TBR News February 11, 2016

Feb 10 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 11, 2016: ”The advent of the Internet, a US Army invention, has brought about a revolution in communication. But at the same time, the same Internet allows outsiders, official and unofficialy, to pry closely into the lives of anyone who uses it. Emails sent outside the United States are always intercepted by the NSA and domestically, the FBI has its hands on every aspect of communications. The theory put out by lunatic bloggers that the government watches everyone is nonsense. There are not enough personnel to do this but what the government agencies do have is the ability poke into the private lives of any American who uses the Internet or any system connected with it (like a bank or a credit card company) And when one program is compromised, another one pops up in its place. And one of the favorite tricks of the DFBI is to get a story published about someone who had developed an “unbrakable” system of communication. Trust it that these systems are developed in government labs and have trapdoors in them that would allow two trucks to get in, side by side.”

The internet of things: how your TV, car and toys could spy on you

As our homes get ‘smart’, the US intelligence chief has said the data involved could be used for surveillance. Here’s how that could affect us all

February 10, 2016

by Sam Thielman

The Guardian

Can your smart TV spy on you? Absolutely, says the US director of national intelligence. The ever-widening array of “smart” web-enabled devices pundits have dubbed the internet of things [IoT] is a welcome gift to intelligence officials and law enforcement, according to director James Clapper.

In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper told the Senate in public testimony on Tuesday.

As a category, the internet of things is useful to eavesdroppers both official and unofficial for a variety of reasons, the main one being the leakiness of the data. “[O]ne helpful feature for surveillance is that private sector IoT generally blabs a lot, routinely into some server, somewhere,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That data blabbing can be insecure in the air, or obtained from storage.”

There are a wide variety of devices that can be used to listen in, and some compound devices (like cars) that have enough hardware to form a very effective surveillance suite all by themselves. There are, of course, legitimate and tightly warranted reasons for law enforcement surveillance, and there are also companies that take hard lines against turning their users over to the government. But hardware manufacturers often default to crummy security, or don’t offer a choice, and consumers often make themselves more vulnerable than they should.

One of my technologists has a phrase: ‘internet of other people’s things,’” Tien said. “[E]ven if you bought it, it’s not necessarily truly yours – it may need to talk to the vendor’s machines to work, handing over data about you or those around you (if it has sensors); it may have features you don’t know about or don’t know how to control or can’t control.”

Intelligence officials are not the only ones interested in cracking our hi-tech homes. Knowing when you are in and out, what you have and where you keep it is invaluable information for thieves. And just think what tales your devices could tell divorce lawyers.

Dan Kaminsky, security researcher and chief scientist of White Ops, said despite the worries the internet of things is here to stay. “There’s a lot of work to do building the secure and maintainable platforms of the future, but I think it’ll happen,” he said. “We know this technology isn’t perfect but we know the tremendous human potential it unlocks.”

What’s watching you in today’s houses:

Baby monitors and other household video cameras

All of a sudden, I heard what sounded like a man’s voice but I was asleep so I wasn’t sure,” Heather Shreck told Fox 19 in August 2014. She hadn’t been dreaming: her baby monitor had been hacked by someone who yelled things at her and her baby until she shut the monitor off. More recent models have fewer vulnerabilities, but in that case, the monitor was simply available to anyone who wanted to get in. There’s an established history of law enforcement trying to compel private companies to spy on their users, and in many cases, rigorous analysis of your movements is a feature, not a bug: Google-owned Nest’s security video hardware, Nest Cam, offers a service that records 30 days’ worth of video to the cloud and analyzes it for you.

Smart TVs

There’s no getting around the fundamental creepiness of the little pinhole cameras in new smart TVs (and Xbox Kinects, and laptops, and cellphones), but the less-remarked-on aspect – the audio – may actually be more pertinent to anyone with a warrant trying to listen in. Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society observed that Samsung’s voice recognition software in its smart TVs had to routinely send various commands “home” to a server where they were processed for relevant information; their microphones are also always on, in case you’re trying to talk to them. Televisions are also much easier to turn on than they used to be: a feature creeping into higher-end TVs called “wake on LAN” allows users to power on televisions over the internet (this is already standard on many desktop PCs). New York University’s Brennan Center published an article by Michael Price about smart TVs saying he was “scared to turn this thing on” because of its myriad disturbing features, among them facial recognition. He might not have to.

The cheap stuff

Kaminsky observed that a great deal of security risk lies in devices we never think about and rarely have updated. “There’s this universe of technology that trades power and maintainability for size, battery life, and price,” he said. People don’t necessarily buy the highest-end computer with the most secure operating system, and they tend to keep it around until it’s vulnerable. “We actually did a tremendous amount to secure the high end of computers,” he said. But you might have three years’ of tax documents on an eight-year-old laptop that won’t run a new operating system, or you might skimp on your tablet and end up with a model made by a small company that goes out of business and thus never fixes new security holes. “There’s an old quote in computers,” Kaminsky said: “The high end keeps getting higher, the low end never goes away.”

Full-home automation

Since the Futurama exhibition at the 1933 World’s Fair, homemakers have fantasized about hi-tech living spaces. That’s the pitch behind Amazon Echo, Google Nest, and many other suites of home technology that sync up everything from your thermostat to your refrigerator. But, as with the “smart” devices above, they’re not actually individually that bright and have to refer back to a centralized server to ask a large database what the user is talking about. Collectively, however, that data tells a lot about the people who generate it and, as Tien points out, is vulnerable – both while it’s in the air and to legal compulsion.


A cyberattack on toymaker VTech exposed the personal data of 6.4m children last year; it was a sobering reminder of the vulnerability of kids on the web. But technology waits for no man. Mattel’s Hello Barbie doll works the same way the Nest and Samsung voice operators do, by passing kids’ interactions into the cloud and returning verbal responses through a speaker in the doll. HereO manufactures a watch for kids with a GPS chip in it; Fisher-Price makes a WiFi-enabled stuffed animal. Security researchers at Rapid7 looked at both and found that they were easy to compromise on company databases, and in the case of the watch, use to locate the wearer.

Your car

The Berkman Center report details an FBI case indicating that the agency has been aware of this possibility for a long while: “During the course of an investigation, the FBI sought to use the microphone in a car equipped with [a commercial emergency response system] to capture conversations taking place in the car’s cabin between two alleged senior members of organized crime. In 2001, a federal court in Nevada issued ex parte orders that required the company to assist the FBI with the intercept.” The company won on appeal on other grounds, and the possibility of legal compulsion is still very much alive. Now that rear-view video and GPS are ever more common, a large number of in-car systems are correspondingly more available to a remote user.


Cyber-thieves steal Pin codes from US Revenue

February 10, 2016


The US government’s tax collection agency has said attackers fooled its computers into generating more than 100,000 tax return Pin codes.

The codes could have been used to seek payouts had the scam not been detected.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said no personal taxpayer data had been compromised or disclosed by its systems.

It added it was monitoring use of its web application for any further signs of fraudulent activity.

The agency said the attackers had used personal data stolen from elsewhere to compromise its systems.

The information had then been processed by a software bot – meaning an automated program – to make one application after another for a Pin.

“Based on our review, we identified unauthorised attempts involving approximately 464,000 unique social security numbers, of which 101,000 SSNs were used to successfully access an e-file Pin,” it said in a statement.

Affected taxpayers should receive a letter to alert them to the fact their social security number had been misused in this way, the IRS said.

Furthermore, it said, it had marked the affected accounts to protect them against any further attempt of tax-related fraud.


The Amercan Gestapo

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the few surviving members of Hitler’s Gestapo, or Secret State Police, should be gratified that their counterpart, the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation, has copied, in detail, the so-called Vertrauns-Leute or V-Leute, program and is now developing it into a very powerful, and relatively unknown, internal surveillance force in the United States.

Unlike the Gestapo, who had Communists as their chief enemy to observe, infiltrate and destroy, the FBI program is aimed solely at American citizens who are considered as present, and future, threats to the state.

Before we analyze the FBI program with its nearly sixty thousand reporting members, let us briefly look at its father, the Gestapo’s V program, because in comparing Hitler’s secret internal surveillance program with its huge network of volunteer informers with the FBI program, the parallels will at once become painfully obvious.

The Gestapo, or Geheime-Staats Polizei (Secret State Police) was initially constructed from the political section of Berlin’s civil police force in April of 1933. Given the intensive Communist espionage in the lax Weimar Republic, a number of German law enforcement agencies, such as the Berlin and Bavarian police, had set up sections to deal with this menace.

In Berlin, under the government of Prussia, Hermann Goering, its Prime Minister, set up the Gestapo by enlarging the previous Geheimes Staatspolizeiamt. In 1934, the SS, under Heinrich Himmler and his top intelligence chief, Reinhard Heydrich (Head of the Sicherheitsdienst or SD) assumed control over the Prussian, and later, Bavarian, police. The small Gestapo was put under the control of one Heinrich Müller, a top operative in the political police of Munich. Although Müller had been a devoted enemy of the National Socialists, he was considered by Heydrich as an extremely competent expert in detecting and dealing with the Commniists and other dissident groups. Müller, a member of the Catholic right-wing BVP, organized the small Berlin intelligence agency into a highly competent and efficient arm of detection and repression. With the outbreak of the war in September, 1939, all German police and political police agencies were put under the umbrella of the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt…State security main office) and the Gestapo, still under Müller, constituted Amt IV (Bureau IV) of that agency. Although nominally under the control of both Himmler and Heydrich, Müller, a decorated WWI military pilot, was essentially independent and was in complete control of his organization.

At its height, the Gestapo had offices in all the major, and some of the minor, German cities but never had more than thirty-two thousand personnel, to include office workers and field agents, but the effectiveness of the Gestapo lay not only in Müller’s institution of an in-depth national card file on most German citizens but in an enormous network of volunteer informers called ‘V-Leute’ or Vertrauens-Männer (Leute) or trustworthy sources. Politically trustworthy supporters of the Nazi movement were recruited as voluntary, unpaid, reporting sources and could be found in all walks of German civilian and, to a lesser degree, government and military, sectors.

These ‘V-Leute’ were given special identity cards, assisted if possible by the Gestapo in the event of civil or criminal legal problems and made privy to various impressive but unimportant Gestapo information. The value of this army of over 75,000 known domestic informers was, without doubt, one of the reasons for the Gestapo’s successes against internal dissident groups.

Setting aside malicious denunciations, the V-Leute kept the Gestapo field offices and from them, the central headquarters on the Prinz Albrecht Strasse in Berlin, with an enormous input of often very valuable information.. One of the positive aspects of the activities of this army of domestic voluntary informers was the feeling among the German public that the Gestapo was everywhere, even present, ever observant and this fright quotient was often more than sufficient to quell any anti government sentiments in most of the German population and created  a `self-policing’ society operating within a `consensus dictatorship’

Heinrich Müller, the father of the informant program and the head of the Gestapo almost since its inception, escaped from Germany in 1945 and ended up in Switzerland where he worked as an expert on Communist espionage until 1948 when he was recruited by the CIA’s James Critchfield to work for the CIA, also as an expert in Communist espionage.  In studying the current FBI program, it is very obvious that Müller brought more to Washington than his hat and if the old adage that it is lawful to be taught by an enemy is correct, our own form of the Gestapo, the FBI, certainly and clearly benefited from Müller’s organizational skills.

In 1996, the FBI set up an organization they called the Infragard, which very closely followed the ‘V-Leute’ program:

, ….” the protection of our nation’s infrastructure cannot be accomplished by the federal government alone. It requires coordinated action from numerous stakeholders – including government, the private sector, law enforcement and concerned citizens.” And that: “Each InfraGard chapter is geographically linked with an FBI Field Office, providing all stakeholders immediate access to experts from law enforcement, industry, academic institutions and other federal, state and local government agencies”.

One of the publicly stated aims of this project is that:  “(b)y utilizing the talents and expertise of the InfraGard network, information is shared to mitigate threats to our nation’s critical infrastructures.” This is nearly identical in wording to Müller’s own description of his national informers program and what follows here was lifted, almost verbatim, from his own period analysis: “An InfraGard member is a private-sector volunteer with an inherent concern for national security. Driven to protect their own industry and further motivated to share their professional and personal knowledge to safeguard the country, InfraGard members connect to a national network of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) communicate with federal law enforcement and government agencies through their local InfraGard chapters, and contribute to the security and protection of our national infrastructure from threats and attacks.”

Critical infrastructures are physical and cyber-based systems that are essential to the minimum operations of the economy and the government (as defined in Presidential Decision Directive/NSC 63, May 1998) Key resources are individual targets whose destruction would not endanger security on a national scales, but would create local disaster or profoundly damage national morale (as defined in Homeland Security Presidential Directive-7, December 2003) Together, critical infrastructures and key resources are so vital that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on the defense, economic security, public health or national confidence of the United States.

InfraGard has SMEs around the country in each of the following 17 categories of critical infrastructures and key resources, as recognized by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan:”


“Critical Infrastructures:

Agriculture and Food

Banking and Finance


Defense Industrial Base

Drinking Water and Wastewater Treatment Systems

Emergency Services


Information Technology

National Monuments and Icons

Postal and Shipping

Public Health and Healthcare


Transportation Systems”


In additional similarity to the earlier Gestapo program of unpaid informers, we learn that the current FBI imitation provides its informers the following benefits:

  • The benefits of joining InfraGard include: Network with other companies that help maintain our national infrastructure
  • Quick Fact: 350 of our nation’s Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGar
  • Gain access to an FBI secure communication network complete with VPN encrypted website, webmail, listservs, message boards and much more.
  • Learn time-sensitive, infrastructure related security information from government sources such as DHS and the FBI.
  • Get invitations and discounts to important training seminars and conferences
  • Best of all, there is no cost to join InfraGard Our 145,000+ membership is voluntary yet exclusive and is comprised of individuals from both the public and private sector. The main goal of the Washington, DC Nations Capital Chapter of InfraGard is to promote ongoing dialogue, education, community outreach and timely communication between public and private members. Furthermore, to achieve and sustain risk-based target levels of capability to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from all hazards or events, and to minimize their impact on lives, property, and the economy. InfraGard members gain access to vital information and education that enables them to in turn provide assistance to prevent and address terrorism and other transnational crimes. InfraGard members are provided threat advisories, alerts and warnings and access to a robust secure web-VPN site and e-mail. InfraGard also helps promote an effective liaison with local, state and federal agencies, to include the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI retained InfraGard as an FBI sponsored program, and works closely with DHS in support of the CIP mission. The FBI facilitates InfraGard’s continuing role in CIP activities and further develops InfraGard’s ability to support the FBI’s investigative mission, especially as it pertains to counterterrorism and cyber crimes. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security Office of Infrastructure Protection are currently executing an InfraGard Partnership Program Plan under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in December 2007. Current Washington Field Office (WFO) cleared InfraGard members are encouraged to register on the Cybercop ExtraNet Portal to validate your affiliation with this chapter.”

There are, of course, suggestions and support concepts available to the informant organization as per this statement: “The interests of InfraGard must be protected whenever presented to non-InfraGard members. Independent of the type of presentation, (interview, brief, or published documentation) the InfraGard leadership and the local FBI representative should be made aware of the upcoming presentation. The InfraGard member and the FBI representative should agree on the theme of the presentation. The identity of InfraGard members should be protected at all times.”

As of January 1, 2015, there are over 145,000 InfraGard informants organized in 86 chapters in each of the 50 states, operating under the supervision and control of local FBI agents Secretly, and not reported, are branches in foreign countries, to include Britain, France, Italy and Switzerland..

Given the proliferation of anti-government internet sites and the even larger proliferation of conspiracy stories (many the result of government disinfomation) a reader of the above material might well be expected to dismissed most of it as mere self-serving  bombast on the part of persons with a desperate need to be recognized. In response to these entirely legitimate observations, perhaps it should be noted that the italicized quotations above were taken directly from official sources and can be easily seen at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InfraGard. This lengthy article, an official overview on a site well-known to be very friendly to governmental needs, is confirmation, not only of the existence of this informant organization but, to a historian, a terrifying parallel with the earlier, and very effective, Gestapo program.

Who are the volunteer informers spying on their co-workers, friends and neighbors? If a volunteer is approved by the FBI, they can join InfraGard but the FBI has put special emphasis on persons connected with the communications sector (to include computers and manufacturers and developers of computer-oriented software and equipment) which contains the major, and often minor, telecommunications firms, national, and international, credit reporting bureaus, the major American members of the national, and international, banking systems, the American credit card companies, American automobile manufacturers (who install GPS, or on-board vehicle tracking systems, in their products) Internet providers, (Internet II is owned and operated by the FBI) a significant number of American Evangelical religious organizations who are often over-eager in their efforts to inform on Unbelieving neighbors, friends and co-workers, the hotel and motel industry, the airlines (whose information base of Americans traveling is considered highly important) and even companies who sell boats and private aircraft. Also, and far more alarming, are a number of teachers, recruited into the service because of the often unsophisticated parental remarks small children can be provoked into repeating to the informant. But not all of these sources of information are the sole purview of the FBI. The question arises as to whether the FBI is alone in its intensive spying on the American public and the response unfortunately is that they are only part of the picture of growing, invasive domestic spying.  There has grown up in the United States, an enormous infrastructure of agencies designed solely to spy on the American public and a discussion of some of these might now be in order.

First, and foremost, there is the National Security Agency (NSA) Created by President Truman in 1952, during the Korean War, the NSA is charged with protecting the United States from foreign security threats. The agency was considered so secret that for years the government refused to even confirm its existence. Government insiders used to joke that NSA stood for “No Such Agency

Since early 1996, the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data voluntarily provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth,. The NSA also down-loads any and all information gleaned from its control, or penetration, of global communications satellites. In a word, the NSA can, and does, automatically record all overseas telephone conversations for all sources. It is the goal of the NSA to “create a database of every call ever made” by or to any American resident. To achieve this end, and it should be noted that Müller’s Gestapo had identical systems in place during the life of the Third Reich. This also includes bank transfer data, diplomatic traffic and other interesting information. The Bush administration used the NSA to spy on U.N. diplomats in New York before the invasion of Iraq.

.President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003. As well as the diplomatically-secure UN, the National Security Agency (NSA), on the orders of the Bush administration, eavesdropped on the private conversations and e-mail of its own employees, employees of other U.S. intelligence agencies — including the CIA and DIA — and their contacts in the media, Congress, and oversight agencies and offices.

AT&T , once the sole national provider of telephone service, merged with SBC and kept the AT&T name. Verizon, BellSouth and AT&T are the nation’s three biggest telecommunications companies; between them they provide local and wireless phone service to more than 200 million customers.

The three carriers controlled vast networks with the latest communications technologies. They provided an array of services: local and long-distance calling, wireless and high-speed broadband, including video. Their direct access to millions of homes and businesses had them uniquely positioned to help the government keep tabs on the calling habits of Americans.

Although under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers’ calling habits: violations of Federal law are quite acceptable, if carried out by official stool pigeons and with grateful acceptance. Also, all incoming calls, as well as wireless calls, are subject to being covered.

The telephone/email services have shifted to the Internet and the FBI has a very strong presence with them. Their surveillance meshes with that of the NSA.

The financial penalties for violating Section 222, one of many privacy reinforcements that have been added to the law over the years, can be stiff. The Federal Communications Commission, the nation’s top telecommunications regulatory agency, can levy fines of up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of “violation.” In practice, that means a single “violation” could cover one customer or 1 million and the NSA has made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation. AT&T, which at the time was headed by C. Michael Armstrong, agreed to help the NSA. So did BellSouth, headed by F. Duane Ackerman; SBC, headed by Ed Whitacre; and Verizon, headed by Ivan Seidenberg.have proven to be gold mines of intimate secrets for the FBI. Although several lawsuits have been filed against these cooperating communication giants, they have all been quickly dismissed by cooperative Federal judges before they could get to the potentially dangerous discovery process whereby unwelcome information could become public

The Office of Terrorism Analysis[ supports the National Counterterrorism Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.. Previously, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) oversaw the Intelligence Community, serving as the president’s principal intelligence advisor, additionally serving as head of the CIA. The DCI’s title now is “Director of the Central Intelligence Agency” (DCIA), serving as head of the CIA.At the present time, the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence. Prior to the establishment of the DNI, the CIA reported to the President, with informational briefings to congressional committees. The National Security Advisor is a permanent member of the National Security Council, responsible for briefing the President with pertinent information collected by all US intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, etc.

All sixteen acknowledged Intelligence Community agencies (and five more whose names and activities are considered to be too secret to divulge) are under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence.The National Clandestine Service (NCS) (formerly known as the Directorate of Operations) is the main United States intelligence agency for coordinating human intelligence (HUMINT) services. The organization absorbed the entirety of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s Directorate of Operations, and also coordinates HUMINT between the CIA and other agencies, including, but not limited to, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Diplomatic Security Service, Defense Intelligence Agency, Air Intelligence Agency, Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, and Office of Naval Intelligence. The current Director of the NCS is Michael Sulick. The Director of the NCS reports to the CIA Director.

The creation of the NCS was officially announced in a press release on 13 October 2005. The NCS was created by a bill from US Senator Pat Roberts in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The investigation by the 9/11 Commission reported that HUMINT had been severely degraded in the past two decades, principally because of the end of the Cold War and because of startling revelations about CIA operations uncovered by the investigations of the Church Committee of the US Senate.

The NCS has analogues in the National Security Agency (signals intelligence), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The National Security Service (NSS) within the Federal Bureau of Investigation was created June 29, 2005, by President George W. Bush through the Executive Order (EO) entitled “Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters.”

The basis for the creation of a National Security Service is documented in the FBI paper “National Security: FBI or MI-5?” from the “Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, Chapter 10: Intelligence at Home: The FBI, Justice, and Homeland Security, pp. 466-67, March 31, 2005.”

The National Security Service “pulls together the Counterintelligence Division, the Counterterrorism Division, and the Directorate of Intelligence, enabling it to act together to develop intelligence and then to act on that intelligence, in consultation with not only Department of Justice but also the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).” June 29, 2005, DoJ Briefing Paper.

TALON is the acronym for Threat and Local Observation Notice. “To track alleged ‘domestic terrorist threats against the military,’ the Pentagon  created a new database that contained raw, non-validated’ reports of anomalous activities within the United States Talon was intended to provide a means to gather and disseminate reports from volunteer ‘concerned citizens’

In 2002, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz “designated it as the DoD “standard for reporting suspicious activity.” The Department of Homeland Security, ever eager to enlarge it own domestic citizenry files, declared that; “ TALON as a template within the emerging Protect America homeland defense information sharing system.”

“Talon reports grew out of a program called Eagle Eyes, an anti-terrorist program established by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations that ‘enlists the eyes and ears of Air Force members and citizens in the war on terror,’ according to the program’s Web site. A Pentagon spokesman recently described Eagle Eyes as a ‘neighborhood watch’ program for military bases. The Air Force Inspector General Newsletter in 2003 said program informants include ‘Air Force family members, contractors, off-base merchants, community organizations and neighborhoods’,” Walter Pincus reported in the December 11, 2005, Washington Post.

In April 2007, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence requested that the Secretary of Defense terminate the TALON program because the results of the last year do not merit continuing the program as currently constituted, particularly in light of its image in the Congress and the media.

Operation TIPS, Terrorism Information and Prevention System, was a program designed at the specific order of  President George W. Bush to have United States citizens report suspicious activity on the part of their co-workers, neighbors and family members. US workers who had access to private citizens’ homes, such as cable installers and telephone repair workers, would be reporting on what was in people’s homes if it were deemed suspicious to them. A packet of what was deemed suspicious was to be supplied to each informer. (A copy of this is in the author’s possession and borders on the idiotic) The United States Postal Service, after at first supportive of the program, later resisted its personnel being included in this program, reasoning that if mail carriers became perceived as law enforcement personnel that they would be placed in danger at a level for which they could not reasonably be expected to be prepared, and that the downside of the program hence vastly outweighed any good that it could accomplish.

The National Association of Letter Carriers, a postal labor union, was especially outspoken in its opposition. Although the TIPS program was officially cancelled in 2002, on June 30, 2008, the Denver Post reported that 181 individuals, including police officers, paramedics, firefighters, utility workers, and railroad employees had been trained as Terrorism Liaison Officers to report suspicious information which could be signs of terrorist activity and that while Congress had specifically forbidden its implementation, it was still very much active. The article also stated that TLOs were already active in six other states and the District of Columbia.

The final version of the anti-terrorism legislation, the ‘Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism’ (H.R. 3162, the “USA PATRIOT Act”) puts the Central Intelligence Agency back in the business of spying on Americans. It permits a vast array of information gathering on U.S. citizens from school records, financial transactions, Internet activity, telephone conversations, information gleaned from grand jury proceedings and criminal investigations to be shared with the CIA (and other non-law enforcement officials) even if it pertains to Americans. The information would be shared without a court order. The bill also gives the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, acting in his capacity as head of the Intelligence Community, enormous power to manage the collection and dissemination of intelligence information gathered in the U.S. This new authority supercedes existing guidelines issued to protect Americans from unwarranted surveillance by U.S. agencies such as the FBI.

Conversations with the Crow

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

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

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

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

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



Conversation No. 39

Date: Monday, September 30. 1996

Commenced: 12:23 PM CST

Concluded: 12:47 PM CST

RTC: Gregory?

GD: Yes, Robert. I am letting you know that I got a letter from Critchfield today.

RTC: Excellent! What did he say?

GD: If you know the score, a great deal and if you don’t, it’s still interesting. Shall I read it to you?

RTC: Not on the phone. Can you copy it and send it to me at home?

GD: He says that you spoke well of me and that you said I was a former intelligence employee, just as you said he would. He is very eager to get ahold of me to find out what I know about Mueller and who told me.

RTC: Oh, he’s a very alarmed person, Gregory. They all are.

GD: He did mention that his ex-CIA friends were all in a tizzy. Some believed me and other said that none of it could be true.

RTC: That’s typical, Gregory. We always had members who laughed at everything. You could tell them today was Monday and they would say, “Well, that remains to be seen.” How did he leave it?

GD: He is most insistent that I call him at home.

RTC: But be careful of that, Gregory. He’ll tape you. He wants to find out what you know about Mueller….have you mentioned Kronthal yet?

GD: I haven’t responded to the letter, Robert, but when we talk, I will.

RTC: He’ll ask you if Corson told you this. Say that he did not. Say that Mueller did. Also tell him that the Company terminated Kronthal because he was a faggot and was being blackmailed by the Russians. Got that?

GD: I do.

RTC: This might prove to be very interesting. Be sure you tape him. Do you have the equipment for that?

GD: I do indeed, Robert.

RTC: And be very accurate about Gehlen. No interesting stories.

GD: Robert, please give me some credit, won’t you? I’ve been doing this sort of crap for years now and I haven’t put my foot into it yet.

RTC: No, but I’ve never seen you in action.

GD: You will. I have had dealings with the CIA before. My God, what a bunch of idiots. They have two approaches, Robert and only two. They tell you that you’re in very serious trouble but they can help you or they say they want to be my friend. As far as the latter is concerned, I’d much rather try to fuck a rabid bulldog than trust one of them. They couldn’t talk a Mongoloid idiot out of a candy bar. Now, on the other hand, the Russians I know are far better. I’ve never had a bad word from any of them. I would say that the average Russian KGB person, but on a higher level, is far more intelligent and savvy than any CIA person I’ve ever met.

RTC: Ever been to Russia?

GD: Once. As a tourist, of course. I have a nice picture of myself sitting in their headquarters, reading a local paper under a picture of Lenin.

RTC: Are you serious?

GD: Certainly I am. I met one of their leaders when he and I were in Bern. He was a trade delegation person at their embassy of course. And they do know how to feed you. I got rather fond of smoked sturgeon and really good Beluga caviar, all washed down with a first class Crimean wine.

RTC: Who was your friend there?

GD: He’s in the First Directorate but somehow I seem to have forgotten his name. He was on the idiot tube during the Gorbachev problem a few years ago.

RTC: Stocky? Sandy hair? Thinning?

GD: I believe so.

RTC: My God. If I gave you a name would…

GD: No, I would not. Besides, I’m not a spy, Robert. Don’t forget, I’m an analyst, a scenario writer, not a spy. Besides the sturgeon, I enjoy dissecting a complex problem and arriving at a simple answer. It’s not popular with most people, Robert, but it’s almost always right.

RTC: Such vanity.

GD: I prefer to call it a realistic appraisal of facts, Robert.

RTC: Could I see the picture?

GD: I’ll show it to you in person but I would prefer not to send it to you by mail. It might get lost.

RTC: Yes, these things do happen.

GD: I will certainly speak with Critchfield and I will tape the conversation for you. Do you want a copy of the tape?

RTC: No, just play it for me so I can hear what the shit has to say. I’d like you to get him to talk about the Nazis who worked for him. You know Jim liked the Nazis and hired a fair number of them. Grombach made out a list after the war so they could track some of the war crimes boys who might be in POW cages. They called it the Crowcrass List. Jim got his hands on it and used it to recruit from. I told him once this could come back to haunt him if the Jews ever found out about it but Jim just said the Jews were loud-mouthed assholes, his exact words, and Hitler missed the boat when he left any alive.

GD: Do you want me to get him to say that?

RTC: Now that’s an interesting idea, Gregory. Would you?

GD: Why not? I really knew Gehlen, as I’ve said, in ’51. He told me once that his famous report that the Russians were planning to attack western Europe in ’48 was made up because the U.S. Army, who were paying him, wanted him to do this. He said he lied like a rug and that no German intelligence officer would ever believe a word of it. He said the Russians had torn up all the rail lines in their zone and they could no more move troops up to the border than crap sideways. He said that this was designed to scare the shit out of the politicians in Washington so the Army, which was being sharply reduced in size, would be able to rebuild. That meant more money from Congress and more Generals got to keep their jobs. He said it worked like a charm and even Truman was terrified. I assume that’s the real beginning of the Cold War, isn’t it?

RTC: That’s a very good and accurate assessment. Jim told me that Gehlen was a pompous ass whom Hitler had sacked for being a champion bullshit artist but he was very useful to our side in frightening everyone with the Russian boogeyman. It’s all business, isn’t it?

GD: Marx said that. The basis of all wars is economic.

RTC: Absolutely, Gregory, absolutely. But talk about the Nazi SS men he hired, if you can. My God, they say it was like a party rally up at Pullach. If we can get him to admit that he, and others, knew what they were hiring, I’ll have him over the proverbial barrel and then I can have some leverage over him. Why, you don’t need to know.

GD: I don’t care, Robert. From his letter, I would agree he is a gasbag with a bloated opinion of himself. He should never have written that letter because I can see right through it. He’s afraid I know too much and if I knew Mueller, he’s even more frightened Mueller might have said things about him. You know, Robert, if you dance to the tune, you have to pay the piper eventually.

RTC: Do keep the letter and try to get him to put more down on paper.

GD: I will try but I don’t think he’s that stupid. We’ll try the tape and see what I can pry out of him. Mueller got me a list of names working for Gehlen and some background on them. I agree that they hired some people who are going to haunt them if it ever gets out.

RTC: Well, you have a problem there. Your publisher is not big enough to reach too many people and a bigger one would be told right off not to talk to you. I also might suggest several things to you. If anyone tries to come to visit you, and they want to bring a friend, don’t go for it.

GD: Are they planning to shoot me?

RTC: No. The so-called friend would be a government expert. They would examine any documents you had and if there was the slightest hint that you were sitting on something you had no business having, they would go straight into federal court, testify that these papers were highly sensitive and classified and get a friendly judge to issue a replevin order. That means they would send the FBI crashing into your house and grab everything sight. If you had a Rolex it would vanish along with any loose cash and, naturally, all the papers. And one other thing, if you get a very nice offer from some publisher you never heard of, just begging you to let them publish, be warned that they would take the manuscript, send it to Langley and if Langley thought it was dangerous, give you a contract to publish it along with a token payment. Of course they would never publish it but since they paid you and had a contract to publish, you could never find another publisher. They’d get a court order in record time, blocking it. Just some advice.

GD: Thank you. But I never let these morons into my house. Oh, and I have had such invites but once you talk to these jokers, you can see in a few minutes that they know nothing about Mueller, the Gestapo or anything else. They read a book and think they are an expert but most post war books are bullshit written by the far left or by Jews and are completely worthless from a factual point of view. No, it takes me only a few minutes to figure them out and then, suddenly, my dog is tearing the throats out of the Seventh Day Adventists on the front porch and I have to ring off. I don’t know why these Mongoloids don’t find someone with an IQ larger than their neck size. That is a chronic disappointment. There’s no challenge there, Robert. It’s a little like reading Kant to a Mongoloid. Such a waste of my time and so unrewarding when you find they pissed on the rug.

RTC: That should do it for now, Gregory. Keep me posted.

GD: I’m going out of town for a few days but will get back with you next week.


(Concluded at 12:47 PM CST)


New Zika virus cases pop up in 3 states as study finds more linked birth defects

February 10, 2016


Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee are the latest states to have the Zika virus brought home by travelers returning from South or Central America, or the Caribbean, while a new study has revealed that it may potentially cause more birth defects than suspected.

A 30-year-old Cleveland woman became the first diagnosed case in Ohio, state officials said on Tuesday. Indiana officials similarly reported that another woman had become the state’s first case on the same day, though she was not hospitalized. The women had recently traveled to Haiti and are not pregnant, state officials said.

The age and gender of the first Zika patient in Tennessee remains undisclosed, but officials say the person had returned from South America.

We have been expecting an imported case of Zika virus disease, and we believe more infections are likely as people travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted,” the commissioner of the state’s health department, Dr. John Dreyzehner, said in a statement.

Those three states bring the grand total to 13 and the District of Columbia. Altogether, 50 cases of Zika have been diagnosed in the US, all in people who had traveled to one of the 30 countries where the virus is active, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There was also one case of the virus being sexual transmitted in Dallas, Texas.

In a new study published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology, Brazilian researchers reported finding eye problems in 10 out of 29 newborns infected with the Zika virus, for which there is no vaccine or treatment. Retina atrophy, iris discoloration, and lens dislocations were counted among the birth defects, and in seven out of the 10 cases, both eyes were affected.

The study proves the more well-known birth defect known as microcephaly, where a baby’s head and brain don’t fully develop, isn’t the only risk faced by Zika’s most vulnerable victims.

The first Zika outbreak was identified in Brazil in May of last year, and though it is primarily contracted via mosquito bites, it can also be spread through blood transfusions and unprotected sex, as well as to unborn children whose pregnant mothers are infected. The CDC advises men to use condoms or refrain from intercourse with pregnant women if they have traveled to a high risk country recently. It also recommends that pregnant women be tested two to 12 weeks after returning from afflicted regions.

Four out of five people with Zika don’t experience any of its symptoms, which can include fever, rashes, joint pain, muscle pain, red eyes, and headaches – all of which can last up to a week.

On Monday, the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center began operating at its top emergency activation level – Level 1. The last time Level 1 was enacted was during the Ebola crisis of 2014. It was also activated in 2009 in response to H1N1 influenza and in 2005 for Hurricane Katrina.


‘Everyone is catching it’: Venezuelans fear the worst as Zika infections rise

The numbers infected with the Zika virus could be as high as 400,000 say experts, and medicine is in short supply as the country’s recession takes a toll

February 10, 2016

by Stephen Gibbs

The Guardian

You can spot them by their warm winter clothes, despite the tropical heat. Inside a dingy public health clinic in the Libertador municipality of Caracas, half a dozen people are waiting to find out if they have the Zika virus.

It’s the chills that are the worst,” says Angy, 21. She displays a scarlet rash on both her upper arms. Alongside her, her mother, Belkis Carillo, a nurse, needs no convincing. “Everyone is catching it,” she says. “My sister, my cousin, my nephew. They’ve all had it.”

Zika has arrived in Venezuela with cruel timing, in the midst of the steepest recession in living memory. The crash in the price of the country’s only significant export, oil, has brought the long-mismanaged economy closer to total collapse. The International Monetary Fund predicts inflation will hit 720% in 2016. Many economists say a default before the end of the year is more likely than not.

As its government runs out of dollars, all imports, including medicines, have been radically cut back. At the Libertador clinic, handwritten notes plead with patients not to bother asking for HIV or hepatitis tests until further notice. The test kits ran out months ago.

And, just as the authorities are accused of being overly secretive as to the real state of the economy (the official inflation figure – more than 140% – was only released in January after a 12-month delay), critics say a cover-up over the severity of Zika is under way too.

All the medical staff the Guardian spoke to at the Libertador clinic said they had been strictly instructed not to give any details on the number of patients confirmed infected. The official health ministry count of the number of Zika infections nationwide is between 4,500 and 4,700.

We Venezuelans have a name for that,” says Belkis. “It’s called a ‘fantasy figure’.”

Doctors agree. A private association, the Network to Defend National Epidemiology, estimates that it is more likely Venezuela has 400,000 cases. Neighbouring Colombia, has reported 25,645 cases of Zika.

One possible indication of the prevalence of the virus is that the first known sexually transmitted case in the US has a Venezuelan connection. The infected patient’s partner is understood to have contracted the disease during a recent visit. On Tuesday, China confirmed that the only case it has so far detected is a man who travelled to Venezuela in January.

A couple of miles down the road from the clinic there is another queue, of perhaps 50 people, at the vast Concepción Palacios maternity hospital. Julimar Beumon, 19, is four months pregnant and waiting for a check up. “I’m worried,” she says.

Venezuelan authorities are looking into one recent case of microcephaly, the birth defect in which babies are born with unusually small heads, which is suspected of being connected to the Zika virus.

The baby was born on 27 January at the infant maternity hospital in the El Valle district of the city, which is now named after the late president Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013. Inside its cavernous entrance, a huge poster of Chávez comforting a young child is on display. “Only possible in Socialism”, reads the script underneath. Accessible healthcare for all was one of the boasts of his political movement. But now the hospital is another example of the severe strains Venezuela’s health system is facing.

Workers the Guardian spoke to inside the hospital, who asked not to be identified, complained of a chronic shortage of medicines – and even more basic supplies: one worker said that there had not been running water at the hospital for more than a month.

The Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Federation has said that 70% of basic medicines in the country are in short supply.

Venezuela’s health minister, Luisana Melo, has also indicated that there has been a notable spike in the number of cases of Guillain-Barré, a rare disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks nerve cells, which may also be linked to Zika. About 255 cases are being investigated; 55 of those affected are in intensive care.

Their treatment is complicated owing to a nationwide shortage of immunoglobulin, one of the therapies for the condition. Families of those affected have made appeals on social media for supplies. The state-run pharmaceutical company Quimbiotec, the only national producer, reportedly shut down production last August, owing to a lack of raw materials. It has said operations will restart soon.

Julimar says at her home there are mosquitoes everywhere, and always have been. The protection she takes is in the form of a treasured bottle of mosquito repellent. She uses it sparingly; repellent, like everything else, is in short supply. A search for the most common brand, OFF!, on the website of the two main pharmacies in Venezuela shows zero availability.

A further challenge is that most homes in Venezuela, like public buildings (including hospitals), have only intermittent running water; the result of an ongoing drought and years of inadequate investment and maintenance.

That means Venezuelans are used to storing water; inadvertently creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The government has pledged an information campaign and is increasing scheduled anti-mosquito fumigation visits.

Back at the Concepción Palacios hospital, another woman, Karelys Pulgar, holds her belly. She is pregnant with her sixth child, and says she is praying everything will be OK. And, in the absence of any other option, she has started her own low-tech routine. She burns empty egg cartons inside her home. “The smoke scares off the mosquitoes, I hope,” she says.


Google to ban Adobe Flash-based advertising

Another nail is hammered into Flash’s coffin, meaning 2016 will be the last year of abundant display-marketing based on the maligned plugin

February 10, 2016

by Samuel Gibbs

The Guardian

Google has announced that it will stop accepting ads made with Adobe’s much maligned Flash in June this year and ban them entirely from 2 January 2017.

Both arms of Google’s advertising business, Google Display Network and DoubleClick will stop showing Flash, meaning that all ads will have to use HTML5 for animations.

Google said: “To enhance the browsing experience for more people on more devices, the Google Display Network and DoubleClick Digital Marketing are now going 100% HTML5.”

Video ads, however, will still be able to use Flash for the time being, but the clock appears to be ticking for those as well.

Over 100m Flash-based adverts were displayed to users globally in the year to June 2015, while 84% of banner ads were still Flash, according to data from Ad Age. That number is expected to be significantly reduced year-on-year and eventually taper to zero as other advertising services follow suit, such as Amazon which recently blocked Flash ads from its own site.

Google’s war on Flash also includes its Chrome browser, which began blocking Flash elements by default in September last year, requiring users to click on the the ads to activate them – essentially something no one is likely to do. Chrome is currently in use by 57.8% of the desktop internet market and 47.8% of the global internet-using public across mobile, desktop, tablet and consoles, according to data from Statcounter.

With video services, including YouTube, dumping Flash for HTML5 or digital rights management-laden Microsoft Silverlight, Flash’s last bastion will likely be embedded tools for software-as-a-services, such as administration packages.

For all those without SAP or Oracle in our lives, the world will soon be practically Flash free.


Turkey’s Erdogan denounces US support for Syrian Kurds

February 10, 2016


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at the US over its support for Syria’s main Kurdish group.

He accused Washington of creating a “sea of blood” by failing to recognise as terrorists members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing.

The PYD, which the US is relying on to battle so-called Islamic State inside Syria, is an offshoot of the PKK.

Mr Erdogan’s comments come as he faces pressure to allow in 30,000 Syrians stranded on the border with Turkey.

The refugees have fled an offensive by Syrian government forces and allied militias on rebel-held areas around the northern city of Aleppo.

France’s outgoing foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, also criticised US policy in Syria on Wednesday, saying that its ambiguity had contributed to the failure to end the conflict.

“We don’t have the feeling that there is a very strong commitment,” he said.


Wounded Syrian rebels say Russia crippling their insurgency

February 10, 2016

by Humeyra Famuk


In a field hospital in the Turkish border town of Kilis, wounded Syrian opposition fighters say Russian air strikes have brought their campaign against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Islamic State militants to the brink of collapse.

A major offensive in the countryside around Aleppo by Syrian government forces, backed by Russian bombardment and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, has choked opposition supply lines and left the rebels at risk of losing their northern power base.

A last-ditch intervention by Sunni Muslim backers including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar could save their insurgency, they say, in a strategically critical part of Syria divided for years between government and rebel control.

“If it wasn’t for Russia, we would have chopped Assad into pieces by now. This war was almost over four or five months ago. Then Russia came in,” said Qasim, 23, a member of Failaq al-Sham, one of several rebel groups around Aleppo, who said he had been injured 10 days ago in clashes northwest of the city.

“If Turkey, Saudi and Qatar enter with their soldiers this war would be over in a month. Turkey has sent weapons and assistance but now it should help us more. We’re fighting everyone here: Assad, Islamic State, Hezbollah, the PKK (Kurdish militants),” he said from a hospital bed, his arm bandaged.

Saudi Arabia has said it is open to sending in special forces as part of a U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, while the United Arab Emirates has said it too could supply ground troops to support any international coalition.

A senior Turkish government official said there were constant joint assessments with allies about what could be done in Syria but there were no preparations for any operation with Riyadh involving a ground incursion or large numbers of troops.

The Russian-backed Syrian government advance over recent days amounts to one of the biggest shifts in the balance of the war. It threatens to wipe the insurgents out of one of their strongholds in the northwest and bring Syrian and allied forces to around 25 km (16 miles) from the Turkish border.

Kurdish-led YPG fighters have capitalized on the shifting balance of power, seizing villages from the rebels in gains which have alarmed Turkey. Ankara views the YPG, which has enjoyed U.S. support against Islamic State in some parts of Syria, as a terrorist group with deep ties to Kurdish PKK militants who have waged an insurgency in Turkey’s own southeast for decades.

Qasim’s rebel faction last month merged with other groups to form a new entity called the Northern Brigade, part of an effort to forge a stronger front as pro-government forces intensified their assaults.

But the strategy appears to have been in vain.

“We’re asking our Muslim brothers Saudi, Qatar, Turkey: please help us. We need Turkey’s help now, more than ever,” Qasim said.


Territory northwest of Aleppo is held by opposition forces and Kurdish groups, but areas to the northeast are controlled by Islamic State. In the Kilis clinic, where around half of the 47 beds are taken up by opposition fighters, talk is of how the radical jihadists are benefiting from the government advance.

A fighter from the Levant Front rebel group who gave his name as Mohammed Ali, 27, said Islamic State surrounded his village and his small band of around 20 fighters near Baraghedeh northeast of Aleppo around 10 days ago.

“I was the commander. They started shooting at us hard. I lost four of my men and was hit by a bullet on my elbow,” he said, showing an X-ray of the smashed bones in his arm.

“About 15 minutes into our battle with Islamic State, Russian warplanes came and started dropping bombs. It wasn’t a fight, it was a massacre. It’s all planned,” he said.

Like others in the post-surgery field ward – some who had lost arms or legs, others blinded by shrapnel – Ali had heard news reports that Saudi Arabia had offered ground troops.

“God willing that would be true. With Saudi troops behind us, we can kill them all, and get back our country,” he said.

The clinic, a single-storey container building set up by the Turkey-based International Blue Crescent around two years ago, has seen much more serious combat injuries since Russian air strikes began last year, its director Usame Barwish said.

Doctors and nurses take those who are well enough in wheelchairs into its small gardens in the February sun.

While some talk with determination of returning to the front lines, the overwhelming sense is of a battle rendered hopeless by international indifference, and particularly by what the rebels see as abandonment by the United States.

“America stopped giving weapons. They supported the Kurds and Russia started bombing us from the air,” said Muhammed, who said he fought for the Ahrar al-Sham rebel group for three years before being shot in both legs by a Kurdish sniper.

“We have the world against us. Assad, Iran, Russia. We are fighting them all. They all help each other and we are alone,” he said. He was done with fighting and would settle with his brother in the Turkish Mediterranean city of Alanya, he said.

“We won this war, but the West didn’t hand us our victory.”

(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun in Ankara; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Andrew Roche)


New Hampshire: The Triumph of Populism– and the death agony of the regnant elites

February 10, 2016

by Justin Raimondo,


The results of the New Hampshire primary are in, and the big winner is the new populism: that mysterious pro-“outsider” phenomenon that has the political class in a panic, and which no one has adequately defined – including its current practitioners.

Donald Trump’s vote total of nearly 35 percent is impressive enough, but his two-to-one margin over the closest runner-up, John Kasich, underscores the triumph of his brand of Jacksonian populism over both the Romney-esque center right (Kasich-Bush) and “movement conservatism” (Cruz-Rubio). In spite of a concerted effort by the conservative punditariat and the mainstream media to marginalize Trump as toxic, he handily crushed them, and is now in a position to barrel into South Carolina and beyond, steamrollering the “Establishment lane” candidates who are as divided as ever.

Even more stunning is Bernie Sanders’ victory over Hillary Clinton: while the polls told us that the former was headed for a win, the numbers – as I write Hillary is barely holding on to 40 percent – augur trouble for Mrs. Clinton’s much anticipated coronation. While the Clintonian “firewall” in the south is supposed to be impregnable, one can easily imagine it turning into the electoral equivalent of the Maginot Line. It’s that kind of election year.

The other big story of this election is the implosion of Marco Rubio, the fair-haired boy of the neoconservatives. His third place finish in Iowa was touted so loudly by his fanboys in the conservative media that one would have thought he taken first prize. Yet his cringe-worthy performance in the debate – it looked like his neoconservative handlers programmed him with the wrong software – and now his relegation to a humiliating fifth place in New Hampshire has almost certainly sunk his campaign. He will probably continue into Super Tuesday and perhaps beyond, but that’s only because he doesn’t seem to have an “off” button, or maybe it’s just stuck: in any case, it’s far too late to send him back to the factory for repair.

So much for the numbers. Now let’s look at what they mean.

Ideologically, what New Hampshire tells us is that the “centrist” anti-“extremist” political paradigm that has restricted our political perceptions – and choices – for lo these many years is obsolete. For months, voters have been told that someone who defines himself as a “democratic socialist” could never mount a credible challenge to Queen Hillary, and that the victory of the Clinton Restorationists is inevitable. Now, however, nothing seems inevitable, as voters ignore the media and its version of the conventional wisdom, and the “political revolution” led by Sanders seems fully capable of upending the Democratic party.

On the Republican side of the equation, it’s much the same story – only more so. While the Sanderistas are a movement of the “left,” Trumpism is less easily categorized as a rightist phenomenon. On domestic economic issues, Trump is all over the place: he wants to lower the tax rate, but penalize the financial speculators: he opposes Obamacare, and wants to allow competition between insurance companies over state lines, but he also wants to take care of the indigent. He is protectionist on trade, tough on crime, and even tougher on immigration – all stances one would normally associate with the paleo-conservatives. And yet when it comes to defense spending and foreign policy, on close inspection he is remarkably “left”: he opposes a new cold war with Russia, doesn’t’ want us in Syria, highlights his opposition to the Iraq war, and has recently declared that he opposes hiking the military budget. He wonders aloud why we are pledged to defend both South Korea and Japan while they “screw us over’ on trade.

Indeed, when it comes to foreign policy he is a lot closer to Sanders than to any of his Republican rivals. And on trade policy, too, the Sanderistas and the Trumpists sound eerily alike: both movements are protests against the hollowing out of America’s industrial capacity and the rise of paper-pushing financiers as the robber barons of a New Gilded Age. The divide between them is not so much ideological as demographic: Sanders holds the loyalty of the under-30 crowd, while Trump garners the allegiance of their parents and grandparents. What unites them is their rebellion against the political class and a system built on cronyism and perpetual warfare.

What the twin victories of these two protest movements prefigure is the rise of a new nationalism in America. Not the outward-looking aggressive militaristic nationalism of pre-World War II Europe, but the introspective insulating “return to normalcy” nationalism of prewar America: wary of foreign adventurism, almost exclusively concerned with bread-and-butter issues, resentful of a “meritocracy” that rewards anything but genuine merit, and in search of a lost greatness they may never have experienced but only heard about.

This represents a deadly challenge to the regnant elites, who can be expected to fight both Trump and Sanders to the bitter end. The stakes are high: at home, a system that enriches the politically connected at the expense of ordinary folks, and abroad, an empire that spans the globe. The beneficiaries of the status quo won’t give up their position easily – and yet they are clearly losing their grip on power. It’s quite a sight to see: the only analogy I can think of is the mass extinction of the dinosaurs in prehistoric times.

The liberal corporatists who have, up until now, controlled the Democratic party can be expected to use every trick in the book to derail the Sanders campaign, and the smears are already being circulated by the Clintonians, who are experts in the field.

In the GOP, the neoconservative faction, which has had a hammerlock on the party up until now, has already unleashed its venom on Trump and his followers, but have been unable to mobilize a “Stop Trump” movement: the “Establishment lane” is too split to mount an effective opposition, and is likely to stay divided until at least after Super Tuesday. With the humiliation and looming final defeat of Rubio, what we will shortly be witnessing is the end of neoconservative dominance in the Republican party. The neocons have been shown up as generals without much of an army: surely this is a development that anti-interventionists can only welcome with open arms.

Yet the looming victory of Trumpism is very far from an unmixed blessing. Trump is an erratic personality, to say the least, and can hardly be trusted to be consistent in anything but his own egotism. His populist Jacksonian patter could just as easily veer from an inward-looking “isolationism” to an extroverted ultra-nationalist militarism if provoked – and from what I can see, it wouldn’t take much to provoke him. Sanders, too, is hardly consistent in his anti-interventionism: he has particular blind spots when it comes to “humanitarian” interventionism, and US-Israeli relations.

However, the peccadilloes of these two individuals, while not entirely beside the point, matter less than what their ascendancy tells us about the seismic changes that are transforming the American political landscape. The political and corporate elites that have ruled, unchallenged, since the end of World War II, and whose perspective is globalist, imperialist, and mercantilist, is facing a serious insurrection: the peasants with pitchforks are gathering in the shadow of the high castle, their torches illuminating the twilight of the West. Whether they succeed in penetrating the fortress and violating the inner sanctum matters less than the destructive effects of the battle itself. Does our ruling class have the will to fight and win? We’ll have the answer shortly.


French MPs vote on post-attacks constitution changes

February 10, 2016

by Guy Jackson


French lawmakers will vote on Wednesday on a controversial package of measures to change the constitution in the wake of the terror attacks on Paris in November.

One of the measures proposed by President Francois Hollande would strip people convicted of terrorism of their French nationality, a contested move that has led to the resignation of the justice minister.

Another would enshrine in the constitution the state of emergency which is currently in force, giving security forces greater powers.

The lower house of parliament has voted through both measures separately this week, but the collective package of measures still requires the support of lawmakers on Wednesday before it can pass on to the upper house, the Senate.

For it to be fully adopted, it will then also need the support of three-fifths of the Congress, the body formed when both houses meet at the Palace of Versailles to vote on revisions to the constitution.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said late Tuesday he was confident the reforms would pass, and warned lawmakers from his Socialist Party that voting against them would “put the government in difficulty and leave the president in a minority”.

He said France faces a terrorist threat “without doubt more serious than before November 13” when gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Parisian bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the Stade de France stadium.

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for the carnage, saying it was in response to French air strikes against the group in Iraq and Syria.

– Year of attacks –

It was the second time in a year that jihadists had struck at the French capital. In January 2015, gunmen attacked the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.

The measure to strip convicted terrorists of nationality was passed by 162 votes to 148 with 22 abstentions on Tuesday, following weeks of debate.

The nationality measure has strong public support but has deeply divided Hollande’s party.

Christiane Taubira resigned as justice minister last month over her opposition to the measure and Hollande’s former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has publicly condemned the proposal.



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 13

February 10, 2016


Last year Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI), abandoned the Committee’s longstanding practice of holding a public hearing with intelligence agency heads on the global threat environment. But yesterday, the annual threat hearing was once again held in public.

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) noted last year’s lapse.

“It’s been two years since we’ve had one of these [hearings]. And I hope we don’t wait that long next time. I think it’s important that the American people have a chance to hear from these officials directly,” Sen. Heinrich said at the hearing yesterday. “Public debate, I believe, benefits tremendously from transparency.”

“The Senator is correct,” Chairman Burr replied. “We didn’t have an open threats hearing last year, we had a closed one.” But he noted that open hearings were held last year with agency heads from the NSA, NCTC and FBI. (And though he didn’t mention it, the Senate Armed Services Committee held its own public threat hearing last year, as well as yesterday, with intelligence community leaders, thereby casting an unflattering light on the Intelligence Committee’s closed door policy.)

Chairman Burr said that the Intelligence Committee would hold public hearings more frequently in the future.

“It is the intent of the chair to continue to allow every agency the opportunity, not just to be here for a worldwide threat hearing, but to come in and share with the American people what it is they do, why they do it, but more importantly why the American people should care about their success.”

“I think the Committee has attempted to try to increase the amount of open exposure with a degree of specificity that we haven’t had in the past,” Chairman Burr said.


Intelligence community budgets appear set to continue on the modest downward slope of the last several years.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said yesterday that it was requesting $53.5 billion for the National Intelligence Program (NIP) in FY 2017, a slight reduction from the $53.9 billion that was requested for the NIP in FY 2016. (The amount actually appropriated has not yet been disclosed.)

“Recognizing the challenges of this fiscal environment, the IC continues to review its operational, investment, and infrastructure programs to identify areas for savings. The Budget reflects the results of a deliberative process to ensure that the IC focuses on those programs that have the most impact and highest priority,” ODNI said in a fact sheet on the FY 2017 request.

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense said that it was requesting $16.8 billion for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP) in FY 2017, down from the $17.9 billion requested for the current fiscal year.

Public disclosure of the NIP budget request was required by Congress in the FY 2010 intelligence authorization act. But there is no corresponding requirement for DoD to publicly report the amount of its annual budget request for the MIP.

The practice of voluntarily declassifying and disclosing the MIP budget request was started by James R. Clapper when he was Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence). Doing so “made sense,” he said recently, particularly since the NIP budget figure had to be released anyway.

Some Members of Congress expressed disappointment that the Obama Administration did not also voluntarily disclose the budget requests of individual intelligence agencies.

There is no transparency there — they’re complying with the thinnest of laws about the [aggregate] number,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT). “Members of Congress and the American public really are learning nothing.” See “Obama Keeps Public in Dark About ‘Black Budget’ Requests” by Steven Nelson, U.S. News, February 9.

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The U.S. Constitution in Article I (Section 9) requires a public “Statement and Account” of the government’s receipt and expenditure of all money.

Past attempts to invoke this requirement to challenge intelligence budget secrecy have foundered on a 1974 US Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Richardson which said that a taxpayer lacked “standing” to make the argument in court.

But in a recent law review article, Chapman University professor Lawrence Rosenthal argued that this is not, or should not be, the end of the story, and that the Statement and Account clause may still have potency against secret intelligence expenditures.

“In terms of its text, original meaning, and its place in constitutional ethos and structure, the [Statement and Account] clause is comprehensible only if it is understood as a mechanism that enables the people to effectively hold the government accountable for its use of public funds. Disclosing an aggregate figure without more makes the clause a bit of foolscap…. If the clause requires only a meaningless and ineffectual disclosure, however, it becomes impossible to explain what it is doing in the Constitution.”

“Perhaps the level of disclosure required if we take the clause seriously would put the United States at a disadvantage when compared to other nations that fund their intelligence communities in secret. Or perhaps the resulting accountability would make our intelligence community stronger; we will never know unless we adopt a more transparent regime. Ultimately, however, the constitutional question about disclosure of intelligence spending does not turn on considerations of policy but on the Statement and Account Clause itself. If we take the clause seriously, the current regime cannot stand.”

See “The Statement and Account Clause as a National Security Freedom of Information Act” by Lawrence Rosenthal, Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, Volume 47, No. 1, Fall 2015.


New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public disclosure include the following.

Oman: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated February 5, 2016

Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations, updated February 5, 2016

Senate Committee Rules in the 114th Congress: Key Provisions, February 8, 2016

Medicare Trigger, updated February 8, 2016

Federal Freight Policy: In Brief, February 5, 2016

Local Food Systems: Selected Farm Bill and Other Federal Programs, February 5, 2016

Commemorative Commissions: Overview, Structure, and Funding, February 5, 2016

Ocean Energy Agency Appropriations, FY2016, February 5, 2016

Allocation of Wastewater Treatment Assistance: Formula and Other Changes, updated February 5, 2016

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions, updated February 5, 2016

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Tehran’s Compliance with International Obligations, updated February 8, 2016

Socialist lawmakers, those from former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing Republicans party and the centrist party UDI party, voted in favour of the measure, but Socialist fringe parties and most of the ecologist lawmakers were opposed.

On Monday, lawmakers voted in favour of the other key measure, the move to give the state of emergency a new status in the constitution.

Rights groups say the police are abusing their powers under the state of emergency, but the government argues that it is an essential step to protect the nation at a time when France could face another jihadist attack.



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