TBR News February 1, 2019

Feb 01 2019

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. February 1, 2019:” We will be out of the office until February 2.” Ed

The Table of Contents

  • San Francisco Could Be First to Ban Facial Recognition Tech
  • Federal Highway Surveillance
  • House panel launches inquiry over voter rights roll-backs
  • The Shutdown Will Impact SNAP Food Stamp Beneficiaries Well Into March
  • S. judge mulls gag order on talkative Trump adviser Stone
  • Mueller will use Roger Stone’s bank records, texts and emails as evidence
  • Delete your account: leaving Facebook can make you happier, study finds
  • The Person of Jesus
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations


San Francisco Could Be First to Ban Facial Recognition Tech

January 31, 2019

by Gregory Barber


If a local tech industry critic has his way, San Francisco could become the first US city to ban its agencies from using facial recognition technology.

Aaron Peskin, a member of the city’s Board of Supervisors, proposed the ban Tuesday as part of a suite of rules to enhance surveillance oversight. In addition to the ban on facial recognition technology, the ordinance would require city agencies to gain the board’s approval before buying new surveillance technology, putting the burden on city agencies to publicly explain why they want the tools as well as the potential harms. It would also require an audit of any existing surveillance tech—things like gunshot-detection systems, surveillance cameras, or automatic license plate readers—in use by the city; officials would have to report annually on how the technology was used, community complaints, and with whom they share the data.

Those rules would follow similar ordinances passed in nearby Oakland and Santa Clara County. But with facial recognition, Peskin argues an outright ban makes more sense than regulating its use. “I have yet to be persuaded that there is any beneficial use of this technology that outweighs the potential for government actors to use it for coercive and oppressive ends,” he says.

Facial recognition technology is increasingly common for unlocking our phones and tagging our Facebook friends, but it remains rife with potential bias, especially around identifying people of color. In the hands of government, critics like Peskin argue, it enables all-too-easy access to real-time surveillance, especially given the availability of large databases of faces and names (think your driver’s license or LinkedIn).

“This is the first piece of legislation that I’ve seen that really takes facial recognition technology as seriously as it is warranted and treats it as uniquely dangerous,” says Woodrow Hartzog, professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University

Privacy laws in Texas and Illinois require anyone recording biometric data, including face scans and fingerprints, to give people notice and obtain their consent. But that’s not always so effective in practice, explains Hartzog. As the technology grows more pervasive, simply declining to participate becomes less practical. The San Francisco proposal, while not addressing private surveillance in public spaces, takes a different tack. “Moratoriums and bans prevent the technology from getting embedded in everything,” Hartzog says. “Abuse doesn’t happen at the outset. It happens when the technology becomes entrenched and dismantling it becomes unimaginable.”

Those concerns have been echoed by prominent tech executives, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who last week in Davos warned that the use of facial recognition technology could become a “race to the bottom” without government oversight. According to Microsoft, the potential for abuse may put facial recognition beyond the reach of industry self-policing.

But the technology draws continued interest from law enforcement. Amazon’s Rekognition system has been tested by police in Orlando and in Washington County, Oregon. In the Bay Area, an official at BART, the regional mass transit system, briefly floated using facial recognition technology after a string of violence at stations last fall. That proposal was swiftly swatted down by privacy advocates.Peskin is a well-known gadfly to tech, with proposals aimed at the heart of the local industry—not all of which have proceeded smoothly. Last year, in response to Facebook’s string of privacy gaffes, he sponsored legislation to strip the name of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from the city’s main public hospital. Another proposal would have banned workplace cafeterias in an effort to help restaurants struggling to woo customers.

This proposal, cosponsored by Board of Supervisors president Norman Yee, could run afoul of law enforcement agencies. A bill in the California legislature last year that would have given municipalities oversight over local law enforcement’s use of surveillance technology, and which did not single out facial recognition, failed after facing opposition from police groups. When reached for comment, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office responded that it was still reviewing the proposal, and the San Francisco Police Department said it does not comment on proposed legislation.

In any case, when San Francisco tries something, people tend to watch, says Matt Cagle, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, which supports the legislation. “The city at the core of our technology center is saying we shouldn’t deploy surveillance technologies just because we can.”


Federal Highway Surveillance

February 1, 2019

by Christian Jürs

A joint Pentagon/Department of Transportation plan is now in place and its purpose is to conduct a permanent surveillance of all motor vehicles using the Federal Highway System. Its code named is ARGUS. It was initially a part of an overall public surveillance program instituted and organized by Admiral Poindexter, convicted of various criminal acts as the result of the Iran-Contra affair and then brought back to government service by the Bush Administration. Following public disclosure of Poindexter’s manic attempts to pry into all aspects of American life and his subsequent public departure from government service (he is still so employed but as a “private consultant” and not subject to public scrutiny) many of his plans were officially scrapped. ARGUS, however, is still valid and still being developed.

Once Federal Highway Systems are covered, next this program is to be installed on all state highways.

This Orwellian nonsense consists of having unmanned video cameras installed over all Federal highways and toll roads. These cameras work 24/7 to video all passing vehicles, trucks, private cars and busses. The information is passed to a central data bank and entered therein. This is expected to show on request of any authorized law enforcement agency to include private investigative and credit agencies licensed to work with Federal law enforcement information on any user of the road systems under surveillance. Provision will be made, according to the operating plans, to notify local law enforcement immediately if any driver attempts to obscure their license plate number and instructs them to at once to “apprehend and identify” the vehicle or vehicles involved.

The only problem with implementing this ambitious program is its cost: $5 billion over a three year period.

The report estimates that this program can easily be installed and running on a nationwide basis within two years from its commencement.

It also is a Federal crime to attempt to damage or in any way interfere with these surveillance devices.


House panel launches inquiry over voter rights roll-backs

February 1, 2019

by Sarah N. Lynch


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratically controlled U.S. House Judiciary Committee launched an inquiry on Friday into the Trump administration’s decision to reverse course on several key voting rights lawsuits and its efforts to add a citizenship question to the upcoming 2020 U.S. census. In a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker seen by Reuters, the chairman of the committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler, demanded that the Justice Department turn over any internal records on a number of voting rights issues and said he was concerned by a lack of enforcement of voter rights laws in general.

The letter seeks records related to the Justice Department’s decision to drop its opposition to a contentious Ohio policy allowing the state to purge infrequent voters from registration rolls and a Texas voter identification law.

In doing do, the department reversed course from the legal positions taken during the Obama administration, which contended that the Ohio policy and Texas law disenfranchised minority and other low-income voters.

The letter also seeks records on the decision-making process that led to a plan to add a question about citizenship to the U.S. census.

A federal judge in New York last month invalidated the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, concluding that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross concealed his true motives in adding the question last March.

“Voting rights and the enforcement of voter protection laws are a high priority issue for this committee,” Nadler wrote, noting that the Justice Department stonewalled many questions on these issues previously when Republicans still held a majority in the House of Representatives and controlled the committee.

“We still have many unanswered questions about the Trump administration’s commitment to enforcing landmark voter protection laws,” he wrote.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined comment on the letter, which asks for a complete responses by Feb. 15.

Democrats earlier this week unveiled a draft bill called “For the People Act of 2019,” which would revive key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court, which required states with a track record for racial discrimination to get federal approval prior to changing their voting rules.

It would also make Election Day a federal holiday, something that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell labeled as a Democratic power grab that could open the gates to voter fraud

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Leslie Adler


The Shutdown Will Impact SNAP Food Stamp Beneficiaries Well Into March

January 30, 2019

by Brittany Shoot


There is hardly a group of Americans untouched by the government shutdown. Furloughed federal employees returned to lost passwords and jam-packed inboxes. Contractors are facing the grim reality of no back pay at all. And millions of individuals and families that rely on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are going to have to stretch their food stamps weeks longer than they normally would, according to a report released Tuesday by the left-leaning think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

With no end to the shutdown in sight, the vast majority of the USDA program’s 30 million beneficiaries received their February benefits on January 20. They will not receive additional benefits during the month of February. But with March benefits not being delivered ahead of schedule, tens of millions of people will have to make those January 20-issued food stamps stretch for 40 days instead of the 28- to 31-day cycle. And 4 million low-income households  may have to stretch their food stamps to 50 days, depending on how and exactly when SNAP is issued each month, which varies by state.

This also means food banks are expecting to see a serious uptick in demand. The report highlighted that community resource agencies would likely absorb the need created by President Trump’s government shutdown, and that finding was further supported by a CBS News report on how the erratic benefits schedule will continue to cause and exacerbate food insecurity for millions of people in the coming weeks.


U.S. judge mulls gag order on talkative Trump adviser Stone

February 1, 2019

by Sarah N. Lynch


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge said on Friday she is considering imposing a gag order on President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone, who has spoken numerous times to news organizations in the week since he was charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the ongoing Russia investigation.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said during a hearing in Washington she is considering a gag order on both Stone and the prosecution. The judge cited a number of “extrajudicial statements by the defendant” and noted that “this is a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign.”

Stone was charged with making false statements to Congress, obstruction of an official proceeding and witness tampering in an indictment secured by Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election and whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow.

Jackson said if she did impose a gag order, Stone would still be able to talk to the media about issues unrelated to Muller’s criminal case against him. The judge gave both sides until Feb. 8 to file briefs on whether they would oppose such an order.

Stone can “discuss foreign relations, immigration or Tom Brady as much as he wants to,” the judge said, referring to the star New England Patriots quarterback.

Arrested in Florida on Jan. 25, Stone pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in Washington.

Jackson previously imposed a similar gag order on Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted by a Virginia jury last year of financial wrongdoing charges brought by Mueller and pleaded guilty to other charges in Washington.

Criminal defendants typically shun the media spotlight. But Stone, a 66-year-old self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” and Republican political operative since the days of the Watergate scandal that forced his former boss President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974, has embraced it since his arrest.

The indictment accused Stone of telling unidentified members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team that he had advance knowledge of plans by the WikiLeaks website to release damaging emails about Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Stone lied to Congress about those interactions and misled the congressional panel about his efforts to learn more about WikiLeaks’ planned releases, the indictment said.

On Thursday, Stone dismissed the charges as mere “process crimes” that did not involve any intentional lies, and called Mueller’s probe politically motivated.

“Perjury requires both intent and materiality,” Stone told Reuters in an interview, adding that any  failure to disclose emails or text messages was just an “honest mistake.”       “I testified truthfully on any matter of importance,” he said.

Stone is the 34th person to be swept up into Mueller’s probe into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. Trump denies any collusion and has called Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt. Russia denies meddling in the election.

Stone said he did not even know for sure which Trump campaign officials were being referenced in the indictment and that he was never directed by the campaign to learn about future releases by WikiLeaks.

The Stone’s indictment refers to two people with whom he is accused of communicating in an effort to get more information about Wikileaks’ plans for future releases of hacked Democratic emails. Jerome Corsi, a right-wing political commentator and conspiracy theorist, previously confirmed to Reuters he is “Person 1” referenced in the indictment.

“I’m sorry Roger has been talking like he has been. I don’t have anything against Roger. He’d be well advised to be more careful,” Corsi told Reuters “… I wish Roger would just say less.”

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Will Dunham


How much of a bubble does President Trump inhabit? He just told the New York Times

February 1, 2019

by  Erik Wemple

Washington Post

The bubble under which President Trump has situated himself came to light during a Thursday discussion with A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times. Following up on a conversation with Trump from last year, Sulzberger pressed the president on worldwide threats to journalists and freedom of the press. “The concern I raised then was about your anti-press rhetoric — ‘fake news,’ ‘enemy of the people.’ At the time, I said I was concerned that it wasn’t just divisive, it was potentially dangerous and warned that I thought it could have consequences. I feel like in the time since, we’ve started to see some of those consequences play out. We’ve seen, around the world, an unprecedented rise in attacks on journalists, threats to journalists.”

During an appearance on the New York Times podcast “The Daily,” Sulzberger told host Michael Barbaro that the president showed visible interest as the topic moved to the implications of the president’s rhetoric. “As I’m saying this, he is leaning in and asking questions,” recalled Sulzberger.

“Where, in particular?” Trump asked Sulzberger.

“Globally, on every continent,” the publisher responded, offering to supply materials to back up the point. There are plenty of them.

There was more. Sulzberger emphasized the “effects” of Trump’s destructive rhetoric and asked him to reconsider using it. “If you choose not to, I want you to be aware of some of the consequences that I’m starting to see out there,” said Sulzberger.

To listen to the audio is to come away thinking that, quite possibly, this message came as news to the president.

“Would you say more so now than over the last five years?” asked Trump.


“Right now, I mean —” said Trump.


“More so now than even a year ago?” asked Trump.


Previous occupants of the Oval Office, said Sulzberger, had been steadfast defenders of press freedom, prompting Trump to reply, “I think I am, too. I want to be.” Sulzberger then asked a killer question: Were you aware of the “broad consequences that we’re seeing?” The president responded with a long version of “no.” “The person, honestly, that’s been most suggestive of that is you, more so than others,” said Trump, who noted that he had seen more use of the term “fake news.” To stroke his own ego, Trump credited himself for coining the term: “I think I was the one who started using it, I would say,” he said.

False: He jumped on a bandwagon. Even for an infamous phrase, Trump cannot claim originality. Nor can he claim a clue. When it comes to news, Trump watches cable television — with an emphasis on “Fox & Friends,” “Hannity” and “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — plus various stories and shows that may otherwise come to his attention. That the president appears to know nothing about the international climate for journalism since his rise to power attests to the skill of those programs in feeding him the news that he likes.

Speaking of which, Trump told Sulzberger and his news-side colleagues from the New York Times — reporters Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman — that he doesn’t mind a “bad story if it’s true.” That, of course, is not true, to judge from Trump’s repeated broadsides on Twitter against clearly accurate articles. Asked by Haberman about the role of the free press, Trump said that the media should describe things “accurately and fairly.”

Now for a fascinating dynamic: Both of Sulzberger’s meetings with Trump — the session last summer and Thursday’s remarkable exchange — were requested by the White House. And in Thursday’s session, Trump waved off an assistant who told him there was important business awaiting him. “What’s more important than the New York Times?” asked the president, who also blew through other yellow lights raised by aides in the Oval Office.

No particular news there. We’ve known for a long time how much Trump — who grew up in the Queens borough of New York — craves the approbation of the New York Times. Or did we? “I came from Jamaica, Queens — Jamaica Estates. I became president of the United States. I’m sort of entitled to a great story from my — just one, from my newspaper. I mean, you know,” he said, repeating that sentiment a couple of times. “I just sort of think I’m entitled to a great story from the New York Times.”

Sulzberger pointed to a certain headline on Nov. 9, 2016: “Trump Triumphs.”


Under pressure to recalibrate, defiant Trump tackles big speech

February 1, 2019

by Steve Holland


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Under pressure from fellow Republicans to reset his contentious presidency, Donald Trump plans to offer Democrats a choice in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday: Work together to make progress, or fight each other and get nothing done.He signaled on Friday that the address, an annual rite of American politics, will include extensive remarks about his standoff with Democrats over building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the subject of an intense partisan battle that prompted a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended a week ago.

Dwelling at length on this could undermine any attempt by Trump to strike a compromising tone, which many Republicans, including some close to the White House, are urging him to offer in an effort to temper his rhetoric and move past the shutdown fight.

Beyond the wall, a senior White House official told Reuters that Trump will outline what he sees as areas where Republicans and Democrats may be able to find agreement. These include a plan to fund infrastructure improvements across the country, lower the cost of prescription drugs and work to resolve long-standing differences over healthcare.

An excerpt of the speech released by the White House on Friday made clear Trump would strike a compromising tone in at least part of his address.

“Together we can break decades of political statement, we can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make,” Trump will say.

Whether the two sides are prepared to work together in any significant way is far from clear, with tensions still high over the shutdown fight and another deadline approaching on Feb. 15.

“He will offer a choice of either working together and doing great things or fighting each other and doing nothing,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The speech comes as Trump begins the second two years of his first term facing major challenges: a long-running probe into whether his 2016 presidential campaign colluded with Russia; investigations by House Democrats of his presidency and his business ventures; and difficult trade negotiations with China, among many others.

He and his advisers do not believe the shutdown fight will give him lasting scars. Many Republicans are urging him to focus on the U.S. economy in his speech and beyond, to try to broaden his appeal beyond a hard-core conservative base of voters that make up about a third of the electorate.

I would hope he would choose the pathway of broadening his appeal to voters who might want to consider voting for him in the next couple of years,” said Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution fellow who advised the presidential campaigns of Republicans Marco Rubio in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Presidential aides said Trump would still talk about immigration and his demand for a border wall in his speech. “Some of it will be border-related,” said one.

Nancy Pelosi, who took over as speaker of the House of Representatives after Democrats won big in November elections, has vowed not to support funding for a border wall, and the issue has increased partisan tensions across the board.

Trump’s speech was delayed from January after a fight with Pelosi that stemmed from the dispute on border wall funding.

Republicans anxious about the 2020 election – not just holding the White House, but also control of the Senate – are urging him not to get bogged down in immigration in his speech.

“Trump really needs to change the subject. This is an opportunity to get back on offense on his terms. As opposed to being reactive to the Democrats in the House. I really see the State of the Union for Trump as a potential reset, because like it or not the government shutdown was a political loser and it hurt a lot of people,” said Republican strategist Scott Reed.

Trump is also expected to cover foreign policy. He said on Thursday he will likely announce the site of his late-February summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the speech, with Hanoi a leading candidate.

He may also cite progress in peace talks between the government in Afghanistan and Taliban rebels. Trump has signaled that a peace deal would allow the United States to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after 17 years of war triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

He and his advisers have been discussing withdrawing half of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, officials have said, a steep drop that could prompt criticism that Trump is putting U.S. gains in the volatile country in jeopardy.

Trump: ‘Good chance’ I’ll declare emergency

Trump is expected to declare in his speech that the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria is largely complete, reinforcing his decision to pull 2,000 troops out of Syria, another abrupt move that angered many in his own party.

Trump, along with chief speechwriter Stephen Miller, plans to work on the address during a trip this weekend to his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, aides said.

Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Jonathan Oatis


Mueller will use Roger Stone’s bank records, texts and emails as evidence

Legal analysts say sizable amount of potential evidence seems to go well beyond the current known charges against Stone

January 31, 2019

by Tom McCarthy in New York

The Guardian

Special counsel Robert Mueller has signaled to defense lawyers for Roger Stone, the longtime adviser to Donald Trump, that prosecutors might brandish Stone’s bank records and personal communications going back several years as evidence in the case against him.

Legal analysts said the move could be significant because the sizable amount of potential evidence listed by Mueller – and its nature, in the case of the bank records – seemed to go well beyond the current known charges against Stone.

A court filing by Mueller on Thursday said prosecutors had seized “voluminous and complex” material including “multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information”, material seized from search warrants executed on “Apple iCloud accounts and email accounts”, “bank and financial records, and the contents of numerous physical devices (eg, cellular phones, computers, and hard drives)”.

Stone was indicted last week on charges of obstructing an investigation, witness tampering and five counts of making false statements. Two of his residences – one in Florida and one in Manhattan – were raided during his arrest.

“It’s interesting that Mueller produced bank and financial records to Roger Stone, given that they don’t appear related to the charges he faces,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted. “Perhaps Mueller’s team has a practice of producing broad discovery to defendants, but it is not required by the rules.

“If that is not Mueller’s usual practice, perhaps they want Stone to have this information now because there could be additional charges down the line, or because they think his knowledge that they possess this information could encourage him to flip.”

Former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance called the filing “good news for the investigation”.

“This implies that the FBI was able to access communications Stone and others could have assumed were protected from law-enforcement,” Vance tweeted. “This is good news for the investigation, there is no telling what might be in there Stone thought law-enforcement would never be able to see it.”

The indictment of Stone last week suggested that prosecutors might have gained access to encrypted messages sent or received by Stone.

One section of the indictment describes a text message exchange between Stone and an unidentified Trump “supporter” asking about a Stone contact in London alleged to be in communication with the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“The supporter involved with the Trump Campaign asked STONE via text message if he had ‘hear[d] anymore from London’,” the indictment reads in part. “STONE replied, ‘Yes – want to talk on a secure line – got Whatsapp?’ STONE subsequently told the supporter that more material would be released and that it would be damaging to the Clinton Campaign.”

Stone is suspected of attempting to establish or carrying out back-channel communications between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks – although he has not been charged with any crime along those lines.

He has pleaded not guilty and denied any wrongdoing.


Delete your account: leaving Facebook can make you happier, study finds

New study from Stanford and NYU finds logging off causes ‘small but significant improvements in wellbeing’

February 1, 2019

by Luke O’Neil

The Guardian

Despite all the scandals of the past year, here we are, still on Facebook, a couple of billion of us spending about an hour a day in its iron grip. Now a new study suggests it’s making us feel bad.

That’s in part because we may be addicted. Want to feel better? Delete Facebook. As some experts have said, the system of rewards set up by Facebook and other social media platforms is akin to gambling or substance abuse cravings. Sean Parker, an early Facebook executive, explained that the thought process behind driving user engagement is akin to delivering “a little dopamine hit”.

As with any habitual behavior, you might reasonably expect that abstaining would lead to an improved mood and an overall sense of wellbeing. A new study goes a long way toward suggesting the benefits of cutting Facebook out of our lives altogether.

The study, titled The Welfare Effects of Social Media, from researchers at Stanford and NYU, is being praised as one of the most rigorous to look at what happens to people when they log off. Logging off seems to be as positive as you probably expect it would be, leading to increased subjective wellbeing, less political drama and attention span agitation, and increased time spent with friends and family. On the other hand, it also led to a decrease in awareness of the news. Although, to be honest, that sounds pretty nice too.

To track social media’s effects, the researchers recruited 2,844 Facebook users, then randomly assigned half of them the task of temporarily deactivating their accounts for a month. To ensure compliance, subjects were paid for their efforts, and their accounts were monitored to make sure they weren’t scrolling their timeline on the sly. The authors checked in with them regularly via text to see how they were feeling during the cleanse.

“Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in wellbeing, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety,” they concluded. “Effects on subjective wellbeing as measured by responses to brief daily text messages are positive but not significant.”

Furthermore, some of the users who went without Facebook were able to maintain their abstinence after the study concluded.

The study acknowledges there are, clearly, benefits to Facebook and social media at large. Facebook is still, for all its faults, an important means for people to stay connected to friends and family and as a source of information, community, and entertainment, particularly for those who are otherwise socially isolated.

But, they conclude: “Our results also make clear that the downsides are real.

“We find that four weeks without Facebook improves subjective wellbeing and substantially reduces post-experiment demand, suggesting that forces such as addiction and projection bias may cause people to use Facebook more than they otherwise would.”


The Person of Jesus

by Karl Kautsky

from: “Foundations of Christianity”

The Non-Christian Sources

Whatever one’s position may be with respect to Christianity, it certainly must be recognized as one of the most titanic phenomena in all human history. One can not resist a deep feeling of wonder when one thinks of the Christian Church, now over two thousand years old and still vigorous and more powerful than the governments of many countries. Anything that helps us to understand this colossal phenomenon, including the study of its origin, is of great and immediate practical significance, even though it takes us back thousands of years.

This makes researches into the beginnings of Christianity of far greater interest than any other historical question that goes back further than the last two hundred years; it also however makes finding the beginnings even more difficult than it would otherwise be.

The Christian Church has become a sovereign organization serving the needs either of its own rulers or those of other, secular rulers who have been able to gain control over it. Any one who opposes these rulers must oppose the church as well. The struggle about the church and the struggle against the church have become matters of dispute bound up with the most important economic interests. It thus becomes only too easy to abandon impartiality in historical studies of the church and this long ago led the ruling classes to interdict the study of the beginnings of Christianity and to ascribe to the church a divine nature, standing above and outside all human criticism.

The middle class Age of Reason in the eighteenth century finally succeeded in getting rid of this halo. For the first time, scientific study of the genesis of Christianity became possible. But it is remarkable how secular science avoided this field during the nineteenth century, acting as though it still belonged exclusively to the realm of theology. A whole series of historical works written by the most eminent middle class historians of the nineteenth century dealing with the Roman Empire quietly pass over the most important happening of the time, the rise of Christianity. For instance, in the fifth volume of his Roman History, Mommsen gives a very extensive account of the history of the Jews under the Caesars, and in so doing can not avoid mentioning Christianity occasionally; but it appears only as something already existing, something assumed to be already known. By and large only the theologians and their adversaries, the propagandists of free thought, have taken an interest in the beginnings of Christianity.

It need not necessarily have been cowardice that kept middle class historians from taking up the origin of Christianity; it could also have been the desire to write history and not polemics. The hopeless state of the sources out of which we have to get our information in this field must alone have frightened them off.

The traditional view sees Christianity as the creation of a single man, Jesus Christ. This view persists even today. It is true that Jesus, at least in “enlightened” and “educated” circles, is no longer considered a deity, but he still held to have been an extraordinary personality, who came to the fore with the intention of founding a new religion, and did so, with tremendous success. Liberal theologians hold this view, as so do radical free-thinkers; and the latter differ from the theologians only with respect to the criticism they make of Christ as a person, whom they seek to deprive of all the sublimity they can.

And yet, at the end of the eighteenth century the English historian Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (written between 1774 and 1788), had ironically pointed out how striking it is that none of Jesus’ contemporaries mentions him, although he is said to have accomplished such remarkable feats.

“But how shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world to these evidences which were presented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, daemons were expelled, and the laws of Nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the world.”

At Jesus’ death, according to the Christian tradition, the whole earth, or at least all of Palestine, was in darkness for three hours. This took place in the days of the elder Pliny, who devoted a special chapter of his Natural History to eclipses; but of this eclipse he says nothing. (Gibbon, Chapter 15).

But even if we leave miracles out of the accounts, it is hard to see how a personality like Jesus of the gospels, who according to them aroused such excitement in people’s minds, could carry on his work and finally die as a martyr for his cause and yet not have pagan and Jewish contemporaries devote a single word to him.

The first mention of Jesus by a non-Christian is found in the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus. The third chapter of book 18 deals with the procurator Pontius Pilate, and says among other things:

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if he can be called human, for he worked miracles and was a teacher of men, who received the truth gladly; and he found many followers among Jews and Greeks. This was the Christ. Although later Pilate sentenced him to the cross on the complaint of the nobles of our people, those who had loved him remained true to him. For he appeared again to them on the third day, risen to new life, as the prophets of God had prophesied this and thousands of other wonderful things about him. From his comes the name of the Christians, whose sect (phylon) has continued to exist ever since.”

Josephus speaks of Christ again in the 20th book, chapter 9,1, where the high priest Ananus is said in the time of the procurator Albinus to have brought it about that:

“James. The brother of Jesus, said to be the Christ (tou legomenou christou), together with some others, was brought to court, accused as a breaker of the law and delivered over to be stoned to death.”

These pieces of evidence have always been highly prized by Christians; for they come from a non-Christian, a Jew and Pharisee, born in the year 37 of our era and living in Jerusalem, and so very well able to have authentic facts about Jesus. And his testimony was the more valuable in that as a Jew he had no reason to falsify on behalf of the Christians.

But it was precisely the exaggerated exaltation of Christ on the part of a pious Jew that made the first passage suspect, and quite early. Its authenticity was disputed even in the sixteenth century, and today it is agreed that it is forgery and does not stem from Josephus.  It was inserted in the third century by a Christian copyist, who obviously took offense at the fact that Josephus, who repeats the most trivial gossip from Palestine, says nothing at all about the person of Jesus. The pious Christian felt with justice that the absence of any such mention weighed against the existence or at least the significance of his Savior Now the discovery of his forgery has become testimony against Jesus.

But the passage concerning James is also dubious. It is true that Origen (185 to 254 AD) mentions testimony by Josephus concerning James; this occurs in his commentary on Matthew. He remarks that it is surprising that nonetheless Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ. In his polemic against Celsius, Origen cites this statement of Josephus about James and again notes Josephus’ unbelief. These statements by Origen constitute one of the proofs that the striking passage about Jesus in which Josephus recognizes him as the Messiah, the Christ, could not have been in the original text of Josephus. It follows at once that the passage about James that Origen found in Josephus was also a Christian forgery. For this passage he cites runs quite differently from what we find in the manuscript of Josephus that has come down to us. In it the destruction of Jerusalem is said to be a punishment for the execution of James; but this fabrication is not found in the other manuscripts of Josephus. The passage as it occurs in the manuscripts of Josephus that have come down to us is not cited by Origen, while he mentions the other version three times on other occasions. And yet he carefully assembled all the testimony that could be got from Josephus that had value for the Christian faith. It would seem likely that the passage of Josephus about James that has come down to us is also fraudulent, and was first inserted by a pious Christian, to the greater glory of God some time after Origen, but before Eusebius, who cites the passage.

Like the mention of Jesus and James, the reference to John the Baptist in Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, 5,2) is also suspect as an “interpolation.”

Thus Christian frauds had crept into Josephus as early as the end of the second century. His silence concerning the chief figures in the Gospels was too conspicuous, and required correction.

But even if the statement about James was genuine, it would prove at most that there was a Jesus, whom people called Christ, that is, the Messiah. It could not prove anything more.

“If the passage actually had to be ascribed to Josephus, all that critical theology would get from it would be the thread of a web that could catch a whole generation. There were so many would-be Christs at Josephus’ time and all the way deep into the second century, that in many of the cases we have only sketchy information left about them. There is a Judas of Galilee, a Theudas, a nameless Egyptian, a Samaritan, a Bar Kochba, – why should there not have been a Jesus among them as well? Jesus was a common Jewish personal name.”

The second passage of Josephus tells us at best that among the agitators in Palestine coming forward at that time as the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed, there was also a Jesus. We learn nothing at all about his life and work.

The next mention of Jesus by a non-Christian writer is found in the Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus, composed around the year 100. In the fifteenth book the conflagration of Rome under Nero is described, and chapter 44 says:

“In order to counteract the rumor (that blamed Nero for the fire} he brought forward as the guilty ones, men hated for their crimes and called Christians by the people; and punished them with the most exquisite torments. The founder of their name, Christ, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; the superstition was thereby suppressed for the moment, but broke out again, not only in Judea, the land in which this evil originated, but in Rome itself, to which everything horrible or shameful streams from all sides and finds increase. First a few were taken, who made confessions; then on their indications an enormous throng, who were not accused directly of the crime of arson, but of hatred of humanity. There execution became a pastime; they were covered with the skins of wild beasts and then torn to pieces by dogs, or they were crucified, or prepared for burning and set on fire as soon as it was dark, prepared for burning and set on fire as soon as it was dark. Nero lent his gardens for this spectacle and arranged the circus games, in which he mingled among the crowd in the clothing of a charioteer or drove a chariot himself. Although these were criminals who deserved the severest punishment, sympathy arose for them as being sacrificed not so much for the general good but to satisfy the rage of an individual.”

This testimony is certainly not something falsified by Christians in their favor. However, its authenticity too is disputed, since Dio Cassius had known nothing of a persecution of Christians under Nero, although he lived a hundred years later than Tacitus. Suetonius, writing shortly after Tacitus, also speaks, in his biography of Nero, of a persecution of Christians, “men who had given themselves over to a new and evil superstition” (chapter 16).

But Suetonius tells us nothing at all about Jesus and Tacitus does not even hand down his name to us. Christ, the Greek work for “the anointed,” is merely the Greek translation of the Hebrew work “Messiah.” As to Christ’s work and the contents of his doctrine, Tacitus says nothing.

And that is all that we learn about Jesus from non-Christian sources of the first century of our era.

The Christian Sources

But do not the Christian sources gush forth all the more richly? Do we not have in the Gospels the most extensive descriptions of the teachings and deeds of Jesus?

It is true they are extensive; but as for credibility, there’s the issue. The example of the falsification of Josephus shows us a character trait of ancient Christian historians; their complete indifference to the truth. It was not the truth, but effectiveness, that they were interested in, and they were not too delicate in the choice of their means.

To be fair, it must be granted that they were not alone in their age. The Jewish religious literature had no higher standards, and the “heathen” mystical tendencies in the centuries preceding and following the beginning of our era were guilty of the same sins. Credulousness on the part of the public, sensationalism together with lack of confidence in their own powers, the need to cling to superhuman authority, lack of a sense of reality (qualities whose causes we shall soon come to learn), infected all literature at that time, and the more it left the ground of the traditional the more it was so infected. We shall find numerous proofs of this in the Christian and Jewish literature. But the same tendency appears in the mystical philosophy, which to be sure had an inner affinity to Christianity. We see this in the neo-Pythagoreans, a trend that began in the last century before our era, a mixture of Platonism and Stoicism, full of revelations and hungry for miracles, professing to be the doctrine of the old philosopher Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century before our era- or before Christ, as they say- and of whom extremely little was known. That made it all the easier to attribute to him anything that needed the authority of a great name.

“The neo-Pythagoreans wanted to be considered faithful followers of the old Samian philosopher: in order to present their theories as the old Pythagorean ones, those countless forged documents were produced that put anything at all into the mouth of a Pythagoras or an Archytas, no matter how recent it was or how well known as stemming from Plato or Aristotle.”

We see exactly the same phenomenon in the early Christian literature, where it has produced such a chaos that for over a hundred years a series of the keenest minds have been working on it without getting very far in attaining any definitive results.

How the most discordant notions as to the origin of the early Christian writings still exist side by side can be shown by the case of the Revelation of St. John, an especially hard nut to crack anyway. Pfleiderer says of it in his book on Early Christianity, Its Writings and Doctrines:

“The book of Daniel was the oldest of such apocalypses and the model for the whole genus. Just as the key to the visions of Daniel was found in the events of the Jewish war under Antiochus Epiphanes, so the conclusion was correctly drawn that the apocalypse of John too must be explained by means of the conditions of its time. Now since the mystic number 666 in the eighteenth verse of the thirteenth chapter was interpreted almost simultaneously by various scholars (Benary, Hitzig and Reuss) as indicating the Emperor Nero in Hebrew letters, a comparison of chapters 13 and 17 led to the conclusion that Revelation was written soon after Nero’s death in 68. This long remained the dominant view, in particular in the old Tübingen school, which still assumed that the book was written by the Apostle John and thought it had the key to the whole book in the party battles between Judaists and Paulinists; this of course was not done without crass arbitrariness.”

It has been ascertained, with a reasonable degree of historical certainty that Revelations was not written by the Apostle John but by a certain John of Patmos, a Greek eccentric who certainly did not live during the stated lifetime of Jesus.

It is certain that almost none of the early Christian writings are by the authors whose names they bear; that most of them were written in later times than the dates given them; and that their original text was often distorted in the crudest way by later revisions and additions. Finally, it is certain that none of the Gospels or other early Christian writings comes from a contemporary of Jesus.

The so-called Gospel according to St. Mark is now regarded as the oldest of the gospels, but was not in any case composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, which the author has Jesus predict, which, in other words, had already happened when the author began to write. It was probably written not less than a half a century after the time assigned for the death of Jesus. What we see, therefore, is the product of a half a century of legend making.

Mark is followed by Luke, then by the so-called Matthew, and last of all by John, in the middle of the second century, at least a century after the birth of Christ. The further we get from the beginning, the more miraculous the gospel stories become. Mark tells of miracles, but they are puny ones compared to those that follow. Take the raising of the dead as an example. In Mark, Jesus is called to the bedside of Jairus’ daughter, who is at the point of death. Everyone thinks she is dead already, but Jesus says: “the damsel…but sleepeth,” reaches out his hand, and she arises (Mark Chapter 5).

In Luke it is the young man of Nain who is waked. He is so long dead that he is being borne to his grave as Jesus meets him. Then Jesus makes him rise from the bier (Luke Chapter 7).

That is not enough for John. In his eleventh chapter he shows us the raising of Lazarus, who has been in his grave for four days already is beginning to stink. That one tops all the others.

In addition, the evangelists were extremely ignorant people, who had thoroughly twisted ideas about many of the things they wrote of. Thus Luke has Joseph leave Nazereth with Mary on account of a census in the Roman Empire, and go to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. But there was no such census under Augustus. Moreover, Judea became a Roman province only after the date given for the birth of Jesus. A census was held in the year 7 AD, but in the places where people lived, and thus did not require the trip to Bethelehem.  We shall have more to say on this topic.

The procedure of Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate is not in conformity either with Jewish or with Roman law. Thus even where the evangelists do not tell of miracles, they often relate what is false and impossible.

And what was concocted as “Gospel” in this fashion later suffered all sorts of alterations at the hands of “editors,” to the edification of the faithful.

For example, the best manuscripts of Mark close with the eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter, where the women seek the dead Jesus in the grave, but find a youth in a long white robe instead. Then they left the grave and “were afraid.”

What follows in the traditional editions was added later. It is impossible however that the work ended with this eighth verse. Renan already assumed that the remaining portion had been stricken out in the interests of the good cause, since it contained an account that seemed obnoxious to later views.

From another angle Pfleiderer, after intensive studies, came to the conclusion, as did others, “that the Gospel of Luke said nothing of the supernatural conception of Jesus, that this story came up only later and was then inserted into the text by adding the verse I, 34 ff.

In view of all this it is no wonder that by the first decades of the nineteenth century many scholars had already recognized the complete uselessness of the gospels as sources for the history of Jesus, and Bruno Bauer could even go so far as to deny the existence of Jesus altogether. It is understandable nevertheless that the theologians cannot dispense with the gospels, and even the liberals among them do all they can to maintain their authority. For what is left of Christianity if the person of Christ is given up?

The gospels were not historical works anyway; they were not written to report how things happened, but were works of edification.

“Accordingly they are not useless as historical sources, especially since their purpose is not borrowed from outside, but coincides in part with the views of Jesus.”

But all we know of these views is what the gospels tell us! Harnack’s whole argument for the credibility of the gospels as sources for the person of Jesus only proves how impossible it is to offer anything solid and penetrating in that direction.

Later in his essay Harnack is compelled to abandon everything that the gospels say of Jesus’ first thirty years as unhistorical, as well as everything regarding the following years that can be proved to be impossible or invented. But he would like to save the rest as historical fact. He thinks we still have left “a vivid picture of Jesus’ teaching, the end of his life and the impression he made on his disciples.”

But how does Harnack know that Jesus’ teaching is so faithfully reported in the gospels? The theologians are more skeptical about the reproductions of other teachings at the time. Harnack’s colleague Pfleiderer says in his book on early Christianity:

“It does not really make sense to argue over the historical reliability of these and other sermons in the apostolic history; we need only think of all the conditions required for a literally exact, or even an approximately correct, transmission of such a sermon: it would had to be written down immediately by an auditor (properly speaking, it should be stenographic), and these records of the various sermons would have to be preserved for more than half a century in circles of hearers who were for the most part Jews and heathen and indifferent or hostile to what they had heard, and finally collected by the historian from the most scattered points! Any one who has realized how impossible all these things are will know once and for all what to think of all these sermons; that is, in the stories of the apostles as in all the secular historians of antiquity these speeches are free compositions, in which the author has his heroes speak in the way that he himself thinks they could have spoken in the given situation.”

This is entirely correct but why should not all this apply to the sermons of Jesus too?  These were still further in the past for the authors of the gospels than the sermons in the gospels ascribed to the apostles? Why should Jesus’ sermons in the gospels be anything more than speeches that the authors of the reports wished Jesus had made? Actually, we find all sorts of contradictions in the sermons that have come down to us, for example both rebellious and submissive speeches, which can only be explained by the fact that divergent tendencies existed among the Christians, each group composing and handing down speeches for Christ in accordance with its own requirements. How free and easy the evangelists were in such matters can be seen from an example. Compare the Sermon on the Mount in Luke and in Matthew, which is later. In the first it is still a glorification of the poor and a damning of the rich. By Matthew’s time this had become a touchy subject for many Christians and the Gospel according to Matthew baldly turns the poor who are blessed into the poor of spirit, and leaves the damning of the rich out altogether.

That is the sort of manipulation that went on with sermons that had already been written down; and then we are asked to believe that sermons that Jesus is said to have given a half a century before they were written down are faithfully reported in the gospels! It is clearly impossible to keep the words of a speech straight merely by oral tradition for fifty years. Anyone who writes down such a speech at the end of such an interval shows thereby that he feels justified in writing down what suits him, or that he is credulous enough to take at face value everything he hears.

What is more, it can be shown that many of Jesus’ sayings do not originate with him, but were in circulation previously.

For instance, the Lord’s Prayer is regarded as a specific product of Jesus. But Pfleiderer shows that an Aramaic Kaddish prayer going far back into antiquity ended with the words: “Exalted and blessed be His great name in the world He created according to His will. May he set up His kingdom in your lifetime and the lifetime of the whole house of Israel.”

As we see, the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer is an imitation.

But if nothing is left of Jesus’ sermons, nothing left of the story of his youth, certainly nothing left of his miracles, then what is left of the gospels altogether?

According to Harnack there is left the impression Jesus made on his disciples, and the story of his Passion. But the gospels were not written by the disciples of Christ, they do not reflect the impression made by the person of Christ on the members of the Christian community. Even the strongest impression does not testify to the historical truth of any story. The story of an imaginary person is capable of producing the deepest impression on society, if historical conditions for it are present.

In Judaism, and precisely in the centuries directly before and after Jesus, fictitious personalities had tremendous influence when the deeds and doctrines attributed to them corresponded to the deeply felt needs of the Jewish people. This is shown by example by the figure of the prophet Daniel, of whom the book of Daniel reports that he lived under Nebuchadnezzar, Darius and Cyrus, that is in the sixth century BC, worked the greatest of miracles and made prophecies that were fulfilled later in the most amazing way, ending with the prediction that great afflictions would come to Judaism, out of which a savior would rescue them and raise them to new glory. This Daniel never lived; the book dealing with him was written about 165, at the time of the Maccabean uprising; and it is no wonder that all the prophecies that the prophet ostensibly made in the sixth century were so strikingly confirmed up to that year, and convinced the pious reader that the final prediction of so infallible a prophet must come to pass without fail. The whole thing is a bold fabrication and yet had the greatest effect: the belief in the Messiah, the belief in a Savior to come, got its strongest sustenance from it, and it became the model for all future prophecies of a Messiah. The book of Daniel also shows, however, how casually fraud was practiced in pious circles when it was a question of attaining an end. The effect produced by the figure of Jesus is therefore no proof at all of its historical accuracy.

Hence the only thing left of what Harnack thought could still be rescued from the gospels as an historical nucleus is the Passion of Christ. But this is so filled with miracles from beginning to end, up to the Resurrection and Ascension, that even here it is virtually impossible to get any kind of reliable historical nucleus. We shall look further into the credibility of this story of the Passion later on.

Matters are in no better shape with the rest of early Christian literature. Everything that ostensibly comes from contemporaries of Jesus, as from his apostles for instance, is known to be spurious, at least in the sense that it a production of some later time.

And as for the letters that are attributed to the apostle Paul, there is not one whose authenticity is not in dispute, and many of them have been shown by historical criticism to be altogether false. The baldest of these forgeries is the second letter to the Thessalonians. In this counterfeit letter the author, using the name of Paul, warns: “That ye be not shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us” (2,2). And at the end the forger adds:  “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.” It was just these words that betrayed the forger.

A number of other letters of Paul are perhaps the earliest literary evidence of Christianity. About Jesus however they tell us virtually nothing, except that he was crucified and rose again.

It will not be necessary to go into details as to what to think about the Resurrection. In a word, there is hardly anything left in the Christian literature that can be said to be a solidly established fact about Jesus.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

February 1, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney


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, on 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 the well-known Washington fix-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.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.


Conversation No. 97

Date: Monday, August 4 1997
Commenced: 8:45 AM CST

Concluded: 9:02 AM CST

GD: Ah, good morning, Robert.

RTC: You said something on the answering machine about the Swiss?

GD: Yes, I was talking with their press secretary several days ago and learned that they had been working on their transmitter because they have been having on-going problems with it. Seems that a number of employees have been complaining of headaches and the suffering of a general malaise. Given what was said to me, it could only be your oscillator. I guess you keep it on.

RTC: Oh I do indeed. In fact, I left it on once for a whole week. Actually, I forgot about it. It does work, then?

GD: I have used this many times and, yes, it does work. A friend of mine and I wanted to buy a house for investment so we put an oscillator in a van and parked it across the street. First, the dog went mad and ran off and soon the cat vanished. One of the kids kept crapping on the floor and everyone inside felt terrible. We just showed up at their door and said my aunt had lived there years before and one thing and another. We made an offer and the wife screamed ‘take it! take it!’ to her husband and so we got the place cheap. A little paint, some landscaping and we turned around and sold it two months later and made a huge profit. Of course you can’t do the same thing with the Swiss.

RTC: We should do it to the Russians.

GD: Why not leave the poor Russians alone? My God, you people down there have done terrible things to them and to their economy.

RTC: Well, the idea is to smash them so badly they can never be a rival again.

GD: I don’t mean to be critical, Robert, but your people never think down the road. Nature abhors a vacuum so why not get together with the Russians? Well, you got the Poles to revolt and break away but what can we do with them? Nothing. Germany and Russian ought to get together, buy off the Polish government and then Germany takes their side and the Russians take theirs.

RTC: What about the Poles?

GD: Perhaps we can ship them all to Chicago. Then the Poles can have Chicago and the Jews can have Miami and the rest of us can get on about out business. No, actually, I am serious about Russia. I know you set up Yeltsin and I know your people have been looting the country and systematically destroying her industry but it can’t last. A new administration and a new change of policy and then a rebuilding Russia could be an enemy again. After all, we turned her into a bogey man in the ‘40’s and just look how much money your friends made with the Cold War. Don’t forget, I knew Gehlen and he told me, and showed me the papers, that our Army, for whom he then worked, wanted him to draw up a report showing Russia was going to attack Europe. Yes, and say hello to the Easter Bunny. Stalin would never have launched a military attack against anyone but sea turtles in 1948. The war virtually destroyed the Russian infrastructure and a huge military attack would have been impossible for anyone. Well, it paid off so now that Communism is gone and Russia is starting to act normal again, why not support her? Who needs enemies?

RTC: Gregory, I’m sorry to say you simply do not realize that Communism is not dead and we want it stop it from ever coming back.

GD: Well, Nazism is dead in Germany and the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere is dead in Japan so why not bury the Cold War, start trading with Cuba and get on with our business? I guess everyone is stuck in the past.

RTC: And where do you see yourself in this?

GD: Being positive, Robert. Russia is a huge potential market and Russia has a great collection of natural resources.  Instead of getting tin horn rip off artists to screw them, why not help them develop? A stable and advancing country is not about to engage in a struggle for world domination. We did that and believe me, it will take all we have just to keep the status quo. We can only expand so far and using Russia as an excuse for grabbing control over every puissant country in Africa can only go so far.

RTC: Gregory, Gregory, I am concerned for your soul. Who ever put this bee into your bonnet?

GD: Tom Kimmel.

RTC: Oh, bullshit. Tom has a little book of rules and he wouldn’t do anything not in the book and what you have been talking about is not in his book.

GD: Well, so much for the little books. That sounds like Mary Baker Eddy. By the way, did you know she was buried with a hooked –up telephone in her casket? I’d like to get the number and see how she’s doing down there but I’ll bet she forgot the pay the bills for the last fifty years and they disconnected it. Jesus, suppose she answered? There goes yesterday’s dinner.

RTC: Gregory, so soon after breakfast


(Concluded 9:02 AM CST)



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