TBR News December 4, 2014

Dec 04 2014




The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. December 4, 2014: “In using the Internet to search out interesting and timely reports, one is struck by the very obvious news control in the American media. The once impressive New York Times has turned into little more than a pro-Washington gossip sheet of the same level as a high school newspaper. Unemployment and illiteracy, government corruption and growing uselessness are concealed from public view with hysterical stories about Putin’s Russia, how America is the world’s largest supplier of oil (which it isn’t) and endless stories about blacks being brutally murdered by the police. If someone is truly interested in accurate news, avoid the sensationalistic and always inaccurate blogs and look at legitimate news sites. One of the best is Reuters. A site with a slant towards the business world, neveretheless, it is usually dispassionate and quite accurate. The Guardian annoyed Washington with its coverage of Edward Snowden and was attacked by British authorities (at Washington’s strong request) and now talks about rapes in Calcutta or skin diving in Australia. Snowden is still in Russia despite Obama’s strident demands that he be extradited to American, there to face weekends in the gas chamber. And the CIA has been unable to kill him so he is now basicially ignored by the strongly controlled western media. And Europe is beginning to discover other unpleasant matters, such as the total vanishing of foreign gold deposits in American and, for the Swiss, Canadian banks. The gold was sold off some time ago, mostly to China, to pay for the endless colonial wars Obama and the neo-cons seem to love. And the growing unemployment rolls, the cancelled pensions, the devaluation of the dollar are glossed over with tittering stories about cats in trees or a flood in Bad Seepage, Ohio that destroyed benches in a public park.”


Operation AuroragoldHow the NSA Hacks Cellphone Networks Worldwide

December 4, 2014

by Ryan Gallagher ™@rj_gallagher


In March 2011, two weeks before the Western intervention in Libya, a secret message was delivered to the National Security Agency. An intelligence unit within the U.S. military’s Africa Command needed help to hack into Libya’s cellphone networks and monitor text messages.

For the NSA, the task was easy. The agency had already obtained technical information about the cellphone carriers’ internal systems by spying on documents sent among company employees, and these details would provide the perfect blueprint to help the military break into the networks.

The NSA’s assistance in the Libya operation, however, was not an isolated case. It was part of a much larger surveillance program—global in its scope and ramifications—targeted not just at hostile countries.

According to documents contained in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on hundreds of companies and organizations internationally, including in countries closely allied to the United States, in an effort to find security weaknesses in cellphone technology that it can exploit for surveillance.

The documents also reveal how the NSA plans to secretly introduce new flaws into communication systems so that they can be tapped into—a controversial tactic that security experts say could be exposing the general population to criminal hackers.

Codenamed AURORAGOLD, the covert operation has monitored the content of messages sent and received by more than 1,200 email accounts associated with major cellphone network operators, intercepting confidential company planning papers that help the NSA hack into phone networks.

One high-profile surveillance target is the GSM Association, an influential U.K.-headquartered trade group that works closely with large U.S.-based firms including Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, and Cisco, and is currently being funded by the U.S. government to develop privacy-enhancing technologies.

Karsten Nohl, a leading cellphone security expert and cryptographer who was consulted by The Intercept about details contained in the AURORAGOLD documents, said that the broad scope of information swept up in the operation appears aimed at ensuring virtually every cellphone network in the world is NSA accessible.

The operation appears aimed at ensuring virtually every cellphone network in the world is NSA accessible.

“Collecting an inventory [like this] on world networks has big ramifications,” Nohl said, because it allows the NSA to track and circumvent upgrades in encryption technology used by cellphone companies to shield calls and texts from eavesdropping. Evidence that the agency has deliberately plotted to weaken the security of communication infrastructure, he added, was particularly alarming.

“Even if you love the NSA and you say you have nothing to hide, you should be against a policy that introduces security vulnerabilities,” Nohl said, “because once NSA introduces a weakness, a vulnerability, it’s not only the NSA that can exploit it.”

NSA spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines told The Intercept in a statement that the agency “works to identify and report on the communications of valid foreign targets” to anticipate threats to the United States and its allies.

Vines said: “NSA collects only those communications that it is authorized by law to collect in response to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence requirements—regardless of the technical means used by foreign targets, or the means by which those targets attempt to hide their communications.”

The AURORAGOLD operation is carried out by specialist NSA surveillance units whose existence has not been publicly disclosed: the Wireless Portfolio Management Office, which defines and carries out the NSA’s strategy for exploiting wireless communications, and the Target Technology Trends Center, which monitors the development of new communication technology to ensure that the NSA isn’t blindsided by innovations that could evade its surveillance reach. The center’s logo is a picture of the Earth overshadowed by a large telescope; its motto is “Predict – Plan – Prevent.”

The NSA documents reveal that, as of May 2012, the agency had collected technical information on about 70 percent of cellphone networks worldwide—701 of an estimated 985—and was maintaining a list of 1,201 email “selectors” used to intercept internal company details from employees. (“Selector” is an agency term for a unique identifier like an email address or phone number.) From November 2011 to April 2012, between 363 and 1,354 selectors were “tasked” by the NSA for surveillance each month as part of AURORAGOLD, according to the documents. The secret operation appears to have been active since at least 2010.

The information collected from the companies is passed onto NSA “signals development” teams that focus on infiltrating communication networks. It is also shared with other U.S. Intelligence Community agencies and with the NSA’s counterparts in countries that are part of the so-called “Five Eyes” surveillance alliance—the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Aside from mentions of a handful of operators in Libya, China, and Iran, names of the targeted companies are not disclosed in the NSA’s documents. However, a top-secret world map featured in a June 2012 presentation on AURORAGOLD suggests that the NSA has some degree of “network coverage” in almost all countries on every continent, including in the United States and in closely allied countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and France.

One of the prime targets monitored under the AURORAGOLD program is the London-headquartered trade group, the GSM Association, or the GSMA, which represents the interests of more than 800 major cellphone, software, and internet companies from 220 countries.

The GSMA’s members include U.S.-based companies such as Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Microsoft, Facebook, Intel, Cisco, and Oracle, as well as large international firms including Sony, Nokia, Samsung, Ericsson, and Vodafone.

The trade organization brings together its members for regular meetings at which new technologies and policies are discussed among various “working groups.” The Snowden files reveal that the NSA specifically targeted the GSMA’s working groups for surveillance.

Claire Cranton, a spokeswoman for the GSMA, said that the group would not respond to details uncovered by The Intercept until its lawyers had studied the documents related to the spying.

“If there is something there that is illegal then they will take it up with the police,” Cranton said.

By covertly monitoring GSMA working groups in a bid to identify and exploit security vulnerabilities, the NSA has placed itself into direct conflict with the mission of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, or NIST, the U.S. government agency responsible for recommending cybersecurity standards in the United States. NIST recently handed out a grant of more than $800,000 to GSMA so that the organization could research ways to address “security and privacy challenges” faced by users of mobile devices.

The revelation that the trade group has been targeted for surveillance may reignite deep-seated tensions between NIST and NSA that came to the fore following earlier Snowden disclosures. Last year, NIST was forced to urge people not to use an encryption standard it had previously approved after it emerged NSA had apparently covertly worked to deliberately weaken it.

Jennifer Huergo, a NIST spokewoman, told The Intercept that the agency was “not aware of any activities by NSA related to the GSMA.” Huergo said that NIST would continue to work towards “bringing industry together with privacy and consumer advocates to jointly create a robust marketplace of more secure, easy-to-use, privacy-enhancing solutions.”


Encryption attack

The NSA focuses on intercepting obscure but important technical documents circulated among the GSMA’s members known as “IR.21s.”

Most cellphone network operators share IR.21 documents among each other as part of agreements that allow their customers to connect to foreign networks when they are “roaming” overseas on a vacation or a business trip. An IR.21, according to the NSA documents, contains information “necessary for targeting and exploitation.”

The details in the IR.21s serve as a “warning mechanism” that flag new technology used by network operators, the NSA’s documents state. This allows the agency to identify security vulnerabilities in the latest communication systems that can be exploited, and helps efforts to introduce new vulnerabilities “where they do not yet exist.”

The IR.21s also contain details about the encryption used by cellphone companies to protect the privacy of their customers’ communications as they are transmitted across networks. These details are highly sought after by the NSA, as they can aid its efforts to crack the encryption and eavesdrop on conversations.

Last year, the Washington Post reported that the NSA had already managed to break the most commonly used cellphone encryption algorithm in the world, known as A5/1. But the information collected under AURORAGOLD allows the agency to focus on circumventing newer and stronger versions of A5 cellphone encryption, such as A5/3.

The documents note that the agency intercepts information from cellphone operators about “the type of A5 cipher algorithm version” they use, and monitors the development of new algorithms in order to find ways to bypass the encryption.

In 2009, the British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters conducted a similar effort to subvert phone encryption under a project called OPULENT PUP, using powerful computers to perform a “crypt attack” to penetrate the A5/3 algorithm, secret memos reveal. By 2011, GCHQ was collaborating with the NSA on another operation, called WOLFRAMITE, to attack A5/3 encryption. (GCHQ declined to comment for this story, other than to say that it operates within legal parameters.)

The extensive attempts to attack cellphone encryption have been replicated across the Five Eyes surveillance alliance. Australia’s top spy agency, for instance, infiltrated an Indonesian cellphone company and stole nearly 1.8 million encryption keys used to protect communications, the New York Times reported in February.

The NSA’s documents show that it focuses on collecting details about virtually all technical standards used by cellphone operators, and the agency’s efforts to stay ahead of the technology curve occasionally yield significant results. In early 2010, for instance, its operatives had already found ways to penetrate a variant of the newest “fourth generation” smartphone-era technology for surveillance, years before it became widely adopted by millions of people in dozens of countries.

The NSA says that its efforts are targeted at terrorists, weapons proliferators, and other foreign targets, not “ordinary people.” But the methods used by the agency and its partners to gain access to cellphone communications risk significant blowback.

According to Mikko Hypponen, a security expert at Finland-based F-Secure, criminal hackers and foreign government adversaries could be among the inadvertent beneficiaries of any security vulnerabilities or encryption weaknesses inserted by the NSA into communication systems using data collected by the AURORAGOLD project.

            “If there are vulnerabilities on those systems known to the NSA that are not being patched on purpose, it’s quite likely they are being misused by completely other kinds of attackers,” said Hypponen. “When they start to introduce new vulnerabilities, it affects everybody who uses that technology; it makes all of us less secure.”

“It affects everybody who uses that technology; it makes all of us less secure.”In December, a surveillance review panel convened by President Obama concluded that the NSA should not “in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software.” The panel also recommended that the NSA should notify companies if it discovers previously unknown security vulnerabilities in their software or systems—known as “zero days” because developers have been given zero days to fix them—except in rare cases involving “high priority intelligence collection.”

In April, White House officials confirmed that Obama had ordered NSA to disclose vulnerabilities it finds, though qualified that with a loophole allowing the flaws to be secretly exploited so long as there is deemed to be “a clear national security or law enforcement” use.

Vines, the NSA spokeswoman, told The Intercept that the agency was committed to ensuring an “open, interoperable, and secure global internet.”

“NSA deeply values these principles and takes great care to honor them in the performance of its lawful foreign-intelligence mission,” Vines said.

She declined to discuss the tactics used as part of AURORAGOLD, or comment on whether the operation remains active.



NYT Shows How Propaganda Works

December 2, 2014

by Robert Parry

Consortium News

In the multilayered double standards of its international coverage, the New York Times demonstrates how propaganda works: Outrage is the only appropriate response when an adversary breaks a rule but a shrug is okay when it’s “our side.” Plus, there must be perfect evidence to accuse “our side” of an offense but anything goes when it’s an adversary.

Recent Times’ articles illustrate how this hypocrisy works. Take, for example, international law, especially prohibitions against aggression. When the topic is Ukraine and the alleged violator is Russia, no extreme is too extreme in denouncing Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. But the concern about international law simply disappears when discussing Syria and the desirability of U.S. President Barack Obama overthrowing the government there.

In Ukraine, despite the murky circumstances surrounding last February’s coup d’etat ousting the elected president and unleashing war in the ethnic Russian east, the Times refuses to see any merit in the Russian side of the argument. It’s all about the sacred principle of non-intervention; the mitigating circumstances don’t matter.

However, when it comes to demanding Obama dispatch the U.S. military to take out Syria’s government, the Times forgets international law; it’s all about the mitigating circumstances that justify the U.S. bombing of Syrian government troops and paving the way for a rebel victory.

A good example of this is a Nov. 28 article by Times correspondent Anne Barnard that hammers Obama over the supposed inconsistencies in his policy of bombing Islamic State radicals inside Syria but not also turning the U.S. military loose against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Barnard writes that anti-Assad forces inside Syria “conclude, increasingly, that the Obama administration is siding with Mr. Assad, that by training United States firepower solely on the Islamic State it is aiding a president whose ouster is still, at least officially, an American goal.

“Their dismay reflects a broader sense on all sides that President Obama’s policies on Syria and the Islamic State remain contradictory, and the longer the fight goes on without the policies being resolved, the more damage is being done to America’s standing in the region.”

It may be a fair point that the U.S. military strikes inside Syria against Islamic State radicals, who have also seized territory in Iraq, is at least a technical violation of international law, but the Syrian government has acquiesced to these attacks since they are aimed at a rebel force that is widely regarded as terrorist. Thus, the bombings have some color of legitimacy.

However, attacking Syrian government forces is a horse of an entirely different color. That would be a clear-cut violation of international law. It would be a war of aggression deemed by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II to be the “supreme international crime” because it “contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Yet, this important legal point is entirely missing from the Times article, which focuses instead on how Obama has offended Assad’s opponents by attacking the Islamic State, not Assad.

In effect, the Times is pushing the neoconservative line that the United States should first undertake “regime change” in Syria before it deals with the Islamic State. In making that case, the Times not only leaves out the question of international law but gives short-shrift to the danger that destroying Assad’s military might open the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda’s affiliate Nusra Front, the only two effective fighting forces among the Syrian rebels.


Addressing International Law


A more professional news article would have seriously addressed both the international law issue and the dangers inherent in a U.S.-driven Syrian “regime change,” including the very real possibility that a jihadist victory in the heart of the Middle East could force a full-scale U.S. military intervention, requiring hundreds of thousands of troops and costing hundreds of billions of dollars.

Indeed, the Times’ coverage of the Syrian crisis often looks like a replay of the newspaper’s gullible acceptance of the neocon-predicted “cakewalk” through Iraq in 2003. In the Iraq War, too, there was scant attention paid to the question of the United States violating international law and to the chance that the invasion might not go as smoothly as the neocons dreamt.

While ignoring the issue of U.S. aggression in a war on Syria, the Times presents the Ukraine crisis as a simple matter of Russian “aggression” by leaving out the context of a U.S.-backed coup on Feb. 22 that forced President Viktor Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives and prompting resistance to the new order from eastern and southern Ukraine which had been Yanukovych’s political base.

As former Rep. Dennis Kucinich has written, this important background – and the earlier expansion of NATO into eastern Europe – would put the Ukraine story in a very different light: “NATO encirclement, the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine, an attempt to use an agreement with the European Union to bring NATO into Ukraine at the Russian border, a U.S. nuclear first-strike policy, are all policies which attempt to substitute force for diplomacy.

“Russia’s response to the terror unleashed by western-backed neo-nazis in Crimea and Odessa came after the local population appealed to Russia to protect them from the violence. Russia then agreed to Crimea joining the Russian Federation, a reaffirmation of an historic relationship.

“The Western press begins its narrative on the Crimea situation with the annexation, but completely ignores the provocations by the West and other causal factors which resulted in the annexation. This distortion of reality is artificially creating an hysteria about Russian aggressiveness, another distortion which could pose an exceptionally dangerous situation for the world, if acted upon by other nations. The U.S. Congress is responding to the distortions, not to the reality.”


Propaganda Vehicle


Another way that the New York Times makes itself useful as a neocon propaganda vehicle is by applying two radically different standards for proof when an accusation is made. If, for instance, anyone notes that U.S.-funded “non-governmental organizations” played a behind-the-scenes role in instigating the Ukrainian coup – even though there is clear documentary evidence from the public reports of the National Endowment for Democracy and similar U.S.-funded entities – that is deemed a “conspiracy theory.”

However, if you want to accuse the Russians of secretly financing anti-fracking groups in Romania, you don’t need any evidence at all, just vague assertions. So, on Dec. 1, the Times published a lengthy article by Andrew Higgins promoting the Romanian government’s suspicions that local environmental groups which have blocked Chevron’s use of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas are fronts for Russia’s energy industry.

The article acknowledges that “this belief that Russia is fueling the protests, shared by officials in Lithuania, where Chevron also ran into a wave of unusually fervent protests and then decided to pull out, has not yet been backed up by any clear proof. And [Russia’s] Gazprom has denied accusations that it has bankrolled anti-fracking protests.

“But circumstantial evidence, plus large dollops of Cold War-style suspicion, have added to mounting alarm over covert Russian meddling to block threats to its energy stranglehold on Europe.”

It’s not exactly clear what the Times’ “circumstantial evidence” is either, but the article next turns to more unsubstantiated accusations aired in September by then-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who “pointed a finger at Russia” by citing its alleged support for NGOs, another hypocritical twist because many NGOs are actually funded by the U.S. government and are deployed to disrupt or destabilize adversaries around the world.

Ignoring this hypocrisy, Rasmussen declared: “Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called nongovernmental organizations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas.”

Again, the Times notes that Rasmussen presented no proof, saying that his judgment was based on what NATO allies had reported. Yet, despite this admitted lack of evidence, the Times still devotes portions of two pages to this Russian-hand-hidden-behind-the-anti-fracking-cause hypothesis. If such flimsy speculation were aimed at the United States, it would be laughed off as a paranoid conspiracy theory or labeled “disinformation.”

Also not noted in the Times article is Rasmussen’s record for getting facts wrong. As Danish prime minister in 2003, he supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and famously declared that “Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think; it is something we know. Iraq has itself admitted that it has had mustard gas, nerve gas, anthrax, but Saddam won’t disclose. He won’t tell us where and how these weapons have been destroyed. We know this from the UN inspectors, so there is no doubt in my mind.”

Of course, pretty much everything that Rasmussen declared about Iraq’s WMD was wrong, but it succeeded in tricking the Danish parliament into voting to join Bush’s “coalition of the willing” to invade Iraq. Rasmussen was later rewarded for his role in this aggressive war against Iraq by getting a plum job as NATO secretary general where he similarly has hyped alarms about Russia.

Yet, the New York Times ignores this history as this “newspaper of record” applies its endless double standards to ratchet up tensions in Syria and Ukraine.


Stop Talking about NATO Membership for Ukraine

by Christoph Schult in Brussels

December 3, 2014



            The president of Ukraine is talking up the idea of a national referendum to join NATO, an idea that the military alliance’s chief has openly supported. But such a debate is dangerous — because it divides member states and provides Putin with powerful ammunition.

Just to be sure there is no misunderstanding: Vladimir Putin bears primarily responsibility for the new Cold War between the West and Russia. These days, you have to make that clear before criticizing Western policies so as not to be shoved into the pro-Putin camp.

When NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels today, the question of Ukraine’s possible future membership in the alliance is not on the agenda. It will, however, overshadow the meeting — and that is the fault of two politicians.

During an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday night, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he would like to hold a referendum on NATO membership at some point in the future. And new NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg apparently had nothing better to do than to offer Poroshenko his verbal support and to reiterate the right of every sovereign nation in Europe to apply for NATO membership. As if that weren’t enough, Stoltenberg added in comments directed at Moscow that “no third country outside NATO can veto” its enlargement.


Playing with Fire


In the current tense environment, open speculation about possible Ukrainian membership in NATO is akin to playing with fire. German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed the former Norwegian prime minister as NATO chief because he is considered to be a far more level-headed politician than predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen. But since he took the helm, differences between the two have been difficult to identify. Hawkish statements made by NATO’s top military commander, Philip Breedlove, haven’t done much to ease the situation either.

Why is it even necessary for NATO officers to comment so frequently about Ukraine? Since the outbreak of the crisis, the alliance has expressed the opinion that the conflict cannot be resolved through military means. If that’s true, then wouldn’t it be better if Stoltenberg, Breedlove and company kept quiet?

Doing anything else is advantageous to Putin while at the same time sowing division in Europe. It makes it easy for the Russian president to blather about the supposed expansionist policies of the West. When it comes to the EU, of course, Putin is contradicting himself. He once said: “If the EU accepts Ukraine as a member, Russia, I think, would welcome this.” Last year, he suddenly and surprisingly changed course.

But Putin has always seen NATO membership for Ukraine as a red line. Even if NATO is focused on defense, it is still a military alliance. It can only be powerful, however, when all 28 member states share the same position. And herein lies the problem: Only a small minority — comprised primarily of the Baltic states and Poland — currently support Ukrainian accession to the alliance. All others adhere to the principle that each accession should not only be beneficial to the new member, but also to the community as a whole. It’s difficult to see at the moment how Ukraine might benefit NATO.

In that sense, there is only one right answer in response to Poroshenko’s musings. It’s the one formulated by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. “I see a partner relationship between Ukraine and NATO, but not membership,” the foreign minister told SPIEGEL ONLINE last week.

Or, to put it more simply, the question of Ukrainian membership isn’t even on the agenda.


American War Machine Ramping Up for Revenge:

U.S. Media Role is to Pacify the Nation

by John Stanton

“The most effectual engines for pacifying a nation are the public papers… A despotic government always keeps a kind of standing army of news-writers who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, invent and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the

people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper.” Thomas Jefferson

“Freedom of the press is another of the principal slogans of pure democracy…The capitalists have always use the term freedom to mean freedom for the rich to get richer and for the workers to starve to death. In capitalist usage freedom of the press means freedom of the rich to bribe the press and freedom to use their wealth to shape and fabricate so-called public opinion. In this respect, too, the defenders of pure democracy prove to be defenders of an utterly foul and venal system that gives the rich control over the mass media.

They prove to be deceivers of the people, who, with the aid of plausible, fine-sounding, but thoroughly false phrases, divert them from the concrete historical task of liberating the press from capitalist enslavement…” V.I. Lenin

According to Stars & Stripes, United States Air Force Captain William Dubois—30 years old–was killed when the F-16 he was piloting on a mission against the Islamic State crashed. Marine Lance Cpl. Sean Neal, 19, of Riverside, California died in Iraq from a noncombat related injury. Marine Cpl. Jordan Spears, 21, of Memphis, Ind., was lost at sea while conducting flight operations in the North Arabian Gulf.

Does anyone care or even notice?

These deaths were part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the American military operation designed to eliminate the Islamic Caliphate and the Syrian government run by Bashar Assad. Operation Inherent Resolve is a minor sub-plot in the grand opera/geo-strategy of the United States of America. The final act of the geopolitical opera envisioned by the grand brains of the United States is to either contain or

destabilize Russia and China, and corral the lesser BRICS (Brazil, India, and South Africa).

Over the past two decades the United States and Western Europe have been burned badly by the shoddy thinking of its strategists, economists, financiers, policy makers, politicians, academicians and military leaders.

They chose to sacrifice trillions of dollars (US) in treasure and millions of lives (soldiers, civilians killed, wounded, displaced) only to lose the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya. They have created chaos in the Middle East/Persian Gulf apparently by design.

They stood idly by while Palestinian children were slaughtered by Israel. They clapped quietly as a military coup was undertaken in Egypt that restored the dictatorial status quo there meaning arms transfers and military cooperation could return to normal.

The Americans and West Europeans incited revolution in Ukraine and looked the other way as Nazi’s brazenly assisted in the overthrow of a democratically elected government there. When Russia balked and smartly seized Crimea the Americans and Europeans were embarrassingly out maneuvered. When China allowed Edward Snowden (NSA whistleblower) to leave Hong Kong and Russia decided to allow him to stay in Russia, the Americans and Europeans were aghast at knowing they were, once again outmatched.

Further, the dunderheads in America and Western Europe finally succeeded in bringing an old Cold War nightmare to reality: their self-aggrandizing actions caused Russia and China to embrace in the form of economic and military trade deals that cut out the United States and Europe. Once again Russia has bested the Americans and Western Europeans by ditching the South Stream pipeline in favor of a pipeline toTurkey leaving Southern Europe in energy jeopardy.


In the cities and towns of the United States and Western Europe citizens are on edge about matters of lifesecurity: employment, food, shelter, clothing, health insurance, education. Millions are unemployed or just culled from the statistical tables, forgotten. Children are going hungry. Immigrants are feeling the brunt of

national anxiety/jingoism as they always do before street violence and war take place.

Class warfare is visible from the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to Detroit, Michigan. The classic hit song “Monster” by Steppenwolf sums it up “The cities have turned into jungles and corruption is strangling’ the land. The police force is watching the people and the people just can’t understand. We don’t know how to mind our own business ‘cause the whole world’s got to be just like us. Now we are fighting a war over there, no matter who’s the winner we can’t pay the cost.” The United States of America can’t even field a high speed bullet train.

Only a global economic and kinetic war is going to satiate the hunger for revenge that the top echelons of American and Western European leadership currently display.

American President Obama will initiate the big war and President Jeb Bush will accelerate it. During the American presidential election all citizens will agree that the big war for American dominance is a given and not up for debate. The flood gates of cash will be opened by the US Congress even as social security and safety net benefits are slashed. It has all been decided in advance.

And now’s the time for war. Who is going to cover the war for the masses? How will anyone really know what’s going on?

Is it not genius that the media that would have provided the public with war news has been crippled through the prosecution and intimidation of journalists like James Risen, or of whistleblowers like John Kiriakou anguishing in a federal prison? Then there is the collusion between the American government and media concerns like the New York Times which makes determining what is propaganda and actionable news difficult. The world knows that the US government, through the National Security Agency, is listening in:

Those who might lead antiwar rebellions, or write contrarian reports, can be tracked and eliminated. According to the Pew Research Journalism Project 25 percent of the 952 local television stations in the United States do not produce their own news products relying instead on contractors or sharing arrangements with third parties. Newsroom reductions in force continue across most mainstream media brands which–in spite of the hype over niche news outlets like Buzzfeed, Mashable, Politico, Vice News and Vox–still produce the bulk of the news products that Americans feed off of. And mainstream media continues to cut its news sectors. According to the Pew Research Journalism Project, “Full-time professional newsroom employment declined another 6.4% in 2012 with more losses expected for 2013.

Gannett alone is estimated to have cut 400 newspaper jobs while the Tribune Co. announced 700 (not all of them in the newsroom).”

A clear and present danger to the reading, listening and seeing public is the growth of sponsored/biased journalism masking as news. Native advertising is a multibillion dollar industry and growing. Nearly every news organization in the United States is in on the game in which requiring journalists/reporters write with

the sponsor/advertiser in mind, not the public and national interest.

Custom Propaganda

According to the Pew Research Journalism Project “the overlap between public relations and news noted in last year’s State of the News Media report became even more pronounced. One of the greatest areas of revenue experimentation now involves website content that is paid for by commercial advertisers – but often written by journalists on staff – and placed on a news publishers’ page in a way that sometimes makes it indistinguishable from a news story. Following the lead of early adapters like The Atlantic and Mashable, native advertising, as it is called by the industry, caught on rapidly in 2013. The New York Times, The Washington Post and most recently The Wall Street Journal have now begun or announced plans to begin devoting staff to this kind of advertising, often as a part of a new “custom content division.” EMarketer predicts that native ads spending will reach $2.85 billion by 2014. Many of these publishers initiallyexpressed caution over such ads, with Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker even describing itas a “Faustian pact.” In the end, though, many publishers eventually came down with a conclusion similarto Baker’s, who said that he was “confident that our readers will appreciate what is sponsor-generatedcontent and what is content from our global staff,” according to a statement released by The Journal. That may be the case, and it could also be the case that stories created for and paid for by advertisers do not bother consumers as long as they are a good read. At this point, though, there is little if any public data that speak to consumer response one way or the other.”

A similar model has long been in operation with heavyweight think tanks like the Brookings Institution who receive funding from foreign sources/sponsors to, ultimately, influence policy makers in Washington, DC. Once again the notorious non-profit NGO’s reveal their true colors: “Show us the money and we’ll justify anything!

Perhaps the day will come when the pundits, journalists, think tank mavens, and retired war machine veterans will be required to dress like NASCAR or Formula One race car drivers whose clothing is littered with patches advertising this and that corporation/sponsor.

Mind, Soul and Dreams Owned by Disney, Comcast, Fox, CBS, Pearson

Do you spends hours watching television until you drift into sleep? Do you read a newspaper or magazine during breakfast or lunch? Do you frequent websites that only cater to your ideology? What feeds your mind and creates your identity?

Who, really, are you? It’s an important question to ask yourself.

In the original Total Recall Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a character named Quaid. He thinks that he really is Quaid, a construction worker married to a beautiful wife played by the Sharon Stone. Events transpire that reveal Quaid is really Hauser, a sinister government agent (also played by Schwarzenegger) in collusion with the oppressive Governor Cohaagen of a Mars mining colony. After a violent encounter with Cohaagen’s henchmen, Quaid discovers he has killing skills he was unaware of. A rough and tumble scene with Stone follows and ends with Stone revealing to Quaid: “Your whole life is just a dream…implanted by ‘the agency.’”

Later Quaid comes to find out that he really is Hauser. This revelation comes via Hauser speaking to Quaid from a prerecorded video displayed on a laptop television: “Hauser: Howdy, stranger! This is Hauser. If things have gone wrong, I’m talking to myself and you don’t have a wet towel around your head. Now, whatever your name is, get ready for the big surprise. You are not you, you’re me.”

Here is a sampling of the vertically integrated companies that make you not you, but them: Disney owns ABC News, ESPN, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel Comics, Cruise Lines, Hyperion Books and Reedy Energy Services. Comcast owns NBC Universal, the Philadelphia Flyers, and is attempting to acquire Time Warner Cable. Fox News Corporation owns the Dow Jones & Company (Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, DJX, etc.), Harper Collins Publishers, Move, Inc. (real estate news), 20th Century Fox, Fox News Channel, and Amplify (educational products for K-12). CBS owns Simon & Schuster, CNET, the Smithsonian Network, and 130 radio stations. Time Warner owns CNN, Time magazine, HBO, MAX, Sports Illustrated Kids, and People Magazine. Pearson influences the course of American education through its publishing houses, digital learning platforms, and a 50 percent interest in the Economist Magazine, Penguin Random House and the Financial Times.

Millions of 19, 21 and 30 year olds—civilians and not–are going to going to be killed, maimed, wounded and displaced in the coming years. Try to find out why.


John Stanton is a Virginia based writer. Reach him at captainkong22@gmail.com


Party On! The War Party Ascendant

by Tom Engelhardt



It was the end of the road for Chuck Hagel last week and the Washington press corps couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about writing his obituary. In terms of pure coverage, it may not have been Ferguson or the seven-foot deluge of snow that hit Buffalo, New York, but the avalanche of news reports was nothing to be sniffed at. There had been a changing of the guard in wartime Washington. Barack Obama’s third secretary of defense had gone down for the count. In the phrase of the moment, he had “resigned under pressure.” Sayonara, Chuck!

With a unanimity that crossed political lines, the accounts read as if written by a single reporter. The story went something like this: two years earlier, President Obama had brought in Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former Republican senator with a reputation for being leery about the overuse of American military power, to wind down the war in Afghanistan, rein in military critics, and put the Pentagon budget on something closer to a peacetime footing. After a bruising Senate confirmation hearing from which he never recovered, he proved poor at “messaging” the president’s policies, had a “crappy relationship” with National Security Adviser (and Obama buddy) Susan Rice, proved a weak manager at the Department of Defense as well as a “weak link” in the Obama national security team, and could never break into the president’s tight-knit circle of insiders who — everyone agreed — had a nasty habit of “micromanaging” America’s wars (rather than, it seemed, letting the military do what needed to be done). In the end, the president “lost confidence” in him. It was a “mutual” firing or at least Hagel had advanced somewhat voluntarily toward the edge of the cliff before being pushed off.

A subcategory of Hagel reports also bloomed, again adding up to something like a single story.  In them, various journalists and commentators offered instant speculation on whom the president would invite to fill Hagel’s post. Topping everyone’s “short list”: Senator and former Army Ranger Jack Reed of Rhode Island, war fightin’ liberal and former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy (much beloved by neocons and Republicans), and hawkish former Pentagon “weapons buyer” Ashton Carter (the ultimate nominee). Unfortunately for the press, Reed and Flournoy promptly made mincemeat out of the collective wisdom of the moment, emphatically removing their names from consideration. Politico reported the Flournoy rejection this way: “Flournoy’s withdrawal comes amid speculation President Barack Obama is looking for a candidate who would be deferential to a White House that’s increasingly exerting control over Pentagon decisions.”  Nothing, however, could stop the march of the news, whose focus simply switched to other potential job applicants. Striking was the eagerness of assorted journalists and pundits to act like employment agency headhunters vetting exactly the same list of candidates for the president.

Such journalism, of course, qualifies as the very definition of insiderdom and it led, implicitly or explicitly, to the crowning of Barack Obama as a “war president” for the final two years of his term. In the end, however, the media was less reporting on developments than reproducing them. The result: a record as collectively claustrophobic as post-9/11 Washington itself.

These days, it’s often pointed out by those who pass for Washington critics of the Obama administration that the crises are backing up like a Thanksgiving traffic jam across a remarkable swath of the planet — and that the president’s national security team has proven “dysfunctional” when it comes to dealing with them. It’s seldom acknowledged, however, that the most essential crisis isn’t in Ukraine or Iraq or Syria or Afghanistan or Iran, but in Washington. There, a bankrupt 13-year-old policy of war to the horizon remains, unbelievably enough, in the ascendancy and “war fever” seems to be breaking out yet again.

            In this context, it’s curious that four crucial aspects of war, American-style, were missing from the blitz of Hagel reportage. Here’s a rundown.

1. The War Party Ascendant: It’s always best to start with the obvious, even if everyone prefers to ignore it.  So let’s begin with the simple fact that the recent midterm elections swept the Republicans into the Senate in dominating numbers and strengthened their already dominating control of the House of Representatives.  In war terms, this has only one meaning: a flock of new (and old) hawks heading into Washington.  In truth, though, on such issues there is really only one party in the nation’s capital and that’s the War Party.  In addition, if Washington commentary is to be believed, the next secretary of defense will be an unmitigated war-fighter.  The math for dummies explanation on that: no other candidate nominated by a Democratic president would have a hope in hell of making it through a confirmation process overseen by the assumed new head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain.  Add in an occupant of the Oval Office resigned to war presidency status and you can already see the big picture coming into focus.

Recent moves have only emphasized the latest war trajectory.  Just post-election, the president doubled the number of advisers in Iraq (with hints of more “boots on the ground” to come and the possibility of actual combat troops lurking somewhere in the prospective future).  Next came news that those advisers were being hustled into the country at a double-time pace.  Soon after that came word that more air power — A-10 Warthog jets and Reaper drones — was being transferred to the Iraq/Syria theater.

Meanwhile, in a reversal of a long-stated position — that the American combat role in Afghanistan was to end this year — the president recently issued a secret directive green-lighting just such a role, both on the ground and in the air, for 2015.  Soon after, the new Afghan president, clearly under American pressure, lifted a ban on controversial U.S.-supported “night raids” in his country, and reports began filtering out that the trajectory of withdrawal was about to end and extra U.S. troops would be added to the Afghan mix in 2015.

In other words, in the country’s two most active war zones, escalation and mission creep are already the order of the day.  Meanwhile, the pressure of Congressional war hawks has only been increasing when it comes to the Obama administration’s single major, unwarlike diplomatic initiative that might stand some chance of success: the Iranian nuclear talks.  At the same time, pressure to act more fiercely on Ukraine, including allowing the Pentagon to sell arms to its military, was on the rise.

Admittedly, the War Party has its factions and its disagreements.  Its members are quite capable of savaging each other.  (Just check out what Senator McCain did to Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearings for secretary of defense and then what he did to President Obama in defense of Hagel after his removal from office.)  One thing is evident, though: in the twilight of the Obama era, the power of the War Party is on the rise, along with that of the national security state.

And so far we’re only talking about surface manifestations of bedrock reality in Washington.  After all, ever since 9/11, that city’s political denizens have considered themselves in an eternal “wartime.”  Of course, part of everyday life in that “war capital” involves Republicans and Democrats scrambling for political advantage by squabbling endlessly over who’s rash and who’s a wimp when it comes to war policy.

The Republicans brand the president incompetent or far worse, while the president (the man who shot Osama bin Laden) endlessly thanks the troops for their valor and service while donning military paraphernalia to emphasize his strength and resolve.  But underneath all the maneuvering, the War Party thrives.  You simply can’t operate in Washington without in some fashion declaring your fealty to wartime thinking and the sanctified post-9/11 dead air that goes with it.  No alternative possibilities, no other options are on that “table” on which “all options” are always said to sit in the nation’s capital.  Should you not toe the line, the national security equivalent of excommunication is in order.  “Washington rules,” in Andrew Bacevich’s phrase, do rule the day, while new thinking is unwelcome.

Recent exhibit number one: as November wound down, Rand Paul, the son of the country’s leading libertarian non-interventionist and a man who clearly has his eye on the White House, felt obliged to more or less literally “declare war” on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in order to pledge his fealty to the War Party.

On this issue, as the Hagel coverage indicates, Washington is a suffocating place when it comes to any thought that hasn’t been thought before.  (When, by the way, was the last time you heard someone in that town mention the word “peace”?)  In the end, Hagel, who came to regret his reluctant vote to invade Iraq, evidently proved an uncomfortable fit.

2. Election 2016 as an Intra-War Party Affair: In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, Bush v. Kerry in 2004 was, of course, a war election; 2008, however, proved a curious rarity, an election about war in which Americans generally thought they had voted for an anti-war candidate (as, of course, did the Nobel Prize Committee, which — to use an ill-chosen phrase — jumped the gun in 2009 by awarding its peace prize to Barack Obama just as he was about to officially “surge” in Afghanistan).  The 2012 election was a status quo one in which, thanks to the bin Laden raid, the president had inoculated himself from Republican charges of wimpism even as he had seemingly fulfilled his previous campaign promise to end the war in Iraq.

2016 is already shaping up as a War Party election all the way.  It goes without saying that whichever Republican candidate emerges from the pack will be a war-firster, while the leading Democratic candidate of the moment, Hillary Clinton, is another war-fightin’ liberal of the first order.  No wonder Flournoy, who refused to be considered for secretary of defense now, would reportedly like to work for Clinton’s future administration in the same capacity.  Sign of the times: Clinton already seems to be gathering support from a crew of neocons who had their moment in the Bush years and evidently hope to have it again.  Right now, no matter who wins in 2016, it’s shaping up to be war to the horizon in Washington.

3. The Military Rides Ever Higher: Among the strangest aspects of the Hagel coverage was the picture painted of the relationship between the military and the White House in this period.  Despite a mind-boggling infusion of funds since 9/11 and the exponential growth of the national security state, reading the Hagel stories you might be forgiven for thinking that the military was an essentially powerless, oppressed, and frustrated crew under the thumb of hopeless goof-balls at the White House. (Nor was it ever suggested that, constitutionally speaking, this is exactly what the relationship should be, no matter who occupies the Oval Office as commander in chief.)

In fact, there are signs that the military, while indeed frustrated — who wouldn’t be given the last 13 years of American war and the prospects for the latest conflict in the Middle East? — is actually riding ever higher in the nation’s capital.

In this context, the person to keep an eye on is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.  If Hagel lost the president’s confidence, according to numerous reports Dempsey is the one who gained it.  If Hagel wasn’t much for messaging, the same can’t be said of Dempsey.  He’s been testifying up a storm before Congress and commenting in significant ways on war policy in the Middle East.  Though he’s only the head of the “staff,” he has increasingly sounded like a bona fide civilian secretary of defense, speaking out on foreign policy issues, including U.S. relations with Israel and the importance of making American troops available for actual combat duty in Iraq. (This is, of course, something the president had emphatically ruled out).  He’s also spoken in ways that have not been common for military commanders in our civilian system of government.  He has politely contradicted the president on a number of occasions.  He is also credited with getting Obama to launch the first airstrikes of the new American war in the Middle East.

It seems clear that the military high command has struggled with this president over war policy since 2009, when a fierce set of arguments over how fully to “surge” in Afghanistan — the conflict the president had called the “right war” in his election campaign — burst into view.  Generally, though, little has been seen of this struggle since then.  Still, to believe that a military clearly frustrated by its wars and a high command that now fears another campaign on the road to nowhere in Iraq and Syria is under the thumb of the president and his insular national security team is to mistake a fantasy construct for reality.

4. A Failed Experiment in War: Above all, it’s a wonder that all those journalists and commentators writing about Hagel expressed neither amazement nor befuddlement when it came to accepted thinking in Washington about war, American-style.  The nation’s capital has been conducting an experiment in war-making for more than 13 years now: there have been full-scale invasions and occupations, counterinsurgency struggles that lasted years, special ops raids of every sort, the application of overwhelming air power in a variety of ways, including an air intervention in Libya, drone assassination campaigns across the backlands of the Greater Middle East, the loosing of cruise missiles, even the first cyberwar in history.  Trillions of dollars have been spent; American troops have been deployed to war zones over and over again; almost 7,000 American lives have been lost (while thousands of active duty soldiers and reservists have, in the same period, committed suicide); tens of thousands of Americans have been wounded in action, hundreds of thousands of civilians and enemy fighters in those war zones have died, and millions of people have been uprooted and sent into internal exile or forced out of their countries.  In the process, significant parts of the Greater Middle East and more recently Africa have been destabilized in devastating ways.

Think of it as a radical experiment involving what our latest two presidents have called “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” and “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.” Despite ongoing wars and operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, among other places, the results of that experiment are in.  No single war, intervention, or minor conflict in which the U.S. military has taken part in these years has even come close to achieving the objectives set out by Washington and most have proven outright disasters.  In just about every case, armed intervention, whatever form it took, demonstrably made matters worse, increased the destabilization of whatever country or region was involved, and led to the creation of more extremists and terrorists.

Imagine for a moment a lab that ran a series of experiments for 13 straight years in almost every imaginable combination through one disastrous failure after another and then promoted the experimenters and agreed to let them repeat the process all over again. This would defy logic or simply good sense anywhere but in Washington.

To summarize: 13 years later, the War Party is ascendant.  It controls Congress.  The president is visibly, if with his usual reluctance, placing his bets on war.  The military is riding high.  The end of all calls for serious Pentagon budget cuts is clearly in sight.  And more of the same is undoubtedly in the works, no matter who wins the 2016 election.

That’s the “new” Washington.  Peacetime?  A fantasy creation of lefties, libertarians, and noodle heads.  Peace?  A dirty word that no self-respecting politician would be caught using.

Meanwhile, the war hawks are crying out for more.  At the moment, all the pressure in Washington is focused on the ramping up of its various wars and crises.  Iraq War 3.0 and Syria War 1.0 are to expand.  Afghanistan seems again to be a war on the rise.  The pressure is increasing to make Cold War 2.0 ever hotter and to ensure that negotiations with Iran over a nuclear deal will prove less than fruitful.  Drone wars are ongoing.  Special forces ops are raiding away.  Thirteen years later, we are yet again floating on what seems to be a rising, not ebbing, tide of war and the one qualification for a new secretary of defense is that he or she be a hot, not a cold, warrior.

This is the working definition of a bankrupt policy and yet you could read about the latest changes in Washington’s war establishment until you were goggle-eyed and never quite know it.

Congratulations, then, are in order for the War Party.  In the face of a seemingly obdurate reality, it has somehow perfected a system of war boosterism that operates like a dream (though some might call it a nightmare).  When it comes to war, in other words, Washington is now effectively insulated from failure.  There may be 17 major interlocked intelligence outfits in town, but rest assured, there’s no intelligence in sight. So party on!

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