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Lifting of US Propaganda Ban Gives New Meaning to Old Song

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan discuss allegations of Russian influence in presidential elections (CNN Screenshot)
By Whitney Webb – Mint Press News – February 12, 2018

Though its ostensible purpose is to fund the US military over a one year period, the National Defense Authorization Act, better known as the NDAA, has had numerous provisions tucked into it over the years that have targeted American civil liberties. The most well-known of these include allowing the government to wiretap American citizens without a warrant and, even more disturbingly, indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charge in the name of “national security.”

One of the lesser-known provisions that have snuck their way into the NDAA over the years was a small piece of legislation tacked onto the NDAA for fiscal year 2013, signed into law in that same year by then-President Barack Obama. Named “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012,” it completely lifted the long-existing ban on the domestic dissemination of US government-produced propaganda.

For decades, the US government had been allowed to produce and disseminate propaganda abroad in order to drum up support for its foreign wars but had been banned from distributing it domestically after the passage of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. However, the Modernization Act’s co-authors, Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA, no relation to the Smith of the 1948 act), asserted that removing the domestic ban was necessary in order to combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among populations.”

Thornberry stated that removing the ban was necessary because it had tied “the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others, by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” Yet, given that Thornberry is one of the greatest beneficiaries of weapon manufacturers’ campaign contributions, the real intent — to skeptics at least — seemed more likely related to an effort to ramp up domestic support for US military adventurism abroad following the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Libya.

Five years later, the effects of the lifting of the ban have turned what was once covert manipulation of the media by the government into a transparent “revolving door” between the media and the government. Robbie Martin — documentary filmmaker and media analyst whose documentary series,  “A Very Heavy Agenda,” explores the relationships between neoconservative think tanks and media — told MintPress, that this revolving door “has never been more clear than it is right now” as a result of the ban’s absence.

In the age of legal, weaponized propaganda directed at the American people, false narratives have become so commonplace in the mainstream and even alternative media that these falsehoods have essentially become normalized, leading to the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Those who create such news, regardless of the damage it causes or the demonstrably false nature of its claims, face little to no accountability, as long as those lies are of service to US interests. Meanwhile, media outlets that provide dissenting perspectives are being silenced at an alarming rate.

The effects of lifting the ban examined

Since 2013, newsrooms across the country, of both the mainstream and “alternative” variety, have been notably skewed towards the official government narrative, with few outside a handful of independently-funded media outlets bothering to question those narratives’ veracity. While this has long been a reality for the Western media (see John Pilger’s 2011 documentary “The War You Don’t See”), the use of government-approved narratives and sources from government-funded groups have become much more overt than in years past.

From Syria to Ukraine, US-backed coups and US-driven conflicts have been painted as locally driven movements that desperately need US support in order to “help” the citizens of those countries — even though that “help” has led to the near destruction of those countries and, in the case of  Ukraine, an attempted genocide. In these cases, many of the sources were organizations funded directly by the US government or allied governments, such as the White Helmets and Aleppo Media Centre (largely funded by the US and U.K. governments) in the case of Syria, and pro-Kiev journalists with Nazi ties (including Bogdan Boutkevitch, who called for the “extermination” of Ukrainians of Russian descent on live TV) in the case of Ukraine, among other examples. Such glaring conflicts of interests are, however, rarely — if ever — disclosed when referenced in these reports.

More recently, North Korea has been painted as presenting an imminent threat to the United States. Recent reports on this “threat” have been based on classified intelligence reports that claim that North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks, including a recent article from the New York Times. However, those same reports have admitted that this claim is purely speculative, as it is “impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago.” In other words, the article was based entirely on unverified claims from the US intelligence community that were treated as compelling.

As Martin told MintPress, many of these government-friendly narratives first began at US-funded media organizations overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — an extension of the US state department.

Martin noted that US-funded media, like Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE), were among the first to use a State Department-influenced narrative aimed at “inflaming hostilities with Russia before it soaked into mainstream reporting.” Of course, now, this narrative — with its origins in the US State Department and US intelligence community — has come to dominate headlines in the corporate media and even some “alternative” media outlets in the wake of the 2016 US election.

This is no coincidence. As Martin noted, “after the ban was lifted, things changed drastically here in the United States,” resulting in what was tantamount to a “propaganda media coup” where the State Department, and other government agencies that had earlier shaped the narrative at the BBG, used their influence on mainstream media outlets to shape those narratives as well.

A key example of this, as Martin pointed out, was the influence of the new think-tank “The Alliance for Securing Democracy,” whose advisory council and staff are loaded with neocons, such as the National Review’s Bill Kristol, and former US intelligence and State Department officials like former CIA Director Michael Morell. The Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Russia-focused offshoot, “Hamilton 68,” is frequently cited by media outlets — mainstream and alternative — as an impartial, reliable tracker of Russian “meddling” efforts on social media.

Martin remarked that he had “never seen a think tank before have such a great influence over the media so quickly,” noting that it “would have been hard to see [such influence on reporters] without the lifting of the ban,” especially given the fact that media organizations that cite Hamilton 68 do not mention its ties to former government officials and neoconservatives.

In addition, using VOA or other BBG-funded media has become much more common than it was prior to the ban, an indication that state-crafted information originally intended for a foreign audience is now being used domestically. Martin noted that this has become particularly common at some “pseudo-alternative” media organizations — i.e., formerly independent media outlets that now enjoy corporate funding. Among these, Martin made the case that VICE News stands out.

After the propaganda ban was lifted, Martin noticed that VICE’s citations of BBG sources “spiked.” He continued:

One of the things I immediately noticed was that they [VICE news ] were so quick to call out other countries’ media outlets, but yet — in every instance I looked up of them citing BBG sources — they never mentioned where the funding came from or what it was and they would very briefly mention it [information from BBG sources] like these were any other media outlets.”

He added that, in many of these cases, journalists at VICE were unaware that references to VOA or other BBG sources appeared in their articles. This was an indication that “there is some editorial staff [at VICE News ] that is putting this in from the top down.”

Furthermore, Martin noted that, soon after the ban was lifted, “VICE’s coverage mirrored the type of coverage that BBG was doing across the world in general,” which in Martin’s view indicated “there was definitely some coordination between the State Department and VICE.” This coordination was also intimated by BBG’s overwhelmingly positive opinion of VICE in their auditing reports, in which the BBG “seemed more excited about VICE than any other media outlet” — especially since VICE was able to use BBG organizations as sources while maintaining its reputation as a “rebel” media outlet.

Martin notes that these troubling trends have been greatly enabled by the lifting of the ban. He opined that the ban was likely lifted “in case someone’s cover [in spreading government propaganda disguised as journalism] was blown,” in which case “it wouldn’t be seen as illegal.” He continued:

For example, if a CIA agent at the Washington Post is directly piping in US government propaganda or a reporter is working the US government to pipe in propaganda, it wouldn’t be seen as a violation of the law. Even though it could have happened before the ban, it’s under more legal protection now.

Under normal circumstances, failing to disclose conflicts of interests of key sources and failing to question government narratives would be considered acts of journalistic malpractice. However, in the age of legal propaganda, this dereliction matters much less. Propaganda is not intended to be factual or impartial — it is intended to serve a specific purpose, namely influencing public opinion in a way that serves US government interests. As Karl Rove, the former advisor and deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush, once said, the US “is an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” This “reality” is defined not by facts but by its service to empire.

Meanwhile, counter-narratives, however fact-based they may be, are simultaneously derided as conspiracy theories or “fake news,” especially if they question or go against government narratives.

The revolving door

Another major consequence of the ban being lifted goes a step further than merely influencing narratives. In recent years, there has been the growing trend of hiring former government officials, including former US intelligence directors and other psyops veterans, in positions once reserved for journalists. In their new capacity as talking heads on mainstream media reports, they repeat the stance of the US intelligence community to millions of Americans, with their statements and views unchallenged.

For instance, last year, CNN hired former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper, a key architect of RussiaGate, has committed perjury by lying to Congress and more recently lied about the Trump campaign being wiretapped through a FISA request. He has also made racist, Russophobic comments on national television. Now, however, he is an expert analyst for “the most trusted name in news.” CNN last year also hired Michael Hayden, who is a former Director of both the CIA and the NSA, and former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.

CNN isn’t alone. NBC/MSNBC recently hired former CIA director John Brennan — another key architect of RussiaGate and the man who greenlighted (and lied about) CIA spying on Congress — as a contributor and “senior national security and intelligence analyst.” NBC also employs Jeremy Bash, former CIA and DoD Chief of Staff, as a national security analyst, as well as reporter Ken Dilanian, who is known for his “collaborative relationship” with the CIA.

This “revolving door” doesn’t stop there. After the BBG was restructured by the 2016 NDAA, the “board” for which the organization was named was dissolved, making BBG’s CEO — a presidential appointee — all powerful. BBG’s current CEO is John Lansing, who – prior to taking the top post at the BBG – was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), a marketing association comprised of 90 of the top US and Canadian cable companies and television programmers. Lansing’s connection to US cable news companies is just one example of how this revolving door opens both ways.

Media-government coordination out of the shadows

Such collusion between mainstream media and the US government is hardly new. It has only become more overt since the Smith-Mundt ban was lifted.

For instance, the CIA, through Operation Mockingbird, started recruiting mainstream journalists and media outlets as far back as the 1960s in order to covertly influence the American public by disguising propaganda as news. The CIA even worked with top journalism schools to change their curricula in order to produce a new generation of journalists that would better suit the US government’s interests. Yet the CIA effort to manipulate the media was born out of the longstanding view in government that influencing the American public through propaganda was not only useful, but necessary.

Indeed, Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, who also worked closely with the government in the creation and dissemination of propaganda, once wrote:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

While this was once an “invisible” phenomenon, it is quickly becoming more obvious. Now, Silicon Valley oligarchs with ties to the US government have bought mainstream and pseudo-alternative media outlets and former CIA directors are given prominent analyst positions on cable news programs. The goal is to manufacture support at home for the US’ numerous conflicts around the world, which are only likely to grow as the Pentagon takes aim at “competing states” like Russia and China in an increasingly desperate protection of American hegemony.

With the propaganda ban now a relic, the once-covert propaganda machine long used to justify war after war is now operating out in the open and out of control.

February 13, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fake News on Russia in the New York Times, 1917-2017

By Edward S. Herman | Monthly Review | July-August 2017

It has been amusing watching the New York Times (Times) and its fellow mainstream media (MSM) cohort express their dismay over the rise and spread of “fake news.” They take it as an obvious truth that what they provide is straightforward and unbiased fact-based news. They do offer such news, but they also provide a steady flow of their own varied forms of genuinely fake news, often in disseminating false or misleading information supplied them by the CIA, other branches of government, and sites of corporate power. An important form of MSM fake news is that which is presented while suppressing information that calls the preferred news into question. This was the case with “The Lie That Wasn’t Shot Down,” the title of a January 18, 1988 Times editorial referring to a propaganda claim of five years earlier that the editors had swallowed and never looked into any further. The lie–that the Soviets knew that Korean airliner 007, which they shot down on August 31, 1983, was a civilian plane–was eventually uncovered by congressman Lee Hamilton, not by the Times.

MSM fake news is especially likely where a party line is quickly formed on a topic, with deviationism therefore immediately looking naïve, unpatriotic or simply wrong. In a dramatic illustration, in a book chapter entitled “Worthy and Unworthy Victims,” Noam Chomsky and I showed that coverage by Time, Newsweek, CBS News and the New York Times of the 1984 murder of the priest Jerzy Popieluzko in communist Poland, a dramatic and politically useful event for the politicized western MSM, exceeded their coverage of the murders of 100 religious figures killed in Latin America by U.S. client states in the post-World War II years taken together.1 It was cheap and free of any negative feedback to focus heavily on the “worthy” victim, whereas looking closely at the deaths of the 100 would have required an expensive and sometimes dangerous research effort and would have upset the State Department. But it was a form of fake news to discriminate so heavily with news (and indignation) on a politically useful victim while ignoring large numbers whose murder the political establishments wanted downplayed or completely suppressed.

The Fake News Tradition on Russia in the New York Times

Fake news on Russia is a Times tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the 1917 revolution. In a classic study of the paper’s coverage of the Russian revolution from February 1917 to March 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz found that “From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all….They can fairly be charged with boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions with a downright lack of common sense.”2 Lippmann and Merz found that strong editorial bias clearly fed into news reporting. The editors very much wanted the communists to lose, and serving this end caused the paper to report atrocities that didn’t happen and the imminent fall of the Bolshevik regime on a regular basis (at least 91 times). There was a heavy and uncritical acceptance of official handouts and reliance on statements from unidentified “high authority.” This was standard Times practice.

This fake news performance of 1917-1920 was repeated often in the years that followed. The Soviet Union was an enemy target up to World War II, and Times coverage was consistently hostile. With the end of World War II and the Soviet Union at that point a major military power, and soon a rival nuclear power, the Cold War was on. Anti-communism became a major U.S. religion, and the Soviet Union was quickly found to be trying to conquer the world and needing containment. With this ideology in place and U.S. plans for its own real global expansion of power well established,3 the communist threat would now help sustain the steady growth of the military-industrial complex and repeated interventions to deal with purported Soviet aggressions.

An Early Great Crime: Guatemala

One of the most flagrant cases in which the Russian threat was used to justify U.S.-organized violence was the overthrow of the social democratic government of Guatemala in 1954 by a small proxy army invading from U.S. ally Somoza’s Nicaragua. This action was provoked by government reforms that upset U.S. officials, including a 1947 law permitting the formation of labor unions, and government plans to buy back (at tax rate valuations) and distribute to landless peasants some of the unused land owned by United Fruit Company and other large landowners. The U.S., which had been perfectly content with the earlier 14-year- long dictatorship of Jose Ubico, could not tolerate this democratic challenge and the elected government, led by Jacobo Arbenz, was soon charged with assorted villainies, with the main fake news base of an alleged Red capture of the Guatemalan government.4

In the pre-invasion propaganda campaign the unified MSM leveled a stream of false charges of extreme repression, threats to its neighbors, and the communist takeover. The Times featured these alleged abuses and threats repeatedly from 1950 onward (my favorite, Sidney Gruson’s “How Communists Won Control of Guatemala,” March 1, 1953). Arbenz and his predecessor, Juan Jose Arevalo, had carefully avoided establishing any embassies with Soviet bloc countries, fearing U.S. reactions. But it was to no avail. Following the removal of Arbenz and installation of a right-wing dictatorship, court historian Ronald Schneider, after studying 50,000 documents seized from communist sources in Guatemala, found that not only did the communists never control the country, but that the Soviet Union “made no significant or even material investment in the Arbenz regime” and was too preoccupied with internal problems to concern itself with Central America.5

The coup government quickly attacked and decimated the organized groups that had formed in the democratic era, like peasant, worker and teacher organizations. Arbenz had won 65 percent of the votes in a free election, but the “liberator” Castillo Armas quickly won a “plebiscite” with 99.6 percent of the vote. Although this is a result familiar in totalitarian regimes, the MSM had lost interest in Guatemala and barely mentioned this electoral outcome. The Times had claimed back in 1950 that U.S. Guatemala policy “is not trying to block social and economic progress but is interested in seeing that Guatemala becomes a liberal democracy.”6 But in the aftermath the editors failed to note that the result of U.S. policy was precisely to “block social and economic progress,” and via the installation of a regime of terror.

In 2011, more than half a century after 1954, Elizabeh Malkin reported in the Times that Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom had apologized for that ”great crime [the violent overthrow of the Arbenz government in 1954] …an act of aggression to a government starting its democratic spring.” (“An apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later,” October 20, 2011). Malkin mentions that, according to president Colom, the Arbenz family is “seeking an apology from the United States for its role” in the “great Crime.” There has never been any apology or even acknowledgement of its role in the Great Crime by the editors of the New York Times.

Another Great Crime: Vietnam

There were many fake news reports in the Times and other mainstream publications during the Vietnam war. The claim that the Times was anti-Vietnam-war is misleading and essentially false. In Without Fear or Favor, former Times reporter Harrison Salisbury acknowledged that in 1962, when U.S. intervention escalated, the Times was “deeply and consistently” supportive of the war policy.7 He contends that the paper became steadily more oppositional from 1965, culminating in the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. But Salisbury fails to recognize that from 1954 to the present the paper never abandoned the Cold War framework and language of apologetics, according to which the U.S. was resisting somebody else’s aggression and protecting “South Vietnam.” The paper never applied the word aggression to this country, but used it freely in referring to North Vietnamese actions and those of the National Liberation Front in the southern half of Vietnam.

The various halts in the U.S. bombing war in 1965 and later in the alleged interest of “giving peace a chance” were also fake news, as the Johnson administration used the halts to quiet antiwar protests, while making it clear to the Vietnamese that U.S. officials demanded full surrender. The Times and its colleagues swallowed this bait without a murmur of dissent.8

Furthermore, although from 1965 onward the Times was willing to publish more information that put the war in a less favorable light, it never broke from its heavy dependence on official sources or its reluctance to check out official lies or explore the damage being wrought on Vietnam and its civilian population by the U.S. war machine. In contrast with its eager pursuit of Cambodian refugees from the Khmer Rouge after April 1975, the paper rarely sought out testimony from the millions of Vietnamese refugees fleeing U.S. bombing and chemical warfare. In its opinion columns as well, the new openness was limited to commentators who accepted the premises of the war and would confine their criticisms to its tactical problems and costs–;to us. From beginning to end those who criticized the war as aggression and immoral at its root were excluded from the debate by the Times.9

The 1981 Papal Assassination Attempt. The “Missile Gap,” and “Humanitarian Intervention” in Yugoslavia

Papal Assassination Attempt. A major contribution to Cold War propaganda was provided by fake news on the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 1981. This was a time when the Reagan administration was trying hard to demonize the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” The shooting of the Pope by the Turkish fascist Ali Agca was quickly tied to Moscow, helped by Agca’s confession, after 17 months imprisonment, interrogations, threats, inducements, and access to the media, that the Bulgarians and Soviet KGB were behind it. There was never any credible evidence of this connection, the claims were implausible, and the corruption in the process was remarkable. (See Manufacturing Consent, chapter 4 and Appendix 2). And Agca also periodically claimed to be Jesus Christ. The case against the Bulgarians (and implicitly the KGB) was lost even in Italy’s extremely biased and politicized judicial framework. But the Times bought it, and gave it long, intensive and completely uncritical attention, as did most of the U.S. media.

In 1991, in Senate hearings on the qualifications of Robert Gates to head the CIA, former CIA officer Melvin Goodman testified that the CIA knew [from the start that Agca’s confessions were false because they had “very good penetration” of the Bulgarian secret services. The Times omitted this statement by Goodman in reporting on his testimony. In the same year. with Bulgaria now a member of the Free World, conservative analyst Allen Weinstein obtained permission to examine Bulgarian secret service files on the papal assassination attempt. His mission was widely reported when he went, including in the Times, but when he returned without having found anything implicating Bulgaria or the KGB, a number of papers, including the Times, found this not newsworthy.

Missile Gap. There was a great deal of fake news in the “missile gap” and other gap eras, from roughly 1975 to 1986, with Times reporters passing along official and often false news in a regular stream. An important case occurred in the mid-1970s, at a time when the U.S. war-party was trying to escalate the Cold War and arms race. A 1975 report of CIA professionals found that the Soviets were aiming only for nuclear parity. This was unsatisfactory, so CIA head George H.W. Bush appointed a new team of hardliners, who soon found that the Soviets were achieving nuclear superiority and getting ready to fight a nuclear war. This Team B report was taken at face value in a Times front page article of December 26, 1976 by David Binder, who failed to mention its political bias or purpose and made no attempt by tapping experts with different views to get at the truth. The CIA admitted in 1983 that the Team B estimates were fabrications. But throughout this period, 1975-1986, the Times supported the case for militarization by disseminating lots of fake news. Much of this false information was convincingly refuted by Tom Gervasi in his classic The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), a book never reviewed in the paper despite the paper’s frequent attention to its subject matter.

Yugoslavia and “Humanitarian Intervention.” The 1990s wars of dismantlement of Yugoslavia succeeded in removing an independent government from power and replacing it with a broken Serbian remnant and poor and unstable failed states in Bosnia and Kosovo. It did provide unwarranted support for the new concept of “humanitarian intervention,” which rested on a mass of fake news. The demonized Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic was not an ultra-nationalist seeking a “Greater Serbia,” but rather a non-aligned leader on the Western hit list who tried to help Serb minorities in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo remain in Yugoslavia as the U.S. and EU supported a legally questionable exodus by several constituent Yugoslav Republics. He supported each of the proposed settlements of these conflicts, sabotaged by Bosnian and U.S. officials who wanted better terms or the outright military defeat of Serbia, the latter of which they achieved. Milosevic had nothing to do with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which involved Bosnian Serbs taking revenge on Bosnian Muslim soldiers who had been ravaging nearby Bosnian Serb villages from their base in Srebrenica under NATO protection. The several thousand Serb civilian deaths were essentially unreported in the MSM, while the numbers of Srebrenica executed victims were correspondingly inflated. The Times’s reporting on these events was fake news on a systematic basis.10

The Putin Era: A Golden Age of Fake News

The U.S. establishment was shocked and thrilled with the 1989-1991 fall of the Soviet Union, and its members were happy with the policies carried out under President Boris Yeltsin, a virtual U.S. client, under whose rule ordinary Russians suffered a calamity but a small set of oligarchs was able to loot the broken state. Yeltsin’s election victory in 1996, greatly assisted by U.S. consultants, advice and money, and otherwise seriously corrupt, was, for the editors of the Times, “A Victory for Russian Democracy” (NYT, ed, July 4, 1996). They were not bothered by either the electoral corruption, the creation of a grand-larceny-based economic oligarchy, or, shortly thereafter, the new rules centralizing power in the office of president.11

Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, by gradually abandoning the Yeltsin era subservience was thereby perceived as a steadily increasing menace. His re-election in 2012, although surely less corrupt than Yeltsin’s in 1996, was treated harshly in the media. The lead Times article on May 5, 2012 featured “a slap in the face” from OSCE observers, claims of no real competition, and “thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Moscow square to chant ‘Russia without Putin’” (Ellen Barry and Michael Schwartz, “After Election, Putin Faces Challenges to Legitimacy”). There had been no “challenges to legitimacy” reported in the Times after Yeltsin’s corrupt victory in 1996.

The process of Putin demonization escalated with the Ukraine crisis of 2014 and its sequel of Kiev warfare against Eastern Ukraine, Russian support of the East Ukraine resistance, and the Crimean referendum and absorption of Crimea by Russia. This was all declared “aggression” by the U.S. and its allies and clients, sanctions were imposed on Russia, and a major U.S.-NATO military buildup was initiated on Russia’s borders. Tensions mounted further with the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over southeastern Ukraine, effectively, but almost surely falsely, blamed on the “pro-Russian” rebels and Russia itself.12

A further cause of demonization and anti-Russian hostility resulted from the escalated Russian intervention in Syria from 2015 in support of Bashar al-Assad and against ISIS and al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda. The U.S. and its NATO and Middle East allies had been committing aggression against Syria, in de facto alliance with ISIS and al-Nusra, for several years. Russian intervention turned the tide, the U.S. (Saudi, etc.) goal of removing Assad was upset and the tacit U.S. allies ISIS and al-Nusra were also weakened. Certainly demonic behavior by Putin!

The Times has treated these further developments with unstinting apologetics–for the February 2014 coup in Kiev, which it never calls a coup, with the U.S. role in the overthrow of the elected government of Victor Yanukovych suppressed, and with anger and horror at the Crimea referendum and Russian absorption, which it never allows to be a defensive response to the Kiev coup. Its call for punishment of the casualty-free Russian “aggression” in Crimea is in marked contrast with its apologetics for the million-plus-casualty–rich U.S. aggression “of choice” (not defensive) in Iraq from March 2003 on. The editors and liberal columnist Paul Krugman angrily cite Putin’s lack of respect for international law,13 with their internalized double standard exempting their own country from criticism for its repeated violations of that law.

In the Times’s reporting and opinion columns Russia is regularly assailed as expansionist and threatening its neighbors, but virtually no mention is made of NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders and first-strike-threat placement of anti-missile weapons in Eastern Europe, the latter earlier claimed to be in response to a missile threat from Iran! Analyses by political scientist John Mearsheimer and Russia authority Stephen F. Cohen that featured this NATO advance could not make it into the opinion pages of the Times.14 On the other hand, a member of the Russian Pussy Riot band, Maria Alyokhina, was given op-ed space to denounce Putin and Russia,15 and the punk-rock group was granted a meeting with the Times editorial board. Between January 1 and March 31, 2014 the paper had 23 articles featuring the Pussy Riot group and its alleged significance as a symbol of Russian limits on free speech. Pussy Riot had disrupted a church service in Moscow and only stopped upon police intervention, which was at the request of the church authorities. A two year prison sentence followed. In contrast, in February 2014, 84 year old Sister Megan Rice was sentenced to four years in prison in the U.S. for having entered a nuclear weapons site in July 2012 and carried out a symbolic protest action. The Times gave this news a tiny mention in its National Briefing section under the title “Tennessee Nun is Sentenced for Peace Protest.” No op-ed columns or meeting with the Times board for Rice. There are worthy and unworthy protesters as well as victims.

As regards Syria, with Russian help the Assad forces were able to dislodge the rebels from Aleppo, to the dismay of Washington and the MSM. It has been enlightening to see how much concern has been expressed over casualties to civilians in Aleppo, with pictures of forsaken children and many stories of civilian distress. The Times focused heavily on those civilians and children, with great indignation at Putin-Assad inhumanity,16 in sharp contrast with their virtual silence on civilian casualties in Falluja in 2004 and beyond, and recently in rebel-held areas of Syria, and in Mosul (Iraq), under U.S. and allied attack.17 The differential treatment of worthy and unworthy victims has been in full sway in dealing with Syria, displayed again with the chemical weapons casualties and Trump bombing response in April 2017 (discussed below).

A further and important phase of intensifying Russophobia may be dated from the October 2016 presidential debates, where Hillary Clinton declared that Mr. Trump would be a Putin “puppet” as president, and her campaign stressed this threat. This emphasis increased after the election, with the help of the media and intelligence services, as the Clinton camp sought to explain the election loss, maintain party control, and possibly get the election result overturned in the courts or electoral college by blaming the Trump victory on Russia.

The Putin connection was given great impetus by the January 6, 2017 release of a report of the Office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), on Background of Assessing Russian Activities and Intention in Recent US Elections This short document spends more than half of its space describing the Russian-sponsored RT-TV network, which it treats as an illegitimate propaganda source given its sponsorship and sometimes critical reports on U.S. policy and institutions! RT is allegedly part of Russia’s “influence campaign,” and the DNI says that “We assess the influence campaign aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.” There is no semblance of proof that there was a planned “campaign” rather than an ongoing expression of opinion and news judgments. All the logic and proofs of a Russian “influence campaign” could be applied with at least equal force to U.S. media and Radio Free Europe’s treatment of any Russian election, and of course the U.S. intervention in the 1996 Russian election was overt, direct and went far beyond any “influence campaign.”

As regards the DNI’s proof of a more direct Russian intervention in the U.S. election, the authors concede the absence of “full supporting evidence,” but they provide no supporting evidence—only assertions, assessments, assumptions and guesses. It states that “We assess that … Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2015” designed to defeat Mrs. Clinton, and “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” but it provides no evidence whatsoever for any such order. It also provides no evidence that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the e-mails of Clinton and former Clinton campaign manager Podesta, or that it gave hacked information to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange and former British diplomat Craig Murray have repeatedly claimed that these sources were leaked by local insiders, not hacked by anybody. And the veteran intelligence agency experts William Binney and Ray McGovern also contend that the WikiLeaks evidence was surely leaked, not hacked.18 It is also notable that among the three intelligence agencies who signed the DNI document, only “moderate confidence” in its findings was expressed by the National Security Agency (NSA), the agency that would most clearly be in possession of proof of Russian hacking and transmission to WikiLeaks as well as any “orders” from Putin.

But the Times has taken the Russian hacking story as established fact, despite the absence of hard evidence (as with the Reds ruling Guatemala, the “missile gaps,” etc.). Times reporter David Sanger refers to the report’s “damning and surprisingly detailed account of Russia’s efforts to undermine the American electoral system,” but he then acknowledges that the published report “contains no information about how the agencies had … come to their conclusions.”19 The report itself includes the amazing statement that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” This is a denial of the credibility of its own purported evidence (i.e., “assessments”). Furthermore, if the report was based on “intercepts of conversations” as well as hacked computer data, as Sanger and the DNI claim, why has the DNI failed to quote a single conversation showing Putin’s alleged orders and plans to destabilize the West?

The Times never cites or gives editorial space to William Binney, Ray McGovern or Craig Murray, who are dissident authorities on hacking technology, methodology and the specifics of the DNC hacks. But op-ed space was given to Louise Mensch’s “What to ask about Russian hacking” (NYT, March 17, 2017). Mensch is a notorious conspiracy theorist with no technical background in this area and who is described by Nathan Robinson and Alex Nichols as best-known for “spending most of her time on Twitter issuing frenzied denunciations of imagined armies of online ‘Putinbots’” and is “one of the least credible people on the internet.”20 But she is published in the Times because, in contrast with the well-informed and credible William Binney and Craig Murray, she follows the party line, taking Russian hacking of the DNC as a premise.

The CIA’s brazen intervention in the election process in 2016 and 2017 broke new ground in secret service politicization. Former CIA head Michael Morell had an August 5, 2016 op-ed in the Times entitled “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton”; and former CIA boss Michael Hayden had an op-ed in the Washington Post just days before the election, entitled “Former CIA Chief:- Trump is Russia’s Useful Fool” (November 3, 2016). Morell had another op-ed in the Times on January 6, now openly assailing the new president (“Trump’s Dangerous Anti-CIA Crusade”). These attacks were unrelievedly insulting to Trump and laudatory to Clinton, even making Trump a traitor; they also make it clear that Clinton’s more pugnacious approach to Syria and Russia is much preferred to Trump’s leanings toward negotiation and cooperation with Russia.

This was also true of the further scandal with former Trump Defense Intelligence nominee Michael Flynn’s call from the Russian Ambassador, which possibly included exchanges about future Trump administration policy actions. This was quickly grasped by the outgoing Obama officials, security personnel and MSM, with the FBI interrogating Flynn and with widespread expressions of horror at Flynn’s action, allegedly possibly setting him up for blackmail. But such pre-inauguration meetings with Russian diplomats have been a “common practice” according to Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador to Russia under Reagan and Bush, and Matlock had personally arranged such a meeting for Jimmy Carter.21 Obama’s own Russia adviser, Michael McFaul, admitted visiting Moscow for talks with officials in 2008 even before the election. Daniel Lazare makes a good case that not only are the illegality and blackmail threat implausible, but that the FBI’s interrogation of Flynn also reeks of entrapment. And he asks what is wrong with trying to reduce tensions with Russia? “Yet anti-Trump liberals are trying to convince the public that it’s all ‘worse than Watergate’.”22

So the political point of the Assessment seems to have been, at minimum, to tie the Trump administration’s hands in its dealings with Russia. Some non-MSM analysts have argued that we may have been witnessing an incipient spy or palace coup, that fell short but still had the desired effect of weakening the new administration.23 The Times has not offered a word of criticism of this politicization and intervention in the election process by the intelligence agencies, and in fact the editors have been working with them and the Democratic Party as a loosely-knit team in a distinctly un- and anti-democratic program designed to reverse the results of the 2016 election, while using an alleged foreign electoral intervention as their excuse.

The Times and MSM in general have also barely mentioned the awkward fact that the allegedly Russian-hacked disclosures of the DNC and Clinton and Podesta e-mails described uncontested facts about real electoral manipulations on behalf of the Clinton campaign that the public had a right to know and that might well have affected election results. The focus on the evidence-free claims of a Russian hacking intrusion helped divert attention from the real electoral abuses disclosed by the WikiLeaks material. So here again, official and MSM fake news helped bury real news!

Another arrow in the campaign quiver labeling Trump a knowing or “useful fool” instrument of Putin was a private intelligence “dossier” written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent working for Orbis Business Intelligence, a private firm hired by the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump. Steele’s first report, delivered in June 2016, made numerous serious accusations against Trump, most notably that Trump had been caught in a sexual escapade in Moscow, that his political advance had been supported by the Kremlin for at least five years, under the direction of Putin, and with the further aims of sowing discord within the U.S. and disrupting the Western alliance. This document was based on alleged conversations by Steele with distant (Russian) officials; that is, strictly hearsay evidence, whose assertions, where verifiable, are sometimes erroneous.24 But it said just what the Democrats, MSM and CIA wanted said, so intelligence officials declared the author “credible” and the media lapped this up, with the Times covering over its own cooperation in this ugly denigration effort by calling the report “unverified” but nevertheless reporting its claims.25

The Steele dossier also became a central part of the investigation and hearings on “Russia-gate” held by the House Intelligence Committee starting in March 2017, led by Democratic Representative Adam Schiff. While basing his opening statement on the hearsay-laden dossier, Schiff expressed no interest in establishing who funded the Steele effort (he produced 17 individual reports), the identity and exact status of the Russian officials who were the hearsay sources, and how much they were paid. Apparently talking to Russians with a design of influencing a U.S. presidential election is perfectly acceptable if the candidate supported by this Russian intrusion is anti-Russian!

The Times has played a major role in this Russophobia-enhancement process, reminiscent of its 1917-1920 performance in which, as noted back in 1920 “boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled” characterized the news-making process. While quoting the CIA’s admission that they were showing no hard evidence, but were relying on “circumstantial evidence” and “capabilities,” the Times was happy to spell these capabilities out at great length and imply that they proved something.26 Editorials and news articles have worked uniformly on the supposition that Russian hacking was proved, which it was not, and that the Russians had given these data to WikiLeaks, also unproven and strenuously denied by Assange and Murray. So these reiterated claims are arguably first class “fake news” swallowed as palatable facts.

The Times has run neck-and-neck with the Washington Post in stirring up fears of the Russian information war and improper involvement with Trump. The Times now easily conflates fake news with any criticism of established institutions, as in Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy’s “Europe Combats a New Foe of Political Stability: Fake News,” February 20, 2017.27 But what is more extraordinary is the uniformity with which the paper’s regular columnists accept as a given the CIA’s Assessment of the Russian hacking and transmission to WikiLeaks, the possibility or likelihood that Trump is a Putin puppet, and the urgent need of a congressional and “non-partisan” investigation of these claims. This swallowing of a new war-party line has extended widely in the liberal media (e.g., Bill Moyers, Robert Reich, Ryan Lizza, Joan Walsh, Rachel Maddow, Katha Pollitt, Joshua Holland, the AlterNet web site, etc.).

Both the Times and Washington Post have given tacit support to the idea that this “fake news” threat needs to be curbed, possibly by some form of voluntary media-organized censorship or government intervention that would at least expose the fakery.

The Times has treated uncritically the Schiff hearings on dealing with Russian propaganda, and its opinion column by Louise Mensch strongly supports government hearings to expose Russian propaganda. Mensch names 26 individuals who should be interrogated about their contacts with Russians, and she supplies questions they should be asked.

The most remarkable media episode in this anti-influence-campaign campaign was the Washington Post‘s piece by Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” (November 24, 2016). The article features a report by an anonymous author or authors, PropOrNot, that claims to have found 200 web sites that wittingly or unwittingly, were “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” While smearing these web sites, the “experts” refused to identify themselves allegedly out of fear of being “targeted by legions of skilled hackers.” As Matt Taibbi says, “You want to blacklist hundreds of people, but you won’t put your name to your claims? Take a hike.”28 But the Post welcomed and featured this McCarthyite effort, which might well be a product of Pentagon or CIA information warfare. (And these entities are themselves well funded and heavily into the propaganda business.)

On December 23, 2016 President Obama signed the Portman-Murphy “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act,” which will supposedly allow this country to more effectively combat foreign (Russian, Chinese) propaganda and disinformation. It will encourage more government counter-propaganda efforts (which will, by patriotic definition, not be U.S. propaganda) and provide funding to non-government entities that will help in this enterprise. It is clearly a follow-on to the claims of Russian hacking and propaganda, and shares the spirit of the listing of 200 knowing or “useful fools” of Moscow featured in the Washington Post. Perhaps PropOrNot will qualify for a subsidy and be able to enlarge its list of 200. Liberals have been quiet on this new threat to freedom of speech, undoubtedly influenced by their fears of Russian-based fake news and propaganda. But they may wake up, even if belatedly, when Trump or one of his successors puts it to work on their own notions of fake news and propaganda.

The success of the war party’s campaign to contain or overthrow any tendencies of Trump to ease tensions with Russia was dramatically clear in the Trump administration’s speedy bombing response to the April 4, 2017 Syrian chemical weapons deaths. The Times and other MSM editors and journalists greeted this aggressive move with almost uniform enthusiasm,29 and once again did not require evidence of Assad’s guilt beyond their government’s say-so. The action was damaging to Assad and Russia, but served the rebels well. But the MSM never ask cui bono? in cases like this. In 2003 a similar charge against Assad, which brought the U.S. to the brink of a full-scale bombing war in Syria, turned out to be a false flag operation, and some potent authorities believe the current case is equally problematic.30 But Trump moved quickly (and unlawfully) and any further rapproachement between this country and Russia was set back. The CIA, Pentagon, liberal-Democrats and rest of the war party had won an important skirmish in the struggle for and against permanent war.

  1. Manufacturing Consent (New York: Pantheon, 1988, 2002, 2008), chap. 2.
  2. Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz, A Test of the News (New York: New Republic, 1920).
  3. On the Grand Area framework, see Noam Chomsky, “Lecture one, The New Framework of Order,” On Power And Ideology: The Managua Lectures (Boston, South End Press, 1987).
  4. Edward Herman, “Returning Guatemala to the Fold,” in Gary Rawnsley, ed., Cold War Propaganda in the 1950s (London, Macmillan, 1999).
  5. Ronald Schneider, Communism in Guatemala, 1944-1954 (New York: Praeger, 1959), 41, 196-7, 294.
  6. “The Guatemala Incident,” New York Times (ed., April 8, 1950).
  7. Harrison Salisbury, Without Fear or Favor (New York: Times Books, 1980), 486.
  8. Richard DuBoff and Edward Herman, America’s Vietnam Policy: The Strategy of Deception (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1966).
  9. See Manufacturing Consent, chap. 6 (Vietnam).
  10. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,” Monthly Review, October 2007; Herman and Peterson, “Marlise Simons on the Yugoslavia Tribunal: A Study in Total Propaganda Service,” ZNet, April 16, 2005.
  11. Stephen F. Cohen, Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000).
  12. Robert Parry, “Troubling Gaps in the New MH-17 Report,” Consortiumnews.com. September 28, 2016.
  13. Paul Krugman says “Mr. Putin is someone who doesn’t worry about little things like international law,” in “The Siberian Candidate,” New York Times, July 22, 2016. The fake news implication is that U.S. leaders do worry about it.
  14. A version of Mearsheimer’s article “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” published in Foreign Affairs, Sept. 10, 2014, was offered to the Times but not accepted. Stephen Cohen’s 2012 article “The Demonization of Putin” was also rejected by the paper.
  15. “Sochi Under Siege,” New York Times, February 21, 2014.
  16. Michael Kimmelman, “Aleppo’s F aces Beckon to Us, To Little Avail,” New York Times,, Dec. 15, 2016. Above this front page article are four photos of dead or injured children, the most prominent one in Syria. The accompanying editorial: “Aleppo’s Destroyers: Assad, Putin, Iran,” December. 15, 2016, omits some key actors and killers.
  17. Rick Sterling, “How US Propaganda Plays in Syrian War,” Consortiumnews.com, September. 23, 2016.
  18. William Binney and Ray McGovern, “The Dubious Case on Russian ‘Hacking’,” Consortiumnews.com January 6, 2017.
  19. David Sanger, “Putin Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ Aimed at U.S. Election, Report Says,” NYT, January 6, 4017.
  20. Nathan Robinson and Alex Nichols, “What Constitutes Reasonable Mainstream Opinion,” Current Affairs, March 22, 2017.
  21. “Contacts With Russian Embassy,” JackAMatlock.com, March 4, 2017.
  22. Daniel Lazare, “Democrats, Liberals, Catch McCarthyistic Fever,” Consortiumnew.com, February 17, 2917.
  23. Robert Parry, “A Spy Coup in America?,” Consortiumnews,com, Dec. 18, 2016; Andre Damon, “Democratic Party Floats Proposal for a Palace Coup,” Information Clearing House, March 23, 2017.
  24. Robert Parry, “The Sleazy Origins of Russia-gate,” Consortiumnews.com, March 29, 2017.
  25. Scott Shane et al, “How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump,” New York Times, January 11, 2017.
  26. Matt Fegenheimer and Scott Shane,” “Bipartisan Voices Back U.S. Agencies On Russia Hacking,” NYT, January 6, 2017; Michael Shear and David Sanger, “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds,“ NYT January 7, 2017; Andrew Kramer, “How the Kremlin Recruited an Army of Specialists to Wage Its Cyberwar,” NYT, Dec. 30, 2016.
  27. Robert Parry, “NYT’s Fake News about Fake News,”Consortium news.com, February 22, 2017.
  28. Matt Taibbi, “The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting,” Rolling Stone.com, November 28, 2016.
  29. Adam Johnson, “Out of 47 Media Editorials on Trump’s Syria Strikes, Only One Opposed,” Fair, April 11, 2017.
  30. Scott Ritter, “Wag the Dog—How Al Qaeda Played Donald Trump And The American Media: Responsibility for the chemical event in Khan Sheikhoun is still very much in question,” Huffingtonpost.com, April 9, 2017; James Carden, ”The Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria; Is there a place for skepticism?,” Nation, April 11, 2017.

Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.

July 8, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump’s Doubt of US Intel’s Groundless Claims of Russian Hack ‘Defies Logic’

Sputnik – 17.10.2016

US security officials are bewildered that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has dared to doubt their allegations against the big bad russkies. Who would have thought?

Any statement made by US intelligence should be perceived as unquestionable truth, and shouldn’t be interrogated for proof. And should someone, like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for instance, dare to put such statements to doubt, he should be burned on a pyre as a heretic and blasphemer.

Sound absurd?

Not to many current and former US security officials, according to The Washington Post.

In the first US presidential debate on September 26, Trump openly doubted US intel’s allegations that it was Russia that conducted the hack on Democratic National Committee servers that exposed some dark truths about the party.

“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” he said. “I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”

According to the Post, which consulted several former intelligence officials, “Trump is either willfully disputing intelligence assessments, has a blind spot on Russia, or perhaps doesn’t understand the nonpartisan traditions and approach of intelligence professionals.”

Of course, we can’t know whether Trump has a “blind spot” on Russia (he might have, but he hasn’t let us know). And, of course, the “approach of intelligence professionals” is undoubtedly “nonpartisan,” as both Democrats and Republican seem to be in unanimous agreement in their anti-Russian hysteria. But does that mean that intelligence “assessments” are inherently unbiased and cannot be willfully disputed?

Let’s be real. No proof of Russian involvement in the hacks has yet been presented. And it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that it is unlikely to ever materialize, as groundless accusations about Moscow for these kinds of breaches has become old hat for US officials on both sides of the political aisle. Everyone, from Congress to the US mainstream media, has chosen to be content with officials’ assurances that “we are confident.”

Sorry, guys, but that’s just not good enough for everyone.

According to basic principles of logic, when accusations are made, the accuser should be expected to furnish evidence of their claims. Otherwise, depending on the severity of the finger-pointing, it might be called defamation or libel and it’s a crime that’s subject to legal prosecution.

Challenging this basic principle, it would seem, defies logic. Remarkably, however, General Michael V. Hayden, former director of the CIA and the National Security Agency, seems to believe that it’s “defying logic” not to.

“He seems to ignore [intelligence officials’] advice,” Hayden added, referring to the fact that Trump has been accused of lacking expertise in certain arenas.

And his candidacy is certainly diverging from the expectations of many — the US intelligence community, it turns out, is no exception.

“In my experience, candidates have taken into account the information they have received and modulated their comments,” the Post quoted former acting CIA director John McLaughlin as saying.

“I don’t recall a previous candidate saying they didn’t believe” information from an intelligence briefing, John Rizzo, a former CIA lawyer who served under seven presidents, added.

Well, gentlemen, believe it or not, this candidate does.

“It’s remarkable that [Trump] refused to say an unkind syllable about Vladimir Putin,” General Hayden added. It would seem, too, that hurling accusations at Putin, regardless of the grounds, has likewise become a norm of good behavior — and American political correctness.

October 17, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 GOP officials: Trump endangers US national security

Press TV – August 8, 2016

US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would put in danger the United States’ security, warn 50 top Republican national security officials.

The officials issued their warning Monday in a letter which was signed by aides and Cabinet members of past GOP administrations including George W. Bush’s and Richard Nixon’s.

“Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be president,” the letter reads, adding he “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

The letter also declared that, “None of us will vote for Donald Trump,” according to the New York Times.

Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency

Among the officials are Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency; Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security for Bush and President Obama; John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence under Bush; Tom Ridge, former homeland security director under Bush in addition to former governor of the battleground state of Pennsylvania; as well as others who have worked as trade representatives, national security advisers and ambassadors.

Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security for both Bush and Obama

The officials said the GOP nominee “appears to lack basic knowledge about the belief in the US Constitution, US laws, and US institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.”

Some other top Republicans have also declared they will not vote for the business mogul, but instead will support his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

On Monday, Lezlee Westine, an aide to former president Bush, said she will support Clinton.

Westine, who worked as the White House director of the office of public liaison and as a deputy assistant to Bush, said she will support Clinton.

“Our nation faces a unique set of challenges that require steady and experienced leadership,” Westine said. “That is why today I am personally supporting Hillary Clinton. She has the expertise and commitment to American values to grow the economy, create jobs and protect America at home and abroad.”

Meanwhile, Trump on Monday announced his new economic plan, part of which he said he would slash taxes, block onerous financial regulations and unleash the energy sector.

“We are in a competition with the world, and I want America to win,” Trump told the Detroit Economic Club. “I want to jump-start America. It can be done, and it won’t even be that hard.”

Trump’s campaign has been marked by a lot of controversies including his remarks against Muslims and immigrants to the US.

This is while Clinton’s lead  over Trump is significantly growing in recent polls in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential race.

August 8, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Middle East borders will change, claims ex-CIA director

MEMO | February 26, 2016

michael-haydenA former director of America’s Central Intelligence Agency has said that the international agreements made after World War Two are starting to fall apart, and may change the borders of some countries in the Middle East.

“What we see here is a fundamental melting down of the international order,” Michael Hayden told CNN. “We are seeing a melting down of the post-WWII Bretton Woods American liberal order. We are certainly seeing a melting down of the borders drawn at the time of Versailles and Sykes-Picot. I am very fond of saying Iraq no longer exists, Syria no longer exists; they aren’t coming back. Lebanon is teetering and Libya is long gone.”

Hayden described the current situation as a “tectonic” moment. “Within that we then have the war against terrorism; it is an incredibly complex time.”

He explained that there are two fronts in the war. “The way I think about it, we Americans with our military backgrounds, call one element the close battle and the other the deep battle. The close battle is the one you and I are able to see everyday, that’s the heat-blasting fragmentation against those people who are already convinced they want to come kill us, and frankly, we are pretty good at that one.”

However, he said that the US is “not good” at the deep battle. “That’s the production rate of people who want to come kill us in 3, 5 or 10 years. Fundamentally the problem there is that that is not our fight.”

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Neocon Foreign Policy Walmart

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By Daniel McAdams | Ron Paul Institute | August 30, 2015

One of the most depressing things about watching — even from a distance — the quadrennial race for the White House is seeing what passes for debate on the one area where the president does have some Constitutional authority: foreign policy.

Candidates who have spent little or no time studying or traveling to the rest of the world, and, in the fashion of many Americans in the age of Empire, see the rest of the world as just a series of US colonial outposts, apparently consider foreign policy unworthy of serious consideration.

So little do Republican candidates care about foreign policy that most of them have “outsourced” their foreign policy to a single neocon-dominated foreign policy shop called the “John Hay Initiative.”  If you wonder why most Republican candidates sound exactly the same on foreign policy, it’s because they are nearly all getting their advice from the same people.

When nearly all candidates look to someone like Eliot Cohen, a founding member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), to provide an off-the-shelf foreign policy, it should be no surprise that the “debate” in the Republican party is only over which country to attack first.

Any candidate who thinks so little about something so important as America’s place in the world should be automatically disqualified.

But the neocons love it! The “experts” who brought us the 2003 Iraq war and the Libya “liberation” are still in the driver’s seat when it comes to foreign policy.

“Jeb!” has John Hay Initiative members Michael Chertoff and Michael Hayden (remember those crooks?) on board as his advisors.

Marco Rubio reportedly draws from Hay Project member Roger Zakheim, the son of GW Bush administration “vulcan,” Dov Zakheim. Zakheim père, we remember, joined with his fellow neocons to lie the US into war with Iraq, enriching the military-industrial complex, before absconding to the “private sector” to make his millions from the same military-industrial complex. Zakheim quickly and quietly left his position as the Pentagon’s chief financial officer after a trillion dollars went missing and the Government Accountability Office was critical of his handling of matters.

Scott Walker, a soporific candidate who nevertheless still gives neocons like Bill Kristol the vapors, also shops the neocon Walmart of foreign policy, the John Hay Initiative. It should be no surprise, then, that at his big foreign policy coming out speech at the Citadel military college Friday, he unveiled an “aggressive” foreign policy — crying out “America will not be intimidated. And neither will I” — as he promised more war and vowed that “the retreat is over!”

Is this the retreat he is talking about?

Walker reportedly taps into the McCain Institute’s David Kramer, a John Hay member, for his foreign policy wisdom. Kramer is another PNAC alumni, also putting in time at the CIA-affiliated Freedom House and as director of the Bush State Department’s Office of Policy Planning. This must explain Walker’s obsession with taking out Iran. He vowed to “roll back the theocrats in Tehran,” but in fact unlike the US, Tehran has not invaded another country in hundreds of years. What’s to “roll back?”

If Walker actually paid any attention to the quality of advice he gets from his PNAC/John Hay gang he might call for his money back. Walker’s speech was peppered with macho language about “defeat[ing] the barbarians of ISIS,” while also vowing to destroy the two forces actually fighting ISIS — Syria and Iran! In fact, his vow to use the US military to overthrow the Syrian government would without question result in the greatest ISIS victory to date — control of Syria. One need not sympathize with Assad to recognize that he is literally the only thing keeping the whole of Syria out of the hands of ISIS.

John Hay Initiative “experts” also wrote the foreign policy speeches of candidates Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie. No doubt they were behind Fiorina’s astonishingly ignorant vow to make her first call as president to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to “to reassure him that we stand with the state of Israel” and to make her second call to Iran to “to tell him that whatever the deal is that he signed with Obama, there’s a new deal and the new deal is this: Until you submit every facility [where] you have nuclear uranium enrichment to a full set of inspections, we’re going to make it as hard as possible for you to move money around the global financial system.”

Pure PNAC.

These neocons should be in jail, not still deeply ensconced in the Beltway foreign policy halls of power, dining in sumptuous splendor while the rest of America is impoverished by the destructive wars they push. Their lies have cost millions of innocent lives overseas as well. They are a cancer on the country. Any candidate who cares so little about the issues as to accept a “virtual staff” of foreign policy “experts” from those who have gotten every single major foreign policy issue of our time totally and catastrophically wrong has no business holding any elected office.

John Hay? I’d rather shop for a foreign policy expert at Walmart.

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whistleblowers sue DOJ, FBI, and NSA for malicious prosecution, civil rights violations

RT | August 28, 2015

Five whistleblowers are suing the Justice Department, National Security Agency, FBI and their former directors for violating their constitutional and civil rights after they complained about government waste and fraud through proper channels.

According to the complaint, filed in Washington, DC’s federal district court, all five were subjected to illegal searches and seizures, raids on their homes and places of business, false imprisonment, and cancellation of their security clearances after they complained about government waste and fraud at the NSA.

Four of the five whistleblowers worked at the National Security Agency: Thomas Drake, Ed Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney. The fifth, Diane Roark, worked at the Department of Energy. They are seeking some $100 million in damages.

The plaintiffs blew the whistle on the wasteful abandonment of a short-lived surveillance program called THINTHREAD which was being built by the NSA, but was then scuttled in favor of a more expensive program less protective of Americans’ communications.

The plaintiffs had worked on developing the THINTHREAD program, which was capable of effectively performing the technical work required by the NSA at the low cost of $4 million. The program was dumped at the direction of Lt. General Michael Hayden in favor of an outside contract for an expensive program called TRAILBLAZER, which ended up costing the government $4 billion. The TRAILBLAZER program never worked properly and was abandoned in 2006.

The plaintiffs filed a complaint with the Department of Defense arguing that, in using an outside contractor, the agency was committing fraud and wastefully misusing taxpayer dollars. The Department of Defense inspector general issued a scathing report on the abuse.

In response, the complaint argues, the NSA concocted a story claiming the whistleblowers were responsible for leaking information on the NSA’s surveillance of Americans to The New York Times. As a result, the Department of Justice conducted a series of raids that disrupted the plaintiffs’ lives and livelihoods.

The plaintiffs argue that the raids were retaliatory as the government had already determined that they had had nothing to do with the disclosures to the New York Times. The real leaker was a former lawyer who worked at DOJ with the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Among the six named defendants are two former NSA directors, Michael Hayden and Keith Alexander, and former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The complaint alleges that the FBI, NSA and DOJ’s actions violated the plaintiffs’ protections under the 1998 Whistleblower Protection Act, and violated their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights.

The whistleblowers are seeking punitive damages in excess of $100 million in compensation for the loss of wages and employment they incurred as a result of the defendants’ alleged callous and reckless indifference.

While the raids and harassment took place in 2006 and 2007, the suit is only being brought now because the plaintiffs were only able to access all of the details concerning their case in 2013, after court documents were unsealed.

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

EFF to New York Times: Don’t Get Fooled Again by Claims of NSA Spying “Legality”

By Cindy Cohn | EFF | November 11, 2013

Over the weekend, the New York Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, published a piece investigating the Times’ thirteen month delay in the publication of a bombshell report on the Bush Administration’s domestic mass surveillance program back in 2004 and 2005. Sullivan’s revisitation of the issue in light of what we’ve learned since this summer about the NSA was a great public service.

We now know that the government lied to the New York Times about the legality of its spying to delay the publication of the story that would eventually win the Pulitzer Prize, hiding a tremendous fight inside the government about the legality of the spying.  The report also contains an important new admission from former NSA chief—and its current public booster—General Michael Hayden, that “he can’t prove any harm to national security from the publication of the eavesdropping stories — then or now.”  We hope Mr. Hayden will now revise the many hyperbolic statements he has made to the contrary.

Yet as the folks who, along with the ACLU, have been leading the lawsuits against NSA spying since early 2006, we need to point out a big problem with the New York Times’ characterization of the current mass spying.

The piece quotes Eric Lichtblau as saying that, as a result of the revelations, Congress made “all this stuff” legal, then adds: “There may be public outrage over the latest wave of surveillance revelations, but the government has a helpful defense: Hey, it’s legal.”

Not so.  The government’s claims of “legality” are wrong, have been strongly criticized by national security law professors, and are currently being challenged in court by EFF, ACLU, and EPIC, among others. The Times dis-serves its audience by repeating them as if they were true.

In fact, the ACLU has a hearing in New York on Friday, November 22, in its key challenge to one of those “legal” claims: that the NSA’s indiscriminately collecting telephone records is “legal” under a convoluted interpretation of the section 215 of the 2001 Patriot Act that mentions neither telephone records nor the NSA. To try to make it fit, the government attempts to redefine the limits on production of “relevant” things to allow the collection of massive amounts of “irrelevant” information. In other words, by a plain reading of the statute, what the NSA is currently doing in collecting massive amounts of telephone records on an ongoing basis is not legal.

And that’s not even addressing the Fourth Amendment problems with mass, suspicionless seizure of records of our calls with doctors, business associates, churches, friends and lovers, records that can create an extremely intimate portrait of our lives and political activities. The government’s claim that the Fourth Amendment is not triggered by the ongoing collection of this sensitive information in an untargeted mass is far from settled.

The Fourth Amendment isn’t even the only amendment the NSA is violating. EFF focused on the First Amendment in our motion for partial summary judgment against the mass telephone records collection program we filed in California last Wednesday. The motion features declarations from 22 associations, from the California Gun Owners to Patient Privacy Rights to People for the American Way to the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, attesting to the First Amendment chilling effect from the collection of telephone records.

Also not “legal” is the mass collection of communications, including content, that the government claims is justified by section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. That’s the law Lichtblau references, passed in 2008 after the Times revelations.  Section 702 also doesn’t say that mass, untargeted surveillance of Americans is allowed. To the contrary, 702 expressly forbids the government from intentionally acquiring any communications that are purely domestic. The NSA’s “upstream” access, tapping into the domestic fiber optic cables of AT&T and other carriers that carry the content of our emails, web searches, social networking posts and many of our phone calls, plainly violates section 702 and also violates the Constitution.  EFF will be presenting these arguments before an open, adversarial public federal court starting in the spring.

These points were made well by former EFF attorney Jennifer Granick of Stanford and Professor Christopher Sprigman of the University of Virgnia in a piece in the Times in June, so it’s surprising that the Times simply repeated the government’s conclusions without question.

In short, nowhere in federal law, before or after the Times story in 2005, has Congress ever openly authorized the mass spying on Americans that is taking place. EFF is still fighting to force the release of the key FISA Court rulings, so we don’t know the specifics, but the fact that the government has convinced the secret, non-adversarial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to sign off, apparently based on contorted statutory interpretation, doesn’t change that. These questions need to be presented in the public courts where rule of law and due process rules are clear.

The piece admits that the Times was taken in by claims of “legality” in 2004. It shouldn’t get fooled again by government claims of “legality” of mass surveillance.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-DHS Director Michael Chertoff: The Public Spying On Famous People With Their Smartphones Is A Bigger Issue Than NSA Spying

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | November 1, 2013

Former director of Homeland Security (and current profiteer off of any “security” scare) Michael Chertoff has penned quite an incredible op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he argues that the real threat to privacy today is not the NSA spying on everyone, but rather all you people out there in the public with your smartphones, taking photos and videos, and going to Twitter to post things you overheard more important people say. Seriously. It starts out by claiming this is a “less-debated threat”:

So it is striking that two recent news stories illustrate a less-debated threat to privacy that we as a society are inflicting on ourselves. Last week, a passenger on an Acela train decided to tweet in real time his summary of an overheard phone conversation by Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA (and my current business partner). The same day, a photo was published of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler at a summer party where he was surrounded by underage youths who apparently were drinking.

But he then goes on to argue that this kind of thing is more troubling than the NSA revelations, which Chertoff suggests is no big deal:

Of course, the delicious irony is obvious: In one case, the former NSA chief becomes a victim of eavesdropping. In the other, a politician critical of teen drinking fails to intervene when he is surrounded by it. But both stories carry a more troubling implication. The ubiquitousness of recording devices — coupled with the ability everyone has to broadcast indiscriminately through Twitter, YouTube and other online platforms — means that virtually every act or utterance outside one’s own home (or, in Gansler’s case, inside a private home) is subject to being massively publicized. And because these outlets bypass any editorial review, there is no assurance that what is disseminated has context or news value.

It would appear that Chertoff seems to believe that there should be no expectation of privacy for the things you actually do in private — generating metadata about who you call, where you go, what websites you visit, etc. But, stuff that you actually do in public should never be “broadcast” because it might embarrass famous people.

And, yes, it’s the famous people being embarrassed that seems to most concern Chertoff:

If a well-known person has an argument with a spouse or child at a restaurant, should it be broadcast? If a business personality expresses a political opinion at a private party, should that opinion (or a distortion of it) be passed on to the rest of the world? If a politician buys a book or a magazine at an airport, should a passerby inform everyone?

See? Think of those poor well-known people, having people telling others about what they do. What a shame! Incredibly, he argues that it’s this exposing of the public actions of famous people that creates real chilling effects — and not the NSA’s spying, which he calls “exaggerated.”

Are we creating an informant society, in which every overheard conversation, cellphone photograph or other record of personal behavior is transmitted not to police but to the world at large? Do we want to chill behavior and speech with the fear that an unpopular comment or embarrassing slip will call forth vituperative criticism and perhaps even adversely affect careers or reputations? Do we need to constantly monitor what we say or do in restaurants, at sporting events, on public sidewalks or even private parties?

I don’t know what clueless PR flack thought this was a good strategy, but the clear connotation is hard to miss: Look, we the powerful people get to spy on everyone, but the second you turn the tables and spy on us and the things we do in public, what a horrible shame! Something must be done!

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rep. Mike Rogers Threatens Extrajudicial Execution

By Daniel McAdams | Neocon Watch | October 4, 2013

Mike Rogers

The US State Department every year releases its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, arrogating to itself the right to judge how the rest of the world measures up to US standards of respect for human rights.

One of the key measurements the US uses to determine whether the rest of the world is up to its stated standards of human rights protection is whether the country engages in “extrajudicial executions,” i.e. the state killing people without a legal trial. Needless to say, countries which engage in or promote extrajudicial killing are considered among the worst of the human rights abusers.

At a Washington Post sponsored panel yesterday on cybersecurity attended by former NSA/CIA chief Michael Hayden and by current Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers (R-MI), Hayden quipped that while NSA leaker Edward Snowden is on the consideration list for a European Human Rights Award, he had “also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list.”

Considering the input that Hayden had over the US administration’s “kill list,” the implication was fairly clear. One might imagine what among some at least was (hopefully) nervous laughter.

Is it funny to joke about killing someone when everyone knows you have had the power to make it happen? At least Hayden made the comment while he was no longer serving in a position where he could call out the drones.

What is worse, however, was the reaction of the neoconservative warmonger and enemy of civil liberties, Chairman Mike Rogers. To Hayden’s confession that he had thought of putting Snowden on “a different list,” Rogers did not miss a beat.

“I can help you with that,” Rogers said.

It is incredible to imagine that an individual in such a powerful position as is Mike Rogers — not just a Member of Congress but the Chairman of the Committee that coordinates with the CIA, NSA, and the rest of the Intelligence Community on matters covert and operational — would even if perhaps in a lighthearted moment make such a deeply disturbing comment.

Killing is so casual to people like Rogers.

It is the kind of thing that — were the US not the authors — would be written up in a report on human rights abuses and threats to the rule of law.

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment