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Facebook teams up with US government to police ‘fake news’ in foreign elections

RT | September 24, 2018

Facebook has teamed up with two US government-funded think tanks as part of a new initiative to bolster the social media giant’s “election integrity efforts” around the globe.

The new partnership with the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) was revealed by Facebook in a call with reporters last week and reported by Reuters — but the company’s choice of partners has since raised a few eyebrows. Both think-tanks are funded by the US government, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Tweeting about the initiative, Mark Weisbrot, a co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, called Facebook’s decision to work with the US government-funded organizations “Orwellian” and said that they “specialize in overseas propaganda.” Weisbrot also criticized Reuters reporting of the news which focused on Facebook’s supposed fake-news busting efforts and seemed lacking in “any awareness” of who the two groups were.

During the telephone Q&A with reporters focusing on the upcoming elections in the US and Brazil, Facebook’s Elections and Civic Engagement Samidh Chakrabarti, said that “preventing election interference” on the platform has been “one of the biggest cross-team efforts” the company has seen. But is teaming up with government-funded think tanks really the best way to prevent election interference on Facebook?

Asked by CNBC reporter Salvador Rodriguez to elaborate on the partnership, Katie Harbath, who heads up Facebook’s Global Politics and Government Outreach team, said she wanted to be clear that Facebook’s work with the IRI and NDI is only focused “internationally” and that it has nothing to do with domestic elections in the US. Harbath said the two organizations have “a lot of experience in working in elections and in many countries around the globe” and that Facebook can learn from them about “election integrity risks” that exist in other countries.

That knowledge might prompt a sign of relief from American journalists, but given the US government holds a very real stake in the outcome of many other elections worldwide, it still seems a little odd that Facebook should be using US government-funded organizations to help it decide what constitutes fake news in foreign elections, or to “slow the global spread of misinformation” as Reuters put it.

It’s not the first time Facebook has chosen a dubious partner to help it out in its fight against fake news, either. The social media giant also entered a similar partnership with the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by the US and other NATO governments, as well as by a slew of US weapons manufacturers.

Shortly after its partnership with the Atlantic Council was revealed, Facebook temporarily deleted the English-language page of the Venezuela-based news outlet Telesur without explanation. Telesur is one of the only English-language media sources providing an alternative view on events in Venezuela.

Facebook has also been criticized for capitulating to demands and threats made by the Israeli government by deleting the accounts of a number of accounts run by Palestinian activists.

Nonetheless, Facebook has said it is setting up a “war room” ahead of major elections in Brazil next month. The war-like rhetoric echoes a Washington Post op-ed by Facbook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month, in which he said Facebook was in an “arms race” against “bad actors” and that the platform needed to improve its “defenses”.

Amy Studdart, a senior advisor at the IRI, told Reuters that the details of its partnership with Facebook had not been fully worked out, but said the organization would help Facebook employees “understand how their platform is being used on the ground all around the world.”

The NED and its affiliates have been criticized as engines of “regime change” around the world, and one of its founders famously noted in 1991 that “a lot of what we do now was done covertly by the CIA 25 years ago.”

September 24, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NED Pursues Regime Change by Playing the Long Game

By Edward Hunt | Lobe Log | July 3, 2018

During a recent congressional hearing, the heads of three influential non-profit organizations that operate in numerous countries around the world revealed the subtle ways in which the United States meddles in the internal affairs of other countries by playing what the officials called “the long game.”

The three officials—Carl Gershman, Daniel Twining, and Kenneth Wollack—told Congress about their long-term efforts to empower the opponents of U.S. enemies and boasted about their ability to change foreign governments. They said that they had recently helped their political allies gain political power in Malaysia, acknowledged that they have helped train thousands of activists in Nicaragua, and speculated about the potential to create new governments in China, Russia, and North Korea.

All three men strongly defended their activities, insisting that they are critically important to the advancement of democracy in the world.

“We’re not asking people to do anything that they don’t want to do,” Gershman said. “We’re supporting their own aspirations and giving them some of the tools to realize those aspirations.”

Gershman is the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a U.S. taxpayer-funded nonprofit created by the U.S. government in 1983. As the president of NED, Gershman oversees the issuance of grants to its political-party-associated organizations, including the International Republican Institute (IRI), which is headed by Twining, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which is headed by Wollack.

Facing skepticism about their work from the Trump administration, which views the organizations as unnecessary expenses and wants to cut their funding, Gershman and his colleagues provided Congress with a broad overview of how their work affects the world. They defended their ongoing operations, trying to persuade Congress that they should continue to receive funding.

Ultimately, the three officials revealed how they are helping the U.S. government interfere in numerous countries around the world.

The NED Approach

The general strategy of NED is to empower like-minded activists to build new political movements in their home countries. NED helps these activists become influential political actors, often with the goal of creating new possibilities for political change.

Officials typically describe their approach as one of “democracy promotion.” They argue that they are helping democratic forces introduce democratic politics into countries ruled by authoritarian leaders.

“These leaders, their strategic Achilles heel is fear of their own publics,” Twining explained. “And I think we should think about the old Reagan message of exploiting that a little bit.”

The strategy requires a long-term commitment in the countries where the NED is active. Twining calls it “playing the long game.” Gershman calls it “long-term work.”

The officials discussed numerous examples. Twining said that IRI has been working with opposition forces in Malaysia since 2002. He credited IRI with helping opposition forces prevail in the country’s recent parliamentary elections, calling the victory “an example of playing the long game.”

U.S.-backed opposition forces are “now in-charge of this very strategic country right there on the frontlines of the South China Sea, right there on the frontlines of the Islamic world’s intersection with rest of Asia,” Twining said. “And that’s good for America.”

The NED has also been active in Nicaragua, where opposition forces are organizing major protests against the Nicaraguan government. The protesters are trying to bring down the government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a popular leftist leader who has been in power since 2007.

“We have been working on youth leadership programs and have worked with more than 8,000 youth on a very extensive coursework and academies to develop U.S. engagement,” Wollack said.

Although Wollack denied that the organizations are training their grantees for the purpose of overthrowing Ortega, Gershman indicated that regime change is the ultimate goal. “Time for him to go,” Gershman said, referring to Ortega.

The three officials also cited many additional opportunities to influence governments around the world. They are especially excited about opportunities in Armenia, where a major social movement recently ousted a government backed by Russia.

Twining speculated about the possibility of achieving regime change in Russia, calling Putin a “very brittle” leader who is “frankly quite insecure.”

Gershman saw potential for a similar outcome in North Korea. “This is an eroding totalitarian system, so we shouldn’t give up hope on the possibilities for internal change,” he said.

Gershman believes that the primary focus should be on China, however. He called China “the most serious threat our country faces today.”

Although Gershman said that the U.S. government will initially respond to challenges from China with a mix of military, economic, and geostrategic power, he insisted that the long-term solution could be found in the “unhappy people” who oppose the Chinese government.

“We have to not give up on the possibility for democratic change in China and keep finding ways to support them,” he said.

The Controversy in Washington

The open talk of U.S. meddling in other countries around the world was so commonplace that the U.S. mass media spent no time covering the hearing, even though the speakers did encounter some pushback. Not all members of Congress are on board with the programs.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made the strongest critique, insisting that U.S. meddling destabilizes countries while creating more problems for the United States in the long run. Rohrabacher blamed recent U.S. meddling for destabilizing Ukraine. He argued that the U.S. involvement in national protests that led to the downfall of the government of Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 prompted the subsequent Russian invasion of the country and the war that continues there today.

“I don’t believe the Russians would have invaded Ukraine had we not arrogantly involved ourselves to overthrow that democratically elected government in Ukraine,” Rohrabacher said.

Rohrabacher also insisted that the U.S. should support dictators. He singled out Egypt, saying that the country should continue to be ruled by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the military dictator who gained power by overthrowing the country’s first democratically elected government in 2013.

“I know I am making everybody mad at me, but I had to say it,” Rohrabacher commented.

Faced with Rohrabacher’s criticisms, the remaining participants in the hearing made some effort to counter his arguments but otherwise said very little, preferring instead to blandly praise NED for performing admirable work by promoting democracy around the world.

The general feeling in Congress is that the U.S. government should continue to fund the work of the NED and its affiliated institutes. Most members of Congress view the organizations as important assets in the U.S. government’s toolkit, believing they play an important role in U.S. global strategy.

Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) unabashedly praised NED, IRI, and NDI, calling their work “exciting.” He told the three officials that “nothing does America prouder than the work frankly you’re doing.”

July 6, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Establishment alarmed as Trump threatens to gut US ‘democracy promotion’ racket

RT | March 7, 2018

The foreign policy establishment in Washington is crying foul after the Trump administration proposed to cut funding for organizations responsible for “promoting democracy abroad,” often in the guise of color revolutions.

The 2019 State Department budget request cuts the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) budget and separates it from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). Funding for the institutes would be moved to the State Department, where NDI and IRI would have to compete with private contractors, according to the Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, who described the proposal as “an assault not only on their organizations but also on the pro-democracy mission they are dedicated to.”

“If implemented, the proposal would gut the program, force crippling layoffs and the symbolic meaning would also be shattering, sending a signal far and wide that the United States is turning its back on supporting brave people who share our values,” NED President Carl Gershman told Rogin.

“The work our government does to promote democratic values abroad is at the heart of who we are as a country,” Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), chairman of the IRI’s board of directors, told Rogin. The NDI board is chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

McCain actually wrote a letter protesting the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget in December. It was signed by four other senators, including McCain’s close ally Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

Trump’s people “just don’t believe it’s America’s business to push democracy abroad,” Rogin concluded.

His article quickly made the rounds of the Washington establishment circles, where it received praise from former CIA agent and failed presidential candidate Evan McMullin and New Republic columnist Jeet Heer. Nicholas Burns, who served as State Department spokesman under Albright, said the revelations will “make your blood boil.”

.@joshrogin: The Trump administration’s assault on democracy promotion can be expected to continue. Dictatorships are presenting their model as preferable for the developing world. Human rights abuses are rising. Basic freedoms are under attack. https://t.co/IRDT91JZAt

— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) March 5, 2018

It was Burns’s tweet in particular that attracted derision from critics of US foreign policy, such as journalists Glenn Greenwald, Chris Floyd and Jon Schwarz, and former diplomat Peter Van Buren:

This is the kind of blatant, jingoistic historical revisionism that the Trump era has made fashionable again. The idea that the US had been devoted to “democracy promotion” before Trump – and that this was pioneered by tyrant-hugging Reagan – is simply laughable: https://t.co/JrVqWt3CP7

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 6, 2018

The confusing thing about Harvard, Yale, etc. is that the job of people working there in the hard sciences actually is to describe reality accurately, whereas the job of many humanities professors like Nicholas Burns is to lie about reality https://t.co/e5EQhQfL5O

— Jon Schwarz (@schwarz) March 6, 2018

As well as a number of rank-and-file Twitterati:

The NED was founded in 1983, under the Reagan administration. It is theoretically a non-governmental organization, though the bulk of its funding is provided by the US government and American taxpayers. The status has given NED and its institutes plausible deniability against accusations that the US has been meddling in the politics of other countries.

“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” one of the endowment’s founders, Allen Weinstein, told the Washington Post in September 1991.

One example is the wave of “color revolutions,” starting from Serbia in 2000 to the “Arab Spring” revolts of 2011. Ukraine was subjected to this twice, in 2004 and in 2014. During the unrest in Kiev in November 2004, The Guardian’s Ian Traynor described the process, while heaping praise on the people behind it.

“The operation – engineering democracy through the ballot box and civil disobedience – is now so slick that the methods have matured into a template for winning other people’s elections,” Traynor wrote. “The Democratic party’s National Democratic Institute, the Republican party’s International Republican Institute, the US state department and USAid are the main agencies involved in these grassroots campaigns as well as the Freedom House NGO and billionaire George Soros’s open society institute.”

Though campaigns funded by all these external actors are more astroturf than grassroots, there were few objections, as it was all in the name of democracy.

Traynor concluded his 2004 story by saying the “places to watch” were Moldova and Central Asia. Sure enough, the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan went through a “Pink revolution” in February 2005, while the “Grape revolution” took place in Moldova in April 2009.

The Washington establishment’s obsession with democracy may also be explained by the belief that any non-democratic government is automatically anti-Western, as Luis Fleischman of the neoconservative Center for Security Policy argued last month.

If the regime is pro-American, however, it doesn’t matter whether it’s actually democratic or not. On Tuesday, the director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Mark Dubowitz tweeted that “inclusive authoritarianism” might be a better fit for Middle Eastern countries, as long as they were “tolerant, respectful of individual liberties & minority rights & pro-American.”

Btw, I said a more “inclusive authoritarianism” *might* be better alternative. Tolerant, respectful of individual liberties & minority rights & pro-American. I suggested should be discussed. So spare me the invective & explain why worse than failed M/E democracies. https://t.co/yQJWKQ5V3z

— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) March 7, 2018

Read more:

‘US is allowed to meddle’: Democracy promotion is ‘US policy’, TV panel concludes

March 8, 2018 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , | Leave a comment

US Lawmakers Lobby for Right-wing and US Intervention in Honduran, Salvadoran Elections

CISPES | November 8, 2013

On Saturday, October 16, US Congressmen Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) from the House’s Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere subcommittee wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry using vague, fear-mongering rhetoric to delegitimize a potential left-wing victory in the upcoming presidential elections in Honduras and El Salvador, where the left candidates are leading in the polls. Explicitly denigrating two of the three leading Salvadoran candidates, Salmon and Sires exposed themselves as mouthpieces for the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, which has mounted an escalating smear campaign against its opposition in both El Salvador and the US.

In the letter—which was then republished in El Salvador—the congressional duo question the “democratic credentials” of both Honduran presidential candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of former President Manuel Zelaya ousted in the 2009 US-backed coup d’état, and Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the leftist candidate for the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador, accusing them of being allies of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. The congressmen also call out Salvadoran right-wing UNITY coalition candidate Tony Saca as corrupt, clearly demonstrating their preference for ARENA—the only other leading party in the race. In a particularly troubling gesture, they call for “heightened security to ensure that all candidates abide by the democratic rules of the game,” and tacitly request greater participation of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI)— US institutions notorious for undermining democratic elections in the region.

This is not the duo’s first effort to intervene in the democratic process in El Salvador. In April, Salmon and Sires published a letter implying—falsely—that $300 million in US development aid from the Millennium Challenge Corporation was at risk because the US-backed Public-Private Partnership Law had not yet been approved by the Salvadoran legislature. Now, in questioning the democratic legitimacy of both Xiomara Castro and Sánchez Cerén, Sires and Salmon are setting the stage to delegitimize any leftist electoral victory from the US, and throwing their weight behind the ARENA party in El Salvador.

This is the same tactic recently employed by ultra-conservative lobbyist Otto Reich in his public comments against the FMLN, and was promptly followed by the November 4 publication of an article in the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald interviewing several ARENA party leaders claiming that Saca had made an agreement with the FMLN to divide the right-wing and bring socialism to El Salvador. The stakes are high in the upcoming presidential elections in Honduras and El Salvador, and ARENA and its allies are hard at work prevent any electoral outcome that conflicts with their vast economic interests in the region.

… The electoral contest takes place in the context of a Salvadoran social movement to end the impunity of war criminals who have thus far escaped justice due to a 1993 amnesty law whose constitutionality is now under examination by the Supreme Court of El Salvador. The issue has become especially intense since October 1, 2013, when the Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador shut down the most important human rights archives in the country, Tutela Legal, and dismissed the employees, placing the very documents that would be used in war crimes tribunals at risk of being compromised. [3] These actions have provoked international solidarity with the thousands of Salvadorans, including those in the Salvadoran diaspora, who are at work recuperating the historical memory of the country and seeking justice for the more than 70,000 citizens killed during the war as well as the survivors of torture and other war crimes. …

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment