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Iranian Spying? or Neocon 9/11 Coverup?

Questioning the USG/NYT official story on Marzieh Hashemi, Monica Witt, New Horizon…and yours truly

Monica E. Witt, a former United States Air Force intelligence officer, is accused of espionage on behalf of Iran. Credit: FBI/EPA, via Shutterstock/New York Times
By Kevin Barrett • Unz Review • February 18, 2019

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been prominently libeled in The New York Times. Nor was it the worst.

Compared to Stanley Fish’s grotesquely mendacious 2006 op-ed trashing me for something I never did—advocating 9/11 truth in the classroom[1]—Alan Blinder, Julie Turkewitz and Adam Goldman treated me fairly well on Sunday’s NYT front page by calling me a “controversial scholar of Islam” while accurately reporting what I said about Monica Witt, the ex-Air Force officer accused of spying for Iran.

The arguably libelous part came in the previous paragraph. I was introduced as part of “a crowd filled with fringe academics, Holocaust deniers and the lover of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal” where “Ms. Witt at last found herself among people as critical of her country as she was.” This is an absurdly libelous description of attendees at the February 2013 Hollywoodism Conference, a rubric of the Tehran Film Festival that was not a New Horizon[2] conference. Leaving aside the question of how a whole conference could be “filled by… the lover of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal” (Carlos liked really big women?) the bit about America-hating “fringe academics” and “Holocaust deniers” is seriously misleading.

Most of the US attendees might better be described as sincere American patriots. Former Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), whom I personally recruited for the conference, is widely acknowledged as an all-American hero for his principled stance against the Vietnam war, his role in exposing the Pentagon Papers, and his courageous advocacy of 9/11 truth. Merlin Miller, a family values oriented filmmaker who once ran for president, is another all-American hero who attended the Hollywoodism Conference. Merlin Miller’s pro-American, anti-Zionist-Hollywood perspective is as patriotic as it gets. And then there was Culture Wars editor E. Michael Jones, another conservative American patriot who wants to take his country back. While all three all-American heroes are in varying degrees critical of Israel and its occupation of American politics and media, none could possibly be viewed as America haters.

The bit about “Holocaust denial” is also misleading. The Holocaust was not on the agenda, in any way, shape, or form, at the Hollywoodism conference, nor at any New Horizon Conference.[3] The New York Times apparently chose to lob this gratuitous insult because a tiny handful of the hundreds of attendees at New Horizon conferences have published on this issue—an issue that in any event merits fearless discussion and debate, as readers of Ron Unz’s “Holocaust Denial” will discover.

The New York Times, echoing the US government’s indictment of Monica Witt and the Treasury Department’s sanctioning of New Horizon, offers a narrative almost entirely unsupported by any evidence. According to the official narrative, New Horizon and Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi are somehow responsible for Monica Witt’s decision to move to Iran and allegedly share secrets she learned in the Air Force. Leaving aside the questions of whether Monica Witt actually did move to Iran, and if so whether she shared any secrets, and if so whether those secrets were genuinely important, the cases against New Horizon and Marzieh Hashemi are obviously bogus.

First consider the case against Ms. Hashemi, a leading international news anchor, who was kidnapped by the FBI without charges and held for ten days under circumstances bordering on torture. The rationale for kidnapping Ms. Hashemi was the claim that she was a “material witness” to Monica Witt’s alleged spying. But Ms. Hashemi was never charged with a crime. After several interrogations, she was released without charges. Yet the indictment of Monica Witt states that “Individual A” who can only be Ms. Hashemi “engaged in acts consistent with serving as a spotter and assessor on behalf of the Iranian intelligence services.” Obviously if there were any actual evidence that Marzieh Hashemi was so employed, she never would have been released without charges. So we may assume that “acts consistent with” really means: “Marzieh Hashemi is a journalist who reports critically and fearlessly on American issues, and in so doing interviews sources who might be characterized as whistleblowers or dissidents.” In other words, Hashemi regularly commits a crime called “journalism.” And just as journalist Glen Greenwald, in the course of his journalistic duties, interviewed a whistleblower who wound up living in Russia (Edward Snowden) it seems that Marzieh Hashemi may have interviewed a whistleblower who wound up living in Iran (Monica Witt). But, contra USG, neither Greenwald nor Hashemi are spies. Both are journalists who, unlike certain mainstream media hacks, actually do their jobs.

The case against the New Horizon NGO is as bogus as the one against Marzieh Hashemi. The only “evidence” against New Horizon is that Monica Witt spoke at the February 2013 Hollywoodism Conference in Tehran. But that was not even a New Horizon conference! It was actually part of the Tehran Film Festival. So if the Treasury Department thinks the Hollywoodism Conference was guilty of something, it should sanction the Tehran Film Festival, not the New Horizon NGO, which only had a peripheral role in that event.

But why blame the conference at all? The official narrative seems to be that Witt had such a wonderful time there that she later decided to move to Iran (and supposedly spill some secrets). If that were true—and I can testify that just about everybody who attends Iran-based conferences has a wonderful time—the conference organizers would be guilty of the crime of putting on a wonderful conference. Last I checked, that wasn’t grounds for Treasury Department sanctions.

Is there any evidence that New Horizon conferences are really about recruiting spies, not exchanging ideas? The notion is preposterous. Just look at the participants lists! Virtually none of the conferees are people who could be expected to hold any secrets. On the contrary, the many New Horizon conferences I have attended have been—up until May 2018—remarkably bereft of US military and intelligence veterans.

I know the New Horizon organizers fairly well, and even helped them on more than one occasion by suggesting prospective guests. When I repeatedly suggested that they invite such illustrious ex-military/intel types as Veterans Today Senior Editor Gordon Duff, former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, ex-State Department issuer of Visas for al-Qaeda Mike Springmann, former US Army counterterrorism and psy ops expert Scott Bennett, and others from USG backgrounds, I was told that while the New Horizon NGO would love to do so, the Iranian government makes it hard for such people to get visas. Finally, in May 2018, in an attempt to foster goodwill and trust, the Iranian government relented. Giraldi, Springmann, Bennett, and Michael Maloof were invited and attended. On the final day of that Conference, Bennett and others spearheaded an attempt to convince the Iranian government to bring 9/11 truth into an American federal courtroom.

I believe the real reason for the witch hunt against New Horizon and Marzieh Hashemi is New Horizon’s and Press TV’s success at fostering dialogues that include voices that are suppressed and censored in the US and the rest of the West. The 9/11 truth movement, in particular, obviously terrifies the Establishment. When the May 2018 New Horizon conference in Mashhad nearly persuaded the Iranian government to throw its full support behind a major 9/11 truth initiative—one that could have led to discovery proceedings forcing suspected 9/11 perpetrators like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and others to testify under oath— the neoconservative element of the Establishment must have panicked. The current witch-hunt is their way of lashing out.

Think about it: If this is really about Monica Witt supposedly spilling secrets, why did they wait so long? According to the feds, Witt, supposedly possessing vital national security secrets, has been living in Iran as a Shia Muslim convert since summer 2013. Since Witt was on US authorities’ radar screen as a dissident and potential whistleblower long before that, it seems obvious that damage limitation measures would have been taken by mid-2013 at the latest. Any operations Witt could have compromised would have been shut down or revamped at that time, if not earlier. So the narrative that Witt has gravely damaged US national security, and we are only hearing about it now, seems implausible. Instead, the timing of the indictment, and the simultaneous persecution of Marzieh Hashemi and sanctioning of New Horizon, suggests that the neocon Deep State is panicking over Press TV’s and New Horizon’s success at fostering dialogue on suppressed issues like 9/11 truth—dialogue inclusive of loyal and patriotic US military and intelligence insiders. Presumably the neocon Deep State has invented a fake or exaggerated tale of Monica Witt’s alleged spying as an excuse to try to persecute and silence truth-loving journalists and intellectuals.

But let’s consider all the possibilities. In the unlikely event that Monica Witt really has spilled important national security secrets to Iranian intelligence—this according to the neocon Deep State tale that the entire mainstream media has swallowed uncritically—who would really deserve the blame? Journalists who covered her whistleblowing? Conference organizers who offered her a completely transparent platform? That’s the propaganda line. But it’s preposterous.

Anyone who has spoken extensively with Monica Witt, as I did at the Hollywoodism conference in 2013, knows that she is a highly intelligent, deeply sincere person who was horrified and traumatized by the war crimes in which she was forced to participate. Today’s New York Times article cites her classmate Cory Ellis:

“‘She would talk about how she couldn’t sleep at night, the stuff she saw and was a part of,’ said Mr. Ellis. Ms. Witt, he remembered, would mention drone strikes, extrajudicial killings and atrocities against children, all of which she claimed her colleagues in the military would brag about.”

As a whistleblower, she testified about some of these atrocities to journalists, including Marzieh Hashemi, and apparently also approached Wikileaks. And of course she participated in the Hollywoodism Conference in Tehran.

So who is really at fault here? The journalists? The conference? (Kill the messengers!) Or the war criminals who rape and dismember children, massacre women and children in drone strikes, and engage in sexual assault against their fellow service members with impunity?

If the US government wants to prosecute the people responsible for Monica Witt’s decision to move to Iran, they should begin by investigating the US military personnel who committed the atrocities she witnessed—the atrocities that traumatized her and forced her to follow her conscience, wherever it may have led her.

Notes

[1] I was witch-hunted in 2006 by State Rep. Steve Nass for “teaching 9/11 conspiracy theories” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But in fact I had never done so, nor had I any plans to do so. While teaching African Studies, Folklore, and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison between 2001 and 2006, I had never once revealed to students my personal views of 9/11, nor did I ever discuss the research that gave rise to those views. None of my students up to that point even knew what my views of 9/11 were, unless they had stumbled upon one of my occasional teach-ins, or read my published work on the issue, which I did not bring into the classroom. Yet Stanley Fish lied brazenly about me in his NYT op-ed, libelously claiming: “Mr. Barrett, who has a one-semester contract to teach a course titled ‘Islam: Religion and Culture’ acknowledged on a radio talk show that he has shared with students his strong conviction that the destruction of the World Trade Center was an inside job perpetrated by the American government.” In fact I neither acknowledged nor did any such thing. I immediately wrote to The New York Times urging them to correct their libelous error. They refused to do so. Instead, they published several other letters all taking for granted Fish’s outrageous and utterly baseless lie.

[2] New Horizon is an Iranian NGO dedicated to fostering intellectual exchange among genuinely independent thinkers and activists from all over the world. It has sponsored on average one conference each year, mostly in Tehran, since around 2012.

[3] The New Horizon NGO had nothing to do with the December 2006 Holocaust Conference in Tehran—a conference whose primary purpose was to defend human rights by challenging the West’s annihilation of free speech and free thought on this important topic.

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

The Real Motive Behind the FBI Plan to Investigate Trump as a Russian Agent

By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | February 13, 2019

The New York Times and CNN led media coverage last month of discussions among senior FBI officials in May 2017 of a possible national security investigation of President Donald Trump himself, on the premise that he may have acted as an agent of Russia.

The episode has potentially profound political fallout, because the Times and CNN stories suggested that Trump may indeed have acted like a Russian agent. The New York Times story on Jan. 11 was headlined, “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” CNN followed three days later with: “Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia.”

By reporting that Russia may have been able to suborn the president of the United States, these stories have added an even more extreme layer to the dominant national political narrative of a serious Russian threat to destroy U.S. democracy. An analysis of the FBI’s idea of Trump as possible Russian agent reveals, moreover, that it is based on a devious concept of “unwitting” service to Russian interests that can be traced back to former CIA director John O. Brennan.

The Proposal That Fell Apart

The FBI discussions that drove these stories could have led to the first known investigation of a U.S. president as a suspected national security risk. It ended only a few days after the deliberations  among the senior FBI officials when on May 19, 2017, the Justice Department chose Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to be special counsel. That put control over the Trump-Russia investigation into the hands of Mueller rather than the FBI.

Peter Strzok, who led the bureau’s counter-espionage section, was, along with former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, one of those involved in the May 2017 discussions about investigating Trump. Strzok initially joined Mueller’s team but was fired after a couple of months when text messages that he had written came to light exposing a deep animosity towards Trump that cast doubt over his  impartiality.

The other FBI officials behind the proposed investigation of Trump have also since left the FBI; either fired or retired.

The entirety of what was said at the meetings of five or six senior FBI officials in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director on May 9, 2017, remains a mystery.

Closed-door Testimony

The CNN and Times stories were based on transcripts either obtained or, in the case of the Times, on portions read to it, of private testimony given to the House Judiciary and Government Oversight and Reform committees last October by Baker, one of the participants in the discussions of Trump as a possible Russian agent.

Excerpts of Baker’s testimony published by CNN make it clear that the group spoke about Trump’s policy toward Russia as a basis for a counter-intelligence investigation. Baker said they “discussed as [a] theoretical possibility” that Trump was “acting at the behest of [Russia] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.”

Baker went on to explain that this theoretical possibility was only “one extreme” in a range of possibilities discussed and that “the other extreme” was that “the President is completely innocent.”

He thus made it clear that there was no actual evidence for the idea that he was acting on behalf of Russia.

Baker also offered a simpler rationale for such an investigation of Trump: the president’s firing of FBI Director Comey. “Not only would [firing Comey] be an issue of obstructing an investigation,” he said, “but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security.”

But the idea that Comey’s firing had triggered the FBI’s discussions had already been refuted by a text message that Strzok, who had been leading the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians, sent immediately after the firing to Lisa Page, then legal counsel to Andrew McCabe, formerly the bureau’s deputy director who was then acting director.

“We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting,” Strzok wrote, referring to McCabe.

As Page later confirmed to congressional investigators, according to the CNN story, Strzok’s message referred to their desire to launch an investigation into possible collusion between Trump and the Russians. Strzok’s message also makes clear he, and others intent on the investigation, were anxious to get McCabe to approve the proposed probe before Trump named someone less sympathetic to the project as the new FBI director.

Why the FBI Wanted to Investigate

The New York Times story argued that the senior FBI officials’ interest in a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump and the Russians sprang from their knowledge of the sensational charges in the opposition research dossier assembled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele (paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign) that the Putin government had “tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.”

But the Times writers must have known that Bruce Ohr, former associate deputy attorney general, had already given McCabe, Page and Strzok information about Steele and his dossier that raised fundamental questions about its reliability.

Ohr’s first contacts at FBI headquarters regarding Steele and his dossier came Aug. 3, 2016, with Page and her boss McCabe. Ohr later met with Strzok.

Ohr said he told them that Steele’s work on the dossier had been financed by the Clinton campaign through the Perkins-Cole law firm. He also told them that Steele, in a July 30, 2016 meeting, told him he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” according to Ohr’s contemporaneous notes of the meeting.

So, key figures in the discussion of Trump and Russia in May 2017 knew that Steele was acting out of both political and business motives to come up with sensational material.

Strzok and Page may have started out as true believers in the idea that the Russians were using Trump campaign officials to manipulate Trump administration policy. However, by May 2017, Strzok had evidently concluded that there was no real evidence.

In a text message to Page on May 19, 2017, Strzok said he was reluctant to join the Mueller investigation, because of his “gut sense and concern” that “there’s no big there there.”

Why, then, were Strzok, Page, McCabe and others so determined to launch an investigation of Trump at about the same time in May 2017?

A CNN article about the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and senior FBI officials “viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment of the time.”

That description by anti-Trump law enforcement officials suggests that the proposed counter-intelligence investigation of Trump served as a means to maintain some leverage over his treatment of the FBI in regard to the Russia issue.

That motivation would be consistent with the decision by McCabe on May 15, 2017 – a few days after the discussions in question among the senior FBI officials – to resume the bureau’s relationship with Steele.

The FBI had hired Steele as a paid source when it had earlier launched its investigation of Trump campaign official’s contacts with Russians in July 2016. But it had suspended and then terminated the relationship over Steele’s unauthorized disclosure of the investigation to David Corn of Mother Jones magazine in October 2016. So, the decision to resume the relationship with Steele suggests that the group behind the new investigation were thinking of seizing an opportunity to take off the gloves against Trump.

The ‘Unwitting Collaboration’ Ploy

The discussion by senior FBI officials of a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump has become part of the political struggle over Trump mainly because of the stories in the Times and CNN.

The role of the authors of those stories illustrates how corporate journalists casually embraced the ultimate conspiracy theory – that the president of the United States was acting as a Russian stooge.

The reporters of the CNN story — Jeremy Herb, Pamela Brown and Laura Jarrett — wrote that the FBI officials were “trying to understand why [Trump] was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia.”

The New York Times story was more explicit. Co-authors Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos wrote that the FBI officials “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

The same day the Times story was published, the lead author on the piece, Adam Goldman, was interviewed by CNN. Goldman referred to Trump’s interview with NBC’sLester Holt in the days after the Comey firing as something that supposedly pushed the FBI officials over the edge. Goldman declared, “The FBI is watching him say this, and they say he’s telling us why he did this. He did it on behalf of Russia.”

But Trump said nothing of kind. What he actually said — as the Times itself quoted Trump, from the NBCinterview —was: “[W]hen I decided just to do it, I said to myself – I said, you know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” The Times article continued: “Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. ‘I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. ‘He’s the wrong man for that position.’”

Goldman was evidently trying to sell the idea of Trump as a suspected agent of Russia.

Goldman also gave an interview to The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, in which the interviewer pressed him on the weakest point of the Trump-as-Russian-agent theory. “What would that look like if the President was an unwitting agent of a foreign power?” asked Chotiner.

The Times correspondent, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, responded: “It is hard to say what that would look like.” Goldman then reiterated the concept. “People were very careful to tell me that: ‘It is wittingly or unwittingly.’” And in answer to a follow-up question, Goldman referred to evidence he suggested might be held by the FBI that “perhaps suggests that the President himself may be acting as a foreign agent, either wittingly or unwittingly….”

The idea that American citizens were somehow at risk of being led by an agent of the Russian government “wittingly or unwittingly” did not appear spontaneously. It had been pushed aggressively by former CIA Director John O. Brennan both during and after his role in pressing for the original investigation.

When Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee in May 2017, he was asked whether he had intelligence indicating that anyone in the Trump campaign was “colluding with Moscow.” Instead of answering the question directly, Brennan said he knew from past experience that “the Russians try to suborn individuals, and they try get them to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” And he recalled that he had left the government with “unresolved questions” about whether the Russians had been successful in doing so in regard to unidentified individuals in the case of the 2016 elections.

Brennan’s notion of “unwitting collaboration” with Russian subversion is illogical. Although a political actor might accidentally reveal information to a foreign government that is valuable, real “collaboration” must be mutually agreeable. A policy position or action that may benefit a foreign government, but is also in the interest of one’s own government, does not constitute “unwitting collaboration.”

The real purpose of that concept is to confer on national security officials and their media allies the power to cast suspicion on individuals on the basis of undesirable policy views of Russia rather than on any evidence of actual collaboration with the Russian government.

The “witting or unwitting” ploy has its origins in the unsavory history of extreme right-wing anti-communism during the Cold War. For example, when the House Un-American Activities Committee was at its height in 1956, Chairman Francis E. Walter declared that “people who are not actually Communist Party members are witting or unwitting servants of the Communist cause.”

The same logic – without explicit reference to the phrase — has been used to impugn the independence and loyalty of people who have contacts with Russia.

It has also been used to portray some independent media as part of a supposedly all-powerful Russian media system.

The revelation that it was turned against a sitting president, however briefly, is a warning signal that national security bureaucrats and their media allies are now moving more aggressively to delegitimize any opposition to the new Cold War.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on U.S. national security policy. His latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Democrats are the McCarthyites

By Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report | February 6, 2019

The unceasing torrent of Russiagate lies turns Democrats into war hawks and causes liberals to spout nonsense that was once consigned to the fringe right wing. It’s worse than the old McCarthyism.

A recent poll indicated that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to hold pro-war views. That revelation is hardly surprising considering the degree to which their party has promoted the trope of Donald Trump as a Russian government asset. This strategy is a focal point for them and a weapon to be used against the Republicans instead of the political opposition their voters need.

The ongoing investigation popularly known as Russiagate is a cynical hoax perpetrated by the Democratic Party leadership and their friends in corporate media. Russiagate distracts the public from taking a hard look at the Democratic Party corruption and resulting missteps that put Donald Trump in the White House. It also serves the interests of the bi-partisan surveillance state, which feared that Trump pronouncements indicated fundamental changes in foreign policy which they could not abide.

These allegations have Trump on the ropes, but mostly because of the relentless repetition of lies about the investigation. The litany of indictments paraded by the media involve crimes like tax fraud and payments to porn stars. None of the indictments point to collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Because no such connections have been made the media continue whipping up hysteria in an effort to keep the tale alive. The campaign is more shrill than ever because the hollowness of the case is clear to anyone who is really paying attention.

Comparisons have been made with McCarthyite “Red Scare” of the 1950s. But it can be argued that Russiagate is even worse. Bizarre assertions that were once consigned to the fringe right wing are now repeated on a daily basis by influential corporate media personalities and nearly all Democratic Party politicians.

The most prolific Russiagate practitioner is Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. She has ridden that horse so successfully that she now has the highest rated program on cable news. But she may have reached a moment which prompted the famous question asked at the army/McCarthy hearings. “At long last have you no sense of decency?”

Her assertion that Russia might be able to hack into the power grid and freeze Americans to death is quite dangerous . “What would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day that the temperature in your front yard matched the temperature in Antarctica? I mean, what would you and your family do?” It doesn’t matter that experts declared that the claim was highly improbable if not impossible. There is now no depth that cannot be reached in the effort to bamboozle Democrats and keep them stupid and needlessly fearful.

Prestigious newspapers like the New York Times are equally guilty of passing off lies as the truth. The Times reported that Trump and his associates had more than 100 interactions with Russians before inauguration day in 2017. But the story falls apart on even cursory inspection. The Times includes unproven claims of contacts with Wikileaks when it isn’t even a Russian organization. Roger Stone is the latest to be indicted because of his own stupidity, having claimed contacts with Wikileaks that never even took place.

But even as the case for collusion falls apart, the McCarthyite media find new ways to keep the narrative running. Russian press coverage of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign is called a “campaign of support” for her candidacy. NBC called Russian reporting the “propaganda machine.” The real issue is that Gabbard dares to question U.S. foreign policy dictates. She met with Syrian president Assad and opposes the coup attempt against Venezuela. But stopping such heretical acts from taking place is a central feature of the Russiagate scare.

So insane is the conspiracy mongering that clear damage to Russian government aspirations are called “wins for Putin.” The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the 30-year old INF missile treaty is not something that Vladimir Putin would ever want. The decades long effort to limit nuclear proliferation gives both countries security knowing that the other is restricted in the number and placements of nuclear weapons. Yet this very obvious reality is now turned on its head, and truth is twisted and disappeared.

The worst possible outcome of Russiagate is that it increases the likelihood of armed conflict between the United States and Russia. The same people who see MSNBC, CNN and national newspapers as divine oracles can be led to support any government act, no matter how dangerous it may be. Liberals who might once have opposed a hot war would now be the first to support it.

The Russiagate pimps are stoking fear and hatred. They spread outright lies and ignorance and they are doing so because of base motives. The Democratic Party rank and file ought to be demanding answers about the 2016 defeat and the previous loss of 900 legislative seats around the country. But they have been so badly misled that they don’t know that they should be asking anything at all. Even people who call themselves progressives are worshipping prosecutorial excess from the Robert Mueller investigation team and applauding surveillance state killers bloviating on cable news programs.

McCarthyism is back and it is being led by liberals. The entire world is endangered because of their leaders’ lies and cover ups and their determination to follow blindly. The outcome will be continued political defeat at home and an increased likelihood of what was once unimaginable, war between two nuclear powers.

Margaret Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Your Complete Guide to the NY Times’ Support of US-Backed Coups in Latin America

By Adam H. JOHNSON | TruthDig | January 29, 2019

On Friday, The New York Times continued its long, predictable tradition of backing U.S. coups in Latin America by publishing an editorial praising Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. This will be the 10th such coup the paper has backed since the creation of the CIA over 70 years ago.

A survey of The New York Times archives shows the Times editorial board has supported 10 out of 12 American-backed coups in Latin America, with two editorials—those involving the 1983 Grenada invasion and the 2009 Honduras coup—ranging from ambiguous to reluctant opposition. The survey can be viewed here.

Covert involvement of the United States, by the CIA or other intelligence services, isn’t mentioned in any of the Times’ editorials on any of the coups. Absent an open, undeniable U.S. military invasion (as in the Dominican Republic, Panama and Grenada), things seem to happen in Latin American countries entirely on their own, with outside forces rarely, if ever, mentioned in the Times. Obviously, there are limits to what is “provable” in the immediate aftermath of such events (covert intervention is, by definition, covert), but the idea that the U.S. or other imperial actors could have stirred the pot, funded a junta or run weapons in any of the conflicts under the table is never entertained.

More often than not, what one is left with, reading Times editorials on these coups, are racist, paternalistic “cycle of violence” cliches. Sigh, it’s just the way of things Over There. When reading these quotes, keep in mind the CIA supplied and funded the groups that ultimately killed these leaders:

  • Brazil 1964: “They have, throughout their history, suffered from a lack of first class rulers.”
  • Chile 1973: “No Chilean party or faction can escape some responsibility for the disaster, but a heavy share must be assigned to the unfortunate Dr. Allende himself.”
  • Argentina 1976: “It was typical of the cynicism with which many Argentines view their country’s politics that most people in Buenos Aires seemed more interested in a soccer telecast Tuesday night than in the ouster of President Isabel Martinez de Perlin by the armed forces. The script was familiar for this long‐anticipated coup.”

See, it didn’t matter! It’s worth pointing out the military junta put in power by the CIA-contrived coup killed 10,000 to 30,000 Argentines from 1976 to 1983.

There’s a familiar script: The CIA and its U.S. corporate partners come in, wage economic warfare, fund and arm the opposition, then the target of this operation is blamed. This, of course, isn’t to say there isn’t merit to some of the objections being raised by The New York Times—whether it be Chile in 1973 or Venezuela in 2019. But that’s not really the point. The reason the CIA and U.S. military and its corporate partisans historically target governments in Latin America is because those governments are hostile to U.S. capital and strategic interests, not because they are undemocratic. So while the points the Times makes about illiberalism may sometimes be true, they’re mostly a non sequitur when analyzing the reality of what’s unfolding.

Did Allende, as the Times alleged in 1973 when backing his violent overthrow, “persist in pushing a program of pervasive socialism” without a “popular mandate”? Did, as the Times alleged, Allende “pursue this goal by dubious means, including attempts to bypass both Congress and the courts”? Possibly. But Allende’s supposed authoritarianism isn’t why the CIA sought his ouster. It wasn’t his means of pursuing redistributive policies that offended the CIA and U.S. corporate partners; it was the redistributive policies themselves.

Hand-wringing over the anti-democratic nature of how Allende carried out his agenda without noting that it was the agenda itself—not the means by which it was carried out—that animated his opponents is butting into a conversation no one in power is really having. Why, historically, has The New York Times taken for granted the liberal pretexts for U.S. involvement, rather than analyzing whether there were possibly other, more cynical forces at work?

The answer is that rank ideology is baked into the premise. The idea that the U.S. is motivated by human rights and democracy is taken for granted by The New York Times editorial board and has been since its inception. This does all the heavy lifting without most people—even liberals vaguely skeptical of American motives in Latin America—noticing that a sleight of hand has taken place. “In recent decades,” a 2017 Times editorial scolding Russia asserted, “American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy, sometimes with extraordinary results.” Oh, well, good then.

What should be a conversation about American military and its covert apparatus unduly meddling in other countries quickly becomes a referendum on the moral properties of those countries. Theoretically a good conversation to have (and one certainly ongoing among people and institutions in these countries), but absent a discussion of the merits of the initial axiom—that U.S. talking heads and the Washington national security apparatus have a birthright to determine which regimes are good and bad—it serves little practical purpose stateside beyond posturing. And often, as a practical matter, it works to cement the broader narrative justifying the meddling itself.

Do the U.S. and its allies have a moral or ethical right to determine the political future of Venezuela? This question is breezed past, and we move on to the question of how this self-evident authority is best exercised. This is the scope of debate in The New York Times—and among virtually all U.S. media outlets. To ante up in the poker game of Serious People Discussing Foreign Policy Seriously, one is obligated to register an Official Condemnation of the Official Bad Regime. This is so everyone knows you accept the core premises of U.S. regime change but oppose it on pragmatic or legalistic grounds. It’s a tedious, extortive exercise designed to shift the conversation away from the United States’ history of arbitrary and violent overthrows and into an exchange about how best to oppose the Official Bad Regime in question. U.S. liberals are to keep a real-time report card on these Official Bad Regimes, and if these regimes—due to an ill-defined rubric of un-democraticness and human rights—fall below a score of say, “60,” they become illegitimate and unworthy of defense as such.

While obviously not in Latin America, it’s also worth noting that the Times cheerled the CIA-sponsored coup against Iran’s President, Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953. Its editorial, written two days after his ouster, engaged in the Times’ patented combination of victim-blaming and “oh dear” bloviating:

  • “The now-deposed Premier Mossadegh was flirting with Russia. He had won his phony plebiscite to dissolve the Majlis, or lower House of Parliament, with the aid of the Tudeh Communists.”
  • “Mossadegh is out, a prisoner awaiting trial. It is a credit to the Shah, to whom he was so disloyal, and to Premier Zahedi, that this rabid, self-seeking nationalist would have been protected at a time when his life would not have been worth the wager of a plugged nickel.”
  • “The Shah … deserves praise in this crisis. … He was always true to the parliamentary institutions of his country, he was a moderating influence in the wild fanaticism exhibited by the nationalists under Mossadegh, and he was socially progressive.”

Again, no mention of CIA involvement (which the agency now openly acknowledges), which the Times wouldn’t necessarily have had any way of knowing at the time. (This is part of the point of covert operations.) Mossadegh is summarily demonized, and it’s not until decades later the public learns of the extent of U.S. involvement. The Times even gets in an orientalist description of Iranians, implying why a strong Shah is necessary:

[The average Iranian] has nothing to lose. He is a man of infinite patience, of great charm and gentleness, but he is also—as we have been seeing—a volatile character, highly emotional, and violent when sufficiently aroused.

Needless to say, there are major difference between these cases: Mossadegh, Allende, Chavez and Maduro all lived in radically different times and championed different policies, with varying degrees of liberalism and corruption. But the one thing they all had in common is that the U.S. government, and a compliant U.S. media, decided they “needed to go” and did everything to achieve this end. The fundamental arrogance of this assumption, one would think, is what ought to be discussed in the U.S. media—as typified by the Times’ editorial board—but time and again, this assumption is either taken for granted or hand-waved away, and we all move on to how and when we can best overthrow the Bad Regime.

For those earnestly concerned about Maduro’s efforts to undermine the democratic institutions of Venezuela (he’s been accused of jailing opponents, stacking the courts and holding Potemkin elections), it’s worth pointing out that even when the liberal democratic properties of Venezuela were at their height in 2002 (they were internationally sanctioned and overseen by the Carter Center for years, and no serious observer considers Hugo Chavez’s rule illegitimate), the CIA still greenlit a military coup against Chavez, and the New York Times still profusely praised the act. As it wrote at the time:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Chavez would soon be restored to power after millions took to the streets to protest his removal from office, but the question remains: If The New York Times was willing to ignore the undisputed will of the Venezuelan people in 2002, what makes anyone think the newspaper is earnestly concerned about it in 2019? Again, the thing that’s being objected to by the White House, the State Department and their U.S. imperial apparatchiks is the redistributive policies and opposition to the United States’ will, not the means by which they do so. Perhaps the Times and other U.S. media—living in the heart of, and presumably having influence over, this empire—could try centering this reality rather than, for the millionth time, adjudicating the moral properties of the countries subject to its violent, illegitimate whims.

February 1, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NewsGuard: A Neoconservative Contrivance Which Promotes an Establishment View

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | January 28, 2019

There’s a new thought policeman in town. He calls himself NewsGuard and he promises to restore “Trust and Accountability” to what one reads online. His website elaborates that “NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not… Our Green-Red ratings signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda.”

One might well stop reading immediately after running into “our trained analysts” with all that implies, but that would deny the greater pleasure derived from considering news-sites that have “… a hidden agenda or knowingly [publish] falsehoods or propaganda.” Excuse me, but hidden agendas, lies and propaganda are what the mainstream media is all about, note particularly the recent feeding frenzy over the Covington school incident at the Lincoln Memorial. Catholic racist white boys vs. elderly Native American war hero was how the story was framed all over the mainstream media before it became clear that the entire chosen narrative was upside down. Only a couple of news outlets bothered to apologize when the truth became known.

NewsGuard claims to have a staff of 50 that evaluates 2,000 websites in something like real time. How exactly it does that is not clear, but The New York Times repeats company claims that “the sites it rates account for 96% of online news and information engagement in the U.S.” NewsGuard also told The Times that it intends to quadruple its vetting of sites and seeks to make its coverage “ubiquitous.”

Make no mistake, NewsGuard is a neoconservative contrivance which promotes an establishment view of what is true and what is false. Its co-founder Gordon Crovitz is an ex-editor of The Wall Street Journal, who has enthused over the project, saying that it is “a milestone in the fight to bring consumers the information they need to counter false information, misinformation and disinformation online.” Crovitz has also been associated with the leading neocon foundation The American Enterprise Institute while the NewsGuard advisory board includes Tom Ridge, who was head of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, and Michael Hayden, who directed both the CIA and NSA. It is as government-establishment in orientation as it is possible to be.

In a sense seeking to establish “accuracy” in news reporting is nothing new as the social media, to include Facebook and Twitter, have had that objective for some time, but NewsGuard defines itself as having as its target the screening of the entire media in a politically impartial fashion, as “an information resource.” And the real danger is that it will soon be appearing on your computer or phone whether you want it there or not. It is already installed on local library computers in Hawaii and Ohio and is working with university and even high school libraries to include its software on all public computers. Worse still, NewsGuard is in partnership with Microsoft as part of the latter’s Defending Democracy Program. Microsoft currently has NewsGuard on its Edge browser and it intends to install the tool on its Microsoft 10 operating system as a built-in feature. Microsoft 10 is the standard operating system on nearly all computers sold in the United States.

When you go to a news site NewsGuard has a little shield that pops up in the corner of your screen that will tell you whether that site is a reliable source or not. A green tag displays for approved and red for not compliant. Similarly, if you do a search the responses that come up will feature a green or red shield as part of the results. The site for NBC news shows green, approved, with the heading “this website generally maintains basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” It then uses what it calls a “nutrition label” to break down the nine specific areas that were assessed, each of which also receives and individual green check for NBC. Under “Credibility” appears “Does not repeatedly publish false content; Gathers and presents information responsibly; Regularly corrects or clarifies errors; Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly; and Avoids deceptive headlines.” Under “Accountability” appears “Website discloses ownership and financing; Clearly labels advertising; Reveals who’s in charge including any possible conflict of interest; and The site provides names of any content creators along with either contact or biographical information.”

The first thing one might observe about the system is that it is designed to favor large, well-funded establishment news sources that are staffed to go through the motions of fact checks and corrections. All of the major news networks are approved, including Fox, MSNBC and CNN, all of which editorialize heavily, almost constantly, in their news coverage. Voice of America, which is a U.S. government propaganda instrument by design, also is approved. NewsGuard also has approved all major newspapers to include The New York Times, which frequently gets the story wrong, and The Washington Post, where news stories are nearly indistinguishable from editorials through the use of evocative headlines and slanted narrative. All the U.S. media currently lead off, for example, with stories about Russia that include the assertion that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, a claim that has yet to be confirmed through actual evidence.

Russian media operating in the U.S. including RT America and Sputnik get red ratings with a warning “Proceed with caution: this website fails to basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” RT is apparently guilty of “repeatedly publishing false content,” “not gather[ing] and publish[ing] information responsibly,” “not handl[ing] the difference between news and opinion responsibly” and “not provid[ing] the names of creators.” Al-Jazeera, another news service that often criticizes the United States and its governmental policies also is rated red, suggesting that the true criterion for rejection by NewsGuard is one’s relationship to the official establishment and globalist/interventionist line being promoted by the United States.

A glaring example of NewsGuard’s political bias relates to BuzzFeed, which is an approved site. The Washington Post reported recently how a BuzzFeed story about Michael Cohen and President Trump claimed that the president had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress regarding a proposed office tower project in Moscow, which would have been both a crime and impeachable. A day later Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office intervened and described the story as untrue. The New York Times ran the first story on page one but the retraction that followed appeared on page 11.

And it was not the first major bit of fake news for BuzzFeed. The same two journalists had previously reported that Russia had financed the 2016 election.

CNN, another NewsGuard green authority, inevitably bemoaned possible consequences arising from the Cohen-Trump story by complaining that it would be used to justify “bad stereotypes about the news media,” had its own Russiagate misstep when it falsely claimed that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks’ DNC emails before their 2016 publication.

The BBC, yet another reliable source approved by NewsGuard, reported back in September that the U.S. government had evidence that the Syrian “regime” was continuing to develop chemical weapons. It added an assessment from the completely befuddled U.S. envoy for Syria James Jeffrey that “President Assad had ‘no future as a ruler’ in Syria… Right now [the Syrian government] is a cadaver sitting in rubble with just half the territory of Syria under regime control on a good day.”

The fact is that Jeffrey was completely wrong about developments in Syria, where the government had been extremely successful in re-asserting control over nearly all of the country, while the claims of chemical weapons use have been rebutted many times, including by actual witnesses and journalists on the ground during the alleged attack at Douma in April.

Reuters news agency, yet another NewsGuard green light, is also into the game. In November 2013 it published an article, part of a series, entitled “Khamenei controls massive financial empire based on property seizures,” which claimed that an Iranian government charitable foundation called Setad (also known as EIKO) actually exists to take control of property for the use of the government’s religious leadership.

A subsequent news report that appeared in January in the alternative media revealed that the investigative journalists who wrote the story did so from Dubai, London and New York and never visited the properties they identified, in most cases completely misrepresenting what could be seen on the ground.

Robert Fontina at Counterpunch has also rejected the depiction of Setad as anything but a charitable foundation. The truth is that Setad engages in major social projects, including rural poverty alleviation, empowering women, home and school building, and provision of healthcare. Fontina observes that American sanctions against it and similar entities hit ordinary Iranians’ lives by producing food insecurity while also restricting the supplies of needed medications. Ahmad Noroozi of the Barakat Foundation claims that numerous Iranians have already been affected by U.S.-initiated sanctions directed against his country, restricting access to cancer treatments and other pharmaceuticals.

So who gets the endorsement from NewsGuard? Those who toe the line on U.S. policy and the establishment globalist/interventionist agenda. It would be interesting to know what NewsGuard’s staff of analysts is really looking for when it researches a site or media outlet. As the examples cited above demonstrate, NewsGuard has nothing to do with taking pains to report the news accurately, nor is there any evidence of real accountability. It is all about who pays the bills and who is in charge. They give the orders and one either falls in line or goes out the door. That is the reality of today’s mainstream media.

Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

January 28, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Justifying the 17-Year War

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | January 25, 2019

When I first learned about the Thirty Years War in a history class in college, I was both fascinated and amazed. How in the world could a war go on for 30 years? That just seemed incomprehensible to me.

Not anymore. The U.S. war on Afghanistan has now been going on for 17 years. And if the American people follow the advice of Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, it’s a virtual certainty that the United States will easily surpass the Thirty Years War and, maybe, the Hundred Years War, which needless to say, also amazed and fascinated me when I learned about its existence.

I can just see Americans 83 years from now breaking the 100-year-war record and exclaiming in celebration, “We’re Number One! We’re Number One! KAG! KAG! Keep America Great!”

O’Hanlon’s advice comes in the form of an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times. It’s entitled “Our Longest War Is Still an Important War.” In his op-ed, O’Hanlon says that it is important that U.S. troops remain occupying Afghanistan, perhaps even in perpetuity.

Why does O’Hanlon feel this way? The thrust of his piece is a variation on the theme that has guided the so-called war on terrorism ever since the 9/11 attacks way back in 2001— that it’s better for U.S. forces to kill the terrorists over there before they come over here to get us.

Not surprisingly, O’Hanlon ignores a very important point about this “war on terrorism” — that it is U.S. interventionism that is the cause of anti-U.S. terrorism.

Why is that important? Because the continued and perhaps perpetual interventionism that he is endorsing produces the very thing that he’s using to justify the continued interventionism.

When U.S. forces kill five “terrorists” over there, they bring into existence ten more terrorists. Those ten new terrorists then become the justification for remaining over there instead of coming home after killing those original five terrorists. Then, once they kill the ten, twenty more come into existence, which is then used to justify staying over there so that they can kill the twenty.

That’s how the “war on terrorism” has become perpetual, which President George W. Bush even suggested would happen way back in 2001.

Interventionists, of course, hate it when we libertarians point out this obvious fact. Recall that famous Republican presidential debate when Ron Paul pointed out that “they” came over here to kill us because the feds were over there killing them. His Republican opponents went ballistic, as did the mainstream press. No one is supposed to say that.

You see, the official position is that the terrorists just spring up and strike a nation, sort of like the flu. Or that they just hate America for its “freedom and values.” I suppose they would say that the Swiss, whose government simply minds its own business, are just plan lucky to have been spared the terrorist flu.

The reality is that the cause of anti-American terrorism is U.S. interventionism. Thus, if you stop the interventionism, the anti-American terrorism stops.

But that’s the last thing interventionists want. Interventionists don’t have any problems with the militarism, the national-security statism, the massive spending, the empire of domestic and foreign military bases, the invasions, the occupations, the CIA, the NSA, the assassinations, coups, partnerships with dictatorial regimes, secret surveillance, and the installing of pro-U.S. regimes around the world.

Interventionists and the national-security establishment always need official enemies. Recall that throughout the Cold War, the official enemy was Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union, along with “godless communism” and the supposed worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the world, which, they said, was based in Moscow.

When they ostensibly lost their official enemy in 1989 with the end of the Cold War, that’s when they began killing people in the Middle East, including during their invasion of Iraq and the subsequent killing of Iraqi children with sanctions. That’s when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein because the official enemy. He was coming to get us, they said, with WMDs.

Then after the blowback of the 9/11 attacks, it was the terrorists, who morphed into the Muslims, who, we learned, were engaged in a centuries-long conspiracy to make the United States a part of a worldwide caliphate based on Sharia law.

Most recently, we’ve come full circle with Russia being made once again into an official enemy, along with terrorists and Muslims and, well, also illegal immigrants and drug dealers.

I wish that I could tell you that was all. If you really want to get scared, read O’Hanlon’s article. It turns out that there are so many more bugaboos out there, which have caused him to embrace a continuation of the 17-year war in Afghanistan. Apparently, there’s al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, “related groups,”and, get this — even ISIS-K! According to O’Hanlon, that stands for ISIS-Khorasan. I’ll bet you hadn’t heard of that last one. Scary!

How can any American citizen buy into this nonsense? Bring the troops home, now. All of them. And discharge them. Interventionists have done enough damage to our nation and to the people of Afghanistan (and Iraq, Syria, Libya, and so many other countries). It’s time to return to founding principles, especially America’s founding principle of non-interventionism.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , | 1 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

A Convenient Killing of US Troops in Syria

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.01.2019

With unseemly haste, US news media leapt on the killing of four American military personnel in Syria as a way to undermine President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from that country.

The deadly attack in the northern city of Manbij, on the west bank of the Euphrates River, was reported to have been carried out by a suicide bomber. The Islamic State (ISIS) terror group reportedly claimed responsibility, but the group routinely makes such claims which often turn out to be false.

The American military personnel were said to be on a routine patrol of Manbij where US forces have been backing Kurdish militants in a purported campaign against ISIS and other terror groups.

An explosion at a restaurant resulted in two US troops and two Pentagon civilian officials being killed, along with more than a dozen other victims. Three other US military persons were among those injured.

US media highlighted the bombing as the biggest single death toll of American forces in Syria since they began operations in the country nearly four years ago.

The US and Kurdish militia have been in control of Manbij for over two years. It is one of the main sites from where American troops are to withdraw under Trump’s exit plan, which he announced on December 19.

Following the bombing, the New York Times headlined: “ISIS Attack in Syria Kills 4 Americans, Raising Worries about Troop Withdrawal”. The report goes on, “the news prompted calls from Republicans and Democrats for President Trump to reconsider his plans to withdraw troops from the country.”

A more pointed headline in The Washington Post was: “Killing of 4 Americans in Syria Throws Spotlight on Trump’s Policy”.

The Post editorialized, “the bombing showed that [ISIS] is likely to be a force to be reckoned with in Syria for the foreseeable future.” It quoted politicians in Washington claiming the “bombing deaths… were a direct result of a foolish and abrupt departure announcement [by Trump], and made the case for staying.”

Democrat Senator Jack Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said: “From the beginning, I thought the president was wrong [in ordering the withdrawal]. It was a strategic mistake for the whole region.”

With macabre smugness, anti-Trump politicians and news media appeared to exploit the death of US troops in Manbij to score points against Trump.

The president’s claims made just before Christmas of having defeated ISIS were widely replayed following the Manbij attack this week by way of ridiculing Trump’s order to pullout US troops from Syria.

Nevertheless, despite the deaths, Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence stated they were still committed to bring the 2,000 or so US troops home. Some military figures also went on US media to defend Trump’s pullout plan in spite of the terror attack in Manbij.

There clearly is a serious division in Washington over Trump’s policy on Syria. For Democrats and supportive media outlets, anything Trump does is to be opposed. But there are also elements within the military and intelligence nexus which are implacably against, what they see as, his “capitulation to Russia and Iran” in Syria. That was partly why his Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned days after Trump made his announced withdrawal at the end of last month.

Having invested years and money in regime-change machinations in Syria, there are bound to be US military and intelligence cabals which are resistant to Trump’s move to pack up. Not that Trump’s move portends a peace dividend for the region. It is more a “tactical change” for how US imperialism operates in the Middle East, as his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Cairo last week.

That is why Trump’s order to take troops out of Syria may not be a clear-cut withdrawal. His National Security adviser John Bolton on a tour of the Middle East last week has already tried to undermine Trump by attaching all sorts of vague conditions to the troop pullout. Bolton and Pompeo have talked about the need to ensure the total defeat of ISIS and of the countering of Iranian presence in Syria.

This brings up the question of who may have carried out the bombing in Manbij? Was it really a suicide bomber? Was it really ISIS? Several observers have pointed out that ISIS have not had any presence in Manbij for the past two years since the Americans and Kurds took control of the city.

As always, the key question arises: who stands to benefit from the killing of the American troops? The scale of the attack suggests it was carried out with a sharp political message intended for Trump.

One potential beneficiary are the Kurdish militants who are being abandoned by the putative US withdrawal. Without their American sponsor on the ground, the Kurds are in danger of Turkish forces launching cross-border operations to wipe them out, as Ankara has vowed to do. A Machiavellian Kurdish calculation could be to “disprove” Trump about “ISIS being defeated”, and that US forces are needed to prevent any resurgence of the terror group in Manbij and northeast Syria.

Another sinister player is the CIA or some other element of US military intelligence. It is certainly not beyond the realm of plausibility that the CIA could facilitate such an atrocity against American personnel in order to discredit Trump’s withdrawal plan.

Certainly, the way the anti-Trump media in the US reacted with such alacrity and concerted talking points suggests there was something a bit too convenient about the massacre.

It would in fact be naive to not suspect that the CIA could have pulled off such a false flag in Manbij. As in 1950s Vietnam, as told by Graham Greene in ‘The Quiet American’, the CIA have been doing such dirty tricks with bombing atrocities and assassinations for decades in order to precipitate wars in foreign countries that the agency calculates are in America’s geopolitical interests.

January 18, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

US media intensify pretext for ousting Trump

By Finian Cunningham | RT | January 16, 2019

It’s no secret that since his election in 2016, powerful elements in the US political and media establishment have been running a non-stop campaign to remove Trump from the White House. Lately, the stakes have been raised.

Spearheading the media effort to defenestrate Trump are the New York Times and Washington Post. Both have been prominent purveyors of the “Russiagate” narrative over the past two years, claiming that Republican candidate colluded with Russian state intelligence, or at least was a beneficiary of alleged Russian interference, to win the presidency against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Congressional investigations and a probe by a Special Counsel Robert Mueller, along with relentless media innuendo, have failed to produce any evidence to support the Russiagate narrative.

Now, the anti-Trump media in alliance with the Democratic leadership, the foreign policy establishment and senior ranks of the state intelligence agencies appear to have come up with a new angle on President Trump – he is a national security risk.

Ingeniously, the latest media effort lessens the burden of proof required against Trump. No longer has it to be proven that he deliberately collaborated with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump could have done it “unwittingly,” the media are now claiming, because he is a buffoon and reckless. But the upshot, for them, is he’s still a national security risk. The only conclusion, therefore, is that he should be removed from office. In short, a coup.

Over the past couple of weeks, the supposed media bastions have been full of it against Trump. An op-ed in the New York Times on January 5 by David Leonhardt could not have made more plain the absolute disdain. “He is demonstrably unfit for office. What are we waiting for?”

Follow-up editorials and reports have piled on the pressure. The Times reported how the Federal Bureau of Investigation – the state’s internal security agency – opened a counterintelligence file on Trump back in 2017 out of concern that he was “working for Russia against US interests.”

That unprecedented move was prompted partly because of Trump’s comments during the election campaign in 2016 when he jokingly called on Russia to release Hillary Clinton’s incriminating emails. Never mind the fact that Russian hackers were not the culprits for Clinton’s email breach.

Then the Washington Post reported former US officials were concerned about what they said was Trump’s “extraordinary lengths” to keep secret his private conversations with Russia’s Putin when the pair met on the sidelines of conferences or during their one-on-one summit in Helsinki last July.

The Post claimed that Trump confiscated the notes of his interpreter after one meeting with Putin, allegedly admonishing the aide to not tell other officials in the administration about the notes being sequestered. The inference is Trump was allegedly in cahoots with the Kremlin.

This week, in response to the media speculation, Trump was obliged to strenuously deny such claims, saying: “I have never worked for Russia… it’s a big fat hoax.”

What’s going on here is a staggering abuse of power by the US’ top internal state intelligence agency to fatally undermine a sitting president based on the flimsiest of pretexts. Moreover, the nation’s most prominent news media outlets – supposedly the Fourth Estate defenders of democracy – are complacently giving their assent, indeed encouragement, to this abuse of power.

The Times in the above report admitted, in a buried one-line disclaimer, that there was no evidence linking Trump to Russia.

Nevertheless, the media campaign doubled down to paint Trump as a national security risk.

The Times reported on January 14 about deep “concerns” among Pentagon officials over Trump’s repeated threats to withdraw the US from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The reporting portrays Trump as incompetent, ignorant of policy details and habitually rude to American allies. His capricious temper tantrums could result in the US walking away from NATO at any time, the newspaper contends.

Such a move would collapse the transatlantic partnership between the US and Europe which has “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years,” claimed the Times.

The paper quotes US Admiral James Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, calling Trump’s withdrawal whims “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion.”

“Even discussing the idea of leaving NATO — let alone actually doing so — would be the gift of the century for Putin,” added Stavridis.

The Times goes on to divulge the media campaign coordination when it editorialized: “Now, the president’s repeatedly stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national security officials amid growing concern about Mr Trump’s efforts to keep his meetings with Mr Putin secret from even his own aides, and an FBI investigation into the administration’s Russia ties.”

Still another Times report this week reinforced the theme of Trump being a national security risk when it claimed that the president’s Middle East policy of pulling troops out of Syria was “losing leverage” in the region. It again quoted Pentagon officials “voicing deepening fears” that Trump and his hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton “could precipitate a conflict with Iran”.

That’s a bit hard to stomach: the Pentagon being presented as a voice of sanity and peace, keeping vigilance over a wrecking-ball president and his administration.

But the New York Times, Washington Post and other anti-Trump corporate media have long been extolling the military generals who were formerly in the administration as “the adults in the room.”

Generals H.R. McMaster, the former national security adviser, John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, and James Mattis, the former defense secretary until he was elbowed out last month by the president, were continually valorized in the US media as being a constraining force on Trump’s infantile and impetuous behavior.

The absence of “the adults” seems to have prompted the US media to intensify their efforts to delegitimize Trump’s presidency.

A new House of Representatives controlled by the Democratic Party has also invigorated calls for impeachment of Trump over a range of unsubstantiated accusations, Russian collusion being prime among them. But any impeachment process promises to be long and uncertain of success, according to several US legal and political authorities.

Such a tactic is fraught with risk of failing, no doubt due to the lack of evidence against Trump’s alleged wrongdoing. A failed impeachment effort could backfire politically, increase his popularity, and return him to the White House in 2020.

Given the uncertainty of impeaching Trump, his political enemies, including large sections of the media establishment, seem to be opting for the tactic of characterizing him as a danger to national security, primarily regarding Russia. Trump doesn’t have to be a proven agent of the Kremlin – a preposterous idea. Repeated portrayal of him as an incompetent unwitting president is calculated to be sufficient grounds for his ouster.

When the Washington Post editorial board urges a state of emergency to be invoked because of “Russian meddling in US elections”, then the national mood is being fomented to accept a coup against Trump. The media’s fawning over the Pentagon and state intelligence agencies as some kind of virtuous bastion of democracy is a sinister signal for a military-police state.

January 16, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia-gate Evidence, Please

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | January 15, 2019

For those interested in evidence — or the lack of it— regarding collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, we can thank the usual Russia-gate promoters at The New York Times and CNN for inadvertently filling in some gaps in recent days.

Stooping to a new low, Friday’s Times headline screamed: “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” The second paragraph noted that FBI agents “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

Trump had been calling for better relations with Russia during his presidential campaign. As journalist Michael Tracy tweeted on Sunday, the Times report made it “not a stretch to say: the FBI criminally investigating Trump on the basis of the ‘national security threat’ he allegedly poses, with the ‘threat’ being his perceived policy preferences re: Russia, could constitute literal criminalization of deviation from foreign policy consensus.”

On Monday night CNN talking heads, like former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, were expressing wistful hope that the FBI had more tangible evidence than Trump’s public statements to justify such an investigation. Meanwhile, they would withhold judgment regarding the Bureau’s highly unusual step.

Evidence?

NYT readers had to get down to paragraph 9 to read: “No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.” Four paragraphs later, the Times’ writers noted that, “A vigorous debate has taken shape among former law enforcement officials … over whether FBI investigators overreacted.”

Brennan: “I don’t do evidence.” (White House photo)

That was what Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy was wondering when he grilled former CIA director John Brennan on May 23, 2017 on what evidence he had provided to the FBI to catalyze its investigation of Trump-Russia collusion.

Brennan replied: “I don’t do evidence.”

The best Brennan could do was repeat the substance of a clearly well-rehearsed statement: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign … that required further investigation by the Bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”

That was it.

CNN joined the piling on Monday, quoting former FBI General Counsel James Baker in closed-door Congressional testimony to the effect that FBI officials were weighing “whether Trump was acting at the behest of [the Russians] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.” The problem is CNN also noted that Lisa Page, counsel to then FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, testified that there had been “indecision in the Bureau as to whether there was sufficient predication to open [the investigation].’ “Predication” is another word for evidence.

Within hours of Comey’s firing on May 9, 2017, Page’s boyfriend and a top FBI counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok texted her: “We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy [McCabe] is acting [director].” After all, if Trump were bold enough, he could have appointed a new FBI director and who knew what might happen then. When Page appeared before Congress, she was reportedly asked what McCabe meant. She confirmed that his text was related to the Russia investigation into potential collusion.

Comey v. Trump Goes Back to Jan. 6, 2017

The Times and CNN, however unintentionally, have shed light on what ensued after Trump finally fired Comey. Apparently, it finally dawned on Trump that, on Jan. 6, 2017, Comey had treated him to the time-honored initiation-rite-for-presidents-elect — with rubrics designed by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

It seems then-FBI Director James Comey rendered a good impersonation of Hoover that day when he briefed President-elect Trump on the scurrilous “Steele dossier” that the FBI had assembled on Trump. Excerpts from an interview Trump gave to the Times (below) after the firing throw light on what Trump says was at least part of his motivation to dump Comey.

To dramatize the sensitivity of the dossier, Comey asked then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper and the heads of the CIA and NSA to depart the room at the Trump Tower, leaving Comey alone with the President-elect. The Gang of Four had already briefed Trump on the evidence-impoverished “Intelligence Community Assessment.” That “assessment” alleged that Putin himself ordered his minions to help Trump win. The dossier had been leaked to the media, which withheld it but Buzzfeed published it on Jan. 10.?

‘This Russia Thing’

Evidently, it took Trump four months to fully realize he was being played, and that he couldn’t expect the “loyalty” he is said to have asked of Comey. So Trump fired Comey on May 9. Two days later he told NBC’s Lester Holt:

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Comey: Pulled a Hoover on Trump? (Carciature by DonkeyHotey)

The mainstream media and other Russia-gater aficionados immediately seized on “this Russian thing” as proof that Trump was trying to obstruct the investigation of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. However, in the Holt interview Trump appeared to be reflecting on Comey’s J. Edgar Hoover-style, one-on-one gambit alone in the room with Trump.

Would Comey really do a thing like that? Was the former FBI director protesting too much in his June 2017 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee when he insisted he’d tried to make it clear to Trump that briefing him on the unverified but scurrilous information in the dossier wasn’t intended to be threatening. It took a few months but it seems Trump figured out what he thought Comey was up to.

Trump to NYT: ‘Leverage’ (aka Blackmail)

In a long Oval Office interview with the Times on July 19, 2017, Trump said he thought Comey was trying to hold the dossier over his head.

“… Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff. … the dossier … Now, that was totally made-up stuff,” Trump said. “I went there [to Moscow] for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful. It was so disgraceful.

“When he [James B. Comey] brought it [the dossier] to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal. … I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phony stuff.”

The dossier, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign and compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, relates a tale of Trump allegedly cavorting with prostitutes, who supposedly urinated on each other before the same bed the Obamas had slept in at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel. [On February 6, 2018, The Washington Post reported that that part of the dossier was written Cody Shearer, a long-time Clinton operative and passed it along to Steele. Shearer ignored a request for comment from Consortium News. [Shearer had been a Consortium advisory board member who was asked to resign and left the board.]

Trump told the Times: “I think [Comey] shared it so that I would — because the other three people [Clapper, Brennan, and Rogers] left, and he showed it to me. … So anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there. … As leverage.

“Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, ‘You have every right to fire me,’ blah blah blah. Right? He said, ‘You have every right to fire me.’ I said, that’s a very strange — you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.”

McGovern lays out more details during a 12-minute interview on Jan. 10 with Tyrel Ventura of “Watching the Hawks.”


Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A CIA analyst for 27 years and Washington area resident for 56 years, he has been attuned to these machinations. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The US Mainstream Media Prefer Confrontation to Cooperation

By Brian CLOUGHLEY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.01.2019

The Washington Post is a noisily anti-Russian newspaper which every weekday by email produces for subscribers (of whom I am one) the Daily 202 (“Power Post — Intelligence for Leaders”) which covers US politics, a little international stuff, and a section called “There’s a Bear in the Woods” aimed at denigrating, belittling and generally insulting Russia.

The Post is intent on convincing citizens of the United States and the world in general that nothing good is ever done by, in or with the government of Russia, and a favourite target is President Putin. A typical Editorial was headed “Trump just colluded with Russia. Openly” and dealt savagely with the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki last year. Much of the world believes that such discussions between nations’ leaders are better than hostile rhetoric, and most reasonable people are pleased and even relieved when meetings take place. They prefer amicable dialogue to venomous confrontation.

But the Post ended its comment on the meeting by asserting that “Mr Trump in fact was openly colluding with the criminal leader of a hostile power.”

That’s the ‘hostile power’ that has cooperated for twenty years with the United States in operating the International Space Station.

The Post doesn’t like such news as “[Russian space agency] Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin and Bill Gerstenmaier, head of NASA’s human explorations and operations, said after a conference marking the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station that their agencies plan to collaborate on developing a moon orbiting outpost. Russia is working on a heavy booster rocket and a new spacecraft to complement American projects intended for a future moon mission, Rogozin said. ‘We absolutely trust each other, and political winds haven’t touched us.’ Gerstenmaier spoke in kind, noting that partnership in space exploration could be ‘an example to the outside world. It has been a blessing that our governments have both seen the wisdom of what we are doing and both our governments have avoided placing sanctions on us or getting us caught up in the political things’.”

It is most gratifying that the United States and Russia can cooperate so closely on such an important endeavour. As noted by CNN, “since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011 the US has depended on Roscosmos to transport astronauts to the space station.” In other words, the space station could not exist without Russia’s no-strings collaboration.

But most western media play down, ignore or deplore such instances of harmony and amity. The UK’s Daily Telegraph, for example, is entirely negative, and grudgingly reported last December that the most recent “launch of the MS-11 ship was a closely watched test for Russia’s space industry, which has suffered several high-profile failures in recent years but remains the only reliable way to deliver crew to the orbiting station.” There had been an accident in the course of a previous launch but, to the regret of many in the West, Russia’s emergency procedures were flawless and there was no loss of life.

In spite of this example of outstandingly successful bilateral cooperation, a meeting scheduled for February between the space professionals of Russia and the United States was cancelled “after mounting pressure from Capitol Hill.” Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin had hosted his NASA counterpart, Jim Bridenstine, in October last year, so his February visit was to be a combination of practicality and courtesy — but this isn’t the way the US Senate sees or does things.

Senator Bob Menendez of the Foreign Relations Committee declared that “to welcome Mr Rogozin to the United States and provide him a platform to speak is an affront to our sanctions regime and will further undermine the Trump Administration’s limited credibility on Russia policy,” and Senator Jeanne Shaheen of the Senate panel that funds NASA said the planned meeting “undermines the United States’ core national security objectives” and “weakens the US’s global standing by demonstrating the ease by which Russian officials can get around transatlantic sanctions.”

The Senate’s pressure on NASA is part of the campaign of petulant and spiteful attacks on Russia which show that Washington is intent on destruction of even the slightest efforts to bring the US and Russia closer.

Which brings us back to the Washington Post which distinguished itself by getting just a little mixed up during one of its anti-Russia forays when it enthusiastically seized on a faulty piece in the New York Times.

It all started when the Times breathlessly revealed that during the 2016 election campaign, Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort “and his Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, discussed a plan for peace in Ukraine.” This dastardly anti-America, pro-Russia activity could not be tolerated by the US mainstream media which reported that one of Mr Manafort’s menacing machinations involved sharing “political polling data with a business associate tied to Russian intelligence.”

(As an aside, it is difficult to believe that notification of political polling data is in some fashion a national security risk. Most of us know that poll results can be made public without release conditions. Every foreign mission in Washington analysed them.)

The Times continued, in a version of the report that has been deleted, that Manafort wanted the data passed on to “Oleg V Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin,” and in its ‘202’ the Washington Post went to town about this supposedly sinister character. It began by stating that “several experts said the Deripaska connection makes this news a huge deal” and quoted Steven Hall, a former head of Russia operations at the CIA, as tweeting “Remember, the polling info Manafort passed to Kilimnik was headed to Deripaska, who is close to Putin… The margins the Russians needed to change in key states during the 2016 elections [were] pretty small. Now we know how they were able to be so precise: Paul Manafort was providing polling data to Russia.” Shock! Horror!

Another expert shaken by such disclosures was Post columnist Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who declared “This is potentially very significant evidence of collusion… Why would Manafort share polling data with the Russians unless it was to help them target their pro-Trump social media campaign?”

On it went for over 400 words recounting how the dastardly Deripaska was up to his ears in conspiracy, although a cautionary note was sounded by former ambassador to Russia Mike McFaul who like a good diplomat injected the phrase “if proven” in his tweet before agreeing “this is serious.”

Yes, it was serious. But not as serious as the downplayed low-profile admission by the Washington Post that its chatter allegations were not “proven”. The Post noted that “the New York Times corrected a story we included in yesterday’s 202: ‘A previous version of this article misidentified the people to whom Paul Manafort wanted a Russian associate to send polling data. Mr. Manafort wanted the data sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, not to Oleg V Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin’.”

So much for the Washington Post’s Bear in the Woods, but a sad indicator of how determined are some of the US media to help destroy any movement towards rapprochement with Russia. Fortunately, in spite of their malevolent efforts and the spiteful Senate shenanigans, the International Space Station cooperation will continue, which shows, thank goodness, that there are still some grown-ups in the woods.

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

Collusion with… Ukraine? NY Times corrects its bombshell ‘Russiagate’ report

RT | January 10, 2019

It was supposed to be a slam-dunk proof of “collusion” with Russia: President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort shared polling data with a “Kremlin-linked oligarch,” the NY Times reported. Except he hadn’t.

Documents submitted by Manafort’s lawyers in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Russiagate” probe, unsealed Tuesday, were redacted improperly and showed that Manafort was in communication with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian whom the FBI has “assessed” has “connections” with Russian intelligence based on where he went to college in the 1980s.

That was old news, however, so the Times needed something even more bombastic: citing an anonymous source described as “a person knowledgeable about the situation,” the paper reported that Kilimnik passed the data on to Oleg Deripaska, “a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin.”

“This is the closest thing we have seen to collusion,” the Times quoted Clint Watts, one of the professional Russiagate alarmists. And then… oops.

On Wednesday, the Times corrected the story: Manafort wanted the information sent not to Deripaska, but to “two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov.” In the edited article, the two are described as people who had “financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian political parties that had hired Mr. Manafort as a political consultant.”

The very same anonymous person quoted about Deripaska is also the source for the claim that some of the polling data shared with – well, whoever – was “developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign.”

By pure coincidence, news outlets across the West also breathlessly reported on Tuesday about the unsealed indictment against Natalia Veselnitskaya – making sure they mention “Trump Tower” even though the charges against the Russian attorney had nothing to do with that 2016 meeting, but with a case involving notorious tax dodge Bill Browder. It all seemed like a perfect storm of “Russiagate” stories, on the eve of Trump’s address to the nation amid the ongoing government shutdown.

Even as the Times was trying to correct its own record, Trump’s critics in the media-political sphere were picking up the original story and running with it. Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), ranking member on the Intelligence Committee and one of the driving forces of Russiagate on Capitol Hill, echoed the quote Watts gave to the Times almost verbatim on CNN, declaring that “This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real, live, actual collusion.”

That is actually a shocking admission by Warner, since he’s claimed for years that the so-called Russian collusion is a proven fact, rather than a figment of conspiracy theorists’ rich imagination, driven by projection and profits to be made from “securing our democracy” in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

If a semi-retracted New York Times story, relying on an unreliable anonymous source and mistaking Ukrainians for Russians, is the “closest” thing to proof of collusion, perhaps there is no ‘there’ there after all.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment