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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT | April 18, 2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels!

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Bernie Sanders’ Foreign Policy Vision is Incoherent and Dangerous

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., steps off a Black Hawk helicopter at the Afghan National Police Academy Feb. 20, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ernesto Hernandez Fonte | DVIDS
By Alex Rubinstein | MintPress News | April 16, 2019

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is now leading the pack of Democratic contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination. In the previous election cycle, Sanders served as an anti-establishment underdog, bucking Democratic orthodoxy with a strong progressive economic message. But this time the field is more crowded with like-minded candidates –“progressives” like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. It follows then that in order to distinguish himself, Sanders needs visionary solutions to problems outside of the economic realm. In the foreign policy arena, however, he is looking for inspiration on Israel-Palestine from tried-and-failed Democratic presidents of the past — namely, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton — all while echoing Trump and Bush Jr. administration talking points.

Sanders has also brought one Robert Malley onto his foreign policy team. Malley served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council as “Special Assistant to President Obama & Senior Adviser to the President for the Counter-ISIL Campaign” from February 2014 to January 2017. Under his watch, the U.S led operations which saw the near-total destruction of the historic cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Despite this, the New York Times opinion section has said Sanders “stands as one of the few candidates with a fully formed vision for American foreign policy,” while The Atlantic claims “It’s Foreign Policy That Distinguishes Bernie This Time.”

As journalist Mathew Yglesias — who is not necessarily known for his moral clarity but is indisputably one of the more knowledgeable wonks on Washington’s most boring inner workings — noted, “There are two main things the president actually does — executive branch appointments, which nobody is really talking about, and then foreign policy.”

Sanders has worked hard to lay out his 2020 foreign policy vision in April. It was the subject of an in-depth article in The New Yorker, and he also touched briefly on it in a Fox News town hall on Monday.

In the New Yorker piece, journalist Benjamin Wallace-Wells recounts his interview with Sanders and his foreign policy advisor, Matt Duss, a former “Policy Analyst” at the notoriously anti-Sanders Center for American Progress, which receives funding from the United Arab Emirates.

Right away, Wallace-Wells notes that “Sanders had scarcely talked about foreign affairs in his 2016 campaign.” This time seems different, however.

Still, Sanders hasn’t done all of his homework, and openly admits it. After getting into some of the nitty-gritty of international affairs and the historic role of U.S. foreign policy, Sanders concedes to Wallace-Wells:

Let me — I should have prefaced everything that I said by saying I most certainly do not believe that I have all the answers, or that this is easy stuff. I mean, you’re dealing with so much — my God.”

A bit later in the story, Sanders seems to blame the ignorance he just owned up to for much of the world’s woes: “You know, a lot of attitudes about foreign policy are based on lack of knowledge.”

A decent staff, except . . .

Earnestly, Wallace-Wells notes that Sanders’ full foreign policy team left him “surprised” by “how mainstream they seemed.”

Among them:

Joe Cirincione, the antinuclear advocate; … Robert Malley, who coördinated Middle East policy in Obama’s National Security Council and is now the president of the International Crisis Group; Suzanne DiMaggio, a specialist in negotiations with adversaries at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Vali Nasr, the dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced Studies at Johns Hopkins and a specialist in the Shia-Sunni divide.”

Joe Cirincione is a well-known and well-respected progressive figure devoted to denuclearization. Suzanne DiMaggio, for her part, has received praise from Timothy Shorrock — a leading progressive journalist focused on the defense industry and the Korean Peninsula. Her words have also been featured by 38 North, which is arguably the fairest outlet focusing on North Korea and is distinguished by its facts-first approach. She is, however, indisputably part of the establishment, and is respected enough by members of the U.S. Senate that her advice was sought after Trump agreed to an initial meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Like DiMaggio, Vali Nasr appears to be cut from the cloth of dovish foreign policy “experts.” He once wrote: “Without Iran’s military reach and the strength of its network of allies and clients in Iraq and Syria, ISIS would have quickly swept through Damascus, Baghdad, and Erbil.”

Malley is, in truth, the most objectionable of Sanders’ foreign policy team. As Wallace-Wells noted, Malley served as Obama’s Middle East coordinator.

He also worked as an advisor to Obama on the U.S. counter-ISIS campaign up until January 2017. That campaign, notably, included the destruction of Raqqa (80 percent destroyed) and Mosul (eight million tons of debris and 90 percent of the Western portion of the city destroyed.) Malley also spent six months as a Senior Fellow at the ultra-hawkish Council on Foreign Relations think tank.

And Malley also worked for about two and a half years under Clinton as his “Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs.” He has previously caught the attention of the venerable Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah, who has tweeted:

Malley isn’t ‘pro-Palestinian.’ He’s a liberal Zionist who believes in and wants to bring about ‘two state’ segregation by soft means.

Peace process industrialists like Robert Malley can never recognize role of BDS or speak openly about [a] one-state solution.”

On Israel-Palestine, Sanders invoked former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton as a source of inspiration for him.

As MintPress News has previously covered the policies of those presidents (in contrast with the positioning of President Donald Trump):

Unlike previous U.S. presidents, who have meddled in Israeli elections in order to support peace processes, Trump is doing the opposite by appeasing the settler movement… While Washington orthodoxy dictates strict adherence to a two-state solution, the idea has long stalled a real resolution to Israeli apartheid, as Israeli settlers continue to make bold land grabs. The far-right president, in bucking the trend of supporting peace processes so doomed, coupled with the far-right prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu], now emboldened by his fifth premiership, are on a path to see the total disappearance of historical Palestine from the map.”

There is no doubt that Sanders’ presidency would make a real solution to Israeli apartheid less improbable than a second Trump term would. Nor is their any doubt that his foreign policy is markedly less hawkish than that of many in the Democratic field. But he is also flanked from the left by candidates like Tulsi Gabbard and Mike Gravel, and so it is worth examining his milquetoast antidotes with this context in mind.

Sanders’ “solutions”

Sanders — despite being almost 80 years old — is getting hip to the desires of young progressives in the foreign policy realm. As DiMaggio correctly points out: “The case for restraint seems to be gaining ground, particularly in its rejection of preventive wars and efforts to change the regimes of countries that do not directly threaten the United States.”

In other words, the “humanitarian intervention” canard is losing its selling power. Moreover, Sanders rightfully puts more blame on the U.S. for various foreign policy failures over the years. He says:

“How many people in the United States understand that we overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran to put in the Shah? Which then led to the Revolution. How many people in this country do you think know that? So we’re going to have to do a little bit of educating on that.”

But Iran’s revolution was 40 years ago — about half of Sanders’ lifetime. When it comes to Iran today, Sanders differs drastically from the aforementioned views of Nasr, which painted Iran as a force for anti-terrorism in the Middle East. Sanders explicitly rejected this conception of Iran, saying Tehran is “involved in terrorism, doing a lot of bad things.”

In the case of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as the Israel-Palestine conflict, Sanders makes “both sides” arguments. On Saudi Arabia, he says “I don’t see why we’d be following the lead or seen as a very, very close ally of a despotic, un-democratic regime.”

Of course, Saudi Arabia is a theocratic petro-monarchy. Denouncing it as “un-democratic” is about the least imaginative criticism conceivable. To Sanders’ credit, however, he has been a leader in efforts to put an end to U.S. support for the Saudi war on Yemen.

Sanders went even further on Fox News, arguing that “Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

For a moment, imagine that Sanders had used that same phrasing regarding Israel, whose lobbyists hold far more sway over elected officials in the U.S.: he would be relentlessly condemned as anti-Semitic or a “self-loathing Jew” — at least, presumably, as he has never made criticism so harsh of the apartheid state and its America lobby. He did, however, say that Representative Ilhan Omar can do a “better job in speaking to the Jewish community,” but rejected the idea that she is an anti-Semite.

Regarding the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which Sanders seems to mischaracterize as religious instead of geopolitical, he said the U.S., under his watch, would not be “going to be spending trillions of dollars and losing American lives because of [their] long-standing hostilities.”

On Israel-Palestine, Sanders said the following:

While I am very critical of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s right-wing government, I am not impressed by what I am seeing from Palestinian leadership, as well.

It’s corrupt in many cases, and certainly not effective.”

It is true that Hamas has had problems with corruption, and the Palestinian Authority is far from effective. But Hamas was democratically elected to lead Gaza. In contrast, Netanyahu won his fifth premiership with help from his Likud Party, which hired a PR firm to place 1,200 hidden cameras in Arab polling places. The firm even boasted that, in those areas, the cameras and the uproar they caused “managed to lower the voter turnout to under 50 percent, the lowest in years!”

Sanders’ prescription for the Israel-Palestine conflict is to cut U.S. aid to Israel. But asked whether the aid would be “contingent” on “fuller political rights for Palestinians,” Sanders said he’s “not going to get into the specifics.”

Sanders has previously rejected the prospect of equal rights for Palestinians, saying in 2017 that “if that happens,” in the context of a one-state solution, “that would be the end of Israel.” In the same interview, Sanders said “I don’t support [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement],” which seeks to economically pressure Israel and Israeli companies into ending apartheid and respecting Palestinian human rights.

In other words, the proper way to reproach Israeli apartheid is to stop giving Israel free handouts. Sanders himself noted that “$3.8 billion is a lot of money!” But sanctioning Israel for its human rights abuses is out of the question.

Let us use a quick metaphor to describe this approach: your child is throwing a fit in the supermarket, knocking over racks of goods and shoveling cereal boxes onto the ground. Instead of grounding them, you say “that’s it! We’re not going to the toy store.”

This approach is in line with his hardline economic angles on almost every issue. In the New Yorker article, Sanders said that the $6 trillion spent on the War on Terror since 2001 is “an unbelievable amount of money.” But the human cost of the War on Terror goes unmentioned.

“I’m not proposing anything particularly radical,” Sanders admitted. “And that is that the United States should have an even-handed approach both to Israel and the Palestinians.”

Perhaps even more troubling than Sanders’ views on Israel are his positions on Venezuela. He expressed worry at what he calls the “rise of a new authoritarian axis” — echoing the “Axis of evil” talking point elevated by George W. Bush.

Asked whether Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, was part of that axis, Sanders said:

Yeah. …

It is a failed regime. From all of the recent evidence, it appears that the election was fraudulent. And, despite his ideology, what we need to see is democracy established in Venezuela. That does not mean deciding that some politician is the new President, who never won any election.

The world community has got to be mindful of the humanitarian suffering and the hunger that’s going on in Venezuela right now. But, at the end of the day, I think what you want in one of the largest countries in Latin America is free and fair elections, and we want to do everything we can to establish democracy there.”

There is no evidence of electoral fraud in Venezuela. It is also worth noting that, while Sanders rejected the U.S.-backed coup leader Juan Guaidó, his inclusion of Venezuela in the “authoritarian axis” follows in the footsteps of the Trump administration’s own rebrand of the “axis of evil” — the “troika of tyranny.” While Sanders undoubtedly has ruled out the possibility of a military intervention in Venezuela should he become president, he says nothing of rolling back sanctions against Venezuela — or Iran, for that matter.

“I have reviewed sanctions across the world. Very few of them have really been a positive, helpful factor,” the UN special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures recently told The Grayzone. “It’s like going into microsurgery using a kitchen knife. It’s a very blunt tool to achieve [regime change].”

While Sanders positions himself as an anti-war candidate, so too did Trump. And he echoes the Trump talking points: China and Russia are our enemies; Maduro won his presidency through election fraud; and Iran is a sponsor of terror.

In a rare mainstream media broadcasting of an anti-interventionist Syrian-American, a real estate agent named Tony asked Sanders in his town hall on Fox News on Monday whether he would “partake in any foreign affairs that don’t directly affect our national security,” adding, “I believe we need to stay out of Syria, Venezuela, and other countries.”

Sanders’ immediately touted his anti-Iraq war credentials before doing the same regarding his record on Yemen. But before long, he said, “clearly we are concerned about China and concerned about Russia.”

“Clearly we need a strong defense,” Sanders added.

Sanders has previously, and repeatedly, called for countries that have funded and armed the jihadist proxy war in Syria — Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, et al. — to “get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground” in Syria.

Imagine all the farmers

One anecdote from the New Yorker article lays bare the candidate’s half baked solutions to foreign policy as a chief executive:

He remembered, in a gauzy way, a program he had overseen as the mayor of Burlington, in which kids from his city traveled to the Soviet city of Yaroslavl, and Russian children traveled to Vermont.”

Sanders has sought to implement similar solutions even more recently, having proposed a failed amendment to dedicate 0.1 percent of the military budget “to support exchange programs to bring foreign teenagers to the U.S. and send American kids abroad.”

“To bring farmers from Turkey to farmers in Iowa. You know, just to get people to see each other as human beings. I think it could go a distance,” Sanders said.

Turkey? More like bologna. While a Soviet-U.S. exchange program, during the Cold War, is a solid program that could have, if nationally implemented, perhaps even altered the course of world history, the prospect of Turkish farmers going to Iowa or vice-versa seems purposefully meaningless. Turkey is, after all, a nuke-holding NATO ally.

Wallce-Wells, the New Yorker reporter, smartly noted that Sanders’ list of enemies — the “authoritarian axis” — was a lot better defined than his list of allies. And so, he “asked about where he thought his allies might come from.” The candidate deflected from offering a real strategy, however, arguing that climate change will help usher in a new era of global solidarity and peacebuilding.

Maybe I’m wrong on this, or maybe I’m seeing something that other people don’t see, but I look at climate change as a very, very serious threat — to the entire planet, to every country on earth.”

Sanders made the exact same deflection in his Fox News town hall. After bloviating about “concerns” with Russia and China, he placed climate change front and center of the “national security” debate.

This vision for a new era of international cooperation is lofty and utopian enough to make even John Lennon’s eyes roll in his grave.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

EU finds no ‘evidence’ Kaspersky Lab software spies for Russia, despite claims by US

RT | April 18, 2019

A recently published document reveals the European Commission has no evidence that Kaspersky Lab software spies on users on behalf of the Russian government, despite the EU and US labeling it “malicious.”

“The Commission is not in possession of any evidence regarding potential issues related to the use of Kaspersky Lab products,” reads a letter from an EC representative to a Belgian member of parliament, dated last Friday.

The European Commission was responding to a request by Belgian MEP Gerolf Annemans who asked last month if it knows “of any reason other than certain press articles that justifies the labelling of Kaspersky as ‘dangerous’ or ‘malicious’.” Annemans also wanted to know if other programs and devices, other than those of Kaspersky, were also flagged as “malicious.”

Reacting to the latest EU letter, Kaspersky said, “this is another evidence not to let the geopolitical agenda fool you with fake news.”

The EU’s proclamation of Kaspersky software as “malicious” did not happen in a vacuum. The announcement came at a time of unprecedented Russian hysteria, originating in the US. In 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation was in its infancy, talk of collusion dominated the airwaves… and Kaspersky wasn’t left untouched either.

The Department of Homeland Security banned all federal agencies from using Kaspersky software in September 2017, citing national security concerns but providing no evidence. Company founder and Chief Executive Eugene Kaspersky denounced the move as “baseless paranoia at best,” and the company filed a lawsuit.

Later, Kaspersky found its ads banned from Twitter and its products pulled from store shelves at Best Buy. Eugene Kaspersky called the Twitter ban a case of “blatant censorship.”

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

How Has Former MI6 Spymaster Richard Dearlove Dodged Scrutiny Despite Links To Russiagate?

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 04/18/2019

One of the figures involved in the Obama administration’s “Russiagate” scandal who has largely avoided scrutiny is former MI6 spymaster Sir Richard Dearlove, who is intimately linked to several key players in what many now believe was a high-level Set-up against the Trump campaign during the 2016 US election.

Dearlove, who served as chief of MI6 from 1999 to 2004, had contact during the 2016 campaign with dossier author Christopher Steele. He is also a close colleague of Stefan Halper, the alleged FBI and CIA informant who established contact with several Trump campaign advisers. Dearlove and Halper attended a Cambridge political event in July 2016 where Halper had his first contact with Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. –Daily Caller

Of note, Dearlove is best known for peddling a report alleging that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, which then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair used to justify launching a war against Iraq.

In 2014, the retired British spymaster hosted an event at Cambridge University along with Halper. In attendance was then-director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn, as well as a Russian-born college student Svetlana Lokhova. Both Dearlove and Halper reportedly expressed concerns about Flynn’s contacts with Lokhova – which the 38-year-old Russian-born academic says is complete bullshit.

 

Stefan Halper and the Pentagon, which paid him over $1 million during the Obama administration for “research.”

General Flynn was the guest of honor and he sat on one side of the table in the middle. I sat on the opposite side of the table to Flynn next to Richard Dearlove because I was the only woman at dinner, and it’s a British custom that the only woman gets to sit next to the host,” Lokhova told Fox News, who added that she has never been alone with Flynn. On the contrary, the unplanned encounter was professional and mildly productive.

Sir Richard Dearlove (L), Prof. Christopher Andrew (center), and then-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn (R), at Cambridge University, Feb. 28, 2014. (Photo courtesy Svetlana Lokhova via the Daily Caller)

Dearlove – who has feigned not knowing “Trump-Russia” dossier author Christopher Steele, discussed ongoing matters with the former MI6 spy during a meeting in London’s posh Garrick Club according to the Washington Post.

And as the Daily Caller‘s Chuck Ross points out, “Despite his presence at those key junctures, Dearlove has mostly dodged media attention, as well as that of American lawmakers investigating the origins of the Russia probe,” adding “That’s perhaps a testament to Dearlove’s 38 years in MI6.

As journalist Daniel Lazare wrote last year in Consortium News

A few things stand out about this august group.  One is its in-bred quality.  After helping to run an annual confab known as the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar, Dearlove and Halper are now partners in a private venture calling itself “The Cambridge Security Initiative.”  Both are connected to another London-based intelligence firm known as Hakluyt & Co. Halper is also connected via two books he wrote with Hakluyt representative Jonathan Clarke and Dearlove has a close personal friendship with Hakluyt founder Mike Reynolds, yet another MI6 vet.  Alexander Downer served a half-dozen years on Hakluyt’s international advisory board, while Andrew Wood is linked to Steele via Orbis Business Intelligence, the private research firm that Steele helped found, and which produced the anti-Trump dossier, and where Wood now serves as an unpaid advisor.

Everyone, in short, seems to know everyone else.  But another thing that stands out about this group is its incompetence.  Dearlove and Halper appear to be old-school paranoids for whom every Russian is a Boris Badenov or a Natasha Fatale.  In February 2014, Halper notified US intelligence that Mike Flynn, Trump’s future national security adviser, had grown overly chummy with an Anglo-Russian scholar named Svetlana Lokhova whom Halper suspected of being a spy – suspicions that Lokhova convincingly argues are absurd.

Dearlove, meanwhile, has showered praise upon Halper – a longtime suspected CIA and FBI informant, and has been involved in US politics at the highest levels for decades, becoming George H.W. Bush’s National Director for Policy Development during his presidential campaign. After Bush lost to Reagan, Halper worked as Reagan’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State – where he served under three different Secretaries.

He then became a senior advisor to the Department of Defense and DOJ between 1984 and 2001. Halper’s former father-in-law was Ray Cline, former Deputy Director of the CIA. He also allegedly spied on the Carter administration – collecting information on foreign policy (an account disputed by Ray Cline).

Halper received a DoD contract from the Obama administration for $411,575 – made in two payments, and had a start date of September 26, 2016 – three days after a September 23 Yahoo! News article by Michael Isikoff about Trump aide Carter Page, which used information fed to Isikoff by “pissgate” dossier creator Christopher Steele. The FBI would use the Yahoo! article along with the unverified “pissgate” dossier as supporting evidence in an FISA warrant application for Page.

Most famously, however, Halper is known for infiltrating the Trump campaign on behalf of the Obama DOJ – spying on advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, who he lured into his orbit under the guise of seeking legitimate professional relationships.

Meanwhile, his buddy Richard Dearlove has remained largely out of the spotlight despite his glaring connections to Russiagate.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Damascus should take control over northeast Syria: Russia FM

Press TV – April 18, 2019

Russia says the legitimate Syrian government should immediately take control over the country’s northeastern region, including the East Euphrates River, which is held by US-backed Kurdish militants.

“There is a need to resolve the issue concerning the country’s northeast and the left bank of the Euphrates River in order to achieve one of the priority tasks and ensure the restoration of the legitimate government’s control over the region,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The top Russian diplomat underlined the need to build dialog with Kurdish groups and secure the interests of Turkey “as far as security in Syria’s border areas is concerned.”

Northeastern Syria is currently controlled by the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus alliance of mainly Kurdish militants, which include the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

The United States is a key advocate of autonomy for Syrian Kurds which Damascus has roundly rejected.

Many observers believe Washington plans to carve out a foothold in the region through supporting Syrian Kurds.

In February, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flatly rejected the idea of giving Syrian Kurds a measure of autonomy, saying such a move would open the door to the partition of the country.

The Kurdish-led authority that runs much of north and east Syria has presented a roadmap for a deal with Assad in recent meetings with Russia.

Also in February, President Assad called on SDF militants to return to the Syrian army, warning them against reliance on the United States.

“We say to those groups who are betting on the Americans, the Americans will not protect you. The Americans will put you in their pockets so you can be tools in the barter, and they have started with it,” he said.

Russia has been helping Syrian forces in their fight against foreign-backed Takfiri militants. The military assistance began in September 2015 at the official request of the Syrian government.

Foreign-backed militancy, supported by the United States and many of its Western and regional allies, erupted in Syria in 2011.

The militants and Takfiri terrorists overran large swathes of Syria’s territory.

The Daesh terrorist group, which once held large swaths of land in Syria, has now been completely defeated in the Arab country and has lost almost all of its occupied territories.

Syria has now reestablished its reign over nearly its entire expanse.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 4 Comments

Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.04.2019

It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “… require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “… comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , , | 3 Comments

New York Times Accidentally Unravels UK Government’s Official Skripal Narrative

By Kit Klarenberg – Sputnik – 17.04.2019

While London almost immediately blamed Moscow for being behind the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK city of Salisbury in March 2018, Russia has strongly rejected its involvement, stressing it’s been denied access both to the investigation into the incident and the Russian nationals affected.

On 16th April, the New York Times published a glowing profile of Gina Haspel, who in May 2018 became the seventh director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The article referred to Haspel — the former head of a CIA ‘black site’ in Thailand at which an indeterminate number of suspected terrorists were viciously tortured — as an “adept tactician” blessed with “good listening, empathy and an ability to connect”, and discussed the difficulties the intelligence chief faced in ensuring “her voice is heard at the White House”, due to the intransigence of President Donald Trump and a White House that allegedly treats national security professionals “with deep skepticism”.

So far, so obsequious — but buried in the hagiography is a fascinating disclosure. In a section titled ‘The keys to talking to Trump? Realism and emotion’, authors Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman document how Haspel “solidified her reputation” as one of the “most skilled briefers” of the President.

Following the 4th March 2018 poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK, top national security officials are said to have gathered inside the White House to discuss with Trump how Washington should respond — at the time, Whitehall was preparing to expel dozens of Russian diplomats from the UK, and aggressively pushing various key international allies to follow suit.

Trump was said to have initially dismissed the significance of the poisoning, characterising it as “legitimate spy games, distasteful but within the bounds of espionage”. However, Haspel lobbied the President to expel 60 Russian diplomats from the US — and persuaded Trump to take the “strong option” by showing him the Skripals “were not the only victims of Russia’s attack”.

“Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives. Ms. Haspel was not the first to use emotional images to appeal to the president, but pairing it with her hard-nosed realism proved effective: Mr. Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong option,” the article states.

Lame Ducks

This small excerpt raises innumerable questions about the ever-mystifying Salisbury incident. Firstly, the images apparently provided to Haspel by the British government have never been published, or even mentioned, by the British media.

Given Whitehall’s determination to blame and diplomatically punish the Russian state for the poisoning before a motive had been established, any perpetrators identified, or other basic facts ascertained — in the face of significant public disapproval, and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn demanding action be informed by evidence — it’s entirely inconceivable that if these pictures existed, they wouldn’t have been provided to major news outlets and prominently publicised. If they were sufficiently impactful to convince a sceptical US President to support Whitehall’s strategy, hesitant British citizens may well have been similarly swayed.

Moreover though, since March 2018 no UK media outlet, government minister/spokesperson, health professional or law enforcement official has ever even claimed a single child was “sickened” after coming into contact with so-called “Novichok” (there have likewise been no reports of any waterfowl having tragically died due to the nerve agent). Again, it’s utterly imaginable that had a child suffered adverse effects from the nerve agent, it wouldn’t have been widely reported.

There could be several explanations for this seeming anomaly. To name just some of the most unsettling:

  • Several children were hospitalised, and several ducks did die, and for reasons unclear the British government didn’t inform the public and prevented the children and their parents from revealing they’d been affected, while secretly communicating the fact to other governments in literally graphic detail.
  • Counterfeit and/or misleading images may have been produced by persons unknown to bolster Britain’s case for concerted international action, and further been relayed to Haspel (if not other overseas officials), conning her and Trump into backing its mass-expulsion policy.

Alternatively of course, perhaps the stirring tale of Haspel converting the reticent President with impactful images is mere gossip, or spin — after all, the article’s authors didn’t discuss the episode with the CIA chief herself, but based their article on interviews “with more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials who have briefed or worked alongside her”.

However, even if the explanation is quite so anodyne, that in turn raises major questions about how and why the individual(s) who relayed the story to Barnes and Goldman came to believe children and ducks had been affected by Novichok.

Shifting Chronicle

The official narrative of the Salisbury incident is ever-fluctuating. Seemingly each and every article, news segment, official statement or documentary about any element of the case contains new information, requiring the established account to be at least partially rewritten and/or contradicting established elements of the story.

To name but two significant instances of this strange phenomenon in recent memory, on 19th January it was revealed 16-year-old Abigail McCourt had won a ‘Lifesaver Award’ for giving first-aid to the Skripals after finding them unconscious on a public bench in the centre of Salisbury. Accompanying reports indicated she’d been the first person to notice the collapsed father and daughter, and had quickly alerted her mother Alison — together, they provided potentially life-saving assistance to Sergei and Yulia.

The story was somewhat at odds with the official timeline, as advocated by Whitehall and the Metropolitan Police, which stated an off-duty doctor and nurse had found the Skripals — but moreover, Abigail’s award announcement also revealed her mother wasn’t merely a nurse, but the Chief Nursing Officer for the British Army, with the rank of Colonel.

Similarly, on 3rd March the BBC reported police only “realised the seriousness” of the Salisbury incident after Googling the name Sergei Skripal — while the information wasn’t in fact new (similar claims were made in Panorama documentary Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack — The Inside Story in November the previous year), the article indicated the first police officer on the scene was Sergeant Tracey Holloway.

Again, this small detail had massive ramifications for the British state’s narrative — for previously government and police spokespeople had unanimously claimed Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey had been the first police officer to attend to the Skripals, hailing his courage in rushing to help them without any regard for his own safety. It was also claimed his contact with them on the scene exposed him to the nerve agent, leading to his own hospitalisation — it’s now ‘established’ he was poisoned after visiting Skripal’s home.

Elements of the official narrative also bizarrely and frequently vanish without warning or explanation — a key example being the Skripals giving bread to three local boys to feed to ducks in Salisbury’s Avon Playground at approximately 1:45pm on 4th March. The incident was initially widely reported in the media, with The Daily Mail claiming the children — one of whom apparently ate some of the bread given to them by the Skripals — had been “rushed to hospital for blood tests amid fears they’d been poisoned”, although the children were entirely unharmed, and discharged from hospital having been given “the all-clear”.

“To try to kill Skripal is one thing, but now it seems children may have been caught up in it. It shows whoever did this didn’t care who they killed or maimed,” a spokesperson for Public Health England told the Sunday Mirror.

Strikingly, this episode would soon completely disappear from media coverage of the Salisbury incident, while never appearing in any officially sanctioned narrative — although it’s easy to understand why. According to the Metropolitan Police’s timeline, after leaving the Avon Playground the Skripals went on to the Bishops Mill Pub in Salisbury town centre, before arriving at Zizzi restaurant at around 14:20pm. They left at around 15:35pm, and emergency services received the first report they’d been found unconscious at around 16:15pm.

British authorities determine Sergei and Yulia were poisoned by Novichok spread around their home — in particular the front door handle — at some point before 13:30pm, when Sergei’s car was seen on Devizes Road heading towards the town centre. The pair were apparently so infected by the nerve agent, and the substance so dangerous, Zizzi was forced to close for eight months due to high levels of contamination, and the table the pair dined at had to be destroyed. The Mill pub, which they headed to immediately after their exploits in Avon Playground was likewise subject to extensive decontamination and only declared safe for reopening in August, although it remains shut even today. The bench the Skripals were found lying on was also destroyed.In spite of this, the children given bread by the Skripals and the ducks they fed were completely unharmed by novichok. It was obviously necessary for the pair’s contact with the trio, one boy’s ingestion of the bread, and indeed their en-masse duck-feeding, to be suppressed. Otherwise, the finding that the pair were poisoned at home before travelling into Salisbury is simply unfeasible — and the pair were poisoned elsewhere, at another time and by another means entirely.

It’s puzzling in the extreme this keenly forgotten aspect of the incident allegedly is said to have featured so prominently in Haspel’s case for decisive US action against Russia — and begs the question of who deceived and is deceiving who, how and why.

Own Initiative?

Adding to the intrigue, on the day of its publication the New York Times article caught the attention of Sky News Foreign Affairs Editor Deborah Haynes, who duly shared the piece on Twitter, praising Barnes for his work (Goldman went uncredited) and drawing particular attention to the passage relating to the images of “sickened” children.

However, in a suspicious volte-face, within hours Haynes tweeted that “UK security sources” had told her they were in fact “unaware of children hospitalised because of novichok or wildlife killed” in the Salisbury incident.

Sky News' Deborah Haynes Backtracks

Sky News’ Deborah Haynes Backtracks

For her part, Haynes claims she asked “UK contacts” about the images after reading the article, and their denials prompted her to post an “update”. This may well be the case — she certainly has close connections with security services and the military, as evidenced by her honorary membership of the Pen & Sword Club, a group which “[provides] a link between serving and retired officers and supporters within the Ministry of Defence”, and promotes “media operations as a necessary and valued military skill in the 21st century”. She’s one of very few journalists named in their ‘club members’ section — almost all others have military and/or intelligence backgrounds.

Moreover, it’s somewhat odd Haynes was initially seemingly unaware no children were hospitalised in the Salisbury incident, given she wrote extensively about the topic while Defence Editor of The Times. As my previous reports have documented, much of this output was heavily influenced by the Integrity Initiative, a British military intelligence operation which sought to systematically shape media reporting on, and Whitehall’s response to, the Salisbury incident from day one. Evidently, the British deep state is equally as capable of contacting Haynes directly as she is them — and its operatives would have every reason to want one of their most prominent media advocates to speedily retract and repudiate an extremely inconvenient disclosure such as that contained in the New York Times’ report.

If nothing else, that Haynes was willing to transmit an apparently obvious fiction speaks volumes about the willingness of mainstream journalists to parrot each and every fresh claim in the Skripal case, even if it wildly conflicts with what they themselves have written previously.

April 17, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Deception, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

CIA Docs Shows UK, France and West Germany Wanted to Bring “Operation Condor” To Europe

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | April 17, 2019

SANTIAGO, CHILE — A recently declassified CIA document has revealed that members of the intelligence agencies of France, the United Kingdom and West Germany discussed how to establish “an anti-subversive organization similar to [the CIA’s Operation] Condor” in their own countries. Described by the CIA as “a cooperative effort by the intelligence/security services of several South American countries to combat terrorism and subversion,” Operation Condor was a campaign of state terrorism originally planned by the CIA that targeted leftists, suspected leftists and their “sympathizers” and resulted in the forced disappearances, torture and brutal murders of an estimated 60,000 people, as well as the political imprisonment of around half a million people. Around half of the estimated murders occurred in Argentina.

The document, released last Friday as part of a release of newly declassified U.S. government documents related to the U.S.-backed military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, states that:

Representatives of West German, French and British intelligence services had visited the Condor organization secretariat in Buenos Aires during the month of September 1977 in order to discuss methods for establishment of an anti-subversion organization similar to Condor” due to their view that “the terrorist/subversive threat had reached such dangerous levels in Europe.”

The representatives from the three countries then stated that they felt that pooling “their intelligence resources in a cooperative organization such as Condor” would be an important way of combating the “subversive threat.” Notably, England at the time was already involved in an international “intelligence sharing” program known as ECHELON, a program between the “Five Eyes” intelligence pact between the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand that continues in a different form today.

The document, which was written in 1978, came two years after Operation Condor targeted left-wing Latin American exiles living in Europe. Several other documents in the recent release discuss a decision made by Condor member countries in May 1976 to train and send a military unit to “conduct physical attacks” against left-wing Latin American exiles and their supporters in France, in what was codenamed “Teseo.” Several Condor countries, aside from Brazil and Bolivia, were eager to participate and the training of the “Teseo” unit did occur, though the CIA was apparently unaware whether the unit was actually sent to France.

Operation Condor: Made in the West

European interest in bringing home a state-sponsored terror campaign may seem shocking, given Europe’s publicly stated concerns at the time regarding Condor member countries’ mind-boggling human rights abuses and state-sponsored murders. But it will hardly surprise those who have studied Operation Condor, as the operation itself was a Western invention that was imposed on Latin America through a series of military coups, which again were backed by Western governments.

Operation Condor officially began in 1975, though CIA documents in this recent release suggest that the inter-country intelligence-sharing aspect had likely begun a year earlier in 1974. The countries involved — Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia — were all backed and supported by the U.S., which was also incidentally the largest weapons dealer to these government over this same time frame. During the latter portion of Operation Condor, one of the recently declassified documents claims that Israel took over key roles played by the U.S. in Operation Condor, including the “training of local personnel and sales of certain types of advanced military equipment,” despite the many innocent Jews murdered by several of the Condor dictatorships.

Several of the Condor countries had seen their military dictatorships installed with U.S. government involvement, as was the case in Chile and Brazil, with the U.S. government suspected in other coups that preceded Operation Condor by only a few years, such as the 1971 coup in Bolivia and the 1973 coup in Uruguay. After the 1976 coup in Argentina — Argentina’s sixth and final coup of the 20th century — it too joined Operation Condor.

The U.S. provided planning, training, funding and arms for Operation Condor, and European nations also provided a significant number of weapons. France — one of the countries interested in creating a Condor-style program for Europe — was noted in one of the recently declassified documents for its “excellent prospects for sales of jet aircraft and air defense systems” to Condor dictatorships; while West Germany, another country interested in a European Condor, “should be able to market missiles, ground force equipment and submarines.”

U.S. and European intelligence agencies were well aware of what Condor dictatorships were doing with those weapons, as indicated by past and recent document releases that detail horrific descriptions of the torture and murder of those suspected of being left-wing and those suspected of sympathizing with the left, as well as those who opposed the neoliberal economic policies imposed by all of the U.S.-backed Condor dictatorships.

Some of the more infamous tactics used by Condor nations had also been inspired by past European and U.S. war crimes. This includes the “death flights,” where victims were drugged, bound and placed in plastic body bags, and/or had their stomachs cut open before being thrown out of a plane or helicopter over the ocean. This tactic was said to have been inspired by the actions of French armed forces during the Algerian war and, according to the 2003 documentary The Death Squads: The French School, French intelligence had taught these and other methods to Argentine military officials during the dictatorship.

Whitewashing away the full horror of Condor

Notably, much of the recent coverage of Operation Condor and the CIA releases has sought to whitewash the program’s horrific legacy, with The Guardian describing Operation Condor as “a secret programme in which the dictatorships of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador conspired to kidnap and assassinate members of leftwing guerrilla groups in each other’s territories.” This, of course, implies that those targeted were guerilla members and thus combatants.

However, many — and one could convincingly argue the majority — of those killed, tortured and imprisoned were not members of guerilla groups, as there are thousands of documented cases of college students, musicians, writers, journalists, priests and nuns, pregnant women, teachers, indigenous leaders, union members and others who were subject to the extreme prejudice of Operation Condor despite not being combatants in any capacity. The Guardian also dramatically downplayed the program’s death toll, claiming that “the conspiracy led to the deaths of at least 100 people in Argentina,” while the actual figure is around 30,000. The Guardian also failed to mention the intimate role of the U.S. and other Western nations in facilitating and arming the program.

Such poor reporting is offensive to those who lost their lives and to their families, many of which have never stopped looking for their lost loved ones. Many of those families, such as Argentina’s “Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo,” have spent the last several decades looking for the estimated 500 children and babies separated from their disappeared and murdered parents and given to dictatorship-supporting families.

In a clear testament to how the effects of Operation Condor are still felt today, one of those babies — now over 40 years old — was identified on April 9 and is set to be reunited with her father, who survived the dictatorship and has spent the last several decades looking for his lost daughter. The mother was kidnapped while pregnant, allowed to give birth to the baby and killed immediately afterwards.

The very idea that European countries wanted to bring such a horrific terror campaign to their continent to target “subversives” should serve as a cautionary tale to Europeans who trust their government’s professed interest in promoting democracy and human rights, all while exporting terror overseas.

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

April 17, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sitting on Syria’s Oil, US Cuts Lifeline From Iran, Plunges Syria Into Fuel Crisis

By Marko Marjanović | Checkpoint Asia | April 17, 2019

Syria produced 325,000-385,000 barrels of oil per day before the war. Now it produces 25,000. Partly because of war damage, and partly because the majority of its oil fields are to the east of the Euphrates and occupied by the US and its Syrian Kurdish proxies. (The Kurds are happy to sell but the US won’t let them.)

It used to consume over 200,000 barrels of oil domestically, but that has gone down to 100,000 or less, with majority of that being shipments from Iran on a credit line that both nations understood was unlikely to ever be paid back in full.

Now the US has succeeded in cutting off that lifeline as well. It is blacklisting tankers which deliver the Iranian fuel and having Egypt block them from ever crossing the Suez.

This has caused a huge fuel crisis in government-controlled Syria with extreme rationing and cars lining up for miles in order to pump their allowed maximum of 20 liters every five days.

In Syria’s case the US really did “steal its oil”. It has forced an oil-producing nation into a fuel crisis. It has seperated Damascus from its oil fields (which BTW are in the ethnically Arab part of the country) and then cut its oil from abroad as well.

April 17, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

Trump opens Cuba up to property confiscation lawsuits, angering allies & foes alike

RT | April 17, 2019

The Trump administration is set to permit lawsuits against Cuba over property confiscated in the revolution, in a bid to dismantle the ‘troika of tyranny’ resisting Washington’s total dominance in what it sees as its ‘backyard.’

Cubans who fled to the US under Fidel Castro’s government will be able to sue companies using their former property under a 1996 law that went unenforced until President Donald Trump seized on it earlier this year as a potential weapon to pressure Cuba into dropping its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, after the country refused to support US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido when he declared himself president in January.

The Trump administration is expected to announce the measure on Wednesday after last month’s soft rollout, which limited lawsuit targets to about 200 businesses and government agencies already under “enhanced” sanctions due to their links with Cuba’s government. No lawsuits have yet been filed under the new rules, though the State Department says there may be as many as 200,000 potential claims by plaintiffs including multinational corporations – who may be reluctant to file lawsuits that could effectively target their own overseas clients.

Previous presidents have avoided activating the provision because of the torrent of litigation it could unleash against joint ventures run by US allies in partnership with the Cuban government. While the US has maintained its embargo against the Cuban government for over half a century – aside from the short-lived attempt by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama to relax the harsh economic sanctions – many of its allies do business with Cuba. While Trump appears to value punishing Cuba for its alliance with Maduro over making nice with America’s European allies, critics argue that Americans will be affected by the new law as well.

“This decision punishes the Cuban people and American companies – companies who were given permission by the US government to do business and are now having the rug pulled from underneath them,” James Williams, President of anti-embargo group Engage Cuba, told Bloomberg. Existing “carve-outs” in the Helms-Burton provision reportedly protect American companies in some areas, specifically the travel industry and telecoms, though it’s unclear whether those exceptions also cover companies belonging to US allies operating in those sectors.

The US move is a violation of international law, EU ambassador to Cuba Alberto Navarro told a press conference. Canada, France, Spain, the UK, and other countries with large Cuban investments have threatened to sue through the World Trade Organization if the US attempts to interfere in their dealings with a sovereign nation.

Cuba has volunteered to reimburse owners of confiscated properties – if the US first reimburses the Cuban government for the billions of dollars in damages resulting from its 60-year embargo.

April 17, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , | 1 Comment

VIPS Fault Mueller Probe, Criticize Refusal To Interview Assange

Consortium News | April 16, 2019

The bug in Mueller’s report to be released Thursday is that he accepts that the Russian government interfered in the election. Trump should challenge that, says VIPS.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: The Fly in the Mueller Ointment

Mr. President:

The song has ended but the melody lingers on. The expected release Thursday of the redacted text of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” will nudge the American people a tad closer to the truth on so-called “Russiagate.”

But judging by Attorney General William Barr’s 4-page summary, the Mueller report will leave unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president. And that melody will linger on for the rest of your presidency, unless you seize the moment.

Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth, apparently in the lack of any disinterested, independent forensic work. Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC (through a cutout).

We brought the lack of independent forensics to the attention of Attorney General William Barr on March 13 in a Memorandum entitled “Mueller’s Forensic-Free Findings”, but received no reply or acknowledgement. In that Memorandum we described the results of our own independent, agenda-free forensic investigation led by two former Technical Directors of the NSA, who avoid squishy “assessments,” preferring to base their findings on fundamental principles of science and the scientific method. Our findings remain unchallenged; they reveal gaping holes in CrowdStrike’s conclusions.

We do not know if Barr shared our March 13 Memorandum with you. As for taking a public position on the forensics issue, we suspect he is being circumspect in choosing his battles carefully, perhaps deferring until later a rigorous examination of the dubious technical work upon which Mueller seems to have relied.

Barr’s Notification to Congress

As you know, the big attention-getter came on March 24 when Attorney General William Barr included in his four-page summary a quote from Mueller’s report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Understandably, that grabbed headlines — the more so, since most Americans had been convinced earlier by the media that the opposite was true.

There remains, however, a huge fly in the ointment. Barr’s summary makes it clear that Mueller accepts as a given — an evidence-impoverished given — that the Russian government interfered in the election on two tracks:

Track 1 involves what Barr, echoing Mueller, claims “a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA)” did in using social media “to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election.” A careful look at this allegation shows it to be without merit, despite Herculean efforts by the NY Times, for example, to put lipstick on this particular pig. After some rudimentary research, award winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter promptly put that pig out of its misery and brought home the bacon. We do not believe “Track 1” merits further commentary.

Track 2 does need informed commentary, since it is more technical and — to most Americans — arcane. In Barr’s words: “The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election.”

We are eager to see if Mueller’s report contains more persuasive forensic evidence than that which VIPS has already debunked. In Barr’s summary, the only mention of forensics refers to “forensic accountants” — a far cry from the kind of forensic investigators needed to provide convincing proof of “hacking” by the Russian government.

But They Were Indicted!

Circular reasoning is not likely to work for very long, even with a U.S. populace used to being brainwashed by the media. Many Americans had mistakenly assumed that Mueller’s indictment of Russians — whether they be posting on FaceBook or acting like intelligence officers — was proof of guilt. But, as lawyers regularly point out, “one can easily indict a ham sandwich” — easier still these days, if it comes with Russian dressing.

Chances have now increased that the gullible folks who had been assured that Mueller would find collusion between you and Putin may now be a bit more circumspect — skeptical even — regarding the rest of the story-line of the “Russian hack,” and that will be even more likely among those with some technical background. Such specialists will have a field day, IF — and it is a capital “IF” — by some miracle, word of VIPS’ forensic findings gets into the media this time around.

The evidence-impoverished, misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 6, 2017 had one saving grace. The authors noted: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.” Forensic investigators can follow a trail of metadata and other technical properties. VIPS has done that.

A “High-Class Entity?”

If, as we strongly suspect, Mueller is relying for forensics solely on CrowdStrike, the discredited firm hired by the DNC in the spring of 2016, he is acting more in the mold of Inspector Clouseau than the crackerjack investigator he is reputed to be. It simply does not suffice for Mueller’s former colleague James Comey to tell Congress that CrowdStrike is a “high-class entity.” It is nothing of the sort and, in addition to its documented incompetence, it is riddled with conflicts of interest. Comey needs to explain why he kept the FBI away from the DNC computers after they were said to have been “hacked.”

And former National Intelligence Director James Clapper needs to explain his claim last November that “the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.” What forensic evidence? From CrowdStrike? We at VIPS, in contrast, are finding more and more forensic evidence that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked by the Russians or anyone else — and that “Guccifer 2.0” is an out-and-out fraud. Yes, we can prove that from forensics too.

But the Talking Heads Say …

Again, if Mueller’s incomplete investigation is allowed to assume the status of Holy Writ, most Americans will continue to believe that — whether you colluded the Russians or not — Putin came through for you big time. In short, absent President Putin’s help, you would not be president.

Far too many Americans will still believe this because of the mainstream-media fodder — half-cooked by intelligence leaks — that they have been fed for two and a half years. The media have been playing the central role in the effort of the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank) complex to stymie any improvement in relations with Russia. We in VIPS have repeatedly demonstrated that the core charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election are built on a house of cards. But, despite our record of accuracy on this issue — not to mention our pre-Iraq-war warnings about the fraudulent intelligence served up by our former colleagues — we have gotten no play in mainstream media.

Most of us have chalked up decades in the intelligence business and many have extensive academic and government experience focusing on Russia. We consider the issue of “Russian interference” of overriding significance not only because that the allegation is mischievously bogus and easily disproven. More important, it has brought tension with nuclear-armed Russia to the kind of dangerous fever pitch not seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Russian provocation was real — authentic, not synthetic.

Sober minds resolved that crisis more than a half-century ago, and we all got to live another day. These days sober minds seem few and far between and a great deal is at stake. On the intelligence/forensics side, we have proved that the evidence adduced to “prove” that the Russians hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails and gave them to WikiLeaks is spurious. For example, we have examined metadata from one key document attributed to Russian hacking and shown that it wassynthetically tainted with “Russian fingerprints.”

Who Left the Bread Crumbs?

So, if it wasn’t the Russians, who left the “Russian” bread-crumb “fingerprints?” We do not know for sure; on this question we cannot draw a conclusion based on the principles of science — at least not yet. We suspect, however, that cyber warriors closer to home were responsible for inserting the “tell-tale signs” necessary to attribute “hacks” to Russia. We tacked on our more speculative views regarding this intriguing issue onto the end of our May 24, 2017 Memorandum to you entitled “Intelligence Veterans Challenge Russia Hack Evidence”

We recall that you were apprised of that Memorandum’s key findings because you ordered then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to talk to William Binney, one of our two former NSA Technical Directors and one of the principal authors of that Memorandum. On October 24, 2017, Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney by explaining the genesis of the odd invitation to CIA Headquarters: “You are here because the president told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”

On the chance Pompeo has given you no report on his meeting with Binney, we can tell you that Binney, a plain-spoken, widely respected scientist, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. Pompeo reacted with disbelief, but then talked of following up with the FBI and NSA. We have no sign, though, that he followed through. And there is good reason to believe that Pompeo himself may have been reluctant to follow up with his subordinates in the Directorate of Digital Innovation created by CIA Director John Brennan in 2015. CIA malware and hacking tools are built by the Engineering Development Group, part of that relatively new Directorate.

Obfuscation’

A leak from within the CIA, published on March 31, 2017 by WikiLeaks as part of the so-called “Vault 7” disclosures, exposed a cyber tool called “Marble,” which was used during 2016 for“obfuscation” (CIA’s word). This tool can be used to conduct a forensic attribution double game (aka a false-flag operation); it included test samples in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, and Russian. Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima, to her credit, immediately penned an informative article on the Marble cyber-tool, under the caching (and accurate) headline “WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations.” That was apparently before Nakashima “got the memo.” Mainstream media have otherwise avoided like the plague any mention of Marble.

Mr. President, we do not know if CIA’s Marble, or tools like it, played some kind of role in the campaign to blame Russia for hacking the DNC. Nor do we know how candid the denizens of CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation have been with the White House — or with former Director Pompeo — on this touchy issue. Since it is still quite relevant, we will repeat below a paragraph included in our July 2017 Memorandum to you under the sub-heading “Putin and the Technology:”

We also do not know if you have discussed cyber issues in any detail with President Putin. In his interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, he seemed quite willing – perhaps even eager – to address issues related to the kind of cyber tools revealed in the Vault 7 disclosures, if only to indicate he has been briefed on them. Putin pointed out that today’s technology enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” [of the hack] … And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack. Hackers may be anywhere,” he said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? … I can.”

As we told Attorney General Barr five weeks ago, we consider Mueller’s findings fundamentally flawed on the forensics side and ipso factoincomplete. We also criticized Mueller for failing to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

Political Enemies & Mainstream Media (Forgive the Redundancy)

You may be unaware that in March 2017 lawyers for Assange and the Justice Department (acting on behalf of the CIA) reportedly were very close to an agreement under which Assange would agree to discuss “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” in the leak of the DNC emails” and agree to redact some classified CIA information, in exchange for limited immunity. According to the investigative reporter John Solomon of The Hill, Sen. Mark Warner, D,VA, Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, learned of the incipient deal and told then-FBI Director Comey, who ordered an abrupt “stand down” and an end to the discussions with Assange.

Why did Comey and Warner put the kibosh on receiving “technical evidence ruling out certain parties [read Russia]? We won’t insult you with the obvious answer. Assange is now in prison, to the delight of so many — including Mrs. Clinton who has said Assange must now “answer for what he has done.”

But is it too late to follow up somehow on Assange’s offer? Might he or his associates be still willing to provide “technical evidence” showing, at least, who wasnotthe culprit?

You, Mr. President, could cause that to happen. You would have to buck strong resistance at every turn, and there all manner of ways that those with vested interests and a lot of practice in sabotage can try to thwart you — with the full cooperation of most media pundits. By now, you know all too well how that works.

But you are the president. And there may be no better time than now to face them down, show the spurious nature of the concocted “evidence” attempting to put you in “Putin’s pocket,” and — not least — lift the cloud that has prevented you from pursuing a more decent relationship with Russia.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS)

Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)
Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Peter Van Buren,U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

April 17, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

The “Yemen Bill” Trump Just Vetoed Never Had Anything to do With Yemen

By Adam Garrie – EurasiaFuture – 2019-04-17

Donald Trump has just vetoed a bill passed by the US Congress which would have ended American financial support for the Saudi led coalition in the Yemen conflict. When the bill was passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate, many were surprised that an otherwise pro-war and pro-interventionist group of politicians would support something that was seemingly anti-war. However, to assume that the majority of votes were motivated by an anti-war sentiment is to deny the very specific circumstances behind the bill’s passage.

In the United States, both main political parties have incredibly strong relations with Saudi Arabia. Yet among the US public, this “special relationship” is far more controversial than the fact that both US parties also have strong ties to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ally Israel. While Israel and Saudi Arabia are both known for pursuing internationally controversial foreign policies, among the US public, Israel is generally viewed in a positive light while Saudi Arabia is not. As such, whenever an opportunity comes along for American politicians to virtue signal against Saudi Arabia without actually changing US foreign policy in a meaningful way, such an opportunity will be acted upon. Trump himself virtue signaled against Saudi Arabia during his 2016 election campaign.

When it became clear that elements of the Saudi “deep state” were responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and when after that it became clear that Donald Trump was not going to do anything to punish Riyadh for the Khashoggi murder, many in the opposition Democratic party sought to take advantage of a public opinion that had soured even further against Riyadh in the aftermath of the infamous murder which took place in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate.

In this sense, the vote to cut funding to the Saudi coalition in Yemen was a largely symbolic measure that most who voted for it knew would be vetoed. Making matters all the more stark, it can be assumed that some of those who voted for the bill even wanted it to be vetoed as the intention was only ever to virtue signal to an American public that had become somewhat upset in the aftermath of the Khashoggi murder. The bill was never actually meant to change Washington’s pro-Riyadh/anti-Tehran position vis-a-vis Yemen.

In this sense, while some are blaming Trump for prolonging the crisis in Yemen because of his veto, the reality is that Trump was handed a bill intended as a virtue signalling provocation rather than a genuine call to end the conflict in Yemen. As such, Trump responded in the way that virtually anyone in his position would have done.

April 17, 2019 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Deception | , , | Leave a comment