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‘Morales’ resignation undermines claims he is dictator, US may be behind push to oust him’

RT | November 10, 2019

Washington has played a hand in the resignation of Bolivia’s president Evo Morales, human and labour rights lawyer Dan Kovalik told RT. The US has been stirring unrest for years with millions of dollars in democratic aid, he said.

“I think this is a bad thing that’s happened and I see the hands of the US behind it,” Kovalik said, adding that there has been “evidence released of conversation between the White House and opposition leaders,” indicating that anti-Morales protests might have been a “coordinated” campaign.

“And we know that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has been spending millions of dollars in Bolivia for years trying to undermine Evo Morales.”

A CIA offshoot of sorts, the NED channeled nearly $1 million into the South American country in democracy promoting aid in 2018 alone. A huge chunk of the funds was used by International Republican Institute (IRI), in charge of promoting a right-wing agenda.

Kovalik said that more proof of the US involvement in the Bolivian turmoil is bound to come out with time.

Morales’ decision to resign rather than cling to power while risking lives of his supporters, who turn out for mass rallies in his name, “undermines the claims that he is some sort of a dictator,” Kovalik said.

“That shows a lot about who he is. That shows that Morales cares about his own country… he’s shown himself to have the well-being of his own people at heart.”

Noting that Morales, first indigenous leader in the history of his country, has vastly improved the living standard for regular people and the indigenous population, Kovalik argued that his departure might spell trouble for the South American country.

Kovalik believes that while right-wing parties might try to capitalize on Morales’s resignation, they do lack grassroots support.

“I’m not sure they have much popular support, so we’ll have to see if Evo Morales’s party can go on and win without him.”

Thousands of people flooded the streets to protest what the opposition called a rigged election on October 20, in which Morales secured a 10 percentage point gap, that allowed him to avoid a run-off. Morales, once a very popular leader, was faced with a wave of unrest and mutiny from the military. Kovalik believes that outside interference might have played a role in such a change of heart.

“Of course, people change their minds about things, but I also think there’ve been some manipulations of the public in Bolivia.”

November 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

State Funded Propagandists Claim Anti-War Journalists Are State-Funded Propagandists

By Alan MacLeod | American Herald Tribune | October 5, 2019

Investigative journalism website Bellingcat released a bombshell report September 30, that claimed to uncover a network of “pro-Assad media” infiltrating Western journalism. The author, Charles Davis, alleged there was a “shadowy group” connected to the government of Syria that was financing the careers of both left- and right-wing journalists, bloggers and news outlets that toed an Assadist line. Named in the report as effective agents of Damascus were the likes of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, investigative journalists Max Blumenthal, Rania Khalek and Whitney Webb, news outlets like MintPress News and independent journalists such as Caitlin Johnstone. Even the Green Party’s 2016 Vice-Presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka was framed as an Assad puppet. Thus, virtually the entire gamut of Western antiwar voices on Syria was declared to be deceiving the public, feeding them Syrian propaganda.

These are extraordinary claims. Yet the evidence provided was far from extraordinary. Indeed, the base of the evidence given was that many of these figures had accepted awards from a US-based organization dedicated, in their own words to “integrity in journalism” which, Davis insists, is a front to spread Assadist propaganda. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the article caused waves on social media, with many seeing it as final proof of a worldwide conspiracy.

What Davis did not divulge, however, as was quickly pointed out by many he pointed the finger at, including Mint Press’ Mnar Muhawesh, was that Bellingcat itself is directly funded by some extremely shady organizations, including the Open Society Foundation and the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED). That is the same NED that is currently bankrolling the protests in Hong Kong and has organized regime change operations in Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The NED was established as a buffer organization between the CIA and the organizations it was sponsoring. “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA,” NED President Carl Gershman told the New York Times in 1986. “We saw that in the Sixties, and that’s why it has been discontinued.” One of the NED’s founders, Allen Weinstein, was even more frank: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”, he told the Washington Post.

Davis’ report was met with scathing criticism by those who it named as Assad agents.

“I find it terribly ironic that an article that accused MintPress and other anti-war news sites and journalists of receiving “shady state-linked funding” was published on Bellingcat, a site funded by the US government – currently an occupying power in Syria ­– and Google – the tech behemoth currently working overtime to censor independent media” replied Whitney Webb, when asked by the American Herald Tribune for a response to the allegations, adding that the attempt to paint the Serena Shim Award as “shady” was “quite dishonest” as the cash prize is funded by an all-American political action committee that opposes US interventionism abroad.

Max Blumenthal appeared equally unconcerned with the allegations. “I’ll take a token award from an anti-war non-profit over a byline in an interventionist PR operation literally backed by a CIA cutout that destabilizes socialist and independent nations around the globe any day” he told the American Herald Tribune, adding that “it almost seems that Charles Davis’ entire life is dedicated to attacking and denigrating me. He literally does nothing else”.

If Webb, Blumenthal and others are correct, this latest article is little more than an attempt to denigrate anti-imperialist, anti-war voices, along the lines of what the Atlantic Council has attempted to do. Since 2016, the Council, an offshoot of NATO, has published a series of investigations called “the Kremlin’s Trojan Horses” claiming virtually every political party in Europe that does not fully embrace neoliberal economics and an aggressive policy towards Russia is secretly infiltrated by and directed from Moscow. These parties include Labour and UKIP in the UK, PODEMOS in Spain, Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece and the Lega Nord in Italy.

The Atlantic Council’s board of directors is a who’s who of neocon, interventionist foreign policy planners including Henry Kissinger, ex-Bush officials like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and James Baker, Generals like David Petraeus and Wesley Clark, and a host of ex-CIA directors and senior tech executives. It was this organization that Facebook announced it was teaming up with to fight fake news. Thus, the Council is helping the social media giant to decide what America (and the rest of its 2.4 billion users) sees in their news feeds and what is likely Russian-sponsored fake news. When an organization like this decides what is news and what is not, it is state censorship by any other name. As soon as this partnership was in place, Facebook began deleting news and media channels from Iranian and Latin American (particularly Venezuelan) media that contradicted NATO’s official line on their countries. And Facebook was already working closely with the Israeli government to silence Palestinian voices on its platform.

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Eliot Higgins. Credit: Ars Electronica/ flickr

Bellingcat’s founder, Eliot Higgins, for the record, was a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council between 2016 and 2019, where he published purportedly expert and independent reports into Russian aggression in Ukraine. Yet Bellingcat continues to present itself as a neutral observer in the cyberwar between Russia and the West.

And that is the trick. Under the guise of protecting us from supposedly extensive foreign, state-funded propaganda campaigns, we are, ourselves, being exposed to an even bigger, Western state-funded propaganda campaign, the extent of which is far greater than even the most lurid Russian fantasies of Bellingcat. Last year, for instance, it was exposed that the UK secret services have infiltrated media across Europe, building up “clusters” of sympathetic journalists in many nations in order to push certain lines crucial to their perceived interests. This “Integrity Initiative” as it is known, sprung into action in Spain, using their journalists to stir up a storm of controversy that managed to block the appointment of Colonel Pedro Baños to the position of head of Spanish national security. Baños, the Initiative had decided, was not sufficiently warlike on Russia, and needed to be blocked. Yet this blatant interference in foreign politics received scant attention in corporate media.

Ultimately, there is a new information war being waged in cyberspace, and the lesson to be drawn from this affair is to be very cautious of those decrying Russian propaganda while not also warning against the power of Google and the NSA, or calling for the release of whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Cyberspace is the new battleground; and in war, truth is always the first casualty.


Alan MacLeod is a member of the Glasgow University Media Group. His latest book, Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting, was published by Routledge in April.

October 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 2 Comments

Pro-Hong Kong rally in DC against ‘CHINAZI regime’ being sponsored with US govt-linked money

A version of the ‘Chinazi’ flag © Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach
RT | September 11, 2019

A planned Washington DC protest in support of Hong Kong activists and promoting the ‘Chinazi’ flag is being sponsored by at least six organizations backed by the notoriously shady, US-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Posters for the event circulated online contain an image of the so-called ‘Chinazi’ flag – an altered version of the Chinese national flag with the yellow stars arranged to form a swastika and with a hammer and sickle placed in the center.

Protesters plan to form a human chain encircling the Chinese Embassy in Washington to protest the “Chinazi regime” and call for an independent Hong Kong. The #Chinazi hashtag has also become popular with activists on Twitter.

The list of event sponsors proves that the anti-China movement in Hong Kong is backed not only by American politicians, but also by American money – through US government-funded groups.

A DC-based organization called Citizen Power Initiatives For China, which describes itself as a “grassroots movement” dedicated to promoting democracy in China through “non-violent struggle” and “overseas assistance” to “influence” Beijing’s policies, appears to be the chief event organizer.

Information on the group’s funding is not easily found on its website, but a search of the NED database shows it received $206,500 from the US-funded organization between 2015 and 2016.

The NED, founded in 1983, claims to promote democracy abroad by offering government grants to civil society groups around the world. In reality, it has been used mainly as a soft-power vehicle to advance the US foreign policy and military agenda through sowing chaos in countries targeted for ‘regime change.’

The NED is “explicitly dedicated to meddling in other countries’ affairs, interfering in elections, toppling democratically elected leaders, and spreading public relations campaigns to sow chaos against countries that resist Washington’s agenda,” award-winning journalist Max Blumenthal told RT last year. Indeed, even one of the NED’s former presidents, Carl Gershman, has admitted it was created in order to continue the work of the CIA without the stigma of being attached to the spy agency.

Six more of the ‘Chinazi’ rally’s sponsors have also partnered with or received significant funding from the NED in recent years. Those include the Princeton China Initiative (received $323,811 between 2015-2017), Students for a Free Tibet (received $270,810 between 2015-2018), International Campaign for Tibet (received $35,558 in 2015), the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (received $104,496 in 2015), and the Uyghur American Association (received $295,000 in 2015). ChinaAid lists the NED and the US-funded Freedom House as partners.

Other sponsors of the event are also US-based, including Dialogue China (Maryland), The China Organ Harvest Research Center (New York) and The East Turkestan National Awakening Movement (Washington DC) – but information on their funding is not clear.

While Initiatives For China claims to support “non-violent struggle,” protests raging in recent weeks in Hong Kong have turned increasingly violent. Video footage has documented activists wielding bats and metal rods, attacking public property and throwing bricks and Molotov cocktails at police. “Using force is one of our methods to protect ourselves and to protest,” one masked protester told Ruptly video agency.

The NED’s focus on Hong Kong fits with the typical US approach to anti-government protest activity abroad. A government memo, leaked in 2017, confirmed that it is US policy to “emphasize” pro-democracy movements in adversary nations, while playing them down or ignoring them in friendly nations – Beijing has accused the US of orchestrating the movement and analysts have argued that encouraging unrest in Hong Kong is seen to be beneficial for Washington as US President Donald Trump wages a trade and tech war with China.

Indeed, protesters have been seen waving US flags and key figureheads of the movement visited Washington to meet with high-ranking officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at the height of the chaos.

The links between US officials, anti-China activists and shady US government-funded organizations is reminiscent of countless US regime-change or ‘color revolution’ efforts seen around the world, from Ukraine to Syria, Libya and Venezuela.

Now, more evidence is stacking up to prove that the US is playing an active role in fueling turmoil in Hong Kong.

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

US Behind Hong Kong Protests Admits US Policymaker


By Tony Caralucci – 21st Century Wire – September 10, 2019

The US continues to deny any involvement in ongoing unrest in China’s special administrative region of Hong Kong. However, even a casual look at US headlines or comments made by US officials and policymakers – makes it clear the unrest not only suits US interests, but is spurred-on almost exclusively by them.

The paradoxical duality of nearly open support of the unrest and denial of that support has led to headlines like the South China Morning Post’s, “Mike Pompeo rebukes China’s ‘ludicrous’ claim US is behind Hong Kong protests.” The article claims:

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said it is “ludicrous” for China to claim the United States is behind the escalating protests in Hong Kong.

Pompeo rebuked Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who had claimed violent clashes in the city prompted by opposition to the Hong Kong government’s controversial extradition bill were “the work of the US”.

However, even US policymakers have all but admitted that the US is funneling millions of dollars into Hong Kong specifically to support “programs” there. The Hudson Institute in an article titled, “China Tries to Blame US for Hong Kong Protests,” would admit:

A Chinese state-run newspaper’s claim that the United States is helping pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong is only partially inaccurate, a top foreign policy expert said Monday.

Michael Pillsbury, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland the U.S. holds some influence over political matters in the region.

The article would then quote Pillsbury as saying:

We have a large consulate there that’s in charge of taking care of the Hong Kong Policy Act passed by Congress to ensure democracy in Hong Kong, and we have also funded millions of dollars of programs through the National Endowment for Democracy [NED] … so in that sense the Chinese accusation is not totally false.

A visit to the NED’s website reveals an entire section of declared funding for Hong Kong specifically. The wording for program titles and their descriptions is intentionally ambiguous to give those like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plausible deniability.

However, deeper research reveals NED recipients are literally leading the protests.

The South China Morning Post in its article, “Hong Kong protests: heavy jail sentences for rioting will not solve city’s political crisis, former Civil Human Rights Front convenor says,” would report:

Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, from the Civil Human Rights Front, was among 49 people arrested during Sunday’s protest – deemed illegal as it had not received police approval – in Central and Western district on Hong Kong Island.

The article would omit mention of Johnson Yeung Ching-yin’s status as an NED fellow. His profile is – at the time of this writing – still accessible on the NED’s official website, and the supposed NGO he works for in turn works hand-in-hand with US and UK-based fronts involved in supporting Hong Kong’s current unrest and a much wider anti-Beijing political agenda.

Johnson Yeung Ching-yin also co-authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with Joshua Wong titled, “As you read this, Hong Kong has locked one of us away.”

Wong has travelled to Washington DC multiple times, including to receive “honors” from NED-subsidiary Freedom House for his role in leading unrest in 2014 and to meet with serial regime-change advocate Senator Marco Rubio.

It should also be noted that the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum also sits on the NED board of directors.

This evidence, along with extensively documented ties between the United States government and other prominent leaders of the Hong Kong unrest reveals US denial of involvement in Hong Kong as yet another willful lie told upon the international stage – a lie told even as the remnants of other victims of US interference and intervention smolder in the background.

The direct ties and extreme conflicts of interest found under virtually every rock overturned when critically examining the leadership of Hong Kong’s ongoing unrest all lead to Washington. They also once again reveal the Western media as involved in a coordinated campaign of disinformation – where proper investigative journalism is purposefully side-stepped and narratives shamelessly spun instead to frame Hong Kong’s ongoing conflict in whatever light best suits US interests.

What’s worse is big-tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google purging thousands of accounts attempting to reveal the truth behind Hong Kong’s unrest and the true nature of those leading it. If this is the level of lying, censorship, and authoritarianism Washington is willing to resort to in order for Hong Kong’s opposition to succeed, it begs one to wonder what this so-called opposition is even fighting for. Certainly not “democracy” or “freedom.”

***
Author Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher, writer and special contributor to 21st Century Wire.

September 10, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

US NED-Funded Meddling Exposed in The Philippines

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By Joseph Thomas – New Eastern Outlook – 21.06.2019

With little else to offer the nations of Southeast Asia, the US has opted instead to wield the familiar and well-honed weapon of political subversion to peel potential partners away from Beijing in Washington’s continued bid to rescue its waning primacy in Asia-Pacific.

The most recent manifestation of this can be seen in the Philippines where Manila has accused media front Rappler, founded by long-time CNN bureau chief Maria Ressa, and others of representing foreign interests and conspiring with foreign intelligence agencies in direct violation of the nation’s constitution.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in its defense of Rappler would claim:

First were the politically motivated state charges that funding provided to the news website Rappler by a U.S. philanthropic foundation represented a violation of constitutional provisions barring foreign control or ownership of Philippine media.

Then came government allegations in April that journalists from independent media groups, including Rappler, the independent media organization VERA Files, and the non-profit Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, were involved in a conspiracy to discredit and oust President Rodrigo Duterte’s elected government. All four outlets issued statements denying the allegation.

Now, a pro-government media campaign claims that the same independent news outlets and the Philippine press freedom group Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility are in the pay of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a potential criminal offense under local law.

The CPJ notes that all of the accused groups are openly and admittedly funded by the US government via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The CPJ admits (my emphasis):

All four outlets receive substantial grants from the NED. 

Funded largely by Congress, NED was founded in the early 1980s as a way for the U.S. to openly promote democracy worldwide by providing annual grants to non-governmental groups, according to its website.

The CPJ categorically fails to challenge what are the NED’s own assertions that it is merely “promoting democracy worldwide.”

NED: The Public Face of (Often Violent) US Regime Change

The NED’s board of directors includes individuals openly involved in US-backed regime change including in Iraq, Ukraine and ongoing US regime change efforts in Venezuela.

Board members including Francis Fukuyama and Elliott Abrams openly advocated the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 in which the government in Baghdad was toppled and its senior leadership murdered based entirely on now verified lies regarding supposed “weapons of mass destruction.”

Elliott Abrams is listed on the NED’s website as “On Leave,” having been appointed as a US special envoy for Venezuela amid ongoing efforts to overthrow the government there.

The Guardian in an article titled, “US diplomat convicted over Iran-Contra appointed special envoy for Venezuela: Elliott Abrams, who was linked to failed coup against Chávez, to join Pompeo to urge security council to recognize Guaidó as head,” would report:

Elliott Abrams was appointed US special envoy for Venezuela on Friday, as Donald Trump’s administration and European leaders on Saturday further increase the pressure on the socialist president, Nicolás Maduro, to step aside from leading the country he has taken into a deepening crisis.

Abrams will accompany the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to a meeting of the UN security council in New York on Saturday, during which Pompeo will urge members to join the US in declaring Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate head of state.

The Guardian also notes:

Abrams is widely remembered in Central America, but particularly from his time in the Reagan administration, when he tried to whitewash a massacre of a thousand men, women and children by US-funded death squads in El Salvador, when he was assistant secretary of state for human rights.

Other NED directors include Victoria Nuland who played a key role in leading US regime change efforts in Ukraine in 2014.

Reuters in its article, “Leaked audio reveals embarrassing U.S. exchange on Ukraine, EU,” would admit:

A conversation between a State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine that was posted on YouTube revealed an embarrassing exchange on U.S. strategy for a political transition in that country, including a crude American swipe at the European Union.

The article also admitted:

The audio clip, which was posted on Tuesday but gained wide circulation on Thursday, appears to show the official, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, weighing in on the make-up of the next Ukrainian government.

The convergence of senior US representatives openly and repeatedly involved in (often violent) regime change most certainly involving the CIA among myriad other US organisations within the halls of the NED is no coincidence.

The NED exists to promote regime change worldwide, merely under the guise of “promoting democracy worldwide.”

The CPJ Defends US-funded Subversion Under Guise of “Press Freedom”

The CPJ failed categorically to inform readers of facts surrounding the true nature of NED and its activities in its defence of Rappler.

This however should come as no surprise. The CPJ itself is yet another shell organisation likewise funded by US corporate foundations for the purpose of promoting US interests. The CPJ does this by protecting fronts like Rappler under the guise of “press freedom” from the repercussions of engaging in US government-funded subversion.

Fronts like Rappler serve as a propaganda “sword” while the CPJ exists as a “shield” to block efforts by targeted nations to defend themselves.

The CPJ in its 2018 annual report (.pdf) is admittedly funded by corporate foundations like convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, US corporations like pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and tech giants Twitter, Microsoft and Yahoo, financial institutions like Mastercard and Morgan Stanley and mainstays of Western media including Reuters, Vice, NPR, PBS, Time, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and NBC.

Many of these interests funding the CPJ are involved in activities at the NED. Anne Applebaum, for example, is a senior columnist at the above mentioned Washington Post and serves as an NED director.

The CPJ’s defence of Rappler continues, claiming:

Manila Times columnist Yen Makabenta, in an April 30 op-ed, called for the enactment of a foreign agents registration law to “tame in a hurry the intrusive criticism and interference in national affairs by these foreign-funded [media] organizations, whose activities are subversive by design.” Makabenta continued, “Indeed, if they are working for a group like the CIA, they could be working to change the government.”

CPJ has chronicled how governments, including in Russia and China, have passed laws that require bloggers, journalists and civil society members to register as foreign agents in moves that threaten to obstruct the free flow of information, including over social media. Makabenta’s op-ed suggested the Philippines should implement similar legislation.

The U.S. government has denied the CIA is involved in any destabilization plot against Duterte. The U.S. ambassador responded to the claims by saying, “There is absolutely no effort by the CIA to undermine the Philippines leadership,” according to reports.

Makabenta’s fears are well-founded.

Even at a glance the NED’s board of directors reflects the organisation’s role in fueling regime change worldwide. NED-funded media fronts are demonstrably biased and transparent in their efforts to undermine targeted governments and to promote US-favoured politicians, political parties and opposition groups.

The Philippines’ Punishment for Building Bridges with Beijing 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has demonstrated a pattern of disobedience toward Washington, having previously threatened to expel US forces from Philippine territory, building closer ties with Beijing and even excluding Washington from bilateral talks held with Beijing seeking solutions to disputes over the South China Sea.

For all of these reasons and more, President Duterte and others throughout the Philippines’ establishment have become targets of US-backed subversion, the public face of which being NED-funded media fronts like Rappler.

A similar pattern can be seen throughout Southeast Asia with NED-funded fronts like Prachatai, iLaw, Isaan Record and Benar News targeting the current Thai government headed by a Beijing-friendly military-led faction that twice ousted US proxy Thaksin Shinawatra and his political allies from power.

It is difficult to say how long organisations like the CPJ can continue successfully defending fronts like Rappler under the guise of defending “press freedom.” Only the CPJ’s intentional omission of facts like the nature of the NED’s board of directors and its extensive history of regime change allows the CPJ to portray its defense of Rappler and others taking NED funds as credible.

Were the CPJ truly dedicated to defending press freedom it would note the danger of foreign-funded sedition dressed up as journalism and alert the public to how this above all else threatens to undermine a free press. Instead, the CPJ defends this abuse, thus ironically undermining genuine press freedom in the process.

Should the Philippines enact an effective foreign agents registration law, other nations in the region might follow, delivering a severe blow to US meddling and pose as a further setback to US ambitions to reassert itself vis-à-vis China.

With the US unable to compete with China’s infrastructure-centred regional partnerships, and even lagging behind in the sale of military hardware, security partnerships and investments, political subversion is the last tool on offer. But maybe taking this last tool away from Washington could be a blessing in disguise. Without it, perhaps Washington will reevaluate other, more constructive methods of engaging with Asia-Pacific (and the rest of the world) based on mutual respect and benefits and above all, upon the primacy of national sovereignty.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas.

June 21, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Guaido Set to Enact Uprising Rooted in US Regime-Change Operations Manual

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | March 30, 2019

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed “interim president of Venezuela” who is supported by the United States government, recently announced coming “tactical actions” that will be taken by his supporters starting April 6 as part of “Operation Freedom,” an alleged grassroots effort to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

That operation, according to Guaidó, will be led by “Freedom and Aid Committees” that in turn create “freedom cells” throughout the country — “cells” that will spring to action when Guaidó gives the signal on April 6 and launch large-scale community protests. Guaidó’s stated plan involves the Venezuelan military then taking his side, but his insistence that “all options are still on the table” (i.e., foreign military intervention) reveals his impatience with the military, which has continued to stay loyal to Maduro throughout Guaidó’s “interim presidency.”

However, a document released by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in February, and highlighted last month in a report by Devex, details the creation of networks of small teams, or cells, that would operate in a way very similar to what Guaidó describes in his plan for “Operation Freedom.”

Given that Guaidó was trained by a group funded by USAID’s sister organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — and is known to take his marching orders from Washington, including his self-proclamation as “interim president” and his return to Venezuela following the “humanitarian aid” showdown — it is worth considering that this USAID document may well serve as a roadmap to the upcoming and Guaidó-led “tactical actions” that will comprise “Operation Freedom.”

RED Teams

Titled “Rapid Expeditionary Development (RED) Teams: Demand and Feasibility Assessment,” the 75-page document was produced for the U.S. Global Development Lab, a branch of USAID. It was written as part of an effort to the “widespread sentiment” among the many military, intelligence, and development officials the report’s authors interviewed “that the USG [U.S. government] is woefully underperforming in non-permissive and denied environments,” including Venezuela. Notably, some of the military, intelligence and development officials interviewed by the report’s authors had experience working in a covert capacity in Venezuela.

The approach put forth in this report involves the creation of rapid expeditionary development (RED) teams, who would “be deployed as two-person teams and placed with ‘non-traditional’ USAID partners executing a mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations in extremis conditions.” The report notes later on that these “non-traditional” partners are U.S. Special Forces (SF) and the CIA.

The report goes on to state that “RED Team members would be catalytic actors, performing development activities alongside local communities while coordinating with interagency partners.” It further states that “[i]t is envisioned that the priority competency of proposed RED Team development officers would be social movement theory (SMT)” and that “RED Team members would be ‘super enablers,’ observing situations on the ground and responding immediately by designing, funding, and implementing small-scale activities.”

In other words, these teams of combined intelligence, military and/or “democracy promoting” personnel would work as “super enablers” of “small-scale activities” focused on “social movement theory” and community mobilizations, such as the mobilizations of protests.

The decentralized nature of RED teams and their focus on engineering “social movements” and “mobilizations” is very similar to Guaidó’s plan for “Operation Freedom.” Operation Freedom is set to begin through “Freedom and Aid committees” that cultivate decentralized “freedom cells” throughout the country and that create mass mobilizations when Guaidó gives the go ahead on April 6. The ultimate goal of Operation Freedom is to have those “freedom cell”-generated protests converge on Venezuela’s presidential palace, where Nicolás Maduro resides. Given Guaidó’s lack of momentum and popularity within Venezuela, it seems highly likely that U.S. government “catalytic actors” may be a key part of his upcoming plan to topple Maduro in little over a week.

Furthermore, an appendix included in the report states that RED Team members, in addition to being trained in social movement theory and community mobilization techniques, would also be trained in “weapons handling and use,” suggesting that their role as “catalytic actors” could also involve Maidan-esque behavior. This is a distinct possibility raised by the report’s claim that RED Team members be trained in the use of both “offensive” and “defensive” weaponry.

In addition, another appendix states that RED Team members would help “identify allies and mobilize small amounts of cash to establish community buy-in/relationship” —  i.e., bribes — and would particularly benefit the CIA by offering a way to “transition covert action into community engagement activities.”

Feeling Bolsonaro’s breath on its neck

Also raising the specter of a Venezuela link is the fact that the document suggests Brazil as a potential location for a RED Team pilot study. Several of those interviewed for the report asserted that “South American countries were ripe for pilots” of the RED Team program, adding that “These [countries were] under-reported, low-profile, idiot-proof locations, where USG civilian access is fairly unrestrained by DS [Diplomatic Security] and where there is a positive American relationship with the host government.”

This January, Brazil inaugurated Jair Bolsonaro as president, a fascist who has made his intention to align the country close to Washington’s interests no secret. During Bolsonaro’s recent visit to Washington, he became the first president of that country to visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. President Donald Trump said during his meeting with Bolsonaro that “We have a great alliance with Brazil — better than we’ve ever had before” and spoke in favor of Brazil joining NATO.

Though Bolsonaro’s government has claimed late in February that it would not allow the U.S. to launch a military intervention from its territory, Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro — an adviser to his father and a Brazilian congressman — said last week that “use of force will be necessary” in Venezuela “at some point” and, echoing the Trump administration, added that “all options are on the table.” If Bolsonaro’s government does allow the “use of force,” but not a full-blown foreign military intervention per se, its closeness to the Trump administration and the CIA suggests that covert actions, such as those carried out by the proposed RED Teams, are a distinct possibility.

Frontier Design Group

The RED Team report was authored by members of Frontier Design Group (FDG) for USAID’s Global Development Lab. FDG is a national security contractor and its mission statement on its website is quite revealing:

Since our founding, Frontier has focused on the challenges and opportunities that concern the “3Ds” of Defense, Development and Diplomacy and critical intersections with the intelligence community. Our work has focused on the wicked and sometimes overlapping problem sets of fragility, violent extremism, terrorism, civil war, and insurgency. Our work on these complex issues has included projects with the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, USAID, the National Counterterrorism Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace.”

FDG also states on is website that it also regularly does work for the Council on Foreign Relations and the Omidyar Group — which is controlled by Pierre Omidyar, a billionaire with deep ties to the U.S. national security establishment that were the subject of a recent MintPress series. According to journalist Tim Shorrock, who mentions the document in a recent investigation focusing on Pierre Omidyar for Washington Babylon, FDG was the “sole contractor” hired by USAID to create a “new counterinsurgency doctrine for the Trump administration” and the fruit of that effort is the “RED Team” document described above.

One of the co-authors of the document is Alexa Courtney, FDG founder and former USAID liaison officer with the Department of Defense; former manager of civilian counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan for USAID; and former counterinsurgency specialist for U.S. intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

In addition, according to Shorrock, Courtney’s name has also been found “on several Caerus [Associates] contracts with USAID and US intelligence that were leaked to me on a thumb drive, including a $77 million USAID project to track ‘licit and illicit networks’ in Honduras.” Courtney, according to her LinkedIn account, was also recently honored by Chevron Corporation for her “demonstrated leadership and impact on development results.” MintPress recently reported on the role of Chevron in the current U.S.-led effort to topple Maduro and replace him with Guaidó.

Send in the USAID

Though Devex was told last month that USAID was “still working on the details in formulating the Rapid Expeditionary Development (RED) Teams initiative,” Courtney stated that the report’s contents had been “received really favorably” by “very senior” and “influential” former and current government officials she had interviewed during the creation of the document.

For instance, one respondent asserted that the RED Team system would “restore the long-lost doing capacity of USAID.” Another USAID official with 15 years of experience, including in “extremely denied environments,” stated that:

We have to be involved in national security or USAID will not be relevant. Anybody who doesn’t think we need to be working in combat elements or working with SF [special forces] groups is just naïve. We are either going to be up front or irrelevant … USAID is going through a lot right now, but this is an area where we can be of utility. It must happen.”

Given that the document represents the efforts of the sole contractor tasked with developing the current administration’s new counterterrorism strategy, there is plenty of reason to believe that its contents — published for over a year — have been or are set to be put to use in Venezuela, potentially as part of the upcoming “Operation Freedom,” set to begin on April 6.

This is supported by the troubling correlation between a document produced by the NED-funded group CANVAS and the recent power outages that have taken place throughout Venezuela, which were described as U.S.-led “sabotage” by the country’s government. A recent report by The Grayzone detailed how a September 2010 memo by CANVAS — which trained Juan Guaidó — described in detail how the potential collapse of the country’s electrical infrastructure, like that recently seen in Venezuela, would be “a watershed event” that “would likely have the impact of galvanizing public unrest in a way that no opposition group could ever hope to generate.”

The document specifically named the Simon Bolivar Hydroelectric Plant at Guri Dam, which failed earlier this month as a result of what the Venezuelan government asserted was “sabotage” conducted by the U.S. government. That claim was bolstered by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s apparent foreknowledge of the power outage. Thus, there is a precedent of correlation between these types of documents and actions that occur in relation to the current U.S. regime-change effort in Venezuela.

Furthermore, it would make sense for the Trump administration to attempt to enact such an initiative as that described in the document, given its apparent inability to launch a military intervention in Venezuela, despite its frequent claims that “all options are on the table.” Indeed, U.S. allies — including those close to Venezuela, like Colombia — have rejected military intervention, given the U.S.’ past role in bloody coups and civil wars throughout the region.

Thus, with its hands tied when it comes to military intervention, only covert actions — such as those described in the RED Team document — are likely to be enacted by the U.S. government, at least at this stage of its ongoing “regime change” effort in Venezuela.

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.

March 30, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet Pierre Omidyar, billionaire patron of US regime change operations, neocons & activist media

Pierre Omidyar speaks at a ‘Technology For Citizen Empowerment and Human Rights’ panel at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, September 23, 2010 © AFP / Brian Harkin
RT | February 22, 2019

Amid the US push for regime change in Venezuela, RT speaks with investigative journalists who looked into the eBay founder and self-described “progressive” billionaire Pierre Omidyar, a major patron of regime-change operations.

An ongoing series in MintPress News, written by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal, is a rare look into the projects undertaken by the “progressive philanthropreneur,” who has been praised by the liberal interventionist establishment for following in the footsteps of George Soros but attracts far less media attention.

“Part of the reason for doing this investigation was to inspire more scrutiny of Pierre Omidyar,” Rubinstein told RT. “There are mountains of newsworthy bits of information about many of the organizations he funds, but the sad reality is that it would require a team of at least half a dozen journalists working overtime to fully make sense of it all.”

Detail of a chart showing the connections between Pierre Omidyar and various media outlets, foundations, activists and outfits. ©  MintPress News

The second part in Blumenthal and Rubinstein’s series, published Wednesday, took a particular interest in Omidyar’s ties to organizations promoting “regime change.” In Ukraine, it was a TV station (Hromadske) that backed what turned into a violent 2014 coup against the government in Kiev. In Zimbabwe, Omidyar money funded a “cultural activist network” that campaigned for the ouster of President Robert Mugabe in 2017. And in the Philippines Omidyar is backing The Rappler, a news site opposed to President Rodrigo Duterte that is developing surveillance technologies like a “mood meter” of the audience to capture – and channel? – “non-rational reactions.”

Not progressivism but power

Omidyar is not doing this on his own, either, working hand in hand with US Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

“He has the money and – for one reason or another– the desire to participate in such destabilizing policies,” Rubinstein told RT, noting that the billionaire’s embrace of such projects makes him “the perfect private partner for the US government” in seeking regime change abroad.

How does a self-described progressive find himself riding the horse of regime change? This is one of the questions Rubinstein and Blumenthal hope further research will answer. Their digging has found Omidyar’s money behind the Alliance for Securing Democracy and The Bulwark – projects led by NeverTrump neoconservative Bill Kristol that push “Russiagate” and carry the torch of interventionism.

“If partnering with the neocon think tank guru who was a main conduit for US government messaging in the lead-up to the Iraq War is ‘progressive’ then I think it’s time we retire the term,” Rubinstein told RT.

He believes that Omidyar is not driving the regime-change agenda, but going along with it in “the perfect alliance of convenience.”

“If you’re looking for a coherent ideology that permeates through each of Omidyar’s investments, it’s not progressivism: it’s power… and power lies with empire,” Rubinstein said.

More specifically, Omidyar is looking to manage all areas of modern life, from journalism and transportation to banking and finance and government administration, journalist Yasha Levine, author of ‘Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet,’ told MintPress.

To him it’s not just about running a single service, but integrating things together to give technocrats, business executives and government officials a God’s-eye view of the world – to manage and control society more efficiently.

The role of Omidyar and other billionaires – who would be called ‘oligarchs’ if they were Russian but keep being presented as ‘philanthropists’ in the West – in influencing media and politics around the world is woefully under-examined, Rubinstein and Blumenthal argue.

Controlled or ‘responsible’ opposition?

Part of the problem is that Omidyar funds a wide range of media outlets through foundations, nonprofits and other cutouts, and many journalists who consider themselves independent or progressive aspire to work at Omidyar-backed Intercept, famous for publishing (some of) the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

“All of the media ventures funded by Omidyar have one thing in common: their slickness,” Rubinstein said, noting that the “cutting edge design, high production values, and the esoteric portrayal of the process of reporting” all contribute to creating the image of Omidyar-backed outlets as the “responsible opposition” in contrast to outlets with a more shoestring budget.

While Intercept editor Glenn Greenwald has been sharply critical of US foreign policy and the ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory, other writers at the outlet have “carried water for al-Qaeda in Syria” and pushed Russiagate, said Rubinstein.

He described as “incredibly troubling” the fact that The Intercept has rolled out only a portion of the Snowden documents, de facto making them serve the agenda of Omidyar and his First Look Media rather than be responsibly released to the public, as Snowden intended.

February 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer

By Joyce Nelson | CounterPunch | February 15, 2019

On February 11, Bloomberg News published an astonishing piece about the unfolding Venezuelan turmoil. It was apparently the result of a major investigative effort involving three reporters and five others providing “assistance”. You’ll notice I haven’t called it a piece of news (although that’s what it looks like), but I’m not sure what to call it. It’s a piece of something, but what?

With eight people working on it, the piece is a long one, with plenty of sources. By my count, there were 19 sources. Here are 16 of them:

1-4) “four people with knowledge of the discussions”
5) “another person”
6) “a person familiar with the thinking”
7) “a person with knowledge of the conversations”
8) “another person” (different from the previously cited “another person”)
9) “a foreign military official”
10) “a French official”
11) “another person with knowledge of the deliberations”
12) “a person with knowledge of the internal discussions”
13) “a person familiar with [Juan] Guaido’s thinking”
14) “a person familiar with the discussions”
15) “a senior Turkish official”
16) “another person” (different from the previously cited “another person” and “another person”)

A seventeenth source was Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s special representative for Venezuela. It’s not clear, however, that any of Bloomberg News’ three reporters or the five others providing “assistance” actually interviewed Abrams or were simply quoting from a previous press conference: “Speaking in Washington last week, Abrams said…”

So what was the focus of this piece? The intrepid reporters were picking up on a January 31st tweet by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who encouraged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to retire to “a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela” while he still had time.

The Bloomberg News piece is entitled: “As Nicolas Maduro digs in, his aides hunt for an emergency escape route out of Venezuela.” It got wide exposure, including in Canada’s National Post. [1] The eight reporters and aforementioned 16 sources imply that Maduro is frantically seeking a bolthole somewhere, anywhere – Cuba? Russia? Turkey? Mexico? France? – while appearing to hang on to power.

Their quote from Abrams is this: “’I think it is better for the transition to democracy in Venezuela that he be outside the country,’ Elliott Abrams, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s special representative for Venezuela, said of Maduro. ‘And there are a number of countries that I think would be willing to accept him,’ he told reporters, citing ‘friends in places like Cuba and Russia’.”

There were two more sources cited in this piece: Andrey Kortunov, head of a Moscow research organization entitled the Russian International Affairs Council, and Russian lawmaker Andrey Klimov, deputy head of the upper house of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Both affirmed Maduro’s resilience in the midst of the turmoil, with Klimov telling Bloomberg News that Maduro “is not planning to go anywhere.”

Indeed, Klimov “dismissed talk of Maduro’s evacuation as ‘psychological warfare’ aimed at ‘sowing panic and hysteria’” in Venezuela.

In the old days, according to persons knowledgeable on the matter, psychological warfare was conducted through the CIA’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” – massive propaganda efforts utilizing mainstream media and other outlets. These days U.S. taxpayer-funded organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have taken over much of that function. As The Intercept (Jan. 30) informs us, Elliott Abrams is on the board of the NED. [2]

The Mighty Wurlitzer blares on, but under different management and branding. Has Bloomberg News become part of this effort? At this point, persons familiar with the company’s thinking about the question have yet to come forward.

Footnotes:
[1] Esteban Duarte, Eric Martin, Ilya Arkhipov (Bloomberg News ), “As Nicolas Maduro digs in, his aides hunt for an emergency escape route out of Venezuela,” National Post, February 11, 2019.
https://nationalpost.com/news/world/as-nicolas-maduro-digs-in-his-aides-hunt-for-an-emergecy-escape-route-out-of-venezuela
[2] Jon Schwartz, “Elliott Abrams, Trump’s Pick for Fixing ‘Democracy’ in Venezuela, Has Spent His Life Crushing Democracy,” The Intercept, January 30, 2019.

Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: http://watershedsentinel.ca/banksters. She can be reached through www.joycenelson.ca.<

February 15, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Integrity Initiative: New leaks show UK-funded project sought £5.5m for Balkans influence campaign

RT | February 12, 2019

Hackers have released a sixth batch of Integrity Initiative leaks, this time focusing on how the project sought £5.5 million in funding from the British government to establish an influence campaign in the Western Balkans.

According to the leaks, Chris Donnelly, who heads the Institute for Statecraft (IfS) — the Integrity Initiative’s parent organization — used his NATO contacts and extensive background in military intelligence to try to secure the money for the program.

The Integrity Initiative (II) had been positioning itself as an “independent” anti-disinformation charity until hackers began dumping batches of internal documents last November which revealed its government funding and the fact that it was running Europe-wide anti-Russia influence campaigns using “clusters” of cooperative journalists, academics and politicians. In response to the leaks, the II wiped all content from its website and claimed that while some of the documents were “genuine,” others were “falsified” — but did not provide any proof that this was the case.

The latest leaks show that the Balkan program would be run in conjunction with global marketing and communications firm Edelman, which Donnelly said could help produce “advertising campaigns on TV promoting change,” English-language training promoting the “right messages” and even “a TV soap opera looking at the problem of corruption.”

To aid ‘Her Majesty’s Government’

In a letter to former MI6 employee Guy Spindler and good governance expert Keith Sargent — who would be a key figure in the Balkan effort — Donnelly explains how the project would need “local partners” in the WB6 countries. The partners will help find journalists “who can be allies” in their efforts and who could be brought “on trips to London, HQ NATO etc.”

Donnelly’s letter is dated October 15, but no year is given. It appears, however, that it is from 2018, based on the fact that the proposal documents for the Balkan project make reference to the year 2018 and January 2019 as the potential start date.

The letter focuses on the efforts to set up the “anti-corruption” and “good governance” influence campaign across the Western Balkans, which a separate document says would “contribute to the aims and strategy of HMG” (Her Majesty’s Government) and would shield the region from corruption “being used as a method of external influence.”

Stumbling blocks and help from the BBC

Perceptively, the document — which lays out the projected three-year costs of £5.5 million ($7.87mn) — also recognizes that the program itself could be “identified as external interference” in the domestic affairs of the Balkan countries. Another leaked document notes “Russian hostility” and “traditional Soviet ties” as potential stumbling blocks to the Western influence campaign.

One serious concern is that many Serbian organizations “promote friendly ties with Russia” and it is suggested that BBC broadcasts could help to “counter Russian fake news” in the region. The fact that Serbia, Russia and a number of other countries do not recognize Kosovo’s independence is also cited as a “major problem” for the project.

‘A Bellingcat for counter-corruption’

To achieve success Donnelly said they would need to “identify a national goal” that could be used as a “lever”— citing Macedonia’s efforts to join NATO as an example. Donnelly boasts about his efforts in Slovakia in the 1990s using MPs to teach businesses how they could lobby government “legitimately in a democracy” rather than using “their then model of cash in brown envelopes.”

Part of the so-called anti-corruption program would entail building “training courses for journalists, students and wider public activists” to help them obtain the relevant investigative tools. Such a program could be “a Bellingcat for counter corruption,” the proposal document states. Bellingcat shot to prominence as a controversial one-man investigative website, which later expanded, received money from the notorious US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and was also linked to the II.

Anti-Russia entertainment

The latest leaks also reveal contacts between IfS fellow Euan Grant and a number of journalists, academics and think tank lobbyists. Grant sent a “memorandum of cooperation” to US writer Martha Bayles after a “detailed Skype call” in July 2018. He was looking for her “input into media documentaries and fictional entertainment” to counter Russian narratives.

Governments seeking help from writers and the entertainment industry to counter Russian narratives is nothing new. The 2014 hack of Sony Pictures revealed that the US State Department enlisted Hollywood’s help with “anti-Russia messaging” for movies and TV shows. It appears from these leaks that the British government is also trying to use thinly-disguised entertainment propaganda to promote divisive anti-Russia messaging onto TV screens in politically volatile regions of Europe.

The leaks say that the II should “alert” the press, radio and TV journalists to the “relevance” of already-made entertainment like the BBC series ‘McMafia’ which focuses on a London-based corrupt Russian family.

‘Sympathy for Russia’ in Scotland

There was also contact between the IfS and Neal Stewart, an adviser to the Scottish National Party’s Westminster front bench about “considerable sympathy for Russia” in Scotland in general, but particularly within academia. The “significant Russian speaking presence in private schools and in the Universities could fuel such attitudes,” the document warns. Another leaked document also cites “academic sympathies with Russia” as an indicator of “malign influence and disinformation.”

Targeting academics and students for their ‘Russian sympathies’ brings up rather negative historical parallels, particularly with the McCarthy era in the US, during which entertainers, academics and left-leaning activists were aggressively accused of being Communist sympathizers or agents and were placed on industry blacklists.

More recently, in Britain, a group of academics were smeared on the front page of the Times for similar sympathies, based on the fact that they publicly expressed doubts over certain anti-Russia media narratives. One of the academics involved called it a“coordinated smear campaign” against anti-war journalists and activists. The authors of the Times report were later named in Integrity Initiative documents, proving the existence of collusion between the British government and pro-establishment journalists to target those who do not stick to certain narratives.

High profile names & media ties

In an II“weekly report,” Grant names University of Exeter Professor Jeremy Black and Sunday Times journalist Roland White as two people who expressed interest in collaborating with the II. Roderick Parkes of the Paris-based ISS think tank and Nigel Gould-Davies, an associate fellow at Chatham House, were also named.

The leaks also say that Deborah Haynes of Sky News (a co-author of the aforementioned Times report) and Jonathan Beale of the BBC attended a speech by Air Marshal Sir Philip Osborn on the future of intelligence and information warfare in May 2018. The speech was described in the document as “manna from heaven for the Integrity Initiative.”

Grant writes that the government-funded IfS has “particular links with the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and BBC TV and radio” but says that it needs to “strengthen” its relationship with the Mail.

Times writer and CEPA lobbyist Edward Lucas also crops up in the latest leaks and due to his “considerable interest” is named as the II’s way into getting “articles and references” in the Times. Lucas recently defended the II in an op-ed for the newspaper and argued that criticism of the project would “play into the Kremlin’s hands.”

NGOs and the ‘Australian cluster’

The documents also reveal that the II wanted to provide NGOs with manuals on Russian corruption. Among the named organizations are Transparency International, Global Witness and the World Wildlife Fund.

One of the newly leaked documents also shows just how far the II has extended its reach, referencing an”Australian cluster.” Given the issue of Russian and Chinese influence in that region, Grant writes that there is “scope for a lot of crossover with media in Europe” and Australia relating to “Russian issues.”

Presenting the new leaks, the Anonymous-linked hackers claim that the Integrity Initiative has been trying to “divert people’s attention from the organisation’s wrongful activity” since the documents were made public. The leakers bash the II’s “pathetic attempt” to cover its tracks and say all its efforts have been “shattered to pieces by irrefutable evidence” of wrongdoing that has been shared with the public.

RT sent requests for comment to the people named in the story who were linked to the Integrity Initiative in the latest leaks.

February 12, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

By Erik D’AMATO | Ron Paul Institute | January 18, 2019

If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury. With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between over-hyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation. But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable… To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would be directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

January 19, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left

By Dan Kovalik | CounterPunch | December 7, 2018

According to our nation’s paper of record, the New York Times, the Nicaraguan Contras re-activated some time ago in order to take on their old foe, Daniel Ortega, who had been re-elected in 2007 after a long hiatus of 17 years. One may recall that it was the pressure of the Contras, and their brutal terrorist tactics, which were critical to unseating Ortega from office the first time back in 1990.

Just as a refresher, the Contras (short for “counterrevolutionaries”) were made up largely of the National Guardsmen of the US-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza. After the successful 1979 revolution against Somoza – a revolution led by Ortega and the FSLN (or, Sandinistas) — the CIA organized the Guardsmen into the Contras and trained, armed and directed them for the purpose of undermining the fledgling Sandinista government. The Contras, with the direct encouragement of the CIA, carried out various terrorist acts which included the torture, rape and murder of civilians and the destruction of key civilian infrastructure. All told, around 30,000 Nicaraguans died in the 1980’s as a result of the US-backed Contra War.

The Contras, after effectively exhausting the Nicaraguan people and extorting them into voting Ortega out of office in 1990, largely disarmed. However, as the Times wrote back in March of 2016 in a laudatory piece about the Contras’ return, this changed sometime after Ortega’s re-election in 2007. The Times piece begins as follows:

He calls himself Tyson, wears tattered United States Army fatigues and carries a beat-up AK-47.

He is a rebel fighter in the mountains of Nicaragua, setting ambushes against President Daniel Ortega’s government and longing for the days when covert American funding paid for overt warfare.

Tyson and his men are contras — yes, like the ones from the 1980s who received stealth funding during the Reagan administration to topple Mr. Ortega’s leftist Sandinista government.   . . .

The contras of today, often nicknamed “the rearmed,” are a shadow of what they once were. . . .

Still, skirmishes in rural areas around the country as recently as last week have left police officers, civilians and soldiers dead, a violent expression of the broader anger brewing against the government.

In this same article, the Times acknowledges that “Mr. Ortega enjoys strong support among the poor . . . .” And of course, this makes absolute sense given Ortega’s enlightened social policies. As the website Popular Resistance explains,

these policies have yielded the highest growth rate in Central America and annual minimum wage increases 5-7% above inflation, improving workers’ living conditions and lifting people out of poverty. The anti-poverty Borgen project reports poverty fell by 30 percent between 2005 and 2014.

The FSLN-led government has put into place an economic model based on public investment and strengthening the safety net for the poor. The government invests in infrastructure, transit, maintains water and electricity within the public sector and moved privatized services, e.g., health care and primary education, into the public sector. This has ensured a stable economic structure that favors the real economy over the speculative economy. The lion’s share of infrastructure in Nicaragua has been built in the last 11 years, something comparable to the New Deal-era in the US, including renewable electricity plants across the country.

Still, according to the Times, the Contras re-emerged in response to what they viewed as Ortega’s over-consolidation of power.

Meanwhile, the Times was not the only one writing about these rearmed Contras. Indeed, over the years, there have been a number of reports about these Contras. According to a 2013 article in Insight Crime, for example, “estimates of the numbers of rearmed contras have varied from dozens to hundreds, and even thousands . . . .” This article explained that eight people had recently been killed as a result of Contra activity in northern Nicaragua near the Honduran border.

For his part, Tim Rogers, a viciously anti-Sandinista journalist, has been writing for years about the phenomenon of the rearmed Contras. For example, in a 2014 piece, Rogers wrote:

A deadly midnight ambush targeting government supporters in northern Nicaragua has stirred the sleeping dogs of war and raised new fears of a pending military campaign against rearmed guerrillas hiding in the mountains.

Five people were killed and 19 injured early Sunday morning in what appears to be a coordinated series of attacks against Sandinista party members traveling by bus through the mountainous coffee-growing region of Matagalpa, one of the main battlegrounds of Nicaragua’s civil war in the 1980s.Video

The buses, filled with pro-government supporters returning from Managua after a day of celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, were fired on indiscriminately from the darkened shoulder of the road by unidentified men armed with AK-47s.

This very sort of attack against Sandinista rank and file members was played out time and again over this past summer during the three-month-long crisis which received significant media attention. Indeed, when I was in Managua this past July for the anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, I was told that, contrary to traditional practice, there would not be buses sent to Managua from other parts of the country for the celebration for fear of such attacks.

And yet, while the mainstream press covered the crisis in Nicaragua this past summer with rapt attention, and while Tim Rogers himself published a number of pieces in the mainstream press about it, there was not one whisper about the rearmed Contras, nor was there coverage of the regular assaults against Sandinista rank and file – attacks which included torture, rape and murder. Instead, we were told by the mainstream press, and by most of the “left-wing” press as well, only of peaceful protesters being attacked by an allegedly repressive Sandinista government. And, when people were killed by sniper attacks, we were told that it had to be government security forces because the opposition used only peaceful means, and, in any case, did not have the capacity to carry out such assaults.

Just as the devil was able to do about his own existence, the greatest feat accomplished in this instance was to convince the public that the rearmed Contras did not exist. Of course, this is not a difficult task given that most Americans’ historical memory is about 24 hours.

What is most deeply disappointing and frustrating, however, is that most of the American left, which presumably should know better, has also fallen for this devil’s trick, and has quickly leapt to join in the right-wing chorus calling for the removal of Ortega and the Sandinistas from office. This despite the fact that, as journalist Max Blumenthal explained, there is clear evidence that the US itself has been behind the violent push to unseat Ortega. As Blumenthal related, on May 1, 2018, a publication funded by the Cold War-era National Endowment for Democracy (NED) “bluntly asserted that organizations backed by the NED have spent years and millions of dollars ‘laying the groundwork for insurrection’” which took place over the summer. And, the US AID just announced that it will continue this work by sending another $4 million to support opposition civil society groups in Nicaragua.

What’s more, as far back as 2012, former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst Wayne Madsen was not only writing about the rearmed Contras but also about the US and Israeli support for them. While Madsen can sometimes be prone to conspiracy theories which do not always pan out, his claims back then about this particular subject seem spot on and indeed quite prescient.

Thus, in his 2012 book, The Manufacturing of a President, Madsen claims, based upon his numerous intelligence sources, that the CIA and Mossad have both been funding these rearmed Contras, and that they have been shipping these Contras arms over both the Honduran and Costa Rican borders. He claims also that the Honduran government which came to power through the 2009 coup – a coup which the Obama Administration actively aided and abetted to unseat a leftist government which, by the way, happened to be friendly to Ortega – has been key to helping both support the Contras as well as to provide a staging ground for the covert operations to bring down the Sandinista government. In other words, Honduras is playing the very same role it did in the 1980s, and the US-backed coup in 2009 – a mere 2 years after Ortega was elected – was crucial to this role.

And, just last week, in a further attempt to unseat Ortega, the US Senate finally passed the NICA Act which will cut Nicaragua off from all international financing – financing which the Ortega government has been using to effectively combat poverty in Nicaragua. The NICA Act has been in the works for some time, and Nicaraguan opposition forces, including the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), have openly been lobbying for this. This, however, has not stopped most of the left in the US, who obviously have not been impressed with Ortega’s successful social programs and his real support for the poor, from cheerleading and romanticizing these very same opposition forces.

The result of the NICA Act sanctions will be massive suffering for the poor of Nicaragua who support Ortega the most. These sanctions will be particularly painful after the crisis this past summer in which the opposition managed to trash the economy along with substantial civilian infrastructure (just as the Contras had done in the 1980s). And, should Ortega be unseated as a result of all this, it will most certainly be the violent and most right-wing portion of the opposition which will take power, for it is they who have the resolve and the means to do so.

But, guided by the new religion of “humanitarian interventionism,” the pro-imperialist left of the US is indifferent to the consequences of their support, whether explicit or tacit, of Western imperial aggression.  Just as many on the US left cheered on the NATO invasion of Libya – an invasion which inevitably left that country broken and with slaves being sold openly on the streets – they now applaud the counterrevolution taking place in Nicaragua. This shows once again that the US left has a very high tolerance for the suffering of Third World peoples so long as they feel that this suffering is endured for the sake of their own abstract notions of human rights.

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is also author of the newly-released, The Plot to Control the World:  How the US has Spent Billions to Change the Outcome of Elections Around the World.

December 7, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

RT | September 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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