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Microsoft should not fund Israeli spying on Palestinians

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | November 4, 2019

The act of Palestinian activists covering their faces during anti-Israeli occupation rallies is an old practice that spans decades. The masking of the face, often by Kufyias – traditional Palestinian scarves that grew to symbolise Palestinian resistance – is far from being a fashion statement. Instead, it is a survival technique, without it, activists are likely to be arrested in subsequent nightly raids; at times, even assassinated.

In the past, Israel used basic technologies to identify Palestinians who take part in protests and mobilize the people in various popular activities. TV news footage or newspaper photos were thoroughly deciphered, often with the help of Israel’s collaborators in the Occupied Territories, and the ‘culprits’ would be identified, summoned to meet Shin Bet intelligence officers or arrested from their homes.

That old technique was eventually replaced by more advanced technology, countless images transmitted directly through Israeli drones – the flagship of Israel’s “security industry”. Thousands of Palestinians were detained and hundreds were assassinated in recent years as a result of drones data, analyzed through Israel’s burgeoning facial recognition software.

If in the past, Palestinian activists were keen on keeping their identity hidden, now they have much more compelling reasons to ensure the complete secrecy of their work. Considering the information sharing between the Israeli army and illegal Jewish settlers and their armed militias in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians face the double threat of being targeted by armed settlers as well as by Israeli soldiers.

True, when it comes to Israel, such a grim reality is hardly surprising. But what is truly disturbing is the direct involvement of international corporate giants, the likes of Microsoft, in facilitating the work of the Israeli military, whose sole aim is to crush any form of dissent among Palestinians.

Microsoft prides itself on being a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR), emphasizing that “privacy (is) a fundamental human right.”

The Washington-State based software giant dedicates much attention, at least on paper, to the subject of human rights. “Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights,” Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement asserts. “We do this by harnessing the beneficial power of technology to help realize and sustain human rights everywhere.”

In practice, however, Microsoft’s words are hardly in line with its action, at least not when its human rights maxims are applied to occupied and besieged Palestinians.

Writing in the American news network NBC News on October 27, Olivia Solon reported on Microsoft funding of the Israeli firm, AnyVision, which uses facial recognition “to secretly watch West Bank Palestinians”.

Through its venture capital arm M12, Microsoft has reportedly invested $78 million in the Israeli startup company that “uses facial recognition to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms”.

AnyVision had developed an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, dubbed “Better Tomorrow” that, according to a joint NBC News-Haaretz investigation, “lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds.”

As disquieting as “Better Tomorrow’s” mission sounds, it takes on a truly sinister objective in Palestine. “According to five sources familiar with the matter,” wrote Solon, “AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank.”

“One source said the project is nicknamed ‘Google Ayosh,’ where ‘Ayosh’ means occupied Palestinian territories and ‘Google’ denotes the technology’s ability to search for people.”

Headquartered in Israel, AnyVision has several offices around the world, including the US, the UK, and Singapore. Considering the nature of AnyVision’s work, and the intrinsic link between Israel’s technology sector and the country’s military, it should have been assumed that the company’s software is likely used to track down Palestinian dissidents.

In July, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz pointed out that “AnyVision is taking part in two special projects in assisting the Israeli army in the West Bank. One involves a system that it has installed at army checkpoints that thousands of Palestinians pass through each day on their way to work from the West Bank.”

Former AnyVision employees spoke to NBC News about their experiences with the company, one even asserting that he/she “saw no evidence that ethical considerations drove any business decisions” at the firm.

The alarming reports invited strong protests by human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Alas, Microsoft carried on with supporting AnyVision’s work unhindered.

This is not the first time that Microsoft is caught red-handed in its support of the Israeli military or criticized for other unethical practices.

Unlike Facebook, Google and others, who are constantly, albeit deservingly being chastised for violating privacy rules or allowing politics to influence their editorial agenda, Microsoft has been left largely outside the brewing controversies. But, like the rest, Microsoft should be held to account.

In its ‘Human Rights Statement’, Microsoft declared its respect for human rights based on international conventions, starting with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In occupying and oppressing Palestinians, Israel violates every article of that declaration, starting with Article 1, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and including Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

It will take Microsoft more than hyperlinking to a UN document to show true and sincere respect for human rights.

Indeed, for a company that enjoys great popularity throughout the Middle East and in Palestine itself, an inevitable first step towards respecting human rights is to immediately divest from AnyVision, coupled with an apology for all of those who have already paid the price for that ominous Israeli technology.

November 4, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft funds Israel firm that spies on West Bank Palestinians – Report

MEMO | October 29, 2019

Microsoft has invested in an Israeli startup that uses facial recognition to spy on Palestinians throughout the occupied West Bank, “in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms”, NBC News has reported.

AnyVision, headquartered in Israel but with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore, sells an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, Better Tomorrow.

“It lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or a smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds,” said the report.

NBC News’ investigative report concluded that “AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank” – a project “so successful that AnyVision won the country’s [Israel’s] top defence prize in 2018”.

As noted by NBC News, “Palestinians living in the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship or voting rights but are subject to movement restrictions and surveillance by the Israeli government.”

Israeli forces have “installed thousands of cameras and other monitoring devices across the West Bank”, while authorities “also scan social media posts and use algorithms in an effort to predict the likelihood that someone will carry out a lone-wolf attack and arrest them before they do.”

“The addition of facial recognition technology transforms passive camera surveillance combined with the list of suspects into a much more powerful tool,” the report stated.

When NBC News first approached AnyVision for an interview, CEO Eylon Etshtein denied any knowledge of the West Bank project, threatened to sue, disputed that the West Bank was occupied, and suggested the reporter “must have been funded by a Palestinian activist group”.

AnyVision then later “apologised for the outburst and revised its position”, claiming that “as a private company we are not in a position to speak on behalf of any country, company or institution”.

NBC News also confirmed how AnyVision’s technology has also been used by Israeli police to track suspects through the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

AnyVision launched in 2015 and enjoys “close ties to Israel’s military and intelligence services”, NBC News stated, with former head of Mossad Tamir Pardo among its board of advisers.

Microsoft told NBC News that the company “takes these mass surveillance allegations seriously because they would violate our facial recognition principles.”

“If we discover any violation of our principles, we will end our relationship,” a spokesperson said.

Earlier this month Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah discovered a surveillance device planted in concrete at a village cemetery. According to Ma’an News Agency, the monitoring tool was manufactured by AnyVision.

READ ALSO:

Israel has been caught spying on the US, again

Israel tech ‘facilitating press freedom abuses around the world’

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

How the CIA, Mossad and “the Epstein Network” are exploiting mass shootings to create an Orwellian nightmare

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | September 6, 2019

Following the arrest and subsequent death in prison of alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, a little-known Israeli tech company began to receive increased publicity, but for all the wrong reasons. Not long after Epstein’s arrest, and his relationships and finances came under scrutiny, it was revealed that the Israeli company Carbyne911 had received substantial funding from Jeffrey Epstein as well as Epstein’s close associate and former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist and prominent Trump backer Peter Thiel.

Carbyne911, or simply Carbyne, develops call-handling and identification capabilities for emergency response services in countries around the world, including the United States, where it has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and has partnered with major U.S. tech companies like Google. It specifically markets its product as a way of mitigating mass shootings in the United States without having to change existing U.S. gun laws.

Yet, Carbyne is no ordinary tech company, as it is deeply connected to the elite Israeli military intelligence division, Unit 8200, whose “alumni” often go on to create tech companies — Carbyne among them — that frequently maintain their ties to Israeli intelligence and, according to Israeli media reports and former employees, often “blur the line” between their service to Israel’s defense/intelligence apparatus and their commercial activity. As this report will reveal, Carbyne is but one of several Israeli tech companies marketing themselves as a technological solution to mass shootings that has direct ties to Israeli intelligence agencies. 

In each case, these companies’ products are built in such a way that they can easily be used to illegally surveil the governments, institutions and civilians that use them, a troubling fact given Unit 8200’s documented prowess in surveillance as a means of obtaining blackmail and Israel’s history of using tech companies to aggressively spy on the U.S. government. This is further compounded by the fact that Unit 8200-linked tech companies have previously received U.S. government contracts to place “backdoors” into the U.S.’ entire telecommunications system as well as into the popular products of major American tech companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, many of whose key managers and executives are now former Unit 8200 officers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it no secret that placing Unit 8200 members in top positions in multinational tech companies is a “deliberate policy” meant to ensure Israel’s role as the dominant global “cyber power”, while also combating non-violent boycott movements targeting Israel’s violations of international law and stifling the United Nations’ criticisms of Israeli government policy and military operations abroad.

As Jeffrey Epstein’s links to intelligence in both the United States and Israel — the subject of a recent four-part series exclusive to MintPress — began to be revealed in full, his financing of Carbyne came under scrutiny, particularly for the company’s deep ties to Israeli intelligence as well as to certain Americans with known connections to U.S. intelligence. Ehud Barak’s own role as both financier and chairman of Carbyne has also added to that concern, given his long history of involvement in covert intelligence operations for Israel and his long-standing ties to Israeli military intelligence.

Another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has his own company that, like Carbyne, is set to profit from the Trump administration’s proposed hi-tech solutions to mass shootings. Indeed, after the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas, President Trump — who received political donations from and has been advised by Thiel following his election — asked tech companies to “detect mass shooters before they strike,” a service already perfected by Thiel’s company Palantir, which has developed “pre-crime software” already in use throughout the country. Palantir is also a contractor for the U.S. intelligence community and also has a branch based in Israel.

Perhaps most disturbing of all, whatever technological solution is adopted by the Trump administration, it is set to use a controversial database first developed as part of a secretive U.S. government program that involved notorious Iran-Contra figures like Oliver North as a means of tracking and flagging potential American dissidents for increased surveillance and detention in the event of a vaguely defined “national emergency.”

As this report will reveal, this database — often referred to as “Main Core” — was created with the involvement of Israeli intelligence and Israel remained involved years after it was developed, and potentially to the present. It was also used by at least one former CIA official on President Reagan’s National Security Council to blackmail members of Congress, Congressional staffers and journalists, among others.

Given recent reports on the Trump administration’s plan to create a new government agency to use “advanced technology” to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” using data collected by consumer electronic devices, the picture painted by the technology currently being promoted and implemented under the guise of “keeping Americans safe” is deeply Orwellian. In fact, it points directly to the genesis of a far-reaching surveillance state far more extensive than anything yet seen in American history and it is being jointly developed by individuals connected to both American and Israeli intelligence.

Demystifying Carbyne

Carbyne911, which will be referred to simply as Carbyne in this report, is an Israeli tech-startup that promises to revolutionize how calls are handled by emergency service providers, as well as by governments, corporations and educational institutions. Not long after it was founded in 2014 by veterans of Israeli military intelligence, Carbyne began to be specifically marketed as a solution to mass shootings in the United States that goes “beyond the gun debate” and improves the “intelligence that armed emergency responders receive before entering an armed shooter situation” by providing video-streaming and acoustic input from civilian smartphones and other devices connected to the Carbyne network.

Prior to Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest in July, Carbyne had been receiving high praise from U.S. and Israeli media, with Fox News hailing the company’s services as the answer to the U.S.’ “aging 911 systems” and the Jerusalem Post writing that the company’s platform offers “hi-tech protection to social workers and school principals.” Other reports claimed that Carbyne’s services result in “a 65% reduction in time-to-dispatch.”

Carbyne’s call-handling/crisis management platform has already been implemented in several U.S. counties and the company has offices not only in the U.S. but also in Mexico, Ukraine and Israel. Carbyne’s expansion to more emergency service provider networks in the U.S. is likely, given that federal legislation seeks to offer grants to upgrade 911 call centers throughout the country with the very technology of which Carbyne is the leading provider. One of the main lobby groups promoting this legislation, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), has a “strong relationship” with Carbyne, according to Carbyne’s website. In addition, Carbyne has also begun marketing its platform for non-emergency calls to governments, educational institutions and corporations.

Yet, what seemed like the inevitability of Carbyne’s widespread adoption in the U.S. hit a snag following the recent arrest and subsequent death of sex trafficker and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who exploited underage girls for the purpose of obtaining “blackmail” on the rich and poweful, an operation that had clear ties to intelligence. Epstein, after his first arrest and light sentence for soliciting sex from a minor in 2007, was tapped by former Israeli Prime Minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence Ehud Barak, to become a key financial backer of Carbyne.

Ehud Barak, center, poses with Carbyne co-founders Alex Dizengof, Amir Elichai and Lital Leshem. Photo | Yossi Seliger

As a result of increased scrutiny of Epstein’s business activities and his ties to Israel, particularly to Barak, Epstein’s connection to Carbyne was revealed and extensively reported on by the independent media outlet Narativ, whose exposé on Carbyne revealed not only some of the key intelligence connections of the start-up company but also how the architecture of Carbyne’s product itself raises “serious privacy concerns.”

MintPress detailed many of Carbyne’s main intelligence connections in Part III of the investigative series “Inside the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail.” In addition to Barak — former Israeli prime minister and former head of Israeli military intelligence — serving as Carbyne’s chairman and a key financer, the company’s executive team are all former members of Israeli intelligence, including the elite military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, which is often compared to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Carbyne’s current CEO, Amir Elichai, served in Unit 8200 and tapped former Unit 8200 commander and current board member of AIPAC Pinchas Buchris to serve as the company’s director and on its board. In addition to Elichai, another Carbyne co-founder, Lital Leshem, also served in Unit 8200 and later worked for Israeli private spy company Black Cube. The only Carbyne co-founder that didn’t serve in Unit 8200 is Alex Dizengof, who previously worked for Israel’s Prime Minister’s office.

As MintPress noted in a past report detailing Israeli military intelligence’s deep ties to American tech giant Microsoft, Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence (i.e., surveillance), cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is frequently described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.”

Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on numerous projects, most infamously on the Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware. In addition, the NSA is known to work with veterans of Unit 8200 in the private sector, such as when the NSA hired two Israeli companies, to create backdoors into all the major U.S. telecommunications systems and major tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. Both of those companies, Verint and Narus, have top executives with ties to Israeli intelligence and one of those companies, Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys), has a history of aggressively spying on U.S. government facilities. Unit 8200 is also known for spying on civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories for “coercion purposes” — i.e., gathering info for blackmail — and also for spying on Palestinian-Americans via an intelligence-sharing agreement with the NSA.

Unlike many other Unit 8200-linked start-ups, Carbyne also boasts several tie-ins to the Trump administration, including Palantir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — another investor in Carbyne. In addition, Carbyne’s board of advisers includes former Palantir employee Trae Stephens, who was a member of the Trump transition team, as well as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate developer Eliot Tawill is also on Carbyne’s board, alongside Ehud Barak and Pinchas Buchris.

Yet, privacy concerns with Carbyne go beyond the company’s ties to Israeli intelligence and U.S. intelligence contractors like Peter Thiel. For instance, Carbyne’s smartphone app extracts the following information from the phones on which it is installed:

Device location, video live-streamed from the smartphone to the call center, text messages in a two-way chat window, any data from a user’s phone if they have the Carbyne app and ESInet, and any information that comes over a data link, which Carbyne opens in case the caller’s voice link drops out.” (emphasis added)

According to Carbyne’s website, this same information can also be obtained from any smartphone, even if it does not have Carbyne’s app installed, if that phone calls a 911 call center that uses Carbyne or merely any other number connected to Carbyne’s network.

Carbyne gathers data points from users’ phones as well as a myriad of other web-connected devices.

Carbyne is a Next-Generation 9-11 (NG911) platform and the explicit goal of NG911 is for all 911 systems nationwide to become interconnected. Thus, even if Carbyne is not used by all 911 call centers using an NG911 platform, Carbyne will ostensibly have access to the data used by all emergency service providers and devices connected to those networks. This guiding principle of NG911 also makes it likely that one platform will be favored at the federal level to foster such interconnectivity and, given that it has already been adopted by several counties and has ties to the Trump administration, Carbyne is the logical choice.

Another cause for concern is how other countries have used platforms like Carbyne, which were first marketed as emergency response tools, for the purpose of mass surveillance. Narativ noted the following in its investigation of Carbyne:

In May, Human Rights Watch revealed Chinese authorities use a platform not unlike Carbyne to illegally surveil Uyghurs. China’s Integrated Joint Operations Platform brings in a much bigger data-set and sources of video, which includes an app on people’s phones. Like Carbyne, the platform was designed to report emergencies. Chinese authorities have turned it into a tool of mass surveillance.

Human Rights Watch reverse-engineered the app. The group discovered the app automatically profiles a user under 36 “person types” including “followers of Six Lines” which is the term used to identify Uyghurs. Another term refers to “Hajj,” the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The app monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations [and] power usage, and tracks a user’s movement.”

Such technology is currently used by Israeli military intelligence and Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet to justify “pre-crime” detentions of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. As will be noted in greater detail later in this report, Palestinians’ comments on social media are tracked by artificial intelligence algorithms that flag them for indefinite detention if they write social media posts that contain “tripwire” phrases such as “the sword of Allah.”

Carbyne’s platform has its own “pre-crime” elements, such as it’s c-Records component, which stores and analyzes information on past calls and events that pass through its network. This information “enables decision makers to accurately analyze the past and present behavior of their callers, react accordingly, and in time predict future patterns.” (emphasis added)

Concerns have recently been raised that “pre-crime” technology may soon become more widely adopted in the U.S., after President Trump stated that one of his planned solutions to mass shootings in the wake of the recent tragedy in El Paso was for big tech companies to detect potential shooters before they strike.

Israeli intelligence, Blackmail and Silicon Valley

Though many of the individuals involved in funding or managing Carbyne have proven ties to intelligence, a closer look into several of these players reveals even deeper connections to both Israeli and U.S. intelligence.

One of Carbyne’s clearest connections to Israeli intelligence is through its chairman and one of its funders, Ehud Barak. Though Barak is best known for being a former prime minister of Israel, he is also a former minister of defense and the former head of Israeli military intelligence. He oversaw Unit 8200’s operations, as well as other units of Israeli military intelligence, in all three of those positions. For most of his military and later political career, Barak has been closely associated with covert operations.

Prior to the public scrutiny of Barak’s relationship to Jeffrey Epstein, following the latter’s arrest this past July and subsequent death, Barak had come under fire for his ties to disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Indeed, it was Ehud Barak who put Weinstein in contact with the Israeli private intelligence outfit Black Cube, which employs former Mossad agents and Israeli military intelligence operatives, as Weinstein sought to intimidate the women who had accused him of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Former Mossad director Meir Dagan led Black Cube’s board until his death in 2016 and Carbyne co-founder Lital Leshem is Black Cube’s former director of marketing.

After Barak put him in contact with Black Cube’s leadership, Weinstein, according to The New Yorker, used the private spy firm to “‘target,’ or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focused on their personal or sexual histories.” In addition, The New Yorker noted that “Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally” and “also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.”

Yet, more recently, it has been Barak’s close relationship to Epstein that has raised eyebrows and opened him up to political attacks from his rivals. Epstein and Barak were first introduced by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 2002, a time when Epstein’s pedophile blackmail and sex trafficking operation was in full swing.

Barak was a frequent visitor to Epstein’s residences in New York, so often that The Daily Beast reported that numerous residents of an apartment building linked to Epstein “had seen Barak in the building multiple times over the last few years, and nearly half a dozen more described running into his security detail,” adding that “the building is majority-owned by Epstein’s younger brother, Mark, and has been tied to the financier’s alleged New York trafficking ring.” Specifically, several apartments in the building were “being used to house underage girls from South America, Europe and the former Soviet Union,” according to a former bookkeeper employed by one of Epstein’s main procurers of underage girls, Jean Luc Brunel.

Barak is also known to have spent the night at one of Epstein’s residences at least once, was photographed leaving Epstein’s residence as recently as 2016, and has admitted to visiting Epstein’s island, which has sported nicknames including “Pedo Island,” “Lolita Island” and “Orgy Island.” In 2004, Barak received $2.5 million from Leslie Wexner’s Wexner Foundation, where Epstein was a trustee as well as one of the foundation’s top donors, officially for unspecified “consulting services” and “research” on the foundation’s behalf.

In 2015, Barak formed a limited partnership company in Israel for the explicit purpose of investing in Carbyne (then known as Reporty) and invested millions of dollars in the company, quickly becoming a major shareholder and subsequently the company’s public face and the chairman of its board. At least $1 million of the money invested in this Barak-created company that was later used to invest in Carbyne came from the Southern Trust Company, which was owned by Jeffrey Epstein.

In a statement to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Barak asserted:

I saw the business opportunity and registered a partnership in my control in Israel. A small number of people I know invest in it… Since these are private investments, it wouldn’t be proper or right for me to expose the investors’ details.”

However, Barak later admitted that Epstein had been one of the investors.

MintPress’ recent series on the Jeffrey Epstein scandal noted in detail Epstein’s ties to CIA/Mossad intelligence assets, such as Adnan Khashoggi; CIA front companies, such as Southern Air Transport; and organized crime, through his close association with Leslie Wexner. In addition, Epstein’s long-time “girlfriend” and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, has family links to Israeli intelligence through her father, Robert Maxwell. While it appears that Epstein may have been working for more than one intelligence agency, Zev Shalev, former executive producer for CBS News and journalist at Narativ, recently stated that he had independently confirmed with two unconnected sources “closely connected to the Epstein story and in a position to know” that Epstein had “worked for Israeli military intelligence.”

Notably, Epstein, who was known for his interest in obtaining blackmail through the sexual abuse of the underaged girls he exploited, also claimed to have “damaging information” on prominent figures in Silicon Valley. In a conversation last year with New York Times reporter James Stewart, Epstein claimed to have “potentially damaging or embarrassing” information on Silicon Valley’s elite and told Stewart that these top figures in the American tech industry “were hedonistic and regular users of recreational drugs.” Epstein also told Stewart that he had “witnessed prominent tech figures taking drugs and arranging for sex” and claimed to know “details about their supposed sexual proclivities.”

In the lead-up to his recent arrest, Jeffrey Epstein appeared to have been attempting to rebrand as a “tech investor,” as he had done interviews with several journalists including Stewart about technology investing in the months before he was hit with federal sex trafficking charges.

Jessica Lessin, editor-in-chief of The Information, told Business Insider that a journalist working for The Information had interviewed Epstein a month before his recent arrest because “he was believed to be an investor in venture capital funds.” However, Lessin claimed that the interview was not “newsworthy” and said the site had no plans to publish its contents. Business Insider claimed that the way the interviews with Epstein had been arranged “suggests that someone in Silicon Valley may have been trying to help Epstein connect with reporters.”

Though it is unknown exactly which Silicon Valley figures were most connected to Epstein and which tech executives were potentially being blackmailed by Epstein, it is known that Epstein associated with several prominent tech executives, including Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

Last year, Epstein claimed to be advising Tesla and Elon Musk, who had been previously photographed with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell. A few years ago, Epstein also attended a dinner hosted by LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, where Musk had allegedly introduced Epstein to Mark Zuckerberg. Google’s Sergey Brin is known to have attended a dinner hosted by Epstein at his New York residence where Donald Trump was also in attendance.

Elon Musk with Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell at an Oscars after-party on March 2, 2014. Kevin Mazur | VF14

These associations suggest that the person in Silicon Valley who was trying to boost Epstein’s image as a tech investor before his arrest may have been Peter Thiel, whose Founders Fund had also invested in Carbyne. Thiel was an early investor in Facebook and is still on its board, connecting him to Zuckerberg; he is also a funder of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and a former colleague of Musk’s through PayPal. In addition, Thiel has ties to Reid Hoffman and both Thiel and Hoffman are prominent backers of Facebook.

It is unknown whether Epstein’s “damaging information” and apparent blackmail on notable individuals in the American technology industry were used to advance the objectives of Carbyne, which recently partnered with tech giants Google and Cisco Systems — and, more broadly, the expansion of Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies into the American tech sector, particularly through the acquisition of Israeli tech start-ups linked to Unit 8200 by major U.S. tech companies.

The latter seems increasingly likely given that the father of Ghislaine Maxwell — one of Epstein’s chief co-conspirators in his intelligence-linked sexual blackmail operation involving minors — was a Mossad operative who helped sell software that had been bugged by Israeli intelligence to government agencies and sensitive facilities around the world, including in the United States.

As will be noted later in this report, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to whom all of Israel’s intelligence agencies answer by virtue of his position — has stated on more than one occasion that the acquisition of Israeli intelligence-linked start-ups by foreign tech giants, especially in Silicon Valley, is a current and “deliberate policy” of the state of Israel.

Carbyne’s ties to U.S. intelligence

While Epstein and Barak are the two financiers of Carbyne whose ties to intelligence are clearest, another funder of Carbyne, Peter Thiel, has ties to U.S. intelligence and a history of investing in other companies founded by former members of Unit 8200. Thiel co-founded and still owns a controlling stake in the company Palantir, which was initially funded with a $2 million investment from the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel and quickly thereafter became a contractor for the CIA.

After the success of its contract with the CIA, Palantir became a contractor for a variety of federal agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) and the military’s Special Operations Command, among others. Last year, it won a contract to create a new battlefield intelligence system for the U.S. Army. Palantir is also in demand for its “pre-crime technology,” which has been used by several U.S. police departments. According to the Guardian, “Palantir tracks everyone from potential terrorist suspects to corporate fraudsters, child traffickers and what they refer to as ‘subversives’… it is all done using prediction.”

Thiel has gained attention in recent years for his support of President Trump and for becoming an adviser to Trump following the 2016 election, when he was “a major force in the transition,” according to Politico, and “helped fill positions in the Trump administration with former staff.” One of those former staffers was Trae Stephens, who is also on Carbyne’s board of advisers. Thiel also has business ties to Trump’s son-in-law and influential adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as to Kushner’s brother Josh. A senior Trump campaign aide told Politico in 2017 that “Thiel is immensely powerful within the administration through his connection to Jared.”

Thiel has also backed some prominent Israeli tech start-ups connected to Unit 8200, such as BillGuard, which Thiel funded along with former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other investors. BillGuard was founded by Raphael Ouzan, a former officer in Unit 8200, who serves on the board of directors of Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) alongside neoconservative American hedge fund manager Paul Singer, neoconservative political operative and adviser Dan Senor, and Terry Kassel, who works for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management.

Peter Thiel greets Netanyahu during a 2017 meeting in Israel. Photo | Israel PM

SUNC is an organization founded by Paul Singer, who has donated heavily to both President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Since it was founded in 2012, SUNC has sought to integrate Unit 8200-connected Israeli tech start-ups into foreign companies, primarily American companies, and has helped oversee the shift of thousands of high-paying tech jobs from the U.S. to Israel.

Another Carbyne-connected individual worth noting is the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who serves on Carbyne’s board of advisers. In addition to Chertoff’s ties to DHS, Chertoff’s company, The Chertoff Group, employees several prominent former members of the U.S. intelligence community as principals, including Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and former director of the NSA; and Charles Allen, former assistant director of Central Intelligence for Collection at the CIA, who worked at the agency for over 40 years.

The Chertoff Group has a long-standing and lucrative contract with the company OSI Systems, which produces full-body scanners and markets itself as a solution to mass shootings and crisis events, not unlike Carbyne. While Chertoff’s company was advising OSI Systems, Chertoff went on a media blitz to promote the widespread use of the machines produced by OSI Systems and even called on Congress to “fund a large-scale deployment of next-generation systems.” Chertoff did not disclose his conflict of interest while publicly promoting OSI’s full-body scanners.

Some have also alleged that Chertoff’s mother, Livia Eisen, had links to Israeli intelligence. According to her 1998 obituary, cited by both researcher/author Christopher Bollyn and journalist Jonathan Cook, Eisen participated in the Mossad operation code-named “Magic Carpet” while working for Israel’s El Al Airlines. Both Bollyn and Cook have suggested that Eisen’s participation in this covert Israeli intelligence operation strongly indicates that she had ties to the Mossad.

Melding into Silicon Valley

Beyond its troubling connections to Silicon Valley oligarchs, Israeli military intelligence and the U.S.-military industrial complex, Carbyne’s recent partnerships with two specific technology companies — Google and Cisco Systems — raise even more red flags.

Carbyne announced its partnership with Cisco Systems this past April, with the latter announcing that it would begin “aligning its unified call manager with Carbyne’s call-handling platform, allowing emergency call centers to collect data from both 911 callers and nearby government-owned IoT [Internet of Things] devices.” A report on the partnership published by Government Technology magazine stated that “Carbyne’s platform will be integrated into Cisco Kinetic for Cities, an IoT data platform that shares data across community infrastructure, smart city solutions, applications and connected devices.” The report also noted that “Carbyne will also be the only 911 solution in the Cisco Marketplace.”

As part of the partnership, Carbyne’s President of North American Operations Paul Tatro told Government Technology that the Carbyne platform would combine the data it obtains from smartphones and other Carbyne-connected devices with “what’s available through nearby Cisco-connected road cameras, roadside sensors, smart streetlamps, smart parking meters or other devices.” Tatro further asserted that “Carbyne can also analyze data that’s being collected by Cisco IoT devices … and alert 911 automatically, without any person making a phone call, if there appears to be a worthy problem,” and expressed his view that soon most emergency calls will not be made by human beings but “by smart cars, telematics or other smart city devices.”

A few months after partnering with Cisco Systems, Carbyne announced its partnership with Google on July 10, just three days after Carbyne funder Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York on federal sex trafficking charges. Carbyne’s press release of the partnership described how the company and Google would be teaming up in Mexico “to offer advanced mobile location to emergency communications centers (ECCs) throughout Mexico” following the conclusion of a successful four-week pilot program between Carbyne and Google in the Central American nation.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt meets Netanyahu at his Jerusalem office. Israel PM | YouTube

The press release also stated:

Carbyne will provide Google’s Android ELS (Emergency Location Service) in real time from emergency calls made on AndroidTM devices. Deployment for any ECC in the country won’t require any integration, with Carbyne providing numerous options for connection to their secure ELS Gateway once an ECC is approved. The Carbyne automated platform, requiring no human interaction, has the potential to save thousands of lives each year throughout Mexico.”

The reason Carybne’s partnerships with Cisco Systems and Google are significant lies in the role that Cisco and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt have played in the creation of a controversial “incubator” for Israeli tech start-ups with deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, American neoconservative donor Paul Singer, and the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA).

This company, called Team8, is an Israeli company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. Two of the company’s other three co-founders are also “alumni” of Unit 8200. Among Team8’s top investors is Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who also joined Peter Thiel in funding the Unit 8200-linked BillGuard, as well as major tech companies including Cisco Systems and Microsoft.

Last year, Team8 controversially hired the former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, Retired Admiral Mike Rogers, and Zafrir stated that his interest in hiring Rogers was that Rogers would be “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) hacking unit, told CyberScoop:

Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. … It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

Team8 has also been heavily promoted by Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC). SUNC prominently features Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website and also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

SUNC itself has deep ties to Israeli military intelligence, with former Unit 8200 officer Raphael Ouzan serving on its board of directors. Another example of SUNC-Unit 8200 ties can be seen with Inbal Arieli, who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel, alongside Team8. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC and several other top SUNC staffers are also connected to Israeli military intelligence.

Thus, Google and Cisco’s connections to Team8 suggests that their partnerships with another Israeli military intelligence-connected firm like Carbyne is a deepening of those two companies’ links to the growing bi-national security state that is uniting key players in the U.S. military-industrial complex and Israeli intelligence.

Mossad-backed Panic Buttons, coming to a school near you

Carbyne is hardly the only Israeli intelligence-linked tech company marketing itself in the United States as a solution to mass shootings. Another Israeli start-up, known as Gabriel, was founded in 2016 in response to a shooting in Tel Aviv and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in the United States, which took place just days apart.

Created by Israeli-American Yoni Sherizen and Israeli citizen Asaf Adler, Gabriel is similar to Carbyne in the sense that elements of its crisis response platform require installation on civilian smartphones as well as devices used by crisis responders. The main difference is that Gabriel also installs one or a series of physical “panic buttons,” depending on the size of the building to be secured, that also double as video and audio communication devices connected to the Gabriel network.

As with Carbyne, the ties between Gabriel and Israeli intelligence are obvious. Indeed, Gabriel’s four-person advisory board includes Ram Ben-Barak, former deputy director of the Mossad and former director-general of Israel’s intelligence ministry; Yohanan Danino, former chief of police for the state of Israel; and Kobi Mor, former director of overseas missions for the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet. The only American on the advisory board is Ryan Petty, the father of a Parkland shooting victim and friend of former Florida Governor Rick Scott.

Gabriel’s only disclosed funder is U.S.-based MassChallenge, a start-up accelerator non-profit. Gabriel is funded by MassChallenge’s Israel branch, which was opened six months prior to Gabriel’s creation and is partnered with the Israeli government and the Kraft Group. The Kraft Group is managed by Robert Kraft, who is currently embroiled in a prostitution scandal and is also a close friend of President Trump.

Notably, one of MassChallenge Israel’s featured experts is Wendy Singer, the executive director of SUNC, the organization created and funded by neoconservative Trump backer Paul Singer with the explicit purpose of promoting Israel’s tech start-ups and their integration into foreign, chiefly American, businesses. As was noted in a recent MintPress report on SUNC, Wendy Singer is the sister of neoconservative political operative Dan Senor, who founded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative with Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, and was previously the director of AIPAC’s Israel office for 16 years.

Gabriel’s founders have been quite upfront about the fact that the uptick in shootings in the U.S. has greatly aided their company’s growth and success. Last November, Sherizen told The Jerusalem Post that new mass shootings in the U.S. not only increased U.S. demand for his company’s product but also were opportunities to show the effectiveness of Gabriel’s approach:

Unfortunately every month there seems to be another high-profile event of this nature. After the Vegas shooting, we were able to show [that] our system would have managed to identify the location of the shooter much quicker.”

The Jerusalem Post noted that Gabriel is set to make considerable profits if concern over mass shootings continues to build in the U.S., writing:

With more than 475,000 soft targets across the US and amid increasing security fears, the potential market for Gabriel is huge. The company could gain revenues of almost $1 billion if only 10% of soft targets were to invest around $20,000 in its alert systems.”

Sherizen told the Jerusalem Post:

Our starter kit costs $10,000. Depending on the size and makeup of the community building, it would cost between $20-30,000 to fully outfit the location. We have made it very affordable. This is a game-changer for the lock-down and active shooter drills that are now a standard part of any child’s upbringing in the States.”

Much more than just a start-up

While it is certainly possible that numerous former officials and commanders of elite Israeli intelligence agencies may have no ulterior motive in advising or founding technology start-up companies, it is worth pointing out that top figures in Israel’s military intelligence agencies and the Mossad don’t see it that way.

Last March, Israeli media outlet Calcalist Tech published a report entitled “Israel Blurs the Line Between Defense Apparatus and Local Cybersecurity Hub,” which noted that “since 2012, cyber-related and intelligence projects that were previously carried out in-house in the Israeli military and Israel’s main intelligence arms are transferred to companies that in some cases were built for this exact purpose.” (emphasis added)

The article notes that beginning in 2012, Israel’s intelligence and military intelligence agencies began to outsource “activities that were previously managed in-house, with a focus on software and cyber technologies.” (emphasis added)

It continues:

In some cases, managers of development projects in the Israeli military and intelligence arms were encouraged to form their own companies, which then took over the project,’ an Israeli venture capitalist familiar with the matter told Calcalist Tech.”

Notably, Calcalist Tech states that the controversial company Black Cube was created this way and that Black Cube had been contracted, and is likely still contracted, by Israel’s Ministry of Defense. The private security agency Black Cube is known to have two separate divisions for corporations and governments. The firm was recently caught attempting to undermine the Iran nuclear deal — then also a top political objective of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — by attempting to obtain information on the “financial or sexual impropriety” (i.e., blackmail) of top U.S. officials involved in drafting the accord. NBC News noted last year that “Black Cube’s political work frequently intersects with Israel’s foreign policy priorities.” As previously mentioned, one of Carbyne’s co-founders — Lital Leshem, also a veteran of Unit 8200 — worked for Black Cube prior to starting Carbyne.

One of the main companies profiled in the Calcalist Tech report appeared to be a front for Israeli intelligence, as its registered owner was found not to exist: even high-level employees at the company had never heard of him; his registered addresses were for nonexistent locations in Israel’s capital of Tel Aviv; and the three people with that name in Tel Aviv denied any association with the business.

This company — which Calcalist Tech was unable to name after the Israeli military censor determined that doing so could negatively impact Israeli “national security” — was deliberately created to service the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence. It is also “focused on cyber technologies with expertise in research and development of advanced products and applications suitable for defense and commercial entities.” (emphases added) In addition, the company’s management consists largely of “veterans of Israeli military technology units.”

Notably, a former employee of this company told Calcalist Tech that “crossing the lines between military service and employment at the commercial outfit was ‘commonplace’ while he was working at the company.”

It’s not exactly clear why Israel’s military intelligence and other intelligence agencies decided to begin outsourcing its operations in 2012, though Calcalist Tech suggests the reasoning was related to the difference in wages between the private sector and the public sector, with pay being much higher in the former. However, it is notable that 2012 was also the year that Paul Singer — together with Netanyahu’s long-time economic adviser and former chair of the Israeli National Economic Council, Eugene Kandel — decided to create Start-Up Nation Central.

As MintPress noted earlier this year, SUNC was founded as part of a deliberate Israeli government effort to counter the nonviolent Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to make Israel the dominant global “cyber power.” This policy is aimed at increasing Israel’s diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians.

Last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin whether the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector, specifically tech start-ups, was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu again outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech Conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.”

The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Israel’s government and the successful effort led by SUNC and other companies and organizations to place former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major multinational technology companies reveal that this “deliberate policy” has had a major and undeniable impact on the global tech industry, especially in Silicon Valley.

Mossad gets its own In-Q-Tel

This “deliberate policy” of Netanyahu’s also recently resulted in the creation of a Mossad-run venture capital fund that is specifically focused on financing Israeli tech start-ups. The venture capital fund, called Libertad, was first announced by Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and was created with the explicit purpose of “increasing the Israeli intelligence agency’s knowledge base and fostering collaboration with Israel’s vibrant startup scene” It was modeled after the CIA’s venture capital fund In-Q-Tel, which invested in several Silicon Valley companies turned government and intelligence contractors — including Google and Palantir — with a similar goal in mind.

Libertad declines to reveal the recipients of its funding, but announced last December that it had chosen five companies in the fields of robotics, energy, encryption, web intelligence, and natural language processing and text analysis. In regard to its interest in web intelligence, a Mossad employee told the Jerusalem Post that the intelligence agency was specifically interested in “innovative technologies for [the] automatic identification of personality characteristics – personality profiling – based on online behavior and activity, using methods based on statistics, machine learning, and other areas.” (emphasis added)

According to Libertad’s website, in return for its investment, now set at NIS 2 million (~$580,000) per year per company, “the Mossad will receive access to the IP [initial product] developed during R&D [Research and Development] while under contract, and a non-commercial, non-exclusive license to use it. Libertad’s contract with the company will not provide it with any additional rights.” In an interview with Calcalist Tech, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen told the paper that the Mossad’s partnership with civilian companies in Israel is “excellent” and that the agency will continue to strengthen those ties.

Israeli intelligence has a documented history in placing “backdoors” into technology products for the purpose of surveillance, with one well-known case being Israel’s repurposing of the PROMIS software, discussed in Part III of MintPress’ series on Jeffrey Epstein. Furthermore, given that U.S. intelligence, specifically the NSA, had “backdoors” placed into the products of major Silicon Valley companies (a service performed by Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies no less), Mossad may very well plan on doing the same with the technology products of companies it backs through Libertad.

Tim Shorrock, investigative journalist and author of Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, told MintPress that the Mossad’s continuation of such practices through Libertad was definitely plausible, especially given what Shorrock described as the “unusual” choice of Libertad choosing not to release the identities of the companies in which it invests.

“The Mossad is trying to hide what they are investing in,” Shorrock stated, adding that Libertad’s secrecy “raises a lot of questions” particularly given that it was modeled after the CIA’s In-Q-Tel. Shorrock noted that In-Q-Tel and other venture capital funds with ties to U.S. intelligence or the U.S. military rarely, if ever, hide the identities of the companies they finance.

However, Libertad is merely the latest and most public expression of the Mossad’s interest in Israeli tech start-ups, the lion’s share of which are created by veterans of Unit 8200 or other Israeli intelligence agencies. Indeed, former Mossad Director Tamir Pardo stated in 2017 that “everyone” in the Israeli cybertechnology sector is an “alumni” of either Israeli intelligence, like the Mossad, or Israeli military intelligence, like Unit 8200. Pardo even went as far as to say that the Mossad itself is “like a start-up.”

Pardo himself, after leaving his post as Mossad director in 2016, dove straight into the world of Israeli tech start-ups, becoming chairman of Sepio Systems, whose two CEOs are former Unit 8200 officers. Sepio Systems’ advisory board includes the former chief information security officer of the CIA, Robert Bigman; former member of the U.S. Military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Geoff Hancock; and former head of the Israel National Cyber Bureau and veteran of Israeli military intelligence, Rami Efrati. Sepio Systems’ cybersecurity software has been adopted by several banks, telecom and insurance companies, including in the U.S. and Brazil.

Pardo is not the only prominent figure in Israel’s intelligence community to compare Israeli intelligence agencies to tech start-ups. Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman described Israel’s domestic spy agency in similar terms. “The Shin Bet is like an evolving start-up, with unmatched strength,” Argaman stated in a June 2017 speech, as he extolled the agency’s use of “pre-crime” technology to detain Palestinians based on their social media activity.

Argaman, at the time, claimed that more than 2,000 Palestinians, whom he described as “potential lone-wolf terrorists,” had been arrested as a result of these “breakthrough technological advances” that use artificial-intelligence algorithms to monitor the social media accounts of Palestinians, especially younger Palestinians, for the use of “tripwire” phrases that have been used by Palestinians who later committed acts of violence. In the case of those who use such terms, “their phones are tracked to see if they meet other suspects, or leave their districts to move towards potential Israeli targets. In such cases, security forces detain the suspect,” according to a 2017 report on the practice by The Economist.

The road to fascism, paved by a corrupted PROMIS

Though Israeli intelligence’s interest in tech companies goes back several years, there is a well-documented history of Israeli intelligence using bugged software to surveil and gain “backdoor” access to government databases around the world, particularly in the United States.

As was mentioned in Part III of MintPress’ Epstein series, a sinister yet cunning plan was executed to place a backdoor for Israeli intelligence into the Prosecutor’s Management Information System (PROMIS) software, which was then being used by the U.S. Department of Justice and was the envy of government agencies, particularly intelligence agencies, around the world. This bugged version of PROMIS — born out of the collusion between Earl Brian, Ronald Reagan’s then-envoy to Iran, and Rafi Eitan, then-director of the now-defunct Israeli intelligence agency Lekem — was seeded around the world by Brian’s company Hadron as well as by Mossad-linked media mogul Robert Maxwell, father of Jeffrey Epstein’s long-time girlfriend and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell.

After this first PROMIS “backdoor” was discovered, Israel would again gain access to sensitive U.S. government communications, as well as civilian communications, thanks to the collusion between Israeli intelligence and Israeli telecom and tech companies, especially Amdocs and Comverse Infosys (now Verint), that were operating throughout the United States. Today, Unit 8200-linked start-ups appear to have taken up the torch.

While the PROMIS software is perhaps best known for offering Israeli intelligence a backdoor into as many as 80 intelligence agencies and other sensitive locations around the world for nearly a decade, it was also used for a very different purpose by prominent officials linked to Iran-Contra.

One key Iran-Contra figure — Lt. Col. Oliver North, then serving on the National Security Council — decided to use PROMIS neither for espionage nor for foreign policy. Instead, North turned PROMIS’ power against Americans, particularly perceived dissidents, a fact that remained unknown for years.

Beginning in 1982, as part of the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program, North used the PROMIS software at a 6,100-square-foot “command center” in the Department of Justice, as well as at a smaller operations room at the White House, to compile a list of American dissidents and “potential troublemakers” if the COG protocol was ever invoked.

According to a senior government official with a high-ranking security clearance and service in five presidential administrations who spoke to Radar in 2008, this was:

A database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.”

In 1993, Wired described North’s use of PROMIS in compiling this database as follows:

Using PROMIS, sources point out, North could have drawn up lists of anyone ever arrested for a political protest, for example, or anyone who had ever refused to pay their taxes. Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon’s enemies list or Sen. Joe McCarthy’s blacklist look downright crude.”

The COG program defined this “time of panic” as “a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent, or national opposition to a US military invasion abroad,” whereby the government would suspend the Constitution, declare martial law, and incarcerate perceived dissidents and other “unfriendlies” in order to prevent the government’s (or then-serving administration’s) overthrow.

This secretive database has often been referred to as “Main Core” by government insiders and, most troubling of all, it still exists today. Journalist Christ Ketcham, citing senior government officials, reported in 2008 that, at that time, Main Core was believed to contain the names of as many as 8 million Americans. Eleven years later, it is highly likely that the number of Americans included in the Main Core database has grown considerably.

Author and investigative journalist Tim Shorrock also covered other disturbing aspects of the evolution of Main Core back in 2008 for Salon. At the time, Shorrock reported that the George W. Bush administration was believed to have used Main Core to guide its domestic surveillance activities following the September 11 attacks.

Citing “several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations,” Shorrock further noted that Main Core — as it was 11 years ago at the time his report was published — was said to contain “a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies.”

Bill Hamilton, former NSA intelligence officer and the original creator of the PROMIS software, told Shorrock at the time that he believed that “U.S. intelligence uses PROMIS as the primary software for searching the Main Core database” and had been told as much by an intelligence official in 1992 and an NSA official in 1995. Dan Murphy, former deputy director at the CIA, had told Hamilton that the NSA’s use of PROMIS was “so seriously wrong that money alone cannot cure the problem.” “I believe in retrospect that Murphy was alluding to Main Core,” Hamilton had told Shorrock.

Though most reporting on Main Core, from the time its existence was first revealed to the present, has treated the database as something used by the U.S. government and U.S. intelligence for domestic purposes, MintPress has learned that Israeli intelligence was also involved with the creation of the Main Core database. According to a former U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the U.S. intelligence community’s use of PROMIS and Main Core from the 1980s to 2000s, Israeli intelligence played a role in the U.S. government’s deployment of PROMIS as the software used for the Main Core domestic surveillance database system.

Israeli intelligence remained involved with Main Core at the time of the August 1991 death of journalist Danny Casolaro, who was investigating not only the government’s misuse of the stolen PROMIS software but also the Main Core database. This same official, who chose to remain anonymous, told MintPress that, shortly before his death, Casolaro had obtained copies of computer printouts from the PROMIS-based Main Core domestic surveillance database system from NSA whistleblower Alan Standorf, who was found murdered a few months before Casolaro’s lifeless body would be found in a West Virginia hotel room.

The source also stated that Main Core’s contents had been used for the political blackmail of members of Congress and their staff, journalists, and others by Walter Raymond, a senior CIA covert operator in psyops and disinformation who served on President Reagan’s National Security Council during and after Main Core’s creation. If used for this purpose by Raymond in the 1980s, Main Core has also likely been used by other individuals with access to the database for blackmailing purposes in the years since.

Given that Israeli intelligence was known to have placed a backdoor into the PROMIS software, before it was marketed and sold around the world by Earl Brian and Robert Maxwell, its role in the U.S. government’s decision to use PROMIS in the creation of Main Core suggests that Israeli intelligence likely advocated for the version of PROMIS containing this backdoor, thereby giving Israeli intelligence access to Main Core. Given that Reagan aides and officials colluded with Israeli “spymaster” Rafi Eitan in his efforts to create a backdoor into the software for Israeli military intelligence, the use of this version of PROMIS in the Main Core database is certainly plausible.

Furthermore, the fact that Israeli intelligence was known to be involved in Main Core nearly a decade after its creation suggests that Israeli intelligence may have played a role in certain aspects of the database, such as the criteria used to flag Americans as “unfriendly,” and — like Walter Raymond — may have used information in the database to blackmail Americans. In addition, the fact that the cooperation between U.S. and Israeli intelligence, particularly between Unit 8200 and the NSA, has only grown since 1991 further suggests that Israeli involvement in Main Core continues to the present.

While Main Core’s very existence is troubling for many reasons, the alleged involvement of a foreign intelligence service in the creation, expansion and maintenance of a database with personal details and potentially damaging information on millions of Americans targeted for detention or increased surveillance in times of crisis is chilling. It is especially so considering that the Trump administration’s latest proposals to prevent mass shootings before they occur are likely to use Main Core to flag certain Americans for increased surveillance or potentially detention, as was done by the George W. Bush administration following the September 11 attacks.

It appears that Main Core serves a dual purpose; first as a mass targeted surveillance system to crush dissent during times of “national crisis” — whether spontaneous or engineered — and, second, as a massive blackmail database used to keep every potential opponent in line during non-emergencies.

Peter Thiel’s Seeing Stone

As was mentioned earlier in this report, Palantir — the company co-founded by Peter Thiel — is set to profit handsomely from the Trump administration’s plans to use its “pre-crime” technology, which is already used by police departments throughout the country and also used to track Americans based on the company’s integrative data-mining approach. Palantir, named for the “seeing stones” in the Lord of the Rings novels, also markets software to foreign (and domestic) intelligence agencies that predicts the likelihood that an individual will commit an act of terrorism or violence.

Aside from its “pre-crime” products, Palantir has come under fire in recent years as a result of the company’s contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), where it created an intelligence system known as Investigative Case Management (ICM). The IB Times described ICM as “a vast ‘ecosystem’ of data to help immigration officials in identifying targets and creating cases against them” and also “provides ICE agents with access to databases managed by other federal agencies.” ICM further gives ICE access to “targets’ personal and sensitive information, such as background on schooling, employment, family relationships, phone records, immigration history, biometrics data, criminal records as well as home and work addresses.” In other words, Palantir’s ICM is essentially a “Main Core” for immigrants.

Notably, part of Oliver North’s original intentions in “Main Core” was to track immigrants then coming from Central America as well as Americans who opposed Reagan era policy with respect to Central America. At that time, Main Core was believed to be controlled by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

VICE News reported in July that the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, which is run by DHS, “serves around 300 communities in northern California and is what is known as a ‘fusion center,’ a Department of Homeland Security intelligence center that aggregates and investigates information from state, local, and federal agencies, as well as some private entities, into large databases that can be searched using software like Palantir. “ VICE further noted that this center alone used Palantir to surveil as many as 8 million Ameicans. There are many more such DHS “fusion centers” throughout the United States.

If the Trump administration moves forward with its proposal of employing technology to detect potential mass shooters before they strike, Palantir’s technology is set to be used, given that it has already been used by U.S. law enforcement and U.S. intelligence to determine which people run “the highest risk of being involved in gun violence,” according to an investigation of Palantir by The Verge. Furthermore, Palantir’s close ties to the Trump administration make the company’s role in a future nationwide “pre-crime” prevention system based on technology appear inevitable.

Worse still is the apparent overlap between Palantir and Main Core. Palantir — which has obvious similarities to PROMIS — is already known to use its software to track potential terror threats, including domestic terror threats, and a category of people it refers to as “subversives.” Palantir’s tracking of these individuals “is all done using prediction.” Palantir’s close ties to the U.S. intelligence community suggest that Palantir may already have access to the Main Core database. Tim Shorrock told MintPress that Palantir’s use of Main Core is “certainly possible,” particularly in light of the company’s use of the term “subversive” to describe a category of people that its software tracks.

Palantir also has alleged ties to Israeli intelligence, as there have long been suspicions that Israeli intelligence has used Palantir as part of its AI “pre-crime” algorithms targeting Palestinians after Palantir opened a research and development (R&D) center in Israel in 2013. The current head of Palantir Israel, Hamultal Meridor, previously founded a brain-machine interface organization and was senior director of web intelligence at Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys), which has deep connections to Unit 8200, a history of espionage in the United States and was one of the two companies contracted by the NSA to insert a “backdoor” into the U.S. telecommunications system and popular products of major American tech companies.

Given the above, Peter Thiel’s 2018 decision to fund Carbyne, the Unit 8200-linked start-up that markets itself as a technological solution to mass shootings in the U.S., strongly suggests that Thiel has been anticipating for some time the now-public efforts of the Trump administration to employ “pre-crime” technology to track and target Americans who show signs of “mental illness” and “violent tendencies.”

A nightmare even Orwell could not have predicted

In early August, in the wake of the shooting at an El Paso Walmart, President Trump called on big tech companies to collaborate with the Justice Department in the creation of software that “stops mass murders before they start” by detecting potential mass shooters before they cnm act. Though Trump’s ideas were short on specifics, there is now a new proposal that would create a new government agency that will use data gathered from civilian electronic devices to identify “neurobehavioral” warning signs, thereby flagging “potential shooters” for increased surveillance and potentially detention.

This new agency, as proposed by the foundation led by former NBC Universal president and vice chairman of General Electric Robert Wright, would be known as the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) and would be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Per the proposal, recently detailed by the Washington Post, the flagship program of HARPA would be “Safe Home” (Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes), which would use “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence,” specifically “advanced analytical tools based on artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

The program would cost an estimated $60 million over four years and would use data from “Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home” and other consumer electronic devices, as well as information provided by health-care providers to identify who may be a threat.

The Washington Post reported that President Trump has reacted “very positively” to the proposal and that he was “sold on the concept.” The Post also noted that Wright sees the president’s daughter, Ivanka, as “the most effective champion of the proposal and has previously briefed her on HARPA himself.” Ivanka has previously been cited as a driving force behind some of her father’s policy decisions, including his decision to bomb Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack in 2017.

Liz Fed — president of the Susan Wright Foundation, which is led by Robert Wright and created the proposal for HARPA and “Safe Home” — told the Post that the proposal emulated DARPA because “DARPA is a brilliant model that works. They have developed the most transformational capabilities in the world for national security…We’re not leveraging the tools and technologies available to us to improve and save lives.” Fed further asserted that DARPA’s technological approach had yet to be applied to the field of healthcare.

For anyone familiar with DARPA, such claims should immediately sound loud alarm bells, especially since DARPA is already developing its own solution to “mental health” issues in the form of a “brain-machine interface” as part of its N3 program. That program, according to reports, involves “noninvasive and ‘minutely’ invasive neural interfaces to both read and write into the brain,” help distance soldiers “from the emotional guilt of warfare” by “clouding their perception” and “to program artificial memories of fear, desire, and experiences directly into the brain.” Though N3 is intended to improve the prowess of American soldiers, it is also set to be used as a means of pursuing DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) project, which aims to “to develop a tiny, implanted chip in the skull to treat psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, PTSD and major depression.”

Given that HARPA’s lead scientific adviser is Dr. Geoffrey Ling, former director and founder of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), which “merges biology, engineering, and computer science to harness the power of natural systems for national security,” it seems likely that DARPA’s neurological-focused research programs, like SUBNETS and N3, would be folded into HARPA’s portfolio, making the proposed agency’s approach to mental health very questionable indeed.

Aside from the dystopian nature of both DARPA and potentially HARPA’s approach to mental health, there is grave cause for concern regarding the Trump administration’s moves to address U.S. mass shooting events by implementing pre-crime technology based on artificial intelligence, data-mining and mass surveillance, technologies already laying in wait thanks to companies like Palantir and numerous Israeli tech start-ups led by former Unit 8200 officers.

With companies like Carbyne — with its ties to both the Trump administration and to Israeli intelligence — and the Mossad-linked Gabriel also marketing themselves as “technological” solutions to mass shootings while also doubling as covert tools for mass data collection and extraction, the end result is a massive surveillance system so complete and so dystopian that even George Orwell himself could not have predicted it.

Following another catastrophic mass shooting or crisis event, aggressive efforts will likely follow to foist these “solutions” on a frightened American public by the very network connected, not only to Jeffrey Epstein, but to a litany of crimes and a frightening history of plans to crush internal dissent and would-be dissenters in the United States.

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

September 6, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Big Tech & Big Brother meet at Facebook HQ to discuss how to ‘secure’ US elections

RT | September 5, 2019

Security teams for Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft met with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence’s office to coordinate a strategy to win – er, secure – the 2020 elections.

The tech platforms met with government officials at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters on Wednesday, the company has confirmed, boasting that Big Tech and Big Brother have developed a “comprehensive strategy” to get control of previous election-related “vulnerabilities” while “analyzing and getting ahead of new threats.”

Facebook has scrambled to get in front of the 2020 election after being blamed for Trump’s 2016 electoral victory over merely allowing the “Russian trolls” to buy a bunch of ads, most of which appeared after the vote and had nothing to do with the election. But the company insisted last week it had tightened its rules for verifying purchasers of “political” ads, for real this time, after the 2018 contest showed they could still be duped into running obviously-fake ads “paid for by” the Islamic State terror group and Cambridge Analytica.

Aside from the occasional purge of accounts accused of being linked to countries like Russia, Iran, and China on the US’ ever-lengthening enemies’ list, however, it’s hard to tell what exactly any platform has done to make itself immune to ‘manipulation’. Twitter banned state-owned media from buying ads on its platform last month, holding the move up as a victory against the dreaded “foreign meddling,” but its own founder’s account was hacked last week, suggesting it has bigger security issues than a few wrongthink-prone advertisers.

And Google’s potential to sway elections has been the subject of Senate hearings – yet the company has remained silent on addressing the problem, suggesting it doesn’t see it as a bug at all, but a feature. Subsidiary YouTube, meanwhile, conducted another round of deplatforming last month even while declaring it was an open platform for controversial ideas.

The electoral meeting of the minds came less than a week after the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) declared war on deepfakes and other potentially discord-sowing information, promising to neutralize all “malicious” content within four years – if not for this election, then certainly for the next.

Until then, there’s Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software, which the company announced in July it would provide to all the nation’s voting machines, free of charge, out of the goodness of its (and the Pentagon-owned contractor that helped develop the program’s) heart. And if Microsoft’s act of selfless charity doesn’t convince a district their democracy is worth protecting, there’s always Cyberdome, the election security nonprofit advised by half a dozen former intel agency heads who want what’s best for your vote (when they’re not authorizing torture or warrantless wiretapping).

Getting the DHS involved was a nice touch, too, after that agency was accused of attempting to hack electoral systems in multiple states thousands of times during the period surrounding the 2016 election. Unlike the “Russian hacking” allegations that remain unproven, multiple officials from Idaho, Georgia, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky claim the agency attempted to access their systems after they opposed its efforts to “secure” those systems. After initially denying any involvement, the DHS claimed the attempted breach alarms were set off accidentally, during routine “legitimate work.”

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Spyware Can Steal Private Data From Apple, Google, Facebook – Reports

Sputnik – July 20, 2019

Israel-based NSO Group became the focus of public attention this spring, when the media reported that its software products are being used to hack WhatsApp messenger, as well as spy on the owners of Android and iOS smartphones.

Spyware from NSO Group can obtain user data from Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft servers, according to an article in The Financial Times.

While NSO has consistently rejected any espionage or hacking allegations, the company has never denied the development of such technology, prompting many questions among experts.

According to the Financial Times, the infected smartphone provides NSO’s Pegasus software with authentication keys for Google Drive, Facebook Messenger and iCloud cloud services. With this technology, Pegasus manages to bypass two-step authentication and email notification.

Users are not notified of suspicious activity.

Some information security experts doubt the effectiveness of Pegasus, but representatives of Amazon and Facebook have already promised to investigate and strengthen the security measures of their cloud services, if necessary.

It was revealed in May that WhatsApp had been targeted by NSO, according to Forbes.

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How NeoCon Billionaire Paul Singer Is Driving the Outsourcing of US Tech Jobs to Israel

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | June 11, 2019

WASHINGTON — With nearly 6 million Americans unemployed and regular bouts of layoffs in the U.S. tech industry, major American tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation are nonetheless moving key operations, billions in investments, and thousands of jobs to Israel — a trend that has largely escaped media attention or concern from even “America first” politicians. The fact that this massive transfer of investment and jobs has been so overlooked is particularly striking given that it is largely the work of a single leading neoconservative Republican donor who has given millions of dollars to President Donald Trump.

To make matters worse, many of these top tech companies shifting investment and jobs to Israel at record rates continue to collect sizable U.S. government subsidies for their operations while they move critical aspects of their business abroad, continue to layoff thousands of American workers, and struggle to house their growing company branches in Israel. This is particularly troubling in light of the importance of the tech sector to the overall U.S. economy, as it accounts for 7.1 percent of total GDP and 11.6 percent of total private-sector payroll.

Furthermore, many of these companies are hiring members of controversial Israeli companies — known to have spied on Americans, American companies, and U.S. federal agencies — as well as numerous members of Israeli military intelligence as top managers and executives. 

This massive transfer of the American tech industry has largely been the work of one leading Republican donor — billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who also funds the neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Islamophobic and hawkish think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and also funded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

Singer’s project to bolster Israel’s tech economy at the U.S.’ expense is known as Start-Up Nation Central, which he founded in response to the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use nonviolent means to pressure Israel to comply with international law in relation to its treatment of Palestinians.

This project is directly linked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has publicly mentioned that it has been his “deliberate policy” to have former members of Israel’s “military and intelligence units … merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners” in order to make it all but impossible for major corporations and foreign governments to boycott Israel.

In this report, MintPress identifies dozens of former members of an elite Israeli military intelligence unit who now hold top positions at Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Singer’s nonprofit organization has acted as the vehicle through which Netanyahu’s policy has been realized, via the group’s close connections to the Israeli PM and Singer’s long-time support for Netanyahu and the Likud Party. With deep ties to Netanyahu, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and controversial tech companies — like Amdocs — that spied on the American government, this Singer-funded organization has formed a nexus of connections between the public and private sectors of both the American and Israeli economies with the single goal of making Israel the new technology superpower, largely at the expense of the American economy and government, which currently gives $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually.

Researched and developed in Israel

In recent years, the top U.S. tech companies have been shifting many of their most critical operations, particularly research and development, to one country: Israel. A 2016 report in Business Insider noted that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple had all opened up research and development (R&D) centers in recent years, with some of them having as many as three such centers in Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey. Other major tech companies that have also opened key operation and research centers in Israel include Sandisk, Nvidia, PayPal, Palantir and Dell. Forbes noted last year that the world’s top 10 tech companies were now “doing mission-critical work in Israel that’s core to their businesses back at HQ.”

Yet, some of these tech giants, particularly those based in the U.S., are heavily investing in their Israeli branches while laying off thousands of American employees, all while receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

For example, Intel Corporation, which is the world’s second largest manufacturer of semiconductor computer chips and is headquartered in California, has long been a major employer in Israel, with over 10,000 employees in the Jewish state. However, earlier this year, Intel announced that it would be investing $11 billion in a new factory in Israel and would receive around $1 billion in an Israeli government grant for that investment. Just a matter of months after Intel announced its major new investment in Israel, it announced a new round of layoffs in the United States.

Yet this is just one recent example of what has become a trend for Intel. In 2018, Intel made public its plan to invest $5 billion in one of its Israeli factories and had invested an additional $15 billion in Israeli-created autonomous driving technology a year prior, creating thousands of Intel jobs in Israel. Notably, over that same time frame, Intel has cut nearly 12,000 jobs in the United States. While this great transfer of investment and jobs was undermining the U.S. economy and hurting American workers, particularly in the tech sector, Intel received over $25 million dollars in subsidies from the U.S. federal government.

A similar phenomenon has been occurring at another U.S.-based tech giant, Microsoft. Beginning in 2014 and continuing into 2018, Microsoft has laid off well over 20,000 employees, most of them Americans, in several different rounds of staff cuts. Over that same time period, Microsoft has been on a hiring spree in Israel, building new campuses and investing billions of dollars annually in its Israel-based research and development center and in other Israeli start-up companies, creating thousands of jobs abroad. In addition, Microsoft has been pumping millions of dollars into technology programs at Israeli universities and institutes, such as the Technion Institute. Over this same time frame, Microsoft has received nearly $197 million in subsidies from the state governments of Washington, Iowa and Virginia.

Though Israeli politicians and tech company executives have praised this dramatic shift as the result of Israel’s tech prowess and growing reputation as a technological innovation hub, much of this dramatic shift has been the work of the Netanyahu-tied Singer’s effort to counter a global movement aimed at boycotting Israel and to make Israel a global “cyber power.”

Start-Up Nation Central and the Neocons

In 2009, a book titled Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, written by American neoconservative Dan Senor and Jerusalem Post journalist Saul Singer (unrelated to Paul), quickly rose to the New York Times bestseller list for its depiction of Israel as the tech start-up capital of the world. The book — published by the Council on Foreign Relations, where Senor was then serving as Adjunct Senior Fellow — asserts that Israel’s success in producing so many start-up companies resulted from the combination of its liberal immigration laws and its “leverage of the business talents of young people with military experience.”

“The West needs innovation; Israel’s got it,” wrote Senor and Singer. In a post-publication interview with the blog Freakonomics, Senor asserted that service in the Israeli military was crucial to Israel’s tech sector success, stating that:

“Certain units have become technology boot camps, where 18- to 22-year-olds get thrown projects and missions that would make the heads spin of their counterparts in universities or the private sector anywhere else in the world. The Israelis come out of the military not just with hands-on exposure to next-gen technology, but with training in teamwork, mission orientation, leadership, and a desire to continue serving their country by contributing to its tech sector — a source of pride for just about every Israeli.”

The book, in addition to the many accolades it received from the mainstream press, left a lasting impact on top Republican donor Paul Singer, known for funding the most influential neoconservative think tanks in America, as noted above. Paul Singer was so inspired by Senor and Singer’s book that he decided to spend $20 million to fund and create an organization with a similar name. He created the Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) just three years after the book’s release in 2012.

To achieve his vision, Singer – who is also a top donor to the Republican Party and Trump – tapped Israeli economist Eugene Kandel, who served as Netanyahu’s national economic adviser and chaired the Israeli National Economic Council from 2009 to 2015.

Senor was likely directly involved in the creation of SUNC, as he was then employed by Paul Singer and, with neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, co-founded the FPI, which Singer had long funded before it closed in 2017. In addition, Dan Senor’s sister, Wendy Singer (unrelated to either Paul or Saul), long-time director of Israel’s AIPAC office, became the organization’s executive director.

SUNC’s management team, in addition to Eugene Kandel and Wendy Singer, includes Guy Hilton as the organization’s general manager. Hilton is a long-time marketing executive at Israeli telecommunications company Amdocs, where he “transformed” the company’s marketing organization. Amdocs was once highly controversial in the United States after it was revealed by a 2001 Fox News investigation that numerous federal agencies had investigated the company, which then had contracts with the 25 largest telephone companies in the country, for its alleged role in an aggressive espionage operation that targeted the U.S. government. Hilton worked at Microsoft prior to joining Amdocs.

Beyond the management team, SUNC’s board of directors includes Paul Singer, Dan Senor and Terry Kassel — who work for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management — and Rapheal Ouzan. Ouzan was an officer in the elite foreign military intelligence unit of Israel, Unit 8200, who co-founded BillGuard the day after he left that unit, which is often compared to the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA). Within five months of its founding, BillGuard was backed by funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. Ouzan is also connected to U.S. tech companies that have greatly expanded their Israeli branches since SUNC’s founding — such as Microsoft, Google, PayPal and Intel, all of which support Ouzan’s non-profit Israel Tech Challenge.

According to reports from the time published in Haaretz and Bloomberg, SUNC was explicitly founded to serve as “a foreign ministry for Israel’s tech industry” and “to strength Israel’s economy” while also aiming to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use a nonviolent boycott to end the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Israeli apartheid, as well as the growth of illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Since its founding, SUNC has sought to transfer tech jobs from foreign companies to Israel by developing connections and influence with foreign governments and companies so that they “deepen their relationship with Israel’s tech industry.” Though SUNC has since expanded to include other sectors of the Israeli “start-up” economy, its focus has long remained on Israel’s tech, specifically its cybersecurity industry. Foreign investment in this single Israeli industry has grown from $227 million in 2014 to $815 million in 2018.

In addition to its own activities, SUNC appears to be closely linked to a similar organization, sponsored by Coca Cola and Daimler Mercedes Benz, called The Bridge, which also seeks to connect Israeli start-up companies with large international corporations. Indeed, SUNC, according to its website, was actually responsible for Daimler Mercedes Benz’s decision to join The Bridge, thanks to a delegation from the company that SUNC hosted in Israel and the connections made during that visit.

Teaming up with Israel’s Unit 8200

Members of Israel’s signals intelligence Unit 8200 work under a Saudi flag. Photo | Moti Milrod

Notably, SUNC has deep ties to Israel’s military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200 and, true to Start Up Nation’s praise of IDF service as key to Israel’s success, has been instrumental in connecting Unit 8200 alumni with key roles in foreign companies, particularly American tech companies. For instance, Maty Zwaig, a former lieutenant colonel in Unit 8200, is SUNC’s current director of human capital programs, and SUNC’s current manager of strategic programs, Tamar Weiss, is also a former member of the unit.

One particularly glaring connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 can be seen in Inbal Arieli, who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC.

Another key connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 is SUNC’s promotion of Team8, a company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. In addition to prominently featuring Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website, SUNC also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

Team8’s investors include Google’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft, and Walmart — and it recently hired former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, retired Admiral Mike Rogers. Team8 described the decision to hire Rogers as being “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. However, Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking unit, told CyberScoop:

“Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. … It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

In addition to connections to Unit 8200-linked groups like Team8 and 8200 EISP, SUNC also directly collaborates with the IDF in an initiative aimed at preparing young Israeli women to serve in Unit 8200. That initiative, called the CyberGirlz Club, is jointly funded by Israel’s Defense Ministry, SUNC and the Rashi Foundation, the philanthropic organization set up by the Leven family of Perrier-brand water, which has close ties to the Israeli government and IDF.

“Our aim is to bring the girls to this process already skilled, with the knowledge needed to pass the exams for Unit 8200 and serve in the military as programmers,” Zwaig told Israel National News.

Seeding American tech

The connections between SUNC and Unit 8200 are troubling for more than a few reasons, one of which being that Unit 8200, often likened to the U.S.’ NSA, closely coordinates with Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, and is responsible for 90 percent of the intelligence material obtained by the Israeli government, according to its former commander Yair Cohen. Cohen told Forbes in 2016, that “there isn’t a major operation, from the Mossad or any intelligence security agency, that 8200 is not involved in.” For obvious reasons, the fact that an organization founded by an American billionaire is actively promoting the presence of former military intelligence officers in foreign companies, specifically American companies, while also promoting the transfer of jobs and investment to that same country, is very troubling indeed.

Particularly troubling is the fact that, since SUNC’s founding, the number of former Unit 8200 members in top positions in American tech companies has skyrocketed. Based on a non-exhaustive analysis conducted by Mintpress of over 200 LinkedIn accounts of former Israeli military intelligence and intelligence officers in three major tech companies, numerous former Unit 8200 alumni were found to currently hold top managerial or executive positions in Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

At Microsoft, managers for at least 15 of the company’s products and programs — including Microsoft’s lead managers for engineering, product strategy, threat analytics and cloud business intelligence — publicly listed their affiliation with Unit 8200 on their LinkedIn accounts. In addition, the general manager of Microsoft’s Israeli Research and Development Center is also a former member of Unit 8200. In total, of the 200 accounts analyzed, 50 of them currently worked for Microsoft.

Similarly, at Google, 28 former Unit 8200 members at the company were identified from their LinkedIn accounts. Among them are Google’s Engineering Director, its strategic partner manager, two growth marketing leads, its lead technical manager, and six product and program managers, including Google’s manager for trust and safety search.

Facebook also has several Unit 8200 members in prominent positions, though fewer than Google and Microsoft. MintPress identified at least 13 Unit 8200 alumni working for Facebook, including its director of engineering, lead manager for express wi-fi, and technical program manager. Notably, Facebook has spent the last several years collaborating with Israel’s government to censor Israel’s critics.

Of course, there is likely much more influence of Unit 8200 on these companies than this non-exhaustive analysis revealed, given that many of these companies acquired several Israeli start-ups run by and staffed by many Unit 8200 alumni who subsequently went on to found new companies and start-ups a few years or shortly after acquisition. Furthermore, due to the limitations of LinkedIn’s set-up, MintPress was not able to access the complete list of Unit 8200 alumni at these three tech companies, meaning that the eye-opening numbers found were generated by a relatively small sample.

This jump in Unit 8200 members in top positions in tech companies of global importance is actually a policy long promoted by Netanyahu, whose long-time economic adviser is the chief executive at SUNC. During an interview with Fox News last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin if the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu further outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.” The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Netanyahu and the fact that Paul Singer has also been a long-time political donor and backer of Netanyahu suggest that SUNC is a key part of Netanyahu’s policy of placing former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major technology companies.

Notably, just as SUNC was founded to counter the BDS movement, Netanyahu has asserted that this policy of ensuring Israel’s role as a “cyber power” is aimed at increasing its diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians.

Building the bi-national surveillance state

Top U.S. tech companies have filled top positions with former members of Israeli military intelligence and moved strategic and critical operations to Israel, boosting Israel’s economy at the expense of America’s, and SUNC’s role in this marked shift merits scrutiny.

A powerful American billionaire has built an influential organization with deep connections to the U.S.-Israel lobby (AIPAC), an Israeli company that has been repeatedly investigated for spying on the U.S. government (Amdocs), and the elite Israeli military intelligence unit (Unit 8200) that has used its influential connections to the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector to dramatically shift the operations and make-up of major companies in a critical sector of the U.S. economy.

Further consider that U.S. government documents leaked by Edward Snowden have flagged Israel as “leading threat” to the infrastructure of U.S. financial and banking institutions, which use much of the software produced by these top tech companies, and have also flagged Israel as a top espionage threat. One U.S. government document cited Israel as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S. behind Russia and China. Thus, Paul Singer’s pet project in Start-Up Nation Central has undermined not only the U.S. economy but arguably U.S. national security as well.

This concern is further exacerbated by the deep ties connecting top tech companies like Microsoft and Google to the U.S. military. Microsoft and Google are both key military contractors — Microsoft in particular, given that it is set to win a lucrative contract for the Pentagon’s cloud management and has partnered with the Department of Defense to produce a “secure” election system known as ElectionGuard that is set to be implemented in some U.S. states for the 2020 general election.

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

June 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Trust Project: Big Media and Silicon Valley’s Weaponized Algorithms Silence Dissent

Trust Project founder Sally Lehrman speaks at the 2018 organization of News Ombudsmen conference. Photo | ONO
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | June 7, 2019

After the failure of Newsguard — the news rating system backed by a cadre of prominent neoconservative personalities — to gain traction among American tech and social media companies, another organization has quietly stepped in to direct the news algorithms of tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Though different from Newsguard, this group, known as “The Trust Project,” has a similar goal of restoring “trust” in corporate, mainstream media outlets, relative to independent alternatives, by applying “trust indicators” to social-media news algorithms in a decidedly untransparent way. The funding of “The Trust Project” — coming largely from big tech companies like Google; government-connected tech oligarchs like Pierre Omidyar; and the Knight Foundation, a key Newsguard investor — suggests that an ulterior motive in its tireless promotion of “traditional” mainstream media outlets is to limit the success of dissenting alternatives.

Of particular importance is the fact that the Trust Project’s “trust indicators” are already being used to control what news is promoted and suppressed by top search engines like Google and Bing and massive social-media networks like Facebook. Though the descriptions of these “trust indicators” — eight of which are currently in use — are publicly available, the way they are being used by major tech and social media companies is not. 

The Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in favored news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives. Even if its effort to promote “trust” in establishment media fail, its embedded-code hidden within participating news sites allow those establishment outlets to skirt the same algorithms currently targeting their independent competition, making such issues of “trust” largely irrelevant as it moves to homogenize the online media landscape in favor of mainstream media.

The Trust Project’s director, Sally Lehrman, made it clear that, in her view, the lack of public trust in mainstream media and its declining readership is the result of unwanted “competition by principle-free enterprises [that] further undermines its [journalism’s] very role and purpose as an engine for democracy.”

Getting to know the Trust Project

The Trust Project describes itself as “a consortium of top news companies” involved in developing “transparency standards that help you easily assess the quality and credibility of journalism.” It has done this by creating what it calls “Trust Indicators,” which the project’s website describes as “a digital standard that meets people’s needs.” However, far from meeting “people’s needs,” the Trust Indicators seem aimed at manipulating search engine and social-media news algorithms to the benefit of the project’s media partners, rather than to the benefit of the general public.

The origins of the Trust Project date back to a 2012 “roundtable” hosted by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, a center funded by former Apple CEO Mike Markkula. That roundtable became known as the Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics and was created by journalist Sally Lehrman, then working at the Markkula Center, in connection with the New Media Executive Roundtable and Online Credibility Watch of the Society of Professional Journalists. Lehrman has explicitly stated that the Trust Project is open only to “news organizations that adhere to traditional standards.”

The specific idea that spurred the creation of the Trust Project itself was born at a 2014 meeting of that roundtable, when Lehrman “asked a specialist in machine learning at Twitter, and Richard Gingras, head of Google News, if algorithms could be used to support ethics instead of hurting them, and they said yes. Gingras agreed to collaborate.” In other words, the idea behind the Trust Project, from the start, was aimed at gaming search-engine and social-media algorithms in collusion with major tech companies like Google and Twitter.

Sally Lehrman discusses the Trust Project at 2018 WordCamp For Publishers

As the Trust Project itself notes, the means of altering algorithms were developed in tandem with tech-giant executives like Gingras and “top editors in the industry from 80 news outlets and institutions,” all of which are corporate, mainstream media outlets. Notably, the Trust Project’s media partners, involved in creating these new “standards” for news algorithms, include major publications owned by wealthy oligarchs: the Washington Post, owned by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos; the Economist, directed by the wealthy Rothschild family; and the Globe and Mail, owned by Canada’s richest family, the Thomsons, who also own Thomson Reuters. Other Trust Project partners include The New York Times, Mic, Hearst Television, the BBC and the USA Today network.

Other major outlets are represented on the News Leadership Council of the Markkula Center, including the Financial Times, Gizmodo Media, and The Wall Street Journal. That council — which also includes Gingras and Andrew Anker, Facebook’s Director of Product Management — “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators.”

These “Trust Indicators” are the core of the Trust Project’s activities and reveal one of the key mechanisms through which Google, Twitter and Facebook have been altering their algorithms to favor outlets with good “Trust Indicator” scores. Trust Indicators, on their face, are aimed at making news publications “more transparent” as a means of generating increased trust with the public. Though a total of 37 have been developed, it appears only eight of them are currently being used.

These eight indicators are listed and described by the Trust Project as follows:

  • Best Practices: What are the news outlet’s standards? Who funds it? What is the outlet’s mission? Plus commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections and other standards.
  • Author/Reporter Expertise: Who made this? Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: What is this? Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: What’s the source? For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions.
  • Methods: How was it built? Also for in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced? Was the reporting done on the scene, with deep knowledge about the local situation or community? Lets you know when the story has local origin or expertise.
  • Diverse Voices: What are the newsroom’s efforts and commitments to bringing in diverse perspectives? Readers noticed when certain voices, ethnicities, or political persuasions were missing.
  • Actionable Feedback: Can we participate? A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public’s help in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, ensuring accuracy and other areas. Readers want to participate and provide feedback that might alter or expand a story.

How the Trust Project makes these indicators available to the public can be seen in its new project, the Newsroom Transparency Tracker, where it provides a table of “transparency” for participating media outlets. Notably, that table conflates actual transparency practices with simply providing the Trust Project with outlet policies and guidelines related to the above indicators.

For example, The Economist gets a perfect transparency “score” for having provided the Trust Project links to its ethics policy, mission statement and other information requested by the project. However, the fact that those policies exist and are provided to the Trust Project does not mean that the publication’s policies are, in fact, transparent or ethical in terms of their content or in practice. The fact that The Economist provided links to its policies does not make the publication more transparent, but — in the context of the Newsroom Transparency Tracker’s table — it provides the appearance of transparency, though such policy disclosures by The Economist are unlikely to translate into any changes to its well-known biases and slanted reporting towards certain issues.

Trust Indicators manipulate big tech algorithms

The true power of the Trust Indicators comes in a form that is not visible to the general public. These Trust Indicators, while occasionally displayed on partner websites, are also coupled with “machine-readable signals” embedded in the HTML code of participating websites and articles used by Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter. As Lehrman noted in a 2017 article, the Trust Project was then “already working with these four companies, all of which have said they want to use our indicators to prioritize honest, well-reported news over fakery and falsehood.” Gingras of Google News also noted that the Trust Indicators are used by Google as “cues to help search engines better understand and rank results … [and] to help the myriad algorithmic systems that mold our media lives.”

A press release from the Trust Project last year further underscores the importance of the embedded “indicators” to alter social-media and search-engine algorithms:

While each Indicator is visible to users on the pages of the Project’s news partners, it is also embedded in the article and site code for machines to read — providing the first, standardized technical language that offers contextual information about news sites’ commitments to transparency.”

Despite claiming to increase public knowledge of “news sites’ commitments to transparency,” the way that major tech companies like Google and Facebook are using these indicators is anything but transparent. Indeed, it is largely unknown how these indicators are used, though there are a few clues.

For instance, CBS News cited Craig Newmark — the billionaire founder of Craigslist, who provided the Trust Project’s seed funding — as suggesting that “Google’s search algorithm could rank trusted sources above others in search results” by using the project’s Trust Indicators.

Last year, the Trust Project stated that Bing used “the ‘Type of Work’ Trust Indicator to display whether an article is news, opinion or analysis.” It also stated that “when Facebook launched its process to index news Pages, they worked with the Trust Project to make it easy for any publisher to add optional information about their Page.” In Google’s case, Gingras was quoted as saying that Google News uses the indicators “to assess the relative authoritativeness of news organizations and authors. We’re looking forward to developing new ways to use the indicators.”

Notably, the machine-readable version of these Trust Indicators is available only to participating institutions, which are currently corporate, mainstream publications. Though WordPress and Drupal plug-ins are being developed to make those embedded signals to search engines and social media available to smaller publishers, it will be made available only to “qualified publishers,” a determination that will presumably be made by the Trust Project and its associates.

Richard Gingras, in a statement made in 2017, noted that “the indicators can help our algorithms better understand authoritative journalism — and help us to better surface it to consumers.” Thus, it is abundantly clear that these indicators, which are embedded only into “qualified” and “authoritative” news websites, will be used to slant search-engine and social-media news algorithms in favor of establishment news websites.

The bottom line is that these embedded and exclusive indicators allow certain news outlets to avoid the crushing effects of recent algorithm changes that have seen traffic to many news websites, including MintPress, plummet in recent years. This is leading towards a homogenization of the online news landscape by starving independent competitors of web traffic while Trust Project-approved outlets are given an escape valve through algorithm manipulation.

The tech billionaires behind the Trust Project

Given the Trust Project’s rich-get-richer impact on the online news landscape, it is not surprising to find that it is funded by rich and powerful figures and forces with a clear stake in controlling the flow of news and information online.

According to its website, the Trust Project currently receives funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, Facebook, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (often abbreviated as the Knight Foundation), and the Markkula Foundation. Its website also states that Google was “an early financial supporter” and that it had originally been funded by Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. As previously mentioned, the Trust Project’s co-founder is Richard Gingras, current Google vice president of News. The Trust Project’s website described Gingras’s current role with the organization as “a powerful evangelist” who “can always be counted upon for expert advice and encouragement.” Newmark’s current role at the Trust Project is described as that of a “funder and valued connector.”

Google VP Richard Gingras testifies at a British Committee Hearing on “Fake News”

Newmark, through Craig Newmark Philanthropies, who provided the initial funding for the Trust Project, and has also funded other related initiatives like the News Integrity Initiative at the City University of New York, which shares many of the same financiers as the Trust Project, including Facebook, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, and the Knight Foundation. The Trust Project is listed as a collaborator of the News Integrity Initiative. Newmark is also very active in several news-related NGOs with similar overlap. For instance, he sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a longtime recipient of massive grants from the Omidyar Network, and Politifact.com, which is funded in part by Omidyar’s Democracy Fund.

Newmark is currently working with Vivian Schiller as his “strategic adviser” in his media investments. Schiller is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, former head of news at Twitter, and a veteran of well-known mainstream outlets like NPR, CNN, The New York Times and NBC News. She is also a director of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian.

The Markkula Foundation, one of the key funders of the Trust Project, exercises considerable influence over the organization through the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, which originally incubated the organization and whose News Leadership Council plays an important role at the Trust Project. That council’s membership includes representatives of Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Financial Times and Google, and “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators and advises on core issues related to information literacy and rebuilding trust in journalism within a fractious, so-called post-fact environment.”

Both the Markkula Foundation and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics were founded by A. M. “Mike” Markkula, former CEO of Apple. The Markkula Center’s Journalism Ethics program is currently headed by Subramaniam Vincent, a former software engineer and consultant for Intel and Cisco Systems who has worked to bring together big data with local journalism and is an advocate for the use of “ethical-AI [artificial intelligence] to ingest, sort, and classify news.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is another interesting funder of the Trust Project, given that this same foundation is also a key investor in Newsguard, the controversial, biased news rating system with deep connections to government insiders and self-described government propagandists. There is considerable overlap between Newsguard and the Trust Project, with the latter citing Newsguard as a partner and also stating that Newsguard’s demonstrably biased ratings use the project’s “trust indicators” in its full-length reviews of news websites, which Newsguard calls “nutrition labels.” In addition, becoming a Trust Project participant is a factor that “supports a positive evaluation” from Newsguard, according to a press release from last year.

Notably, Sally Lehrman, who leads the Trust Project, described the project’s trust indicators for news as ”along the lines of a nutrition label on a package of food” when the Trust Project was created nearly a year before Newsguard launched, suggesting some intellectual overlap.

A previous MintPress exposé revealed Newsguard’s numerous conflicts of interest and a ratings system strongly biased in favor of well-known, traditional media outlets — even when those outlets have a dubious track record of promoting so-called “fake news.” It should come as no surprise that the Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives.

A familiar face in the war against independent media

The Democracy Fund, another top funder of the Trust Project and a bipartisan foundation that was established by eBay founder and PayPal owner Omidyar in 2011 “out of deep respect for the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s core democratic values.” It is a spin-off of the Omidyar Network and, after splitting off as an independent company in 2014, became a member of the Omidyar Group. The fund’s National Advisory Committee includes former Bush and Obama administration officials and representatives of Facebook, Microsoft, NBC News, ABC News and Gizmodo Media group.

The Democracy Fund’s involvement in the Trust Project is notable because of the other media projects it funds, such as the new media empire of arch-neoconservative Bill Kristol, who has a long history of creating and disseminating falsehoods that have been used to justify the U.S. war in Iraq and other hawkish foreign policy stances. As a recent MintPress series revealed, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund provides financial support to Kristol’s Defending Democracy Together initiative and also supports Kristol’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund think tank that is best known for its cryptic Hamilton68 “Russian bot” dashboard. Omidyar’s Democracy Fund has also donated to the German Marshall Fund’s Defending Digital Democracy project and directly to the German Marshall Fund itself. In addition, Charles Sykes, a co-founder and editor-at-large of Kristol’s new publication The Bulwark, is on the Democracy Fund’s National Advisory Committee.

An acolyte of Kristol’s who works at the German Marshall Fund, Jamie Fly, stated last October that the coordinated social-media purges of independent media pages known for their criticisms of U.S. empire and U.S. police violence was “just the beginning” and hinted that the German Marshall Fund had a hand in past social media purges and, presumably, a role in future purges. Thus, the Democracy Fund’s links to neoconservatives who promote the censoring of independent media sites that are critical of militaristic U.S. foreign policy jibe with the fund’s underlying interest in the Trust Project.

Omidyar’s involvement with the Trust Project is interesting for another reason, namely that Omidyar is the main backer behind the efforts of the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to become a key driver of which outlets are censored by Silicon Valley tech giants. The ADL was initially founded to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all” but critics say that over the years it has begun labeling critics of Israel’s government as “anti-Semites.”

For example, content that characterizes Israeli policies towards Palestinians as “racist” or “apartheid-like” is considered “hate speech” by the ADL, as is accusing Israel of war crimes or attempted ethnic cleansing. The ADL has even described explicitly Jewish organizations that are critical of Israel’s government as being “anti-Semitic.”

In March 2017, the Omidyar Network provided the “critical seed capital” need to launch the ADL’s “new Silicon Valley center aimed at tackling this rising wave of intolerance and to collaborate more closely with technology companies to promote democracy and social justice.” That Omidyar-funded ADL center allowed the ADL to team up with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft — all of whom also collaborate with the Trust Project — to create a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. Since then, these companies and their subsidiaries, including Google’s YouTube, have relied on the ADL to flag “controversial” content.

Given the fact that the Trust Project shares with the ADL a key funder (Pierre Omidyar) and several external tech partners, it remains to be seen whether there is overlap between how major tech companies like Google and Facebook use the Trust Indicators in its algorithms and the influence of the ADL on those very same algorithms.

Outsourcing censorship

Of course, the most interesting and troubling donors of the Trust Project are Google and Facebook, both of which are using the very project they fund as a “third party” to justify their manipulation of newsfeed and search-engine algorithms. Google’s intimate involvement from the very inception of the Trust Project tags it as an extension of Google that has since been marketed as an “independent” organization tasked with justifying algorithm changes that favor certain news outlets over others.

Facebook, similarly, funds the Trust Project and also employs the “trust indicators” it funds to alter its newsfeed algorithm. Facebook’s other partners in altering this algorithm include the Atlantic Council — funded by the U.S. government, NATO, and weapons manufacturers, among others — and Facebook has also directly teamed up with foreign governments, such as the government of Israel, to suppress accurate yet dissenting information that the government in question wanted removed from the social-media platform.

The murkiness between “private” censorship, censorship by tech oligarchs, and censorship by government is particularly marked in the Trust Project. The private financiers of the Trust Project that also use its product to promote certain news content over others — namely Google and Facebook — have ties to the U.S. government, with Google being a government contractor and Facebook sporting a growing body of former-government officials in top company positions, including a co-author of the controversial Patriot Act as the company’s general counsel.

A similar tangle surrounds Pierre Omidyar, funder of the Trust Project through the Democracy Fund, who is extremely well-connected to the U.S. government, especially the military-industrial complex and intelligence communities. And partnering with media outlets like the Washington Post, whose owner is Jeff Bezos, spawns more conflicts of interests, given that Bezos’ company, Amazon, is also a major U.S. government contractor.

This growing nexus binding Silicon Valley companies and oligarchs, mainstream media outlets and the government suggests that these entities have increasingly similar and complementary interests, among which is the censorship of independent watchdog journalists and news outlets that seek to challenge their power and narratives.

The Trust Project was created as a way of outsourcing censorship of independent news sites while attempting to salvage the tattered reputation of mainstream media outlets and return the U.S. and international media landscape to years past when such outlets were able to dominate the narrative.

While it seems unlikely that’s its initiatives will succeed in restoring trust to mainstream media given the many recent and continuing examples of those same “traditional” media outlets circulating fake news and failing to cover crucial aspects of events, the Trust Project’s development of hidden algorithm-altering codes in participating websites shows that its real goal is not about improving public trust but about providing a facade of independence to Silicon Valley censorship of independent media outlets that speak truth to power.

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

June 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Sniper-killing journalist game pulled after outcry over ‘Breaking News’ mission

RT | May 19, 2019

A popular sniper-mission video game encouraging players to assassinate a journalist has been pulled by its developer after media reports exposed the controversial shooting scene.

‘Sniper 3D Assassin’ was a free game on Apple devices as well as gaming platform Steam, and was available on Amazon, Google and Microsoft app stores.

New York Times journalist Jamal Jordan tweeted about the journalist killing mission after his nephew showed him the game.

The ‘Breaking News’ mission tells players to make a journalist “famous in a different way,” by shooting them after they receive documents from a police officer. When the mission ends, the screen reads, “That’s a cover story.”

Revelations about the journalist murder mission game were received with horror on Twitter, especially by media workers.

Developers from TFG Co. pulled the game after it was contacted by the HuffPost, insisting it had been “fictional” and intended for “mature audiences.”

“At TFG, we work to create games that bring fun and entertainment to users all around the world,” CTO Mac-Vicar said. “As such, we take feedback from our players very seriously. After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

The game was released in 2014 and had 10 million downloads in its first month. At one stage in 2016 it was the most downloaded game on Apple’s App Store.

May 19, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Artificial Morality

By Robert Koehler | CounterPunch | March 15, 2019

Artificial Intelligence is one thing. Artificial morality is another. It may sound something like this:

“First, we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft.”

The words are those of Microsoft president Brad Smith, writing on a corporate blogsite last fall in defense of the company’s new contract with the U.S. Army, worth $479 million, to make augmented reality headsets for use in combat. The headsets, known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, are a way to “increase lethality” when the military engages the enemy, according to a Defense Department official. Microsoft’s involvement in this program set off a wave of outrage among the company’s employees, with more than a hundred of them signing a letter to the company’s top executives demanding that the contract be canceled.

“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”

Wow, words of conscience and hope. The deeper story in all this is ordinary people exercising their power to shape the future and refusing to increase its lethality.

With this contract, the letter goes on, Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development. . . . The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”

This revolt was what Smith was responding to when he said he believed in a “strong defense,” implying that moral clichés rather than money are what drive the decisions of large corporations, or at least this particular large corporation. Somehow his words, which he attempted to convey as reflective and deeply considered, are not convincing — not when juxtaposed with a defense contract worth nearly half a billion dollars.

Smith goes on, acknowledging that no institution, including the military, is perfect, but pointing out that “one thing is clear. Millions of Americans have served and fought in important and just wars,” cherry-picking such lauded oldies as the Civil War and World War II, where America’s enhanced lethality freed slaves and liberated Europe.

Fascinatingly, the tone of his blog post is not arrogant toward the employees — do what you’re told or you’re fired — but, rather, softly placating, seeming to indicate that the power here isn’t concentrated at the upper levels of management. Microsoft is flexible: “As is always the case, if our employees want to work on a different project or team — for whatever reason — we want them to know we support talent mobility.”

The employees who signed the letter demanded cancellation of the Defense contract. Smith offered their personal consciences an out: Come on, join another team if you don’t want to cross the line and work on weapons development. Microsoft honors employees of multiple moral persuasions!

Artificial Intelligence is a high-tech phenomenon that requires highly complex thinking. Artificial morality hides behind the nearest cliché in servitude to money.

What I see here is moral awakening scrambling for sociopolitical traction: Employees are standing for something larger than sheer personal interests, in the process pushing the Big Tech brass to think beyond their need for an endless flow of capital, consequences be damned.

This is happening across the country. A movement is percolating: Tech won’t build it!

“Across the technology industry,” the New York Times reported in October, “rank-and-file employees are demanding greater insight into how their companies are deploying the technology that they built. At Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, as well as at tech start-ups, engineers and technologists are increasingly asking whether the products they are working on are being used for surveillance in places like China or for military projects in the United States or elsewhere.

“That’s a change from the past, when Silicon Valley workers typically developed products with little questioning about the social costs.”

What if moral thinking — not in books and philosophical tracts, but in the real world, both corporate and political — were as large and complex as technical thinking? It could no longer hide behind the cliché of the just war (and surely the next one we’re preparing for will be just), but would have to evaluate war itself — all wars, including the ones of the past 70 years or so, in the fullness of their costs and consequences — as well as look ahead to the kind of future we could create, depending on what decisions we make today. Complex moral thinking doesn’t ignore the need to survive, financially and otherwise, in the present moment, but it stays calm in the face of that need and sees survival as a collective, not a competitive, enterprise.

Moral complexity is called peace. There is no such thing as simplistic peace.

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

March 16, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Microsoft workers demand company cancel $480 million US military contract

Press TV – February 23, 2019

Nearly 100 employees at Microsoft have demanded that the US technology company cancel a $480 million hardware contract to supply the US military, the latest example in the last year of tech employees protesting cooperation with the Pentagon on emerging technologies.

Some 94 workers signed a petition on Friday calling on the company to stop developing “any and all weapons technologies” for the US Defense Department.

Microsoft won a contract in November to supply the US Army with at least 2,500 prototypes of augmented reality headsets, which digitally display contextual information in front of a user’s eyes.

The US Defense Department has said the devices would be used on the battlefield and in training to improve soldiers “lethality, mobility and situational awareness.”

In the petition to Microsoft executives, posted on Twitter, the workers said they “did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.” They called on the company to develop “a public-facing acceptable use policy” for its technology and an external review board to publicly enforce it.

Microsoft president Brad Smith said in an October blog post that the company remained committed to assisting the military and would advocate for laws to ensure responsible use of new technologies.

Though many US government agencies want to draw upon the expertise of the biggest American tech companies, employee resistance has added a new challenge to already complicated relationships.

Worker opposition led Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc last year to announce it would cancel a Pentagon contract in which its artificial intelligence technology is used to analyze drone imagery.

In other cases, employee criticism has invited greater public scrutiny to deals, such as $10 billion cloud computing contract yet to be awarded and various contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

February 23, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

No need to install: Microsoft has controversial fake news filter NewsGuard built into mobile browser

© http://www.microsoft.com
By Igor Ogorodnev | RT | January 23, 2019

Corporate and neocon-backed startup NewsGuard is one step closer to its vision of bringing its “unreliable” news rater to every screen after Microsoft makes it an integral part of its Edge mobile browser.

Rather than having to download an app as before, Edge users on Android and Apple devices can now just click one button to enable its “green-red rating signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda.”

Among the green-rated websites: Voice of America, CNN, Buzzfeed, the Guardian, New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as left-leaning upstarts such as Vice News and Refinery 29. Ones that are given the red warning label of “failing to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability”: RT and Sputnik (obviously enough) and the right-wing Daily Mail, Breitbart and the Drudge Report, in addition to hundreds of other non-mainstream news websites such as Wikileaks.

Not only does the integration ensure that NewsGuard is present on every browser, and is easier to use than to ignore, but by making it a fundamental Microsoft-provided feature, the company gives it inherent level of trustworthiness, something akin to a bundled anti-virus feature, only this time the virus targets your brain, not your computer or iPod.

‘Totally transparent’

None of this is the slightest bit alarming if you believe that NewsGuard is an absolutely fair arbiter of what constitutes real news or propaganda.

Its pride of place is its “Nutrition Labels” which ape the precision of a list of calories, carbs, and saturated fats to give a supposedly scientific assessment of media reliability on nine different criteria. Among them: doesn’t repeatedly publish false content, avoids deceptive headlines, gathers and presents information responsibly, handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly.

©  Newsguardtech.com/Media sample

The green-listed media outlets above apparently do not ever engage in these practices, or at least not knowingly. So CNN never misleads with its headlines, the Guardian never dresses up its agendas as news, and Buzzfeed stories are always accurate. One literally doesn’t have to go back three days to find dozens of examples to the contrary, but this would be too mind-numbingly pedantic a task.

Even regular readers of the green-tick media must be able to see these are judgment calls. What is even “presenting information responsibly”?

Perhaps realizing that their pseudo-scientific fancy diagram is insufficient, NewsGuard has stressed that they are not using shadowy methods like tech companies and are open to two-way communication.

“We want people to game our system. We are totally transparent. We are not an algorithm,” company co-founder Steve Brill told the Guardian.

This is how he explained the Daily Mail red warning.

“We spell out fairly clearly in the label exactly how many times we have attempted to contact them. The analyst that wrote this writeup got someone on the phone who, as soon he heard who she was and where she was calling from, hung up. As of now, we would love to hear if they have a complaint or if they change anything.”

On the other hand, RT did answer NewsGuard’s queries in detail. You can guess how much difference that made.

From anthrax scares to Russia fears

But who are these people that the Daily Mail or RT have to impress and why?

Brill himself is a veteran centrist journalist and author, his co-CEO Gordon Crovitz is a former Wall Street Journal columnist. After Brill, its second-biggest investor, along with his father, is Nick Penniman, the liberal publisher, and the third-biggest is Publicis Group, a multinational advertising agency.

Meanwhile, its advisory board includes Tom Ridge, the first-ever Homeland Security chief, and developer of another famous color-coded system, the terror alert, and Michael Hayden, the CIA director, also under George W. Bush. There are also several Obama and Clinton-era figures.

Tom Ridge and George W. Bush in 2004. ©  Reuters

The overall picture emerges of a mix of establishment journalists, hawkish old-school Washington insiders, and so-called ethical businessmen.

They may all be experts in their fields, but if you believe that these are selfless neutral adjudicators you are probably beyond being helped by color charts. And this is not some one-off initiative either: NewsGuard is part of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy program, which combats purported election meddling, presumably primarily from Russia. The frontline of the information war is not customarily the place for impartial news judgment.

But I wasn’t an Edge user…

However much respectability NewsGuard enjoys through Microsoft, Edge has a laughably small – a fraction of a percent – market share on mobiles. In practical terms, even an increase of popularity of several thousand percent will only mean several thousand new users, and other browsers are available.

This would be that, if not for NewsGuard’s self-proclaimed ambition “to expand to serve the billions of people globally who get news online.” This is just a beginning: there is an overarching plan where all public computers, from the school to the university to the library, are automatically equipped with the same “safe browsing” system.

And rather than as an individual warning, NewsGuard plans to make its designations work as an effective financial tool. The company, which has received $6 million in backing, also plans to soon work with advertisers, “keeping ads off unreliable news websites” to ensure “brand safety.” Fall foul of the green ticks, no money for you. Advertising managers are already demonetizing programs with alternative or controversial viewpoints elsewhere, and soon the process can be automated, and Brill is boasting that he is “happy to be blamed” – doing the dirty work for the platforms. No wonder alternative outlets in the US are openly opposed.

So, just like the use of NewsGuard in all public libraries in the faraway state of Hawaii (no money charged), it is best to look at the Edge integration is more of a test, a pilot project, a dry run. Latching NewsGuard onto a popular browser like Chrome, or a social network like Facebook, would stir tremors of public debate, as it has done in the past when similar initiatives have been tried. Instead, first they came for the Edge users.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red light, green light . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping the conversation safe for the corporatocracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As TechDirt wrote at the time:

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

The oligarch team’s deep bench

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why give folks a choice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial censorship

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

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

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

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

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

An action plan for the genuine protection of journalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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