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Is the Media an Accomplice in Drone Murders?

By Emran Feroz – teleSUR – March 11, 2016

Since 2001, the United States has been killing people with weaponized drones, most times not knowing the identities of the victims.

The victims of drone strikes are nameless and invisible, despite the fact that most of them are civilians.

The Pentagon announced this week that more than 150 al-Shabab fighters have been killed by a U.S. drone strike in Somalia. The Pentagon spokesmen repeatedly talked about “fighters” and “terrorists” which “posed an imminent threat to the U.S.” But as usual, he offered no proof of his claims.

This kind of language has become normalized when it comes to the U.S. drone war, which is not just taking place in Somalia, but also in countries like Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. What is significant regarding the regular attacks in these countries is the media coverage. In fact, it practically does not exist. The many victims of drone strikes are nameless and invisible. And if they appear in any media reports, all of them are completely dehumanized and described as “terrorists,” “suspected militants” or any other similar euphemism.

This was also the case after the latest strike in Somalia, a country the U.S. is officially not at war with. Shortly after the Pentagon’s announcement, many news outlets adopted the U.S. government’s version of the incident. The New York Times, for example, wrote about the killing of “150 fighters who were assembled for what American officials believe was a graduation ceremony.” “Militants” was also the term the Washington Post used to describe all the victims. It is necessary to point out that many other well-known media outlets from all over the world did the very same thing. As usual, there was a huge lack of any critical scrutinizing. Instead, media once again became a mouthpiece of the U.S. government by quoting its military officials and spreading their one-sided views constantly.

Since 2001, the United States has been killing people with weaponized drones, most times not knowing the identity of the victims. As of today, at least 6,000 people have been killed by these drone strikes. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, only 4 percent of drone victims in Pakistan were identified as a-Qaida members. But vastly more than 2,000 people have been killed there by drones during the last years.

Another country which is suffering heavily under drone strikes is Afghanistan, the most drone bombed country in the world. Between 2001 and 2013, 1,670 drone strikes took place in the country. It was in the city of Kandahar, the Taliban’s former stronghold, where the first strike by a weaponized drone took place in October 2001. The target, Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, was not killed on this day, but many other unknown people have been in the years since.

One of these people was Sadiq Rahim Jan, a 21-year-old food vendor from Paktia, eastern Afghanistan. He was murdered by a drone strike in July 2012. A few days later, media outlets in Kabul described him as a “Taliban commander.” The family members of Aisha Rashid have also been killed by a drone strike. The Afghan girl was four years old when a missile hit the pick-up of her family in Kunar, also in the east of the country. Fourteen passengers, including Aisha’s parents, were murdered. Only she survived – barely – with a ragged face. Initially, all the victims were described as “militants” by Afghan government officials and local media outlets.

Tariq Aziz, from North Waziristan shared a similar destiny. The 16-year-old anti-drone activist was killed by a drone strike in November 2011, together with his 12-year-old cousin Waheed. Unlike the case of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pashtun girl which was nearly killed by a member of the Pakistani Taliban and received a Nobel Peace Prize, Tariq’s case is widely unknown.

In all the mentioned cases, as well as many other, significant media coverage was nonexistent – or it described the victims as terrorists, extremists, militants, al-Qaida members, and so on. This is happening on a daily basis and there are also reasons why it is happening.

In the case of Sadiq, for example, his family became outraged after they noticed that local media outlets described their son and brother as a “Taliban commander.” On that day, the young Afghan was the only person who has been killed in the area. He never had any connection with any insurgent group, not to mention being a commander of them. One of the media outlets which spread these news was Radio Azadi, an Afghan branch of the US government’s external broadcast services. It should be more than obvious that the main aim of such a media platform is not spreading objective information.

Another example for this behaviour is Tolo TV, Afghanistan’s leading mainstream television channel. Last year, the channel’s news website reported that in July 2015 drone strikes in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed “nearly 250 Taliban and Daesh [Islamic State] insurgents.” The main source for this “reporting” was the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence service, which was built by the U.S. in the first days of the NATO invasion.

Tolo TV was created in 2004 by Saad Mohseni, an Afghan businessman who is being called an “Afghan Rupert Murdoch” and is considered one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan. The channel’s creation was mainly funded by the notorious United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is widely known as one of the most important foreign policy tools of the White House.

In general, one can assume that many media outlets in Afghanistan were not created to support journalism and press freedom but to install media institutions who can be useful to represent particular interests. This is also the case in other countries which suffer from drone strikes.

Noor Behram, an investigative journalist from Northern Waziristan, is known for taking pictures of the drone murder scenes and spreading the victims’ faces. After Behram talked with journalists from Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, he experienced that for them, a beard, long hair and a turban or a pakol, a traditional Afghan cap, is enough to describe male drone victims as “terrorists.” But nearly every man in this area looks like that. According to this logic, everyone, even myself when I am staying there, must be a terrorist.

Besides, Behram’s results fit into Washington’s practice that all military-aged males in a strike zone are considered as “militants.”

The U.S. and its allies needed propaganda organs to construct and justify their war on a medial level. Despite the question if this is moral or not, one should agree that it is also very logical because every war is based on propaganda – it was always like that and probably will never change.

But what remains is the question why so many people still believe such a biased media coverage and its constructed narrative of a good war which is only hitting the bad guys.


Emran Feroz is an Afghan-Austrian journalist, writer and activist currently based in Germany. He is the founder of Drone Memorial, a virtual memorial for civilian drone strike victims.

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

US Could Spend US$30M in 2016 to ‘Promote Democracy’ in Cuba

teleSUR – January 2, 2016

The United States government could potentially spend up to US$30 million on “democracy development” programs in Cuba in 2016, according to bills waiting for approval at U.S. Congress.

Two draft bills related to U.S. State Department’s budget for foreign spending were approved by the Appropriation Committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The draft bill approved by the House Committee on Appropriations states that the National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, the State Department and the Agency for International Development would share US$30 million in Cuba democracy funds.

Of the funds appropriated by this Act under the heading ‘Economic Support Fund, “$30,000,000 shall be made available to promote democracy and strengthen civil society in Cuba,” the draft bill said. It was approved by the House’s committee in June 2015.

It added that such funds could not be used “for business promotion, economic reform, entrepreneurship, or any other assistance that is not democracy-building.”

Meanwhile, the draft bill approved by the Senate Committee on Appropriations said that US$20 million should be used for Cuba democracy programs, including up to $5 million for “private Cuban entrepreneurs.” This draft was approved by the committee in July last year.

The Senate version of the bill also authorizes US$50.5 million “for programs to promote Internet freedom globally,” and says a portion of the funds would likely be used “to support Internet freedom in Cuba.”

Neither bill has been approved by any of the corresponding government bodies yet.

Over the years, programs such as the NED or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have received mounting criticism over meddling in other nations political spheres in order to promote U.S. interests, unlike their claim of promoting democracy and aid.

Both programs are funded by the U.S. congress.

Republican Congressman Ron Paul, who ran for the U.S. presidency twice, has argued against such programs. In 2005, he stated that NED has “very little to do with democracy. It is an organization that uses U.S. tax money to actually subvert democracy, by showering funding on favored political parties or movements overseas.”

The NED has been banned in various countries over meddling claims.

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes

By Matt Peppe | Just The Facts Blog | November 29, 2015

In a dramatic segment on CBS News’ 60 Minutes titled “The Last Prisoner of the Cold War,” former United States Agency for International Development (USAID) subcontractor Alan Gross tells of horrifying experiences in captivity: “They threatened to hang me, they threatened to pull out my fingernails, they said I’d never see the light of day.”

Gross portrays a harrowing ordeal. He purports to have feared for his safety and his life, as if he was chained in a medieval dungeon at the whims of an arbitrary monarch. This description likely sounds credible to many Americans who view the Cuban government as their own government and media have portrayed it for the last 55 years: a totalitarian dictatorship with no respect for human rights or the rule of law.

The opportunistic Gross, who earned more than $500,000 from his work for USAID, undoubtedly understands that he could cash in on the American public’s preconceptions of Cuba by dramatizing his experience there. Perhaps this occurred to Gross during his imprisonment, when he told a second cousin that “when he comes back he’s going to have a big book deal.” One might even venture to guess his 60 Minutes interview might be an audition for such a pay day.

Such nightmarish conditions have certainly been documented in Cuba. Whistleblowers have described “sexual abuse by medical personnel, torture by other medical personnel, brutal beatings out of frustration, fear, and retribution … torturous shackling, positional torture” and other practices – in Guantanamo Bay, by U.S. military personnel on detainees kidnapped and held indefinitely without charges or due process.

In the rest of Cuba, which is governed by the Revolutionary regime, such stories are virtually unheard of. Professor and author Salim Lamrani compared human rights reports among Latin American countries and found many credible accusations of torture, but for Cuba he observed: “Not a single case of torture against prisoners is noted by Amnesty International. It has to be emphasised that of all the reports by Amnesty about the countries of Latin America, the report on Cuba is by far the least condemnatory.”

“Since the year 1959, there has not been one single case of extra-judicial execution, enforced disappearance or torture,” stated Maria Esther Reus, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Cuba, in the Cuban government’s presentation to the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the U.N. Human Rights Council. “The prison system constitutes an example of Cuba’s humanism. Cuba has developed programmes that are directed towards transforming prisons into schools. The goal is to ensure that human beings who have served their sentences are fully reintegrated into society.”

While the latest Amnesty report on Cuba notes that the government has not granted permission for a visit by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, Cuba is far from alone.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur himself noted in his latest report that the U.S. government had not allowed him access to the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Additionally, he has not been granted access to visit U.S. federal and state prisons. He did not mention the Cuban government at all in the report.

Gross’s Covert Mission

Narrating the 60 Minutes segment, Scott Pelley says, “Gross was hired by the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID is America’s charity, delivering aid all around the world. But in Cuba its mission was different. USAID asked Gross to set up independent internet connections for the Jewish community. Only five percent of Cubans were online. But bypassing government censorship was illegal.”

Actually, according to the World Bank, 14.3 percent of Cubans had internet access in 2009  when Gross was imprisoned. This number has more than doubled over the last six years as the Cuban government has expanded internet access through programs such as public WiFi zones. Of course, this was done independently without any help from the U.S. government or subcontractors like Gross working on their behalf.

Pelley’s claim that Gross’s mission was merely to help the Jewish community in Cuba obtain internet access is easily debunked. During each of his five trips to Cuba, Gross traveled under a tourist visa and represented himself as a member of a Jewish humanitarian group, rather than an agent of the U.S. government. Jewish leaders in Cuba said they already had access to the internet, and were not aware of Gross’s connections to the U.S. government.

An Associated Press investigation discovered that Gross was well aware the misrepresentation of his activities in the country put him at serious risk. The AP quotes Gross saying that “(t)his is very risky business in no uncertain terms,” and “(d)etection of satellite signals will be catastrophic.”

Gross’s employer, Development Alternative, Inc. (DAI), had received a $28 million contract from USAID to carry out a democracy project in 2008. Tracey Eaton writes in his Along the Malecón blog that “Gross said in court documents he was coordinating some of his activities with the Pan American Development Foundation, or PADF, another organization that had received U.S. government funds to try to hasten Cuba’s transition to democracy.”

In a memo to DAI, Gross wrote that the “ICTs Para la Isla pilot project” was designed to “lay a practical groundwork (emphasis in original) that will facilitate and enable the better management of larger-scale and more comprehensive transition-to-democracy initiatives.” Therefore, Gross’s mission was clearly political, rather than humanitarian. His professed mission to help Jewish groups was merely a cover for his clandestine activities on behalf of a government whose official policy for more than half a century has been the replacement of the Revolutionary government in Cuba.

Gross was bringing into the country highly sophisticated computer equipment including satellite phones and a mobile phone chip to disguise satellite signals. Cuban law prohibits importing such equipment without legal authorization.

60 Minutes’ claim that “Cuban authorities locked (Gross) up for helping its citizens get unrestricted Internet access” is at best a vast oversimplification, if not an outright fabrication. In reality, Gross was convicted under Cuba’s Article 11 of Law 88, “Protection of National and Economic Independence.”

The law stipulates imprisonment of 3 to 8 years for anyone who “directly or through a third party, receives, distributes or participates in the distribution by financial means, materials or of another nature, proceeds of the Government of the United States, its agencies, dependencies, representatives, functionaries or other private entities.”

As Lamrani points out, “(t)his severity is not unique to Cuban legislation. US law prescribes similar penalties for this type of crime. The Foreign Agents Registration Act prescribes that any un-registered agent ‘who requests, collects, supplies or spends contributions, loans, money or any valuable object in his own interest’ may be liable to a sentence of five years in prison.”

Gross’s Detainment and Treatment By Cuban Authorities

Gross was held not in a regular prison but in a military hospital for the duration of his detainment. Cuban authorities not only took pains to ensure Gross was granted appropriate medical care, but were extremely accommodating to allow him time with his wife Judy.

It seems unlikely that Gross was abused or mistreated while serving his sentence. According to the Associated Press, Gross’s lawyer Jared Genser said Judy “arrived in Cuba on Sept. 5 (2012) and was allowed to visit her husband on four days, three at the military hospital and once at a guarded home near the capital. He said there is no sign that Gross is being ill-treated.” He also told the AP “(Gross) is being treated fine.”

Gross, who suffered from arthritis, lost significant weight while held in confinement and developed a mass in his shoulder. He was treated by Cuban medical staff, and there is no evidence poor conditions contributed to his medical issues.

New York rabbi and gastroenterologist Elie Abadie was allowed to visit Gross in the military hospital, where he determined “through the exam he personally performed and also through the extensive information supplied by the team of Cuban doctors who have attended (Gross)” that Gross was in a good state of health.

Gross petitioned to see his mother before she passed away from cancer, but as Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Josefina Vidal noted: “neither the Cuban penitentiary system nor the U.S. penitentiary system provide the possibility for inmates to travel abroad, no matter the reason.” The week after his mother died, Gross’s wife was allowed to visit him again in Cuba.

The Obama Administration’s Rejection of Cuba’s Humanitarian Proposal

In early 2014, Gross began a hunger strike because of what he called “mistruths, deceptions, and inaction by both governments … because of the lack of any reasonable or valid effort to resolve this shameful ordeal.” He ended his hunger strike a week later, stating he would not resume his protest “when both governments show more concern for human beings and less malice toward each other.”

Despite Gross assigning blame to both governments, there is ample evidence that the Cuban government made much more than a reasonable effort to resolve his case, while it was the U.S. government – alone – that refused do so.

Two years earlier in 2012, the highest ranking Cuban diplomat in Washington, Jorge Bolaños, had proposed a prisoner swap of Gross for the Cuban Five (more on them shortly). Bolaños expressed his government’s desire to “find a humanitarian solution to the case on a reciprocal basis.” But the Obama administration flatly said no, and continued to unilaterally demand Gross’s release without engaging the Cuban government on their offer.

On Dec. 17, 2014, the negotiated solution that freed Gross was the exact same deal the Cuban government had proposed three years earlier. It bears repeating that this offer was on the table all along and could have been agreed to by the Obama administration at any time.

If the agreement was fair last December, why was it not fair when it was first offered three years before? The U.S. government alone holds the blame – with Obama, as the head of his administration, owning the lion’s share – for rejecting a clearly reasonable offer that resulted in Gross remaining detained unnecessarily for two and a half extra years.

Without any controversy, the U.S. government could have secured his release before he developed health complications, before his mother died, and before he began his hunger strike. The U.S. government obstinately refused, continuously, for three years to even consider a deal that later appeared to be a no-brainer for both sides.

Faulting both governments for the delay in obtaining Gross’s release is asinine historical revisionism. It is merely an unmerited attempt to create a fictional balance based on the assumption that the U.S. government in its righteousness must be justified in its quarrels with other governments.

The Cuban Five

One cannot discuss the case of Alan Gross without at the same time discussing the aforementioned Cuban Five, who Gross was eventually swapped for. Unlike Gross, who was acting as a mercenary assisting the U.S. government carry out covert political operations, the members of the Cuban Five were fighting a very real threat of terrorism against the Cuban people emanating from the United States. Their operation was not in any way politically subversive, and did not interfere with the U.S. government’s sovereignty.

They were in Florida to infiltrate terrorist organizations and disrupt plots these groups were planning on Cuban territory. Thousands of Cubans have been killed by contra-revolutionary terrorism since 1959 by groups who enjoy safe haven inside the United States, including 73 people whose plane was blown up over the Caribbean in 1978 and an Italian man killed in a restaurant bombing in Havana in 1997. As author Stephen Kimber writes, if the roles were reversed and the Cuban Five were working for the U.S. government, they “would be American heroes.”

The Five – as they are known in their home country – were convicted on trumped up conspiracy charges. The group’s leader Gerardo Hernández was convicted on the most outrageous, unfounded charge of conspiracy to commit murder. He received two life sentences plus fifteen years.

By any objective comparison, the conditions the Cuban Five faced in confinement were far worse than those of Gross. Each member of the Five was held in solitary confinement for 17 months prior to trial. They spent nearly three years without being able to communicate with each other or their families. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in 2005 that “the depravation of liberty of these five persons” was “arbitrary.”

Olga, the wife of René González, and Adriana, the wife of Hernández, were denied visas to visit their husbands for 10 years, until after the Cuban government allowed Judy Gross to visit her husband. The U.S. government had previously deemed the Cuban wives “a threat to the stability and national security of the United States.”

Amnesty International stated its concern “that such a blanket or permanent bar on visits with their wives constitutes additional punishment and is contrary to international standards for the humane treatment of prisoners and states’ obligation to protect family life.”

González, the first member of the group to be paroled, was freed after 13 years.

The three members of the Five who were released in December 2014 had spent more than 16 years each in prison. That is, more than three times longer than Gross.

Needless to say, 60 Minutes does not make this comparison between Gross and the Cuban Five. But 60 Minutes – a standard bearer of American journalism – does achieve an important function of the American Free Press: demonizing official enemies while keeping the microscope away from one’s own government, lest any inconvenient analysis might raise doubts about their inherent superiority and benevolence.

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

White Helmets: War by Way of Deception

By Vanessa Beeley | thewallwillfall | October 23, 2015

“The Ivy League bourgeoisie who sit at the helm of the non-profit industrial complex will one day be known simply as charismatic architects of death. Funded by the ruling class oligarchy, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media. Yet, it appears that global society is paralyzed in a collective hypnosis – rejecting universal social interests, thus rejecting reason, to instead fall in line with the position of the powerful minority that has seized control, a minority that systematically favours corporate interests.” ~ Cory Morningstar

In his recent speech Hezbollah leader, Sayyed Nasrallah, alluded to a multi-phase “soft war” which relies upon the mass media complex to disseminate propaganda and bias, propelling the Middle East into, primarily, a sectarian crisis before descending even further into regionalism and finally a devastating individualism.

Cory Morningstar’s body of work does more than any other to expose the bare bones of the non-profit propaganda industry that governs both our reactions – and inactions, through a network of multi-layered and multi-faceted media manipulation campaigns, of which the end result is mass thought control. She explains:

“The 21st century NGO is becoming, more and more, a key tool serving the imperialist quest of absolute global dominance and exploitation. Global society has been, and continues to be, manipulated to believe that NGOs are representative of “civil society” (a concept promoted by corporations in the first place). This misplaced trust has allowed the “humanitarian industrial complex” to ascend to the highest position: the missionaries of deity – the deity of the empire.”

In a paper entitled,  Foreign Aid and Regime Change: A Role for Donor Intent, written just prior to NATO intervention in Libya, Prof. Sarah Blodgett Bormeo describes the “democratization” process for target nations. Unwittingly or wittingly, Bormeo perfectly outlines the role played by NGOs in this process. Bormeo even goes so far as to pinpoint the lack of impartiality rife among NGOs large and small, the majority of whom, receive their funding directly from western government and major corporation sources – all of whom have a vested interest in the outcome of their NGO’s activities and ‘intervention’ in a particular location. Bormeo emphasises the importance of “picking winners” in this scenario, as opposed to respecting and supporting the will of the people in any sovereign nation.

“Thus, it is possible that aid donors, in an effort to avoid further entrenching an “authoritarian” [my edit: this status is decided by donor] regime and perhaps increase the likelihood of democratization, channel funds through NGOs and civil society organizations in authoritarian states.”

In this short video below, we are introduced to the US military’s symbiotic relationship with NGOs in countries [in this instance, Iraq] where the policy is to Induce Pacification & Advance Western Ideologies. NGOs are cynically used to “soften” cultures and render entire communities dependent upon foreign aid in order to facilitate “Democratization”.

In this role, and dependent upon their donor support, NGOs cease to be the neutral, unbiased ‘humanitarian’ organisations they publicly purport to be, and instead become actual covert tools for foreign intervention and regime change. By default, they are assimilated into the Western modus vivendi of “waging war by way of deception” and their purpose is to alter public perception of a conflict via a multitude of media and “marketing” channels.

Following this formula, let’s examine, once more, the role of the Syria Civil Defence aka,’The White Helmets’ currently operating in Syria and take a closer look at their financial sources and mainstream media partners in order to better determine if they are indeed “neutral” as media moguls proclaim these “humanitarians” to be.

White Helmets: Follow the Money

The White Helmets were established in March 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, and is headed by James Le Mesurier, a British “security” specialist and ‘ex’ British military intelligence officer with an impressive track record in some of the most dubious NATO intervention theatres including Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Le Mesurier is a product of Britain’s elite Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and has also been placed in a series of high-profile pasts at the United Nations, European Union, and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The origins of The White Helmet’s initial $300k seed funding is a little hazy, reports are contradictory but subsequent information leads us to conclude that the UK, US and Syrian opposition [Syrian National Council] are connected. Logistical support has been provided by given by Turkish elite natural disaster response team, AKUT.

A further $13 million was poured into the White Helmet coffers during 2013 and this is where it gets interesting. Early reports suggest that these “donations” came from the US, UK and SNC with the previously explored connections to George Soros in the US.

Soros in Syria: ‘Humanitarian’ NGO Deployed For Regime Change, Not Aid

However, subsequent investigations reveal that USAID has been a major shareholder in the White Helmet organisation.

The website for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) claims that “our work supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.”

In a USAID report update in July 2015 it is clearly stated that they have supplied over $ 16m in assistance to the White Helmets.

USAID

The USAID track record as a primary US Government/CIA regime change facilitator is extensively documented.  From South America to the Ukraine and in the Middle East, USAID serve a malevolent and ultimately destructive role in the dismantling of sovereign nations and their reduction to Western hegemony vassal states, as always, all in the name of freedom and democracy.

“The United States does not lack institutions that continue to conspire, and that’s why I am using this gathering to announce that we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia”  ~ Bolivian President Evo Morales

“USAID and NED are in the business of “Democracy Promotion” which uses public money (from U.S. taxpayers) for secretive operations with the intention to support pro-U.S. governments with the help of political and social movements abroad. The goal is regime change.” ~ Timothy Alexander Guzman

With recent developments in Syria and as a consequence of  the Syrian Government requested Russian intervention, we have seen a scramble to justify the shambolic US foreign policy and its clandestine terror operations in Syria.  We have previously established the White Helmet connections to this US regime change operation and their undisputed exclusive integration into the Al Nusra and Free Syrian Army [Muslim Brotherhood] and even ISIS networks and strongholds.

Humanitarian’ Propaganda War Against Syria – Led by Avaaz and The White Helmets

After RT and Sott.net among others, exposed the gaping holes in White Helmet propaganda over recycled photographs tweeted even before the alleged Russian bombing had occurred, the propaganda “war” ramped up. The Russian involvement in Syria, did not only betray the US military deception, it also brought some heavyweight media giants of its own into the fray who set about de-constructing the Western media and NGO indoctrination that had, for so long, been largely unchallenged.

At this point the London Telegraph went into damage limitation mode. It published an article expounding the White Helmet humanitarian role in Syria but with admissions of UK Government “majority” funding and that the White Helmets are embedded with ISIS (“in at least one ISIL held area”), claims previously vehemently denied but rendered indisputable after discovery of the photo showing an ISIS mercenary posing directly in front of a White Helmets depot located deep in ISIS held territory south of Yarmouk.

ISIS

“The Foreign Office is currently the largest single source of funding. It is an irony that if Britain does effectively become an ally of Assad, and starts raids against Isil in Syria, it will be bombing from the air and paying for the bodies to be dug out on the ground. The White Helmets are also operating in at least one Isil-held area.”

Interestingly, the Telegraph stated clearly that the UK Foreign Office is the “largest single source of funding” for the White Helmets which may be perceived as an attempt to draw fire away from the USAID funding which still outstrips official figures released by the British Gov’t who “gifted” £ 3.5 million in equipment to “civil defence teams” in Syria [Report March 2015]. However, the British Government also committed to an additional £ 10m to “increase coordination between the Syrian Interim Government and civil defence teams” to be funded by: UK Government’s Conflict, Security and Stability Fund (CSSF).

It should also be noted here that although cries of ‘regime change!’ from both Washington and London have been muted since Russia entered the Syria conflict, both Washington and London have been supporting their own parallel, hand-picked ‘interim government’ for Syria since at least 2012.

So, with millions in hard cash and equipment being invested into the White Helmets by US & UK donors who have a very clear regime change objective in Syria, it becomes increasingly difficult to perceive their role as anything other than donor-biased propaganda merchants and a ‘humanitarian’ extension of a clandestine terror operation allied to the NATO proxy armies in the region.

White Helmet Leadership 

James Le Mesurier:  James Le Mesurier has been portrayed as a Humanitarian maverick hero, miraculously in the right place (Istanbul) at the right time, just as the need arose for the formation of a Syria Civil Defence team, perhaps coincidentally, only a few months prior to the now infamous and universally (except for a few diehard propagandists) discredited Ghouta ‘chemical weapon’ attack in August 2013, an event which has already been proven beyond a doubt to be a false flag attack, as well as subsequent accusations levied at the Syrian Government which narrowly failed to precipitate the NATO desired ‘No Fly Zone’.

However, when we delve deeper into the life and times of Le Mesurier we see that it was no happy accident that he was in Istanbul at this juncture. As Sandhurst Military Academy’s top student and recipient of the Queen’s Medal, his chequered career took him from OHR [Office of High Representative] in Bosnia to intelligence co-ordinator in NATO’s newly won prize, Kosovo. We’re told that Le Mesurier left the British Army in 2000 and joined the UN serving as deputy head of the Advisory Unit on ‘Security and Justice’, and Special Representative of the Secretary General’s security policy body within the UN mission in Kosovo. His career then took him to Jerusalem where he worked on implementing the Ramallah Agreement, then to Baghdad as a special advisor to Iraqi Minister of Interior, and to the UAE to train their gas field protection force, and later to Lebanon during the 2006 war. In 2005 he was made Vice President for Special Projects at private mercenary firm Olive Group, and in January 2008 he was appointed as Principal for Good Harbour International, both based in Dubai.

Le Mesurier is also the founder of Mayday Rescue, a “non profit” organisation providing SAR [search & rescue] training to civilians enduring conflict. According to Mesurier’s own biography on the website, Mayday Rescue was founded in 2014, after he had established Syria Civil Defence/White Helmets.

Screenshot (415)

A quick flick through the other Mayday team members reveals some very interesting connections.

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Mosab Obeidat, previous Assistant Chief of Mission with the Qatar Red Crescent, one of whose officials, Khaled Diab was accused of supplying $ 2.2 m to secure arms for the terrorist groups in Syria. Details of this transaction and its exposure can be found in this Al Akhbar article from June 2013.

At least three other members of the team were a part of the Syrian “revolution” including Farouq al Habib, one of the 3 most prominent White Helmet leaders who was also a leader of the Homs uprising against the Syrian government and according to his testimony, was tortured by the Syrian “regime” security forces in 2012 for smuggling a journalist into Syria to “cover” the “peaceful protests”. Habib was a founder member of the ‘Homs Revolutionary Council’ (the CIA have been linked to nearly all ‘Revolutionary Councils in Syria) before fleeing to Turkey in 2013 (A more in-depth analysis of his anti-Syrian government testimony will be presented in Part II of this article).

Farouq al Habib

Le Mesurier is heavily involved in several organisations not mentioned in this article, but for the purposes of demonstrating that the White Helmets should not be considered impartial or neutral as they claim, we will focus on those that best substantiate that argument.

Both Olive Group and Good Harbour International are experts in private “security”.  Taken from Sourcewatch on Olive Group:

“Olive Security was founded in 2001 by Harry Legge Burke.  Olive lends their quick success to strong relations in the government and military industry. Harry Legge-Burke is an ex-Welsh Guard, and a former aid to chief of defence staff Sir [Charles Guthrie]. He can claim Prince William as a skiing partner and his sister was a nanny to the royal children.

Iraq:  Olive were on the ground since the invasion began in 2003, and were able to deploy 38 former SAS employees within two days of the invasion’s completion in 2004

Jonathan Allum, Olive’s former director and co-owner, is also the son of Tony Allum, who is the chairman of the engineering company Halcrow and also the head of the UK government’s Iraq Industry Working Group. It was in the latter position that Tony Allum went to Washington to meet with Bechtel leaders, where he suggested, among other UK companies, Halcrow and Olive as companies worth considering for subcontracted work, all stemming from Bechtel’s $680 million contract with USAID. They were considered and contracts followed, though both Legge-Burke and Allum deny one had anything to do with the other”

In May 2015 Olive Group merged with Constellis Holdings, in whose portfolio we can also find Academi, previously the notorious Blackwater Group [ Nisour Square massacre, Iraq 2007].  Taken from The Atlantic July 2012:  Post 9/11, Bush enabled the CIA to subcontract assassinations allegedly targeting Al Qaeda operatives. Blackwater was awarded this contract.

“Running operations through Blackwater gave the CIA the power to have people abducted, or killed, with no one in the government being exactly responsible.”

The CIA can no longer hide its Blackwater/Academi connections, especially after this week’s Wikileaks data dump of CIA director John Brennan’s emails, whose contact list included now spy chief Robert Richer at his Blackwater contact address.

The outsourcing of intelligence operations was in full-swing. What Bush initiated, Obama ran with, awarding Blackwater/Academi a $ 250m contract in 2010 to offer “unspecified” services to the CIA, thus maintaining the apparatus for “unaccountable” covert assassinations.

It is true that James Le Mesurier only joined Olive Group in 2005 and left them in 2008, but his involvement with them and their subsequent merger with Constellis and by default, Blackwater/Academi, gives a degree of valuable insight into the elite intelligence and Pentagon circles that Le Mesurier moved in prior to working for Good Harbour International and creating Syria Civil Defence (not forgetting the USAID funding & influence that underpins both Olive and SCD/White Helmets).

In 2008, Le Mesurier joined Good Harbour International, another private “security” expert organisation, whose CEO is none other than former terror advisor to the Bush administration, the Terror Czar himself, Richard A Clarke.

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The jury is still out on whether Clarke was indeed the “whistleblower” he fashioned himself as, post 9/11, or a merely a high-level gatekeeper who aided in preventing a full and detailed investigation into Bush and Rumsfeld’s roles in 9/11.

Patrick Henningsen, a political analyst and writer for 21st Century Wire believes the latter is more likely:

“On first glance, one might buy into the mainstream media’s characterization of him, but it’s more likely that Richard Clarke is not a whistleblower at all. While appearing to oppose the Bush administration from a safe enough distance, I believe his role was inserted into the mix in the period of  2004-2005 in order to VALIDATE the bin Laden mythology and help to portray al Qaeda as an organic, independently run terror organization. He also claimed that Bush and Rumsfeld committed war crimes, but this means nothing because everyone knows that no US official will ever face ‘war crimes’ charges in any court of law anywhere on the planet. It’s effectively a straw man narrative that distracts from the real scandal in the US which is that the entire premise of the war on terror is completely contrived. Clarke’s ‘whistleblower’ status gives him brilliant cover from too much public scrutiny. I remain skeptical of his whole public narrative. He was, is, and always will be an insider.”

What is perhaps even more telling, is Clarke’s reported close ties with Israeli-US operative Rita Katz of the SITE Intelligence Group, another supposedly independent, albeit ‘private’ intelligence firm located in Bethesda, Maryland, a stone’s throw away from CIA headquarters. SITE are said to be responsible for the media release of the harrowing ISIS execution videos, al Qaeda videos, and their credibility has been extensively questioned.

Katz’s long term working relationship with Clarke began before 9/11 when she and her research associate Steve Emerson were commissioned by Clarke to identify Islamic radicals within the US.  Over time, Katz’s relationship with Clarke blossomed into a much more extensive one that included regular briefings at both the Clinton and Bush White Houses.

“One of SITE’s founders, Rita Katz, is a government insider with close connections to former terrorism czar Richard Clarke and his staff in the White House, as well as investigators in the Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Homeland Security, according to SourceWatch. Her father was executed in Iraq as an Israel spy, a fact that suggests a connection to Israeli intelligence.” ~ Mark Taliano

This background on Le Mesurier should at least make us question the media portrayal of an affable, debonair and philanthropic leader of a civilian humanitarian mission. His military & intelligence roots, the fact that despite working for OHR in Bosnia, no visible record of his employment can be found there, his private security-centric career path, his appearance in Istanbul at just the right moment to partner USAID, the UK government & Syrian opposition in creating just the sort of “democratization” enabling NGO as described in our introduction, MUST at least cause us to doubt the transparency and neutrality of the White Helmets in Syria.

In addition, the White Helmet leadership consisting of known Syrian opposition protagonists such as Raed Saleh and Farouq al Habib must make us more cynical about the claims of impartiality and lack of bias and for those who will defend the “peaceful” revolution narrative upheld by Habib and Saleh, please take the time to read Professor Tim Anderson’s in depth analysis of events in Syria pre NATO intervention.

“I have seen from the beginning armed protesters in those demonstrations … they were the first to fire on the police. Very often the violence of the security forces comes in response to the brutal violence of the armed insurgents” – Jesuit priest Father Frans Van der Lugt, January 2012, Homs Syria

“The claim that armed opposition to the government has begun only recently is a complete lie. The killings of soldiers, police and civilians, often in the most brutal circumstances, have been going on virtually since the beginning.” – Professor Jeremy Salt, October 2011, Ankara Turkey

Our presentation of the White Helmets as regime change propagandists & terrorist allies  in this article will be further explored and verified in Part II.

“Existing soft power initiatives and agencies, particularly those engaged in development and strategic communications, must be reinvigorated through increased funding, human resources and prioritization. Concurrently, the U.S. government must establish goals, objectives and metrics for soft power initiatives. Furthermore, the U.S. government can better maximize the effectiveness of soft power instruments and efforts through increased partnerships with NGOs. By providing humanitarian and development assistance in areas typically inaccessible to government agencies, NGOs are often able to access potential extremist areas before the government can establish or strengthen diplomatic, developmental or military presence, including intelligence.” — Joseph S. Nye, former US assistant secretary of defence, June 2004

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How the US Funds Dissent against Latin American Governments

teleSUR | March 12, 2015

“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

NED founding father, Allen Weinstein

The U.S. government and military have a long history of interfering in the affairs of numerous countries in Latin American and the Caribbean.

By the end of the 19th century, there had been at least 10 U.S. military interventions across the hemisphere including Argentina (1890), Chile (1891), Haiti (1891), Panama (1895), Cuba (1898), Puerto Rico (1898) and Nicaragua (1894, 1896, 1898 and 1899).

From this time onward, successive U.S. administrations applied different strategies and tactics for involvement in the region as a means to secure and protect its geopolitical and economic interests. However, only recently has there been wider acknowledgement about the role that U.S. funding to nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, particularly from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), plays in furthering U.S. foreign policy. For example, in 2012 governments of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) collectively signed a resolution to expel USAID from each of the signing countries. Those countries included Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominica, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED)

Created by the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the NED operates as a foundation that provides grants for “democracy promotion.” The foundation is structured as an umbrella with an almost corporatist flavor, housing four other organizations reflecting U.S. sectoral and party interest: the U.S. labor affiliated American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) and Chamber of Commerce linked Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), along with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), both of which reflect Democrat and Republican affiliations, respectively.

In many ways the NED resembles previous CIA efforts in the 1950s, 60s and 70s to provide mostly public money for secret operations aimed to bolster pro-U.S. governments and movements abroad. In South America for example, between 1975 and 1978 the U.S. helped with the creation and implementation of Operation Condor. The U.S. provided right-wing dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador with technical and military support for the goal of hunting down and killing political opponents. Some estimate that Operation Condor killed between 60,000 and 80,000 people.

In 1986, then president of the NED Carl Gershman explained to the New York Times, “We should not have to do this kind of work covertly … It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the C.I.A. We saw that in the 60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created.”

U.S. citizens unknowingly fund the NED with public money. The U.S. government allocates part the budget of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the U.S. State Department to the NED – which is most of the NED’s funding source. Although it receives practically all of its funding from the U.S. government, the NED is itself an NGO headed by a Board of Directors. The current board includes:

  • Political economist, author and free market universalist Francis Fukuyama,
  • Elliott Abrams, former deputy assistant and deputy national security adviser on Middle East policy in the administration of President George W. Bush,
  • Moises Naim, Venezuelan Minister of Trade and Industry during the turbulent early 1990s and former Executive Director of the World Bank, and
  • Former Deputy Secretary of State under George W. Bush (2005 – 2006) and Vice Chairmanship at Goldman Sachs Group, Robert B. Zoellick.

The scope of activity of the NED is truly impressive. According to the NED website, it supports more than 1,000 NGO projects in more than 90 countries.

At its inception in the early 1980s, its funding allocation was set at US$18 million and reached its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Allocations for 2014 and 2015 have been approved for US$103.5 million, while over US$7 million was directed primarily to opposition organizations in Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba in 2013.

Within the U.S. State Department Justification of Request documents which outline the reasons for funding requests, it is clear that funding priorities in Latin America and the Caribbean reflect the NED’s modern strategy of overtly carrying out old covert objectives.

Michel Chossudovsky, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Ottawa in Canada, sees this funding as an element in “manufacturing dissent” against governments that the U.S. government dislikes. However, these funders do not work alone. “The NED (and USAID) are entities linked with the U.S. state department, but they operate in tandem with a whole of other organizations,” said Chossudovsky.

In May 2010 the Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue released their report Assessing Democracy Assistance in Venezuela which revealed that in addition to NED and USAID funding, a broad range of private and European based foundations funded opposition-aligned NGOs in the country with between US$40-50 million annually.

According to Dan Beeton, International Communications Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, D.C., NED funds in Latin American have been directed at “a lot of what are kind of the old guard political entities that are now kind of discredited,” such as the Trade Union Confederation of Venezuela (CTV), which was instrumental in the 2002 coup in Venezuela, as well as older political parties that are now marginal forces in their country’s political landscapes in spite of their considerable outside funding.

The United States Agency for International Development

Created in 1961 as a foreign assistance program under President John F. Kennedy, USAID commands a much larger budget and broader scope than NED. While U.S. diplomats continue to stress that USAID funding does not have a political basis, USAID documents nonetheless acknowledge its role in “furthering America’s interests” while carrying out “U.S. foreign policy by promoting broad-scale human progress at the same time it expands stable, free societies, creates markets and trade partners for the United States.” But critics are skeptical of USAID’s missionary work, noting how their strategy has changed over time.

“(USAID’s) mandate is to provide development aid and historically it has provided development aid, tied into debt negotiations and so on. Subsequently with the evolution of the development aid program it has redirected its endeavours on funding NGOs,” said Chossudovsky.

While the range of activities undertaken by NGOs can be broad and some of these programs may not have political intentions, Beeton nonetheless argues that this funding “ultimately can and often does serve a political end when the U.S. wants these grantees to help it fulfill its goals in these countries.”

The extent of U.S. political ambitions recently came into the international spotlight with the revelation that USAID had secretly spent US$1.6 million to fund a social messaging network in Cuba called ZunZuneo, with the stated purpose of “renegotiat(ing) the balance of power between the state and society.” The project was headed up by Joe McSpedon of the USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI).

Other USAID officials accused of active political meddling in the affairs of sovereign countries include regional head Mark Feierstein. According to Venezuelan investigative journalist Eva Golinger, in 2013 Feierstein met Venezuelan opposition figures including right-wing politicians Maria Corina Machado, Julio Borges and Ramon Guillermo Avelado as well as political strategist Juan Jose Rendon to devise a plan to undermine the Venezuelan government.

At the State Department budgetary hearing, Feierstein also confirmed “a long-standing program in place to support those who are advocating and fighting on behalf of democracy and human rights in Venezuela … and we are prepared to continue those under any scenario.”

State Department cables revealed by WikiLeaks also brought to light previous activities by USAID/OTI in Venezuela, including the development of a five point, anti-government strategy for U.S. embassy activities, as well as the confirmation that grantees had been active in promoting street demonstrations in 2009.

Machado, a former anti-Chavista National Assembly member, was among the signatories of the Carmona decree following the Venezuelan coup in 2002, which abolished the legislative and judiciary powers, as well as the constitution. She was also among the most prominent promoters of last year’s opposition violence that claimed the lives of 43 people.

In Bolivia, local rural workers’ groups and the government expelled the U.S.-based Chemonics International Inc. after their US$2.7 million USAID-funded “Strengthening Democracy” program was accused of financing destabilization attempts against the government. Chemonics operates in approximately 150 countries, offering various technical services and “consulting.”

The Bolivian government publicly outlined what they argued was proof of USAID-funded programs to mobilize the indigenous population against the government, in particular an indigenous march protesting the construction of a highway. USAID funded programs were active in these areas, and had funded some of the leading organizations such as the Eastern Bolivia Indigenous Peoples and Communities Confederation (CIDOB).

“USAID refused to reveal who it was funding and the Bolivian government had strong reasons to believe that it had ties and coordination with opposition groups in the country which at the time was involved in violence and destructive activities aimed at toppling the Morales government,” said Beeton. “Now we know through WikiLeaks that that’s what really was going on.”

President Evo Morales also revealed transcripts of phone calls between the anti-highway march organizers and U.S. embassy officials. The U.S. embassy confirmed the calls, but explained that they were merely trying to familiarize themselves with the country’s political and social situation.

Officials also denounced the lack of accountability to the Bolivian government or to the recipient constituencies of USAID funds.

The head of the Eastern Bolivia Indigenous Peoples and Communities Confederation (CIDOB), Lazaro Taco, confirmed that they had received “external support for our workshops,” but would not identify the source.

These and other USAID activities led Bolivian President Evo Morales to claim that the agency was conspiring against his government. The government expelled USAID from the country in May 2013, while USAID denied any wrongdoing.

In June of 2012, an Ecuadorian daily revealed that 4 NGOs based in Ecuador were recipients of over US$1.8 million for a project called Active Citizens, whose political bend was critical of the Correa government.

Shortly afterwards, the Technical Secretariat for International Cooperation (Seteci) of Ecuador announced it would also investigate the “Costas y Bosques” (Coasts and Forests) conservation project, which received US$13.3 million in funding from USAID. The project, based in the provinces of Esmeraldas, Guayas and Manabí, was also being undertaken by the Chemonics International Inc, the same organization expelled from Bolivia.

Mireya Cardenas, National Secretary of Peoples, Social Movements and Citizen Participation, said that “there is every reason to consider USAID a factor of disturbance that threatens the sovereignty and political stability (of Ecuador)”. While the U.S. Ambassador in Ecuador Adam Namm tried to reassert that USAID did not fund political parties, he did confirm that certain opposition groups such as Fundamedios was funded “indirectly.”

In November 2013 the Ecuadorean government sent a letter to the U.S. embassy in the country’s capital Quito, ordering that “USAID must not execute any new activity” in Ecuador. USAID canceled its aid shortly after.

For Beeton, “lack of transparency is probably the biggest problem (with USAID) in that it really prevents the governments in the host countries from finding something objectionable, or even coordinating better”. This was in large part the principle concern from the Ecuadorian Seteci, who questioned the extent of expenditures on certain project and the lack of coordination.

In the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake, CEPR conducted an extensive evaluation of USAID funding to Haiti, including the history of funding, and found transparency and coordination with local government to be a significant problem, especially when the local government experienced tensions with U.S. foreign policy.

“The U.S. government has been perfectly happy to not coordinate with governments, and that has a lot to do with politics… it was under [former Haitian President] Aristide really saw a lot of assistance bypass the Haitian government and go to NGO, including violent opposition groups and so called democratic opposition groups much like what you are seeing recently in Venezuela and Bolivia,” said Beeton.

For 2013, the combined NED and USAID allocations for Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia alone totaled over US$60 million, with the bulk of these funds destined to Cuba and Ecuador. For the government and progressive social movements of these countries, there is a growing concern that these funds could be used to undertake what Chossudovsky qualified as a “consistent process of destabilizing government as part of non-conventional warfare, meaning you don’t send in the troops but you destabilize the government through so called colored revolutions or infiltrations.”

March 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Venezuelan Legislator Calls for Investigation of NGOs funded by USAID

cabello390849138.jpg_1718483346

Diosdado Cabello speaks at a press conference in this archive photo. (Photo: AVN )
teleSUR | October 17, 2014

The president of the Venezuelan National Assembly Diosdado Cabello called Friday on intelligence agencies to investigate Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the country that are funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Cabello’s call comes on the heels of the arrival of a representative of the U.S. government in Venezuela to meet with representatives of NGOs at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.

According to their website, USAID’s mission is “furthering America’s interests, while improving lives in the developing world.”

In practice, much of the work of USAID has been to support the activities of groups that are opposed to democratically elected governments. Cabello pointed to an NGO that has links to “Operation Liberty”, the group lead by Lorent Saleh, who is currently in custody on accusations of intent to commit terrorist acts in Venezuela.

Cabello has previously warned of the attempts by the U.S. and its allies to interfere in the internal affairs of Venezuela, saying, “This is one way for imperialism to finance conspiracy [against the government].”

Bolivia expelled USAID and its representatives from that country in 2013 due to their support of opposition groups opposed to the government of Evo Morales.

October 18, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

USAID Subversion in Latin America Not Limited to Cuba

By Dan Beeton | CEPR Americas Blog | April 4, 2014

A new investigation by the Associated Press into a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project to create a Twitter-style social media network in Cuba has received a lot of attention this week, with the news trending on the actual Twitter for much of the day yesterday when the story broke, and eliciting comment from various members of Congress and other policy makers. The “ZunZuneo” project, which AP reports was “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government,” was overseen by USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI). AP describes OTI as “a division that was created after the fall of the Soviet Union to promote U.S. interests in quickly changing political environments — without the usual red tape.” Its efforts to undermine the Cuban government are not unusual, however, considering the organization’s track record in other countries in the region.

As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot described in an interview with radio station KPFA’s “Letters and Politics” yesterday, USAID and OTI in particular have engaged in various efforts to undermine the democratically-elected governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Haiti, among others, and such “open societies” could be more likely to be impacted by such activities than Cuba. Declassified U.S. government documents show that USAID’s OTI in Venezuela played a central role in funding and working with groups and individuals following the short-lived 2002 coup d’etat against Hugo Chávez. A key contractor for USAID/OTI in that effort has been Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI).

More recent State Department cables made public by Wikileaks reveal that USAID/OTI subversion in Venezuela extended into the Obama administration era (until 2010, when funded for OTI in Venezuela appears to have ended), and DAI continued to play an important role. A State Department cable from November 2006 explains the U.S. embassy’s strategy in Venezuela and how USAID/OTI “activities support [the] strategy”:

(S) In August of 2004, Ambassador outlined the country team’s 5 point strategy to guide embassy activities in Venezuela for the period 2004) 2006 (specifically, from the referendum to the 2006 presidential elections). The strategy’s focus is: 1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.

Among the ways in which USAID/OTI have supported the strategy is through the funding and training of protest groups. This August 2009 cable cites the head of USAID/OTI contractor DAI’s Venezuela office Eduardo Fernandez as saying, during 2009 protests, that all the protest organizers are DAI grantees:

¶5. (S) Fernandez told DCM Caulfield that he believed the [the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps’] dual objective is to obtain information regarding DAI’s grantees and to cut off their funding. Fernandez said that “the streets are hot,” referring to growing protests against Chavez’s efforts to consolidate power, and “all these people (organizing the protests) are our grantees.” Fernandez has been leading non-partisan training and grant programs since 2004 for DAI in Venezuela.”

The November 2006 cable describes an example of USAID/OTI partners in Venezuela “shut[ting] down [a] city”:

11. (S) CECAVID: This project supported an NGO working with women in the informal sectors of Barquisimeto, the 5th largest city in Venezuela. The training helped them negotiate with city government to provide better working conditions. After initially agreeing to the women’s conditions, the city government reneged and the women shut down the city for 2 days forcing the mayor to return to the bargaining table. This project is now being replicated in another area of Venezuela.

The implications for the current situation in Venezuela are obvious, unless we are to assume that such activities have ended despite the tens of millions of dollars in USAID funds designated for Venezuela, some of it going through organizations such as Freedom House, and the International Republican Institute, some of which also funded groups involved in the 2002 coup (which prominent IRI staff publicly applauded at the time).

The same November 2006 cable notes that one OTI program goal is to bolster international support for the opposition:

…DAI has brought dozens of international leaders to Venezuela, university professors, NGO members, and political leaders to participate in workshops and seminars, who then return to their countries with a better understanding of the Venezuelan reality and as stronger advocates for the Venezuelan opposition.

Many of the thousands of cables originating from the U.S. embassy in Caracas that have been made available by Wikileaks describe regular communication and coordination with prominent opposition leaders and groups. One particular favorite has been the NGO Súmate and its leader Maria Corina Machado, who has made headlines over the past two months for her role in the protest movement. The cables show that Machado historically has taken more extreme positions than some other opposition leaders, and the embassy has at least privately questioned Súmate’s strategy of discrediting Venezuela’s electoral system which in turn has contributed to opposition defeats at the polls (most notably in 2005 when an opposition boycott led to complete Chavista domination of the National Assembly). The current protests are no different; Machado and Leopoldo López launched “La Salida” campaign at the end of January with its stated goal of forcing president Nicolás Maduro from office, and vowing to “create chaos in the streets.”

USAID support for destabilization is no secret to the targeted governments. In September 2008, in the midst of a violent, racist and pro-secessionist campaign against the democratically-elected government of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Morales expelled the U.S. Ambassador, and Venezuela followed suit “in solidarity.” Bolivia would later end all USAID involvement in Bolivia after the agency refused to disclose whom it was funding in the country (Freedom of Information Act requests had been independently filed but were not answered).  The U.S. embassy in Bolivia had previously been caught asking Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholars in the country to engage in espionage.

Commenting on the failed USAID/OTI ZunZuneo program in Cuba, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) commented that, “That is not what USAID should be doing[.] USAID is flying the American flag and should be recognized around the globe as an honest broker of doing good. If they start participating in covert, subversive activities, the credibility of the United States is diminished.”

But USAID’s track record of engaging in subversive activities is a long one, and U.S. credibility as an “honest broker” was lost many years ago.

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

USAID Caught Using Tweets to Try and Overthrow a Government

The Hummingbird Tweet: An Espionage Tale
USAID-Logo

By Alfredo Lopez | This Can’t Be Happening | April 3, 2014

For two years, starting in 2010, the United States Agency for International Development ran a social networking service — similar to Twitter — for the Cuban people. Its long-term objective was to foment popular revolt against the government and destabilize the country.

They called it “ZunZuneo” (Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s “tweet”) and launched it under absolute secrecy about who was really running it. “There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from one of the companies supposedly running the service. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the mission.”

The “mission” was to reach a critical mass of Cuban users by offering tweets on sports, entertainment and light news over the service and signing recipients up through word of mouth — you call a phone number and your phone is hooked up. With that critical mass in place, the tweets would start getting more political: inspiring Cuban citizens to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice to spark a kind of a “Cuban Spring” or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

At one point there were 40,000 Cubans getting ZunZuneo tweets but the project was abandoned in 2012 when the initial funding ran out and the people who own the real Twitter refused to take it on.

The story, an investigative report by the Associated Press, is probably not surprising to most people in this country. After the NSA revelations, what could possibly surprise us? And besides, it would not be the first time that USAID was found doing the nefarious work of the CIA at undermining governments. But it is an embarrassing revelation about how our government is using the Internet and about how “hot” the Cold War remains.

There are also some serious legal issues.

One of the main organizers of the project — Joe McSpedon of the USAID — met with officials from a variety of fronting “sponsor companies” to launch the project in 2009-2010.

From the start, the program’s objective was clear: to de-stablize the government of Cuba, and destabilizing governments is something the United States is proficient at. There are few areas of the world whose history doesn’t include an attempt, often successful, by United States to overthrow a government. In fact, in Venezuela, Ukraine and various parts of Africa, South America and the “Middle East”, such efforts are currently ongoing. In most of these cases, the propaganda-preparing and deceit-dispensing USAID plays a central role.

But some U.S. Congressional officials seemed to think this went further. Vermont Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Appropriations Committee’s State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, called the program “dumb, dumb, dumb” today on MSNBC. He denied knowing anything of the program but said that, if he had, “I would have said, ‘What in heaven’s name are you thinking?’”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that the government was only thinking of improving Cuban’s lives and had done everything “by the law”.

But that’s questionable. The program’s initial recruitment drive was based on a list of a half million Cuban cellphone users apparently stolen from Cuba’s most prominent cellphone company. An employee of that company apparently gave up the information to USAID. Those are stolen phone numbers and also involved an invasion of privacy, which is illegal under any law.

The USAID staffers also set up a series of “front” companies in Spain, Mexico and possibly other countries, to act as the new service’s sponsors. The service, with those companies displaying phony ads and messages on its website, then texted the half million stolen numbers with an offer to join up. That goes way beyond “false advertising” and is absolutely illegal in most countries, including the United States.

Finally, there is the intent of the program (the real reason that USAID wanted to hide its role). You can insult other leaders and even threaten them under international law, but you can not, ever, intervene to overthrow another country’s government. That the United States does this all the time only means that it’s breaking the law all the time.

The exposure of the Zunzuneo story is likely to lead to a new look at the role of USAID in other parts of the world where there are seemingly “popular” risings against elected governments, such as Ukraine and Venezuela.

The truth is that this Zunzuneo program actually addressed a real need, or at least took advantage of one. Cuban communications officials have been reluctant to open Internet access to the country. Then there are the problems of a still developing infrastructure (electricity and phone wires are still in scarce supply). Plus there is the lack of home computers, which only exacerbates the problem. With cell phones now available to many Cubans, the thirst for an information source over the Internet is increasingly being felt.

Which is one good reason many other Latin American leaders, some of them friends of Cuba, are advising the Cuban government to make connectivity a priority in their country. Without an on-line connection to the rest of the world, exploitative criminals like those at the USAID can make their moves.

 

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 1 Comment

US scraps ‘glossy propaganda’ plans for Afghanistan aid projects

RT | February 14, 2014

A US federal agency that sought to pay photographers for “positive images” of its work in Afghanistan has canceled the program. The project, created to combat negative news coverage, collapsed amid charges that the effort amounted to propaganda.

Using US$1 billion on aid programs in Afghanistan, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) solicited proposals on Monday for a project that aimed to “help inform Afghans about the assistance American taxpayers are providing,” an anonymous USAID official told USA Today of Thursday’s decision.

“The wording of the (request) did not appropriately articulate that purpose and is being re-evaluated,” the official said.

In addition to targeting Afghans, the program was intended to gather support in the United States for USAID initiatives in Afghanistan. Over 12 years old, the war in Afghanistan is highly unpopular with the American public, if the war can be called an issue of popular awareness at all. A CNN poll released at the New Year found record low 17 percent support for the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.

The proposal was quickly criticized by a public advocacy group as a blatant hype campaign.

“USAID should instead be focusing on accomplishing mission goals, not glossy propaganda,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a non-partisan government watchdog organization. “Waste, fraud, and poor performance have already resulted in billions being lost, let’s not throw additional money down the drain.”

The agency called the budding program one that would serve to show positive influences of US aid in the war-torn country amid the “negative” images usually shown by news organizations.

“USAID is executing the most massive US international assistance campaign ever, and the gains particularly in health and education have been impressive, yet the overwhelming majority of pictures recording that effort are negative, and at least to some extent misleading,” the solicitation reads. “This is because professional photographers working for news agencies are the prime source of high-quality images of USAID work in Afghanistan. News photographs by their very nature focus on the negative.”

Top objectives of the project included countering negative representations of Afghanistan, distributing those images through USAID social media, and to establish a long-term contract that would continually provide such images “to conventional media and directly to the US public.”

USAID also sought to influence American thought on efforts in Afghanistan.

“The US and Afghan publics require accurate, well-balanced information about USAID work abroad,” the proposal states. “Currently, this requirement is not being met in Afghanistan.”

USAID did not disclose how much contract photographers would earn for the photos.

The announcement of the “positive image” proposal on Monday came alongside the unveiling of three new USAID development programs worth almost $300 million to wean Afghanistan off its ‘war economy,’ which is heavily subsidized today by opium exports – a trade that had been practically squashed while the country was under Taliban rule.

Under the USAID initiative, $125 million will go to reviving Afghanistan’s food and farm sector, and another $77 million to opening up the country to greater international trade and investment. The last program, valued at about $100 million, would seek to assist Afghanistan’s educational system.

A report released late last month by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that Afghanistan cannot be trusted to properly spend the millions of dollars it receives in aid from the United States. The report found that none of Afghanistan’s 16 ministries could be entrusted with USAID funds without high risk of that assistance being stolen or wasted.

In September, the SIGAR chastised USAID for poor oversight of money the agency spent there. A SIGAR report highlighted how USAID gave over $230 million to the Afghan Ministry of Health with little guidance for how the money was to be spent.

“Despite financial management deficiencies at the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, USAID continues to provide millions of US taxpayer dollars in direct assistance with little assurance that the (ministry) is using these funds as intended,” according to the SIGAR report.

Meanwhile, after a long, protracted struggle that sought to convince Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to approve a security deal, the US is considering leaving the issue suspended until the Afghan presidential elections in April in order to address Karzai’s successor.

The Obama administration has long hoped to get the long-lasting bilateral security deal with Kabul signed by the end of 2013, yet Karzai has refused to take responsibility for leaving a several thousand-strong US military contingent in the country beyond 2014.

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador: Government Announces End of Cooperation with USAID

By Lucy Adler | The Argentina Independent | December 17, 2013

Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa (photo by Miguel Ángel Romero/Ecuadorean presidency)

Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa (photo by Miguel Ángel Romero/Ecuadorean presidency)

The Ecuadorian government released a statement on Monday announcing that the country would no longer be collaborating with USAID, a US agency for International development.

The Ministry for International Development (SETECI) released a statement explaining the decision to cut ties with USAID. “The last bilateral cooperation programme between Ecuador and the US was signed in 2007 and the projects resulting from this collaboration are now finishing. Given that we have not negotiated a new a agreement, SETECI has informed USAID that they cannot carry out any new projects, nor extend the deadlines of projects currently underway.” The statement added that cooperation would remain suspended “until our governments negotiate and sign a new bilateral cooperation agreement”.

According to the SETECI, since 2007, USAID had invested a yearly average of US$32mn in initiatives in Ecuador, the majority of which were implemented by local and international NGOs.

The United States ambassador in Quito also released a statement on the matter, indicating that over the last two years the two countries had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate “an agreement which would allow USAID’s work in Ecuador to continue”. The statement went on to say that due to the “indefinite freeze on USAID activities” implemented by the Ecuadorian government, the organisation would have to cancel four projects which looked to protect the environment and strengthen civil society, and which were currently underway.

In June 2012, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa had threatened to expel USAID from Ecuador after accusing the organisation of giving financial support to opposition groups and getting involved in the country’s internal politics. At the time he said that other countries in the region were also considering ending relations with USAID.

In May 2013, Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled USAID from Bolivia, stating that the agency was conspiring against his government.

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

L.A. Times’ Distorted Report on USAID

By Steve Rendall | FAIR | May 10, 2013

“USAID Develops a Bad Reputation Among Some Foreign Leaders,” read a May 7 Los Angeles Times headline, followed by the subhead:

The U.S. Agency for International Development doesn’t just offer aid to the poor, it also promotes democracy, which is seen as meddlesome or even subversive.

Fighting poverty and spreading democracy–what’s not to like?

And so, the report seems to suggest, there’s something a little off about foreign leaders, nine in recent years, who’ve expelled the agency.  Why else would Bolivian President Evo Morales expel an anti-poverty group from his “impoverished” country, if he wasn’t just a little bit crazy? And Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t be playing with a full deck either; he recently expelled USAID and a bird lovers group.

Of course, these leaders and other USAID critics aren’t crazy; they argue that USAID undermines national sovereignty and democracy. The story includes charges that USAID manipulates the internal politics of host nations, but it leaves the allegations unexplored and lets supporters bat them away. In one case, reporter Paul Richter quotes an anonymous U.S. official on USAID critics:

“This is the empire striking back,” said a senior Obama administration official, who asked not to be identified because of diplomatic sensitivities. He insisted that USAID does not try to undermine governments.

Someone doesn’t have a firm grasp on the meaning the word “empire,” which applies much more accurately to U.S.’s role in these relationships. A fact that might be better understood by the reader if Richter had bothered to mention USAID’s sordid history of bolstering U.S. imperial goals.

USAID’s publicly stated goals include “furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets.” Readers aren’t told about that, nor are they informed that in pursuing these goals the agency has frequently partnered with the CIA, as in the ’60s and ’70s when its now-closed Office of Public Safety trained foreign police in counterinsurgency techniques–including torture. Not exactly what jumps to mind when one imagines a democracy-promoting institution.

The report also fails to mention how for decades USAID has undermined popular democratic organizing in Third World countries by, among other things, creating parallel “popular” organizations, such as labor unions, in order to weaken authentic grassroots movements.

And just last month, U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks revealed that USAID and its Office of Transition Initiatives had been secretly tasked with destabilizing Venezuela’s democratically elected government. As historian and U.S. foreign policy critic William Blum points out, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives

is one of the many euphemisms that American diplomats use with each other and the world–they say it means a transition to “democracy.” What it actually means is a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs.

But mentioning any of that might make USAID critics look rational, even like defenders of democracy. Which is, of course, crazy–if your worldview requires a belief that U.S. interests are synonymous with democracy.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on L.A. Times’ Distorted Report on USAID

Bolivia Expels USAID: Not Why, but Why Not Sooner

By Jake Johnston | CEPR | May 1, 2013

At a speech celebrating May Day in Bolivia today, President Evo Morales announced the expulsion of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from the country. According to the AP, Morales stated:

“The United States does not lack institutions that continue to conspire, and that’s why I am using this gathering to announce that we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia.”

The role of USAID in Bolivia has been a primary point of contention between the U.S. and Bolivia dating back to at least 2006. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell characterized Morales’ statement as “baseless allegations.” While State Department spokespeople and many commentators will characterize USAID’s work with oppositional groups as appropriate, a look at the agency’s work over the past decade paints a very different picture.

Documents obtained by investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood show that as early as 2002, USAID funded a “Political Party Reform Project,” which sought to “serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS [Morales’ political party] or its successors.” Later USAID began a program “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” some of which were pushing for regional autonomy and were involved in the September 2008 destabilization campaign that left some 20 indigenous Bolivians dead. Meanwhile, the U.S. has continually refused to disclose the recipients of aid funds. As a recent CEPR report on USAID activities in Haiti concluded, U.S. aid often goes into a “black box” where it becomes impossible to determine who the ultimate recipients actually are.

Some of these USAID programs were implemented by the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) from the period 2004-2007. A document obtained by CEPR through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals the role OTI plays in U.S. foreign policy. The document notes that OTI “seeks to focus its resources where they will have the greatest impact on U.S. diplomatic and security interests,” adding that “OTI cannot create a transition or impose democracy, but it can identify and support key individuals and groups who are committed to peaceful, participatory reform. In short, OTI acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will.” It was through OTI that USAID was funding regional governments prior to the September 2008 events.

While USAID has since closed the OTI office in Bolivia, and overall funding levels have been greatly reduced, USAID has still channeled at least $200 million into the country since 2009.

Wikileaks Revelations

Wikileaks cables reveal that the U.S. has long taken an adversarial approach to the Morales government, while even acknowledging the clandestine and oppositional nature of U.S. aid.

In one cable written by Ambassador Greenlee from January 2006, just months after Morales’ election, he notes that “U.S. assistance, the largest of any bilateral donor by a factor of three, is often hidden by our use of third parties to dispense aid with U.S. funds.” In the same cable, Greenlee acknowledges that “[m]any USAID-administered economic programs run counter to the direction the GOB [Government of Bolivia] wishes to move the country.”

The cable goes on to outline a “carrot and sticks” approach to the new Bolivian government, outlining possible actions to be taken to pressure the government to take “positive policy actions.” Three areas where the U.S. would focus were on coca policy, the nationalization of hydrocarbons (which “would have a negative impact on U.S. investors”) and the forming of the constituent assembly to write a new constitution.  Possible sticks included; using veto authority within the Inter-American Development Bank to oppose loans to Bolivia, postponing debt cancellation and threatening to suspend trade benefits.

Another cable, also written by Greenlee, reporting on a meeting between U.S. officials and the Morales government notes that the Ambassador stated in the meeting, “When you think of the IDB, you should think of the U.S…. This is not blackmail, it is simple reality.”

Later cables, as reported by Green Left Weekly, show the U.S. role in fomenting dissent within indigenous groups and other social movements.

Not Why, But Why Not Sooner

The AP spoke with Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, reporting that she “was not surprised by the expulsion itself but by the fact that Morales took so long to do it after repeated threats.” Given the amount of evidence in declassified documents that point to U.S. aid funds going to opposition groups and being used to bolster opposition to the Morales government, the expulsion indeed comes as little surprise. Further, as evidence continues to mount of the role of USAID in undermining governments, governments from across the region have become more openly critical of the U.S. aid agency.

As Brazilian investigative journalist Natalia Viana recently detailed in The Nation, USAID was funding groups in Paraguay that would eventually be involved in the ouster of President Lugo. Viana writes that through USAID’s largest program in Paraguay, they would end up supporting “some of the very institutions that would play a central role in impeaching Lugo six years later, including not just the police force but the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court.”

Additionally, the role of USAID in funding opposition groups in Venezuela has been well documented. A recently released Wikileaks cable reveals the U.S. government’s five point strategy for Venezuela, which the cable makes clear USAID worked to implement. The goals were; “1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.”

Last June, immediately following the Paraguay coup, the ALBA group of countries (of which Bolivia is a member) signed a declaration requesting that “the heads of state and the government of the states who are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives from their countries, due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.”

At the time, President Correa of Ecuador stated that he was writing up new rules for USAID engagement in the country and that “If they don’t want to follow them, then ‘So long.’” While Bolivia may be the first of these countries to actually expel USAID, the question may not be why Bolivia is doing this, but rather why didn’t Bolivia do this sooner?

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Bolivia Expels USAID: Not Why, but Why Not Sooner