TBR News August 7, 2017

Aug 07 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., August 7, 2017:” “Prior to the event of printed, and later television, media, it was not difficult for the world’s power elites and the governments they controlled, to see that unwelcome and potentially dangerous information never reached the masses of people under their control. Most of the general public in more distant times were completely illiterate and received their news from their local priest of from occasional gossip from travelers. The admixture of kings, princes and clergy had an iron control over what their subjects could, or could not, hear. During the Middle Ages, and even into the more liberal Renaissance, universities were viewed with suspicion and those who taught, or otherwise expresses, concepts that were anathema to the concept of feudalism were wither killed outright or permanently banished. Too-liberal priests were silenced by similar methods. If Papal orders for silence were not followed, priests could, and were, put to the torch as an example for other to note.

However, with the advent of the printing press and a growing literacy in the population, the question of informational control was less certain and with the growing movements in Europe and the American colonies for less restriction and more public expression, the power elites found it necessary to find the means to prevent unpleasant information from being proclaimed throughout their lands and unto all the inhabitants thereof.

The power elites realized that if they could not entirely prevent inconvenient, and often dangerous, facts from emerging and threatening their authority and control, their best course was not censorship but to find and develop the means to control the presentation and publication of what which they wished to keep entirely secret.

The first method was to block or otherwise prevent the release of dangerous material by claiming that such material was a matter of vital state security and as such, strictly to be controlled in the public interest. This, in short, was not only for the protection of the public but also for their continued security.

The second method was, and has been, to put forth deliberate disinformation that so distorts and confuses actual facts as to befuddle a public they see as easily controlled, naïve and gullible.

The mainstream American media, which theoretically once was a balance against governmental corruption and abuse of power, quickly became little more than a mouthpiece for the same government they were supposed to report on.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, most American newspapers were little better than Rupert Murdoch’s modern tabloids, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, but during the First World War, President Woodrow Wilson used the American entry into the European war as an excuse for clamping iron controls upon the American public. Aside from setting up dictates over food distribution, the railroads, much industry involved in war production, he also established a powerful propaganda machine coupled with a national informant system that guaranteed his personal and abiding control, In 1918, citing national security, Wilson arrested and imprisoned critical news reporters and threatened to shut down their papers.

Wilson, as a wartime president, set clear precedents that resonated very loudly with those who read, and understood, history and its realities.”


Table of Contents

  • Saudi Arabia Corruption Report
  • Fire McMaster
  • Scale of media leaks against Trump indicates US Deep State coup agenda
  • How Do Chicago Police Treat Mental Health? With SWAT Raids
  • After military shake-up, Erdogan says Turkey to tackle Kurds in Syria
  • North Korea refuses to stop nuclear weapon development, threatens US over sanctions
  • As Netanyahu Investigators Close In, Some Ask: How Long Can He Hold On?
  • Military Justice Manifested
  • These Are the Technology Firms Lining Up to Build Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Program

 Saudi Arabia Corruption Report


Companies operating or planning to invest in Saudi Arabia face a high risk of corruption. Abuse of power, nepotism and the use of middlemen (wasta) to do business are particularly common. There is an overlap between business and politics, and the latter is generally based on patronage systems. The Combating Bribery Law and the Civil Service Law criminalize various forms of corruption, including active and passive bribery (baksheesh) and abuse of functions, but the government enforces these laws selectively. No law regulates conflicts of interest, and some officials engage in corruption with impunity. The royal family and social elite heavily influence the oil and petrochemicals sectors. Gifts are regulated under Saudi law, but facilitation payments are not addressed.

“To understand the danger of having the House of Saud involved in anything you have to understand the way business is done in Saudi Arabia. Remember, oil is the source of all revenue in Saudi Arabia, and the Saud family – under the cover of government ministries – controls how this wealth is divided up amongst themselves. The Saud family has become very clever in making this all appear to have an air of legitimacy. Otherwise, their greed and corruption becomes so obvious as to incite unrest among all the other tribes on the Arabian peninsular – not unlike the response starving French peasants had when Marie Antoinette supposedly stated “let them eat cake”. To accomplish this, oil revenue must appear to be the asset of all Saudi citizens, managed for their welfare under the auspices of official government ministries (although you will not find any major government ministry not ran overtly or at least behind the scenes by anyone other than an Al Saud.

The tribe of Saud came into power, formed the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and remains in power today, due primarily to it’s longstanding partnership with the Wahhabi sect of Islam centered in the Najd region (which includes Riyadh). It is this sect which supports all the Muslim extremists around the world. It is these “Islamic schools” that serve as fertile breeding grounds for the recruitment of future terrorists. And it is where young students are brainwashed on a curriculum of hatred for Western values, in general, and Israel and the U.S. in particular.


Fire McMaster

He wants to escalate the Afghan war, invade Syria, and antagonize Russia

August 7, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


The internal battle taking place in the Trump administration, pitting the “adults” – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, General John Kelly, and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster – against the “America First” nationalists, led by Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, has now spread to the media. At the center of the controversy is McMaster, whose foreign policy views are in many ways the exact opposite of Trump’s, and who – rumor has it – may be on the way out. There are indications that, despite recent expressions of support for McMaster, the President has clashed with him repeatedly: Eli Lake reports that Trump “screamed” at his National Security Advisor for calling his South Korean counterpart after Trump said Seoul would have to pay for the THAAD antimissile defense system.

The Never Trump progressive-neocon alliance is taking up the cudgels on McMaster’s behalf, while the Trump loyalists are calling for his ouster. So what are the policy differences between the two factions?

The current issue is what to do about the war in Afghanistan – the fifteen year-plus futile crusade that is now the longest war in our history. Bannon wants out, the “adults” want to escalate the war with more troops. Trump himself leans toward the Bannon view: he reportedly rejected a plan prepared by the “adult” faction and sent them back to the drawing board.

However, from a noninterventionist perspective, the battle lines are not all that that clear. In an interview with an administration insider, the Daily Caller reports:

“Everything the president wants to do, McMaster opposes. Trump wants to get us out of Afghanistan – McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to get us out of Syria – McMaster wants to go in. Trump wants to deal with the China issue – McMaster doesn’t. Trump wants to deal with the Islam issue – McMaster doesn’t. You know, across the board, we want to get rid of the Iran deal – McMaster doesn’t. It is incredible to watch it happening right in front of your face. Absolutely stunning.”

So it’s a mixed bag – as is the Trump administration itself. On the one hand, we have the “adults” – who reflect the conventional bipartisan internationalist foreign policy Trump campaigned against – and on the other hand we have the Trumpian nationalists, who are generally noninterventionist but have some unfortunate idiosyncratic fixations, notably a desire for conflict with Iran.

Another issue is the persistence of Obama administration holdovers, who are being retained by McMaster. The new National Security Advisor is busy purging Trump loyalists and replacing them with his own people.

A related issue is the contention by the Bannonites that the damaging leaks – e.g., the release of transcripts of Trump’s discussions with foreign leaders – are coming from National Security Council personnel.

The nationalists are particularly perturbed by a letter sent by McMaster to former National Security Advisor Susan Rice giving her access to top secret intelligence. Rice is suspected of spying on Trump campaign officials by getting access to National Security Agency transcripts and unmasking the identities of the people involved.

The McMaster-Bannon conflict is rooted in their biographies: McMaster is a gung-ho militarist who wrote an entire book about how those feckless politicians kept us from winning the Vietnam war. Dereliction of Duty is a long and often tiresomely detailed account of how Lyndon Johnson and those bothersome civilians let “politics” – i.e., the growing disaffection with the Vietnam war by the American people – prevent the President from unleashing the full firepower of the American military.

McMaster is also the Army’s point man in the ongoing battle for more taxpayer dollars, arguing that the military must prepare for a land war in … Europe. The target: Russia. This puts him directly up against Trump himself, who campaigned on the basis of a new policy of détente. The voters voted for peace with Russia – but the national security bureaucracy and the military-industrial complex are unalterably opposed.

McMaster is a committed Atlanticist: he was in charge of a study ginning up the alleged Russian threat and identifying Russian actions in Crimea and Georgia as “the end of the post-cold war period” – meaning Cold War II is on.

Bannon, the architect of Trump’s victory, is the White House ideologue who seems to understand that a great part of the President’s appeal is his reluctance to involve the US in foreign wars. He is, in short, the administration’s resident “America First” nationalist, whose focus is on achieving Trump’s domestic agenda and who wants to avoid getting stuck in politically unpopular overseas quagmires.

Allowing for (often major) inconsistencies and personality-driven conflicts, on one side of the barricades we have the internationalists, represented by the Tillerson-Mattis-McMaster trio, and on the other side we have the anti-globalist Bannon-Miller group. The War Party has been quick to come to the aid of the former, with the New York Times “reporting” that “Russian-influenced” social media are after McMaster’s scalp, and the left-wing anti-Trump brigade denouncing the campaign against McMaster as the work of “white supremacists” – yes, really.

Reflecting – in part — their increasingly anti-interventionist orientation, Trump’s base is out to get McMaster: a full-fledged campaign to oust him has been launched in the pro-Trump media, and the left is reflexively defending him. Here again we see how the political spectrum is being turned on its head, with the right going “isolationist” and what passes for the left these days taking a neoconservative turn.

Of course, it isn’t that cut-and-dried: McMaster has his good points. However, if we paint the two opposing factions with a broad brush, the anti-McMaster campaign is a healthy development, one that is driving the Trumpified conservative movement farther down the “America First” road. This is precisely why liberal internationalists and neoconservatives have rallied to McMaster’s defense – and why conservative and libertarian anti-interventionists should take up the battle-cry to #fireMcMaster.

With the Trump administration, there’s always the possibility that we could get someone worse than McMaster – say, John Bolton. However, there are rumors that Col. Douglas Macgregor, retired, with decidedly anti-interventionist views, would be in the running if McMaster is ousted.


Scale of media leaks against Trump indicates US Deep State coup agenda

August 6, 2017

by Finian Cunningham


The unprecedented level of unauthorized media leaks aimed at damaging president Donald Trump over the past six months is an issue that goes way beyond freedom of press rights. It’s a sign of how powerful, secretive forces within the US state want this president ousted.

This week, US attorney general Jeff Sessions claimed the number of Justice Department investigations into government leaks had tripled compared with under the Obama administration. If that’s the case, then that marks an extraordinary extent of insubordination against president Trump.

As the Washington Post reported: “It was the first public confirmation of the breadth of the Justice Department’s efforts to crack down on unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information.”

Who is behind the leaks? It could be from employees within the administration, working at the State Department or DOJ. It could be from people within the president’s staff at the White House, as the ugly spat last week between former communications chief Anthony Scaramucci and former chief of staff Reince Priebus appeared to indicate.

More likely though, the flood of leaks over the past six months since Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president, has come from people within the intelligence agencies. That’s the informed assessment of former State Department official James Jatras.

The intelligence nexus – including the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – are also the forces which would have complete and total access to all electronic communications, not just out of the White House, but across the entire world. Former NSA staff, like whistleblowers Edward Snowden and William Binney, have confirmed the technical capacity for such unlawful surveillance against US citizens and indeed foreign leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The anti-Trump news media in the US have tended to relate the leaking issue to the right of free speech. The attorney general’s announcement that the Justice Department and FBI are to go after leakers more aggressively, as well as consider the possibility of prosecuting media reporters for publishing articles based on leaked information, have been criticized as having a “chilling effect” on free speech.

Sessions, the attorney general, said that law enforcement officers would review policy on subpoenaing journalists to reveal sources. Refusal to reveal sources could result in prosecution and jail sentences for reporters. Such a development would indeed denote a serious infringement of accepted journalistic protections.

Nevertheless, such First Amendment concerns over the right to free speech in this context seem rather contorted. The facts seem to indicate that the Trump presidency is being assailed by anonymous political enemies and that the media leaks are a key battleground for undermining his authority.

Surely, the more disconcerting issue is how secretive agencies have been waging a non-stop media campaign over the past six months to destabilize an elected president. It seems misplaced to treat the issue, and the latest reaction of the Trump administration, as simply a matter of press freedom – when a full-on information war is being conducted to damage Trump.

Strangely enough – despite the torrent of disclosures – nothing has emerged to merit charges of criminality against Trump. Admittedly, he and his entourage have been revealed as reactionary, uncouth, bigoted, distasteful and so on. But there’s nothing criminal.

And certainly, on the relentless media claims of Russian meddling in the US election and collusion with the Trump campaign, not one piece of evidence has emerged from the deluge of leaks. That outcome in itself would tend to prove that the whole “Russian collusion” narrative that has dominated major media like the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN for the past six months, has all been a tempest in a thimble.

Trump has a point. If his private conversations with foreign leaders are subsequently leaked to media, then that represents a national security threat and a gross violation of his authority to negotiate with international counterparts.

The disclosures this week in the Washington Post of transcripts to the phone calls between Trump and the Australian premier, as well as, separately, the Mexican president, may not appear to have much importance. Trump comes across as boorish and racist when he refers to the subject of immigration.

His personality also seems bullying and feckless. The private exchanges almost sound funny if not cringeworthy.

Still, the leaking and publishing of these private conversations are a gross infringement of the president’s authority. What if the subject of the conversation was nuclear weapons? What if Trump’s interlocutor had been Russian president Vladimir Putin?

What the leaks are about is an agenda to destabilize, neutralize and even oust the Trump presidency. It has been cogently argued elsewhere that the unelected dominant forces of the US Deep State – the intelligence-military-industrial complex – did not want Donald Trump to win the presidential election last year.

They wanted his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton to prevail. For one urgent reason that she was willing to pursue a more confrontational foreign policy toward Russia. Trump’s oft-repeated desire to normalize US-Russia relations is anathema to the vested interests of the Deep State.

Ever since his ascent to the White House, powerful sections of the US elite have refused to accept the presidential election result. The Trump presidency has been hobbled at every turn. This has primarily taken the form of accusations of collusion with Russia, for which three high-level investigations have been appointed – and with nothing to show so far.

The continual commotion over media leaks is another weapon wielded against the Trump administration. As the New York Times noted about the tripling of leak investigations under Trump, compared with Obama, that represents a “significant devotion of resources” and distraction from normal government business.

As with the recent imposition of new sanctions against Russia by the US Congress, the purpose is to put a straitjacket on Trump’s ability to negotiate with Moscow for restoring bilateral relations.

Thus the leaking of sensitive, private information is another form of straitjacketing. If Trump knows he can’t have a phone call with an Australian prime minister without it being plastered all over the media, how is he going to hold any meaningful discussions with Russia’s Putin?

The irony here is that the Trump administration’s crackdown on leakers is being labelled by some media outlets as having a “chilling effect” on press freedom.

The real, more disturbing, chilling effect is coming from Trump’s enemies within the Deep State who want to show this incumbent of the White House that he has no power to pursue policies that they don’t want.

The object lesson here is to show the limits of American democracy. The people can vote for whomever they like, but the real powers-that-be will decide the fate of the president.

 How Do Chicago Police Treat Mental Health? With SWAT Raids

August 6 2017

by Sarah Lazare and Debbie Southorn

The Intercept

On a balmy day in February, Jedidiah Brown drove onto a busy expressway in the heart of Chicago, firearm in tow, with the intention of killing himself. The South Side activist, now 30 years old, sat in his parked car holding the gun to his head while he broadcast over Facebook Live. He cited the death of a family member and living in a city rocked by police violence and political corruption as reasons for the episode.

While Brown sat weeping, a team from the Chicago Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics division was deployed to the scene. The SWAT team rammed Brown’s car from the front and back with two large armored vehicles, which he says looked like “tanks.” Video footage of the incident, which Brown captured on Facebook Live, shows him growing increasingly agitated and pleading with the police. “Fucking stop it,” he said at one point, to the sound of more crashing.

“It made everything race, made everything chaotic,” Brown said of the SWAT team, comprised of several heavily armed officers. “I went from having the desire to commit suicide to thinking, ‘Now I’m going to be killed by the police.’”

Brown’s friend Alicia Spikes, who says she witnessed the incident, was troubled by the SWAT team’s actions. “I believe,” she said, “they escalated the situation more than it had to be.”

Since 2013, Chicago police have deployed SWAT teams at least 38 times to respond to mental health incidents and suicide attempts, according to deployment logs obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Such deployments are picking up pace. In the four months after Donald Trump won the election last November, SWAT teams were deployed at least 10 times in response to suicide threats or attempts. As of this spring, 2017 is on track to see more than twice as many mental health-related SWAT raids as the annual average over the past four years. The figures in the documents likely undercount the number of SWAT deployments in response to mental health crises, because not all cases are logged as such in police records.

SWAT deployments to mental health crises are usually logged as “hostage, barricaded subject or terrorist” incidents. Though not a single raid since 2013 has been recorded specifically as a “terrorist” event, the logic of a “counterterror” approach to policing drives militarized responses to mental health crises. And local law enforcement agencies receive federal government counterterror funding to bankroll training and equipment for SWAT teams. All this comes amid austerity and privatization that has diminished public mental health services — Chicago, for instance, has closed half of its public mental health clinics since 2012. Armored teams of cops have become expensive hammers in search of nails. In Chicago, they have found some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, disproportionately targeting African-American, Latino, and poor people.

“Given both historical and continuous trauma inflicted by various state actors upon communities of color, and particularly upon black and indigenous people, the person in crisis could fear that the heavily armed SWAT team is there to harm them, which could further escalate the crisis,” said Dr. Daniela Kantorová, a clinical psychologist at the Wright Institute. “There are multiple studies showing that black people are at greater risk of being killed by the police, and this risk must be factored in.”

“I think the way the CPD handled me, I don’t think that would be a typical encounter in that situation,” Jedidiah Brown said. “I feel they treated me with a little more consideration than they might someone else.” Brown says his life was not ruined by the incident. Instead, he was handcuffed at the scene, taken to the University of Chicago hospital, and later released. He attributes his relatively gentle treatment to his prominent profile as an activist; Brown rose to national visibility when he stormed the stage of an eventually cancelled March 2016 rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Militarized reactions to mental health emergencies can often exacerbate the very crises police have been called to help resolve. “If a person is suicidal, they need help, obviously, but they might not be easily open at that point,” said Kantorová. “If police and a SWAT team show up, that person could become more agitated or start acting in a way that could be more erratic, they could act in a way that could appear aggressive to the cops. Then that can also increase the danger of them getting killed.”

“Lethal outcomes are more likely,” Kantorová explained, “when first responders are heavily armed.”

The tragic potential of police escalations is not lost on those at the receiving end of SWAT raids. “The moment that the SWAT team car came, everything I felt intensified,” Brown recalled. “I’m just ready to give up, ready to die. I feel like I am in a war at that moment.”

Brown, and others like him who have faced SWAT teams amid mental health episodes, have every reason to believe their lives are at risk. Unlike Brown, many do not survive. The Guardian determined that in 2016, at least 20 percent of the 1,091 people who, according to records, were killed by police officers either had a mental health condition or were in the midst of a major episode before they died. In at least 80 of these killings, the police arrived on the scene because of a call about self-harming behaviors.

SWAT raids are being unleashed on a city still reeling from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2012 decision to shutter half of its 12 mental health clinics, and privatize the remaining six. In April 2012, patients and activists staged an occupation of the Woodlawn Mental Health Center in the South Side. They constructed makeshift barricades with trash cans and quick-dry cement. Protesters dropped banners from the facility. “Stop Stealing Our Health: Save Our Clinics,” read one banner. The activists demanded negotiations with the mayor.

Instead, the city sent in police — including a SWAT team — and launched a violent crackdown on the civil disobedience action. “One of the clinic consumers was sitting there in a wheelchair,” recalls Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, co-founder of the community organization Southside Together Organizing for Power. “They” — the SWAT team — “took a chainsaw to barricades with him standing inches away. Two of the other people, including Helen, who later died, were so upset and shaking uncontrollably because of the whole thing.”

Ginsberg-Jaeckle was referring to Helen Morley, who had long-term mental health issues and organized for access to health care. Morley regularly used the facilities at the city’s mental health clinic in Beverly/Morgan Park. Many of her loved ones say the clinic’s closure played a role in her fatal heart attack in June 2012 at age 56, by cutting off a vital support network and destabilizing her life. Three months before she died, Morley confronted Emanuel at an anniversary celebration for the Chicago History Museum, telling him over and over, “You’re killing us.”

The Emanuel administration has not provided a systematic review of the full human impact of shuttering these public clinics en masse, although it did hold open hearings in the summer of 2014 that were ostensibly aimed at evaluating the impact of his health care policies. Residents and mental health providers, however, have been tracking the toll. District Council 31 of the union AFSCME, which represents clinic workers, concluded in a 2012 review that the closures “left many communities without reasonable access to services despite the growing need for services.” The clinics mostly served people of color; 61 percent of patients were black residents, followed by Latinos, many of them medically indigent, the study found.

Years later, those Chicago residents are left to deal with the impact of the closures. “In 2011, we had told the mayor that if you close these centers, you are going to have a lot of people lost in the system, people not getting their shots,” said Diane Adams, a board member of STOP who took part in the Woodlawn occupation. “You’re going to have people with mental illness out there, a lot of people who are suicidal. Everything that is happening in Chicago right now, we told the mayor it was going to happen once you close the clinics,” said Adams, who told The Intercept she has chronic depression and survived suicide attempts. “Cook County Jail is the biggest psych ward there is.”

Some survive mental health crises and decimated public services only to find themselves ensnared in the prison system. In September 2016, a man, who, according to his daughter, has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, experienced a breakdown and went to a 7-Eleven. Though unarmed, he barricaded himself with two store employees for nearly four hours. “He was in the 7-Eleven and called saying he needed his medication,” said the man’s daughter, who requested anonymity for fear that public exposure would adversely affect her father’s mental health. “He has Medicaid and needs his medicine.”

Police called in a SWAT team, and a standoff ensued. “They just kept telling him that he was in trouble,” said the man’s daughter.

The standoff ended when the SWAT team detonated an explosive device to gain entry and take the man into custody. The man harmed no one and yet, unlike Brown, he did not get to walk away from the incident. Instead, the city threw the book at him: In September 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for committing robbery without a firearm; he is currently serving time in Dixon Correctional Center.

“My father has reached out for help so much,” said the daughter. “There is no help at all in Chicago.”

Chicago officials make no secret of their punitive responses to public health crises. “My office’s conservative estimate is that one-third of the 10,000 inmates in custody suffer from serious mental illnesses,” Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart wrote in a 2014 op-ed. Despite this admission, such practices have not meaningfully changed under Dart’s watch, and the sheriff remains the custodian of people with mental illness who are locked in his jail.

In a 161-page investigation released in January, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice noted that Chicago police have a pattern of using “force against people in mental health crisis where force might have been avoided.” The probe outlines a litany of abuses, including one case where “officers used a Taser against an unarmed, naked, 65-year-old woman who had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.” In another case, “Officers, who were responding to a call that a woman was ‘off meds’ and ‘not violent,’ Tasered an unarmed woman because she pulled away and ‘repeatedly moved [her] arm,’” the report states.

These patterns are well-known to local residents. In a 2014 report, the grassroots initiative We Charge Genocide documented that the Chicago police department’s “cruel and degrading treatment of Chicago’s youth of color” compounds cycles of trauma and serves to “control entire communities.”

Cook County is not alone in its punitive approach. The Department of Justice determined that, as of the middle of 2005, more than half of all people incarcerated in prisons and jails “had a mental health problem.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2 million people living with mental illness get locked up in U.S. jails every year.

The Chicago Police Department, however, is caught up in a federal push to militarize various cities’ police forces in the face of terrorist threats that never quite materialize in most places. While SWAT teams are by definition militarized, the expansion of their use was not inevitable.

Chicago ranks third among recipients of funding from the Urban Areas Security Initiative, a program overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. The initiative was established in 2003 with the stated purpose of bolstering local governments in “high-threat, high-density urban areas and to assist these areas in building and sustaining capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism.” In practice, however, the program has helped escalate militarization of police departments across the country, facilitating the purchase of surveillance technology and military-grade weaponry — and funneling money into SWAT team trainings nationwide.

Chicago took in more than $69 million in Urban Areas Security Initiative funds in 2015 and $54 million in 2016. Between 2013 and 2015, Cook County spent at least $20 million from the program on trainings for police, SWAT teams, and other first responders, according to documents obtained through a FOIA request submitted by Brendan McQuade, an assistant professor of sociology who specializes in criminology and surveillance studies at the State University of New York at Cortland.

“Since the proclamation of the war on terror and the formation of Homeland Security, we’ve invested a trillion dollars into homeland security,” he told The Intercept. “The reality is that terrorism is an insignificant threat.”

The Chicago Police Department’s press office said by email that the DHS dollars were “used to fund equipment and training related to all terrorist type of activities by our SWAT members.” When asked for specifics, the department referred The Intercept to the department’s FOIA office. A spokesperson for the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management told The Intercept that the agency is not immediately available for comment on how such funds are disbursed.

Despite the lack of transparency, the Urban Areas Security Initiative has caught the attention of social movements across the country. In a June 2016 letter signed by more than 30 groups, the War Resisters League wrote, “By requiring training supported by these federal funds to contain a ‘nexus to terrorism,’ UASI serves to fuel the dangerous culture of aggression so rampant in U.S. police departments.” (The authors of this post have both spent time organizing with the War Resisters League.) In Berkeley, communities recently mobilized against Urban Shield, an Urban Areas Security Initiative-tied SWAT team training and arms expo — before they were met with police beatings and arrests.

Federal policies aren’t the only factor driving local law enforcement militarization. Last month, Chicago media reported that Emanuel’s office is moving to funnel $95 million into a new police and fire training center with a shooting range and “active scenario” exercises.

These increasingly militarized police forces disproportionately impact black, Latino, and poor communities. In Chicago, these communities are concentrated in the South and West Sides. These areas of the city saw 70 percent of the “hostage, barricaded subject or terrorist” deployments by SWAT teams, which include responses to mental health crises, between 2013 and 2016, according to department logs. Racial disparities are even more pronounced when it comes to SWAT raids to deliver search warrants, which represented 69 percent of all SWAT raids in Chicago from 2013 to 2016. During this time period, more than 90 percent of search warrant raids were conducted in the South and West Sides.

As suggested in a 2014 American Civil Liberties Union report, this difference could be attributed to the fact that people of color are dramatically more likely to be subject to raids involving drug investigations, due to the racist nature of the U.S. war on drugs. “American policing has become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized, in large part through federal programs that have armed state and local law enforcement agencies with the weapons and tactics of war, with almost no public discussion or oversight,” the ACLU warned.

Jedidiah Brown still thinks about how his encounter with the SWAT team could have turned out much worse. “If I didn’t have the relative visibility I had, they may have been more aggressive toward me,” he said. “And if there weren’t so many people aware of who I was, I’m almost of the persuasion that, if I hadn’t committed suicide, I would have been killed.”

Brown says he has been dealing with complicated grief disorder and exhibits symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, but is receiving counseling and no longer struggles with suicidal ideations. Since his ordeal, he has become passionate about addressing public health concerns surrounding mental health and suicide. One lesson was abundantly clear to him. “I do not advise such a militarized response,” Brown said. “When someone is in a state of thinking about taking their own life, any act of hostility or aggression will agitate that thought. Their presence did make it worse.”


After military shake-up, Erdogan says Turkey to tackle Kurds in Syria

August 7, 2017

by Dominic Evans and Orhan Coskun


ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Days after a reshuffle of Turkey’s top military commanders, President Tayyip Erdogan has revived warnings of military action against Kurdish fighters in Syria that could set back the U.S.-led battle against Islamic State.

Kurdish militia are spearheading an assault against the hardline militants in their Syrian stronghold Raqqa, from where Islamic State has planned attacks around the world for the past three years.

But U.S. backing for the Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria has infuriated Turkey, which views their growing battlefield strength as a security threat due to a decades-old insurgency by the Kurdish PKK within in its borders.

There have been regular exchanges of rocket and artillery fire in recent weeks between Turkish forces and YPG fighters who control part of Syria’s northwestern border.

Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO after the United States, reinforced that section of the border at the weekend with artillery and tanks and Erdogan said Turkey was ready to take action.

“We will not leave the separatist organization in peace in both Iraq and Syria,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday in the eastern town of Malatya, referring to the YPG in Syria and PKK bases in Iraq. “We know that if we do not drain the swamp, we cannot get rid of flies.”

The YPG denies Turkish allegations of links with Kurdish militants inside Turkey, saying it is only interested in self-rule in Syria and warning that any Turkish assault will draw its fighters away from the battle against Islamic State which they are waging in an alliance with local Arab forces.

Erdogan’s comments follow the appointment of three new leaders of Turkey’s army, air force and navy last week – moves which analysts and officials said were at least partly aimed at preparing for any campaign against the YPG militia.

Turkish forces swept into north Syria last year to seize territory from Islamic State, while also cutting off Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria from the Kurdish pocket of Afrin further west. They thereby prevented Kurdish control over almost the whole sweep of the border – Ankara’s worst-case scenario.

Recent clashes have centered around the Arab towns of Tal Rifaat and Minnigh, near Afrin, which are held by the Kurdish YPG and allied fighters.

Erdogan said Turkey’s military incursion last year dealt a blow to “terrorist projects” in the region and promised further action. “We will make new and important moves soon,” he said.


His comments follow weeks of warnings from Turkey of possible military action against the YPG.

Washington’s concern to prevent any confrontation which deflects the Kurdish forces attacking Raqqa may help stay Ankara’s hand, but a Turkish government source said last week’s changes in military leadership have prepared the ground.

“With this new structure, some steps will be taken to be more active in the struggle against terror,” the source said. “A structure that acts according to the realities of the region will be formed”.

The battle for Raqqa has been underway since June, and a senior U.S. official said on Friday that 2,000 Islamic State fighters are believed to be still defending positions and “fighting for every last block” in the city.

Even after the recapture of Raqqa, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has left open the possibility of longer-term American assistance to the YPG.

The influence of Turkey’s once-dominant military has decreased dramatically since Erdogan came to power nearly 15 years ago. A purge in senior ranks since last year’s failed military coup has stripped it of 40 percent of top officers.

Last Wednesday’s appointments were issued by the Supreme Military Council, a body which despite its name is now dominated by politicians loyal to Erdogan.

“Of course the political will is behind these decisions, Erdogan’s preferences are behind them,” the source said. “But the restructuring of the Turkish Armed Forces and the demand for a more active fight against the PKK and Islamic State also has a role”.

Vacancies in senior military ranks resulting from the year-long purge would not be filled immediately, he said, but would be addressed over time.

While all three forces – air, land and sea – are under new command, focus has centered on the new army chief Yasar Guler. As head of Turkey’s gendarmerie, he was seen to take a tough line against the PKK and the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen blamed by the government for the July 2016 coup attempt.

Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Can Kasapoglu, a defense analyst at the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), said the YPG “remains at the epicenter of Turkey’s threat perception”.

Guler was well-placed to address Turkey’s “transnational counter-terrorism priorities” and lead the campaign against Kurdish forces because of his past roles as chief of military intelligence, head of gendarmerie and postings to NATO.

“There is an undeniable likelihood that Turkey’s new top military chain of command might have to lead a major campaign against the YPG,” Kasapoglu said.

Guler is now favorite to take over from the overall head of the Turkish armed forces, General Hulusi Akar, who is due to step down in two years.

“Guler gets on well with members of Erdogan’s AK Party and is known for his hardline performance against the PKK…and the Gulen movement,” said Metin Gurcan an independent security analyst and retired Turkish military officer who now writes a column for Al-Monitor news website.

For the president, who faces a re-election campaign in 2019, a smooth succession from Akar to Guler would avoid any military upheaval which could send his plans off-course, Gurcan said.

“Until 2023, Erdogan should have smooth sailing without disruption from the Turkish armed forces.”


North Korea refuses to stop nuclear weapon development, threatens US over sanctions

North Korea has vowed that “under no circumstances” will it put its nuclear weapons on the negotiating table. Earlier, the North threatened to make the US pay “thousands of times” for drafting the latest sanctions.

August 7, 2017


North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho struck a defiant tone Monday at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila, Asia’s largest security forum, saying that the latest round of UN sanctions would not stop it from developing its nuclear arsenal.

“We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistic rockets on (the) negotiating table,” Pyongyang’s top diplomat told ASEAN delegates, among them US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against North Korea is fundamentally eliminated.”

Despite the strong posturing, North Korea has found itself increasingly isolated since it conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB) tests last month. The second test in particularly raised fear that Pyongyang could be on the cusp of developed missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

China, the North’s principal ally and economic lifeline, agreed to fully implement the latest round of sanctions, which will slash around $1 billion (850 million euro), or roughly one-third, of the reclusive state’s export revenue.

The sanctions also bar countries from employing North Korean laborers commissioned to work abroad. Furthermore, they ban any new joint business ventures with the North Korean regime, as well as fresh investment into such existing ventures.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in the Philippine capital that “China will for sure implement that new resolution 100 percent, fully and strictly.”

The US-drafted sanctions, designed to deprive Kim Jong Un’s regime of funds for its weapons program, were approved unanimously Saturday by the UN Security Council.

North threatens to respond

However, Ri said the latest penalties imposed on the North typified the US pushing Pyongyang into a corner, forcing it to defend itself. “Because of the arbitrariness of the US, the situation in the Korean Peninsula is heading further into the extreme with the danger of conflict on continuous increase,” he said.

Ri also stressed that that North Korea was a “responsible nuclear power and ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) state,” adding that it has “no intention to use nuclear weapons against or threaten with nuclear weapons any other country except the US, unless it joins military action of the US against North Korea” – possibly referring to China and Russia, who have in the past provided diplomatic cover for Pyongyang.

A similar stance was also emphasized in an earlier statement made via the North Korean regime’s official KCNA news agency, in which the North threatened to take “righteous action” and make the US “pay the price for its crime… thousands of times” for drafting the sanctions.

Tillerson sets high bar for talks

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out a narrow path for North Korea to return to dialogue and ultimately see the latest round of sanctions lifted, stressing that Pyongyang must first stop testing its missile for “extended period” before any future negotiations will be considered.

“The best signal that North Korea could send that they’re prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Tillerson said. “This is not a ‘give me 30 days and we are ready to talk.’ It’s not quite that simple. So it is all about how we see their attitude towards approaching a dialogue with us.”

The Secretary of State on Monday also held talks with Yi and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and sought to present a common stance on North Korea. “It’s quite clear in terms of there being no daylight between the international community as to the expectation that North Korea will take steps to achieve all of my objectives, which is a denuclearized Korean peninsula,” he said.

As Netanyahu Investigators Close In, Some Ask: How Long Can He Hold On?

August 6, 2017

by Isabel Kershner

The New York Times

JERUSALEM — Political cartoons depict flames licking at the foundations of the fortresslike household of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Commentators say the noose is tightening around his neck.

For months, Mr. Netanyahu has been under investigation in two separate, leak-ridden graft cases involving illicit gifts from wealthy friends and back-room dealings with a local newspaper magnate in a bid for favorable coverage. The latest blow came just before the weekend, when the Israeli police signed a state’s witness deal with Ari Harow, Mr. Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and once one of his closest confidants.

A day earlier, in a legal document pertaining to the negotiations with Mr. Harow, the police said in writing, for the first time, that Mr. Netanyahu was suspected of bribery, as well as fraud and breach of trust.

In light of these developments, analysts say, it appears likely that Israel’s longest-serving prime minister after David Ben-Gurion will ultimately face charges, injecting his fourth term with a new level of turbulence and intrigue. The question now, his critics say, is how long he can stave off what they view as his looming political demise.

“Ari Harow signed a state’s witness agreement because he has something to tell,” Sima Kadmon, a prominent political columnist, wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Sunday. If the authorities were prepared to let Mr. Harow, who was facing trial in a case involving his private business interests, off so lightly with six months’ community service and a fine, Ms. Kadmon said, “then Netanyahu is already a dead man walking.”

Any actual indictment could still be many months off, and most analysts, including Ms. Kadmon, doubt that Mr. Netanyahu, a political survivor who has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, will be going anywhere soon.

Under Israeli law, a prime minister does not have to resign even if convicted, said Prof. Barak Medina, an expert in constitutional law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. If the police recommended filing charges, the state prosecutor and attorney general would still have to agree, after granting the prime minister a hearing. There is no precedent in Israel for a sitting prime minister being charged.

Still, if the police were to recommend serious charges, like bribery, against Mr. Netanyahu, it would be “hard to survive,” Professor Medina said, because the political and public pressure would grow.

Mr. Netanyahu has been projecting an image of business as usual. In a Sabbath greeting video posted on Facebook, he dismissed the latest legal developments as “background noise” and said he was continuing to run the affairs of state, including settlement expansion, in a nod to his right-wing base.

In broadcast remarks before the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu spoke of hosting the president of Togo and a coming visit to Africa. His office and his supporters have denounced the investigations as a political witch hunt intended to topple him from power.

“At this stage, by law, every Israeli citizen, and certainly the prime minister, must be presumed completely innocent,” Tzachi Hanegbi, a minister from Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud Party, said on Israeli radio. “So he is running the state and in parallel, he is managing his legal battle.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was released from prison last month after serving 16 months of a 27-month term for crimes including bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice and breach of trust. Mr. Olmert was forced from power in 2008 under the weight of the police investigations, although he remained as a caretaker prime minister until early elections could be held in 2009.

The police have also been making headway in other criminal investigations in which Mr. Netanyahu has not been named as a subject, but which involve associates from his inner circle. One scandal involves a $2 billion dollar deal for the purchase of submarines and missile ships from a German supplier. Critics have described that episode as potentially the biggest corruption case in Israeli history, touching on deep conflicts of interest and national security.

Michael Ganor, the Israeli agent for the German shipping company, has also signed a state’s witness deal with Israeli investigators. His lawyer, David Shimron, who is also Mr. Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and second cousin, recently spent several days under house arrest.

Adding to the Netanyahu family troubles, the police questioned Mr. Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, this past week for a fourth time as part of an investigation into accusations that public funds were misused at the Netanyahus’ residences.

And rather than keep a low profile, the couple’s older son, Yair Netanyahu, has been drawing public fire for crude behavior and getting into a social media spat with one of Mr. Olmert’s sons.

Critics of the Netanyahus have long portrayed Yair, 25, as a spoiled heir apparent who still lives with his parents in the official residence and lives lavishly at the taxpayers’ expense. When he was out walking with Kaya, the family dog, late last month, a woman from the neighborhood asked him to pick up his dog’s waste. He responded, according to the woman and a witness, with an obscene gesture.

Days later, a left-wing nongovernmental organization posted a scathing critique of Yair Netanyahu’s lifestyle. The young man responded with a vitriolic screed that he posted on his Facebook page. He asked why there was no scrutiny of other prime ministers’ sons, including Ariel Sharon’s son who went to jail or Mr. Olmert’s son and his “interesting relationship with a Palestinian man and its implications for national security.” He signed off with emojis of a raised middle finger and a pile of excrement.

In a Facebook response in Hebrew and Arabic, Ariel Olmert accused the younger Netanyahu of spreading lies about his “imaginary friend,” and accused him of racism and homophobia. The younger Olmert added that he lives with a woman and works for a living. He also tries to clean up after his dog, he said.


Military Justice Manifested

August 7, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

Lt. Colonel James A. Kilian who had been commanding officer of the U.S. 10th Replacement Depot, located at Lichfield, Staffordshire in England. This was a camp that processed replacement American troops and also housed a number of military prisoners. During its existence, over 6,000 prisoners had been processed.

Lt. Colonel Kilian instituted a brutal policy of physical harassment of these prisoners that eventually became a matter of public notice. Men were beaten, often in the same areas they had been previously wounded and a number were severely injured. When this was reported by a military witness, the Army attempted to punish the witness but eventually an investigation was launched. The investigation disclosed an ongoing, officially sanctioned pattern of sadistic brutality, but in the end, the officers convicted received small fines and no imprisonment while soldiers who filed complaints were severely treated while waiting to testify.

Kilian, who was an aggressive and very angry man (he once threatened to assault one of the court-martial officers in open court), was convicted of the charges of permitting his guards to assault prisoners and to initiate punishments specifically prohibited by U.S. Army regulations. He was fined $500 and officially reprimanded.

Before this happened, the obviously rigged court hearings were the subject of a very angry letter from President Truman which resulted in the removal of one of the judges who was a long-time personal friend of Kilian as well as a cessation of the harassment of the putative witnesses in the case.

In April of 1947, Kilian sought a promotion to Colonel and Truman promptly removed his name from the promotion list. True to form, Kilian immediately attempted to sue Truman to force him to grant the promotion. The case was dismissed in Federal Court by a judge who ruled that Kilian had no jurisdiction over the Commander in Chief.

Following his defeat in court, Kilian tried to submit his name again two weeks later, but again Truman struck his name from the list.

The revelations to the American public of this case forced Congress to drastically modify and improve the conditions under which soldiers could be court-martialed and almost all of the over 100,000 soldiers who had been subjected to court-martial during the war had their sentences significantly modified.

A furious Kilian finally resigned from the Army in 1951 and died in 1958.


These Are the Technology Firms Lining Up to Build Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Program

August 7 2017

by Sam Biddle and Spencer Woodman

The Intercept

Back when he was a presidential candidate, in August 2016, Donald Trump promised his followers and the world that he would screen would-be immigrants using “extreme vetting,” a policy that has remained as ambiguous as it is threatening (his haphazard and arbitrary “Muslim ban” was the apparent result of that pledge). Today, Homeland Security documents show the American private sector is eager to help build an advanced computer system to make Trump’s “extreme vetting” a reality.

On July 18 and 19, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division hosted an “industry day” for technology companies interested in building a new tool for the Homeland Security apparatus. The event was only supposed to take up one day at the Crystal City Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, but was expanded to two after what ICE called an “overwhelming response” from interested companies. According to an ICE document titled “Extreme Vetting Initiative” provided to potential contractors, the agency’s current ability to evaluate an immigrant’s potential for criminality or terrorism is inadequate, “fragmented across mission areas and are both time-consuming and manually labor-intensive due to complexities in the current U.S immigration system.” ICE is simply digging around so much, at such a fever pitch under Trump, that they’ve created a hopeless backlog.

So it’s time for something new and better, says ICE: A system that will serve as an “overarching vetting” machine “that automates, centralizes and streamlines the current manual vetting process while simultaneously making determinations via automation if the data retrieved is actionable” in order to “implement the President’s various Executive Orders (EOs) that address American immigration and border protection security and interests.” In other words, data-mining software that helps ICE agents find human targets faster.

ICE’s hope is that this privately developed software will help go far beyond matters of legality, but matters of the heart: The system must “determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society as well as their ability to contribute to national interests,” and predict “whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.” Using software to this end is certainly in line with Trump’s campaign rhetoric — during a rally in Phoenix, Ariz., he described how “extreme vetting” would make sure the U.S. only accepts “the right people,” using “ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.”

Sign-in sheets from the ICE event show a sizable private sector turnout, including representatives from IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, LexisNexis, SAS, and Deloitte, along with a litany of smaller firms like Praescient Analytics, Red Hat, PlanetRisk, and Babel Street

The tool, according to ICE documents, will solve the fact that the agency is dealing with such an enormous volume of people that analyzing them through traditional means is becoming less feasible — Homeland Security’s Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU) “reviews over 1,000,000 violator leads for derogatory information annually and sends approximately 8,400 cases to HSI field offices for investigation.”

Should ICE succeed, the Extreme Vetting Initiative will make analyzing millions of people for potentially threatening traits more manageable. The initiative appears to be chiefly aimed at what ICE calls “nonimmigrants,” a term for foreign nationals seeking “temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose.” Interested contractors were told their system must be capable of scraping not only “data in various law enforcement databases” and “other government agency computer systems” (including FALCON, an immigration database created by Palantir) but will extensively exploit anything that can be found on the public internet in order to provide “continuous vetting” of foreign visitors for the entirety of their stay. Essentially, anything online that doesn’t require a password would be fair game under the Extreme Vetting Initiative:

The Contractor shall analyze and apply techniques to exploit publically [sic] available information, such as media, blogs, public hearings, conferences, academic websites, social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, radio, television, press, geospatial sources, internet sites, and specialized publications with intent to extract pertinent information regarding targets, including criminals, fugitives, nonimmigrant violators, and targeted national security threats and their location.

ICE declined to comment for this article, but in a Q&A session with contractors, the agency lamented that its “biggest constraint, because we are a vetting/screening operation, is that we are required to work with what is publically [sic] available.” That said, ICE told the contractors that as far as what data is ingested into the Extreme Vetting Initiative system, they’re willing to be very flexible:

We are open to anything right now. We’d have to run it thru Privacy but the idea is to be nimble here. We don’t want to be restrictive so we don’t want to strictly limit it to certain datasets. We recognize things are changing all the time as is our ability to navigate thru new permissions to enhance law enforcement’s ability to do their job. We expect that to continue in the near term to get the job done.

That same Q&A document includes a pointed question from an unnamed contractor about the potential for the entire plan to be foiled by the ACLU:

Five years ago the FBI tried to accomplish the objectives that are being stated here and the ACLU shut it down. The FBI tried to [do] this type of contract in the past and the ACLU shut them down. Does ICE realize the problems of the past and what happened before?

But ICE doesn’t seem particularly worried, explaining that while the FBI has been tripped up when attempting similar data-mining operations against American citizens, an operation focused on non-citizens would be less likely to face such obstacles. “The prediction is that in the near future there will be legislation addressing what you can and can’t do,” the agency answered. “We will continue to do it until someone says that we can’t.”




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