TBR News April 14, 2016

Apr 14 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. April 15, 2016: “I wonder, as I contemplate past and future nonsense, whether or not domestic intelligence has discovered that the same people who are, clandestinely, funding the Scottish Independence movement are the identical ones who supported Trudeau’s successful Canadian campaign?

On the one hand, the vain plans to ship the 25th Division to Alaska preparatory to moving them to northern Canadian bases, agreed to by the very conservative Canadian premier, were thwarted when Trudeau got into power.

And in Scotland, the same successful people were not amused by the sonic buoys and various supposedly secret intelligence bases in that country.

Why, Hegel’s plans for Canada and a confrontation with the Russians over Arctic oil, and other items of interest, were in, Igor Korobov and Putin’s hands before the ink was dry on Hegel’s signature.

As I have said elsewhere, there are no secrets anymore.

And Julian Assange’s work for DARPA is not a secret and neither is Snowden’s incredible work for the GRU in downloading an enormous amount of extraordinarily important intelligence material while working for Booze Hamilton in Hawaii.

To me, all of this is like watching the labors inside an ant farm but to others, brilliant work in defense of the democratic system and the needs of its military and business entities.

Remember the Lincoln Group!

Gone and happily forgotten.

And as a matter of high humor, we have the CIA’s kindergarten-level, and failed, plan to off Snowden in Moscow (or its environs) as a lesson to other defectors.

Ah well, it is very clearly evident that the leadership at Meade (and Langley) represents the graduating classes from St. Elizabeth’s Academy for Intelligence Leadership.

Onward and upwards indeed!


Note: Readers with interesting information, questions or comments can contact us at: tbrnews@hotmail.com



Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.           After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversations with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.


Conversation No. 13

Date:  Wednesday, May 8, 1996

Commenced:  9:54 AM CST

Concluded: 10:32 AM CST


RTC: Good morning, Gregory. Have you been reading about the resurrection of brother Colby?

GD: Good morning, Robert. Yes, I saw this piece of news yesterday but I was too busy to call you. I’m trying to finish up the translation of Mueller’s journals and when I get on a rush, I don’t let up. He floated…no some divers found him. Right?

RTC: As I understand it, yes. Oddly enough, they had searched the same place before but without success.

GD: Maybe they took him from a fishpond somewhere and planted him before he got too ripe.

RTC: It’s an odd case, Gregory. Here we have a man in his late ‘70s staying at his little summer place out on Rock Point, coming downstairs about eleven in the evening, putting on the computer and the television and then running outside in bad weather, jumping into his canoe and paddling out onto the river which was very rough about then what with the wind and rain. And, most interesting, he left his life belt behind. Bill always wore his vest when he went out in his canoe but he seems to have forgotten it. Careless.

GD: Getting old.

RTC: But no older.

GD: Can I do a scenario for you, Robert? Just to show you how really clever I am?

RTC: Why not?

GD: Some friends came to visit him a little earlier. Unannounced of course. Friendly talk, maybe a glass or two of wine and then poor Colby drank something that made him a little disoriented. Nothing to remain in the body afterwards, of course. Then I’ll bet they picked him up, took him out and put him in the boat they came in on, hooked the canoe up behind them with a painter and out onto the bounding main. Then into the nice cold water, unhitching the canoe and back to shore and the warmth of home and hearth. There was no mention of a hole in his head or missing body parts at all. A careless and confused old man out for a refreshing little trip and then tragedy strikes. I don’t think they’ve had time for a full post but I’ll just wager you they won’t find any cyanide or ricin in him. Another skillfully planned CIA wet action.

RTC: That’s an interesting analysis, Gregory. You haven’t been talking to anyone about this, have you?

GD: From that, I must have guessed right. The reports mentioned the computer and the bad weather and I put the rest together. I always loved jigsaw puzzles, Robert. In the summer, when Chicago got hot, we had no air conditioning in those days so we used to go up to Vilas County in upper Wisconsin to get cool. Nice summer house on a quiet lake. On the front screen porch, there were two large ping pong tables and boxes of very complex jigsaw puzzles. While everyone else was out swimming or fishing for the really delicious lake trout, I was on the porch for hours, putting the puzzles together. I love puzzles. On this one, the pieces were all there.

RTC: I told Kimmel once that you would have made a first class agent for us and he was outraged that I would even think of such sacrilege.

GD: I don’t disagree with you Robert. Kimmel once told me, seriously, that I suffered from the worst case of hubris he had ever seen. Do you know what I told him?

RTC: Were you rude?

GD: No, merely accurate. I told him that I had thought I was wrong about something once but found out later I was mistaken.

RTC: Delightful response, Gregory. And his?

GD: He was not amused, but I was. Anyway, the errant Colby has returned to the land of the living but in worse shape than when he left it.

RTC: Thank God for that.

GD: We can anticipate solemn statements from the White House, a weeping wife and black-suited friends and then off to the bone yard in a bronze box, tightly sealed lest eau d’Colby annoy people downwind. By now he probably smells like a big Camembert cheese. And soon forgotten by most. And from what you said, you won’t be going to the services.

RTC: I think not.

GD: But you do have your memories.

RTC: So do a lot of others. Perhaps we can discuss something more cheerful than the loss of a valued friend and freedom fighter, Gregory.

GD: How is the blessed box working?

RTC: The birds still flee but no ambulances at the door.

GD: Yes. Wait until valued secretary Mitzi Rumpleberger hangs herself in an electronically inspired fit of depression in the ladies’ lavatory with a pair of silk stockings.

RTC: The Ambassador would be more spectacular.

GD: His office is probably in the back. And one would hope he doesn’t wear silk stockings. Or a bra either.

RTC: Such imagery.

GD: If you don’t laugh, Robert, you will go crazy. People don’t realize that life is a huge practical joke that always has a bad ending. Like Brother Colby, but enough of forbidden topics. Someday, I will tell you how I nailed Pollard.

RTC: This is not another joke?

GD: Not at all.

RTC: I have some knowledge of this business, Gregory, and I would like to compare it to your own. Do go on.

GD: I knew a military collector when I was living in California. He used to collect SS items which was rather weird because he was Jewish. His father had been a host for a kiddie television show and after he and the mother got a divorce, she married a big cheese in the insurance business. Jack Beckett.

RTC: Transamerica Beckett?

GD: The same. They lived in Atherton in a gated house. I used to visit there from time to time and met Beckett a few times. A very decent, down to earth person, easy to talk to and I would say very honest. Did you know him?

RTC: I believe we knew him.

GD: He mentioned he knew Stansfield Turner so you must be right. Anyway, Abenheim, that’s his name, Donald Abenheim, had a fellow student from Stanford named Jay Pollard. Pollard used to come over and the two of them would war game and I sat in on a few sessions. Pollard was a very pleasant, smart fellow but a raging nebbish. A Walter Mitty type, if you know what I mean. Lived in a fantasy world of his own making. Pollard’s father was a dentist or something dull living in Ohio but Pollard was a downright fanatical Israeli supporter and he went on about working as a kibbutz guard, being an officer in the Mossad and so on. Obvious bullshit. It didn’t make him a bad person but he was a little hard to take at times. We never believed a word he said on that subject. Anyway, later, after Abenheim had graduated from Stanford, he told me Pollard had tried to get into your agency as an analyst but they discovered his Israeli lust and turned him down. Don told me that in their yearbook, Pollard put down that he was a major in the Mossad. But then he went to work for naval intelligence….

RTC: Naval Fleet Intelligence. Then he transferred over to the Anti-Terrorist Alert center of the NIS.

GD: The what?

RTC: Naval Investigative Service. They dealt with top secret military communications. Go on.

GD: When Don told me about this, I remarked that perhaps, given his attitudes, this was really not the place for Pollard to work.

RTC: In hindsight, you were perfectly right.

GD: So I pumped Abenheim about what Pollard was doing. Jay was in touch with him and they both had motor mouths. When Abenheim got specific, I suggested that he mention this to someone because he was fooling around with the national intelligence community but he only laughed at me.

RTC: And then what?

GD: Well, I thought about this and don’t forget I knew Pollard’s fanatic attitudes…I mean they were obsessive, believe me…so after stewing about this, I called up someone I knew who was connected with the Pacifica Foundation. He was a friend of Cap Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense. I told him all about Pollard and said that in my opinion, this was a man who should not have any access to secret governmental material dealing with anything in the Middle East. I made it a point to tell this fellow that if he couldn’t get Weinberger’s attention, I would take it to the press. Oh no, he said, give me some time. I did. He called me back in about a week and said he had passed the word along and begged me to keep quiet about it. Fair enough. Then we all know what happened.

RTC: Yes, we all do. So you were the “unidentified source.”

GD: Yes. Beats Mr. Sunshine.

RTC: Did you hear about what Weinberger did to Pollard?

GD: Not really.

RTC: Pollard cut a deal with the government for a lighter sentence but Weinberger hated him and got Wolf Blitzer to have an interview with Pollard and trick him into breaking his agreement. Pollard got life for being stupid.

GD: He wasn’t stupid, but he had no common sense.

RTC: Well, now he’s got life in the slammer.

GD: I told Abenheim what I did and he was terrified I would drag him into it. He was living off of Beckett, who put him into Stanford and bought him new cars and so on, and he was afraid of the consequences if Beckett got wind of his own lack of concern. He used to babble all kinds of family gossip around, including myself, and I always thought that if you take a man’s bread, you owe him at least some loyalty. But Don was not a man to contemplate honor. I remember once when I was having certain conversation with a German diplomat in San Francisco, this fellow encountered Don at some function. Don was an outrageous ass-kisser and at any rate, the German told him he knew me and that I was a “brilliant scholar” on the German scene. He said that Abenheim got annoyed and said I was only self-educated, which I am not and I said that considering that I had written Abenheim’s doctoral thesis, that was hardly appropriate. The German found this rather shocking.

RTC: If Stanford ever found out about that, they would jerk his degree, you know. I don’t think that would do his intelligence career any good. What was the thesis on?

GD: The Imperial German Navy’s etappendienst or resupply system, in the First World War. After this episode, I mentioned it to Charlie Burdick, the German military historian and Dean at San Jose State, very reputable and I’ve known him since ’52…anyway, he said that this paper struck him as much better than Abenheim’s usually pompous and turgid works. He knew my work and said that he could see in an instant that I was right. I asked him, since he was Abenheim’s sponsor for the doctorate, what he was going to do about it. As usual, nothing. But he would never talk to Don again.

RTC: What happened to him?

GD: Burdick?

RTC: No, Abenheim. Does he work for us?

GD: No, although Beckett wanted to get him into the CIA via his contacts with Turner. He does intelligence work for the Navy, I think. After I had a talk with him about his mouth problem, we haven’t spoken.

RTC: You should tip them off. We have too many treacherous people like that.

GD: Well, I don’t worry about it. The Germans and Burdick know, and believe me, and he can deal with that knowledge. I don’t think you have to worry about his selling secrets to Israel. He and his mother hate the Zionists. Reformed Jews usually do.

RTC: What does he think about your writings on Mueller?

GD: I would hate to think. Fortunately, that is outside his interest so I am probably safe.

RTC: What is his specialty?

GD: He likes to think he’s an expert on German military tradition but he most certainly is not. Abenheim is the moon and Beckett is the sun. Abenheim drove expensive sports cars, lived in an expensive house, went to an expensive school and met famous people but only because his mother married an important, and very generous, man. I remember once, Don and his friends were planning on raiding a military storage area in San Francisco when he was working in the Presidio museum. They heard there was morphine stored there and planned to sell it. I told him that I would tell his mother if he didn’t drop that idea and it scared him off. I mean, what an utterly stupid thing to do. He should have thanked me for keeping him out of jail instead of trash mouthing me to others.

RTC: Given what you’ve told me, he’s probably just jealous. I imagine he loved to pick your brains.

GD: Yes, like Corson.

RTC: There are certain similarities there.

GD: God save us from those of the small mind and large ego.

RTC: Anyway, Gregory, you did the right thing in the Pollard matter. And while your name is not known in this, your good deeds certainly are.

GD: But no good deed goes unpunished, does it, Robert? At least, Abenheim will be more cautious in the future or I might start writing nice letters to Stanford. After all, I have all the original work on his thesis. His useless notes and my handwritten pages. I remember once when he told me that brave Israeli commandos raided a Libyan secret plant, deep in the desert, and destroyed it. I got tired of his pomposity so I told him, very offhand, that that was a hoax. I said Kadaffi had put some oil and old tires into 55 gallon drums and set them on fire. I said the satellites showed clouds of black smoke but there was nothing to it. He got very irate and asked me how I knew such things? I said I had seen the side-angle satellite pictures…

RTC: My God, Gregory, you didn’t? Those satellites are very, very secret. He must have had a fit about that.

GD: Oh, he did. It turned out later I was right about the burning tires so he rushed to his superiors to tell them all about the horrid person who had access to the sacred satellite pictures. And about a month later, a military collector friend of mine was approached by someone at a collector’s club meeting. A nice, clean-cut fellow named Mason. Anyway, this fellow made friends with my collector connection and developed a great interest in me and my doings. I checked on this Mason fellow and discovered from Petersen that Chris was a CIA operative so I led him a wonderful chase, feeding him all kinds of nonsense until he finally, after several months, realized he was being made a fool of and he went back to Washington. He was not very bright, Robert. I had written a book on German paratroopers in the campaign on Crete so he had my friend send me a mint copy of the book to autograph. The cover was heavy coated stock so I put on a pair of cotton gloves, went over to my next door neighbor and handed the book to him. I had told him earlier that I had written a number of studies of military actions and he was interested. I said I had hurt my hand and could he autograph the book?

RTC: Gregory,that was a terrible thing to do. Now someone has your neighbor’s fingerprints and handwriting in a file somewhere. What a wicked thing to do.

GD: Ain’t I awful, Robert? And I told my collector friend about all the lovely aerial pictures I had. I was going to get a Russian publisher to do a book called, “The World from the Air.”

RTC: Jesus Christ…

GD: Oh and I said they were Cosmic pictures. From Top Secret/Cosmic of course.

RTC: And I suppose he told his new friend and consternation ensued in Washington.

GD: I said I was meeting a Russian publisher’s rep in ‘Frisco down at his office on Green Street.

RTC: That’s the Russian consulate. That’s a KGB center, Gregory.

GD: No, don’t disillusion me.

RTC: That is really wicked. You never saw any side-angle satellites pictures, never had any secret pictures, had no Russian publisher but just imagine the furor.

GD: Kept me warm at night for months, Robert. Abenheim later told someone that I was pure evil and should never be talked to. He wasn’t specific but my friend thought he might have an involuntary bowel movement at any time.

RTC: I said several times you would make a great agent, Gregory.

GD: Whatever makes you think I’m not, Robert?

RTC: On that depressing note, I’ll let you go. We’re supposed to go shopping and let’s do this again. You’re better than television, Gregory.

GD: And a lot more accurate, Robert.


(Concluded at 10:32 AM CST)





‘Let them sell their summer homes’: NYC pension dumps hedge funds

April 14, 2016

by Edward Krudy


NEW YORK-New York City’s largest public pension is exiting all hedge fund investments in the latest sign that the $4 trillion public pension sector is losing patience with these often secretive portfolios at a time of poor performance and high fees.

The board of the New York City Employees Retirement System (NYCERS) voted to leave blue chip firms such as Brevan Howard and D.E. Shaw after their consultants said they can reach their targeted investment returns with less risky funds.

The move by the fund, which had $51.2 billion in assets as of Jan. 31, follows a similar actions by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers), the nation’s largest public pension fund, and public pensions in Illinois.

“Hedges have underperformed, costing us millions,” New York City’s Public Advocate Letitia James told board members in prepared remarks. “Let them sell their summer homes and jets, and return those fees to their investors.”

The move is a blow to the $3 trillion hedge fund industry where managers like to have pensions as investors because they leave their money in for longer than individuals, sending a signal of stability to other investors.

Hedge fund returns have been lackluster for some time. The average fund lost about 1 percent last year when the stock market was flat, prompting institutional investors to leave.

Research firm eVestment said investors overall pulled $19.8 billion from hedge funds in January, marking the biggest monthly outflow since 2009.

Performance at some of the funds with which New York City invested was far worse. Luxor Capital Group, a long-time favorite with many pensions, lost an average 18.3 percent a year for the last two years.

New York city’s public pension system has five separate pension funds with individual governing structures. The system has total assets of $154 billion, with about $3 billion invested in hedge funds as of Jan. 31.

NYCERS had $1.7 billion invested in hedge funds at the end of the second quarter 2015, according to its financial report. That amounted to 2.8 percent of total assets and was the smallest portion of its ‘alternative investments’ portfolio, which included $8.1 billion in private equity.

Unaudited data from the city Comptroller’s office showed NYCERS’ hedge fund exposure was $1.4 billion as of Jan. 31.

Comptroller Scott Stringer, a trustee, said eliminating hedge funds would a help NYCERS construct a “responsible portfolio that meets our long-term investment objectives”.

NYCERS paid nearly $40 million in fees to hedge funds during its 2015 financial year, while its hedge fund portfolio returned 3.89 percent over the year, according to its financial report.

“Hedge funds are charging exorbitant fees for high-risk and opaque investments,” said James.

Public pensions started to invest heavily in hedge funds after the financial crisis in 2008-2009 to diversify their assets. A CEM Benchmarking survey of public pensions with a total of $2.4 trillion in assets found 5.2 percent of assets were invested in hedge funds in 2014, compared to 1 percent a decade earlier.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy, additional reporting by Svea Herbst; Editing by Nick Zieminski)


US accuses Israel of using ‘excessive force’ against Palestinians

April 14, 2016


The US State Department has accused Israel of using “excessive force” against Palestinians, adding that the Israeli Army killed Palestinians even when they did not pose extreme danger. The statements were made in a newly released annual report.

“There were numerous reports of the ISF (Israel security forces) killing Palestinians during riots, demonstrations, at checkpoints, and during routine operations; in some cases they did not pose a threat to life,” the report states.

It goes on to say that while 149 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in 2015, only 77 of those deaths occurred in the course of attacking Israelis.

Those numbers clash with Israeli government figures, which state that some two-thirds of Palestinians killed during a wave of violence in October were in the midst of attempting or carrying out attacks, and that the rest died in clashes with security forces.

The report went on to state that the biggest human rights violations in Israel were terror attacks against civilians, as well as “institutional and societal discrimination” against Arabs, Israelis of Ethiopian extraction, women, non-Orthodox Jews, and migrants.

The document was also critical of Israeli legislation forcing foreign government-funded NGOs to take certain measures, which some say would target groups critical of the government.

The findings come after Secretary of State John Kerry was asked by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy and nine other lawmakers in February to probe claims of “gross violations of human rights” by Israel and Egypt. They cited examples of alleged extrajudicial killings by both countries.

In the case of Israel, Leahy and the other lawmakers cited claims by Amnesty International and other human rights groups relating to the deaths of Fadi Aloun, Sa’ad al-Atrash, Hadeel Hashlamoun and Mutaw Awisat. Tel Aviv maintains all four were killed while attacking Israelis, though the claims are disputed.

The request from Leahy and the other signatories, reported in March, prompted an angry response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The IDF and the Israel Police do not engage in executions. Israel’s soldiers and police officers defend themselves and innocent civilians with the highest moral standards against bloodthirsty terrorists who come to murder them,” Netanyahu said in a statement at the time.

“Where is the concern for the human rights of the many Israelis who’ve been murdered and maimed by these savage terrorists? This letter should have been addressed instead to those who incite youngsters to commit cruel acts of terrorism,” he added.

The State Department’s report also slammed the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas – along with Israeli forces – for “arbitrary arrest and associated torture and abuse, often with impunity.” It also singled out the PA for failing to “condemn incidents of anti-Semitic expression and embracing as ‘martyrs’ individuals who died while carrying out attacks on Israeli civilians.”

It accused Hamas of human rights abuses in the Gaza Strip, including “security forces killing, torturing, arbitrarily detaining, and harassing opponents, including Fatah members, and other Palestinians with impunity.”

“Terrorist organizations and militant factions in the Gaza Strip launched rocket and mortar attacks against civilian targets in Israel, and they did so at or near civilian locations in Gaza,” it added.

It went on to condemn abuses by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Boko Haram, al-Shabab, and the Taliban in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and several African nations.

North Korea, China, Cuba, Sudan and Iran, Russia, Rwanda, Congo, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Egypt, and Vietnam were also alleged to have taken repressive steps. Turkey was accused of using anti-terror laws and a law against insulting the president in order to stifle political discourse and investigative journalism.

Speaking of the human rights situation across the globe, Kerry said on Wednesday that “in every part of the world, we see an accelerating trend by both state and non-state actors to close the space for civil society, to stifle media and internet freedom, to marginalize opposition voices, and, in the most extreme cases, to kill people or drive them from their homes.”


Microsoft sues for right to tell customers when US government requests emails

Lawsuit argues that the government is violating the constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying customers about agencies looking at their emails

April 14, 2016


Microsoft has sued the US government for the right to tell its customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails, the latest in a series of clashes over privacy between the technology industry and Washington.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in federal court in the western district of Washington, argues that the government is violating the US constitution by preventing Microsoft from notifying thousands of customers about government requests for their emails and other documents.

The US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

The government’s actions contravene the fourth amendment, which establishes the right for people and businesses to know if the government searches or seizes their property, the suit argues, and the first amendment right to free speech.

Microsoft’s suit focuses on the storage of data on remote servers, rather than locally on people’s computers, which Microsoft says has provided a new opening for the government to access electronic data.

Using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the government is increasingly directing investigations at the parties that store data in the so-called cloud, Microsoft says. The 30-year-old law has long drawn scrutiny from technology companies and privacy advocates who say it was written before the rise of the commercial internet and is therefore outdated.

“People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud,” Microsoft says in the lawsuit, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. It adds that the government “has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations”.

The lawsuit represents the newest front in the battle between technology companies and the US government over how much private businesses should assist government surveillance.

By filing the suit, Microsoft is taking a more prominent role in that battle, dominated by Apple in recent months due to the government’s efforts to get the company to write software to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a December massacre in San Bernardino, California. Apple, backed by big technology companies including Microsoft, had complained that cooperating would turn businesses into arms of the state.

In its complaint, Microsoft says over the past 18 months it has received 5,624 legal orders under the privacy act, of which 2,576 prevented Microsoft from disclosing that the government is seeking customer data through warrants, subpoenas and other requests. Most of the requests under the act apply to individuals, not companies, and provide no fixed end date to the secrecy provision, Microsoft said.

Microsoft and other companies won the right two years ago to disclose the number of government demands for data they receive. This case goes farther, requesting that it be allowed to notify individual businesses and people that the government is seeking information about them.

Increasingly, US companies are under pressure to prove they are helping protect consumer privacy. The campaign gained momentum in the wake of revelations by former government contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 that the government routinely conducted extensive phone and internet surveillance to a much greater degree than believed.

Microsoft’s lawsuit comes a day after a US congressional panel voted unanimously to advance a package of reforms to the privacy act.

Last-minute changes to the legislation removed an obligation for the government to notify a targeted user whose communications are being sought. Instead, the bill would require disclosure of a warrant only to a service provider, which retains the right to voluntarily notify users, unless a court grants a gag order.

Republican leadership said it will bring the bill to a full vote in the House of Representatives in two weeks. After its expected passage, the bill will await Senate consideration.

Separately, Microsoft is fighting a US government warrant to turn over data held in a server in Ireland, which the government argues is lawful under another part of the privacy act. Microsoft argues the government needs to go through a procedure outlined in a legal assistance treaty between the US and Ireland.


The CIA Is Investing in Firms That Mine Your Tweets and Instagram Photos

April 14, 2016

by Lee Fang

The Intercept

Soft robots that can grasp delicate objects, computer algorithms designed to spot an “insider threat,” and artificial intelligence that will sift through large data sets — these are just a few of the technologies being pursued by companies with investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, according to a document obtained by The Intercept.

Yet among the 38 previously undisclosed companies receiving In-Q-Tel funding, the research focus that stands out is social media mining and surveillance; the portfolio document lists several tech companies pursuing work in this area, including Dataminr, Geofeedia, PATHAR, and TransVoyant.

Those four firms, which provide unique tools to mine data from platforms such as Twitter, presented at a February “CEO Summit” in San Jose sponsored by the fund, along with other In-Q-Tel portfolio companies.

The investments appear to reflect the CIA’s increasing focus on monitoring social media. Last September, David Cohen, the CIA’s second-highest ranking official, spoke at length at Cornell University about a litany of challenges stemming from the new media landscape. The Islamic State’s “sophisticated use of Twitter and other social media platforms is a perfect example of the malign use of these technologies,” he said.

Social media also offers a wealth of potential intelligence; Cohen noted that Twitter messages from the Islamic State, sometimes called ISIL, have provided useful information. “ISIL’s tweets and other social media messages publicizing their activities often produce information that, especially in the aggregate, provides real intelligence value,” he said.

The latest round of In-Q-Tel investments comes as the CIA has revamped its outreach to Silicon Valley, establishing a new wing, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which is tasked with developing and deploying cutting-edge solutions by directly engaging the private sector. The directorate is working closely with In-Q-Tel to integrate the latest technology into agency-wide intelligence capabilities.

Dataminr directly licenses a stream of data from Twitter to visualize and quickly spot trends on behalf of law enforcement agencies and hedge funds, among other clients.

Geofeedia specializes in collecting geotagged social media messages, from platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, to monitor breaking news events in real time. The company, which counts dozens of local law enforcement agencies as clients, markets its ability to track activist protests on behalf of both corporate interests and police departments.

PATHAR’s product, Dunami, is used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to “mine Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media to determine networks of association, centers of influence and potential signs of radicalization,” according to an investigation by Reveal.

TransVoyant, founded by former Lockheed Martin Vice President Dennis Groseclose, provides a similar service by analyzing multiple data points for so-called decision-makers. The firm touts its ability to monitor Twitter to spot “gang incidents” and threats to journalists. A team from TransVoyant has worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan to integrate data from satellites, radar, reconnaissance aircraft, and drones.

Dataminr, Geofeedia, and PATHAR did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Heather Crotty, the director of marketing at TransVoyant, acknowledged an investment from In-Q-Tel, but could not discuss the scope of the relationship. In-Q-Tel “does not disclose the financial terms of its investments,” Crotty said.

Carrie A. Sessine, the vice president for external affairs at In-Q-Tel, also declined an interview because the fund “does not participate in media interviews or opportunities.”

Over the last decade, In-Q-Tel has made a number of public investments in companies that specialize in scanning large sets of online data. In 2009, the fund partnered with Visible Technologies, which specializes in reputation management over the internet by identifying the influence of “positive” and “negative” authors on a range of platforms for a given subject. And six years ago, In-Q-Tel formed partnerships with NetBase, another social media analysis firm that touts its ability to scan “billions of sources in public and private online information,” and Recorded Future, a firm that monitors the web to predict events in the future.

Bruce Lund, a senior member of In-Q-Tel’s technical staff, noted in a 2012 paper that “monitoring social media” is increasingly essential for government agencies seeking to keep track of “erupting political movements, crises, epidemics, and disasters, not to mention general global trends.”

The recent wave of investments in social media-related companies suggests the CIA has accelerated the drive to make collection of user-generated online data a priority. Alongside its investments in start-ups, In-Q-Tel has also developed a special technology laboratory in Silicon Valley, called Lab41, to provide tools for the intelligence community to connect the dots in large sets of data.

In February, Lab41 published an article exploring the ways in which a Twitter user’s location could be predicted with a degree of certainty through the location of the user’s friends. On Github, an open source website for developers, Lab41 currently has a project to ascertain the “feasibility of using architectures such as Convolutional and Recurrent Neural Networks to classify the positive, negative, or neutral sentiment of Twitter messages towards a specific topic.”

Collecting intelligence on foreign adversaries has potential benefits for counterterrorism, but such CIA-supported surveillance technology is also used for domestic law enforcement and by the private sector to spy on activist groups.

Palantir, one of In-Q-Tel’s earliest investments in the social media analytics realm, was exposed in 2011 by the hacker group LulzSec to be in negotiation for a proposal to track labor union activists and other critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobbying group in Washington. The company, now celebrated as a “tech unicorn” — a term for start-ups that reach over $1 billion in valuation — distanced itself from the plan after it was exposed in a cache of leaked emails from the now-defunct firm HBGary Federal.

Yet other In-Q-Tel-backed companies are now openly embracing the practice. Geofeedia, for instance, promotes its research into Greenpeace activists, student demonstrations, minimum wage advocates, and other political movements. Police departments in Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, and other major municipalities have contracted with Geofeedia, as well as private firms such as the Mall of America and McDonald’s.

Lee Guthman, an executive at Geofeedia, told reporter John Knefel that his company could predict the potential for violence at Black Lives Matter protests just by using the location and sentiment of tweets. Guthman said the technology could gauge sentiment by attaching “positive and negative points” to certain phrases, while measuring “proximity of words to certain words.”

Privacy advocates, however, have expressed concern about these sorts of automated judgments.

“When you have private companies deciding which algorithms get you a so-called threat score, or make you a person of interest, there’s obviously room for targeting people based on viewpoints or even unlawfully targeting people based on race or religion,” said Lee Rowland, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

She added that there is a dangerous trend toward government relying on tech companies to “build massive dossiers on people” using “nothing but constitutionally protected speech.”


Israel issues rare travel warning: Unauthorized visit to Crimea may result in prosecution

The call to follow Ukrainian law with regard to Crimea is the first time Israel publicly, if indirectly, makes a statement about the peninsula since the Russian invasion and annexation.

April 13, 2016

by Barak Ravid


Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a rare travel warning Wednesday, recommending Israelis not enter Crimea, currently occupied by Russia, without a permit from the Ukrainian government. The warning warned that doing so constituted a criminal offence in Ukraine and may result in criminal proceedings in the country against offenders.

The warning was prompted by an emphatic protest by the Ukrainian government over the traveling of an Israeli member of parliament to Crimea.

“We would like to bring to your attention that entering the Crimean Peninsula by anyway other way than through Ukraine constitutes a criminal offense under Ukrainian law,” the warning posted on the ministry’s website read, “according to Ukrainian law, entrance into Crimea requires a special permit issued by the Ukrainian immigration authority.”

The warning is very unusual since it doesn’t touch on general danger posed by traveling to the region, as travel warnings usually do, but is tied to a diplomatic issue stemming from the conflict between Ukraine and Russia following the latter’s invasion and annexation of the peninsula.

The call to follow Ukrainian law with regard to Crimea is the first time Israel publicly, if indirectly, made a statement on Crimea since the Russian invasion and annexation of the peninsula. From the warning, Israel’s recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty of Crimea can be read in between the lines.

The main reason the foreign ministry issued its warning is a protest by the Ukrainian government over the visit of MK Ya’akov Margi (Shas) in Crimea, several weeks ago, where he held meetings with the heads of the Russian-controlled local government there.

Margi’s visit prompted the Ukrainians to threaten Israel with sanctions – namely, not issuing visas to Jewish pilgrims traveling to Uman on pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Ukraine also announced that it was opening a criminal investigation against Margi.


The Logic of Murder in Israel: A Culture of Impunity in Full View of the Entire World

April 14, 2016

by Ramzy Baroud


“Whether he made a mistake or not, is a trivial question,” said an Israeli Jewish man who joined large protests throughout Israel in support of a soldier who calmly, and with precision, killed a wounded Palestinian man in al-Khalil (Hebron). The protesting Jewish man described Palestinians as “barbaric’, “bestial’, who should not be perceived as people.

This is hardly a fringe view in Israel. The vast majority of Israelis, 68%, support the killing of Abdel Fatah Yusri al-Sharif, 21, by the solider who had reportedly announced before firing at the wounded Palestinian that the “terrorist had to die.”

The killing scene would have been relegated to the annals of the many “contested” killings by Israeli soldiers, were it not for a Palestinian field worker with Israel’s human rights group, B’Tselem, who filmed the bloody event.

The incident, once more, highlights a culture of impunity that exists in the Israeli army, which is not a new phenomenon.

Not only is Israeli society supportive of the soldier behind this particular bloody incident, almost a vast majority is in support of field executions as well.

In fact, the culture of impunity in Israel is linked both to political leanings and religious beliefs. According to the latest Peace Index released by Tel Aviv University’s Israel Democracy Institute, nearly 67% of the country’s Jewish population believes that “it is a commandment to kill a terrorist who comes at you with a knife”.

Killing Palestinians as a form of religious duty goes back to the early days of the Jewish state, and such beliefs are constantly corroborated by the country’s high spiritual institutions, similar to the recent decree issued by the country’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef. While 94% of ultra-Orthodox agree with the murder edict of Yosef, 52% of the country’s secularists do, too.

In fact, dehumanizing Palestinians – describing them as “beasts”, “cockroaches”, or treating them as dispensable inferiors – has historically been a common denominator in Israeli society, uniting Jews from various political, ideological and religious backgrounds.

Rabbi Yosef’s decree, for example, is not much different from statements made by Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, and other army and government official, who made similar calls, albeit without utilizing a strongly worded religious discourse.

Using the same logic, the quote above describing Palestinians as beasts is not divergent from a recent statement made by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “At the end, in the State of Israel, as I see it, there will be a fence that spans it all,” Netanyahu said in February. “In the area that we live, we must defend ourselves against the wild beasts,” he added.

While pro-Israeli pundits labor to explain the widespread Israeli perception of Palestinians – and Arabs, in general – on rational grounds, logic and commonsense continues to evade them. For instance, Netanyahu’s last war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 killed a total of 2,251 Palestinians – including 1,462 civilians, among them 551 children, according to a report prepared by the UN Human Rights Council. During that war, only six Israeli civilians were killed, and 60 soldiers.

Who, then, is truly the “wild beast”?

However, Palestinians are not made into beasts because of their supposedly murderous intent for, not once, statistically, in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict did Palestinians ever kill more Israelis, as opposed to the other way round. The ailment is not the number, but a common Israeli cultural perception that is utterly racist and dehumanizing.

Nor is the Israeli perception of Palestinians ever linked to a specific period of time, for example, a popular uprising or a war. Consider this eyewitness account from August 2012, cited in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, years before the current uprising in the West Bank and Jerusalem:

“Today I saw a lynch with my own eyes, in Zion Square, the center of the city of Jerusalem … and shouts of ‘A Jew is a soul and Arab is a son of a –,’ were shouted loudly and dozens of youths ran and gathered and started to really beat to death three Arab youths who were walking quietly in the Ben Yehuda street,” the witness wrote.

“When one of the Palestinian youths fell to the ground, the youths continued to hit him in the head; he lost consciousness, his eyes rolled, his angled head twitched, and then those who were kicking him fled while the rest gathered around in a circle, with some still shouting with hate in their eyes.”

Imagine this graphic account repeated, in different manifestations, every day in Occupied Palestine, and consider this: rarely does anyone pay a price for it. Indeed, this is how Israel’s culture of impunity has evolved over the years.

According to Israeli human rights group, Yesh Din, “approximately 94% of criminal investigations launched by the IDF against soldiers suspected of criminal violent activity against Palestinians and their property are closed without any indictments. In the rare cases that indictments are served, conviction leads to very light sentencing.”

And no one is immune. Israel’s 972Mag wrote in December 2015 about the hundreds of violent incidents of Israeli forces targeting Palestinian medical staff. Palestinian rights group, Al-Haq, documented 56 cases in which “ambulances were attacked”, and 116 assaults against medical staff while on duty.

How about violence meted out by illegal settlers whose population in the Occupied Territories is constantly on the increase?

Armed settlers rampage daily through villages of the Occupied West Bank and the neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The number of their violent crimes has grown tremendously in recent years, and even doubled since 2009.

In August 2015, months before the current uprising, Human Rights Watch senior researcher,Bill Van Esveld, wrote:

“Settlers attack Palestinians and their property on a near-daily basis – there were more than 300 such attacks last year, but few attackers faced justice. In the past decade, less than two percent of investigations into settler attacks ended with convictions.”

In case one is still fooled by the “rational” argument used to justify the murder of militarily occupied, oppressed and besieged Palestinians, Batzalel Smotrich, from the Jewish Home Party, which is part of Netanyhu’s ruling coalition, protested via twitter that his wife was expected to give birth in the same hospital room where Arab babies are born.

His written “rationale”, after declaring that his wife “is not a racist”, “It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie next to someone whose baby son might want to murder my son.”

The likes of Smotrich, and the majority of Israelis are morally blind to their own wrongdoing. They have long been sold on the idea that Israel, despite its brutality is a “villa in the jungle”. According to a recent Pew survey, nearly half of Israelis want to expel Palestinians Arabs – Muslims and Christians, from their ancestral homeland.

The danger of impunity is not merely the lack of legal accountability, but the fact that it is the very foundation of most violent crimes against humanity, including genocide.

This impunity began seven decades ago and it will not end without international intervention, with concerted efforts to hold Israel accountable in order to bring the agony of Palestinians to a halt.

India’s militants threaten to blow up Bangladesh’s gas pipeline

ULFA issues threat against 119km long transmission line of Bibiyana gas field

April 13, 2016

Daily Times of Pakistan

NEW DELHI – India’s militant outfit – United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) – has threatened to blow up Bangladesh’s largest gas transmission pipeline, Indian media reported on Wednesday.

The Paresh Barua-led group of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) recently issued the threat to blow up the transmission line of the Bibiyana gas field, which supplies 45 per cent of the gas, the Samakal newspaper reported in a lead story, basing it on information given by Indian intelligence agencies.

The article said the Indian intelligence agencies recently unearthed the plot tapping a telephone conversation of Barua with an ULFA commander when he asked him to blow up the pipeline in Bangladesh. The 119-kilometre long Bibiyana pipeline is Bangladesh’s largest transmission line that supplies gas to the national grid from the gas field in north-eastern Habiganj, bordering Assam to central Dhunat sub-district, operated by US oil giant Chevron.

Officials of the state-run Petrobangla, which contracts out gas plants to foreign and local oil companies, said they received the information last week and took up the issue with government authorities concerned and cautioned Chevron. “We have sought necessary government steps for the security of the gas line and cautioned Chevron to enforce an extra vigil on the production and transmission systems,” the Press Trust of India news service quoted Petrobangla director M Kamaruzzaman as saying.

He said that Petrobangla and Chevron already held a meeting with the officials of India’s Home Ministry and security agencies concerned to ensure adequate security for the plant and the transmission line. A Home Ministry official said that the law enforcement and the security agencies were asked to take necessary steps in view of the reported threat, enhancing their vigil as the outfit has record of carrying out sabotages on Indian gas pipelines.

However, officials said that they were assessing its authenticity and capacity of the outfit’s remnants. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal expressed his doubt about the authenticity of the threat and capacity of the ULFA militants as most of their top leaders gave up their separatist campaign in view of their negotiations with the Indian government.

In November last year, Bangladesh extradited ULFA leader Anup Chetia to India as he himself wanted to be repatriated after being lodged in Bangladeshi jails for over 18 years since his 1997 arrest on intrusion charges. Several other ULFA bigwigs were reportedly arrested in Bangladesh and subsequently were handed over to India in recent years. Dhaka, however, never confirmed these incidents officially.


What’s the Meaning of Failure?

A Dictionary of Euphemisms for Imperial Decline

by William J. Astore


The dishonesty of words illustrates the dishonesty of America’s wars.

Since 9/11, can there be any doubt that the public has become numb to the euphemisms that regularly accompany U.S. troops, drones, and CIA operatives into Washington’s imperial conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa? Such euphemisms are meant to take the sting out of America’s wars back home. Many of these words and phrases are already so well known and well worn that no one thinks twice about them anymore.

Here are just a few: collateral damage for killed and wounded civilians (a term used regularly since the First Gulf War of 1990-1991).   Enhanced interrogation techniques for torture, a term adopted with vigor by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of their administration (“techniques” that were actually demonstrated in the White House). Extraordinary rendition for CIA kidnappings of terror suspects off global streets or from remote badlands, often followed by the employment of enhanced interrogation techniques at U.S. black sites or other foreign hellholes. Detainees for prisoners and detention camp for prison (or, in some cases, more honestly, concentration camp), used to describe Guantánamo (Gitmo), among other places established offshore of American justice. Targeted killings for presidentially ordered drone assassinations. Boots on the ground for yet another deployment of “our” troops (and not just their boots) in harm’s way. Even the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, its label for an attempt to transform the Greater Middle East into a Pax Americana, would be redubbed in the Obama years overseas contingency operations (before any attempt at labeling was dropped for a no-name war pursued across major swathes of the planet).

As euphemisms were deployed to cloak that war’s bitter and brutal realities, over-the-top honorifics were assigned to America’s embattled role in the world. Exceptional, indispensable, and greatest have been the three words most commonly used by presidents, politicians, and the gung ho to describe this country. Once upon a time, if Americans thought this way, they felt no need to have their presidents and presidential candidates actually say so — such was the confidence of the golden age of American power. So consider the constant redeployment of these terms a small measure of America’s growing defensiveness about itself, its sense of doubt and decline rather than strength and confidence.

To what end this concerted assault on the words we use? In George Orwell’s classic 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” he noted that his era’s equivalents for “collateral damage” were “needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.” Obviously, not much has changed in the intervening seven decades. And this is, as Orwell intuited, a dangerous way to go. Cloaking violent, even murderous actions in anodyne language might help a few doubting functionaries sleep easier at night, but it should make the rest of us profoundly uneasy.

The more American leaders and officials — and the media that quotes them endlessly — employ such euphemisms to cloak harsh realities, the more they ensure that such harshness will endure; indeed, that it is likely to grow harsher and more pernicious as we continue to settle into a world of euphemistic thinking.

The Emptiness of Acronyms

In the future, some linguist or lexicographer will doubtless compile a dictionary of perpetual war and perhaps (since they may be linked) imperial decline, focusing on the grim processes and versions of failure language can cloak. It would undoubtedly explore how certain words and rhetorical devices were used in twenty-first-century America to obscure the heavy burdens that war placed on the country, even as they facilitated its continuing failed conflicts. It would obviously include classic examples like surge, used in both Iraq and Afghanistan to obscure the way our government rushed extra troops into a battle zone in a moment of failure only ensuring the extension of that failure, and the now-classic phrase shock and awe that obscured the reality of a massive air strike on Baghdad that resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians (“collateral damage”), but not the “decapitation” of a hated regime.

Don’t think, however, that the language of twenty-first-century American war was only meant to lull the public. Less familiar words and terms continue to be used within the military not to clarify tasks at hand but to obscure certain obvious realities even from those sanctioned to deal with them. Take asymmetrical warfare, the gray zone, and VUCA. Unless you spend time in Department of Defense and military circles, you probably haven’t heard of these.

Asymmetrical warfare suggests that the enemy fights unfairly and in a thoroughly cowardly fashion, regularly lurking behind and mixing with civilians (“hostages”), because that enemy doesn’t have the moxie to don uniforms and stand toe-to-toe in a “kinetic” smack-down with U.S. troops. As a result, of course, the U.S. must be prepared for underhanded tactics and devious weaponry, including ambushes and IEDs (improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs), as well as a range of other “unconventional” tactics now all too familiar in a world plagued by violent attacks against “soft” targets (aka civilians). It must also be prepared to engage an enemy mixed in with a civilian population and so brace itself for the inevitable collateral damage that is now so much the essence of American war.

That groups like the Islamic State (ISIS) would choose to fight “asymmetrically” should hardly come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever been confronted by a much bigger and better armed kid in a schoolyard. Misdirection, a sucker punch, a slingshot, even running away to fight another day are “asymmetrical” approaches that are sensible indeed for any outgunned and overmatched opponent. The term is a truism, nothing more, when it comes to the realities of our world. It is, however, a useful way of framing matters for those in the Pentagon and the military who don’t want to think seriously about the grim course of action, focused significantly on civilian populations, they are pursuing, which often instills anger and the urge for revenge in such populations and so, in the end, runs at cross purposes to stated U.S. aims.The “gray zone” is a fuzzy term used in military circles to describe the perplexing nature of lower-level conflicts, often involving non-state actors, that don’t qualify as full-fledged wars. These are often fought using non-traditional weapons and tactics ranging from cyber attacks to the propagandizing of potential terror recruits via social media. This “zone” is unnerving to Pentagon types in part because the vast majority of the Pentagon’s funding goes to conventional weaponry that’s as subtle as a sledgehammer: big-ticket items like aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, main battle tanks, strategic bombers, and wildly expensive multi-role aircraft such as the F-35 (now estimated to cost roughly $1.4 trillion through its lifecycle). Much of this weaponry is “too big to fail” in the funding wars in Washington, but regularly fails in the field precisely because it’s too big to be used effectively against the latest crop of evasive enemies. Hence, that irresolvable gray zone which plagues America’s defense planners and operatives.

The question the gray zone both raises and obscures is: Why has the U.S. done so poorly when, by its own definition, it remains the biggest, baddest superpower around, the one that outspends its non-state enemies by a factor so large it can’t even be calculated? Keep in mind, for instance, that the 9/11 attacks on American soil were estimated to have cost Osama bin Laden at most a half-million dollars. Multiply that by 400 and you can buy one “made in America” F-35 jet fighter.

If the gray zone offers little help clarifying America’s military dilemmas, what about VUCA? It’s an acronym for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, which is meant to describe our post-9/11 world. Of course, there’s nothing like an acronym to take the sting out of any world. But as an historian who has read a lot of history books, let me confess that, to the best of my knowledge, the world has always been, is now, and will always be VUCA.

For any future historian of the Pentagon’s language, let me sum things up this way: instead of honest talk about war in all its ugliness and uncertainty, military professionals of our era have tended to substitute buzz words, catchphrases, and acronyms. It’s a way of muddying the water. It allows the world of war to tumble on without serious challenge, which is why it’s been so useful in these years to speak of, say, COIN (Counterinsurgency) or 4GW (Fourth-Generation Warfare).

Much like its most recent enthusiast, General David Petraeus, COIN has once again lost favor in the military, but Fourth-Generation Warfare is still riding high and sounds so refreshingly forward-looking, not like the stale Vietnam-era wine in a post-9/11 bottle that it is. In reality, it’s another iteration of insurgency and COIN mixed and matched with Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong’s people’s war. To prevail in places like Afghanistan, so 4GW thinkers suggest, one needs to win hearts and minds — yes, that classic phrase of defeat in Vietnam — while securing and protecting (a definite COINage) the people against insurgents and terrorists. In other words, we’re talking about an acronym that immediately begins to congeal if you use older words to describe it like “pacification” and “nation-building.” The latest 4GW jargon may not help win wars, but it does sometimes win healthy research grants from the government.

The fact is that trendy acronyms and snappy buzz words have a way of limiting genuine thinking on war. If America is to win (or, far better, avoid) future wars, its war professionals need to look more honestly at that phenomenon in all of its dimensions. So, too, do the American people, for it’s in their name that such wars are allegedly waged.

The Truth About “Progress” in America’s Wars

These days, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter often resorts to cancer imagery when describing the Islamic state. “Parent tumor” is an image he especially favors — that is, terrorism as a cancer that America’s militarized surgeons need to attack and destroy before it metastasizes and has “children.” (Think of the ISIS franchises in Libya, where the organization has recently doubled in size, Afghanistan, and Yemen.) Hence the proliferation of “surgical strikes” by drones and similarly “surgical” Special Ops raids, both of which you could think of as America’s equivalent of white blood cells in its war on the cancer of terrorism.

But is terrorism really a civilizational cancer that can be “cured” via the most aggressive “kinetic” treatments? Can the U.S. render the world cancer-free? For that’s what Carter’s language implies. And how does one measure “progress” in a “war” on the cancer of ISIS? Indeed, from an outsider’s perspective, the proliferation of U.S. military bases around the world (there are now roughly 800), as well as of drone strikes, Special Ops raids, and massive weapons exports might have a cancerous look to them. In other words, what constitutes a “cancer” depends on one’s perspective — and perhaps one’s definition of world “health,” too.

The very notion of progress in America’s recent wars is one that a colleague, Michael Murry, recently critiqued. A U.S. Navy Vietnam War Veteran, he wrote me that, for his favorite military euphemism, “I have to go with ‘progress’ as incessantly chanted by the American military brass in Iraq and Afghanistan…

“We go on hearing about 14 years of ‘progress’ which, to hear our generals tell it, would vanish in an instant should the United States withdraw its forces and let the locals and their neighbors sort things out. Since when do ‘fragile gains’ equate to ‘progress’? Who in their right mind would invest rivers of blood and trillions of dollars in ‘fragility’? Now that I think of it, we also have the euphemistic expression of ‘drawdown’ substituting for ‘withdrawal’ which in turn substitutes for ‘retreat.’ The U.S. military and the civilian government it has browbeaten into hapless acquiescence simply cannot face the truth of their monumental failures and so must continually bastardize our language in a losing — almost comical — attempt to stay one linguistic step ahead of the truth.”Progress, as Murry notes, basically means nothing when such “gains,” in the words of David Petraeus during the surge months in Iraq in 2007, are both “fragile” and “reversible.” Indeed, Petraeus repeated the same two words in 2011 to describe similar U.S. “progress” in Afghanistan, and today it couldn’t be clearer just how much “progress” was truly made there. Isn’t it time for government officials to stop banging the drums of war talk in favor of “progress” when none exists?

Think, for instance, of the American-trained (and now re-trained) Iraqi security forces. Each year U.S. officials swear that the Iraqi military is getting ever closer to combat readiness, but much like one of Zeno’s paradoxes, the half-steps that military takes under American tutelage never seem to get it into fighting shape. Progress, eternally touted, seems always to lead to regress, eternally explained away, as that army regularly underperforms or its units simply collapse, often abandoning their American-supplied weaponry to the enemy. Here we are, 12 years after the U.S. began training the Iraqi military and once again it seems to be cratering, this time while supposedly on the road to retaking Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, from its Islamic State occupiers. Progress, anyone?

In short, the dishonesty of the words the U.S. military regularly wields illustrates the dishonesty of its never-ending wars. After so many years of failure and frustration, of wars that aren’t won and terrorist movements that only seem to spread as its leaders are knocked off, isn’t it past time for Americans to ditch phrases like “collateral damage,” “enemy noncombatant,” “no-fly zone” (or even worse, “safe zone”), and “surgical strike” and adopt a language, however grim, that accurately describes the military realities of this era?

Words matter, especially words about war. So as a change of pace, instead of the usual bloodless euphemisms and vapid acronyms, perhaps the U.S. government could tell the shocking and awful truth to the American people in plain language about the realities and dangers of never-ending war.


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