The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. May 22, 2016:
“1. Only in America……can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.
- Only in America……are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.
- Only in America……do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.
- Only in America……do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.
- Only in America……do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters.
- Only in America……do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
- Only in America……do we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won’t miss a call from someone we didn’t want to talk to in the first place.
- Only in America……do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.
- Only in America……do we use the word ‘politics’ to describe the process so well: ‘Poli’ in Latin meaning ‘many’ and ‘tics’ meaning ‘bloodsucking creatures’.
- Only in America……do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.”
The Müller Washington Journals 1948-1951
At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.
His name was Heinrich Müller.
Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.
This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.
When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.
Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.
The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.
Tuesday, 29 November 1949
Notes for conversations with T. (ruman, ed.)
My area of expertise is Soviet Russian foreign intelligence but I wish to expand to cover other hostile areas. While communism was very popular here during the Roosevelt era, most people, even so-called professionals, do not realize that the actual spy apparatus was very limited. The Soviets always have a large pool of sympathetic loyalists on which to draw, but only for random information. This information is fed to the actual rings whose leader then passes it to Moscow, either through his Russian control or directly. All of this is sent out by radio to Moscow.
I could write papers on this by the hour and America and her politicians, and most especially the general public, are now well aware of Soviet spies. But they tend to lump Soviet sympathizers and intellectual communists in the same bag. To pursue all of these people would be impossible, even with American manpower and wealth. Better to concentrate on either penetrating the Soviet rings and feed them misleading information or to destroy them. Arrests and publicity on one hand and the knife or the heart attack on the other. (Memo: Stop throwing them out of the window! Much too obvious. One, perhaps, but not so many.)
Then, having done this, the next step would be to so sensitize the public to Soviet spies that all communist sympathizers would be too terrified to cooperate with Moscow at any time!
Senator McCarthy and his kind are perfect for this agitation. The Senator is a boor of the worst kind but so blindly ambitious that he will jump onto this train with glee.
Will point out to T. that M. is a Republican and that T. can deny any participation in this business. Of course T. is not too popular with his own party because they still yearn for the liberal years of Roosevelt but if the Democrats are able to distance themselves from a Republican Congressional razzia (European term for police raid, ed.) against Rooseveltian Reds, they will do so at once.
Having dealt with the so-called Red Menace of Col. Hoover, I will turn to a much more serious matter…that of British spying on the United States. I will outline to T. that the British hate us (I will use this word for solidarity) because we beat them in two wars (1776 and 1812) and bankrupted them in 1940 by taking all of their cash in return for old weapons, they have no problem in spying on us.
They do not view us, as so many Americans think today, as their saviors but rather as their destroyers and they all do hate us for destroying their thoroughly rotten Empire.
I will point out, very clearly and with supportive documents (Memo: Have these ready if and when required!) that the British intelligence and governmental agencies are filled with either actual communist agents or worse, radical Moscow sympathizers.
It is also filled with fairies but we won’t go into that unless T. shows some interest. T. is certainly not a fairy and probably hates them.
I will point out that England has no more navy or army to speak of and a squad of Soviet Boy Scouts (which do not exist) could invade England and conquer it within a week.
Therefore…. certain higher-level British government people have arrived at a secret convention with Stalin. Do not attack our weak, undefended people, and we will assist you by the sharing of certain very important intelligence material we are able to steal from our erstwhile allies (but actual enemies.)
And this especially means atomic secrets!!!
- In sum, the British spy on us with greater impunity than the Soviets could.
- They have stolen and are stealing American atomic secrets.
- These secrets go to London where the British would like to build at least one atomic bomb just to show the world that they are really still important.
- The same secrets are eagerly given to Stalin to curry favor with him as well as to fulfill the ideological requirements of so many of the Soviet lovers now in power in the British bureaucracy.
THIS MUST BE STOPPED!
By cutting off the British from their spying, we equally cut off the Russians who are now under the spotlight and have to be very careful.
Note here: I understand that Stalin did not set off an atomic bomb but instead exploded several standard bombs from an aircraft. These bombs were full of radioactive material that spread into the upper air so that the Americans could detect them. Source has been correct so far. Mention this to T.? Not a good idea at all.
Solution: Countermeasures at once against the British. Hoover will be in full cooperation on this. He has specifically said so to me recently and very firmly. I believe him on this. We put devices into their Embassy and consulates, listen to their telephones and follow anyone leaving the Embassy and photograph anyone going in and then investigate them later.
We set up a disinformation section to allow them to have faulty and misleading material. Also…. we could give them the sort of information which could literally blow up in their faces but I doubt if their scientists are that stupid. It will be vital in all of this to totally discredit not only the British but most especially all of their intelligence apparatus!!!
We don’t want them to work their way into our skin the way they did here during the war. Note here…IMPORTANT…Almost all of the top CIA people are rabid Anglophiles. Angleton’s mentor during the war was Philby and both the Dulles brothers sniff at the bottoms of all Englishmen. Be sure to work these facts into your presentation and impress on T. that this Anglophilia blinds them to the truth. Again, EXERCISE GREAT CAUTION HERE…UNTIL T. IS CONVERTED! If he shows any real resistance, inject just enough to make him think and then…CHANGE THE DIRECTION!!!
I will be visiting with my interesting neighbors tomorrow and then on Thursday, will take the train down to Miami and from there drive down to the Keys to have my meeting with the President. I will be using my new name on the tickets and will be checked into the Naval Base at Key West under this name to keep the CIA people from knowing about this. Now I have three sets of papers; one German, one Swiss and now, one as an American citizen. On the one hand, I am a Bavarian Catholic and on the other, a Jew! Such an irony! Dulles, who knew my other persona, made several rude remarks about my adopting the guise of what he supposed to be my archenemy. Hitler’s perhaps, but not mine. They could make me an Eskimo for all I care and Dulles is one of the most pompous, self-important asses I have ever met and I have known many.
These well-born idiots think they and they alone are capable of directing the foreign policy of the country, but in truth I doubt if any of them, Angleton included, could run a church outing for deaf and dumb children. And of such is the Kingdom of Heaven!
The names used by Heinrich Müller after the war are of great interest to a significant number of people…and agencies. At the beginning of the Twenty First Century there are virtually no major players still alive who knew Müller, as Müller, while he worked for the CIA and the U.S. Army in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
With the assumed names not a matter of official knowledge, there is a very real fear that something unpalatable and true will emerge about the former Chief of the Gestapo before Washington can, as is their standard custom, destroy any pertinent, damaging records.
It is a matter of record that Müller used the name of “Schwartzter” when he escaped from encircled Berlin in April of 1945 but there the investigative trail ends.
Shortly after the third volume in this series was released, a very reputable American reporter with a background in U.S. intelligence matters was contacted by a source that he had every reason to trust. This source, who had retired from the CIA, told the reporter that he had personally known Heinrich Müller after the war, living under the name of Lothar Metzel and that this Metzel had lived on Connecticut Avenue in Washington. This specific information checked out; the name of Lothar Metzel was immediately located in old Washington telephone directories.
However, a thorough, professional investigation disclosed that the Metzel who lived at that address was a Viennese Jew who had fled the Germans and came to the United States in 1939. This Metzel was a minor playwright who worked for the Office of War Information (OWI) during the war, preparing anti-Nazi radio scripts. Further, after the war and the formation of the CIA in 1948, this Metzel joined that organization and rose to a position of some importance.
Photographs of the playwright Metzel bore absolutely no resemblance to the former SS General and it is impossible to believe that anyone who personally knew the CIA official could think that he even remotely looked like Heinrich Müller.
This is not quite the end of the story, however, because a search by the media of old OSS files disclosed another Lothar Metzel, also from Austria but of German origin, who worked for the OSS in Switzerland during the war. The second Metzel, while on an intelligence mission into Germany, was captured by Müller’s Gestapo and shot in August of 1944.
Before this OSS file suddenly disappeared from sight and into a burn bag, the investigating media located a picture of the second Metzel who looked neither like the playwright nor the head of the Gestapo.
The final addition to this entertaining scenario was supplied by a retired U.S. Navy officer who had been involved with various high-level intelligence activities in the 1960s and identified for members of the media, a picture of Heinrich Müller as a man “whose face he had positively seen before.” The name in his old telephone book was Lothar Metzel. This Metzel looked exactly like Heinrich Müller.
While in Washington, Müller lived in a large town house in Georgetown and not an old-fashioned red brick apartment house on Connecticut Avenue. Since both of the Metzels were Jewish in origin, this might well explain Müller’s remark about having a false Jewish persona.
It is fortunate that the media thoroughly checked out the facts in this bizarre matter or someone might very well have published a story about Müller’s survival which could be very easily refuted and this refutation then used to discredit anything published about him.
Well, first the recital with the probably ugly pianist and then the business with Truman. We shall see what is business and which is pleasure.
The anti-communism of Senator Joseph McCarthy, R. Wisconsin, has been the subject of many books and scholarly studies since the end of the 1950s. Most of these works are written by those who espouse the liberal idea that McCarthy was a vicious, fascistic opportunist whose incitement of the public against American communists ruined many lives and destroyed the reputations of a legion of intelligent, anti-racist and progressive Americans, and absolutely none of whom were communists and certainly none of whom ever spied on the United States for Russia.
The same writers have written similar works about the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) in which the radical Spanish left is depicted as progressive and the equally radical right is depicted as a brutal fascist movement entirely under the control of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
It takes many decades for anything even approaching objective truth to emerge concerning any matter that involves religious cults, be they secular or sacred and only after the bitter fanatics are long in their graves can objectivity begin to poke its way up through the heavily asphalted parking lots that represent generations of ideological propaganda.
These misleading and very often entirely false representations by fanatic partisan writers have been long accepted by the public because of the lack of alternative published views. Alternative views, regardless of accuracy, are severely discouraged in nearly all countries because often highly profitable structures are constructed on the weak foundations of mythic history.
Müller became acquainted with McCarthy through the good offices of one Father Edmund A. Walsh of Georgetown University in Washington. The most bitter and enduring enemy of Stalin’s Cominform was the Catholic Church. During the post-war period, the Church was under the control of Pius XII, who as Papal Nuncio to Germany in the period between the Second and Third Reichs, had the opportunity of witnessing firsthand the brutal and murderous effects of the various Soviet-directed revolts inside Germany.
Müller’s papers and notes indicate that he often met with Father Walsh and passed a considerable amount of valuable information to him which was eventually given to McCarthy to aid him in his very public crusade against the radical left in America. The one issue so often cited with great glee by McCarthy’s detractors was his allegation made in a February 9, 1950 speech in Wheeling, West Virginia that there were a large number of clearly identified communists in the Department of State. His legion of livid critics state that this statement was entirely false and had no foundation in any kind of truth.
In point of actual fact, at that time there were, and had been for some time previous, at least 80 known and clearly identified communists in the Department of State. No one, McCarthy included, ever pointed out that these communists were former members of the communist-dominated Office of Special Services or OSS. Truman had disbanded this organization as early as 1945 because of its composition, and its communist members were sent to the Department of State to await a graceful, and permanent, exit from governmental service. Many other members quickly joined the new CIA when it was formed.
It was the specific policy of Franklin Roosevelt to insist to General Donovan, head of the OSS, that as many active communists as possible be recruited and utilized by that organization. Throughout its spotted history, the OSS agents cooperated with and certainly coordinated with the wishes of Soviet intelligence, the NKVD, in matters of interest and concern to Moscow.
The communist Tito was supported over his rivals (who were later murdered) in the Yugoslavian theater and the OSS supported the communists both in Greece and Italy, both areas that were of intense interest to the expansionist Soviet dictator.
In comparing Müller’s period notes with the utterances of the Senator from Wisconsin, one can see that McCarthy was not a good learner and while he was almost always correct, he had a severe problem with remembering, and accurately reporting, the specific facts given to him.
The comments by Müller about the espionage activities of British intelligence against the United States will be fully explored in their proper chronological place as will Müller’s assistance to the anti-Communists in the American government and media.
‘In about the year 3,000’: British PM rules out Turkey joining EU anytime soon
May 22, 2016
David Cameron ruled out Turkey joining the EU anytime soon, saying Ankara may join the bloc “in about the year 3,000.” The British prime minister was responding to comments from one of his own ministers who said that Turkey could join the EU.
In an interview with ITV, Cameron reiterated that Turkey joining the EU was not “remotely on the cards.” He also wanted to make it clear that the UK has a veto on any prospective member joining the bloc.
“They applied in 1987. At the current rate of progress, they will probably get round to joining in about the year 3,000, according to the latest forecasts,” Cameron said.
His comments were a furious rebuke of the Armed Forces minister Penny Mordaunt, who had said Turkey was likely to become a member of the EU within the next eight years.
Using figures from the Leave campaign, Mordaunt said that 1 million Turks would settle in the UK over the next eight years, while there would also be an increase in threats to British security because crime is higher in Turkey than in the UK.
“I believe that this is dangerous and it will make us less safe. That’s why the safer option in this referendum is to Vote Leave and take back control,” she said.
Cameron accused Mordaunt of “flat out lying” and said it would be decades before Ankara could even contemplating joining the bloc.
“Britain and every other country in the EU has a veto on another country joining and that is a fact. The fact that the Leave campaign are getting things as straight forward as this wrong I think should call into question their whole judgment for making the bigger argument about leaving the EU,” he said, speaking on ITV’s “Peston on Sunday.”
“They’re basically saying vote to get out of Europe because of this issue of Turkey that we can’t stop joining the EU – that is not true,” Cameron said.
Cameron is backing the Remain campaign ahead of the EU referendum, which is set for June 23.
The British prime minister also warned voters on Sunday that people in the UK would face higher costs if the Leave campaign is triumphant due to an expected fall in the value of the pound.
“Independent studies show that a vote to leave would hit the value of the pound, making imports more expensive and raising prices in the shops,” Cameron said in a statement, as cited by Reuters.
Experts say that if the UK quits the EU, the value of the pound will drop by 12 percent. This will mean that a family’s average shopping bill would rise by almost 3 percent or £120 ($174) per year.
A poll published on Saturday for the Observer newspaper showed that 44 percent of Britons want to remain in the EU, while 40 percent of the population would like the UK to leave.
“There does seem to have been some move towards staying in the EU, particularly given that ours is an online methodology which typically shows a closer race than polls conducted on the phone,” Adam Drummond of Opinium Research said, as cited by Reuters.
Fear and fascination as Austria votes
The outcome of Sunday’s presidential vote could completely shake up Austrian and European politics – and the world is watching closely. Alison Langley reports from Vienna
May 21, 2016
At a recent pre-election rally, about 500 students gathered near Vienna’s Hofburg palace, where the president’s office is located, to draw attention to far-right candidate Norbert Hofer’s anti-immigration stance. Organizers had hoped for a higher turnout, but those that did show up had a clear message. They carried posters saying: “No Nazis in the Hofburg” and “FPÖ [Freedom Party – the ed.] out; refugees in.”
As they continued on their way, they chanted “No to fascism everywhere, no to Hofer! Go Vote!” Among them was Anny, who didn’t want to give her last name, carrying an Alexander Van der Bellen campaign poster. She said she would vote for the man who’s running as an independent candidate with the Green party’s backing: “I think he’s the only democratic candidate and the best alternative. He’s showing responsibility for the Austrian people. He cares about Europe.”
Christoph Goerg paused on his bicycle to watch the student demo and voiced his support for their protests: “We’re in a very precarious situation. Voting in a President Hofer would be the first step toward a fascist state.”
The battle lines have been drawn and as a retired university professor in economics, Van der Bellen knows how to didactically argue points: slowly, methodically and with logic.
But the former Green party leader has had a tough time pitting reason against Hofer and his Freedom Party’s anti-Islam and Euroskeptic messages.
If Hofer wins on Sunday, Austria will be the first western European country to elect a far-right, populist head of state. Hofer’s campaign has been openly anti-immigration, anti-EU and anti-gay marriage – and he’s the front-runner after winning around 35 percent of the vote in the first round last month, against roughly 22 percent for Van der Bellen. Interestingly, the pollsters have gone quiet this time, after failing to predict Hofer’s win.
The few polls that have been published show the two running neck-and-neck, with a large group of voters still undecided because they see both candidates as too polarizing.
“I won’t vote for the far right out of principle and the Greens are too extreme for me,” one woman told DW, exemplifying the mood on the streets of Vienna.
Hofer’s stunning victory in the first round was seen as a resounding indictment of the way the traditional parties have handled the county’s most pressing problems such as rising unemployment, low education standards, and the refugee crisis.
As a result of his flip-flopping over the refugee issue, Werner Faymann was forced to resign as chancellor and Christian Kern, the new head of government, has promised change: “If we can’t turn around this trend, this [coalition] will disappear from the picture. And rightly so.”
Worried about Austria
Hofer’s Freedom Party has aligned itself closely with Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom as well as other populist parties, like Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland and those in Finland and Denmark. Around the world – from the Philippines to the US – voters are increasingly rejecting the entrenched political establishment and turning to populist messages as a solution to complex problems.
“We should be worried about Austria, but also about Europe and the world,” Oliver Rathkolb, a professor of contemporary history at the University of Vienna, told DW.
To counter that threat, European political heavyweights like European Parliament President Martin Schulz and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker have thrown their support behind Van der Bellen, who is popular with urban and highly educated voters.
In contrast, Hofer appeals to voters in the countryside, especially young men. “You need the schickeria – the in-crowd. The real citizens are for me,” Hofer told Van der Bellen during a recent contentious TV debate.
Power of the presidency
Although the president has a largely ceremonial role in Austria, Hofer has already promised that he would play an active role in politics and said he would dissolve any government that in his view “damages” the country, as he believes the current coalition has done in letting in so many refugees. The refugees, he argues, merely take advantage of taxpayers’ money and perpetrate more crimes.
Rathkolb says that Hofer’s approach is hitting home among voters. “The point is, they don’t listen to his aggressive messages, they see him as ‘one of us.'”
In response, Van der Bellen has called Hofer “authoritarian” and said that as president he would not approve a Freedom Party government.
Austria and the EU
Sunday’s vote could not only decide on the country’s political direction – the two candidates also have starkly differing views of Austria’s role in Europe.
Austria was briefly sanctioned by the EU in 2000 when the Freedom Party joined in a coalition with the center-right People’s Party. The coalition ended in disaster, and taxpayers are in the midst of a 10-billion-euro bailout of a bank that had essentially been a honey pot for former Freedom Party leader Jörg Haider.
Van der Bellen has warned that as a small country, Austria needs a strong European Union to make an impact in an increasingly globalized economy, while Hofer, who voted against Austria joining the bloc in the first place, is staunchly anti-EU.
As far as elections go, this one is a real cliffhanger. Peter Hajek, an opinion researcher, points to the political upheaval that shook the country following the first vote: Chancellor Faymann’s resignation and Christian Kern’s subsequent appointment as the new leader. These factors, Hajek told DW, could sway the outcome.
“Hofer holds all the trumps in his hands, but that doesn’t mean he will win.”
Fear of migrants and loathing of elites drive a small Austrian town to far right
Frustrated voters could hand the country’s presidency to the populist Norbert Hofer on Sunday after rejecting the major parties
May 21, 2016
by Philip Oltermann
Anyone who wants a glimpse of what kind of country Austria might turn into after this weekend’s presidential elections could do worse than visit the town of Wels in Upper Austria.
A majority vote tonight for Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) would not only confront the EU with a far-right president in its midst for the first time, but could send Austria on a journey towards becoming an autocratic, illiberal state more akin to Viktor Orbán’s Hungary than Angela Merkel’s Germany.
As polls opened in Austria on Sunday morning, there are fears that Hofer could use the instruments of the president’s office – previously interpreted as a mainly ceremonial role by the centrist politicians who have held the post in the past – to dissolve the government and usher in a chancellor from his own party, which is currently leading in the polls. In a TV debate, Hofer ominously said: “You will be surprised what can be done [by a president].”
In Wels, a community of 60,000 that was a capital city in the days of the Roman empire, the nightmare of Austrian liberals has already become a reality. A stronghold of the social democratic SPÖ party since the end of the second world war, the city elected its first rightwing mayor last year. In last month’s first round of the presidential election, 39% of Welsians voted for the rightwing Hofer, four percentage points more than voted for the right in the country as a whole.
The town’s new mayor, Andreas Rabl, has an appeal similar to that of the presidential candidate: a youthful, 44-year-old lawyer with a penchant for bright blue socks, he looks and sounds nothing like the beer hall rabble-rousers who have previously dominated the party in the regions. Rabl even owns a collection of paintings by the Viennese actionist painter Hermann Nitsch – an artist so lacking in folksy Alpine appeal that the Freedom party in Lower Austria has been trying to close down a museum dedicated to his work.
When the Freedom party last rose to prominence, entering government under its late leader, Jörg Haider, in 2000, it was still firmly rooted in Carinthia, in the deep rural south. Under the party’s current leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, and Hofer, who is one of Strache’s close allies, the FPÖ has expanded, managing to win voters both in Vienna’s working-class districts and more bourgeois areas such as the Wels town centre.
The party has tried to shed memories of its antisemitic history, with Strache and Hofer repeatedly paying visits to Israel. Instead, the Freedom party has focused on an anti-Islam, anti-refugee message. “Islamism is the new fascism,” Strache has said.
Yet once in office the party draws from a more conventional rightwing playbook. In Wels, which has a proportionally higher migrant population than other parts of Austria, Rabl has introduced a “value codex” for nurseries, which prescribes that children aged four to six should be able to recite by heart five German-language poems and five songs. Migrants who refuse to send their children to nursery face cuts in benefits.
At the same time, Rabl has vouched to cut down the operational deficit of his social democrat predecessors, promising to save the city 40m euros per year. The Alter Schlachthof, a cultural centre with a youth club and a workshop for women which are used by many of the town’s minorities, faces a 10% cut in its budget. One of the eight youth worker jobs has been cut.
His proudest achievement is hard to miss. The annual maypole has been moved from a corner next to the town hall into the centre of the town square. Its raising was celebrated with a festival, including a dance by performers in dirndls and lederhosen.
The global rise of a new populist right – from America’s Donald Trump via France’s Marine Le Pen to Britain’s Brexit campaign – is often attributed in part to a fear of globalisation and its symptoms, from migration movements to increased job insecurity. At a political debate at Vienna’s Burgtheater last Tuesday, journalist Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi suggested that “we in the arts have only benefited from globalisation. Yet, if an electrician is worried about an Afghan or a Syrian taking his job, he may have a point.”
However, a visit to Wels suggests that frustration with an ossified and incestuous political system may also be a factor. In February 2015, it emerged that a cashier at Welldorado, a municipal swimming pool and sauna, had been embezzling money for eight years. Over the course of a few months, the damages rose from €10,000 (£7,697) to more than €370,000.
In a small town such as Wels, it didn’t take long to trace the root of the scandal to the governing party: the cashier’s line manager turned out to be the brother of Hermann Wimmer, the Social Democrat mayoral candidate. At the 2015 mayoral elections, the party, which had still gained 60% of the vote in 2003, crashed to a sobering 27%.
A sense of stasis and entitlement is mirrored at a national level, where the centre-left SPÖ and the centre-right ÖVP have ruled in a “grand coalition” for 24 of the past 30 years. If Austria’s party membership rate is almost four times that of the European average, it is partly because most public sector jobs look inaccessible to anyone without a membership card from one of the big political groups.
New chancellor Christian Kern, brought in after the SPÖ’s disastrous performance in the first round of the presidential election forced Werner Faymann’s resignation, has given many liberals hope that social democracy can regain its dynamism. But Kern, who has been parachuted in from managing the federal railway company and hasn’t previously held a ministerial office, also provides an easy target for those who believe Austrian politics remains racket.
Basking in the sunshine in the beer garden of the Hotel Gösser in Wels, pensioner Anton Rosinger says he had always been a “Sozi” in the past, but felt that the Social Democrats in the town needed to be punished for their incompetence. His wife says she voted for the FPÖ because “I want to see if things can work differently. I know it probably won’t, but I had to try.”
“If we get Hofer and Strache,” Rosinger said, “that won’t be the end of the world. In America, that’s where you get real Nazis these days. They don’t ban them over there. Here, that scene is very small, perhaps a swastika here and there. But Austria is a small country. Compared to that Trump, Strache is a little boy.”
He doesn’t approve of those who rail against refugees, and complains about states like Britain or Poland, who he says want to get “all the benefits from the EU, but want to do none of the heavy lifting”. Between September last year and January, an estimated 40,000 refugees passed through the town, but only 450 asylum seekers have been sheltered in and around the city.
Though numbers have dropped off since the closure of the Balkan route on the initiative of Austria’s foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz, there are plans to build a new container village for around 300 asylum seekers on the site of an old army barracks on the outskirts of the town. Rabl has threatened a protest march on the motorway to block their arrival. “Many people in Austria have forgotten that their ancestors were once refugees too,” says Rosinger.
A few streets away, the mood is less forgiving. Propping up an outdoor bar in the middle of the town square drinking white wine spritzers, a group of men in their 40s rail against the government, which is “out to bugger us all”. Taxes, petrol prices, public sector pay and immigration, all are too high: “We get all these rats coming into our country. They don’t want to work, they just want to rape. Some of them want to integrate, but they are in a minority – that’s the problem.”
They have been impressed with what Rabl has done since coming to office, and have high hopes for Hofer, whom the latest polls put in a slight lead ahead of his rival Alexander Van der Bellen, an academic and former Green party spokesperson who is running as an independent.
Their only fear is that Austrians may not be brave enough to vent their anger at the voting booth. “We are a country of cowards. At least the English know how to defend themselves with their referendum; we don’t have the spine. In Vienna, we Austrians beat the Turks in 1683, but now the Turks rule Vienna like it’s theirs.”
All of the men declined to give their names, citing business interests. Still, one of them said that since the Freedom party had been in charge in Wels, it was easier to say such things out loud.
The Most Intriguing Spy Stories From 166 Internal NSA Reports
May 16 2016
by Micah Lee, Margot Williams
In the early months of 2003, the National Security Agency saw demand for its services spike as a new war in Iraq, as well as ongoing and profound changes in how people used the internet, added to a torrent of new agency work related to the war on terror, according to a review of 166 articles from a restricted agency newsletter.
The Intercept today is releasing the first three months of SIDtoday, March 31 through the end of June 2003, using files provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In addition, we are releasing any subsequent 2003 installments of SIDtoday series that began during this period. The files are available for download here.
We combed through these files with help from other writers and editors with an eye toward finding the most interesting stories, among other concerns.
SIDtoday was launched just 11 days into the U.S. invasion of Iraq by a team within the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate. SID is arguably the NSA’s most important division, responsible for spying on the agency’s targets, and SIDtoday became, as Peter Maass documents in an accompanying article, an invaluable primer on how the NSA breaks into and monitors communications systems around the world.
At the outset, SIDtoday declared that its mission was to “bring together communications from across the SIGINT Directorate in a single webpage” and that one of its key areas of focus would be providing “information on the Iraq Campaign and Campaign Against Terrorism.” And, indeed, the first issues of SIDtoday document how the agency paved the way for the Iraq War with diplomatic intelligence, supported the targeting of specific enemies in Iraq, and continued servicing existing “customers” like the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, whose appetite for signals intelligence grew sharply after the Sept. 11 attacks.
While the agency was helping in Iraq, NSA personnel were also involved in interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, SIDtoday articles show, working alongside the military and CIA at a time when prisoners there were treated brutally. The Intercept’s Cora Currier describes the NSA’s involvement with the interrogations in a separate story, one that also documents how the agency helped with the capture and rendition to Guantánamo of a group of Algerian men in Bosnia.
Shock and Awe: The Iraq War in SID
In the first months of the Iraq War, SIDtoday articles bragged about the NSA’s part in the run-up to the invasion and reflected the Bush administration’s confidence that Saddam Hussein had hidden weapons of mass destruction.
At the United Nations, readers were told, “timely SIGINT played a critical role” in winning adoption of resolutions related to Iraq, including by providing “insights into the nuances of internal divisions among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.”
When the military deployed to Iraq, SIGINT came too. Maj. Gen. Richard J. Quirk III, then a deputy director of SID, put out an “urgent” call for additional SIGINT analysts to volunteer for 90- to 120-day field deployment, stressing that “SIGINT is wired into our military operations as never before.” NSA’s Iraq War tasks would include “researching possible locations of stockpiled WMD material.” The Geospatial Exploitation Office, placed on 24/7 watch, provided “near-real-time tipping of communications associated with Iraqi leadership and other high-value targets.”
Just three days into the campaign, on March 23, 2003, Pfc. Jessica Lynch and five others were taken prisoner after their convoy from the 507th Maintenance Company went off course near Nasiriyah, Iraq, and lost 11 soldiers in the ensuing attack. On April 1, Special Operations commandos rescued Lynch from her bed at the Saddam Hussein General Hospital in Nasiriyah, swooping down in Black Hawk helicopters and firing explosive charges. (It later emerged that Iraqi forces had previously left the hospital.)
In “SID Support to POW Rescue,” Chief of Staff Charles Berlin revealed that the Lynch rescue was aided by blueprints from the Japanese construction firm that originally built the hospital, blueprints rounded up as the rescue was being planned and sent “as digital files” to the commandos “literally minutes before the aircraft departed with the strike team” on April 1. Information about the hospital had been collected by a dedicated Underground Facility Support Cell created by the NSA in 2002 as part of an interagency effort to assess “the infrastructure and vulnerabilities of underground facilities used by hostile governments or military forces.”
Even before President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003, NSA was preparing its history of the war. Record management officers were given guidance on how to preserve records from the operation, and the general staff was told how to preserve even “seemingly mundane things.”
Soon after the president’s “Mission Accomplished” victory speech, some NSA staff returned from deployment. But the role of signals intelligence in Iraq was not over. The NSA provided “time-sensitive SIGINT” support, including a “summary of contacts,” to aid the May 22, 2003, capture of a top Baathist official, Aziz Sajih Al-Numan, “king of diamonds” in the deck of playing cards that featured U.S. Central Command’s wanted Iraqis. Al-Numan was caught within 25 hours after the Army contacted NSA to request support. “Well done to all involved in his capture!” a SIDtoday article declared.
In June, the “ace of diamonds,” Saddam’s secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti, was captured thanks to “near-real-time tipping [of geospatial intelligence] to the Special Operations Forces engaged in the hunt,” along with rapid translation of intercepted conversations, SIDtoday bragged.
As the end of the quarter approached, SIDtoday reported on portents of continued resistance and warned, “The scope of hostilities is greater than many may realize,” and, separately, that “Iraq is still a troubled environment and much work needs to be done.”
Hunting a Russian Mobster, “Mr. Kumarin”
In an example of highly targeted intelligence gathering, the NSA spent “many months” acquiring the phone number of a Russian organized crime figure and began intercepting his calls, according to a May 2003 article. The intelligence work was sparked by the State Department, which in 2002 requested information on the leader of the Tambov crime syndicate in Russia, referred to only as “Mr. Kumarin,” and about any links between the syndicate and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In 2009, the Russian authorities tried and convicted Vladimir Kumarin, who had changed his name to Vladimir Barsukov, for fraud and money laundering. The New York Times compared him to a “Russian John Gotti.” He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Uncovering North Korean Nuclear Efforts
As previously shown, NSA signals intelligence was used to inform negotiations over U.N. resolutions against Iraq in early 2003. But that wasn’t the only time the agency influenced diplomacy: In 2002, signals intelligence ignited a confrontation between North Korea and the U.S., according to a SIDtoday article from April 2003. NSA eavesdroppers discovered that North Korea was developing a uranium enrichment capability in violation of an agreement with the U.S. When the State Department presented the evidence at a meeting in Pyongyang that October, the North Koreans admitted it was true, the article said, setting off the clash.
“The ONLY source of information on this treaty violation was SIGINT derived from North Korean external communications,” an NSA manager wrote in SIDtoday. “This is both a SIGINT success story and an example of how cross-organizational collaboration can produce key intelligence. Hats off to everyone involved!”
Orbital Signals Intelligence
For more than 30 years, one SIDtoday article from June 2003 explained, the NSA had tapped into communications from foreign satellites. Though the program associated with this monitoring, FORNSAT, has been previously disclosed, this document adds important context. For example, it made FORNSAT sound like an intelligence gold mine, having “consistently provided … over 25 percent of end product reporting.” It also explained what sorts of information the NSA gleaned from satellites — “intelligence derived from diplomatic communications … airline reservations and billing data … traffic about terrorists, international crime, weapons of mass destruction … international finance and trade.”
The problem, at the time the article was written, was that FORNSAT was in “dire need of upgrade” because it was “primarily engineered for voice” communications and needed to shift to intercepting more digital communications, including digital video. It also needed to be expanded to tap into mobile satellite phone systems, which “use hundreds of spot beams. Our 13 fixed FORNSAT sites cannot provide the necessary access.”
Leaks Included in 5,000 “Insecurity Records”
Ten years before Edward Snowden gave a trove of NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, a “chief” within SID’s Communications and Support Operations organization described in SIDtoday the great lengths the agency went to in order to track leaks. In a profile of the Intelligence Security Issues office within CSO, this person said that ISI scanned 350 press items daily for “cryptologic insecurities” and maintained a database called FIRSTFRUIT with “over 5,000 insecurity-related records” ranging from “espionage damage assessments” to “liaison exchanges.” This ISI profile ran as part of a broader SIDtoday series on the CSO organization.
Technology Pushed NSA Into the Tablet Era — and Tons of Gear Went Missing
One theme that emerges from early 2003 SIDtoday installments is that the NSA was grappling with how to handle advances in information technology, particularly the proliferation of mobile devices and online networks.
One article in the “Customer Relations” series described several “dynamic dissemination products” to help SID “change with … our customers,” including an initiative to distribute “secret-level information” to wireless devices, a technique for disseminating “NSA product” to tablet computers, and a system to view secret documents on unclassified computers over the internet, bypassing the need for a high-security enclosed area known as a SCIF. These efforts foreshadowed Hillary Clinton’s controversial use, as secretary of state, of a BlackBerry device to traffic in sensitive government information after the NSA reportedly rebuffed her request for a special secure device from the agency.
Another article highlighted that the NSA was a heavy user of mobile devices even four years before the release of the first iPhone, calling on staffers to help catalogue all computers, including “laptops, palmtops/PDAs, etc.,” for an annual inventory.The document also stated that $27 million worth of equipment remained “unaccounted for” after the prior year’s audit, which ended just two months earlier.
In addition to making secret information accessible to more people, SID was developing new systems to solve long-standing problems. The JOURNEYMAN program, described in another article, aimed to develop a system for distributing SIGINT reports to many different recipients at once across different networks with different formatting requirements. Another system, PATENTHAMMER, collected cellular, fax, and pager signals for the Special Operations Command and also allowed users to access information collected in the past.
SID was also still exploring the rapidly evolving internet. One article described how the NSA was improving its integration with the public internet via a program called OUTPARKS. Another touted the NSA’s annual SIGDEV conference, a major event in which analysts from the “five eyes” intelligence agencies in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States share techniques for developing new SIGINT. The article noted that the 2003 SIGDEV would include workshops on “social network analysis,” “internet research,” and “wireless LANs,” that is, wifi networks.
Other NSA staff apparently required more basic forms of training. “Do you know you can make SIDtoday your browser homepage?” asked a June 2003 article, with instructions on changing the default homepage in the web browsers popular at the time: Netscape and Internet Explorer.
Demand for NSA Intelligence Became “Voracious”
The Signals Intelligence Directorate is full of expert spies, but they don’t choose who to spy on themselves. In the corporate lingo of SID, the “customer” decides, customers “including all departments of the executive branch,” according to the agency’s website. And the demand from customers exploded in 2003, judging from a series of SIDtoday articles about the Customer Relationships Directorate, an office focused on ensuring that NSA’s customers get what they need.
One driver of this demand was the war on terror; inbound SIGINT requests to the NSA’s National Security Operations Center went from 300 in the two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks to 1,700 by the end of the year, according to one SIDtoday article. Existing customers like the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture “suddenly became voracious consumers” of signals intelligence, as one article from April 2003 put it, and brand new customers appeared on the scene, such as the newly created Department of Homeland Security. SID also increased its interaction with domestic law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Another driver of heightened SIGINT demand was the war in Iraq. According to the document describing the NSA’s role in war-related U.N. Security Council resolutions, “The number of timely SIGINT tippers delivered to [the U.S. Mission to the United Nations] during key points in the negotiations increased by a factor of four.”
Creating a “Plausible Cover” for Sensitive Intelligence Sources
Amid strong demand for intelligence, the NSA sometimes needed to alter sensitive information so it could be shared more widely. As part of SIDtoday’s explainer series “ConSIDer This,” one unknown author from the SIGINT communications team explained how to lower the classification level of intercepted communications, or COMINT, a process known as “downgrading.” The process could involve some subterfuge. “In order to downgrade COMINT, a plausible cover (i.e., collection from a less sensitive source) must exist,” the article stated.
Changing of the Guard at SID
As SIDtoday launched in 2003, the Signals Intelligence Directorate was in the midst of a leadership change as Director Maureen Baginski moved to a new position as the FBI’s head of intelligence and Maj. Gen. Quirk replaced her. Several other new managers and technical directors introduced themselves in the online newsletter’s series “Getting to Know the SID Leadership Team.” Also in that series: A senior technical leader complained that “voice dominates our reporting today, yet [digital information] is much more prolific in the global net” and explored reasons for this shortcoming.
Life Stationed Abroad for SID Staffers
Throughout the second half of 2003, employees of the Signals Intelligence Directorate contributed articles to the series “SID Around the World,” a sort of collective travelogue on their tours outside the Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters of the NSA. SID staffers seemed to most enjoy local cuisine: beer, strawberries, chocolates, and ramen, although one touted the possibility of “less than a four-hour drive” from the NSA’s U.K. Menwith Hill site for a “Taco Bell or Cinnabon fix.” Interspersed with recommendations for Rhineland wineries, Japanese communal hot baths, and winter sports in Colorado were some interesting facts about NSA’s global reach in 2003. The majority of signals processed at the Kunia operations center in Hawaii were collected on Okinawa. Some of the NSA’s representatives in Mons, Belgium, worked in an underground bunker. The Misawa base in Japan had just 25 civilian NSA personnel, while Menwith Hill had several hundred.
SIDtoday’s “Around the World” to Guantánamo Bay is part of a larger story on the NSA’s role in interrogations.
Office Space: NSA Edition
SIDtoday’s “A Day in the Life” series provided first-person accounts of the various jobs within the Signals Intelligence Directorate. For example, one “Day in the Life” described the work of a mathematician in the field of “diagnosis,” that is, studying encryption systems in order to understand their weaknesses. “During the course of a normal day,” the mathematician wrote, “I run cryptanalytic routines on UNIX desktop workstations, supercomputers, and special-purpose devices using available software tools. The routines employ standard cryptanalytic tests which search for patterns and non-random properties in data.”
The series also included an article written by Maj. Gen. Quirk’s executive assistant — the “conscience” of a “senior leader” — and another by a senior operations officer whose work involved entertaining Fox News personality Tony Snow before he became White House press secretary.
Peer Review for Spies: NSA’s Learned Organizations
For an academic, there is no better way to improve your career than to get published in prestigious journals and to win prestigious awards. But what if your research is classified and you can’t ever get the public recognition you deserve without betraying state secrets? If you work for the NSA, you look to one of the agency’s Learned Organizations to receive your academic accolades.
SIDtoday included a series of articles that shines a spotlight on NSA’s Learned Organizations, including the cryptanalysis-focused KRYPTOS Society; the Crypto-Linguistic Association, focused on language analysis, with events that in 2002 included a luncheon with the director of the Klingon Institute; the Collection Association, whose membership evolved from spies gathering intelligence via antennas to also include the monitoring of satellites and internet sleuthing; the Crypto-Mathematics Institute, NSA’s oldest Learned Organization, founded in 1957, whose activities included an essay contest; and the International Affairs Institute.
The FBI’s secret biometrics database they don’t want you to see
May 22, 2016
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants to prevent information about its creepy biometric database, which contains fingerprint, face, iris, and voice scans of millions of Americans, from getting out to the public.
The Department of Justice has come up with a proposal to exempt the biometric database from public disclosure. It states that the Next Generation Identification System (NGI) should not be subject to the Privacy Act, which requires federal agencies to give people access to records that have been collected concerning them, “allowing them to verify and correct them if needed.”
The proposal states that allowing individuals to view their own records, or even an account of those records, could compromise criminal investigations or “national security efforts,” potentially reveal a “sensitive investigative technique,” or provide information that could help a subject “avoid detection or apprehension.”
The database contains biometric information on people who have provided fingerprints to employers, or for licenses and background checks, as well as on convicted criminals and those that have been suspected of wrongdoing even for a short period of time, according to Underground Reporter.
The proposal argues that the FBI should be able to retain the data it has collected on individuals even if they are later found to have done nothing illegal, as the information “may acquire new significance when new details are brought to light.”
The FBI claims the retained data could also be used for “establishing patterns of activity and providing criminal lead.”
In addition, the FBI’s proposal calls for an exemption to a clause which requires agencies to maintain records proving that their determinations regarding individuals in their data base are fair and legally justified, arguing that it is “impossible to know in advance what information is accurate, relevant, timely and complete.”
The proposal is open for comment until June 6.
Facial recognition is being used outside the realms of law enforcement as well. For example, a nightclub in Sydney uses the technology to identify clubbers previously deemed unruly to prevent them from getting in again.
Facebook has long used facial recognition software to identify people in uploaded photographs and offers facial recognition as a method of verifying a user’s identity.
There are now even facial recognition apps that can identify strangers on the street. While this may be great news for stalkers, it is less so for those not inclined to reveal their identity to random passersby.
Meanwhile, there are companies making products that can confuse or fool facial recognition software. A Japanese company has invented a “privacy visor” that will “scramble digital facial recognition software,” Biometric Update reports.
Specially made clothes and camouflage make up can turn a face “into a mess of unremarkable pixels” in order to throw the technology off.
Inside the NGI, in the words of the FBI
The information stored on the FBI’s Next Generation Identification System, the biometrics database it is trying to keep under wraps, gives federal agents access to a number of identification systems.
Here’s a rundown on the tools on offer to law enforcement, as detailed on the FBI’s website:
- The Interstate Photo System contains 23 million front-facing photographs that can be used to identify suspects without human intervention.
- The Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) allows agents in the field to rapidly identify detainees and criminal suspects by searching a repository of Wanted Persons, Sex Offenders Registry Subjects, Known or appropriately Suspected Terrorists, and other persons of special interest.
- The Latents and National Palm Print System is an updated database of finger and palm prints that can be searched on a nationwide basis.
- The Rap Back Service notifies agencies of the activity of individuals after “the initial processing and retention of criminal or civil transactions.” The service can “notify agencies of subsequent activity for individuals enrolled in the service. Including a more timely process of confirming suitability of those individuals placed in positions of trust and notification to users of criminal activity for those individuals placed on probation or parole.”
- Iris Recognition is “poised to offer law enforcement a new tool to quickly and accurately determine identity.”
Parallels Between Israel and 1930s Germany
May 21, 2016
by Uri Avnery
“Please don’t write about Ya’ir Golan!” a friend begged me, “Anything a leftist like you writes will only harm him!”
So I abstained for some weeks. But I can’t keep quiet any longer.
General Ya’ir Golan, the deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli army, made a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day. Wearing his uniform, he read a prepared, well-considered text that triggered an uproar which has not yet died down.
Dozens of articles have been published in its wake, some condemning him, some lauding him. Seems that nobody could stay indifferent.
The main sentence was: “If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”
All hell broke loose. What!!! Traces of Nazism in Israel? A resemblance between what the Nazis did to us with what we are doing to the Palestinians?
90 years ago was 1926, one of the last years of the German republic. 80 years ago was 1936, three years after the Nazis came to power. 70 years ago was 1946, on the morrow of Hitler’s suicide and the end of the Nazi Reich.
I feel compelled to write about the general’s speech after all, because I was there.
As a child I was an eyewitness to the last years of the Weimar Republic (so called because its constitution was shaped in Weimar, the town of Goethe and Schiller). As a politically alert boy I witnessed the Nazi Machtergreifung (“taking power”) and the first half a year of Nazi rule.
I know what Golan was speaking about. Though we belong to two different generations, we share the same background. Both our families come from small towns in Western Germany. His father and I must have had a lot in common.
There is a strict moral commandment in Israel: nothing can be compared to the Holocaust. The Holocaust is unique. It happened to us, the Jews, because we are unique. (Religious Jews would add: “Because God has chosen us”.)
I have broken this commandment. Just before Golan was born, I published (in Hebrew) a book called “The Swastika”, in which I recounted my childhood memories and tried to draw conclusions from them. It was on the eve of the Eichmann trial, and I was shocked by the lack of knowledge about the Nazi era among young Israelis then.
My book did not deal with the Holocaust, which took place when I was already living in Palestine, but with a question which troubled me throughout the years, and even today: how could it happen that Germany, perhaps the most cultured nation on earth at the time, the homeland of Goethe, Beethoven and Kant, could democratically elect a raving psychopath like Adolf Hitler as its leader?
The last chapter of the book was entitled “It Can Happen Here!” The title was drawn from a book by the American novelist Sinclair Lewis, called ironically “It Can’t Happen Here”, in which he described a Nazi takeover of the United States.
In this chapter I discussed the possibility of a Jewish Nazi-like party coming to power in Israel. My conclusion was that a Nazi party can come to power in any country on earth, if the conditions are right. Yes, in Israel, too.
The book was largely ignored by the Israeli public, which at the time was overwhelmed by the storm of emotions evoked by the terrible disclosures of the Eichmann trial.
Now comes General Golan, an esteemed professional soldier, and says the same thing.
And not as an improvised remark, but on an official occasion, wearing his general’s uniform, reading from a prepared, well thought-out text.
The storm broke out, and has not passed yet.
Israelis have a self-protective habit: when confronted with inconvenient truths, they evade its essence and deal with a secondary, unimportant aspect. Of all the dozens and dozens of reactions in the written press, on TV and on political platforms, almost none confronted the general’s painful contention.
No, the furious debate that broke out concerns the questions: Is a high-ranking army officer allowed to voice an opinion about matters that concern the civilian establishment? And do so in army uniform? On an official occasion?
Should an army officer keep quiet about his political convictions? Or voice them only in closed sessions – “in relevant forums”, as a furious Binyamin Netanyahu phrased it?
General Golan enjoys a very high degree of respect in the army. As Deputy Chief of Staff he was until now almost certainly a candidate for Chief of Staff, when the incumbent leaves the office after the customary four years.
The fulfillment of this dream shared by every General Staff officer is now very remote. In practice, Golan has sacrificed his further advancement in order to utter his warning and giving it the widest possible resonance.
One can only respect such courage. I have never met General Golan, I believe, and I don’t know his political views. But I admire his act.
(Somehow I recall an article published by the British magazine Punch before World War I, when a group of junior army officers issued a statement opposing the government’s policy in Ireland. The magazine said that while disapproving the opinion expressed by the mutinous officers, it took pride in the fact that such youthful officers were ready to sacrifice their careers for their convictions.)
The Nazi march to power started in 1929, when a terrible worldwide economic crisis hit Germany. A tiny, ridiculous far-right party suddenly became a political force to be reckoned with. From there it took them four years to become the largest party in the country and to take over power (though it still needed a coalition).
I was there when it happened, a boy in a family in which politics became the main topic at the dinner table. I saw how the republic broke down, gradually, slowly, step by step. I saw our family friends hoisting the swastika flag. I saw my high-school teacher raising his arm when entering the class and saying “Heil Hitler” for the first time (and then reassuring me in private that nothing had changed.)
I was the only Jew in the entire gymnasium (high school.) When the hundreds of boys – all taller than I – raised their arms to sing the Nazi anthem, and I did not, they threatened to break my bones if it happened again. A few days later we left Germany for good.
General Golan was accused of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Nothing of the sort. A careful reading of his text shows that he compared developments in Israel to the events that led to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. And that is a valid comparison.
Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events. True, the process is quite different. German fascism arose from the humiliation of surrender in World War I, the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium from 1923-25, the terrible economic crisis of 1929, the misery of millions of unemployed. Israel is victorious in its frequent military actions, we live comfortable lives. The dangers threatening us are of a quite different nature. They stem from our victories, not from our defeats.
Indeed, the differences between Israel today and Germany then are far greater than the similarities. But those similarities do exist, and the general was right to point them out.
The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)
The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime. Some rabbis call for a boycott of Arab shops. Like then. The call “Death to the Arabs” (“Judah verrecke”?) is regularly heard at soccer matches. A member of parliament has called for the separation between Jewish and Arab newborns in hospital. A Chief Rabbi has declared that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews. Our Ministers of Education and Culture are busy subduing the schools, theater and arts to the extreme rightist line, something known in German as Gleichschaltung. The Supreme Court, the pride of Israel, is being relentlessly attacked by the Minister of Justice. The Gaza Strip is a huge ghetto.
Of course, no one in their right mind would even remotely compare Netanyahu to the Fuehrer, but there are political parties here which do emit a strong fascist smell. The political riffraff peopling the present Netanyahu government could easily have found their place in the first Nazi government.
One of the main slogans of our present government is to replace the “old elite”, considered too liberal, with a new one. One of the main Nazi slogans was to replace “das System”.
By the way, when the Nazis came to power, almost all high-ranking officers of the German army were staunch anti-Nazis. They were even considering a putsch against Hitler . Their political leader was summarily executed a year later, when Hitler liquidated his opponents in his own party. We are told that General Golan is now protected by a personal bodyguard, something that has never happened to a general in the annals of Israel.
The general did not mention the occupation and the settlements, which are under army rule. But he did mention the episode which occurred shortly before he gave this speech, and which is still shaking Israel now: in occupied Hebron, under army rule, a soldier saw a seriously wounded Palestinian lying helplessly on the ground, approached him and killed him with a shot to the head. The victim had tried to attack some soldiers with a knife, but did not constitute a threat to anyone any more. This was a clear contravention of army standing orders, and the soldier has been hauled before a court martial.
A cry went up around the country: the soldier is a hero! He should be decorated! Netanyahu called his father to assure him of his support. Avigdor Lieberman entered the crowded courtroom in order to express his solidarity with the soldier. A few days later Netanyahu appointed Lieberman as Minister of Defense, the second most important office in Israel.
Before that, General Golan received robust support both from the Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, and the Chief of Staff, Gadi Eisenkot. Probably this was the immediate reason for the kicking out of Ya’alon and the appointment of Lieberman in his place. It resembled a putsch.
It seems that Golan is not only a courageous officer, but a prophet, too. The inclusion of Lieberman’s party in the government coalition confirms Golan’s blackest fears. This is another fatal blow to the Israeli democracy.
Am I condemned to witness the same process for the second time in my life?