TBR News April 27, 2017

Apr 27 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. April 27, 2017: ” “Now we have the new national pastime, quaffing Opioids and leaving ugliness, stupididy and poverty behind us, masked in a delightful haze.

But if one is enjoying a haze, it is not a good idea to walk, smiling witlessly, into speeding busses.

But then there could be a National Day of the Joining of Hands and subsequent walking off the rim of the Grand Canyon. A delightful float until reality, and the rocks below, turned off the pink light.

Think of the nutrients appearing further down the course of the shrinking Colorado River!

A collapsing Las Vegas would revive and sanctify, with roses, the hideous Sheldon Adleman and his Truly Awful Wife.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Table of Contents

  • Ex-spy admits anti-Trump dossier unverified, blames Buzzfeed for publishing
  • Did Assad Order the Syrian Gas Attack?
  • ‘Huge’ explosion at Damascus airport
  • Greek court rules against extradition of three Turkish soldiers
  • Turkey suspends 9,103 police personnel over alleged links with failed coup
  • NYT’s ‘Impossible to Verify’ North Korea Nuke Claim Spreads Unchecked by Media
  • Newspapers rethink paywalls as digital efforts sputter
  • How Do I watch You? Let me count the ways….

 Ex-spy admits anti-Trump dossier unverified, blames Buzzfeed for publishing

April 25, 2017

by Rowan Scarborough

The Washington Times –

Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the infamous anti-Donald Trump dossier, acknowledges that a sensational charge his sources made about a tech company CEO and Democratic Party hacking is unverified.

In a court filing, Mr. Steele also says his accusations against the president and his aides about a supposed Russian hacking conspiracy were never supposed to be made public, much less posted in full on a website for the world to see on Jan. 10.

He defends himself by saying he was betrayed by his client and that he followed proper internal channels by giving the dossier to Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, to alert the U.S. government.

Mr. Steele has not spoken publicly about his disputed opposition research project, but for the first time he is being forced to talk in a London court through his attorneys.

Barristers for Mr. Steele and his Orbis Business Intelligence firm filed their first defense against a defamation lawsuit brought by Aleksej Gubarev, chief executive of the network solutions firm XBT Holdings.

Mr. Steele has not spoken publicly about his disputed opposition research project, but for the first time he is being forced to talk in a London court through his attorneys.

Barristers for Mr. Steele and his Orbis Business Intelligence firm filed their first defense against a defamation lawsuit brought by Aleksej Gubarev, chief executive of the network solutions firm XBT Holdings.

Mr. Steele acknowledges that the part of the 35-page dossier that identified Mr. Gubarev as a rogue hacker came from “unsolicited intelligence” and “raw intelligence” that “needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.”

Democrats in Washington have embraced the unproven dossier as an argument for appointing a high-powered commission to investigate President Trump and his aides.

In his final December dossier memo — his 16th — Mr. Steele accused Mr. Gubarev and his web-hosting companies of hacking the Democratic Party computer networks with pornography and bugging devices. Mr. Gubarev calls the charge fiction and filed a lawsuit in February.

Mr. Steele’s court filing portrays him as a victim of Fusion GPS — the Washington firm that hired him with money from a Hillary Clinton backer.

Fusion specializes in opposition research for Democrats and circulated the Steele dossier among reporters in an effort to injure the Trump candidacy and presidency. Mr. Steele said he never authorized Fusion to do that.

“The defendants did not provide any of the pre-election memoranda to media organizations or journalists. Nor did they authorize anyone to do so,” Mr. Steele said through his attorney. “Nor did they provide the confidential December memorandum to media organizations or journalists. Nor did they authorize anyone to do so.”

“At all material times Fusion was subject to an obligation not to disclose to third parties confidential intelligence material provided” by Mr. Steele and his firm Orbis, the court filing reads.

Mr. Steele personally signed the seven-page filing. He is represented by two London barristers who specialize in defamation cases: Gavin Millar and Edward Craven.

Mr. Steele says the ultimate responsibility lies with BuzzFeed, the liberal news website whose editor, Ben Smith, decided to post the entire 35 pages — memos from June to December — on Jan. 10 even though Mr. Smith said he doubted the far-flung accusations were true.

That momentous web posting sent Mr. Steele into hiding. He re-emerged March 7 in London, made a brief statement to the press and went inside his Orbis office.

The Steele dossier’s major charge is that the Trump campaign entered into an elaborate conspiracy with Russian agents to hack Democratic Party computers.

The Trump White House denies the charge, as do at least four people whom Mr. Steele’s unidentified sources accused of breaking the law.

The final Steele memo in December targets Mr. Gubarev and Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney.

That memo, after accusing Mr. Gubarev, then recounts from previous memos a supposed trip Mr. Cohen took to Prague in late August to meet with Russian agents and devise a plan to cover up the purported Trump team’s role in the hacking.

Mr. Cohen calls the dossier “fabricated.” He has shown that he was in California at the time and has never been to Prague. He told The Washington Times that he has instructed his attorneys to investigate a lawsuit against Mr. Steele.

The fact that Mr. Steele acknowledges that he put unverified “raw intelligence” into his December memo casts further doubt on his research techniques for the entire 35-page dossier.

Although Mr. Steele portrays himself as a victim of Fusion and BuzzFeed, he acknowledges in his court filing that he provided “off-the-record briefings to a small number of journalists about the pre-election memoranda in late summer/autumn 2016.”

The narration of the involvement of Mr. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a vocal critic of Mr. Trump, reads like a spy novel.

Andrew Wood is a former British ambassador to Moscow and is an associate at the Orbis firm. After the Nov. 8 presidential election, Mr. Wood met with Mr. McCain and David J. Kramer, a former assistant secretary of state who is director of human rights and democracy at The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University. By that time, Mr. Steele had written 15 memos for the dossier.

As a result, Mr. Wood arranged for Mr. Kramer to meet with Mr. Steele “in order to show him the pre-election memoranda on a confidential basis,” the court filing says. The meeting occurred on Nov. 28 in Surrey, England.

“Mr. Kramer told [Mr. Steele] the intelligence he had gathered raised issues of potential national security importance,” the court filing says.

Mr. Kramer returned to Washington, and Fusion agreed to give a hard copy of the dossier to Mr. McCain “on a confidential basis via Mr. Kramer,” according to the filing.

Mr. McCain then asked Mr. Steele, through Mr. Kramer, to provide any additional information on Russian interference in the election.

U.S. intelligence officially has concluded that Russia directed a hacking operation into Democratic Party email servers and orchestrated the release of stolen emails via WikiLeaks to help the Trump campaign.

Mr. McCain has confirmed publicly that he personally turned over the dossier to FBI Director James B. Comey. But at that time, the FBI already had obtained the dossier from other sources and had been using it to investigate the supposed Trump-Russia connection.

Afterward, Mr. Steele continued to receive “raw intelligence,” including the Gubarev accusations. He wrote the December memo after his work for Fusion had ended.

He provided that memo to British national security officials and to Fusion through an “enciphered email,” with instructions to provide a copy to Mr. McCain.

The court filing says Mr. Steele has worked with Fusion for “a number of years” and was hired in June to begin investigating Mr. Trump. It was in June when the Democratic National Committee disclosed publicly that it had been hacked and its cybersleuths singled out Russia as the likely culprit.

Mr. Steele does not mention another American contact he made: The New York Times reported that the FBI, during an October meeting in Rome, offered him $50,000 to continue investigating Mr. Trump. Presumedly, Mr. Steele would continue to investigate the president as a surrogate for the FBI. The deal, however, did not go through.

Some Republicans have questioned why the FBI would try to put a Democratic-paid opposition researcher on the payroll, especially one who produced a dossier that remains unproven. The Times said the FBI wanted Mr. Steele to provide more proof of his charges.

Mr. Gubarev also is suing BuzzFeed for libel in Florida, where XBT has an office and where his firm Webzilla is incorporated.

The lawsuit calls BuzzFeed’s posting “one of the most reckless and irresponsible moments in modern journalism.”

Did Assad Order the Syrian Gas Attack?

Once again, actual intelligence seems sparse.

April 25, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

On the morning of April 4, a Syrian Air Force Russian-made Sukhoi-22 fighter bomber dropped or fired something at a target in rebel-held Idlib Governorate. A cloud of some chemical substance subsequently materialized and drifted to the adjacent inhabited village of Khan Shaykhun, where it killed between 50 and 100 people. We also know that the Russians used a “hotline” prior to the attack to alert the United States military that the strike would be taking place against what was apparently described as an arms depot.

We also know about what might be considered collateral damage. The deaths and alleged use of chemical weapons were described by President Donald Trump as a “vital national-security interest” and served as the pretext for a strike by 59 U.S. cruise missiles two days later, which was directed against the Syrian air base at al-Shayrat. The U.S. attack did little damage and the base was soon again operational. The White House also reversed itself regarding possible Syrian peace talks, declaring that Bashar al-Assad must be removed as a condition for any political settlement of the ongoing crisis. It also described Russia as complicit in protecting the Syrian president. Secretary of State Tillerson declared that bilateral relations with Moscow cannot improve as long as Russia is supporting al-Assad. The relationship with Russia is, according to President Trump, at an “all-time low.”

The U.S. government, in support of its narrative justifying the cruise-missile attack, has issued a four-page assessment entitled “The Assad Regime’s Use of Chemical Weapons on April 4, 2017.” The report was issued by the National Security Council, which is part of the White House, and was authored by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national-security advisor, rather than Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. The provenance suggests that it might not be what it is touted as, a “Summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Assessment …” It makes a number of claims, some of which might be considered fact-based, while others seem questionable.

Bear in mind that nearly all the information and physical evidence available from the attack site in Syria has come from anti-Assad sources linked to al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra, which controls the area. This includes the so-called White Helmets, who are opposition surrogates. The established narrative derives from this material as well as from bipartisan assertions of Assad’s “certain” guilt, even from normally liberal Democrats, which are being presented as fact.

The four-page White House report is supplemented by commentary provided by McMaster and Secretary of Defense James Mattis (also a former general) on the day of the U.S. attack, as well as a more recent interview with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, which describes the decision-making process and the military options. Each official, as well as President Trump, took it as a given that Syria had carried out the attack. Regarding the motive for such an attack, the report claims that Damascus was seeking to halt a rebel advance. Others in the media have claimed that it was done to “test” the United States or intimidate the Syrian population, but some other observers find those explanations elusive. After all, Bashar al-Assad would have had no good reason to stage a chemical attack when he was winning the war, while the rebels theoretically had plenty of motivation to stage a “false flag” attack to alienate Damascus from Western Europe and the Americans.

There is considerable repetition in the White House report describing Syrian involvement, rebel inability to mount a chemical attack, physical remains, and symptoms of the dead and injured. It says that the U.S. government is “confident” that the Syrian government carried out a chemical attack using “a neurotoxic agent like sarin … against its own people” on the morning of April 4, and that it would have been impossible for the rebels to fabricate the incident because it would be too complicated for them to do so. The alleged U.S. intelligence relating to understanding the attack included Sigint, geospatial monitoring, and physiological examination. Plus “Credible open source reporting … tells a clear and consistent story.” This included commercial-satellite imagery, which shows the impact sites of the weapons used, and opinions registered by civilian agencies like Medecins Sans Frontieres and Amnesty International.

The U.S. government report also maintains that Syria has violated its international obligations by retaining chemical-weapons capabilities even though it agreed to destroy all stocks in 2013. The narrative also insists that the still highly controversial attack made on Ghouta in 2013 was, in fact, carried out by Damascus. Syrian chemical-weapons experts were probably “involved in planning the [current] attack.” Symptoms of the victims were consistent with exposure to sarin.

Since the attack, per the report, the Russians and Syrians have been spinning out “false narratives” employing “multiple, conflicting accounts [of what took place] in order to create confusion and sow doubt within the international community.”

As noted above, beyond the bare bones of the Syrian attack, the U.S. retaliation, and the casualties, there is little in the incidents and the surrounding analysis that can be regarded as hard fact. Little in the National Security Council report is unassailable, and one should note that almost none of it is based on U.S. intelligence resources. The possibility that a Syrian chemical-weapons expert was “probably” involved expresses uncertainty, suggesting that an intercepted telephone call is being generously interpreted. And the geospatial monitoring is either a satellite (or even a drone) overhead, or possibly an AWACS plane operating along the nearby Turkish border, which would register the flight path of the Su-22 and the subsequent explosion(s), hardly conclusive evidence of anything beyond what we already know to be true.

The thinness of the U.S. intelligence came through in an April 13 talk by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who described the pressure from the White House to come up with an “assessment.” As a bottom line, he commented that “Everyone saw the open-source photos, so we had reality on our side.” One might observe that that reality was derived from Google satellite photography possibly adjusted by the rebels and freely interpreted by the media, not from the $80 billion per year intelligence community.

Observers should also reexamine the assumption that rebels would be unable to either mount a chemical attack or create a “false flag” operation. There have been numerous instances of ISIS and al-Nusra use of chemicals both in Syria and Iraq, the most recent being just this past week in western Mosul. And the similar Ghouta “false flag” in 2013 almost succeeded, apparently aided by Turkish intelligence, stopped only when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper paid a surprise visit to President Obama in the Oval Office to tell him that the case against Damascus was not a “slam dunk.”

And the physical evidence that the Syrians launched a chemical attack from the air has been challenged. The only eyewitness to surface, a 14-year-old, has described how she saw a bomb drop from an airplane and hit a nearby building, which produced a mushroom cloud. It is just as the Russians and Syrians described the incident and rules out sarin, which is colorless. And then there is the testimony of Professor Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Postol has examined the evidence in the photos and concluded that the toxin was fired from the ground, not from the air, adding that no competent analyst would believe otherwise—suggesting that there was a rush to judgment. Postol concluded that “it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the U.S. government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack.”

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has also disputed the findings in the White House report, noting that what evidence there is points to the use of conventional weapons by the Syrians. He also notes that the Su-22’s available weapons cannot deliver a chemical or gas attack from the air, something which Donald Trump and his advisers might not have been aware of.

And then there are the victims. The tests confirming the presence of sarin were carried out in Turkish hospitals and Ankara is far from a neutral party, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having demanded repeatedly that al-Assad be removed.

It is all too easy to forget that the rebels and their associates are killers, with little to differentiate them from the crimes that are being laid at Bashar al-Assad’s door. Two recent examples of rebel brutality include the beheading of a child and the recent bombing of Syrian refugees waiting to cross into government-controlled territory. The latter attack killed more people—including women, children, and babies—than the incident at Khan Shaykhun, but it was not so much as mentioned by President Trump. It was only briefly reported in the U.S. media before being dropped down the memory hole, presumably because it did not fit the prevailing narrative.

Other videos and pictures of Khan Shaykhun victims cited by the White House show survivors being assisted by alleged medical personnel, who appear not be wearing any protective garb. If the chemical agent had actually been sarin, they too would have been affected. And the symptoms of sarin are similar to the symptoms experienced with exposure to other toxins, including chlorine and smoke munitions. One survivor noted a smell of rotten food and garlic. Sarin is, in addition to being colorless, odorless.

And then there is the question of al-Assad’s chemical-weapons supply. It is now being asserted by the White House that the Syrians retained a significant capability, but that is not what Secretary of State John Kerry said in July 2014, when he claimed everything was destroyed: “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.” The United States, working with Russia, was instrumental in destroying the Syrian chemical stockpile.

It certainly appears that there was a rush to judgment on the part of the White House and the top presidential advisors. It is possible that al-Assad did what he has been accused of, but the Trump administration decided to assign guilt to the Syrians before they could have known with any clarity what had happened. As in the case of Iraq, the available intelligence was made to fit the preferred narrative. All that remained was to call a meeting of top advisors to determine exactly how to punish Damascus. The truth about what occurred in Syria on April 4 remains to be discovered, and is almost certainly possessed by many in the U.S. intelligence community. Perhaps someday, someone who understands what happened will feel compelled to reveal what he or she knows.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the incident and the U.S. retaliation is severe and potentially catastrophic. As Princeton Professor Stephen Cohen, America’s leading expert on Russia, put it recently:

I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations, at least since the Cuban missile crisis. And arguably, it’s more dangerous, because it’s more complex. … So the question arises, naturally: Why did Trump launch 50 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian Air Force base, when, God help us, he did kill some people, but was of no military value whatsoever? Was this meant to show ‘I’m not a Kremlin agent?’ Because, normally, a president would have done the following. You would go to the United Nations … and ask for an investigation about what happened with those chemical weapons. And then you would decide what to do. But while having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with the leader of China, who was deeply humiliated, because he’s an ally of Russia, they rushed off these Tomahawk missiles.

‘Huge’ explosion at Damascus airport

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a large explosion has hit near Damascus International Airport. Syrian state TV said an Israeli airstrike targeting a Hezbollah arms depot caused the blast.

April 27, 2017


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that a large explosion rocked the Syrian capital early in the morning and that fire was now burning near the airport.

No casualties have been reported.

“The blast was huge and could be heard in Damascus,” said the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, according to the AFP news agency.

A Lebanese TV channel, al-Manar, said the blast was “probably” caused by an Israeli airstrike.

Al-Manar is affiliated with Hezbollah, an ally of the Syrian government. Syrian state television also reported that Israel had conducted a missile attack on the site.

An anonymous regional intelligence source speaking to Reuters said the blast site contained a weapons depot operated by Hezbollah, which was regularly stocked with supplies sent from Tehran. Iran is also an ally of the Syrian government.

Israel has refused to confirm or deny that it was responsible for the blast, but  Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said such a strike would be in line with Israeli policy.

“We are acting to prevent the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon by Iran,” Katz said on Israeli army radio. “When we receive serious information about the intention to transfer weapons to Hezbollah, we will act. This incident is totally consistent with this policy.”

Israel has carried out similar attacks in the past.

Damascus has been largely spared from the violence that has occurred regularly in other parts of the country since Syria’s civil war began in 2011, but clashes between government forces and rebel troops have come closer to the capital in recent months.

Greek court rules against extradition of three Turkish soldiers

April 25, 2017


A Greek court ruled on Tuesday against the extradition of three of eight Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece last July following a failed coup attempt against the Ankara government.

Greece’s top court blocked the extradition of all eight in January, angering Turkey which then issued a second extradition request.

Turkey alleges the men were involved in efforts to overthrow President Tayyip Erdogan and has demanded they be sent back.

(Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas; Writing by Karolina Tagaris)

 Turkey suspends 9,103 police personnel over alleged links with failed coup

April 26, 2017


Turkish authorities have suspended 9,103 personnel from the police force, broadcaster CNN Turk reported on Wednesday, as part of an investigation of over alleged links with a U.S.-based cleric who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup last July.

In the aftermath of the abortive coup, authorities arrested 40,000 people and sacked or suspended 120,000 from a wide range of professions, including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants, over alleged links with terrorist groups.

Earlier on Wednesday, more than 1,000 people had been detained in a police purge in 72 provinces across the country.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, editing by Larry King)

 NYT’s ‘Impossible to Verify’ North Korea Nuke Claim Spreads Unchecked by Media

April 26,2017

by Adam Johnson


Buoyed by a total of 18 speculative verb forms—five “mays,” eight “woulds” and five “coulds”—New York Times reporters David E. Sanger and William J. Broad (4/24/17) painted a dire picture of a Trump administration forced to react to the growing and impending doom of North Korea nuclear weapons.

“As North Korea Speeds Its Nuclear Program, US Fears Time Will Run Out” opens by breathlessly establishing the stakes and the limited time for the US to “deal with” the North Korean nuclear “crisis”:

Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: A growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports that conclude the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.

That acceleration in pace—impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago—explains why President Trump and his aides fear they are running out of time.

The front-page summary was even more harrowing, with the editors asserting there’s “dwindling time” for “US action” to stop North Korea from assembling hundreds of nukes:

From the beginning, the Times frames any potential bombing by Trump as the product of a “stark calculus” coldly and objectively arrived at by a “growing body of expert[s].” The idea that elements within the US intelligence community may actually desire a war—or at least limited airstrikes—and thus may have an interest in presenting conflict as inevitable, is never addressed, much less accounted for.

The most spectacular claim—that North Korea is, at present, “capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks”—is backed up entirely by an anonymous blob of “expert studies and classified intelligence reports.” To add another red flag, Sanger and Broad qualify it in the very next sentence as a figure that is “impossible to verify.” Which is another way of saying it’s an unverified claim.

When asked on Twitter if he could say who, specifically, in the US government is providing this figure, Broad did not immediately respond.

Other key claims are either not attributed or attributed to anonymous “officials” (emphasis added):

Unless something changes, North Korea’s arsenal may well hit 50 weapons by the end of Mr. Trump’s term, about half the size of Pakistan’s. American officials say the North already knows how to shrink those weapons so they can fit atop one of its short- to medium-range missiles — putting South Korea and Japan, and the thousands of American troops deployed in those two nations, within range.

To offer a bit of outside perspective, Sanger and Broad interview Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The only time he speaks directly to the threat, he does so in the context of a nuclear accident:

At any moment, Dr. Hecker said on a call to reporters organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a live weapon could turn into an accidental nuclear detonation or some other catastrophe.

“I happen to believe,” he said, “the crisis is here now.”

Hecker and other semi-neutral observers (Hecker worked for the Department of Defense for several years) are understandably worried about more nuclear weapons in the aggregate, especially in the hands of a relatively poor country with a long history of botched missile attempts. But who, exactly, is making the article’s most alarmist predictions? It’s unclear.

Naturally, the specter of North Korea creating an assembly line of nuclear weapons—by far the sexiest part of the story—was the lead in subsequent write-ups. Within hours, this meme spread to a half-dozen other outlets:

“North Korea’s Growing Nuclear Threat, in One Statistic”

Here is the most frightening thing you’ll read all day: Growing numbers of US intelligence officials believe North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.

—Vox (4/25/17)

“North Korea Will ‘Cross The Point of No Return’ With Sixth Nuclear Test”

Defense experts estimate that the North is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks, reports the New York Times.

—Daily Caller, 4/25/17)

“North Korea Could Produce a Nuclear Weapon Every Six Weeks, Experts Are Warning”

—Yahoo News (4/25/17)

“Residents of China Fear Radiation From North Korea Nuclear Tests”

Experts say the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks, the New York Times reported Monday.

—UPI (4/25/17)

“China Warns North Korea Will ‘Cross the Point of No Return’ if It Carries out a Sixth Nuclear Test, as Secretive Country Stages Its ‘Largest Ever Firing Drill’”

…amid fears the secretive state can create a nuke every six weeks.

—Daily Mail (4/25/17)

“North Korea Is Capable of Producing a Nuclear Bomb Every Six or Seven Weeks”

—News.com.au (4/26/17)

Even New York Times columnist Nick Kristof jumped on the meme, magically turning “capable of producing” into “will soon be churning out.”

But from whence did this meme come? Who, exactly, made this claim? Is there any dissent within the community of “experts” on this prediction? Is there an official document somewhere with people’s names on it who can later be held accountable if it turns out to be bogus? Once again, the essential antecedents of war are being established based on anonymous “experts” and “officials,” and hardly anyone notices, much less pushes back.

Newspapers rethink paywalls as digital efforts sputter

August 11, 2016


Paywalls were supposed to help rescue newspapers from the crisis of sinking print circulation as readers shifted to getting their news online.

But with a few exceptions, they have failed to deliver much relief, prompting some news organizations to rethink their digital strategies.

Newspapers in the English-speaking world ended paywalls some 69 times through May 2015, including 41 temporary and 28 permanent drops, according to a study by University of Southern California researchers.

Paywalls “generate only a small fraction of industry revenue,” with estimates ranging from one percent in the United States to 10 percent internationally, the study in July’s International Journal of Communication said.

“People are far less willing to pay for online news than for print,” said USC journalism professor Mike Ananny, an author of the study.

Newspapers are in a difficult spot, he added, because online advertising generates a fraction of print’s revenue, and news organizations are already pressured by falling print circulation.

Alan Mutter, a former Chicago and San Francisco newspaper editor who now consults for media organizations, said the research confirms that paywalls have value in relatively rare circumstances.

Free news

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times have been relatively successful with paywalls because of their unique content, he said.

“It’s hard for a general-interest website to charge for news that you can get for free with a few clicks.”

Paywalls can backfire also “because they put a barrier between the newspaper and the casual reader,” he added.

“They are truncating the size of the digital market, when the most important factor for digital is scale.”

A survey this year by the American Press Institute showed 77 of the 98 US newspapers with circulations above 50,000 used some type of online subscription, which could be a “hard” paywall that fences off all content or allows some free.

But a number of English-language news organizations have dropped their paywalls in recent months, including the Toronto Star, and British dailies The Independent and The Sun.

Among US dailies, the San Francisco Chronicle dropped its paywall in 2013. The Dallas Morning News did the same in 2014 before reinstituting a “metered” system allowing up to 10 free articles.


Restricting access to Internet content via a paid subscription is often called a paywall. Partial information such as an abstract of content may be available free of charge.[1] Paywalls that allow minimal to no access to content without subscription could be called “hard”; those that allow more flexibility in what users can view without subscribing, such as selective free content, or a limited number of articles per month, or the sampling of several pages of a book or paragraphs of an article are “soft” paywalls.

How Do I watch You? Let me count the ways….

April 27, 2017

by Harry von Johnston PhD

Millions of Americans, and other nationalities, are spied on daily and vast amounts of personal data acquired and stored.

The cover story is that this is designed to “locate and neutralize” Muslim terrorists, both inside and outside of the United States, but in fact, according to a U.S. Army document, the actual purposes of the mass surveillance is to build significant data bases on any person likely to present a domestic threat to established authority.

This fear has its roots in massive popular rejection of the Vietnam war with its attendant mass meetings, defiance of the government and the development of ad hoc student groups firmly, and often very vocally, opposed to the war.

There was a great deal of civic unrest on college campuses throughout the 1960s as students became increasingly involved in a number of social and political movements ranging from the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, and, of course, the Anti-War Movement. Over 30,000 people left the country and went to Canada, Sweden, and Mexico to avoid the draft.

The bureaucracy then found itself under siege and has stated subsequently that this must not happen again and that any kind of meaningful civil disobedience is to get negative mention in the media and members of such groups subject to arrest and detention.

The Obama administration is punishing any government whistle-blower with such severity as to discourage others from revealing negative official information.

FEMA has a network of so-called “detention camps” throughout the United States, most only sites, to be used in the event of noteworthy civil disturbance.

The current programs of mass surveillance are known and approved at the highest levels in the government, to include the President

Government, faux government, and government-subsidized private organizations.

The high technology consists of such subjects as surveillance cameras in public places, drones, satellites, interceptions of telephone, computer and mail communications.

There are as of this instance, no less than five million names on the officlal government Terrorist Identies Datamart Environment list and nearly sixty thousand names on the TSA no-fly list.

Nearly five thousand died domestically in the 9/11 attacks and only thirty-seven subsequently but the death toll outside the United States, due to Muslim radical actions has exceeded over ten thousand with a death toll of ninty eight thousand in the Syrian civil war and an estimated one million in the sectarian wars in Iraq following the American invasion and occupation

This vast program of politically-motivated illegal domestic surveillance, ordered by Bush, is only part of an ambitious program brought forward in the first year of the Bush administration by Karl Rove. Rove is the architect of the ‘GOP Rules’ program, the basic premise of which was to secure a permanent control, by the Republican Party, of both branches of Congress, the White House and the leadership of all the agencies of control such as the CIA, later the DHS, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and, most important, the U.S. Army.

Rove, an accomplished student of history, had carefully studied the circumstances that permitted Adolf Hitler to rise to power in 1933. His was not a solid electoral victory but he was only a participant in a coalition government. What brought him to the beginning of absolute power was the Reichstag fire. It was long preached that this incendiary act was the result of Goering’s activities to facilitate an atmosphere of public panic but Fritz Tobias has effectively demolished this shibboleth and in fact, the fire was set by a lunatic young Dutch communist without any assistance from either the Nazis or the Communists.

Nevertheless, in its wake, the fire did create such an atmosphere of national fear that Hitler was able to tighten his control over the legislators and push through the Enabling Act that gave him the power to establish the control he badly needed. And a year later, the old Prussian Secret State Police, the Gestapo, was put into the hands of Heinrich Mueller who eventually set up a national card index with information on every German citizen.

Given the weak origins of Bush’s presidency, Rove contemplated his own Reichstag Fire and when the Israeli Mossad reported to the top Bush administration officials that they had penetrated a group of Saudi terrorists working in Hollywood, Florida and that this group was planning an aerial attack on important American business and government targets, Rove had found his Reichstag Fire.

Bush was informed by the Israeli government at every stage of the pending attack but advised the Israelis that he did not want to interfere with it “until the last possible moment so as to be able to arrest the entire group.”

As the plot progressed and Washington learned that the major targets would be the World Trade Centers in New York, and the Pentagon and the Capitol building in Washington, someone high up in the administration, currently unknown, wanted the Israelis to convince the Saudis to attack the side of the Pentagon that was currently unoccupied due to reconstruction. There was no point, the plotters decided, to kill the useful Secretary of Defense who was a member of their team.

The attack on the Capitol would, they reasoned, fall when Congress was in session ( In 2001, the first session of the 107th Congress was from January 3, 2001  through December 20, 2001 and the House and Senate planned to begin their 10 day Thanksgiving recess, between November 17 and November 27 of that year) and this meant that if a large commercial aircraft, loaded with aviation fuel, slammed at high speed  into either wing of the immense building while Congress was in session, it could reasonably be expected that a siginficant number of Federal legislatiors would be killed or incapacitated.

This, coupled with the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC, would give the Bush people the very acceptable excuse for the President to step up, (after he returned from a safe and distant vacation,) and assume ‘special powers” to “protect this nation from new attacks” until Congress could be “satisfactorily reformed” via somewhat distant “special elections” to fill the vacancies created by the Saudi attackers.

Then, it would be quite acceptable, and even demanded, that the Army would establish “law and order” in the country and that other agencies would step forward to “guard this nation against” possible “ongoing terrorist attacks.” ‘Speak not of the morrow for thou knowest not what it might bring forth’ is a Biblical admonition that apparently Bush, Rove and Cheney never considered.

The aircraft designated to slam into the Capitol building and immolate both sides of the aisle, crashed as the very fortunate result of its passenger’s actions and that part of the plan had to be shelved. But not so the formulation of the machinery designed solely to clamp down on any possible dissident voices in the country and ensure a very long term Republican policical control.

The Saudi terrorist attacks went forward as planned, minus the one on the members of Congress and Bush indeed rose to the occasion and promised to protect the American public. A Department of Homeland Security was set up under the incompetent Governor Ridge but as for the rest of the plan for Republic permanence, it began to disintegrate bit by bit, due entirely to the gross incompetence of its leaders. The Bush-Rove-Cheney plan consisted, in the main, of the following:

  1. Federal control of all domestic media, the internet, all computerized records, through overview of all domestic fax, mail and telephone conversations,

2 .A national ID card, universal SS cards being mandatory,

  1. Seizure and forced deportation of all illegal aliens, including millions of Mexicans and Central Americans, intensive observation and penetration of Asian groups, especially Indonesian and Chinese,
  2. A reinstitution of a universal draft (mandatory service at 18 years for all male American youths…based on the German Arbeitsdienst.
  3. Closer coordination of administration views and domestic policies with various approved and régime supportive religious groups,
  4. An enlargement of the planned “no travel” lists drawn up in the Justice Department that would prevents “subversive” elemetst from flying, (this list to include “peaceniks” and most categories of Muslims)
  5. The automatic death penalty for any proven acts of sedition,
  6. The forbidding of abortion, any use of medical marijuana,
  7. Any public approval of homosexual or lesbian behavior to include magazines, websites, political action groups and soon to be forbidden and punishable.

As the popularity of drones for domestic surveillance grows in the United States, so do privacy concerns for citizens just going about their daily business. Designer Adam Harvey has come up with a line of anti-drone clothing that is much more stylish than an aluminum foil hat.

The anti-drone clothes include a hoodie, a scarf, and a burqa. They are made with a metalized fabric designed to thwart thermal imaging. They work by reflecting heat and masking the person underneath from the thermal eye of a drone. The designs may hide you from certain drone activities, but they would definitely make you noticeable to people out on the street.

The scarf and burqa are both inspired by traditional Muslim clothing designs. Harvey explains the choice, saying, “Conceptually, these garments align themselves with the rationale behind the traditional hijab and burqa: to act as ‘the veil which separates man or the world from God,’ replacing God with drone.”

The anti-drone garments are part of a larger line of clothing called Stealth Wear. These are called  “New Designs for Countersurveillance.” The manufacturer states: “Collectively, Stealth Wear is a vision for fashion that addresses the rise of surveillance, the power of those who surveil, and the growing need to exert control over what we are slowly losing, our privacy.”

If drones get to be more commonplace in our communities, it’s not too much of a stretch to see this sort of fashion becoming more mainstream, much like RFID-blocking wallets and passport holders.


The government intelligence agencies and their allied private contractors now regularly accesses all emails, chats, searches, events, locations, videos, photos, log-ins and any information people post online with a warrant, which the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court always  grants secretly and without being ever made public.

And the revelation of Prism, a secret government program for mining major Internet companies, states that the government now has direct access to Internet companies’ data without a warrant.

Every company impacted – Google, YouTube, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype, PalTalk and AOL – publically deny knowing about the program or giving any direct access to their servers. These denials are intented to bolster public confidence in their services because in reality, all of these entities cooperate fully with requests for customer information.

Google is the supplier of the customized core search technology for Intellipedia, a highly-secure online system where 37,000 U.S. domestic and foreign area spies and related personnel share information and collaborate on investigative missions.

And there is absolutely nothing one can commit to the Internet that is private in any sense of the word

In addition, Google is linked to the U.S. spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture. The technology behind this software was originally developed by Keyhole Inc., a company funded by Q-Tel http://www.iqt.org/ , a venture capital firm which is in turn openly funded and operated on behalf of the CIA.

Google acquired Keyhole Inc. in 2004. The same base technology is currently employed by U.S. military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for “full-spectrum dominance” of the American, and foreign, political, social and economic spheres.

However, Internet Service Providers and the entertainment industry are now taking Internet monitoring to a whole new level….

If someone download copyrighted software, videos or music, all Internet service providers (ISP)  have the ability to detect this downloading.

The vast majority of computer surveillance involves the monitoring of data and traffic on the Internet. In the United States for example, under the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act, all phone calls and broadband Internet traffic (emails, web traffic, instant messaging, etc.) are required to be available for unimpeded real-time monitoring by Federal law enforcement agencies., to include the FBI, NSA, the CIA and the DHS.

There is far too much data on the Internet for human investigators to manually search through all of it and  so automated Internet surveillance computers sift through the vast amount of intercepted Internet traffic and identify and report to human investigators traffic considered interesting by using certain “trigger” words or phrases, visiting certain types of web sites, or communicating via email or chat with suspicious individuals or groups. Billions of dollars per year are spent, by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, NSA, and the FBI, to develop, purchase, implement, and operate systems such as Carnivore, NarusInsight, and ECHELON to intercept and analyze all of this data, and extract only the information which is useful to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. One flaw with NSA claims that the government needs to be able to suck up Internet data from services such as Skype and Gmail to fight terrorists: Studies show that would-be terrorists don’t use those services. The NSA has to collect the metadata from all of our phone calls because terrorists, right? And the spy agency absolutely must intercept Skypes you conduct with folks out-of-state, or else terrorism. It must sift through your iCloud data and Facebook status updates too, because Al Qaeda.Terrorists are everywhere, they are legion, they are dangerous, and, unfortunately, they don’t really do any of the stuff described above.

Even though the still-growing surveillance state that sprung up in the wake of 9/11 was enacted almost entirely to “fight terrorism,” reports show that the modes of communication that agencies like the NSA are targeting are scarcely used by terrorists at all.

A recent Bloomberg piece points to a 2012 report on terrorism which found that most serious terrorists steer clear of the most obvious platforms—major cell networks, Google, Skype, Facebook, etc.

Or, as Bloomberg more bluntly puts it, the “infrastructure set up by the National Security Agency … may only be good for gathering information on the stupidest, lowest-ranking of terrorists. The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America’s largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use.”

And why would they? Post-911 warrantless wiretapping practices are well known, NSA-style data collection was well-rumored, and we all knew the Department of Homeland Security was already scanning emails for red-flag keywords. Of course terrorists would take precautions. Bloomberg elaborates:

In a January 2012 report titled “Jihadism on the Web: A Breeding Ground for Jihad in the Modern Age,” the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service drew a convincing picture of an Islamist Web underground centered around “core forums.” These websites are part of the Deep Web, or Undernet, the multitude of online resources not indexed by commonly used search engines.

In 2010, Google estimated that it had indexed just 0.004% of the internet—meaning the vast majority of the web is open for surreptitious message-sending business. Terrorists simply aren’t dumb enough to discuss their secret plans over Skype or to email each other confidential information on Gmail.

So, essentially, the NSA is deeply compromising our privacy so that it can do an extremely shitty job of looking for terrorists. Nice.


Computers can be a surveillance target because of the personal data stored on them. If someone is able to install software, such as the FBI’s Magic Lantern and CIPAV, on a computer system, they can easily gain unauthorized access to this data. Such software can be, and is   installed physically or remotely. Another form of computer surveillance, known as van Eck phreaking, involves reading electromagnetic emanations from computing devices in order to extract data from them at distances of hundreds of meters. The NSA runs a database known as “Pinwale”, which stores and indexes large numbers of emails of both American citizens and foreigners.


The government agencies have been fully capable to look at any and all emails.

A warrant can easily grant access to email sent within 180 days. Older emails are available with an easier-to-get subpoena and prior notice.

Government officials also are fully capable of reading all the ingoing and outgoing emails on an account in real time with a specific type of wiretap warrant, which is granted with probable cause for specific crimes such as terrorism.

Google received 122,503 user data requests involving 2,375,434 users from the U.S. government in 2013. It granted about 98 percent of those requests.

Microsoft, with its Outlook/Hotmail email service, received 61,538 requests involving 52,291 users, at least partially granting 92  percent of those requests.


With the advent of smartphones and SIM cards, cellphones are no longer strictly for storage of digits and 180-character short messages.

Cellphones assist in navigating for car trips, to enable making Internet purchases and to watch events on television stations.   It is possible to deposit checks with a bank app and a camera, locate businesses of interest and also to use transportation by using a QR-code. Phones hold our coupons, our favorite cat videos and functions as a credit card when we forget ours at home.

The NSA collects subscriber information from major cell phone carriers. This information is primarily based on metadata, such as location and duration of calls, along with numbers dialed, all in search of links to suspected terrorists.

In 2013, to date, law enforcement agencies made 2.3 million requests for subscriber information.

These government requests for surveillance information from the NSA, are limited to metadata. That doesn’t mean that the content of conversations is off-limits. To listen in, the government just needs a warrant, one that’s granted through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The court approves almost every request, fully denying just nine out of 133,900 government applications for surveillance over its 33-year existence, according to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reports submitted to Congress.

.Although this is not new technology, law enforcement authorities are using our own cell phones to spy on us more extensively than ever before as a recent Wired article described….

Mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests last year for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data, according to data provided to Congress.

A single “request” can involve information about hundreds of customers. So ultimately the number of Americans affected by this could reach into “the tens of millions” each year.

The number of Americans affected each year by the growing use of mobile phone data by law enforcement could reach into the tens of millions, as a single request could ensnare dozens or even hundreds of people. Law enforcement has been asking for so-called “cell tower dumps” in which carriers disclose all phone numbers that connected to a given tower during a certain period of time.

So, for instance, if police wanted to try to find a person who broke a store window at an Occupy protest, it could get the phone numbers and identifying data of all protestors with mobile phones in the vicinity at the time — and use that data for other purposes.

Perhaps you should not be using your cell phone so much anyway. After all, there are more than 500 studies that claim to show that cell phone radiation is harmful to humans.

The official and unofficial tapping of telephone lines is widespread. In the United States for instance, the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that all telephone and VoIP communications be available for real-time wiretapping by Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Two major telecommunications companies in the U.S.—AT&T Inc. and Verizon—have contracts with the FBI, requiring them to keep their phone call records easily searchable and accessible for Federal agencies, in return for $1.8 million dollars per year. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI sent out more than 140,000 “National Security Letters” ordering phone companies to hand over information about their customers’ calling and Internet histories. About half of these letters requested information on U.S. citizens.

Human agents are not required to monitor most calls. Speech-to-text software creates machine-readable text from intercepted audio, which is then processed by automated call-analysis programs, such as those developed by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, or companies such as Verint, and Narus, which search for certain words or phrases, to decide whether to dedicate a human agent to the call.

Law enforcement and intelligence services in the United Kingdom and the United States possess technology to remotely activate the microphones in cell phones, by accessing phones’ diagnostic or maintenance features in order to listen to conversations that take place near the person who holds the phone.

Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data. The geographical location of a mobile phone (and thus the person carrying it) can be determined easily even when the phone is not being used, using a technique known multilateration to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several cell towers near the owner of the phone. The legality of such techniques has been questioned in the United States, in particular whether a court warrant is required. Records for one carrier alone (Sprint), showed that in a given year federal law enforcement agencies requested customer location data 8 million times.


Think Uncle Sam knows where you buy your coffee? He might be able to tell you the exact cafe.

It all starts with that stripe on the back of your credit card, which gets swiped through thousands of readers every year.

That solid black bar is made up of millions of iron-based magnetic particles, each one 20-millionths of an inch wide. Each credit-card owner has a personalized strip full of intimate data sitting right inside his or her pocket. Any purchase can be traced directly back to your wallet.

Although the scope of credit-card tracking efforts are unknown, the Journal reported that the NSA has established relationships with credit card companies akin to those that they had established with phone carriers, which provide them with data under warrant, subpoena or court order. These former officials didn’t know if the efforts were ongoing.

What could they find? Based on the technology of the mag stripe, quite a bit.

Even with just the metadata – digitally contained bits of information – on a credit card, they could most likely see when and where a purchase was made, and how much it cost.


Whether they’re walking to work, withdrawing money from an ATM or walking into their favorite local grocer, Americans could be within sight of one of the United States’ estimated 30 million surveillance cameras.

Police use them to monitor streets, subways and public spaces. Homeowners put them on their houses. Businesses mount them in stores and on buildings.

In Boston, for example, the FBI used still photos and video pulled from cameras to identify suspects after the Boston Marathon bombing. The images showed the suspects making calls from their cellphones, carrying what the police say were bombs, and leaving the scene.

New high-tech, high-definition security camera manufacturers give police departments the options of thermal imaging, 360-degree fields of view and powerful zoom capabilities for identifying people. Advances in camera technology enable new ways to monitor American citizens.

Surveillance cameras are video cameras used for the purpose of observing an area. They are often connected to a recording device or IP network, and may be watched by a security guard or law enforcement officer. Cameras and recording equipment used to be relatively expensive and required human personnel to monitor camera footage, but analysis of footage has been made easier by automated software that organizes digital video footage into a searchable database, and by video analysis software (such as VIRAT and HumanID). The amount of footage is also drastically reduced by motion sensors which only record when motion is detected. With cheaper production techniques, surveillance cameras are simple and inexpensive enough to be used in home security systems, and for everyday surveillance.

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security awards billions of dollars per year in Homeland Security grants for local, state, and federal agencies to install modern video surveillance equipment. For example, the city of Chicago, Illinois, recently used a $5.1 million Homeland Security grant to install an additional 250 surveillance cameras, and connect them to a centralized monitoring center, along with its preexisting network of over 2000 cameras, in a program known as Operation Virtual Shield. Speaking in 2009, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced that Chicago would have a surveillance camera on every street corner by the year 2016.

As part of China’s Golden Shield Project, several U.S. corporations, including IBM, General Electric, and Honeywell, have been working closely with the Chinese government to install millions of surveillance cameras throughout China, along with advanced video analytics and facial recognition software, which will identify and track individuals everywhere they go. They will be connected to a centralized database and monitoring station, which will, upon completion of the project, contain a picture of the face of every person in China: over 1.3 billion people Lin Jiang Huai, the head of China’s “Information Security Technology” office (which is in charge of the project), credits the surveillance systems in the United States and the U.K. as the inspiration for what he is doing with the Golden Shield Project.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a research project called Combat Zones That See that will link up cameras across a city to a centralized monitoring station, identify and track individuals and vehicles as they move through the city, and report “suspicious” activity (such as waving arms, looking side-to-side, standing in a group, etc.).







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