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TBR News April 18, 2018

Apr 18 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 18, 2018:” In 2012, Donald Trump bought a large brick estate at Charlottesville, Virginia, once owned by socialite Patricia Kluge, for six and a half million dollars.

There was also a winery involved.

Trump expected the social elite of Charlottesville to acknowledge his important presence.

They did not and when he gave a sumptous open house, the only people present were the Trump family and the servants.

One of the local landscape gardening owners who once worked for Trump, now works for a person with whom I am connected.

He told my friend he no longer worked for Trump because the now-President was very rude, vulgar and insulting and, even worse, did not pay his employees for their work and told them to sue him if the thought they could get any money out of him.

This is merely a local anecdote but it does resinate in view of other, later personality traits now becoming more and more evident.”


Table of Contents

  • On the Reaction to the U.S. Strike in Syria
  • Trump contradicts himself over Comey firing
  • ‘A political volcano just erupted’: is the US on the brink of the next Watergate?
  • ICE Doesn’t Want You to Read Its Manuals — for No Good Reason Whatsoever
  • Four U.S. senators seek details on unusual cellular surveillance in D.C. area
  • 5 Russian-Made Surveillance Technologies Used in the West
  • Coming WikiLeaks releases
  • Mike Pompeo’s secretary of state position uncertain amid opposition
  • Neo-Nazi ‘Tyrone’ exposed as US marine

On the Reaction to the U.S. Strike in Syria

There are stirrings of an imperative anti-war movement in the wake of the U.S. strike on Syria, but mostly the Pentagon controlled the message,

April 15, 2018

by Gilbert Doctorow

Consortium News

The arguments between Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford before the Syrian air strikes, and between them and President Donald Trump and his ultra-hawk national security adviser, John Bolton, ended with “precision strikes” early Saturday morning in Damascus and near the city of Homs.

Some 103 tomahawks and other cruise missiles were launched from US navy vessels and British and American warplanes. Seventy-one of these were claimed by the Russian Ministry of Defense to have been shot down by Syrian air defense batteries. The more modern and effective Russian-manned S400 systems at their Tartus naval base and Khmeimim air base were not brought into play.

There was material damage to some Syrian military storage facilities and particularly to a research center, which the US-led coalition claimed was used for fabrication of chemical weapons. Employees at the site said they were producing antidotes to snake venom, not chemical weapons. No deaths were reported and only six people were injured. The targets were all well clear of known positions of Russian and Iranian personnel in Syria. And while the Pentagon denied Russia had been told the targets, there’s speculation that the missiles’ flight paths had been made known to Moscow.

‘Mission Accomplished?’

Mattis said the mission was over but the U.S. stood ready to strike again if Assad once more used chemical weapons, though whether he did last weekend in Duma, a Damascus suburb, has yet to be proven. The U.S.-led air strikes took place hours before a team of specialists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were to begin its investigation at the site to determine if chemicals were used, and which chemicals they may been.

In his address to the nation when launching theattack, Trump used the same unproven allegations and maudlin, propagandistic evocation of the horrors of chemical weapons that his ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, had used earlier in the day Friday when responding to specific charges of violating international law and a possibly non-existent chemical attack,which the Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, had leveled against the U.S. in the UN Security Council chamber.

The narrowly focused and seemingly ineffectual nature of the strikes is unlikely to satisfy anyone in the U.S. political classes. Even those who have been encouraging Trump to stand tall in Syria and punish Damascus for the alleged, but unproven, use of chemical weapons, like New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D), gave him only tepid support for the action taken, complaining of no overall administration strategy for Syria or an end game.

Others posit that the timing of the attack was driven solely by Trump’s urgent need to deflect public attention from personal and political scandals, especially after the F.B.I. seizure earlier in the week of the papers and possibly his taped conversations in the offices of his lawyer, Michael Cohen.

For the Russians there could only be outrage. They were on the receiving end of what was a publicly administered slap in the face to President Vladimir Putin, who was named and supposedly shamed in Trump’s speech for providing support to the “animal” Assad. Putin had been calling upon the U.S. and its allies to show restraint and wait for the conclusion of the OPCW investigation in Duma.

Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, repeated after the attacks Moscow’s prior warning that there would be “grave consequences” for the U.S. and its allies. These were not spelled out. But given Putin’s record of caution, it would be surprising if Moscow did anything to exacerbate the situation.

What comes next?

That caution left the U.S. exposed as an aggressor and violator of international law. Since we are in a New Cold War, habits from the first Cold War are resurfacing. But the roles are reversed today. Whereas in the past, it was Washington that complained to high heaven about the Soviet military intervention in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, today it is Russia that will go on the offensive to sound off about US aggression.

But is that all we may expect? I think not. Putin has a well-earned reputation as a master strategist who takes his time with every move. He also knows the old saying that revenge is a dish best served cold. He has frequently advocated “asymmetric” responses to Western moves against Russian interests. The question of counter moves had already been on his mind since the U.S. Treasury introduced new and potentially harsh economic sanctions on Russia with effect from April 6.

In fact, Russian legislators were busy preparing tointroduce in the Duma on Monday a bill empowering the Russian president to issue counter-sanctions. These include an embargo on the sale of critical components to the U.S. aircraft industry which is 40 percent dependent on Russian-sourced titanium for production of both military and civilian planes. There is also the proposed cancellation of bilateral cooperation in space where the Russians supply rocket engines used for U.S. commercial and other satellite launches, as well as a total embargo on sales of U.S. wines, spirits and tobacco in the Russian Federation.

Aside from the withdrawal of titanium sales, these and other enumerated measures pale in significance to the damage done by the U.S. sanctions on the Rusal corporation, the world’s second largest producer and marketer of aluminum, which lost $12 billion in share value on the first day of sanctions. But that is to be expected, given that the United States is the world’s largest economy, measuring more than 10 times Russia’s. Accordingly its ability to cause economic damage to Russia far exceeds the ability of Russia to inflict damage in return.

The only logical outcome of further escalations of U.S. economic measures would be for Russia to respond in the one area where it has something approaching full equality with the United States: its force of arms. That is to say, at a certain point in time purely economic warfare could well become kinetic. This is a danger the U.S. political leadership should not underestimate.

Considering the just inflicted U.S. insult to Russia by its attack in Syria, Moscow may well choose to respond by hitting U.S. interests in a very different location, where it enjoys logistical superiority and also where the counter-strike may be less likely to escalate to direct crossing of swords and the unthinkable—possible nuclear war.

A number of places come to mind, starting in Ukraine where, in an extreme reaction, Russia has the option of removing the regime in Kiev within a 3-day campaign, putting in place a caretaker government until new elections were held. That would likely lead to armed resistance, however, and a Russian occupation, which Moscow neither wants nor can afford.

The Media Reacts

The media reaction to the air strikes has been distinct in the U.S. from Europe, and even more so, naturally, in Russia.

U.S. mainstream reaction, in particular in The New York Times, The Washington Post and the cable TV networks, has been an uncritical platform for the Pentagon view of what it achieved. Both papers barely made mention that the missiles rained down as the OPCW team was about to begin its work. Parading out their retired generals, often with unmentioned contracts as lobbyists for the military industry, the cable networks resumed their cheerleading for American war and materiel.

In France, Le Monde largely followed the Pentagon line in declaring the mission a success, while in Germany leading newspapers attempted a more independent line. Die Welt discussed how the U.S. and Europe used the mission to test the battleground effectiveness of some of their latest weaponry. The Frankfurter Allgemeine called the Pentagon “the last bastion of sense” in the Trump administration and reported that the Russians want to open a strategic dialogue with the U.S. over arms control.

A commentary in the British Guardian claimed that Mattis, and not Trump, “is calling the shots.” Another piece reported on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a “check on military intervention” by insisting that Parliament vote on a War Powers act.

The Times of London ran fewer articles on the Syria strike and instead led with a piece predicting that to punish the United Kingdom for its role in the Skripal case and in Syria, Moscow will unleash a barrage of hacked, damaging confidential materials relating to government ministers, members of Parliament and other elite British personalities. In response, May’s cabinet is said to be considering a cyber-attack against Russia.

The TV station Euronews, whose motto is “Euronews. All Views,” unusually for Western media, gave Russians equal time to set out their totally diametrically opposed positions: on whether any chemical attacks at all occurred in Duma, and on the U.S. violation of international law.

On Saturday Euronews exceptionally gave nearly complete live coverage to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as he spoke in Moscow to the 26th Assembly of the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy. During this talk, Lavrov divulged the findings of the Swiss laboratory which had examined samples of the chemicals gathered in Salisbury in relation to the Skripal poisonings, findings which he said pointed not to Novichok, as was claimed by Boris Johnson, but to a nerve agent developed by the United States and produced also in Britain. Lavrov likened the faked attack in Salisbury to the faked chemical attack in Duma.

Letting the Russians deliver extensively their views on what happened in Syria without commentary by their own journalists might be considered extraordinary by Euronews or any other European broadcaster’s standards.

In Russia, the news channel Rossiya-1 on Saturday broadcast a special edition of the country’s leading political talk show hosted by Vladimir Solovyov. His panelists said that in Damascus, where the most modern air defenses are installed, including the latest BUK series, the Syrians shot down 100 percent of incoming missiles. This contradicts, however, the fact that a research facility in the center of Damascus was bombed. Elsewhere in the country, where there are older systems in place, fewer missiles were hit.

In the wake of the U.S.-led air strikes, Moscow has apparently now decided to supply the Syrian army their next to latest generation of air defense, the S300. It was reported earlier that because of the war, there was a great shortage of trained technicians on the Syrian side so that shipment of such equipment previously would have made no sense. However, now that the military situation of the Assad government has stabilized, the personnel problems are no longer so acute and the Russians can proceed with delivering materiel and training the Syrians to defend themselves. This will substantially change the equation with respect to Syrian defense capability should the U.S. and its allies think of returning.

Protests in the West

One must ask why there has been no anti-war protests in the West in reaction to the strike on Syria. That it lasted less than an hour may something to do with it. But the U.S. is at war in about seven nations and there is no sustained, anti-war movement. Part of the reason is the virtual collapse the anti-war Left in the West that fueled protests in America and Europe in the 1960s anti-Vietnam war movement and the 1980s protests against the deployment of cruise missiles in Europe to counter Soviet intermediate range SS20 missiles.

From the 1990s leftist political parties both in the U.S. and Europe have suffered terrible losses of voter support. What charismatic leaders emerge to challenge the centrist, global hegemony politicians have been almost uniformly categorized as extreme Right or populists. The peace movements have been nearly extinguished. So-called progressives are today notoriously anti-Russian and in step with the Neocons on what the legitimate world order should look likeFor these reasons, it is quite remarkable that earlyreactions to the US-led bombing in Syria have come from social media and internet portals that may be loosely categorized as establishment left or progressive. Dislike for Trump, for Bolton and for the crew of madmen who constitute the administration has finally outweighed hatred for Putin, “the authoritarian,” the Alpha male, the promoter of family and Orthodox Christian values and the so-called thief who stole the U.S. election. On-line petitions now being circulated, even by the Democratic Party-friendly MoveOn.org, reveal some comprehension that the world has moved closer to utter destruction due to the U.S.-Russia confrontation.

Another sign that the antiwar movement may be stirring out of its slumber and going beyond virtual protests, is that the Massachusetts Peace Action chapter, heirs to the SANE franchise, the country’s largest anti-nuclear weapons organization from the middle of the first Cold War, called on its members to rally in Cambridge (home to Harvard University and MIT) to protest the U.S. strikes in Syria. It also calls on Congress to reclaim its War Powers.

These are admittedly small steps with little political weight. But they are encouraging sparks of light in the darkness.



Trump contradicts himself over Comey firing

April 18, 2018


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he did not fire James Comey “because of the phony Russia investigation,” contradicting his 2017 statement that he ousted the FBI director last year over the probe.

Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, as the law enforcement agency investigated alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. The firing prompted the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller to lead the inquiry and look at possible obstruction of justice.

Trump, who has denied collusion with Moscow, on Wednesday posted a tweet referring to “Slippery James Comey” and said he “was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation.” Trump did not elaborate.

Two days after dismissing Comey, Trump had explained why he did it in a televised interview with NBC News.

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

The president’s latest comments come as Comey embarks on a massive media tour to promote his book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.” The book chronicles Comey’s brief service under Trump, who he has said is “morally unfit” to be president.

Russia has also denied interfering in the 2016 election.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott


‘A political volcano just erupted’: is the US on the brink of the next Watergate?

As Trump threatens to fire Mueller, a journalist who was reporting during Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre reads the warning signs

April 18, 2018

by Stanley Cloud

The Guardian

Ever since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, the golden rule for presidents under investigation by a special prosecutor or special counsel has been that the president shall not fire the person conducting the investigation. For there – as medieval maps sometimes warned travelers – “be dragons”.

Donald Trump has been lectured repeatedly on this score by various advisers and pundits. Yet word keeps leaking out of the White House that Trump would like nothing more than to fire Robert Mueller. So far, Trump has heeded the warnings. But how much longer, one wonders, can a man who famously bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it be expected to resist temptation to dismiss the special counsel?

Since May 2017, Mueller, dogged as Inspector Javert in Les Misérables, has been investigating assorted misdeeds allegedly committed by Trump and his aides – from “collusion” with Russians meddling in the 2016 presidential election to the payment of large sums of hush money to a porn actor and a former Playboy model.

Mueller has already either indicted or wrung guilty pleas from 19 people, including Trump’s former campaign chair. What’s more, it appears that Mueller is following a trail left by former FBI director James Comey, whom Trump did fire last year, on a possible obstruction of justice charge against the president.

Clearly, Trump is feeling pinched and would like the cause of his pain to vanish. So let us review the short history of that golden rule everyone keeps warning him about.

On Friday, 19 October 1973, Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox issued a subpoena for copies of tape recordings made by Richard Nixon in the Oval Office. With that, Nixon decided he’d had just about enough of Cox, an upright and highly respected attorney and Harvard law professor.

The very next day, Nixon ordered his attorney general, Elliot Richardson, who had appointed Cox the previous May, to fire him immediately. Richardson refused and resigned.

His successor in the justice department’s chain of command, the deputy attorney general, William Ruckelshaus, likewise refused and resigned.

Next up was the solicitor general (and acting attorney general), Robert Bork, who obeyed the president’s order, fired Cox and kept his job. The White House announced the firing – soon dubbed “the Saturday Night Massacre” – at 8.35pm that same night.

As a member of Time magazine’s Watergate reporting team, I well remember that night 45 years ago. Normally, by 8.30pm on a Saturday night, the magazine was entering the final stages of its weekly production cycle. But on this Saturday night, Time’s Washington bureau was in all-out crisis mode – correspondents, including me, were frantically phoning sources in Congress, in the White House, in the justice department, at the FBI and anywhere else imaginable, trying to learn what precisely had happened and why and what the ramifications were. Until the previous December, I had been on a three-year assignment, covering the Vietnam war. So I was not unfamiliar with what it felt like to report under pressure. But this situation was something completely new to me.

We all understood that a political volcano had just erupted, and I think many of us sensed that the US was on the brink of being changed forever. Not since the civil war had an American president seemed so close to impeachment and never before had the list of impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” against a sitting president been so lengthy.

The words “constitutional crisis” were on just about everyone’s lips as the full impact of the Cox firing began to be felt during those hectic hours of crash reporting, writing and filing by telex and phone that were necessary in order for us to get the news into the magazine that would be in mailboxes and on the stands 48 to 72 hours later.

Soon, Congress also swung into action. At least 22 impeachment resolutions were quickly introduced in the House, along with 12 bills and resolutions, sponsored by 94 Democrats and four Republicans, calling for the appointment of a new special prosecutor. So ferocious was the public and official outcry that within 12 days, a new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, was indeed appointed, and would win access to the Nixon tapes before the supreme court. In the meantime, the Senate select committee on Watergate continued its televised hearings, uncovering layer on layer of criminal and unconstitutional behavior.

Eventually, the tapes obtained by Jaworski provided the “smoking gun” of Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up, which in turn led the House judiciary committee to approve three articles of impeachment on bipartisan votes, and forced Nixon’s resignation in disgrace less than a year after the Saturday Night Massacre.

As for me, I knew Nixon was doomed politically when, just a week after the massacre, I received a letter from Irene Cloud, my aunt who lived in the tiny town of Kingman, Kansas, some 50 miles or so west of Wichita. Cloud was a dedicated Lincoln Republican in the moderate, anti-slavery Kansas tradition that had existed from the civil war to the 21st century, when the far right captured the state house.

An unmarried grammar school teacher, Cloud wrote me rarely but always to a purpose. When I opened the envelope, I found inside a light blue sheet of note paper on which in her perfect, schoolmarm’s hand, she had written “Dear Stanley, I have reached the conclusion that Mr Nixon is a bad man …”

If Nixon had lost my Aunt Irene, he had lost the nation.

Not everyone today believes that Donald Trump will necessarily suffer the same fate as Nixon should he fire Robert Mueller. At least two good friends of mine who are experts in measuring public opinion – and who are not themselves conservatives – told me recently that they believe Trump’s “base” in the Republican party will stick with him in a way that Nixon’s base, including my Aunt Irene, did not. “They would think firing Mueller was just another example of Trump bringing Washington to heel,” said one.

Perhaps so. But there are still dragons out there.

Stanley Cloud was part of Time magazine’s Watergate team, and went on to become Time’s Washington DC bureau chief


ICE Doesn’t Want You to Read Its Manuals — for No Good Reason Whatsoever

April 18 2018

by Eoin Higgins

The Intercept

Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, is the nation’s second-largest federal investigative agency — yet few Americans have ever heard of it. Housed within the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, HSI has operated largely out of the public spotlight for over a decade, even as its agents’ cases have led to multimillion-dollar seizures and high-profile arrests.

Over the last year, however, HSI has begun to attract more public attention, amid reporting from The Intercept and other outlets. Media reports have shed light on HSI’s multibillion-dollar collaborations with Palantir Technologies, the data-mining firm founded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel; the agency’s access to databases shared with the CIA and the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency; HSI’s reliance on questionable gang databases as a means to facilitate deportations; and HSI’s guidelines for asset seizures.

In February, another layer was peeled back when the independent media website Unicorn Riot began publishing internal policy handbooks for HSI agents from a 2012 manual outlining how HSI operates on the ground. The Intercept has previously reported on HSI handbooks covering denaturalization authorities and search and seizure guidelines.

Despite being six years old, the manual, which was obtained by The Intercept, is still considered privileged by the agency. And ICE isn’t interested in commenting on the content of the documents, despite the fact that they have become public. ICE spokesperson Matthew Bourke told The Intercept that the “internal training materials are law-enforcement sensitive, not publicly available, and we’re therefore not prepared to comment” on any of the handbooks.

Secrecy surrounding internal federal policies pervades all law enforcement communities, said Jonathan Blanks, a research associate for the Cato Institute’s Project on Criminal Justice. “Federal law enforcement agencies don’t like to share any information that they don’t have to,” he said. “Usually, they claim it would give away their investigative techniques — that’s the sort of thing they do to avoid disclosure.”

Federal law enforcement can rely on loopholes in the Freedom of Information Act to wriggle out of disclosure based on the protection of their operational security. One of the exemptions, known by its designation “7E,” lets law enforcement preclude revelations that “would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.”

All law enforcement resist divulging their internal workings, explained Patrick Eddington, a former CIA military analyst who now works as a research analyst for Cato, on the grounds that revealing internal policy could harm their missions. “As a general rule,” said Eddington, “they all try to keep internal documents that deal with training, procedures, etc., out of the public’s hands, on the rather flimsy rationale that making them public will aid criminals.”

The level of secrecy surrounding ICE’s procedures — especially for policies that have a major effect on the safety and well-being of millions of people in the U.S. — is over the top, privacy advocates told The Intercept. “There is intense public interest in understanding these processes,” said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. (Disclosure: The First Amendment Coalition has received financial support from First Look Media, the parent company of The Intercept.) Snyder went on, “Immigration is a flashpoint right now, and how ICE goes about its business is very important.”

The information in the handbooks is important for the public interest, according to César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, an immigration law professor at the University of Denver and author of the book “Crimmigration Law.” “I think the documents as a whole generally give a picture of HSI that is familiar to those of us who watch what HSI agents are doing around the country,” said García Hernández.

García Hernández explained that the HSI handbooks, while “not particularly remarkable,” do show the internal workings of a federal agency that prefers to operate in the shadows. What was more notable than the information contained in the handbooks was that the documents were kept secret to begin with. “I was happy to see the Department of Homeland Security giving detailed and fairly reasonable guidance to its agents, and I think that kind of training is something for which the agency ought to be commended,” said García Hernández. “But, of course, if no one knows that this is the kind of training that they’re receiving, then of course they can’t receive credit where credit is due.”

The so-called law enforcement sensitivity of the information may be why the government doesn’t want the handbooks in public circulation, said Sarah St.Vincent, a Human Rights Watch researcher. But, she added, that doesn’t mean the contents shouldn’t be publicly available. “People should know what the government can do to them and to their rights,” she said.

Resisting exposure of HSI policies based on operational concerns — especially with outdated documents like the 2012 manual — sounds like hollow reasoning to St.Vincent. She also questioned the government’s claim that releasing the information could tip people committing crimes to the fact they’re being targeted. St.Vincent said the right of the public to know how the government interprets its authorities supersedes any claims to operational security, at least in general terms. “If the government thinks it has these powers,” said St.Vincent, “the public should know about it.”

The First Amendment Coalition’s Snyder told The Intercept that, though there could be reasons to withhold the documents, simply identifying the information as “law enforcement sensitive” isn’t one of them. “How the government goes about its business is in the public interest,” he said.

Snyder added that the age of the documents would cast doubt on the claim that the information contained in the manuals could affect open cases. “In an ongoing investigation, if you don’t want the target of investigation to be tipped to the case, you can withhold information,” said Snyder. He added, “Policies they are still thinking about, drafts, I could see potentially a valid reason to withhold.” But, he said, the fact that the documents in question are from 2012 and have mostly been superseded by newer material makes it less likely that relevant material from the handbooks could damage ongoing cases.

Either way, the manual offers a valuable window into the operations and policy for an organization that has seen its mission grow, said Hugh Handeyside, the senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. People’s rights can be affected by HSI policies, and it’s important to know where the boundaries of ICE’s claimed authority lie. “This document offers a valuable window on the policies of an agency whose operations appear to have expanded rapidly,” Handeyside wrote in an email. “Given that it affects the legal rights of those who come into contact with HSI — including U.S. citizens — it is important for the public to be able to access these policies.”

The tendency toward secrecy surrounding HSI policies at ICE, said García Hernández, the law professor, suggests that “the agency’s cultural inclination is to protect itself from allowing the public to know what it’s doing.”


Four U.S. senators seek details on unusual cellular surveillance in D.C. area

April 18, 2018

by David Shepardson


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Four U.S. senators on Wednesday urged the U.S. Homeland Security Department (DHS) to disclose additional information about unusual cellular surveillance activity that has been detected around the nation’s capital. \

The senators – Ron Wyden and Ed Markey, both Democrats, and Republicans Rand Paul and Cory Gardner – said the Trump administration should make public additional details about possible surveillance using cellphone-site simulators around Washington.

“The American people have a legitimate interest in understanding the extent to which U.S. telephone networks are vulnerable to surveillance and are being actively exploited by hostile actors,” the four said in a letter reviewed by Reuters.

Homeland Security did not immediately comment, but said in a March 26 letter to Wyden that DHS “has observed anomalous activity in the National Capital Region that appears to be consistent with International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) catchers. (DHS) has not validated or attributed such activity to specific entities or devices”.

The senators’ letter also said that DHS had briefed federal agencies in February about the issue but has not made details of the briefings public.

Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, on Tuesday said at a commission meeting the issue was serious and surveillance tools could potentially be in use “by foreign or criminal actors”.

She warned “these surveillance tools can transform cell phones into real-time tracking devices by mimicking legitimate cell towers and some may even have the technical capability to record the content of calls”.

Rosenworcel added “the security of our communications is at stake right here, right now in Washington and this agency owes the public more than silence”.

“If accurate,” she said, “someone needs to explain how foreign actors are transmitting over our airwaves without approval from this agency”.

This month, three senior U.S. House Democrats asked FCC chairman Ajit Pai to take immediate action to address what could be foreign governments’ “surveilling Americans in the nation’s capital”.

The FCC only allows the devices, which are commonly known as “stingrays,” to be used by U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The devices can trick suspects’ cell phones into revealing their locations.

They mimic cell phone towers in order to force cell phones in the area to transmit “pings” back to the devices, enabling law enforcement to track a suspect’s phone and pinpoint its location.

Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Darren Schuettler


5 Russian-Made Surveillance Technologies Used in the West

by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan


We all know surveillance is big in Putin’s Russia. What you may not know is that Russia’s surveillance tech is being used all over – even here in the U.S.

The Kremlin is up to its domes in spy technology. One reason is fear, provoked by the Arab Spring, of a growing and diffuse protest movement that uses social media to organize. Notably, the authorities have taken an interest in DPI (or deep packet inspection) tools, which are essential to monitoring the internet Russia-wide. The largest voice-recognition company in Russia has likewise developed close ties with the authorities, while tracing its origin to the Gulag.

Nor is Russia exactly a newcomer. The Soviet Union worked heavily on a litany of tools to spy on its own citizens. But for years, internet monitoring in Russia was carried out on the regional level: a hodge-podge of systems that blocked banned websites, as ordered by regional courts. That changed in November, when the Kremlin moved to implement a nation-wide internet-filtering system to block websites deemed extremist and harmful to children – a label often painted with a broad brush to mean anyone who opposes the Putin regime.

It’s also not just Russia that’s buying Russian-made surveillance technologies, and the tech isn’t limited to inside Russia’s borders. They’ve been extended to former Soviet republics, and very far from Moscow: in Latin America, Canada and even the United States. Here are several.

Voice Recognition —————–

The world leader in voice recognition technology goes by two names. In the company’s home city of Saint Petersburg, it’s known as the Speech Technology Center, or STC. In the United States, it operates from its New York City offices under the name SpeechPro. The anodyne names betray no signs that the company’s origins trace to a secret Soviet technologies unit run under the auspices of the KGB – and developed inside the Stalin-era Gulag system of convict labor camps.

The company’s roots didn’t grow in a hard labor camp – as the Gulag is most notoriously known – but at a related prison for engineers and scientists known as the Sharashka Marfino. There, researchers and engineers plucked from various camps were forced to work identifying voices calling in to foreign embassies located in Moscow.

“Our Center was founded in 1990,” Sergei Koval, a leading STC analyst, told us. “Before that all of our employees worked in the applied acoustics unit – a department that was run by the KGB, but formally attached to the scientific development center of the Ministry for Communications … The ‘Sharashka,’ where [seminal Russian novelist Alexander] Solzhenitsyn worked, was transferred from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. The people described in his novel [In the First Circle] continued to work in the Saint Petersburg outfit even after their release, and I met them when I came to work in the unit back in 1973.”

In 2010, the STC completed its first national voice recognition project – surprisingly not in Russia – but in Mexico. The system is able to use state records of human voice and biometric details to identify individuals from fragments of speech alone. Mexico’s national database includes recorded speech fragments from criminals, law enforcement personnel and many law-abiding citizens, who are obliged to supply vocal samples for state-regulated activities such as obtaining a driver’s license. A huge database was built containing up to several million voices of known criminals, persons of interest, or people on a watch list. It takes just five seconds to scan through 10,000 voices, and its accuracy, STC claims, is at least 90 percent.

Most recently, the company has sought to strengthen its ties to the Kremlin and find new markets for its biometric tools. In 2011, Russia’s state-affiliated Gazprombank became the joint owner of STC. Gazprombank, to clarify, is part of the vast business empire of Yuri Kovalchuk, a close friend of Vladimir Putin.

STC’s speech recognition tools are also at use inside the United States, Slate reported in September. Alexey Khitrov, STC Strategic Development Director, told the magazine that the company is working with a number of U.S. agencies at the state and federal level. They might want to ask about those ties to Putin.

Face Spotting ————-

STC does not limit itself to voice recognition, but is involved in developing face recognition technologies as well. In December 2012, STC announced it had gone to Ecuador and installed “the world’s first biometric identification platform, at a nation-wide level, that combines voice and face identification capabilities.”

The system allows authorities to accumulate a large image database of criminals and suspects. STC also claims it has invented algorithms that “deliver reliable results even when facial characteristics have undergone physical changes, and the system’s voice and face modalities can be used together or separately – a voice sample or facial image alone is sufficient to make an identification.” Publicly, STC is cautious to note that its surveillance technologies are used for only good, but as STC has also sold technology to authoritarian regimes in Uzbekistan and Belarus, among others.

Data Grabbing ————-

When it comes to lawfully intercepting private communications, the standards and procedures are different in the United States than they are in Russia, as we wrote in December. Some Russian manufacturers, however, have still found a way to penetrate into the North American market.

One of them is MFI-Soft. The company’s focus: a vendor of information security and telecommunications “solutions” for law enforcement agencies, VoIP (or voice over internet protocol) carriers and internet service providers. And the company claims to develop products for law enforcement, national security and intelligence agencies, and the military.

Founded in 1989, MFI-Soft is also the largest Russian producer of telecommunications traffic interceptors, with installations in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. And since the introduction of internet-filtering in Russia, MSI-Soft has developed a special filtering tool called Perimeter-F, which the company bills as a cheap and no-frills deep packet inspection system for small and mid-sized ISPs – as opposed to larger (and expensive) systems used by Russia’s largest internet providers.

But in Canada, the company is known under the name ALOE Systems, based in the Toronto suburb of Markham. ALOE’s leading interception technology, NetBeholder, provides a high-end system capable of detection, monitoring, storage and analysis of information traveling over the internet, and a laptop system “designed specifically for field interception – at [Internet cafes, hotels, restaurants and other public places]((http://www.netbeholder.com/en/products.html).”

Beyond Canada, ALOE’s list of clients consists of telecom operators in the United States and Mexico, along with Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Peru and Uruguay. Vitaly Potapov, an ALOE senior sales manager whom we met at the company’s office in Markham, explained that the company plans to open a U.S. office within a few months: “The market for our VoIP technologies is huge in the States,” he said.

The company is also quite close to the Kremlin. In April, chief executive Alexander Belyakov tagged along with the Russian delegation to a Germany security conference – the Partnership Between State, Civil Society and Business in the Field of Information Security and Combating Terrorism – which was organized by top-level Russian cyber officials. (MFI-Soft was one of the few Russian surveillance technology producers to be invited.)

The delegation likewise included Vladislav Sherstyuk, adviser to Russia’s Security Council and a former director of FAPSI: the Russian analogue to the NSA. Nikolai Klimashin, the former technical chief for the FSB – the successor agency to the KGB – and the current deputy security of the Security Council, also came along. Next stop: the United States.

Mobile Phone Interception ————————-

The traditional way to eavesdrop on phone calls is to monitor the telecom operator for incoming calls. When dealing with mobile phones, however, it can be much more effective to intercept calls right on the spot.

Discovery Telecom Technologies (DTT) has exactly that kind of equipment. The company’s AIBIS system (or In-Between Interception System) works by masquerading as a cell phone tower, sucking in nearby signals and allowing the device’s operator to surreptitiously listen and record. Established in Moscow, the firm also counts offices in Switzerland and Salt Lake City, Utah, and boasts on its Russian website about including the Kremlin and the FSB among its clients.

“This product does actual interception of cell phone communications content,” Christopher Soghoian, the American Civil Liberties Union’s top technologist, tells Danger Room. According to a product description, AIBIS is able to intercept up to eight incoming and outgoing mobile phone calls “with any type of encryption, in real-time.” It can also “work with moving and driving targets, providing fast, reliable interception, interrogation, data analysis, IMSI/IMEI catching and selective jamming of GSM traffic in the area.”

That also extends to general packet radio service (or GPRS) traffic, which means SMS messages and mobile internet access can be monitored. The system can selectively jam cell phone signals, and it also includes a module to help locate targets. The whole package weighs around 22 pounds.

More practically speaking, that can mean parking a car equipped with the interception device near the offices of a target, or, for instance, hiding a wired-up van close to a square where protests are taking place. As reporters Marc Ambinder and David Brown wrote in their book Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry: “Your data might have been intercepted or collected by Russia, China, or Israel if you traveled to those countries. The FBI has quietly removed from several Washington, D.C.–area cell phone towers, transmitters that fed all data to wire rooms at foreign embassies.”

Bus Tracking ————

Russian surveillance tech isn’t just about keeping tabs on people. One Russian startup is helping New York City keep tabs on its fleet of buses. The plan – which received permission from New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in October – aims to test software developed by Russian firm Doroga.TV that can allow passengers to track public transport online. That can mean finding the approximate time a particular bus is due, and calculate the best route between stops. Compared to other tech coming out of Russia, it’s absolutely benign.

According to Evgeni Makarov, Doroga.TV’sector of development, the New York project is still in the testing phase. Doroga.TV – which started up in 2007 with a staff of 12 – plans to analyze data obtained by satellite with GPS receivers installed on buses, and then provide statistics on that data to the MTA. The service has already been implemented in several mid-sized Russian cities. If the MTA implements the company’s tech, you can thank Moscow for helping you bounce around the Big Apple.

A joint investigation by Agentura.Ru, CitizenLab and PrivacyInternational.

Additional reporting by Robert Beckhusen


Coming WikiLeaks releases

by Christian Jürs

 prq Inet Box 1206 SE 11479 Stockholm Sweden


Catalog Number        Description of Contents                __________________________________________________________________________________

1000 BH    Extensive file (1,205 pages) of reports on Operation PHOENIX. Final paper dated January, 1971, first document dated  October, 1967. Covers the setting up of Regional Interrogation Centers, staffing, torture techniques including electric shock, beatings, chemical injections. CIA agents involved and includes a listing of U.S. military units to include Military Police, CIC and Special Forces groups involved. After-action reports from various military units to include 9th Infantry, showing the deliberate killing of all unarmed civilians located in areas suspected of harboring or supplying Viet Cong units.

1002 BH    Medium file (223 pages)  concerning the fomenting of civil disobedience in Chile as the result of the Allende election in 1970. Included are pay vouchers for CIA bribery efforts with Chilean labor organization and student activist groups, U.S. military units involved in the final revolt, letter from  T. Karamessines, CIA Operations Director to Chile CIA Station Chief Paul Wimert, passing along a specific order from Nixon via Kissinger to kill Allende when the coup was successful. Communications to Pinochet with Nixon instructions to root out by force any remaining left wing leaders.

1003 BH    Medium file (187 pages) of reports of CIA assets containing photographs of Soviet missile sites, airfields and other strategic sites taken from commercial aircraft. Detailed descriptions of targets attached to each picture or pictures.1004 BH    Large file (1560 pages) of CIA reports on Canadian radio intelligence intercepts from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa (1958) and a list of suspected and identified Soviet agents or sympathizers in Canada, to include members of the Canadian Parliament and military.

1005 BH    Medium file (219 pages) of members of the German Bundeswehr in the employ of the CIA. The report covers the Innere Führung group plus members of the signals intelligence service. Another report, attached, covers CIA assets in German Foreign Office positions, in Germany and in diplomatic missions abroad.

1006:BH    Long file (1,287 pages) of events leading up to the killing of Josef Stalin in 1953 to include reports on contacts with L.P. Beria who planned to kill Stalin, believing himself to be the target for removal. Names of cut outs, CIA personnel in Finland and Denmark are noted as are original communications from Beria and agreements as to his standing down in the DDR and a list of MVD/KGB files on American informants from 1933 to present. A report on a blood-thinning agent to be made available to Beria to put into Stalin’s food plus twenty two reports from Soviet doctors on Stalin’s health, high blood pressure etc. A report on areas of cooperation between Beria’s people and CIA controllers in the event of a successful coup.

1007 BH    Short list (125 pages) of CIA contacts with members of the American media to include press and television and book publishers. Names of contacts with bios are included as are a list of payments made and specific leaked material supplied. Also appended is a shorter list of foreign publications. Under date of August, 1989 with updates to 1992. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, Bradlee of the same paper, Ted Koppel, Sam Donaldson and others are included.

1008 BH    A file of eighteen reports (total of 899 pages) documenting illegal activities on the part of members of the U.S. Congress. First report dated July 29, 1950 and final one September 15, 1992. Of especial note is a long file on Senator McCarthy dealing with homosexuality and alcoholism. Also an attached note concerning the Truman Administration’s use of McCarthy to remove targeted Communists. These reports contain copies of FBI surveillance reports, to include photographs and reference to tape recordings, dealing with sexual events with male and female prostitutes, drug use, bribery, and other matters.

1009 BH    A long multiple file (1,564 pages) dealing with the CIA part (Kermit Roosevelt) in overthrowing the populist Persian prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. Report from Dulles (John Foster) concerning a replacement, by force if necessary and to include a full copy of AJAX operation. Letters from AIOC on million dollar bribe paid directly to J.Angleton, head of SOG. Support of Shah requires exclusive contracts with specified western oil companies. Reports dated from May 1951 through August, 1953.

1010 BH    Medium file (419 pages) of telephone intercepts made by order of J.J. Angleton of the telephone conversations between RFK and one G.N. Bolshakov. Phone calls between 1962-1963 inclusive. Also copies of intercepted and inspected mail from RFK containing classified U.S. documents and sent to a cut-out identified as one used by Bolshakov, a Russian press (TASS) employee. Report on Bolshakov’s GRU connections.

1011 BH    Large file (988 pages) on 1961 Korean revolt of Kwangju revolt led by General Park Chung-hee and General Kin-Jong-pil. Reports on contacts maintained by CIA station in Japan to include payments made to both men, plans for the coup, lists of “undesirables” to be liquidated  Additional material on CIA connections with KCIA personnel and an agreement with them  to assassinate South Korean chief of state, Park, in 1979.

1012 BH    Small file (12 pages) of homosexual activities between FBI Director Hoover and his aide, Tolson. Surveillance pictures taken in San Francisco hotel and report by CIA agents involved. Report analyzed in 1962.

1013 BH    Long file (1,699 pages) on General Edward Lansdale. First report a study signed by DCI Dulles in  September of 1954 concerning a growing situation in former French Indo-China. There are reports by and about Lansdale starting with his attachment to the OPC in 1949-50 where he and Frank Wisner coordinated policy in neutralizing Communist influence in the Philippines.. Landsale was then sent to Saigon under diplomatic cover and many copies of his period reports are copied here. Very interesting background material including strong connections with the Catholic Church concerning Catholic Vietnamese and exchanges of intelligence information between the two entities.

1014 BH    Short file (78 pages) concerning  a Dr. Frank Olson. Olson was at the U.S. Army chemical warfare base at Ft. Detrick in Maryland and was involved with a Dr. Gottleib. Gottleib was working on a plan to introduce psychotic-inducing drugs into the water supply of the Soviet Embassy. Apparently he tested the drugs on CIA personnel first. Reports of psychotic behavior by Olson and more police and official reports on his defenstration by Gottleib’s associates. A cover-up was instituted and a number of in-house CIA memoranda attest to this. Also a discussion by Gottleib on various poisons and drugs he was experimenting with and another report of people who had died as a result of Gottleib’s various experiments and CIA efforts to neutralize any public knowledge of these.

1015 BH    Medium file (457 pages) on CIA connections with the Columbian-based Medellín drug ring. Eight CIA internal reports, three DoS reports, one FBI report on CIA operative Milan Rodríguez and his connections with this drug ring. Receipts for CIA payments to Rodríguez of over $3 million in CIA funds, showing the routings of the money, cut-outs and payments. CIA reports on sabotaging  DEA investigations. A three-part study of the Nicaraguan Contras, also a CIA-organized and paid for organization.

1016 BH    A small file (159 pages) containing lists of known Nazi intelligence and scientific people recruited in Germany from 1946 onwards, initially by the U.S. Army and later by the CIA. A detailed list of the original names and positions of the persons involved plus their relocation information. Has three U.S. Army and one FBI report on the subject.

1017 BH    A small list (54 pages) of American business entities with “significant” connections to the CIA. Each business is listed along with relevant information on its owners/operators, previous and on going contacts with the CIA’s Robert Crowley, also a list of national advertising agencies with similar information. Much information about suppressed news stories and planted stories.

1018 BH    A large file (875 pages) concerning Operation PBFORTUNE, the overthrow of Guatemalan president Arbenz at the urgent request of top officials of the United Fruit Company (Levy and Zentner-UFCO) A file under date of January 26,  1952 in which plans were made to kill 58 Guatemalan leaders by CIA-trained assassins. This had the full approval of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Payments to Lt. Carlos C. Armas. German WWII weapons bought by INTERARMCO from the Communist Polish authorities and shipped to Honduras for use in the coup. The disposal of Arbenz Guzman and later, the CIA assassination of Armas (who was following through on the expropriation of UFCO property.) Payments by UFCO to Dulles and the Eisenhower people via his Library listed (total $500,000)

1019 BH    A large file (543 pages) concerning the assassination of the British Lord Louis Mountbatten on August 27, 1979. His sailing yacht, the Shadow IV, was blown up with a 50 pound nitroglycerine bomb detonated from a position on the nearby cliffs. The attack was the responsibility of the Provisional wing of the IRA. One of the perpetrators was captured but the others escaped and were never found. The documents include lengthy British official police and forensic reports, a four page report showing that the IRA attack was instigated by a Paul Nolan, the pseudonym of a Canadian-Irish CIA officer, then serving in Dublin, as revenge for Mountbatten’s failed Dieppe commando raid that resulted in 6,000 Canadian casualties. Also are files on Mountbatten’s family background and a lengthy paper on the CIA support of the IRA conditional upon their leaving American business targets in Northern Ireland alone. Specifically mentioned is a large oil refinery in Belfast.

Mike Pompeo’s secretary of state position uncertain amid opposition

Senate foreign relations committee looks short of the votes for Pompeo, who was chosen by Trump to replace Rex Tillerson

April 18, 2018

by Sabrina Siddiqui and Lauren Gambino in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump’s nomination of Mike Pompeo for secretary of state encountered significant headwinds on Wednesday, as the Senate foreign relations committee looked short of the votes to deliver him a positive recommendation.

A majority of Democrats on the Senate panel announced their opposition to Pompeo, who has served as Trump’s CIA director and was chosen by the president last month to replace Rex Tillerson at the helm of the state department. Concerns over Pompeo’s nomination were amplified among some Democrats after it was revealed late Tuesday that he secretly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang earlier this month.

Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the committee, criticized the CIA director for failing to disclose the North Korea meeting even as they discussed the topic privately.

“I don’t expect diplomacy to be negotiated out in the open, but I do expect for someone who is the nominee to be secretary of state, when he speaks with committee leadership and is asked specific questions about North Korea, to share some insights about such a visit,” Menendez said on Wednesday.

The uncertainty over Pompeo’s fate with the committee could force Republicans to take the unusual step of sending his nomination to the Senate floor without a favorable recommendation.

Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican on the committee, has joined Democrats on the panel in opposing Pompeo’s nomination, citing the CIA director’s support for the Iraq war and torture techniques. Pompeo can afford to lose only one vote on the Senate committee.

Without Paul’s support, he would require at least one Democrat on the panel to cross the aisle in his favor. All but one of the committee’s Democrats, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, have said they will vote against him. Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican on the committee, is also undecided.

In addition to Pompeo’s past defense of so-called “enhanced interrogation methods”, Democrats also took issue with his controversial statements on Islam and homosexuality. Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat on the foreign relations panel who supported Pompeo’s nomination for CIA director, denounced Pompeo’s “anti-diplomacy disposition”.

Other Democrats echoed the notion that Pompeo would prioritize military solutions over diplomatic negotiations.

“This weekend’s illegal and counterproductive strikes against the Syrian government underscore the urgent need for a secretary of state who will stand up for the constitution and articulate to the president the danger of American military hubris,” Chris Murphy, a senator from Connecticut, said in a declaring his opposition to Pompeo.

Pompeo faced tough questions during his confirmation hearing before the Senate foreign relations committee last week. But Democrats, in particular, were left dissatisfied with his answers. Pompeo notably declined to say he would resign if the president fired special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Republicans have indicated that they would move ahead with a confirmation vote regardless of the outcome. But even then, Republicans only hold a two-vote advantage over Democrats in the full Senate.

Without Paul’s support, and with the potential absence of Senator John McCain, who is in Arizona undergoing treatment for brain cancer, Pompeo would require support from Democrats to be confirmed. McCain has not cast a vote in the Senate since he returned to Arizona at the end of last year.

Pompeo’s prospects may lie with a handful of moderate Democrats running for re-election this November in states Trump won. The expectation is that enough of these vulnerable senators will support Pompeo’s nomination.

Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, acknowledged it was “difficult” for Democrats to vote for Pompeo. “It’s viewed as a proxy of support for the Trump administration, which is obviously very very unpopular on their side of the aisle,” Corker told reporters.

Corker nonetheless defended Pompeo, saying his tenure as the head of the CIA had served as a “maturing period”.

“It’s hard to say that Pompeo is not qualified,” Corker said.

“He’s very committed to diplomacy.”

With additional reporting by Julian Borger


Neo-Nazi ‘Tyrone’ exposed as US marine

Michael Chesny appears to have posted 1,000 messages in white supremacist chat room in lead up to deadly Virginia rally.

April 17, 2018

by Paul Abowd

Al Jazeera News

Washington, DC – Just weeks before a white supremacist rally turned deadly last August after a neo-Nazi allegedly drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, several of the rally’s organisers discussed ways to use cars as weapons in an online chatroom.

On July 17, one of those organisers, operating under the alias “Tyrone”, posted a picture of a farm machine known as a combine harvester, writing it “sure would be nice”. He then wrote: “Is it legal to run over protesters blocking roadways?”

Tyrone’s statements garnered media attention last August, but it was not publicly known who was behind the alias. That changed recently, when an anti-racist activist exposed Tyrone’s identity as Michael Joseph Chesny, a 36-year-old active duty marine who was stationed at an airbase in Havelock, North Carolina with a speciality in explosives. Chesny received a general discharge from the Marines on April 5.

In more than 1,000 posts in an online chat service called Discord, Tyrone gave detailed advice on how to fight in the streets of Charlottesville, and also posted a raft of racial slurs and statements pledging support for neo-Nazi causes and organisations.

Unicorn Riot, a non-profit media organisation, published an archive of the Discord messages used to organise the “Unite the Right” rally that brought white supremacists from across the country to Charlottesville to oppose the city’s decision to remove a Confederate monument.

The violence in the small Virginia college town, which killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured many others, caused a slew of civil rights lawsuits – including one that alleges a conspiracy by the rally’s organisers to carry out acts of violence in Charlottesville.

It also touched off efforts by a coalition of “Antifa” (anti-fascist) activists to use a tactic known as doxxing to verify and publicise the identities of “Unite the Right” activists, including Chesny.

‘I am actually a US Marine who was born to kill’

On August 11, 2017, just hours before hundreds of white supremacists marched with torches through the University of Virginia campus, chanting racist slogans, Tyrone logged onto Discord, where he had been communicating with others for months.

“F*** islam,” Tyrone wrote. “They are like mudsharks. Race traitors either convert or get the sword.”

These types of slurs were rampant on Discord, but Tyrone stood out for his more specific advice. In one instance, he advised others on how to build and use a flagpole as a weapon.

“[Are] you trying to impale people?” he asked other members on July 24, 2017.

He advised to “Put a 6-8 inch double threaded screw into [two] 3 ft axe handles. If s*** gets real unscrew the bottom and go to town.”

Weeks earlier, on July 2, he wrote: “An abundant variety of tactics are how we are going to achieve final victory.”

On July 23, 2017, Tyrone posted an image of an armed man with the caption: “I am actually a US Marine who was born to kill …”

Exposing Chesny

In the months leading up to the rally, Charlottesville-based activist Emily Gorcenski tried to convince the city council to revoke a permit granted to organisers of the Unite the Right rally, “not because we’re anti-free speech,” she said, “but because we knew they were coming to do violence to people and terrorise our local communities.”

On August 12, Gorcenski was standing just a few feet away when 20-year-old James Alex Fields, Jr, allegedly rammed his Dodge Charger into a crowd of anti-racist activists.

Since the Discord chat logs went public last August, Gorcenski began searching its archive for details about the leaders of a nationwide network of white supremacists. There, she found threats against her own life.

Gorcenski doxxed several of those making threats, arguing that activists have to do some of the investigatory work that police weren’t doing.

“I think law enforcement doesn’t do a good enough job of informing the public about white supremacists in people’s neighbourhoods,” she told Al Jazeera.

In the archive, she found a user chatting under the alias “WV1987,” who threatened to run her over when he arrived in Charlottesville.

“I hope she stands in the street,” he wrote, posting a photo of his truck bumper, and adding “My ARB bull bar is hungry.”

With this photo and two other clues, Gorcenski said it took her 45 minutes to identify the 30-year-old man who had made the threat.

“I am sharing this so that people can make safe decisions to avoid him,” she wrote on Twitter.

Soon after, Gorcenski also came across Tyrone. It took her 90 minutes to discover his true identity.

As Tyrone, Chesny made very specific posts about himself and his family.

Tyrone posted a photo of this banner that appeared at a May 2017 rally in support of a Confederate statue in Graham, North Carolina. On June 6, 2017, he told others on Discord that he’d been “caught” hanging it from the top of a building.

The banner featured a logo for Generation Identitaire, a far-right, nativist and anti-immigrant movement in Europe. The acronym alongside it, “YWNRL”, stands for “You Will Not Replace Us”, a popular chant used by Unite the Right marchers in Charlottesville to signal fears over so-called “white genocide”.

Responding to another user who asked if he received “trespassing charges”, Tyrone wrote on June 6, 2017: “I’m going to court 9am eastern. We shall see.”

Gorcenski said she did a reverse image search of the picture of the banner and found that it was linked to a news story citing two US marines who had been arrested for trespassing in connection with the banner drop.

The news story ran the mugshots of Michael J Chesny and Joseph W Manning.

Gorcenski said she continued scrolling through Tyrone’s messages, and found another clue that narrowed her search. He had posted what appeared to be a birth announcement for his family, who were expecting twins – with their faces blocked out by white circles.

The caption read: “Reversing White Genocide, 2 at a time.”

A check of Facebook revealed that Chesny was the father of newborn twins – five girls and a boy in total.

“The final piece of information is that his hairline matched [Chesny’s mugshot],” Gorcenski said.

Tyrone’s messages became the subject of a high-profile lawsuit filed in the Western District of Virginia last October.

The suit, filed by New York-based lawyer Roberta Kaplan, alleged that a group of white supremacist activists, including several US military veterans, had “organised the ‘rally’ and coordinated logistics, along with co-conspirator ‘Tyrone,'” with the purpose of “engaging in unlawful acts of violence, intimidation, and denial of equal protection”.

While the lawsuit mentioned Tyrone, it did not identify him as Chesny. Lawyers for the case declined to comment as to why.

Al Jazeera contacted Chesny, but he hung up the phone. When Al Jazeera sent Chesny questions by text message, asking him to respond in writing, Chesny instead attempted to call our reporter from a talk radio station in North Carolina in order to, he said, “record and reserve the right to distribute” the interview.

Al Jazeera did not agree to these terms, and gave Chesny several more days to respond to questions in writing – which he declined to do. Chesny has not admitted that Tyrone is his online alias.

The radio station from which Chesny called Al Jazeera had hosted him before. On July 27, 2017, Tyrone wrote that he’d be making his “triumphant return to live radio tonight” on 107.1 WTKF to discuss South African white supremacist Simon Roche.

‘Seig Heiling into the night’

While many in the alt-right – a loosely knit movement including neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists – often minimise the kind of posts made by Tyrone as acts of “trolling”, Chesny’s messages contain numerous examples where Tyrone’s words match Chesny’s actions.

Tyrone wrote that he had been to an April 2017 rally in Pikeville, Kentucky, organised by a coalition of far-right groups, including the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM), the now-defunct Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) and the neo-Confederate League of the South.

“I was at Pikeville,” Tyrone boasted, “Seig Heiling into the night.”Video from the Pikeville rally shows Chesny wearing sunglasses and black gloves, marching in formation with a group of men flying neo-Nazi flags and wearing shirts signalling their support for “Rahowa” – or racial holy war.

In one video from Pikeville, NSM leader Jeff Schoep declared that the people behind him are “are the shock troops for the white race”. Chesny’s face appears in the back of the crowd.

Military leaders, including Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller swiftly condemned the violence in Charlottesville, telling US media: “Bigotry and racial extremism run contrary to [Marine] corps values.”

When asked to comment on Chesny’s activities, Marines spokesman Brian Block told Al Jazeera that any marine’s affiliation with white supremacist groups is “a violation” that results in “separation following the first substantiated incident of misconduct”.

A different Marines spokesman told Al Jazeera that Chesny enlisted in 2007 and was deployed to the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay in 2008 and early 2009. Later, he served a six-month tour of Afghanistan in late 2011 and early 2012 as part of a light armoured reconnaissance unit.

Chesny had become eligible for a promotion to staff sergeant last September, but Marines officials say that promotion was cancelled during an investigation that led to Chesny’s discharge.

Bad Apples?

Chesny entered the Marines during a time when the military had reportedly eased its recruiting standards to supply a surge of boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2006, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) watchdog group released a report claiming that the Department of Defense (DOD) had been “relaxing bans on extremists” and that “‘thousands’ of soldiers in the Army alone” were “involved in extremist or gang activity”.

In 2009, the DOD amended its regulations on “extremist activity” to include more explicit bans on white supremacy in the military.

“DOD recognised that it was not a good thing to be training racists and extremists who fantasize about race war,” said Ryan Lenz, a former Iraq war correspondent now working at the SPLC.

Officials at the Marine Corps and the DOD argue that the incidence of white supremacists in their ranks is rare.

But DOD spokeswoman Carla Gleason told Al Jazeera that the military does not keep data on the number of people who have been discharged for their affiliations with white supremacist groups.

Instead, those numbers are combined with a variety of forms of misconduct that can lead to discharge, ranging from “participating in a white supremacist rally, drug use or unauthorised absence”, Gleason said.

While certain convictions in a military court “require reporting through a federal database,” she said, “we do not track discharged individuals after the conclusion of their military service.”

The Marines refer cases involving threats of violence to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, according to a spokesman.

It is unclear whether Chesny would choose a military career over his white supremacist affiliations, but the Marines have made it clear: he can’t have both.

For now, the best view of his mindset appears to be that of his online alias – Tyrone.

On June 24, 2017, he wrote on Discord: “I’m a big fan of promoting ‘We’re. NOT. Sorry!’ As a core position.”


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