TBR News December 29, 2015

Dec 29 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., December 28, 2015: “We received a most interesting article by the prominent Harry von Johnson concerning a project designed to add further woes to those already suffered by the PRC. Warfare can take many forms and BW and CW are also aspects. In the intelligence communities there is a real fear that the lunatics running ISIS will start smallpox in some area, oblivious to the fact that it would spread all over the unvaccinated world and probably kill off 40% of the population. This would also include them and their Turkish and Saudi supporters but fanatics seldom take the trouble to think these matters out.”

The Great Rice Disease Plot

by Harry von Johnson, PhD

Ever since the times of the great Malthus, it has been well recognized that since all species must eat to continue living, the existence of food sources is vital to the survival of any species, be it homo sapiens or others.

Food may, in short, be seen as a weapon as effective as a bullet or a bomb in an attack on a perceived enemy.

We therefore now consider the production of food stuffs as a weapon in a war, formal or informal.

I speak now of a growing struggle between the PRC (China) and the United States in which the PRC can clearly be seen as a challenger to the United States both in the military and economic spheres.

For example, the PRC has purchased very large financial holdings of the United States such as official U.S. Treasury bills and then also as holders of billions of American dollars worth of other financial holdings and long term investments.

These acquisitions are not intended for financial gain to the PRC but to be used as an economic and political lever when, and as, needed.

Also, the PRC has been known to be conducting a form of economic warfare against the United States by the production of counterfeit gold items, such as coinage and, most dangerously, as faked copies of American official U.S. Treasury gold bars. This has the dual purpose of enriching the PRC with badly-needed items such as oil and raw material it cannot, by itself, possess.

It is evident that the United States intelligence organs are entirely aware of these dangerous PRC activities and have been assiduously working both to blunt the economic warfare and then to counter with other methods.

The most important of these latter methods deals with the issue of food.

It is not certainly a secret that China has a number of growing, and potentially fatal, problems with her population and the care and feeding of it.

China’s basic supply of fresh water comes from the glaciers of the Himalayan mountains but these glaciers are not only melting rapidly but renewal of them does not occur due to obvious and growing planetary climate changes. The shrinking of glacial waters also strongly effects the hydroelectric programs of China.

Another of the PRC’s growing problems is the unchecked increase in population; the shrinkage of arable food (i.e. rice) production areas, a domestic and foreign economic “bubble” that is obvious will probably cause a disastrous implosion.

This brief study of the problems of the PRC then moves on to the methodology by which the United States, the PRC’s main global economic rival, can either neutralize or destroy the capacity of the PRC to wage economic warfare and to neutralize her future endeavours

Let us now consider the basic Achilles Heel of the PRC; food.

The United States is capable of feeding its own people, though with problems of organized production and distribution but the PRC, and most of Asia, is dependent very heavily on a single crop: rice.

Rice is the seed of the monocot plant Oryza sativa. As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after corn.

Today, the majority of all rice produced comes from China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, and Japan. These Asian farmers account for 92-percent of the world’s total rice production

The peoples of the PRC, we then are fully aware, have rice, both domestic and imported, as a basic food staple. Should this stable become seriously interdicted by, let us say, some kind of a disease that would impact not only on the PRC but other Asian areas as well, growing starvation and the attendant civil dissoloution can well be postulated.

Major rice diseases include Rice ragged stunt, Sheath Blight and tungro. Rice blast, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe grisea, is the most significant disease affecting rice cultivation. There is also an ascomycete fungus, Cochliobolus miyabeanus, that causes brown spot disease in rice.

A most serious threat to rice crops would be Rust disease, xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae

Xanthomonas oryzae is a species of proteobacteria. The major host of the bacteria is rice

The species contains two pathovars which are non-European: Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae and Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola.Host resistance gene, Xa21,from Oryza longistaminata is integrated into the genome of Oryza sativa for the board range resistance of rice blight disease caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae

In the America of today, unpleasant tasks, the revelation of which might redound against the government, are generally made the province of the  United States Department of Defense, the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Intelligence Community, including the National Security Agency, as well as other U.S. Government civil agencies.

These agencies, in turn, look to the civil, business sector for special development and preparation of weaponry, both conventional and bio-weaponry.

One of the main institutions for this development is SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), which has been headquartered in Tysons Corner in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, near McLean, since September of 2009.

Their Board of Directors has included many well known ex-government personnel including Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense in the Nixon administration; William Perry, Secretary of Defense for Bill Clinton; John M. Deutch, President Clinton’s CIA Director; Admiral Bobby Ray Inman who served in various capacities in the NSA and CIA for the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations

Here we can mention, in furtherance of this study, that In January of 1999, a SAIC consultant, one Steven Hatfill and his collaborator, SAIC vice president Joseph Soukup, commissioned William C. Patrick, who was a retired and leading figure in the previous official U.S. bio-weapons program to  prepare a report on the possibilities of terrorist anthrax postal mailings in the United States. This also referred to a number of false anthrax mailings in the two years previous.

Although this report was later purported to be a CIA contract, it was actually an internal memo. In actual fact, this was a report prepared specifically for the CIA’s bio-weapons division  Mr. Patrick eventually  produced a 28-page report in February of 1999. This was considered by the professional community as a clear blueprint for the subsequent 2001 postal anthranx “attack.”

The report suggested the maximum amount of anthrax powder—2.5 grams—that could be put in an envelope without producing a suspicious bulge. This was just a little more than the actual amounts—2 grams each—in the letters sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. But the report also suggested that a terrorist might produce a spore concentration of 50 billion spores per gram. This was only one-twentieth of the actual concentration—1 trillion spores per gram—in the letters sent to the senators

The “anthrax letters” were clearly used by the Bush Administration as part of their plan to put the American people under tighter observation and control.

Here, also, it should be noted that SAIC operates NCI-Frederick, a National “Cancer Institute” research facility located at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland, which is located in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s bio-weapons research centre.

This entity, we must say, has nothing to do with “cancer research” and eveything to do with bio-weapons development. About half of the 3,000 employees of NCI-Frederick are hired through the SAIC-Frederick subsidiary, paid out of a competitive $320-million contract.

The initial development of the bio-warfare organization designed to develop a so-called super “rust” agent for designed for a specific attack on the Asian rice crops came from a Presidential Directive signed on February 10, 2004 by then-President George Bush. The power was given to the American Central Intellgence Agency which then contracted with SAIC.

A special, well-hidden laboratory was established in Vancouver, Canada with the express purpose to hide from possible domestic scrutiny in the United States. The sub-agency was, and is, called NOICOM which is under SAIC International Subsidiaries.

NOICOM is under the nominal direction of one Dr. Binymin I. Zeloc, an Israeli citizen employed by the American Central Intelligence Agency and many of the staff are also CIA members or associates.

There are also direct and specific connections with SAIC development centers in Noida and Bangalore, India. Scicom Technologies Noida was acquired by SAIC in September 2007.

A particularly strong strain of  xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae has now been developed that has the ability to spread throughout the rice crops of Asia with, as the report says, ‘lightening speed’ and it is estimated that in the course of one year and interacting with the rice growth pattern, to “fully infect” most, if not all, of the Asian rice crop. Also, the developed strain of xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae is such that re-infestation of a following crop is almost certain.

But I must also note that rice is now also grown in all parts of India, Northern and Central Pakistan and that with a certainty, this new disease would certainly spread to these areas.

There was, as we remember, the great Bengal famine of 1942 in which over three millions of Indians perished through starvation

The Bengal Famine may be placed in the context of previous famines in Mughal and British India. Deccan Famine of 1630-32 killed 2,000,000. One of the foundations of the CIA program is based on a corresponding famine in northwestern China, eventually causing the Ming dynasty to collapse in 1644.

The official famine inquiry commission reporting on the Bengal Famine of 1943 put its death toll at about 1.5 million Indians. Estimates made by Prof. P.C. Mahalanobis, of the Indian Statistical Institute said, at least 5 million died directly and another 4-5 million died subsequently in famine related diseases.

In 1974, W.R. Aykroyd, who was a member of the Famine inquiry commission and was primarily responsible for the estimation, conceded that the figures were an underestimate.

It has become very evident to me, in reviewing both the laboratory results and some of the control papers connected with the bio-weapons project (called ‘Evening Storm’), that the disease will be introduced within six months by CIA agents working out of India, into Burmese rice fields. Burma has been choses as the start point because of extensive, on-going PRC infliltration of that country, the extensive borders with the PRC and the flow of trade between the two countries.

However, the project has not taken into account that this disease will certainly spread to other countries, notably India, with terrible consequences but nowhere can this ‘Collatral Damage’ be found in any paper or study.

Conversations with the Crow

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

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

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

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

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



Conversation No. 31

Date: Wednesday, August 14, 1996

Commenced: 8:15 AM CST

Concluded: 9:11 AM CST

RTC: I thought it had to be you, Gregory. You are about the only person who calls me these days. Bill does, of course, and every so often that fool Trento gets onto me, trying to pry information out of me for some fool book he is working on. So much work for nothing.

GD: And so many beautiful trees have to die, equally for nothing.

RTC: True enough. I could give Joe boxes of first class material for blockbuster books but it would all be wasted on him. Costello is gone now and Joe is basically useless. Such delusions of grandeur.

GD: I read one, actually only part of one, of his books. He has no grasp of how things work. It’s like someone writing about glaciers. They ignore the dynamics of the entire system and its history and confine themselves to saying, with eyes popping and pointing finger: ‘Ooh, look at all the ice! My, it’s cold, isn’t it? Last year, I have seen, in secret papers, there were a lot of icebergs breaking off! There were private meetings held in unspecified places with top intelligence people about this!’

RTC: (Laughter) You are so bloody cruel, Gregory. But true. Bill and I needed someone to polish up our work and Joe was recommended. It’s too damned bad we hadn’t run into you then. We could have had something a little more polished. Oh well, such is life.

GD: Yes, such is life. Have you told Joe about me?

RTC: No, I have not. What would happen then? Joe would bleat to me for about six months about how you were a terrible person and why I shouldn’t talk to you at all. Kimmel does the same thing, but he’s a little more subtle. Poor Bill goes for his gaff, but I don’t. Now, I never hear from Tom. I guess he gave up on me. But actually not. He’s now got people from Justice to call me about you. My God, what will be next? The SPCA?

GD: Who knows? These old aunties swing a mean purse but I’ve had to deal with these pathetic losers since I was about ten and realized that Jonathan Swift was right about humanity. Well, I can see into the future simply by reading about the past. Their days are numbered, Robert but you won’t be around and I might not.

RTC: Are you thinking about some religious sort of violence?

GD: No, much less spectacular but even more deadly. Did you ever read Malthus?

RTC: No.

GD: It’s all there, Robert. Sum it up: Populations increase geometrically and food supplies increase arithmetically. In other words, the public fuck like rabbits, the population soars but eventually, and without any doubt, we run out of food and drinkable water. Of course the WASPS will do OK and this country raises lots of food but places like India, China and Africa are going to be mass graves when it hits. Oh, and it will hit, Robert. It isn’t a question of loony theories but solid fact. And another thing, Robert. There is a hell of a lot of ice at the poles. If the Arctic ice cap melts, it won’t make any difference because that is ice on the water and if it all went away tomorrow, the ocean levels wouldn’t rise by an inch. But Antarctic and Greenland ice is another matter entirely. That ice is on land and if it melts to any degree then the ocean levels will really rise.

RTC: Probably so but that’s Doomsday material, Gregory, isn’t it?

GD: No, Robert, uncomfortable fact. I had an article once that I took out of Scientific American. I kept it for years but I moved so many times that somewhere it got lost. Never mind, I read it and remembered it. They set up an area for rats. Regular rats. As much water and food as they needed and lots of bedding or nesting material. What happened? Rats breed like Third Worlders and pretty soon, the room was full of rats. And what did these rats do? They went crazy, homosexuality and cannibalism flourished, mama rats ate their malformed litters and general chaos reigned. And what happened then, Robert?

RTC: I have no idea but I have a suspicion you will tell me.

GD: Of course, why miss the finale when you’ve seen the first three acts? Some disease, endemic, relatively harmless, that is in the rats suddenly alters and most of the rats turn into a stinking mass of rotting flesh….

RTC: So early in the morning, Gregory.

GD: But they do almost all die off, Robert. Still, a few always survive so the game can start again. Do I make a point?

RTC: You equate us with rodents?

GD: No. I comment on the inevitable bill Nature insists we pay. And we will, mark that.

RTC: How depressing. Do you think the ice will melt?

GD: I think so. And while it does, I can just envision legions of scientists squabbling over what, when, how and why as New York sinks beneath the waves. They say that if there were two Irishmen left alive in the world, they’d be sending letter bombs to each. No offense to your Hibernian background, Robert.

RTC: (Laughter)

GD: And if there were two academics left, they’d be pissing on each other as the waters closed over their heads. Oh joy and rapture unforeseen.

RTC: Well, as you say, both of us will be gone away, so why should we worry?

GD: It’s a waste of time, Robert, I agree. But still, intellectual curiosity and a firm belief that there are iron rules that apply to life make me a student. Do read Malthus, Robert, and you will understand what I am going on about. He’s there but most people would rather read the comic page or, if they graduated with honors from a distant community college, they can get really intellectual and read ‘Fanny Hill.

RTC: You are really on a tear today, Gregory. Are you sniffing glue?

GD: No, I’m just naturally up today. Of course, coffee helps too.

RTC: It always does.

GD: By the way, Robert, I saw something in the paper today about Ollie North. Did you have anything to do with him?

RTC: My God, what a story that was. Yes and no. Oliver moved at a more exalted level than I did. Oliver worked for the White House. Oliver worked for George Bush, who was once our DCI, and he worked for Ronnie Reagan.

GD: That’s not impossible to believe. The guns for the Contras?

RTC: We’d be all day on the phone if I told you what I knew. The public has no idea what that Contra business was all about. It was only a spin-off of the real businesses. The press does not know and if it did, would never dare to print any of it. They feed the public some dog and pony show, speculate for days and then discover a cat up a tree and all run down the block with their notebooks and cameras for more stimulating information for the trailer park crowd.

GD: We both have plenty of time, Robert. If you’re willing to talk, I’m even more willing to listen. I have a new girl friend who is coming over for a lunch I have not yet begun to lay out, but that’s two hours away. I eat late and I thought a nice salad, a Coquilles St. Jacques with a sauce Parisienne, some sourdough bread and a nice white wine. And for dessert there is wild sex on the living room floor.

RTC: I know about sex, but what were you cooking?

GD: Scallops in a cream sauce, Robert. I loathe braggers, but I am a very good cook. As far as the living room floor is concerned, I have scars on my back to support my animal expertise with the famous Mattress Polka by one of the earlier members of the Strauss family. But we needn’t talk about past glories. Or perhaps future ones if I get the sauce right. Women can be either at your feet or at your throat. Flat on their backs is much better and on to other things.

RTC: But Gregory, isn’t the floor hard?

GD: I suppose so, but when I am, who cares? What? Oh yes, before fantasy time we were talking about Ollie North.

RTC: Well, the public was led to believe the Ollie was some kind of a loose cannon or a nut case but he actually was doing what the President ordered. North was on the staff of the National Security Council which was run by our beloved George Bush who was Vice President at the time and ran the entire operation, contras, drug dealings and gun smugglings and a few removals of inconvenient people along the way. This was all part of a very interesting and little-known system. I can go on about this if you want. Does it take long to cook your lunch?

GD: Actually, I made the sauce early this morning and all I have to do is to cook the scallops, put them into the sauce, put some butter and some fresh, grated Swiss cheese on top and into the broiler. The wine is in the fridge, the bread is fresh early this morning and I vacuumed the living room rug. Please go on.

RTC: Well, the entire Contra mess had two fathers. The first was the Doomsday project. This was a governmental continuation survival program in the event of some great natural disaster, military or terrorist attacks on the United States, public uprisings and so on. That was first begun in ’81 with a series of signed orders by Reagan setting up the machinery to preserve the government in the event of these disruptive problems. This entire program was rather secret and was under the control of the vice president…

GD: Who was George Bush.

RTC: Yes, under him. And like all bureaucracies, this grew. The nutty Poindexter got into the act and wanted to set up something your friend Mueller would have loved: a comprehensive national total surveillance system that would keep track of every person living in the United States, regardless of how harmless they might be. They could use your television set to spy on you, gather phone records from companies they either bribed or threatened, read and watch your mail, create a national ID card, closely supervise passports, watch who flew around the country and where they were going, get into your safe deposit box and watch your checking and savings accounts, listen in on all, and I mean all, overseas telephone calls by controlling the communications satellites. The NSA was given this task I recall. I think it was called Operation Harvest at the time. Oh my and many, many more little new departments to watch the general population. This was being set up during the Reagan years, but Clinton cut back on most of it. Still, it’s still there, waiting for another president to use it as an excuse to grab permanent power. In the old days, we used the threat of a Soviet attack and invasion to terrify the public and now the enemies are not so well defined. It’s rather funny when you read about the growing drug menace, because elements of our government are involved, even as I speak, in assisting in the importation of many tons of marijuana and opium derivatives. Oh yes, Gregory, our government, not the mob or the Columbian drug cartels, are the real drug dealers. We started with Colby and a few others and like Topsy, it just growed. I’m afraid we don’t run it, but it now runs us. Yes, and Ollie was a part of the whole. Then Congress managed to screw things up by passing the second Boland Amendment in ’84. Reagan was using us to supply the Contras in Nicaragua with guns and other small things so they could overthrow what we like to call the dangerous Communist, pro-Soviet government there. The stupid shits on the hill put a stop to this so Reagan got George to bypass Congress. Getting the guns was a problem and Ollie turned out to be very competent.

GD: Yes, I know Jimmy Atwood who was up to his tummy-tuck in some of this. His Stasi connections….

RTC: Yes, you know about this. It was IMES 1that controlled this and it was a huge, official but sub-rosa smuggling racket. Of course even though we were supposed to be enemies of the communist Stasi, we actually worked well with them. Your friend Atwood was one of our top people there. We had a fellow with the strange name of Schalck-Golodkowski working with us. We used to call him the Fat Man or Big Alex, I suppose because he was way overweight and his first name was Alexander. Very clever choice of names, isn’t it? He later fled to the west and we at once gave him a nice job.

GD: Just like Heini Mueller who worked for you.

RTC: Worked for Jim. But I knew him. Met him a number of times. You got on with him, didn’t you?

GD: I did and Atwood was an open book.

RTC: I always like to know who can’t keep their mouth shut. Now as to the guns for the beaners, this IMES was part and parcel of the international cartel, to use a phrase so beloved by hack writers, which has been going on, with refinements, since about ’67 or ’68. They had offices in West Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and, I think, Austria. And as things progress, they smuggled narcotics right along with the guns. We were way ahead of them on that score but we all work together in the end, in spite of the press of both countries pissing on each other. Those are the realities, Gregory, not the fronts. You know that, don’t you?

GD: I don’t know as much as you do but I know more than enough to agree with you. Greed and money know no borders and no ideology.

RTC: I would rather say political necessity makes strange bedfellows.

GD: A difference with no distinction. Do continue.

RTC: The Krauts were dealing with Iran, Libya and Syria. And the Swedes too were into this. In fact, we had our little troopers in most of the countries that exported drugs, bought guns and so on. The Swedes were using St. Lucia Airways, one of our proprietaries, to run their shipments to various counties. Drugs out and guns in.

GD: Where did the weapons originate? I think Russia.

RTC: Oh yes right on. The AK 47s were much in demand. The basic European-made pieces were too expensive.

GD: And the Soviets knew about this?

RTC: My God, yes they did. And some of them got very rich out of it. And there were even some shipments by boat some of which got into customs troubles. There were always problems with this, once it got out of our hands. We always kept things running smoothly but when you’re dealing with emotional Arabs who would sell their sisters for ten dollars or the Latins south of our border, we have utter corruption and emotion and corruption leads to mistakes. Then we have to send people around to clean up the messes. We used to throw people out of high windows but there aren’t any tall buildings in Arab counties or south of our borders so the vanishing and dumping at sea in metal drums is always done to the less prominent and un-missed. For more prominent ones, the convenient airplane crash or the heart attack. Mechanics for the one and chemists for the second.

GD: Now you’re speaking my language. I even taught some new concepts to Mueller, God bless his soul. I really used to enjoy myself when I was younger, but age has slowed me down.

RTC: From what I have heard from Kimmel’s DoJ people, you have not slowed down. They view you as a cross between Jack the Ripper and Attila the Hun.

GD: Well, in turn, I view them as a cross between Swift’s Yahoos and Lenny in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. I really don’t understand how people that stupid can live. Take Jimmy Atwood….please…no, he worked for you so you don’t have to take him. Jimmy would get some hooch into him and my God, Robert, the stories he would tell! The BND 2 was horrified when I passed this along, but these people are protected by our government so they can do nothing. You know, some of these cretins and gross criminals ought to be taken out and shot, Robert, and I would be more than happy to oblige. They have dumped tons of drugs on the American people and the bureaucrats love it. They don’t touch the stuff and make sure their kids go to very expensive East Coast Establishment prep schools. Buggery after lights out but no drugs. I mean, after all, what pays for the expensive schools? The whole thing is rotten and eventually, it will collapse. Mark my words, it will come down. As the Bible says, it will fall and great will be the fall thereof. Ah well, you’re out of it now and the deluge may be years in coming but eventually the public will find out the truth, or at least some of it, and then we will see change.

RTC: As you say, Gregory, I’m well out of it but I can’t really complain too much. You get far too moralistic. You let it get in the way of clear thinking. One moment I wish I had you in the Company and the next you sound like a social worker.

GD: Yes, Mueller once said almost the same thing. Two spirits struggle in my breast, Robert, but now I have to get to lunch so would you excuse me? The pleasures of the board and the living room floor beckon to me.

RTC: Good luck.

GD: With the lunch or the follow-up?

RTC: I assume you’re a good cook.

GD: Come out and visit with me and I’ll cook you a fine meal.

RTC: But I’m not a candidate for the living room floor.

GD: I would certainly hope not, Robert. Anyway, thanks for the nice chat and I’ll be back in touch.

(Concluded at 9:11AM CST)


U.S. sees bearable costs, key goals met for Russia in Syria so far

December 28, 2015

by Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel


WASHINGTON Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.

That assessment comes despite public assertions by President Barack Obama and top aides that Putin has embarked on an ill-conceived mission in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it will struggle to afford and that will likely fail.

“I think it’s indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was,” said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity. Five other U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters concurred with the view that the Russian mission has been mostly successful so far and is facing relatively low costs.

The U.S. officials stressed that Putin could face serious problems the longer his involvement in the more than four-year-old civil war drags on.

Yet since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation’s cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia’s regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said.

The expense, analysts and officials said, is being kept in check by plummeting oil prices that, while hurting Russia’s overall economy, has helped its defense budget stretch further by reducing the costs of fueling aircraft and ships. It has also been able to tap a stockpile of conventional bombs dating to the Soviet era.

Putin has said his intervention is aimed at stabilizing the Assad government and helping it fight the Islamic State group, though Western officials and Syrian opposition groups say its air strikes mostly have targeted moderate rebels.

Russia’s Syrian and Iranian partners have made few major territorial gains.

Yet Putin’s intervention has halted the opposition’s momentum, allowing pro-Assad forces to take the offensive. Prior to Russia’s military action, U.S. and Western officials said, Assad’s government looked increasingly threatened.

Rather than pushing back the opposition, Russia may be settling for defending Assad’s grip on key population centers that include the heartland of his minority Alawite sect, said the U.S. intelligence official.

Russia is taking advantage of the operation to test new weapons in battlefield conditions and integrate them into its tactics, the intelligence official said. It is refining its use of unarmed surveillance drones, the official added.

“The Russians didn’t go blindly into this,” said the U.S. intelligence official, adding that they “are getting some benefit out of the cost.”


Russia’s intervention also appears to have strengthened its hand at the negotiating table. In recent weeks, Washington has engaged more closely with Russia in seeking a settlement to the war and backed off a demand for the immediate departure of Assad as part of any political transition.

Obama has suggested as recently as this month that Moscow is being sucked into a foreign venture that will drain its resources and bog down its military.

“An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work,” Obama said on Oct. 2.

On Dec. 1, he raised the prospect of Russia becoming “bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict.”

The senior administration official denied any contradiction between Obama’s statements and private assessments that Russia’s campaign has been relatively effective so far.

“I think the president’s point has been…it’s not going to succeed in the long run,” the official said. The Russians “have become bound up in a civil war in a way that’s going to be extremely difficult to extricate themselves from.”

U.S. officials have not publicly defined what a quagmire would look like for Russia. But Obama has raised the Soviet Union’s disastrous decade-long Afghanistan occupation from 1979.

U.S. officials said Russia’s military footprint is relatively light. It comprises a long-time naval facility in Tartus, a major air base near the port city of Latakia, a second under expansion near Homs and several lesser posts.

There are an estimated 5,000 Russian personnel in Syria, including pilots, ground crews, intelligence personnel, security units protecting the Russian bases and advisers to the Syrian government forces.

Russia has lost an airliner to an Islamic State-claimed attack over Egypt that killed 224 people, and an Su-24 supersonic bomber shot down by Turkey. It is also allied with an exhausted Syrian army that is suffering manpower shortages and facing U.S.-backed rebels using anti-tank missiles.

“It’s been a grind,” said the intelligence official, adding that in terms of ground gains, “I think the Russians are not where they expected to be.”

Russian casualties in Syria have been relatively minimal, officially put at three dead. U.S. officials estimate that Russia may have suffered as many as 30 casualties overall.

Vasily Kashin, a Moscow-based analyst, said the war is not financially stressing Russia.

“All the available data shows us that the current level of military effort is completely insignificant for the Russian economy and Russian budget,” said Kashin, of the Center for Analyses of Strategies and Technologies.

“It can be carried on at the same level year after year after year,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Jason Bush in Moscow and Phil Stewart in Washington. Editing by Stuart Grudgings.)


Recently Bought a Windows Computer? Microsoft Probably Has Your Encryption Key

December 28, 2015

by Micah Lee

The Intercept

One of the excellent features of new Windows devices is that disk encryption is built-in and turned on by default, protecting your data in case your device is lost or stolen. But what is less well-known is that, if you are like most users and login to Windows 10 using your Microsoft account, your computer automatically uploaded a copy of your recovery key – which can be used to unlock your encrypted disk – to Microsoft’s servers, probably without your knowledge and without an option to opt-out.

During the “crypto wars” of the nineties, the National Security Agency developed an encryption backdoor technology – endorsed and promoted by the Clinton administration – called the Clipper chip, which they hoped telecom companies would use to sell backdoored crypto phones. Essentially, every phone with a Clipper chip would come with an encryption key, but the government would also get a copy of that key – this is  known as key escrow – with the promise to only use it in response to a valid warrant. But due to public outcry and the availability of encryption tools like PGP, which the government didn’t control, the Clipper chip program ceased to be relevant by 1996. (Today, most phone calls still aren’t encrypted. You can use the free, open source, backdoorless Signal app to make encrypted calls.)

The fact that new Windows devices require users to backup their recovery key on Microsoft’s servers is remarkably similar to a key escrow system, but with an important difference. Users can choose to delete recovery keys from their Microsoft accounts (you can skip to the bottom of this article to learn how) – something that people never had the option to do with the Clipper chip system. But they can only delete it after they’ve already uploaded it to the cloud.

The gold standard in disk encryption is end-to-end encryption, where only you can unlock your disk. This is what most companies use, and it seems to work well,” says Matthew Green, professor of cryptography at Johns Hopkins University. “There are certainly cases where it’s helpful to have a backup of your key or password. In those cases you might opt in to have a company store that information. But handing your keys to a company like Microsoft fundamentally changes the security properties of a disk encryption system.”

As soon as your recovery key leaves your computer, you have no way of knowing its fate. A hacker could have already hacked your Microsoft account and can make a copy of your recovery key before you have time to delete it. Or Microsoft itself could get hacked, or could have hired a rogue employee with access to user data. Or a law enforcement or spy agency could send Microsoft a request for all data in your account, which would legally compel them to hand over your recovery key, which they could do even if the first thing you do after setting up your computer is delete it.

As Green puts it, “Your computer is now only as secure as that database of keys held by Microsoft, which means it may be vulnerable to hackers, foreign governments, and people who can extort Microsoft employees.”

Of course, keeping a backup of your recovery key in your Microsoft account is genuinely useful for probably the majority of Windows users, which is why Microsoft designed the encryption scheme, known as “device encryption,” this way. If something goes wrong and your encrypted Windows computer breaks, you’re going to need this recovery key to gain access to any of your files. Microsoft would rather give their customers crippled disk encryption than risk their data.

When a device goes into recovery mode, and the user doesn’t have access to the recovery key, the data on the drive will become permanently inaccessible. Based on the possibility of this outcome and a broad survey of customer feedback we chose to automatically backup the user recovery key,” a Microsoft spokesperson told me. “The recovery key requires physical access to the user device and is not useful without it.”

After you finish setting up your Windows computer, you can login to your Microsoft account and delete the recovery key. Is this secure enough? “If Microsoft doesn’t keep backups, maybe,” says Green. “But it’s hard to guarantee that. And for people who aren’t aware of the risk, opt-out seems risky.”

This policy is in stark contract to Microsoft’s major competitor, Apple. New Macs also ship with built-in and default disk encryption: a technology known as FileVault. Like Microsoft, Apple lets you store a backup of your recovery key in your iCloud account. But in Apple’s case, it’s an option. When you set up a Mac for the first time, you can uncheck a box if you don’t want to send your key to Apple’s servers.

This policy is also in contrast to Microsoft’s premium disk encryption product called BitLocker, which isn’t the same thing as what Microsoft refers to as device encryption. When you turn on BitLocker you’re forced to make a backup of your recovery key, but you get three options: Save it in your Microsoft account, save it to a USB stick, or print it.

To fully understand the different disk encryption features that Windows offers, you need to know some Microsoft jargon. Windows comes in different editions: Home (the cheapest), Pro, and Enterprise (more expensive). Windows Home includes device encryption, which started to become available during Windows 8, and requires your computer to have a tamper-resistant chip that stores encryption keys, something all new PCs come with. Pro and Enterprise both include device encryption, and they also include BitLocker, which started to become available during Windows Vista, but only for the premium editions. Under the hood, device encryption and BitLocker are the same thing. The difference is there’s only one way to use device encryption, but BitLocker is configurable.

If you’re using a recent version of Windows, and your computer has the encryption chip, and if you have a Microsoft account, your disk will automatically get encrypted, and your recovery key will get sent to Microsoft. If you login to Windows using your company’s or university’s Windows domain, then your recovery key will get sent to a server controlled by your company or university instead of Microsoft – but still, you can’t prevent device encryption from sending your recovery key. If you choose to not use a Microsoft or a domain account at all and instead create a “local only” account, then you don’t get disk encryption.

BitLocker, on the other hand, gives you more control. When you turn on BitLocker you get the choice to store your recovery key locally, among other options. But if you buy a new Windows device, even if it supports BitLocker, you’ll be using device encryption when you first set it up, and you’ll automatically send your recovery key to Microsoft.

In short, there is no way to prevent a new Windows device from uploading your recovery key the first time you log in to to your Microsoft account, even if you have a Pro or Enterprise edition of Windows. And this is worse than just Microsoft choosing an insecure default option. Windows Home users don’t get the choice to not upload their recovery key at all. And while Windows Pro and Enterprise users do get the choice (because they can use BitLocker), they can’t exercise that choice until after they’ve already uploaded their recovery key to Microsoft’s servers.

How to delete your recovery key from your Microsoft account

Go to this website and log in to your Microsoft account – this will be the same username and password that you use to log in to your Windows device. Once you’re in, it will show you a list of recovery keys backed up to your account.

If any of your Windows devices are listed, this means that Microsoft, or anyone that manages to access data in your Microsoft account, is technically able to unlock your encrypted disk, without your consent, as long as they physically have your computer. You can go ahead and delete your recovery key on this page – but you may want to back it up locally first, for example by writing it down on a piece of paper that you keep somewhere safe.

If you don’t see any recovery keys, then you either don’t have an encrypted disk, or Microsoft doesn’t have a copy of your recovery key. This might be the case if you’re using BitLocker and didn’t upload your recovery key when you first turned it on.

When you delete your recovery key from your account on this website, Microsoft promises that it gets deleted immediately, and that copies stored on their backup drives get deleted shortly thereafter as well. “The recovery key password is deleted right away from the customer’s online profile. As the drives that are used for failover and backup are sync’d up with the latest data the keys are removed,” a Microsoft spokesperson assured me.

If you have sensitive data that’s stored on your laptop, in some cases it might be safer to completely stop using your old encryption key and generate a new one that you never send to Microsoft. This way you can be entirely sure that the copy that used to be on Microsoft’s server hasn’t already been compromised.

Generate a new encryption key without giving a copy to Microsoft

In order to generate a new disk encryption key, this time without giving a copy to Microsoft, you need decrypt your whole hard disk and then re-encrypt it, but this time in such a way that you’ll actually get asked how you want to backup your recover key.

This is only possible if you have Windows Pro or Enterprise. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do if you have the Home edition is upgrade to a more expensive edition or use non-Microsoft disk encryption software, such as BestCrypt, which you have to pay for. You may also be able to get open source encryption software like VeraCrypt working, but sadly the open source options for full disk encryption in Windows don’t currently work well with modern PC hardware (as touched on here).

Go to Start, type “bitlocker”, and click “Manage BitLocker” to open BitLocker Drive Encryption settings.

If you choose to save it to a file, it will make you save it onto a disk that you’re not currently encrypting, such as a USB stick. Or you can choose to print it, and keep a hard copy. You must choose one of them to continue, but make sure you don’t choose “Save to your Microsoft account.”

On the next page it will ask you if you want to encrypt used disk space only (faster) or encrypt your entire disk including empty space (slower). If you want to be on the safe side, choose the latter. Then on the next page it will ask you if you wish to run the BitLocker system check, which you should probably do.

Finally, it will make you reboot your computer.

When you boot back up your hard disk will be encrypting in the background. At this point you can check your Microsoft account again to see if Windows uploaded your recovery key – it shouldn’t have.

Now just wait for your disk to finish encrypting. Congratulations: Your disk is encrypted and Microsoft no longer has the ability to unlock it.


Saudi Arabia reveals cuts plan to shrink £66bn budget deficit

Sparked by plunging oil prices, the 2016 budget marks biggest shakeup in years and includes politically sensitive reforms

December 28. 2015


Saudi Arabia has announced plans to cut government spending and reform its finances after plunging oil prices resulted in a record annual budget deficit of nearly $98bn (£66bn).

The state ran a deficit of 367bn riyals ($97.9bn) in 2015, or 15% of gross domestic product, officials said. The 2016 budget plan aims to cut that to 326bn riyals, reducing pressure on Riyadh to pay its bills by liquidating assets held abroad.

The 2016 budget, released by the finance ministry on Monday, marked the biggest shake-up to economic policy in the world’s top crude exporter for more than a decade, and includes politically sensitive reforms from which authorities previously shied away.

The plan suggests the kingdom is not counting on a major recovery of oil prices any time soon but is instead preparing for a multi-year period of cheap oil. The International Monetary Fund warned in October that Riyadh would run out of money within five years if it did not tighten its belt.

Saudi Arabia’s public finances benefited from increases in oil prices after 2003 and the world’s biggest crude exporter was running a budget surplus of 12% of GDP as recently as 2012.

Our economy has the potential to meet challenges,” King Salman said in a speech, adding that the 2016 budget launched a phase in which his kingdom would diversify its revenues.

Next year’s budget projects spending of 840bn riyals, down from 975bn riyals actually spent this year. The finance ministry said it would review government projects to make them more efficient and ensure they were necessary and affordable.

Revenues next year are forecast at 514bn riyals, down from 608bn riyals in 2015. The Brent oil price averaged about $54 a barrel this year but is now about $37.

The success or failure of the budget plan will be key to maintaining the confidence of financial markets in Riyadh.

As the deficit has swelled, the riyal has dropped in the forwards market to its lowest since 1999 because of fears that Riyadh may eventually have to abandon its peg to the US dollar.

In its budget statement, the finance ministry said it would adjust subsidies for water, electricity and petroleum products over the next five years. That is a politically sensitive step, since the kingdom has traditionally kept domestic prices at some of the lowest levels in the world as a social welfare measure.

Any changes will aim to make energy use more efficient and conserve natural resources, while minimising the negative effects on lower- and middle-income Saudis, the ministry said.

It also outlined other reforms including “privatising a range of sectors and economic activities”, although it did not give details.

The government plans to introduce VAT in coordination with other countries in the region, and raise taxes on soft drinks and tobacco, the ministry said, without giving a timeline.


Political feuding imperils Ukraine’s future, Obama’s record

December 28, 2015

by Alessandra Prentice and Pavel Polityuk


KIEV-On his most recent visit to Kiev, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said he spends more time speaking to Ukrainian officials than to his own wife.

He may not be exaggerating: senior U.S. officials, including Biden, are deeply embroiled in trying to persuade Ukraine’s leadership to hold the line and implement the reforms they have promised to carry out.

But despite these efforts, divisions inside the ruling coalition are growing and many of the reforms are stalled. If the leaders fail, it will be a deep embarrassment to Washington, the EU, and the IMF which sacrificed relations with Russia to support these people.

“I think we may have logged close to 1,000 hours on the telephone,” Biden told reporters during his visit this month, referring to his calls with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, before adding the quip that it was more time than he spends talking to Mrs Biden.

The Obama administration, with the EU, has invested deeply in making a success of Ukraine’s Feb. 2014 revolution, when protesters forced a Russian-backed leader to flee and pro-Western opposition figures took over.

A look at statements issued by Biden’s office shows that since 2014 the vice president spoke by telephone 40 times with Poroshenko and 16 times with Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.

That is in addition to four visits by Biden to Kiev since the change in power, and multiple meetings with Poroshenko and Yatseniuk in Washington and in Europe. Biden was not alone in spending time on Ukraine. In 2014, U.S officials and members of congress paid more than 100 visits to Ukraine, according to a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

Yet despite intense efforts by the White House the project is now in danger of unraveling.

If that happens, it will be a squandered opportunity for Ukraine to break a 25-year cycle of chaos and corruption and would rob the Obama administration of a rare foreign policy success.


When Viktor Yanukovich, the Moscow-backed Ukrainian President, fled Kiev on Feb. 21, 2014 en route to exile in Russia, Washington saw an opportunity to realize its foreign policy goals.

It hoped the new Ukraine would be the kind of free market democracy Washington wanted to promote, and also that it would pull out of Moscow’s orbit.

After Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine tried to secede, Washington doubled down on its commitment to Kiev.

Along with Europe, it imposed sanctions on Russia, even though that tipped relations between Moscow and Washington to their worst since the Cold War.

Meanwhile, the new pro-Western Ukrainian authorities faced a dire situation. War against the separatists killed thousands of people and made hundreds of thousands homeless. State coffers were empty, the currency in freefall, and business and homes still dependent on Russia for energy supplies. Soviet-era industries were held by politically-connected insiders. Corruption had become entrenched.

The International Monetary Fund agreed to keep Kiev afloat but demanded a restructuring of its debt and a swathe of reforms to its finances, politics and industry.

Initially, the news from Kiev was positive. In a statement before the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress in March this year, senior U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland reeled off a list of reforms enacted by the new authorities.

“Ukraine began to forge a new nation on its own terms,” Nuland said.

That was a welcome bright spot for an administration that had suffered foreign policy setbacks in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. But in the past few months Ukraine’s reform drive has stuttered.

While Kiev has made some headway on its pledges, including cleaning up its banking sector and revamping the police force, many promises have either stalled in parliament or remained on paper onlFor example, little progress has been made in reforming the office of the general prosecutor, which U.S. officials and other Western supporters have repeatedly said should be a key focus of efforts to root out cronyism and graft.

After much wrangling, the Ukrainian parliament on Friday approved next year’s budget, a prerequisite to secure the next tranche of $17.5 billion in IMF loans.

However, it remains to be seen whether the budget meets all the requirements of the IMF. Previous amendments to the tax system were only temporary, and a new tax code is still pending.

Meanwhile, public disputes have broken out between allies of the president and Yatseniuk, whose partnership had formed the core of the reform push.

There was a mass brawl in parliament earlier this month between feuding members of the ruling pro-European coalition that saw Yatseniuk lifted from his feet by an irate lawmaker.

Days later, during a meeting that was supposed to discuss reform but turned into a shouting match about corruption, the interior minister threw a glass of water at Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia who took Ukrainian citizenship and was appointed a regional governor by Poroshenko.


At his meetings in Kiev with Poroshenko, Biden delivered a warning, according to a source close to the Ukrainian president who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“Biden showed that results are important to the United States. That the current team have a last chance to do something,” the source said, when asked what was discussed during their latest meeting in Kiev. “Patience is close to running out.”

Preaching against corruption is not easy when any hope of resurrecting Ukraine’s economy depends on reviving the very industries that have been crooked for decades.

Just months after Ukraine’s revolution, Biden’s own son Hunter Biden took a post as a director of a Ukrainian gas company. The New York Times said “the credibility of the vice president’s anti-corruption message may have been undermined” by the role. Biden says he and his son do not discuss business.

According to several Ukrainian lawmakers who spoke to Reuters, the prime minister may be dismissed early next year, possibly after losing a vote of no confidence in parliament. That could trigger an early parliamentary election.

Losing Yatseniuk would be a blow for U.S. policy in Ukraine. In a leaked recording of a telephone call between Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev, she described him by the affectionate nickname “Yats.” Washington sees Yatseniuk, a fluent English speaker, as the lynchpin of Ukraine’s reform effort.

According to a second source close to Poroshenko, Washington will work with any prime minister, as long as a reformist coalition keeps power.

“Their view is — sort out the top people yourselves,” the second source said of Washington’s approach.

“The main thing is to save the coalition and prevent any backwards steps. The two main points the Americans are pushing at Kiev are 1) protect political stability, 2) strictly fulfill the IMF demands on which financial help depends,” the source said.

If he was forceful in his meetings with Ukrainian officials behind closed doors, Biden was only slightly less blunt in a public speech to the Ukrainian parliament.

“If you fail, the experiment fails,” he said in his speech, during which he appeared to be trying to address his remarks as much towards the box where the government sits as to lawmakers.

“It may be your last moment. Please for the sake of the rest of us, selfishly on my part, don’t waste it. Seize the opportunity. Build a better future for the people of Ukraine.”

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kiev and; Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Peter Graff)


The Washington Post’s world of good and evil

December 28, 2015

by Danielle Ryan


No other country, with the exception of maybe China, gets as much of a look in as Russia does from the Washington Post’s editorial board.

It’s hardly strange that the newspaper would focus some of its attention on Russia, an increasingly influential global player, but it does seem to have a bit of a bee in its bonnet about the old enemy.

Reading the Post’s editorials on matters of global affairs is like an exercise in understanding the very worst imaginable interpretation of American exceptionalism — and the latest dispatch on Syria is a perfect example. The headline reads: “A UN resolution on Syria is shattered – and Russia is to blame.”

The UN resolution referred to by the Post stated that all parties must “immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects” as well as “any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment.” Leaving aside the laughable notion that the US itself would adhere to such a resolution and “immediately cease” anything whatsoever, let’s take a look at what concerned the Post.

Two days after the resolution was passed, the editorial says, Russia carried out strikes in the northern Syrian provincial capital of Idlib “killing scores of civilians”. It is not for this writer to judge the authenticity of that claim or to question the word of the Post’s reporter in Beirut — and it would be ludicrous to claim Russia’s strikes have killed not one civilian, but it is at least worth noting that one of the newspaper’s original sources for the story was The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an ‘organization’ run out of a home in Coventry by one man who hasn’t visited Syria in 15 years, has received “small subsidies” from the European Union, and whose reports are at best, unreliable. Nevertheless, SOHR has become one of the single-most important “sources” of information on Syria in the Western press.

Irony lost

The Post continues on, unabashed. Secretary of State John Kerry, they chide, should be embarrassed by “this outrage” which “shattered” the UN resolution. They say this without so much of a hint of irony as the US continues to wage its illegal bombing campaign in the country they purport to care so very deeply about. They always care, you see. The more they care, the more bombs they want to drop.

And in the Post’s world, the UN is important and should be respected. Unless you’re the United States, in which case, go ahead and do whatever you want. Ever the pen-wielding champions for the spreading of good old freedom and democracy, they are always there, on the frontlines, cheering on America’s wars. It’s awfully easy to be in favor of ‘humanitarian’ military interventions when you comfort yourself with the knowledge that it’s okay, because you’re the good guys — always. But still, the board likes to be outraged (!) — and it needs to get its outrage fix from somewhere.

At least they’re consistent

Enter Russia. You have to at least hand it to the Post for its consistency. Russia and Putin continue to be the scapegoats for all seasons. There is nothing Moscow can’t be blamed for and nothing it can do right. If the Kremlin produced a cure for cancer tomorrow, the Post would re-imagine it as a sinister plot devised by Putin to put Western oncologists out of jobs.

In early October, the board warned Obama: Don’t green light Mr. Putin’s Syria project. That piece argued that the “moderate” opposition to Assad — which in the real world includes Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate Al Nusra, should be given more US anti-tank missiles and that Putin should be given “red lines”.

In November, after the Paris attacks, sensing that things were moving in Putin’s favor, and that an international anti-ISIS coalition might be in the making, they jumped in to ensure no one thought that was a good idea with a piece headlined: Teaming up with Russia in Syria could be a dangerous.

And of course, when Turkey shot down a Russian jet near the Syrian border after claiming that it had violated Turkish airspace, the Post did its bit to make sure no one was left with the wrong impression about who exactly was responsible for the incident: Russian “provocations” and “dangerous behavior of Vladimir Putin’s regime.” Reading that, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was Russia recklessly shooting planes out of the sky. One wonders would the Post’s reaction have been the same if an American warplane had been shot down in Syria? It’s certainly unlikely (to say the least) that the Post would be calling the US’s illegal flights over the war-torn country “provocations” and demanding accountability.

Occasionally, the newspaper likes to dabble in wishful thinking. Not the editorial board, but an opinion piece published by the Post in late November asked: Is Syria the beginning of the end of Putinism?

It’s our world. Everyone else just lives in it.

The Post’s penchant for US exceptionalism extends far beyond Syria. Here, they lament, Obama just “doesn’t understand” Putin’s “Eurasian ambitions”. Apparently it’s not worth noting that Russia is in fact a massive Eurasian country, unlike say, the US.

And God forbid any other countries might think they could act independently of Washington in any arena. Obama was “right to order a sail-by” in the South China Sea because “failure to respond” to the “aggression” of other countries is always the greatest sin. Meanwhile, Iran “steps up its aggression” in the Middle East. The list goes on and the Washington Post’s editorial board fails, time and again, to see the irony.

That’s the kind of world the Post’s editors live in: Black and white. Good and evil. We’re always right, you’re always wrong. Do what we say, not as we do. The destruction this kind of thinking leaves in its wake is always someone else’s problem to solve.

1 IMES GmbH, a little-known East German state company that was run by East Germany’s deputy foreign trade minister, Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski.

The East German company had been a key part of an international smuggling network, connected at several levels with the CIA, with secret bank accounts and shell companies in West Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The IMES company name had been exposed in the West back in 1985, when Swedish customs officials started investigating the activities of the ‘munitions cartel’ mentioned in the first section of this chapter. Some years later, Western intelligence agencies, including the US Iran-Contra arms and money networks, used IMES and the East German structure for secret weapons supplies to guerrilla movements in Central America. Schalck-Golodkowski had reportedly been involved in a massive, decade-long smuggling operation of weapons, antiques and even drugs.He was, however, only charged with the illicit import of military and dual-use items into East Germany between 1986 and 1989 and with the embezzlement of rather small amounts of foreign currency. He was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment in January 1996, and to 16 months’ imprisonment in 1997, respectively.In April 1999, a higher court acquitted him on the latter of the two charges.


2 BND Bundesnachrichtendienst German security service, grew out of the CIA-controlled ‘Gehlen Org.’

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