rights activists.

In addition to Bigman, Cybereason’s advisory board includes Pinchas Buchris, the former head of Unit 8200 and former managing director of the IDF. Not unlike Bigman, Buchris’ bio fails to mention that he sits on the board of directors of Carbyne911, alongside former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Nicole Junkerman, both well-known associates of intelligence-linked sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein. Epstein himself poured at least $1 million into Carbyne, an Israeli company that seeks to run all 911 call centers in the U.S. at the national level and has close ties to the Trump administration. More information on Carbyne and its ties to Israeli and U.S. intelligence as well as its connection to coming pre-crime policies to be enacted in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Justice can be found in this MintPress report from earlier this year. Given that Cybereason’s election day simulations involve the simulated collapse of 911 call center functionality, Buchris’ ties to both Cybereason and Carbyne911 are notable.

Another notable Cybereason advisor is the former commissioner of the Boston Police Department, Edward Davis. Davis heavily promoted Cybereason’s disturbing election day simulations and even participated directly in one of them. He was also police commissioner of the Boston PD at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing and oversaw the near-martial law conditions imposed on the city during the manhunt for the alleged perpetrators of that bombing (who themselves had a rather odd relationship with the FBI). This is notable given that Cybereason’s election day simulations ended with martial law being imposed on the fictional city used in the exercise

Cybereason also has several advisors who hold top positions at powerful U.S. companies that are also — incidentally — U.S. government contractors. These include the Vice President Security and Privacy Engineering at Google, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Lockheed Martin and CISO at Motorola. Both Motorola and Lockheed Martin use Cybereason’s software and the latter is also a major investor in the company. Furthermore, as will be explained in Part 2 of this article, Lockheed Martin has used its privileged position as the top private contractor to the U.S. government to promote the widespread use of Cybereason’s software among U.S. government agencies, including the Pentagon.

Much more than a cybersecurity company

Given Cybereason’s deep and enduring ties to Israeli intelligence and its growing connections to the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence through its hiring of top CIA officials and partnership with Lockheed Martin, it’s worth asking if these disturbing election simulations could serve an ulterior purpose and, if so, who would benefit. While some aspects regarding clear conflicts of interest in relation to the 2020 election and Cybereason will be discussed in Part 2, this article will conclude by examining the possibility that Cybereason is acting as a front company for Israeli intelligence based on that country’s history of targeting the U.S. through private tech companies and on Cybereason’s own questionable characteristics.

First, Cybereason as a company presents several oddities. Its co-founder and CEO openly states that he views Cybereason’s work as a continuation of his service for Israeli military intelligence. In addition, he and the company’s other founders — after they left Unit 8200 — went to work for Israeli tech companies that have been known to spy on U.S. federal agencies for the Israeli government.

In addition, as previously mentioned, Cybereason has sought out former intelligence officers from the CIA and Unit 8200 for its management team and board of advisors. The company itself also functions as a private intelligence firm through CIG and Nocturnus, both of which employ former and current intelligence officials, and have made significant claims regarding the attribution of specific cybercrimes to state actors. It appears highly likely that these claims are influenced by those same intelligence agencies that boast close ties to Cybereason. Furthermore, Nocturnus’ access to Cybereason’s “global” network of endpoints makes it a private intelligence gathering company as it gathers and analyzes data from all devices that run Cybereason’s software.

Yet, even more telling is the fact that Israel’s government has an open policy of outsourcing intelligence-related activity to the private sector, specifically the country’s tech sector. As MintPress previously reported, this trend was first publicly acknowledged by Israel in 2012, the same year that Cybereason was founded by former Israeli military intelligence officers then-working for private contractors for Israel’s government (Alfatech) or private companies known to have ties to Israeli intelligence, including Verint/Comverse.

As noted in an article on the phenomenon from the Israeli media outlet The Calcalist:

Israel is siphoning cyber-related activities from its national defense apparatus to privately held companies. Since 2012, cyber-related and intelligence projects that were previously carried out in-house in the Israeli military and Israel’s main intelligence arms are transferred to companies that in some cases were built for this exact purpose.”

Mention of Israel’s policy of blurring the lines between the public and private sector when it comes to cybersecurity and intelligence gathering has even garnered the occasional mention in mainstream media, such as in a 2018 Foreign Policy article:

Israel, for one, has chosen to combat the problem on a statewide level by linking the public and private spheres, sometimes literally. The country’s cyberhub in the southern city of Beersheba is home not just to the Israeli military’s new technology campus but also to a high-tech corporate park, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s cyber-research center, and the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which reports directly to the prime minister’s office. “There’s a bridge between them—physically,” [Gabriel] Avner, the security consultant, said by way of emphasis.”

Notably, a year before Lockheed Martin invested in and partnered with Cybereason, the U.S.-based weapons company opened an office at the IDF’s public-private cyber hub in Beersheba. At the inauguration ceremony for Lockheed’s Beersheba office, company CEO Marilyn Hewson stated:

The consolidation of IDF Technical Units to new bases in the Negev Desert region is an important transformation of Israel’s information technology capability… By locating our new office in the capital of the Negev we are well positioned to work closely with our Israeli partners and stand ready to: accelerate project execution, reduce program risk and share our technical expertise by training and developing in-country talent.”

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, inaugurates the Lockheed Martin Israel Demonstration Center in Tel Aviv.

Further evidence of this public-private merger can be seen in how two of Israel’s intelligence agencies, Shin Bet and Mossad, have both recently launched a private start-up accelerator and a hi-tech venture capital fund, respectively. The Shin Bet’s accelerator, called Xcelerator, usually makes its investments in private companies public, while Mossad’s Libertad Ventures refuses to disclose the tech companies and start-ups in which it invests. Former directors of both Mossad and Shin Bet have described these intelligence agencies themselves of being like start-ups, clearly showing how much the line between intelligence apparatus and private company has been blurred within the context of Israel’s tech industry and specifically its cybersecurity industry.

The advantages of outsourcing cyber intelligence operations to private companies have been noted by several analysts, including Sasha Romanosky, a former Cyber Policy Advisor at the Department of Defense and current analyst at RAND Corporation. Romanosky noted in 2017 that private intelligence and cybersecurity firms “do not necessarily face the same constraints or potential repercussions” as their public counterparts when it comes to designating blame for a cyberattack, for example. In addition, outsourcing intelligence objectives or missions to private companies provides a government with plausible deniability if that private company’s espionage-related activities or ties are made public.

Furthermore, Israeli intelligence has a long history of using private tech companies for the purposes of espionage, including against the United States. While Amdocs and Verint/Comverse were already mentioned as having been used by the state of Israel in this way, other private companies have also been used to market software backdoored by Israeli intelligence to countries around the world, both within the U.S. and elsewhere. The most well-known example of this is arguably the mass sale and distribution of the bugged PROMIS software, which was discussed at length in several recent MintPress News reports.

Given Cybereason’s ties to intelligence and Israeli intelligence’s history of placing backdoors in its software, it is worth pointing out that Cybereason’s main product, its antivirus and network defense platform, offers a major espionage opportunity. Blake Darché, a former N.S.A. operator, told the New York Times in 2017 that antivirus programs, which Cybereason’s defense platform includes, is “the ultimate backdoor,” adding that it “provides consistent, reliable and remote access that can be used for any purpose, from launching a destructive attack to conducting espionage on thousands or even millions of users.” Whether a company like Cybereason would use its software for such ends is unknown, though the company does acknowledge that its cybersecurity arm does gather intelligence from all systems that use the company’s software and currently employs and works with active duty Unit 8200 officials through CIG. This is notable because Unit 8200’s main task for Israeli military intelligence is signals intelligence, i.e. surveillance.

More of a mystery, however, is why a company like Cybereason is so interested in U.S. election security, particularly when Israeli intelligence and Israeli intelligence-connected private companies have been caught in recent years meddling in elections around the world, including the United States.

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

January 4, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Can We Impeach the FBI Now?

By Peter Van Buren | The American Conservative | December 11, 2019

The release of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report, which shows that the Democrats, media, and FBI lied about not interfering in an election, will be a historian’s marker for how a decent nation fooled itself into self-harm. Forget about foreigners influencing our elections; it was us.

The Horowitz Report is being played by the media for its conclusion: that the FBI’s intel op run against the Trump campaign was not politically motivated and thus “legal.” That covers one page of the 476-page document, but because it fits with the Democratic/mainstream media narrative that Trump is a liar, the rest has been ignored. “The rest,” of course, is a detailed description of America’s domestic intelligence apparatus, aided by its overseas intelligence apparatus, and assisted by its Five Eyes allies’ intelligence apparatuses. And the conclusion is that they unleashed a full-spectrum spying campaign against a presidential candidate in order to influence an election, and when that failed, they tried to delegitimize a president.

We learn from the Horowitz Report that it was an Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer, a man with ties to his own nation’s intel services and the Clinton Foundation, who set up a meeting with Trump staffer George Papadopoulos, creating the necessary first bit of info to set the plan in motion. We find the FBI exaggerating, falsifying, and committing wicked sins of omission to buffalo the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts into approving electronic surveillance on Team Trump to overtly or inadvertently monitor the communications of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Rick Gates, Trump transition staffers, and likely Trump himself. Trump officials were also monitored by British GCHQ, the information shared with their NSA partners, a piece of all this still not fully public.

We learn that the FBI greedily consumed the Steele Dossier, opposition “research” bought by the Clinton campaign to smear Trump with allegations of sex parties and pee tapes. Most notoriously, the dossier claims he was a Russian plant, a Manchurian Candidate, owned by Kremlin intelligence through a combination of treats (land deals in Moscow) and threats (kompromat over Trump’s evil sexual appetites). The Horowitz Report makes clear the FBI knew the Dossier was bunk, hid that conclusion from the FISA court, and purposefully lied to the FISA court in claiming that the Dossier was backed up by investigative news reports, which themselves were secretly based on the Dossier. The FBI knew Steele had created a classic intel officer’s information loop, secretly becoming his own corroborating source, and gleefully looked the other way because it supported his goals.

Horowitz contradicts media claims that the Dossier was a small part of the case presented to the FISA court. He finds that it was “central and essential.” And it was garbage: “factual assertions relied upon in the first [FISA] application targeting Carter Page were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed.” One of Steele’s primary sources, tracked down by FBI, said Steele had misreported several of the most troubling allegations of potential Trump blackmail and campaign collusion.

We find human dangles, what Lisa Page referred to as “our OCONUS lures” (OCONUS is spook-speak for Outside CONtinental US) in the form of a shady Maltese academic, Joseph Mifsud, who himself has deep ties to multiple U.S. intel agencies and the Pentagon, paying Trump staffers for nothing speeches to buy access to them. We find a female FBI undercover agent inserted into social situations with a Trump staffer (pillow talk is always a spy’s best friend). It becomes clear the FBI sought to manufacture a foreign counterintelligence threat as an excuse to unleash its surveillance tools against the Trump campaign. … continue reading

December 12, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Film ‘Official Secrets’ is the Tip of a Mammoth Iceberg

By Sam Husseini • Consortium News • August 29, 2019

Two-time Oscar nominee Keira Knightley is known for being in “period pieces” such as “Pride and Prejudice,” so her playing the lead in the new film “Official Secrets,” scheduled to be released in the U.S. on Friday, may seem odd at first. That is until one considers that the time span being depicted — the early 2003 run-up to the invasion of Iraq — is one of the most dramatic and consequential periods of modern human history.

It is also one of the most poorly understood, in part because the story of Katharine Gun, played by Knightley, is so little known. Having followed this story from the start, I find this film to be, by Hollywood standards, a remarkably accurate account of what has happened to date–“to date” because the wider story still isn’t over.

Katharine Gun worked as an analyst for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing the deceit of George W. Bush and Tony Blair in their claims about that country. For doing that she was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act — a juiced up version of the U.S. Espionage Act, which in recent years has been used repeatedly by the Obama administration against whistleblowers and now by the Trump administration against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.

Gun was charged for exposing— around the time of Colin Powell’s infamous testimony to the UN about Iraq’s alleged WMDs – a top secret U.S. government memo showing it was mounting an illegal spying “surge” against other U.N. Security Council delegations in an effort to manipulate them into voting for an Iraq invasion resolution. The U.S. and Britain had successfully forced through a trumped up resolution, 1441 in November 2002. In early 2003, they were poised to threaten, bribe or blackmail their way to get formal United Nations authorization for the invasion. [See recent interview with Gun.]

Katherine Gun

The leaked memo, published by the British Observer, was big news in parts of the world, especially the targeted countries on the Security Council, and helped prevent Bush and Blair from getting the second UN Security Council resolution they said they wanted. Veto powers Russia, China and France were opposed as well as U.S. ally Germany.

Washington invaded anyway of course — without Security Council authorization — by telling the UN weapons inspectors to leave Iraq and issuing a unilateral demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq in 48 hours— and then saying the invasion would commence regardless.

‘Most Courageous Leak’

It was the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where I work (accuracy.org), Norman Solomon, as well as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who in the U.S. most immediately saw the importance of what Gun had done. Ellsberg would later comment: “No one else — including myself — has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important — and courageous — leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.”

Of course, no one knew her name at the time. After the Observer broke the story on March 1, 2003, accuracy.org put out a series of news releases on it and organized a sadly, sparsely attended news conference with Ellsberg on March 11, 2003 at the National Press Club, focusing on Gun’s revelations. Ellsberg called for more such truth telling to stop the impending invasion, just nine days away.

Though I’ve followed this case for years, I didn’t realize until recently that accuray.org’s work helped compel Gun to expose the document. At a recent D.C. showing of “Official Secrets” that Gun attended, she revealed that she had read a book co-authored by Solomon, published in January 2003 that included material from accuracy.org as well as the media watch group FAIR debunking many of the falsehoods for war.

Gun said: “I went to the local bookshop, and I went into the political section. I found two books, which had apparently been rushed into publication, one was by Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, and it was called Target Iraq. And the other one was by Milan Rai. It was called War Plan Iraq. And I bought both of them. And I read them cover to cover that weekend, and it basically convinced me that there was no real evidence for this war. So I think from that point onward, I was very critical and scrutinizing everything that was being said in the media.”

Thus, we see Gun in “Official Secrets” shouting at the TV to Tony Blair that he’s not entitled to make up facts. The film may be jarring to some consumers of major media who might think that Donald Trump invented lying in 2017.

Gun’s immediate action after reading critiques of U.S. policy and media coverage makes a strong case for trying to reach government workers by handing out fliers and books and putting up billboards outside government offices to encourage them to be more critically minded.

Solomon and Ellsberg had debunked Bush administration propaganda in real time. But Gun’s revelation showed that the U.S. and British governments were not only lying to invade Iraq, they were violating international law to blackmail whole nations to get in line.

Mainstream reviews of “Official Secrets” still seem to not fully grasp the importance of what they just saw. The trendy AV Club review leads: “Virtually everyone now agrees that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake based on faulty (at best) or fabricated (at worst) intelligence.” “Mistake” is a serious understatement even with “colossal” attached to it when the movie details the diabolical, illegal lengths to which the U.S. and British governments went to get other governments to go along with it.

Gun’s revelations showed before the invasion that people on the inside, whose livelihood depends on following the party line, were willing to risk jail time to out the lies and threats.

Portrayal of The Observer

Other than Gun herself, the film focuses on a dramatization of what happened at her work; as well as her relationship with her husband, a Kurd from Turkey who the British government attempted to have deported to get at Gun. The film also portrays the work of her lawyers who helped get the Official Secrets charge against her dropped, as well as the drama at The Observer, which published the NSA document after much internal debate.

Observer reporter Martin Bright, whose strong work on the original Gun story was strangely followed by an ill-fated stint at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, has recently noted that very little additional work has been done on Gun’s case. We know virtually nothing about the apparent author of the NSA document that she leaked — one “Frank Koza.” Other questions persist, such as how prevalent is this sort of U.S. blackmail of foreign governments to get UN votes or for other purposes? How is it leveraged? Does it fit in with allegations made by former NSA analyst Russ Tice about the NSA having massive files on political people?

Observer reporter Ed Vulliamy is energetically depicted getting tips from former CIA man Mel Goodman. There do seem to be subtle but potentially serious deviations from reality in the film. Vulliamy is depicted as actually speaking with “Frank Koza,” but that’s not what he originally reported:

“The NSA main switchboard put The Observer through to extension 6727 at the agency which was answered by an assistant, who confirmed it was Koza’s office. However, when The Observer asked to talk to Koza about the surveillance of diplomatic missions at the United Nations, it was then told ‘You have reached the wrong number’. On protesting that the assistant had just said this was Koza’s extension, the assistant repeated that it was an erroneous extension, and hung up.”

There must doubtlessly be many aspects of the film that have been simplified or altered regarding Gun’s personal experience. A compelling part of the film — apparently fictitious or exaggerated — is a GCHQ apparatchik questioning Gun to see if she was the source.

Little is known about the reaction inside the governments of Security Council members that the U.S. spied on. After the invasion, Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser spoke in blunt terms about U.S. bullying — saying it viewed Mexico as its patio trasero, or back yard — and Zinser was compelled to resign by President Vicente Fox. He then, in 2004, gave details about some aspects of U.S. surveillance sabotaging the efforts of the other members of the Security Council to hammer out a compromise to avert the invasion of Iraq, saying the U.S. was “violating the U.N. headquarters covenant.” In 2005, he tragically died in a car crash.

“Official Secrets” director Gavin Hood is perhaps more right than he realizes when he says that his depiction of the Gun case is like the “tip of an iceberg,” pointing to other deceits surrounding the Iraq war. His record with political films has been uneven until now. Peace activist David Swanson, for instance, derided his film on drones, “Eye in the Sky.” At a D.C. showing of “Official Secrets,” Hood depicted those who backed the Iraq war as being discredited. But that’s simply untrue.

Keira Knightley appears as Katherine Gun in Official Secrets (Courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

Leading presidential candidate Joe Biden — who not only voted for the Iraq invasion, but presided over rigged hearings on in 2002 – has recently falsified his record repeatedly on Iraq at presidential debates with hardly a murmur. Nor is he alone. Those refusing to be held accountable for their Iraq war lies include not just Bush and Cheney, but John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

Biden has actually faulted Bush for not doing enough to get United Nations approval for the Iraq invasion. But as the Gun case helps show, there was no legitimate case for invasion and the Bush administration had done virtually everything, both legal and illegal, to get UN authorization.

Many who supported the invasion try to distance themselves from it. But the repercussions of that illegal act are enormous: It led directly or indirectly to the rise of ISIS, the civil war in Iraq and the war in Syria. Journalists who pushed for the Iraq invasion are prosperous and atop major news organizations, such as Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt. The editor who argued most strongly against publication of the NSA document at The Observer, Kamal Ahmed, is now editorial director of BBC News.

The British government — unlike the U.S.– did ultimately produce a study ostensibly around the decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq, the Chilcot Report of 2016. But that report — called “devastating” by the The New York Times made no mention of the Gun case. [See accuracy.org release from 2016: “Chilcot Report Avoids Smoking Gun.”]

After Gun’s identity became known, the Institute for Public Accuracy brought on Jeff Cohen, the founder of FAIR, to work with Hollie Ainbinder to get prominent individuals to support Gun. The film — quite plausibly — depicts the charges being dropped against Gun for the simple reason that the British government feared that a high profile proceeding would effectively put the war on trial, which to them would be have been a nightmare.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist, senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of VotePact.org. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini.

August 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Texts Between British, US Intel Officials Reveal UK Link in Whipping Up Russiagate Hysteria – Report

Sputnik – July 31, 2019

UK and US claims about ‘Russian meddling’ in the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US presidential election are nothing new, with recently appointed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he has “no evidence of Russian interference” in Brexit, and President Trump repeatedly accusing opponents of using Russiagate to try to stage a ‘coup’ against him.

An unnamed ‘informed source’ has told The Guardian that in 2016, now retired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and his British counterpart Jeremy Fleming, then serving as deputy director general of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), exchanged a series of texts about possible Russian interference in the Brexit vote, and alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

Butting In on Brexit

According to the newspaper’s source, McCabe and Fleming were surprised by the results of June 2016 EU referendum, and indicated this sentiment in their back and forth texts, with US officials said to have called the referendum results a “wake-up call” about the success of alleged Russian efforts to meddle in UK politics.

The claims run contrary to statements made by Boris Johnson, who, during his tenure as foreign secretary, said that he saw “no evidence’” of any successful Russian meddling in Britain’s democratic process, or the Brexit referendum. Moscow similarly dismissed the meddling claims, saying those who made them have offered zero substantiated evidence.

Following the referendum, UK lawmakers asked authorities to investigate the scale of alleged Russian meddling, with media reporting on massive troll farm operations on Facebook and Twitter reportedly trying to influence the vote by posting pro-leave messages from fake users. However, last month, Facebook said that there was “absolutely no evidence” that Russia swayed the 2016 vote in any way, reiterating statements the company has been making since 2017. In 2018, Twitter also challenged claims of a Russian troll influence campaign, reporting that just some 49 accounts thought to originate in Russia posted tweets about Brexit ahead of the vote, making up just 0.005 percent of accounts tweeting about the referendum.

Trump Collusion Claims

According to The Guardian’s source, after the Brexit vote, the McCabe-Fleming texts turned to talk of Russian meddling in the US election, with one text from August 2016 referring to a meeting between members of the FBI and MI5 to discuss “our strange situation,” in reference to the alleged collusion situation.

The off-again-on-again messages, most of them cryptic and avoiding reference to any specific details, are “new insights into the start of the FBI’s Russia investigation, and how British intelligence appears to have played a key role in the early stages,” the newspaper suggested.

The FBI opened a secretive counterintelligence operation codenamed ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia in July 2016, at the same time that the senior FBI and GCHQ officials were supposedly exchanging their texts, with that investigation soon rolling over into the Mueller probe.

Claims about possible Trump-Russia collusion finally collapsed in April 2019, after special counsel Robert Mueller released a 448-page report following a two year investigation, showing that he could find no evidence that anyone from the Trump campaign knowingly colluded with any Russians. As with the Brexit case two years earlier, the ‘evidence of Russian meddling’ presented in the report again boiled down to alleged Russian troll farms; however, these claims by Mueller were themselves debunked for being misattributed, and grossly ineffective, given, for example, that the so-called trolls posted over half of the messages supposedly aimed at influencing the US election in Russian.

The Democrats’ collusion claims took another hit last week during Mueller’s testimony to Congress, and his failure to provide any grounds to revive the Russiagate claims.

McCabe’s Conflict With Trump, UK’s Role in Russiagate

A spokesman for McCabe declined to comment on The Guardian’s piece. The official temporarily served as Trump’s acting director of the FBI for several months in 2017, after James Comey’s dismissal. McCabe was fired in 2018 by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions after being charged with making unauthorised releases of information to the media, and of misleading agents who questioned him about it. McCabe has since proposed that Trump’s cabinet suspend the president from office over his alleged obstruction of justice and work “on behalf of Russia against American interests.” Trump and his allies have blasted such proposals as a call for a “coup” against the elected president.

Since his reported communications with McCabe in 2016, Fleming has been promoted, and now serves as director of the GCHQ.

The UK’s activity in the early stages of the Trump-Russiagate investigation has been put under the spotlight in recent months after it was reported that the so-called Steele dossier, created by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, was vetted by MI5 and MI6 ahead of its release. Steele made a variety of bizarre claims about Trump’s suspected ties with Russia, including allegations that Russian intelligence had compromising information on him, forcing him to do their bidding. That report was thoroughly discredited by US media shortly after its release.

July 31, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , | 4 Comments

Internet users beware, GCHQ is trolling you

Press TV – July 3, 2019

Britain’s primary signals intelligence organization, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is actively recruiting for what it calls “Covert Online Operators”.

GCHQ recruiters are vague about the role, describing potential applicants as people who are “passionate” about the online world and are dedicated to using it to achieve “real world” results.

The successful applicant is expected to confront what is billed as Britain’s “adversaries” in an online setting with a view to delivering “end-to-end” results. The job description mentions “scoping” as well as working with “behavioural scientists” to achieve “operational objectives”.

Despite going to great lengths to present the job as high-end and sophisticated, nonetheless there are give-aways which reveal the real nature of the work.

Foremost, successful applicants only require A-levels or a university degree in any subject and then only at 2:2 level. The relatively low-level entry threshold is in stark contrast to the stringent entry requirements for mainstream national security-related jobs which typically require high level academic achievements.

The job description has led British political analysts to speculate on whether GCHQ is looking to employ trolls or social media disruptors whose job it is to identify and harass critics and opponents of British government policy online.

One such analyst is former British diplomat and ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan turned whistleblower, Craig Murray, who has long complained of online harassment at the hands of alleged British government trolls.

According to Murray the British government employs “a very large number” of people to shape the online political narrative in a manner consistent with British government positions and interests.

GCHQ’s large-scale recruitment of online trolls runs the risk of undermining the UK’s position in three important respects. Foremost, it undermines the myth of GCHQ as a cutting edge signals intelligence and cyber warfare organisation. By recruiting trolls, GCHQ is effectively admitting to online harassment and other low-level activities.

By implicitly admitting to deploying an army of trolls, the British government undermines its claims of strong commitment to media freedom and integrity on the world stage.

As critics of the British government have pointed out, if the establishment uses industrial-level trolling to silence dissidents and critics at home, it leaves little to the imagination as what it is capable of doing overseas to shape the debate in favour of Britain’s ruling elites.

To reinforce the message of cyber victimization, the British government set up the National Cyber Security Centre in 2016 ostensibly to combat cyber-based threats.

Despite the fact the UK likes to paint itself as a victim of cyber aggression, by most credible accounts Britain is more engaged in cyber offence than defence. Back in September it was reported that the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ are setting up a £250 million joint cyber warfare centre to take the fight to Britain’s adversaries.

Britain employs thousands of skilled personnel in cyber offensive roles and the government readily admits to a £1.9 billion national cyber security strategy.

July 3, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Britain on the Leash with the United States – but at Which End?

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 13.10.2018

The “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom is often assumed to be one where the once-great, sophisticated Brits are subordinate to the upstart, uncouth Yanks.

Iconic of this assumption is the mocking of former prime minister Tony Blair as George W. Bush’s “poodle” for his riding shotgun on the ill-advised American stagecoach blundering into Iraq in 2003. Blair was in good practice, having served as Bill Clinton’s dogsbody in the no less criminal NATO aggression against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999.

On the surface, the UK may seem just one more vassal state on par with Germany, Japan, South Korea, and so many other useless so-called allies. We control their intelligence services, their military commands, their think tanks, and much of their media. We can sink their financial systems and economies at will. Emblematic is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s impotent ire at discovering the Obama administration had listened in on her cell phone, about which she – did precisely nothing. Global hegemony means never having to say you’re sorry.

These countries know on which end of the leash they are: the one attached to the collar around their necks. The hand unmistakably is in Washington. These semi-sovereign countries answer to the US with the same servility as member states of the Warsaw Pact once heeded the USSR’s Politburo. (Sometimes more. Communist Romania, though then a member of the Warsaw Pact refused to participate in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia or even allow Soviet or other Pact forces to cross its territory. By contrast, during NATO’s 1999 assault on Serbia, Bucharest allowed NATO military aircraft access to its airspace, even though not yet a member of that alliance and despite most Romanians’ opposition to the campaign.)

But the widespread perception of Britain as just another satellite may be misleading.

To start with, there are some relationships where it seems the US is the vassal dancing to the tune of the foreign capital, not the other way around. Israel is the unchallenged champion in this weight class, with Saudi Arabia a runner up. The alliance between Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) – the ultimate Washington “power couple” – to get the Trump administration to destroy Iran for them has American politicos listening for instructions with all the rapt attention of the terrier Nipper on the RCA Victor logo. (Or did, until the recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Whether this portends a real shift in American attitudes toward Riyadh remains questionableSaudi cash still speaks loudly and will continue to do so whether or not MbS stays in charge.)

Specifics of the peculiar US-UK relationship stem from the period of flux at the end of World War II. The United States emerged from the war in a commanding position economically and financially, eclipsing Britannia’s declining empire that simply no longer had the resources to play the leading role. That didn’t mean, however, that London trusted the Americans’ ability to manage things without their astute guidance. As Tony Judt describes in Postwar, the British attitude of “superiority towards the country that had displaced them at the imperial apex” was “nicely captured” in a scribble during negotiations regarding the UK’s postwar loan:

In Washington Lord Halifax
Once whispered to Lord Keynes:
“It’s true they have the moneybags
But we have all the brains.”

Even in its diminished condition London found it could punch well above its weight by exerting its influence on its stronger but (it was confident) dumber cousins across the Pond. It helped that as the Cold War unfolded following former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s 1946 Iron Curtain speech there were very close ties between sister agencies like MI6 (founded 1909) and the newer wartime OSS (1942), then the CIA (1947); likewise the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, 1919) and the National Security Administration (NSA, 1952). Comparable sister agencies – perhaps more properly termed daughters of their UK mothers – were set up in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This became the so-called “Five Eyes” of the tight Anglosphere spook community,infamous for spying on each others’ citizens to avoid pesky legal prohibitions on domestic surveillance.

Despite not having two farthings to rub together, impoverished Britain – where wartime rationing wasn’t fully ended until 1954 – had a prime seat at the table fashioning the world’s postwar financial structure. The 1944 Bretton Woods conference was largely an Anglo-American affair, of which the aforementioned Lord John Maynard Keynes was a prominent architect along with Harry Dexter White, Special Assistant to the US Secretary of the Treasury and Soviet agent.

American and British agendas also dovetailed in the Middle East. While the US didn’t have much of a presence in the region before the 1945 meeting between US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Saudi King ibn Saud, founder of the third and current (and hopefully last) Saudi state – and didn’t assume a dominant role until the humiliation inflicted on Britain, France, and Israel by President Dwight Eisenhower during the 1956 Suez Crisis – London has long considered much of the region within its sphere of influence. After World War I under the Sykes-Picot agreement with France, the UK had expanded her holdings on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, including taking a decisive role in consolidating Saudi Arabia under ibn Saud. While in the 1950s the US largely stepped into Britain’s role managing the “East of Suez,” the former suzerain was by no means dealt out. The UK was a founding member with the US of the now-defunct Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in 1955.

CENTO – like NATO and their one-time eastern counterpart, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) – was designed as a counter to the USSR. But in the case of Britain, the history of hostility to Russia under tsar or commissar alike has much deeper and longer roots, going back at least to the Crimean War in the 1850s. The reasons for the longstanding British vendetta against Russia are not entirely clear and seem to have disparate roots: the desire to ensure that no one power is dominant on the European mainland (directed first against France, then Russia, then Germany, then the USSR and again Russia); maintaining supremacy on the seas by denying Russia warm-waters ports, above all the Dardanelles; and making sure territories of a dissolving Ottoman empire would be taken under the wing of London, not Saint Petersburg. As described by Andrew Lambert, professor of naval history at King’s College London, the Crimean War still echoes today:

“In the 1840s, 1850s, Britain and America are not the chief rivals; it’s Britain and Russia. Britain and Russia are rivals for world power, and Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, which is much larger than modern Turkey — it includes modern Romania, Bulgaria, parts of Serbia, and also Egypt and Arabia — is a declining empire. But it’s the bulwark between Russia, which is advancing south and west, and Britain, which is advancing east and is looking to open its connections up through the Mediterranean into its empire in India and the Pacific. And it’s really about who is running Turkey. Is it going to be a Russian satellite, a bit like the Eastern Bloc was in the Cold War, or is it going to be a British satellite, really run by British capital, a market for British goods? And the Crimean War is going to be the fulcrum for this cold war to actually go hot for a couple of years, and Sevastopol is going to be the fulcrum for that fighting.”

Control of the Middle East – and opposing the Russians – became a British obsession, first to sustain the lifeline to India, the Jewel in the Crown of the empire, then for control of petroleum, the life’s blood of modern economies. In the context of the 19th and early 20th century Great Game of empire, that was understandable. Much later, similar considerations might even support Jimmy Carter’s taking up much the same position, declaring in 1980 that “outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” The USSR was then a superpower and we were dependent on energy from the Gulf region.

But what’s our reason for maintaining that posture almost four decades later when the Soviet Union is gone and the US doesn’t need Middle Eastern oil? There are no reasonable national interests, only corporate interests and those of the Arab monarchies we laughably claim as allies. Add to that the bureaucracies and habits of mind that link the US and UK establishments, including their intelligence and financial components.

In view of all the foregoing, what then would policymakers in the United Kingdom think about an aspirant to the American presidency who not only disparages the value of existing alliances – without which Britain is a bit player – but openly pledges to improve relations with Moscow? To what lengths would they go to stop him?

Say ‘hello’ to Russiagate!

One can argue whether or not the phony claim of the Trump campaign’s “collusion” with Moscow was hatched in London or whether the British just lent some “hands across the water” to an effort concocted by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, the Clinton Foundation, and their collaborators at Fusion GPS and inside the Obama administration. Either way, it’s clear that while evidence of Russian connection is nonexistent that of British agencies is unmistakable, as is the UK’s hand in a sustained campaign of demonization and isolation to sink any possible rapprochement between the US and Russia.

As for Russiagate itself, just try to find anyone involved who’s actually Russian. The only basis for the widespread assumption that any material in the Dirty Dossier that underlies the whole operationoriginated with Russia is the claim of Christopher Steele, the British “ex” spy who wrote it, evidently in collaboration with people at the US State Department and Fusion GPS. (The notion that Steele, who hadn’t been in Russia for years, would have Kremlin personal contacts is absurd. How chummy are the heads of the American section of Chinese or Russian intelligence with White House staff?)

While there are no obvious Russians in Russiagate there’s no shortage of Brits. These include (details at the link):

  • Stefan Halper, a dual US-UK citizen.
  • Ex-MI6 Director Richard Dearlove.
  • Alexander Downer, Australian diplomat (well, not British but remember the Five Eyes!).
  • Joseph Mifsud, Maltese academic and suspected British agent.

At present, the full role played by those listed above is not known. Release of unredacted FISA warrant requests by the Justice Department, which President Trump ordered weeks ago, would shed light on a number of details. Implementation of that order was derailed after a request by – no surprise – British Prime Minister Theresa May. Was she seeking to conceal Russian perfidy, or her own underlings’?

It would be bad enough if Russiagate were the sum of British meddling in American affairs with the aim of torpedoing relations with Moscow. (And to be fair, it wasn’t just the UK and Australia. Also implicated are Estonia, Israel, and Ukraine.) But there is also reason to suspect the same motive in false accusations against Russia with respect to the supposed Novichok poisonings in England has a connection to Russiagate via a business associate of Steele’s, one Pablo MillerSergei Skripal’s MI6 recruiter. (So if it turns out there is any Russian connection to the dossier, it could be from Skripal or another dubious expat source, not from the Russian government.) Skripal and his daughter Yulia have disappeared in British custody. Moscow flatly accuses MI6 of poisoning them as a false flag to blame it on Russia.

A similar pattern can be seen with claims of chemical weapons use in Syria: “We have irrefutable evidence that the special services of a state which is in the forefront of the Russophobic campaign had a hand in the staging” of a faked chemical weapons attack in Douma in April 2018. Ambassador Aleksandr Yakovenko pointed to the so-called White Helmets, which is closely associated with al-Qaeda elements and considered by some their PR arm: “I am naming them because they have done things like this before. They are famous for staging attacks in Syria and they receive UK money.” Moscow warned for weeks before the now-postponed Syrian government offensive in Idlib that the same ruse was being prepared again with direct British intelligence involvement, even having prepared in advance a video showing victims of an attack that had not yet occurred.

The campaign to demonize Russia shifted into high gear recently with the UK, together with the US and the Netherlands, accusing Russian military intelligence of a smorgasbord of cyberattacks against the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and other sports organizations, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Dutch investigation into the downing of MH-17 over Ukraine, and a Swiss lab involved with the Skripal case, plus assorted election interference. In case anyone didn’t get the point, British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson declared: “This is not the actions of a great power. This is the actions of a pariah state, and we will continue working with allies to isolate them.”

To the extent that the goal of Williamson and his ilk is to ensure isolation and further threats against Russia, it’s been a smashing success. More sanctions are on the way. The UK is sending additional troops to the Arctic to counter Russian “aggression.” The US threatens to use naval power to block Russian energy exports and to strike Russian weapons disputed under a treaty governing intermediate range nuclear forces. What could possibly go wrong?

In sum, we are seeing a massive, coordinated hybrid campaign of psy-ops and political warfare conducted not by Russia but against Russia, concocted by the UK and its Deep State collaborators in the United States. But it’s not only aimed at Russia, it’s an attack on the United States by the government of a foreign country that’s supposed to be one of our closest allies, a country with which we share many venerable traditions of language, law, and culture.

But for far too long, largely for reasons of historical inertia and elite corruption, we’ve allowed that government to exercise undue influence on our global policies in a manner not conducive to our own national interests. Now that government, employing every foul deception that earned it the moniker Perfidious Albion, seeks to embroil us in a quarrel with the only country on the planet that can destroy us if things get out of control.

This must stop. A thorough reappraisal of our “special relationship” with the United Kingdom and exposure of its activities to the detriment of the US is imperative.

October 13, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

UK to Create 2,000-Strong Cyberforce to Counter ‘Russia Threat’ – Reports

Sputnik – 21.09.2018

The United Kingdom will set up a cybersecurity force, comprising up to 2,000 members, to tackle the “threat from Russia” and other actors, local media reported on Friday.

The authorities planned to invest some 250 million pounds (over $330 million) in creating the cyberforce, the Sky News broadcaster reported, citing sources.

The force would be tasked with carrying out offensive cyberoperations and would be composed of the officials of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), military personnel and contractors, the outlet added.

The plan to create the unit was reportedly drafted by the Ministry of Defence and the GCHQ amid London’s claims about the alleged growing cyberthreat from Moscow and the United Kingdom’s recent successful use of cyberweapons against the Islamic State terror group.

Over the recent years, Russia has repeatedly been accused of carrying out cyberattacks against other countries, including the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Germany, and attempting, in particular, to influence the results of elections. Moscow refuted all such claims, calling them unfounded.

September 20, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

The US-UK Deep State Empire Strikes Back: ‘It’s Russia! Russia! Russia!’

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.02.2018

There’s no defense like a good offense.

For weeks the unfolding story in Washington has been how a cabal of conspirators in the heart of the American federal law enforcement and intelligence apparat colluded to ensure the election of Hillary Clinton and, when that failed, to undermine the nascent presidency of Donald Trump. Agencies tainted by this corruption include not only the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) but the Obama White House, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA, plus their British sister organizations MI6 and GCHQ, possibly along with the British Foreign Office (with the involvement of former British ambassador to Russia Andrew Wood) and even Number 10 Downing Street.

Those implicated form a regular rogue’s gallery of the Deep State: Peter Strzok (formerly Chief of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section, then Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division; busy bee Strzok is implicated not only in exonerating Hillary from her email server crimes but initiating the Russiagate investigation in the first place, securing a FISA warrant using the dodgy “Steele Dossier,” and nailing erstwhile National Security Adviser General Mike Flynn on a bogus charge of “lying to the FBI”); Lisa Page (Strzok’s paramour and a DOJ lawyer formerly assigned to the all-star Democrat lineup on the Robert Mueller Russigate inquisition); former FBI Director James Comey, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and – let’s not forget – current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, himself implicated by having signed at least one of the dubious FISA warrant requests. Finally, there’s reason to believe that former CIA Director John O. Brennan may have been the mastermind behind the whole operation.

Not to be overlooked is the possible implication of a pack of former Democratic administration officials, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and President Barack Obama himself, who according to text communications between Strzok and Page “wants to know everything we’re doing.” Also involved is the DNC, the Clinton campaign, and Clinton operatives Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer – rendering the ignorance of Hillary herself totally implausible.

On the British side we have “former” (suuure . . . ) MI6 spook Christopher Steele, diplomat Wood, former GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan (who resigned a year ago under mysterious circumstances), and whoever they answered to in the Prime Minister’s office.

The growing sense of panic was palpable. Oh my – this is a curtain that just cannot be allowed to be pulled back!

What to do, what to do . . .

Ah, here’s the ticket – come out swinging against the main enemy. That’s not even Donald Trump. It’s Russia and Vladimir Putin. Russia! Russia! Russia!

Hence the unveiling of an indictment against 13 Russian citizens and three companies for alleged meddling in U.S. elections and various ancillary crimes.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume all the allegations in the indictment are true, however unlikely that is to be the case. (While that would be the American legal rule for a complaint in a civil case, this is a criminal indictment, where there is supposedly a presumption of innocence. Rosenstein even mentioned that in his press conference, pretending not to notice that that presumption doesn’t apply to Russian Untermenschen – certainly not to Olympic athletes and really not to Russians at all, who are presumed guilty on “genetic” grounds.)

Based on the public announcement of the indictment by Rosenstein – who is effectively the Attorney General in place of the pro forma holder of that office, Jeff Sessions (R-Recused) – and on an initial examination of the indictment, and we can already draw a few conclusions:

  • Finally, “collusion” is dead! If Mueller and the anti-constitutional cabal had any hint that anyone on the Trump team cooperated with those indicted, they would have included it. They didn’t. That means that after months and months of “investigation” – or really, setting “perjury traps” and trying to nail people on unrelated accusations, like Paul Manafort’s alleged circumvention of lobbying and financial reporting laws – and wasting however many millions of dollars, Mueller and his merry band got nothing. Zip. Zilch. Bupkes. Nada. The fake charge that Trump colluded with the Russians is exposed as the fraud it always was.
  • And yet, “collusion” still lives! But while there is no actual allegation (much less evidence) that any American, much less anyone on the Trump team, “colluded” with the indicted Russians, the indictment makes it clear that Moscow sought to support Trump and disparage Hillary. Thus, Trump is guilty of being favored by Russia even if there was no actual cooperation. It’s a kind of zombie walking dead collusion, collusion by intent (of someone else) absent actual collusion. Its purpose in the indictment is to discredit Trump as a Russian puppet, albeit an unwitting one. The indictment says the Russian desperados supported Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein too – so they’re also Putin’s dupes.
  • Any and every Russian equals Putin. Incredibly, nothing in the indictment points to any connection of those indicted to the Russian government! This is on a par with the hysteria over social media placements by “Russian interests” on account of which hysterical Senators demanded that tech giants impose content controls, or dimwit CIA agents getting bilked out of $100,000 by a Russian scam artist in Berlin in exchange for – well, pretty much nothing. (The CIA denies it, which leads one to suspect it is true.) Paragraph 95 of the indictment points to what amounted to a click-bait scam to fleece American merchants and social media sites from between $25 and $50 per post for promotional content. Paragraph 88 refers to “self-enrichment” as one motive of the alleged operation. That makes a lot more sense than the bone-headed claim in the indictment that the Russian goal was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system” by posting content on “divisive U.S. political and social issues.” What! Americans disagree about stuff? The Russians are setting us against each other! In announcing the indictment, Rosenstein said the Russians wanted to “promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.” (He wagged his finger with resolve at that point.) It evidently doesn’t occur to Rosenstein that he and his pals have undermined public confidence in our institutions by perverting them for political ends.
  • Demonizing dissent. Those indicted allegedly sought to attract Americans’ attention to their diabolical machinations through appeal to hot-button issues (immigration, Black Lives Matter, religion, etc.) and popular hashtags (#Trump2016, #TrumpTrain, #MAGA, #Hillary4Prison). Have you taken a stand on divisive issues, Dear Reader? Have you used any of these hashtags? Are you reading this commentary? You too might be an unwitting Russian stooge! Vladimir Putin is inside your head! Hopefully DOJ will set up a hotline where patriotic citizens influenced without their knowledge can now report themselves, now that they’ve been alerted. Are you a thought criminal, comrade?
  • An amateurish, penny-ante scheme with no results – compared to what the U.S. does. At worst, even if all the allegations in the indictment are true – a big “if” – it would still amount to the kind of garden-variety kicking each other under the table that a lot of countries routinely engage in. As described in the indictment this gargantuan Russian scheme was (as reported by Politico) an “expensive [sic] effort that cost millions of dollars and employed as many as hundreds of people.” Millions of dollars! Hundreds of people! How did the American republic manage to survive the onslaught? Rosenstein was keen to point out for the umpteenth time that nothing the Russians are alleged to have done (never mind what they actually might have done, which is far less) had any impact on the election. That stands in sharp contrast to the lavishly funded, multifaceted, global political influence and meddling operations the U.S. conducts in nations around the world under the guise of “democracy promotion.” The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), along with its Democratic and Republican sub-organizations, can be considered the flagship of a community of ostensibly private but government-funded or subsidized organizations that provides the soft compliment to American hard military power. The various governmental, quasi-governmental, and nongovernmental components of this network – sometimes called the “Demintern” in analogy to the Comintern, an organization comparable in global ambition if differing in ideology and methods – are also coordinated internationally at the official level through the less-well-known “Community of Democracies.” It is often difficult to know where the “official” entities (CIA, NATO, the State Department, Pentagon, USAID) divide from ostensibly nongovernmental but tax dollar-supported groups (NED, Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) and privately funded organizations that cooperate with them towards common goals (especially the Open Society organizations funded by billionaire George Soros). Among the specialties of this network are often successfulcolor revolutions” targeting leaders and governments disfavored by Washington for regime change – a far cry from the pathetic Russian operation alleged in the indictment.
  • Mitt Romney was right.” Already many of Trump’s supporters are not only crowing with satisfaction that the indictment proves there was no collusion but refocusing their gaze from the domestic culprits within the FBI, DOJ, etc., to a bogus foreign threat. “This whole saga just brings back the 2012 election, and the fact that Mitt Romney was right” for “suggesting that Russia is our greatest geopolitical foe,” is the new GOP meme. To the extent that Russiagate was less about Trump than ensuring that enmity with Russia will be permanent and will continue to deepen, this latest Mueller indictment is a smashing success already.

The Mueller indictment against the Russians is a well-timed effort to distract Americans’ attention from the real collusion rotting the core of our public life by shifting attention to a foreign enemy. Many of the people behind it are the very officials who are themselves complicit in the rot. But the sad fact is that it will probably work.

February 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nunes Memo Needs More Work

But the FBI has been lying to the public for years

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • February 6, 2018

The House Intelligence Committee Memo on possible FBI and Justice Department malfeasance relating mostly to the investigation of Donald Trump associate Carter Page is in some ways a bewildering document. As a former intelligence officer, the first thing I noticed was that the claim by Democrats on the Committee that the memo’s release amounted to “treason” and would compromise classified information does not hold water. I could identify nothing in the memo that was even plausibly damaging to national security, though it might be argued that writing down anything about the activity and operation of the FISA court is ipso facto a compromise of secrets. It is a view that I would dispute because the memo does not actually expose any ongoing investigations or place in danger law enforcement officials. It is one of those fake security arguments that go something like “It is secret because it is secret.”

The document is generally being referred to as the “Nunes Memo” after the name of the head of the House Intelligence Community, Devin Nunes, who ordered it drafted and who has been promoting its release. Having read the text through a number of times, it would appear to me that, in spite of Republican claims, it is somewhat less than a bombshell. It will need considerable elaboration to allow one to come to any real conclusions regarding whether sometimes sloppy FBI and DOJ procedures were either deliberate or driven by malice. It suggests that the Bureau may have been less than forthcoming in seeking a FISC ruling on Carter Page, who was at the time of the warrant not any longer a low-level associate of the Trump campaign, but there is no real hard evidence that the omission was deliberate and no compelling revelation of motive apart from the evidence that some senior officials and the author of the Steele Dossier did not like Donald Trump.

Even the evidence about the critically important Steele Dossier provided by the memo is somewhat ambiguous, particularly as the document suggests that Steele was a paid and fully controlled “intelligence source” of the Bureau and must have been acting under FBI direction. His meeting with a Legatt Officer in Rome at the insistence of the Bureau also suggests that he was cooperating without authorization from his former employer MI6, which could mean trouble down the road for Steele.

Beyond that there is some confusion. One source, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, said, but has since recanted, that the dossier was essential to the FISC request while another Assistant FBI Director Bill Priestap saying its allegations were in their “infancy” of being corroborated. That would seem to suggest that the Bureau deliberately used an unvetted Steele report of questionable provenance to make a case to surveil an American citizen under FISA, but is that really true? Indeed, it appears that the Democrats will concede that the dossier was used but it was only a “small and insignificant” part of the case. But if that was not so and the Republican allegation is basically correct, it would be devastating as the dossier was, in FBI Director James Comey’s judgment, “salacious.” And we do not know, of course, what the Bureau had developed on Page independently, which is no doubt what its counter-offensive and that of the Democrats will also focus on, a response which, incidentally, could reveal actual secrets relating to intelligence sources and methods.

And then there is FISA itself and its court. It is a peculiar structure intended to protect the civil liberties of suspects suspected of being “foreign agents” by requiring the government to show cause for a surveillance, but it has morphed into a rubber stamp for investigation of anyone and nearly everyone who can plausibly be suspected of nearly anything. It has replaced the civil court standard of “probable cause” to initiate surveillance with nothing more than suspicion. It only hears one side of an argument, that provided by the FBI, and it approves over 99% of requests. The investigations that it authorizes are far more intrusive than in normal civil or criminal cases, to include nearly everything connected with an individual.

So, we are left with a bowl of porridge – the FBI might have, and probably did, frontload its request to the court to favor the action that it wanted to take, but isn’t that normal procedure anyway? Is anyone expecting a police agency charged with finding and arresting bad guys and promoting its people on that basis to be objective? If one looks at the terrorism related convictions since 2001, it is clear that the Bureau will do whatever it takes to get a conviction, up to an including inserting informants who actually instigate the criminal activity, a practice known as entrapment. Even the FISA court is aware of FBI inventiveness. In 2002 it identified 75 false or misleading claims made by Bureau officers and some officials have been blocked from testifying before the court due to their having provided false witness.

FBI procedures and ambiguities aside, this is nevertheless serious business. If it can be determined that the omissions in submissions to the FISC were deliberate and calculated, the astute blogger Publius Tacitus has correctly observed that some senior FBI and DOJ officials who signed off on misleading or fraudulent applications concealing the antecedents of the so-called Steele Dossier to the FISC are now facing possible contempt-of-court charges that would include prison sentences. They include James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, Dana Boente and Rob Rosenstein.

So there is likely considerably more controversy to come, whether or not the Bureau can or cannot provide backstory that credibly challenges the Republican Intelligence Committee memo. But it is also intriguing to consider what is missing from the document. As it is focused on the FBI and DOJ, there is no speculation about the possible role of senior intelligence officials CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Michael Isikoff reported in September 2016 that the two men were involved in obtaining information on Page and it has also been suggested that Brennan sought and obtained raw intelligence from British, Polish, Dutch and Estonian intelligence services, which apparently was then passed on to the Bureau and might have motivated James Comey to proceed with his investigation of the Trump associates. One has to consider that Brennan and Clapper, drawing on intelligence resources and connections, might have helped the FBI build a fabricated case against Trump.

Senator John McCain, a highly vocal critic of Trump, might have also become involved, wittingly or unwittingly, in the project to feed derogatory information on the GOP president-elect and his associates to the FBI. He reportedly obtained a copy of the Steele Dossier in December 2017 and passed it on to Comey, clearly intending that the FBI Director should take some action regarding it.

Indeed, there were many prominent voices raised demanding that something be done about Donald Trump. Eleven months ago, shortly after Trump took office, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, speculated on how he had been “… led to believe that maybe even the Democratic Party, whatever element of it, approached John Brennan at the CIA, maybe even the former president of the United States. And John Brennan, not wanting his fingerprints to be on anything, went to his colleague in London GCHQ, MI-6 and essentially said, ‘Give me anything you’ve got.’ And he got something and he turned it over to the DNC or someone like that. And what he got was GCHQ MI-6s tapes of conversations of the Trump administration perhaps, even the President himself. It’s really kind of strange, at least to me, they let the head of that organization go, fired him about the same [time] this was brewing up. So I’m not one to defend Trump, but in this case he might be right.”

Wilkerson is referring to the highly unusual abrupt resignation of Robert Hannigan, the Director of Britain’s version of the National Security Agency (NSA), referred to by the acronym GCHQ, which took place on January 23rd of last year. The British Official Secrets Act has meant that there was at that time little speculation in the U.K. media about the move, but some observers have wondered if it is somehow connected to possible collaboration with U.S. intelligence officers over Donald Trump. That remains an area of inquiry that has hardly been looked at, perhaps because the thought that the country’s top national security agencies were involved in a something like a grand conspiracy to subvert an election is still something that Congress would prefer not to consider.

One truly very interesting aspect of the Republican memo that has been scarcely commented upon is that even though the mainstream media is continuing to exercise its dangerous obsession with Russia by demanding that the Russiagate inquiry should continue full speed in spite of the concerns raised by the Republicans, there is absolutely nothing in the memo itself that indicates that Moscow tried to recruit any Trump associate as an agent or interfere in the U.S. election. The raison d’etre for the Congressional and Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigations appears to be lacking. Perhaps it is all sound and fury signifying nothing, but Russia might in reality have done little beyond the usual probing and nosing around that intelligence agencies routinely do. If the alleged Russiagate conspiracy is never actually demonstrated, which looks increasingly likely, it would certainly disappoint the many American talking heads and media “experts” who have been making a living off of bashing Moscow 24/7.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

February 6, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shambolic Doings in Washington

Will we survive the next 90 days?

Brennan

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • April 25, 2017

There remains one good thing to say about Donald Trump: he is not Hillary. The boneheaded cruise missile attack in Syria would have occurred even earlier under President Rodham Clinton and there would undoubtedly be no-fly and safe zones already in place. Oh, and Ukraine and Georgia would be negotiating their entries into NATO to make sure that old Vlad Putin would be put on notice and understand that the days of namby-pamby jaw-jaw-jaw that characterized the Obama Administration are now ancient history.

Apart from that, I can only observe dumbstruck how yet again a candidate promising peace and dialogue could be flipped so quickly. Or maybe he never believed in anything he said, which is perhaps more to the point. Be that as it may, we now, after only ninety days in office, have a neo-neocon foreign policy and the folks clustered around their water coolers in the Washington think tanks are again smiling. And as the ruinous Syrian civil war continues thanks to American intervention, there are probably plenty of high fives within Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu government. Bibi again rules the roost.

The Israelis are no doubt particularly delighted to hear Donald Trump’s latest factually exempt voyage into the outer reaches of the galaxy regarding Iran. Or perhaps The Donald is only having continuing digestive problems dealing with “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” when dining with mortified Chinese leader Xi Jinping while simultaneously launching cruise missiles intended to send a message to Beijing’s ally Russia. It is inevitably Iran’s turn for vilification, so Trump, while conceding that the Iranians have been compliant with the nuclear weapons agreement they signed, also felt compelled to add that they continue to be a threat and have not entered into the “spirit” of the pact. Apparently the spirit codicil was somehow left out of the final draft, an interpretation that will no doubt surprise the other signatories consisting of Russia, China and the European Union.

To make its point that Tehran is somehow a cheater, the White House has ordered a 90 day review of Iran policy which will empower hardliners in that country in upcoming elections as well as nut cases like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham on this side of the Atlantic. Iranian opposition groups like the terrorist Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK) are already rising to the challenge by floating phony intelligence while Graham is currently advocating a preemptive attack on North Korea, conceding that it would be catastrophic for every country in the region while noting smugly that the carnage and destruction would not reach the United States. Too bad that Pyongyang’s fury cannot be directed straight to Graham’s house in South Carolina.

Graham is reportedly a good dancer and multitasker who can pivot back to Iran effortlessly as soon as Pyongyang is reduced to rubble, so those who want to deal with Iran sooner rather than later should not despair. As things continue to go south nearly everywhere, tension in the Middle East will no doubt lead to a rapidly deteriorating situation in the Persian Gulf that will require yet another ham-handed show of strength by the United States of Amnesia. There will be a war against Iran.

There have been a couple of other interesting stories circulating recently, all demonstrating that when Benjamin Franklin observed that we Americans had created a republic, “if we can keep it,” he was being particularly prescient. Robert Parry has observed that all the fuss about Russiagate is misleading as the only country that interferes with the political process in the U.S. persistently and successfully while also doing terrible damage to our national security is Israel. He wonders when we will have Congress convening investigative commissions to look into Israel-gate but then answers his own question by observing that it will never happen given who controls what in the United States. “No one dares suggest a probe of Israel-gate,” he concludes, but it is interesting and also encouraging to note that some Americans are actually starting to figure things out.

One of the curious things relating to the Russiagate scandal is the issue of who in the U.S. intelligence community leaked highly classified information to the media, a question which somehow seems to have disappeared from whatever final reckoning might be forthcoming. The issue is particularly relevant at the moment because there are reports that the Justice Department is pulling together a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as part of a possible attempt to remove him forcibly from his refuge in Britain and try him for constituting what CIA Director Mike Pompeo describes as a “hostile intelligence service helped by Russia.” It all suggests that low hanging fruit is fair game while some “official” leakers at high levels are somehow being protected.

To cite another example of Justice Department hypocrisy, three current and four former U.S. officials leaked to Reuters last week’s story about a Russian think tank having created a plan to subvert the U.S. election. If that is so, their identities might be discernible or surmised. Why aren’t they in jail? Or is it that many in government now believe that Russia is fair game and are prepared to look the other way?

It is significant that the recent House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russiagate, featuring FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, provided very little new information even as it confirmed troubling revelations that had already surfaced regarding the corruption of the nation’s security services. Given that former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) head John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) chief James Clapper have been most frequently cited as the Obama administration’s possible bag men in arranging for the generation, collection, dissemination, and leaking of information disparaging to Trump, why weren’t they also being questioned?

The latest focus on Brennan, an Obama/Clinton loyalist who might safely be regarded as the most likely candidate seeking to discredit Team Trump and reap the benefits from Hillary, explores some suspicions about what actually took place last year and how it might have been arranged. The story broke in The Guardian on April 13th, headlined “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia.” The article rehashes much old information, but, relying on a “source close to UK intelligence,” it describes how Britain’s NSA equivalent GCHQ obtained information late in 2015 relating to suspect “interactions” between Trump associates and the Russian intelligence. GCHQ reportedly routinely passed the information on to its U.S. liaison counterparts, and continued to do so over the next six months. The information was supplemented by similar reporting from a number of European intelligence services as well as the remaining “Five Eyes”: Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the Guardian source and reporters, who are clearly hostile to Trump, the collection was not directed or targeted but was rather part of random interception of Russian communications. This may or may not be true but it serves as a useful cover story if someone was up to something naughty. And it also makes one wonder about the highly incriminating British intelligence sourced “dossier” on Trump and his associates, which The Guardian strangely does not mention, that appeared in January. Another apparent Guardian source called GCHQ the “principal whistleblower” in sharing the information that led to the opening of an FBI investigation in July 2016, a suggestion that the British role was not exactly passive.

The article goes on to describe how John Brennan, then CIA Chief, was personally the recipient of the material passed hand-to-hand at “director level” because of its sensitivity. So the Guardian article is essentially saying that the information was both routine and extremely sensitive, which would seem to be contradictory. Brennan was reportedly then the driving force behind launching a “major inter-agency investigation” and he briefed selected members of Congress regarding what he had obtained. Shortly thereafter leaks began appearing in the British press followed subsequently by revelations in the media in the U.S.

An October request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court reportedly was initiated after particularly damaging information was received from Estonia concerning Trump associate Carter Page and also regarding allegations that a Russian bank was funneling money into the Trump campaign. This led to an investigation of Page and the tapping into servers in Trump Tower, where the presidential campaign offices were located. Estonia, it should be noted, was particularly concerned about Trump comments on de-emphasizing NATO and strongly supported a Hillary victory so it is fair to speculate that the intelligence provided might have been cherry picked to make a particular case, but The Guardian fails to make that obvious point.

It is interesting to note how for the first time, in this media account, Brennan surfaces as the central player in the investigation of Team Trump. And it is perhaps not out of line to suggest that the European reporting of information on Trump associates was not exactly due to random collection of information, as The Guardian seeks to demonstrate. It could just as easily have been arranged at the “director level” by Brennan and his counterparts to disrupt the Trump campaign and enhance the electability of Hillary Clinton, which would have directly benefited Brennan and his inner circle as well as the Europeans, all of whom feared a Trump victory. Intelligence can be skewed, “fixed around a policy” or even fabricated and can say whatever one wants it to say so it is fair to suggest that the role of a politically committed John Brennan remains to be explored much more fully.

It is now being reported that Brennan will be summoned to give testimony at a closed House Intelligence Committee meeting on May 2nd. Hopefully his comments will be somehow leaked to the media plus those of James Clapper, who is also scheduled to appear. Nevertheless, one imagines that, as was the case in Comey’s first appearance, both former officials will spend most of their time refusing to confirm or deny anything.

The active participation of Brennan in the background to the 2016 electoral campaign is unprecedented and it is also suggestive of what America’s national security agencies have become, basically creatures of the White House. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Benjamin Franklin would undoubtedly deplore the fact that we have failed to keep the republic that the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us. That would be bad enough, but we are slipping into a pattern of foreign wars based on tissues of lies and deceptions by the very people who are in place to protect us, quite possibly exemplified by unscrupulous and ambitious ladder climbers like John Brennan, who was also the architect of Obama’s assassination policy. If we go to war because of suspected lack of “spirit” in our adversaries or merely because someone in the White House had a piece of chocolate cake and wanted something to talk about over his cup of espresso then we are doomed as a nation.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment