TBR News February 19 ,2019

Feb 19 2019

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

Washington, D.C. February 19, 2019:” Report for Congress June 28, 2004

Homeland Security: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Border Surveillance


The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to improve border security is a technique that has garnered congressional attention. This report examines the strengths and limitations of deploying UAVs along the borders and related issues for Congress. This report will be updated as events warrant.


Border Security has long been recognized as a priority by the Congress. The northern border separating the mainland United States and Canada is 4,121 miles long and consists of 430 official and unofficial ports of entry. The expansive nature and the possibility of entry through unpopulated regions make the border difficult to patrol. In July 2003, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert Bonner announced that an additional 375 border patrol agents would be reassigned to the northern border. This increase brought the number of border patrol agents to one thousand. Commissioner Bonner also noted that CBP’s border agents had, “the front line responsibility for detecting terrorists and terrorist weapons.”

The southern border separating the United States and Mexico is 2,062 miles long and consists of thirty ports of entry and “innumerable unofficial crossings.” Unlike the northern border, however, as of January 2003, 10,408 border patrol agents were stationed. on the southern border. Despite this larger presence, illegal border crossings and significant drug smuggling activities occur frequently.

Borders are monitored and protected by border patrol agents, video cameras, ground sensors, physical barriers, land vehicles and manned aircraft. The diverse nature of U.S. border defense is challenged by an equally diverse array of threats ranging from terrorists to drug smugglers, arms dealers, and human traffickers. Past difficulties in securing the borders in conjunction with fears that terrorists could exploit existing security vulnerabilities by surreptitiously crossing the borders has prompted Congress to call on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to examine the potential use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

There are two different types of UAVs: drones and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs). Both drones and RPVs are pilotless, but drones are programmed for autonomous flight. RPVs are actively flown — remotely — by a ground control operator. UAVs are defined as a powered aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry lethal or nonlethal payloads. UAVs have played key roles in recent conflicts. Historically, UAVs have been used in various military settings outside of U.S. borders. UAVs provided reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, search and rescue and battle damage assessments. In the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, UAVs have been used for surveillance, but also attack. The Predator UAV, for example, was armed with anti-tank weapons and used to attack Taliban and Al Qaeda members.

UAVs have also been used in domestic settings. The NASA-sponsored Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program has produced civilian UAVs to monitor pollution and measure ozone levels. Academia has also been active in exploring civilian uses for UAVs. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is involved in developing Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and video camera guidance for locating and identifying toxic substances. The Department of Energy recently announced that it will test UAVs outfitted with radiation sensors to detect potential nuclear reactor accidents.

On November 12, 2003, Congress agreed to the Department of Defense (DOD) Authorization Conference Report (H.R. 1588) which became P.L. 108-354 on November 24, 2003. Section 1034 of the DOD Authorization Act requires the President to issue a report “on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for support of homeland security missions.” UAVs were recently tested for potential domestic application on the U.S.-Mexican border.. UAV demonstrations conducted by various commercial companies at Fort Huachuca and Gila Bend, Arizona on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Bureau have prompted various questions regarding their potential use within the United States. Shortly after the Arizona UAV demonstrations, DHS acknowledged that one model of UAV, the Predator B, would be used in Operation Safeguard, an experimental law enforcement program that will conduct missions along the U.S.-Mexican border. P.L. 108-90 on Appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security provides $35.2 million to establish a Northern Border airwing, of which $12.8 million will be available for aircraft procurement. In doing so, Congress supported functional and organizational Air and Marine Interdiction (AMI) and modernization efforts. Congress also tasked the DHS Under Secretary of Border and Transportation Security to devise a report outlining operational plans by which the Air and Marine Operations Center (AMOC) would eliminate surveillance gaps affecting the northern border and western United States.

Benefits and Limitations of UAVs

One potential benefit of UAVs is that they could fill a gap in current border surveillance. In particular, technical capabilities of UAVs could improve coverage along remote sections of the U.S. borders. Electro-Optical (EO) sensors (cameras) can identify an object the size of a milk carton from an altitude of 60,000 feet. UAV’s also can provide precise and real-time imagery to a ground control operator, who would then disseminate that information so that informed decisions regarding the deployment of border patrol agents can be made quickly.

Another benefit of the UAV system is its loiter capabilities. The Predator B used in Operation Safeguard can fly for more than thirty hours without having to refuel. The UAV’s ability to loiter for prolonged periods of time has important operational advantages over manned aircraft. The longer flight times of UAVs means that sustained coverage over a previously exposed area may improve border security.

UAVs are less expensive than manned aircraft used for border security. The unit cost of UAVs varies widely. The Shadow UAV costs $350,000 while the Predator costs $4.5 million. In contrast, the unit cost of a P-3 manned aircraft used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is $36 million. Blackhawk helicopters which are frequently used on the borders cost $8.6 million per unit. However, the benefit of the Blackhawk’s relative low unit cost is diminished by its lack of endurance. Blackhawks have a.CRS-4 maximum endurance of 2 hours and 18 minutes. Consequently, UAVs longer dwell time would allow them to patrol the border longer.

The range of UAVs is a significant asset when compared to border agents on patrol or stationery surveillance equipment. If an illegal border entrant attempts to transit through dense woods or mountainous terrain, UAVs would have a greater chance of tracking the violator with thermal detection sensors than stationary video equipment which is often used on the borders. It is important to note, however, that rough terrain and dense foliage can degrade the images produced by an UAV’s sensory equipment and thus limit their effectiveness at the borders. The extended range and endurance of UAVs may lesson the burdens on human resources at the borders. During Operation Safeguard the prototype Predator B was remotely piloted from a ground control station. The safety concerns faced by helicopter pilots on patrol are eliminated when UAVs are used.

Despite potential benefits of using UAVs for homeland security, various problems encountered in the past may hinder UAV implementation on the border. There are concerns regarding UAVs high accident rate. Currently, the UAV accident rate is 100 times higher than that of manned aircraft. Because UAV technology is still evolving there is less redundancy built into the operating system of UAVs than of manned aircraft and until redundant systems are perfected mishap rates are expected to remain high. Additionally, if control systems fail in a manned aircraft, a well-trained pilot is better positioned to find the source of the problem because of his/her physical proximity. If a UAV encountered a similar system failure, or if a UAV landing was attempted during difficult weather conditions, the ground control pilot would be at a disadvantage because he or she is removed from the event. Unlike a manned pilot, the remote pilot would not be able to assess important sensory information such as wind speed.

The key component of Operation Safeguard was to identify potential threats crossing the southern border illegally. The surveillance capabilities of UAVs equipped with only an E-O camera and Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) sensor have been limited in the past by poor weather conditions. Cloudy conditions and high humidity climates can distort the imagery produced by EO and FLIR equipment. Although the Predator B is operating in the low-humidity environment of the Southwest, the effects of extreme climatic or atmospheric conditions on its sensors reportedly can be mitigated if DHS decides to outfit the Predator B with a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system. Radars can produce high resolution imagery in inclement weather. The ability of SAR to function during adverse weather conditions sets it apart from optical or infrared systems.. However, its ability to track moving targets is limited. This limitation can be mitigated by accompanying SAR with moving target indicator (MTI) radar technology. Adding SAR and MTI to the Predator B’s platform could significantly enhance its operational capability for border missions. By adding SAR and MTI to the UAV platform, however, the costs of using UAVs on the border would increase.

How UAVs could be integrated into civilian airspace within the United States is a fundamental question that would need to be addressed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and DHS. Integrating UAVs into civilian airspace so that they could operate safely would require not only the creation of regulatory guidelines by the FAA but also technical developments. Currently, the FAA is working on guidelines for integrating UAVs into the national air space (NAS). Although there are no guidelines or regulations for incorporating UAVs into the NAS, the FAA has worked closely with government users of UAV technology in developing a certificate of authority (COA) so NAS can be blocked off for exploratory development or operational testing. A primary concern of the FAA is whether UAVs can operate in already crowded airspace. The challenge, according to FAA spokesman William Shumann is, “to develop vehicles that meet FAA safety requirements if they want to fly in crowded airspace.” Before UAVs can be introduced into national airspace, the FAA, DHS and other relevant users will need to address collision-avoidance, communication and weather avoidance issues.

Issues for Congress

Congress will likely conduct oversight of Operation Safeguard before considering wider implementation of this technology. If implemented, would UAVs simply be used to monitor the border for illicit activity, or would they be utilized in a more sophisticated manner? In the future could UAV imagery be used to develop intelligence products on patterns and tactics used by illegal entrants?

If Congress concurs that UAVs can fulfill an important homeland security mission, how many UAVs, and of what type would be needed to patrol the borders? A robust pilot program simultaneously testing multiple UAVs on the borders might be needed in order to ascertain where, how and whether UAVs should be deployed. Larger scale testing would provide an opportunity to evaluate whether limitations of UAVs would hinder their utility on the border. In the past, multiple UAVs piloted in close proximity to each other have experienced interference and loss of control between the UAV and the remote pilot. In many cases interference led to accidents. An expanded pilot program would provide an opportunity to evaluate UAVs under a more realistic operational setting. Additionally,.CRS-6 testing multiple UAVs on the borders could help in establishing parameters under which they could successfully operate.

Should RPVs vs Drones be pursued and deployed for border security? Autonomous drones offer advantages over RPVs, especially in terms of reducing personnel workload and operating costs. However, at this stage of technological development, RPVs can be operated more flexibly than drones, and suffer accidents less frequently.

The use of UAVs on the northern and southern borders could potentially act as an important force multiplier by covering previously unpatrolled areas or more effectively surveilling areas already patrolled. The benefit of increased coverage, however, may not be so significant when terrorists, like the September 11 hijackers, can and have entered the country through more easily accessible official ports of entry. Another consideration is how well the CBP could respond to UAV imagery. Are there enough border patrol resources to investigate all UAV identified targets? Would the lack of human resources render high technology like UAVs less effective?

The technical capabilities of the UAVs have been tested in a military context, but serious safety and technical issues need to be addressed if the program is to be expanded domestically. Perhaps most important, a clearly defined role and action plan for the application of UAV technology to homeland security needs would need to be created. Another set of questions pertains to the schedule for implementing UAVs in border security. Currently, the regular use of UAVs in U.S. airspace appears to be slated for the year 2008.  If UAVs are deemed to be useful for border security, some may ask why it will take so long implement this technology. Other countries, such as Japan and South Korea have, for many years, used UAVs in a variety of civil roles. Italy could fly civil UAVs by the end of 2002.  Could U.S. aviation authorities pursue a more aggressive implementation plan?

UAVs are likely to be fielded as part of a larger system of border surveillance, not as a solution in and of themselves. Are there potential alternatives to using UAVs in this surveillance system? Aerostats may offer one alternative. Aerostats are helium-filled blimps that don’t fly horizontally but are instead tethered to the ground with a cable that provides power. Like UAVs, Aerostats are unmanned and can loiter for long periods of time. Aerostats are already fielded by the Customs Service and by the Army for both civil and military applications. If UAVs are deemed attractive because of low cost, elevated sensor capabilities, and long loiter times, Aerostats may be studied as a platform that might offer advantages in all three of these areas.


The Table of Contents

The Empire in Collapse

  • Are we on the road to civilisation collapse?
  • Trump’s reaction to McCabe shows he may be the most useless of them all
  • “The President Has Been Acting on Russia’s Behalf”: U.S. Officials Are Shocked by Trump’s Asset-Like Behavior
  • Vandals desecrate 90 Jewish graves in east France ahead of marches
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

The Empire in Collapse

by Christian Jürs

Because of the growing, and serious, public discontent that had been manifested during the course of the Vietnamese War from 1950 through 1973, the American governmental establishment resolved to take steps to recognize, infiltrate and neutralize any significant future national anti-government actions.

Once the most powerful nation, the United States is rapidly losing its premier position in the international sphere while at the same time facing a potential serious anti-government political movement developing in that country. The number of unemployed in the United States today is approximately 97,000,000. Official American sources claim that employment is always improving but in fact it is not. Most official governmental releases reflect wishful thinking or are designed to placate the public

This situation is caused by the movement, by management, of manufacturing businesses to foreign labor markets. While these removals can indeed save the companies a great deal of expenditure on domestic labor, by sharply reducing their former worker bodies to a small number, the companies have reduced the number of prospective purchasers of expensive items like automobiles.

The U.S. government’s total revenue is estimated to be $3.654 trillion for fiscal year 2018.

  • Personal income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total.
  • Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes.

This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.

  • Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent.
  • Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, just 4 percent
  • The Federal Reserve’s net income adds $70 billion.
  • The remaining $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts.
  • The use of secret offshore accounts by US citizens to evade U.S. federal taxes costs the U.S. Department of the Treasury well over $100 billion annually.

By moving from a producing to an importing entity, the United States has developed, and is developing, serious sociological and economic problems in a significant number of its citizens, and many suffer from serious health problems that are not treated.

It is estimated that over 500,000 American citizens are without any form of housing. Many of these people either are living on the streets, in public parks, living in cars or in charity shelters. There are at present over 200,000 family groups in America with over 300,000 individuals involved and 25% of the total are minor children.

Over 80,000 individuals are permanently without any residence. Many of these have physical disabilities such as chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. Many are classified as having severe mental disorders.

About 50,000 of these homeless individuals are military veterans, many of whom have serious physical or mental problems. One of the most common mental disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Governmental treatment for these individuals is virtually non-existent.  Approximately half of this number are either black or Latin American (“Hispanics” in official designation.)

Of the total number of the homeless individuals, approximately 10% are female.

Official but private, estimates are that there over 500,000 youths below the age of 24 in current American society that find themselves homeless for periods lasting from one week to a permanent status.

Over 100,000 of this class are young people who are defined as being homosexual. Those in this class find themselves persecuted to a considerable degree by society in general and their peer groups in specific.

Approximately 50% of this homeless population are over the age of 50, many of whom suffer from chronic, debilitating physical illnesses that are not treated.

Drug deaths in the U.S. in 2017 exceeded 60,000.  Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescriptions. Opioids are a class of strong painkillers drugs and include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin which are synthetic drugs designed to resemble opiates such as opium derived morphine and heroin. The most dangerous opioid is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. The increasing demand for these drugs is causing them to be manufactured outside the United States.

Suicide is the primary cause of “injury death” in the United States and more U.S. military personnel on active duty have killed themselves than were killed in combat last year.

The growing instability of American families is manifested by the fact that:

  • One out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.
  • More than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock for women under the age of 30 living in the United States
  • The United States has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.
  • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world although the numbers have declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population in the entire world. The criminal justice system in the United States holds more than 4,166,000 people in 1,719 state prisons, 102,000 in federal prisons, 901,000 in juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,163,000 in local jails. Additionally, 5,203,400 adults are on probation or on parole.

The number of people on probation or parole has increased the population of the American corrections system to more than 9,369,400 in 2017. Corrections costs the American taxpayer $69 billion a year.

There are a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (67 million by conservative estimate) which have been sliced up, put into so-called “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign. This problem has been covered up by American authorities by cloaking the facts in something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)

This results in the fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own.

Another festering problem consists of the official loans made to students in colleges and universities in the U.S. the predatory nature of the $90 billion student loan industry. These so-called student loans are the most serious economic problem faced today by American university students.

This problem arose due to federal legislation originating in the mid-1990s which effectively removed basic consumer protections from student loans, thus permitting extensive penalties and the methodology for enforced collection.

Because of the highly inflated cost of higher American education, very few students from high school can afford university education. The new college graduate has, on average, a student loan in excess of $20,000 and students attending graduate programs have average debts of over $40,000.

America today has seriously failing public school systems. Upper economic class Americans are able to send their children to expensive private schools and avoid the exceedingly incompetent public systems. The average American lower school graduates are only a step above illiteracy and their lack of knowledge of world affairs is quite unbelievable.

A small number of extremely wealthy men control and operate all of the major American print and television media.

Each of the few very powerful, rich men have their own reasons for deciding what qualifies as news.

But the public in America now gets its news, without cost, from various internet sites and the circulation number of major print news has dropped dramatically. This has forced the internet editions of the print news media to erect what they call “paywalls.” This permits a very limited number of articles to be read or downloaded before the system demands money for the use of additional material.

The major print media in America is faced with imminent bankruptcy and are making frantic efforts at attempts to prevent free news sites from being aired on the internet.

Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.

This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.

Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.

The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.

This movement has played into the hands of far-right American political manipulators.

It is their intention to clandestinely arm these groups and use them to cause violent public confrontations with the far left groups.

By causing this potential violence, the manipulators intend to use the American military to move into unstable area to, as they say, ‘establish law and order’ while in reality, they will use martial law to firm up their basic control of a potentially fractious public.

It is then intended, according to information, to incorporate organized, para-military groups into a sort of domestic Federal police force. These people will not be punished for their actions but rewarded and utilized to ensure further right-wing control of the country.


Are we on the road to civilisation collapse?

Studying the demise of historic civilisations can tell us how much risk we face today, says collapse expert Luke Kemp. Worryingly, the signs are worsening.

February 19, 2019

by Luke Kemp

BBC News

Great civilisations are not murdered. Instead, they take their own lives.

So concluded the historian Arnold Toynbee in his 12-volume magnum opus A Study of History. It was an exploration of the rise and fall of 28 different civilisations.

He was right in some respects: civilisations are often responsible for their own decline. However, their self-destruction is usually assisted.

The Roman Empire, for example, was the victim of many ills including overexpansion, climatic change, environmental degradation and poor leadership. But it was also brought to its knees when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and the Vandals in 455.

Collapse is often quick and greatness provides no immunity. The Roman Empire covered 4.4 million sq km (1.9 million sq miles) in 390. Five years later, it had plummeted to 2 million sq km (770,000 sq miles). By 476, the empire’s reach was zero.

Our deep past is marked by recurring failure. As part of my research at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, I am attempting to find out why collapse occurs through a historical autopsy. What can the rise and fall of historic civilisations tell us about our own? What are the forces that precipitate or delay a collapse? And do we see similar patterns today?

I have compared the lifespan of various civilisations, which I define as a society with agriculture, multiple cities, military dominance in its geographical region and a continuous political structure. Given this definition, all empires are civilisations, but not all civilisations are empires. The data is drawn from two studies on the growth and decline of empires (for 3000-600BC and 600BC-600), and an informal, crowd-sourced survey of ancient civilisations.

Collapse can be defined as a rapid and enduring loss of population, identity and socio-economic complexity. Public services crumble and disorder ensues as government loses control of its monopoly on violence.

Virtually all past civilisations have faced this fate. Some recovered or transformed, such as the Chinese and Egyptian. Other collapses were permanent, as was the case of Easter Island. Sometimes the cities at the epicentre of collapse are revived, as was the case with Rome. In other cases, such as the Mayan ruins, they are left abandoned as a mausoleum for future tourists.

What can this tell us about the future of global modern civilisation? Are the lessons of agrarian empires applicable to our post-18th Century period of industrial capitalism?

I would argue that they are. Societies of the past and present are just complex systems composed of people and technology. The theory of “normal accidents” suggests that complex technological systems regularly give way to failure. So collapse may be a normal phenomenon for civilisations, regardless of their size and stage.

We may be more technologically advanced now. But this gives little ground to believe that we are immune to the threats that undid our ancestors. Our newfound technological abilities even bring new, unprecedented challenges to the mix.

And while our scale may now be global, collapse appears to happen to both sprawling empires and fledgling kingdoms alike. There is no reason to believe that greater size is armour against societal dissolution. Our tightly-coupled, globalised economic system is, if anything, more likely to make crisis spread.

If the fate of previous civilisations can be a roadmap to our future, what does it say? One method is to examine the trends that preceded historic collapses and see how they are unfolding today.

While there is no single accepted theory for why collapses happen, historians, anthropologists and others have proposed various explanations, including:

CLIMATIC CHANGE: When climatic stability changes, the results can be disastrous, resulting in crop failure, starvation and desertification. The collapse of the Anasazi, the Tiwanaku civilisation, the Akkadians, the Mayan, the Roman Empire, and many others have all coincided with abrupt climatic changes, usually droughts.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: Collapse can occur when societies overshoot the carrying capacity of their environment. This ecological collapse theory, which has been the subject of bestselling books, points to excessive deforestation, water pollution, soil degradation and the loss of biodiversity as precipitating causes.

INEQUALITY AND OLIGARCHY: Wealth and political inequality can be central drivers of social disintegration, as can oligarchy and centralisation of power among leaders. This not only causes social distress, but handicaps a society’s ability to respond to ecological, social and economic problems.

The field of cliodynamics models how factors such as equality and demography correlate with political violence. Statistical analysis of previous societies suggests that this happens in cycles. As population increases, the supply of labour outstrips demand, workers become cheap and society becomes top-heavy. This inequality undermines collective solidarity and political turbulence follows.

COMPLEXITY: Collapse expert and historian Joseph Tainter has proposed that societies eventually collapse under the weight of their own accumulated complexity and bureaucracy. Societies are problem-solving collectives that grow in complexity in order to overcome new issues. However, the returns from complexity eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. After this point, collapse will eventually ensue.

Another measure of increasing complexity is called Energy Return on Investment (EROI). This refers to the ratio between the amount of energy produced by a resource relative to the energy needed to obtain it. Like complexity, EROI appears to have a point of diminishing returns. In his book The Upside of Down, the political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon observed that environmental degradation throughout the Roman Empire led to falling EROI from their staple energy source: crops of wheat and alfalfa. The empire fell alongside their EROI. Tainter also blames it as a chief culprit of collapse, including for the Mayan.

EXTERNAL SHOCKS: In other words, the “four horsemen”: war, natural disasters, famine and plagues. The Aztec Empire, for example, was brought to an end by Spanish invaders. Most early agrarian states were fleeting due to deadly epidemics. The concentration of humans and cattle in walled settlements with poor hygiene made disease outbreaks unavoidable and catastrophic. Sometimes disasters combined, as was the case with the Spanish introducing salmonella to the Americas.

RANDOMNESS/BAD LUCK: Statistical analysis on empires suggests that collapse is random and independent of age. Evolutionary biologist and data scientist Indre Zliobaite and her colleagues have observed a similar pattern in the evolutionary record of species. A common explanation of this apparent randomness is the “Red Queen Effect”: if species are constantly fighting for survival in a changing environment with numerous competitors, extinction is a consistent possibility.

Despite the abundance of books and articles, we don’t have a conclusive explanation as to why civilisations collapse. What we do know is this: the factors highlighted above can all contribute. Collapse is a tipping point phenomena, when compounding stressors overrun societal coping capacity

Temperature is a clear metric for climate change, GDP is a proxy for complexity and the ecological footprint is an indicator for environmental degradation. Each of these has been trending steeply upwards.

Inequality is more difficult to calculate. The typical measurement of the Gini Index suggests that inequality has decreased slightly globally (although it is increasing within countries). However, the Gini Index can be misleading as it only measures relative changes in income. In other words, if two individuals earning $1 and $100,000 both doubled their income, the Gini would show no change. But the gap between the two would have jumped from $99,999 to $198,000.

Because of this, I have also depicted the income share of the global top 1%. The 1% have increased in their share of global income from approximately 16% in 1980 to over 20% today. Importantly, wealth inequality is even worse. The share of global wealth from the 1% has swelled from 25-30% in the 1980s to approximately 40% in 2016. The reality is likely to be starker as these numbers do not capture wealth and income siphoned into overseas tax havens.

Studies suggest that the EROI for fossil fuels has been steadily decreasing over time as the easiest to reach and richest reserves are depleted. Unfortunately, most renewable replacements, such as solar, have a markedly lower EROI, largely due to their energy density and the rare earth metals and manufacturing required to produce them.

This has led much of the literature to discuss the possibility of an “energy cliff” as EROI declines to a point where current societal levels of affluence can no longer be maintained. The energy cliff need not be terminal if renewable technologies continue to improve and energy efficiency measures are speedily implemented.

Measures of resilience

The somewhat reassuring news is that collapse metrics are not the entire picture. Societal resilience may be able to delay or prevent collapse.

For example, globally “economic diversity” – a measurement of the diversity and sophistication of country exports ­– is greater today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, as measured by the Economic Complexity Index (ECI). Nations are, on average, less reliant on single types of exports than they once were. For example, a nation that had diversified beyond only exporting agricultural products would be more likely to weather ecological degradation or the loss of trading partners. The ECI also measures the knowledge-intensity of exports. More skilled populations may have a greater capacity to respond to crises as they arise.

Similarly, innovation – as measured by per capita patent applications – is also rising. In theory, a civilisation might be less vulnerable to collapse if new technologies can mitigate against pressures such as climate change.

It’s also possible that “collapse” can happen without violent catastrophe. As Rachel Nuwer wrote on BBC Future in 2017, “in some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper”.

Still, when we look at all these collapse and resilience indicators as a whole, the message is clear that we should not be complacent. There are some reasons to be optimistic, thanks to our ability to innovate and diversify away from disaster. Yet the world is worsening in areas that have contributed to the collapse of previous societies. The climate is changing, the gap between the rich and poor is widening, the world is becoming increasingly complex, and our demands on the environment are outstripping planetary carrying capacity.

The rungless ladder

That’s not all. Worryingly, the world is now deeply interconnected and interdependent. In the past, collapse was confined to regions – it was a temporary setback, and people often could easily return to agrarian or hunter-gatherer lifestyles. For many, it was even a welcome reprieve from the oppression of early states. Moreover, the weapons available during social disorder were rudimentary: swords, arrows and occasionally guns.

Today, societal collapse is a more treacherous prospect. The weapons available to a state, and sometimes even groups, during a breakdown now range from biological agents to nuclear weapons. New instruments of violence, such as lethal autonomous weapons, may be available in the near future. People are increasingly specialised and disconnected from the production of food and basic goods. And a changing climate may irreparably damage our ability to return to simple farming practices.

Think of civilisation as a poorly-built ladder. As you climb, each step that you used falls away. A fall from a height of just a few rungs is fine. Yet the higher you climb, the larger the fall. Eventually, once you reach a sufficient height, any drop from the ladder is fatal.

With the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we may have already reached this point of civilisational “terminal velocity”. Any collapse – any fall from the ladder – risks being permanent. Nuclear war in itself could result in an existential risk: either the extinction of our species, or a permanent catapult back to the Stone Age.

While we are becoming more economically powerful and resilient, our technological capabilities also present unprecedented threats that no civilisation has had to contend with. For example, the climatic changes we face are of a different nature to what undid the Maya or Anazasi. They are global, human-driven, quicker, and more severe.

Assistance in our self-imposed ruin will not come from hostile neighbors, but from our own technological powers. Collapse, in our case, would be a progress trap.

The collapse of our civilisation is not inevitable. History suggests it is likely, but we have the unique advantage of being able to learn from the wreckages of societies past.

We know what needs to be done: emissions can be reduced, inequalities levelled, environmental degradation reversed, innovation unleashed and economies diversified. The policy proposals are there. Only the political will is lacking. We can also invest in recovery. There are already well-developed ideas for improving the ability of food and knowledge systems to be recuperated after catastrophe. Avoiding the creation of dangerous and widely-accessible technologies is also critical. Such steps will lessen the chance of a future collapse becoming irreversible.

We will only march into collapse if we advance blindly. We are only doomed if we are unwilling to listen to the past.

Luke Kemp is a researcher based at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge



Trump’s reaction to McCabe shows he may be the most useless of them all

The 45th president has tweeted more about the ex-acting director of the FBI than he has about his beloved border wall – talk about a national emergency

February 19, 2019

by Richard Wolffe

The Guardian

Unlike love and God, Donald Trump does not work in mysterious ways.

Since Andrew McCabe’s barnburner of a book landed late last week, the 45th president of the United States has tweeted more about the ex-acting director of the FBI than he has about his beloved and utterly bonkers wall along the southern border. Talk about a national emergency.

He even commemorated Presidents Day by accusing McCabe, along with the leaders of his own justice department (DoJ) and most of western civilization, of acting illegally because they had the temerity to question the loyalties and legalities of one Donald Trump. This is surely what past presidents and Congresses had in mind when they created a national holiday to celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

“Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe,” tweeted our oh-so-surprised commander-in-chief. “He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged. He and Rod Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught…”

So many lies from such a disgraceful man! Just as well he got fired for lying by someone who knows a thing or two about people who plan very illegal acts!

But wait. There’s more to this Agatha Christie mystery that was solved by presidential thumbs at 7.30am, right around the time all the morning TV shows were collectively aghast at McCabe’s revelations

“There is a lot of explaining to do to the millions of people who had just elected a president who they really like and who has done a great job for them with the Military, Vets, Economy and so much more,” Trump explained, running out of characters to detail all the great jobs he’s done that make he so darn likable. “This was the illegal and treasonous ‘insurance policy’ in full action!”

Now, as it happens, there’s a whole government agency devoted to investigating illegal and treasonous acts, especially those instigated by foreign intelligence services. That same agency has a remarkable track record of investigating crooked officials and professional criminals. Between the divisions of counter-intelligence, public corruption and organized crime, the FBI could really cover the waterfront of this presidency – if only by following all of his tweetable thoughts.

Which helps explain the moment our presidential antihero first laid eyes on McCabe, a lifelong Republican so steeped in FBI and DoJ custom that he actually interned there.

Trump gave McCabe “almost a gleeful description” of his firing of his boss, James Comey, claiming that “people in the FBI were thrilled about this”. This was something of a surprise to McCabe since he had just left an FBI building where hardened G-men were crying in the hallways.

“As he went on talking about how happy people in the FBI were, he said to me: ‘I heard that you were part of the resistance,’” McCabe recounted to CBS News’ 60 Minutes. When McCabe asked him what that meant, Trump obliged as follows: “I heard that you were one of the people that did not support Jim Comey. You didn’t agree with him and the decisions that he’d made in the Clinton case. And is that true?”

Sadly for the McCabe-Trump relationship, it wasn’t. In fact, like so much else in Trump’s life, it was spectacularly false and ignorant: a self-incriminating, self-fulfilling prophecy of stupidity.

“I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage,” McCabe said. “And that was something that troubled me greatly.”

You’re not alone, Andy. We do understand your shock at hearing that Trump believed Vladimir Putin’s assessment of North Korea’s missiles rather than trusting US intelligence on the subject.

But the rest of us are a little perplexed by your meticulous need to investigate whether your old boss Jim Comey was fired because of the Russia investigation. You see, the man Bob Mueller describes as “Individual 1” gave this rather telling statement to a national news anchor known as Lester Holt back in May 2017: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”

There are useful idiots and there are useless idiots. Donald Trump may be the most useless of them all.

Way back in the 1990s, the last time the nation endured the trauma of impeachment, White House aides spoke glowingly of the president’s ability to compartmentalize his business. Of course, that man was Bill Clinton, whose role in our current trauma is non-negligible.

Trump, in stark naked contrast, is no more capable of compartmentalizing his thoughts than restraining his tweets when he watches his TV. Which is pretty much all day.

If his political opponents style themselves as the resistance, then Trump must have his own resistance inside the FBI. If Trump is being investigated for illegal acts, his investigators must be investigated for illegal acts. If there are accusations of collusion against him, that’s because there’s collusion against him.

Barack Obama’s staff liked to say that he played chess while everyone else played checkers. Donald Trump struggles with both, but he has mastered the card game known as snap.

Sadly McCabe’s insights into what passes for Trump’s mind weren’t even the most jaw-dropping of his gob-stopping revelations. That prize goes to the portrait McCabe paints of an FBI and DoJ leadership grappling with the unprecedented realization that the president himself was the greatest threat to the very rule of law and national security they were supposed to defend.

McCabe launched a counter-intelligence investigation into Trump because, duh, how could you not? What followed pushed his boss – the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein – into the kind of insane scenario that seems perfectly logical to anyone dedicated to the rule of law.

Should he wear a wire when talking to the suspected Russian agent known as the president? The FBI’s general counsel “had a heart attack” about that, McCabe said.

What about invoking the 25th amendment to remove the president from office? “It was really something that he kinda threw out in a very frenzied chaotic conversation about where we were and what we needed to do next,” McCabe said.

McCabe may have been fired, along with Comey. Rosenstein may have been forced to quit, along with his astonishingly racist and stupid boss Jeff Sessions.

But that very frenzied chaotic conversation about where we are and what we need to do next are still very much with us. Along with the subject of the counter-intelligence investigation, known as Individual 1.


“The President Has Been Acting on Russia’s Behalf”: U.S. Officials Are Shocked by Trump’s Asset-Like Behavior

Amid interpreter-gate and fears of a NATO exit, House Democrats are once again considering a nuclear option to force transparency on the president.

January 15, 2019

by Abigail Tracy

Vanity Fair

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last July, House Intelligence Committee member Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, then the ranking Democrat on the panel, introduced a measure to subpoena the only American witness to the more than two-hour-long private meeting between the two leaders—the interpreter. Every Republican on the committee voted “no,” and the motion failed.

But now, newly empowered and wielding subpoena power in the majority, House Democrats are once again considering extraordinary actions to force transparency on the president. “We thought that it was fishy back then,” Swalwell told me Monday evening. “And my fear is that, since July, over the last six months, there has only been more evidence that the president has been acting on Russia’s behalf and we don’t know what was exchanged in that meeting.” Chief among the questionable policy decisions the Trump administration has made in recent months is the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, a Russian client state, and moves to ease sanctions on the business empire of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska—both actions that Swalwell believes may have been guided by a sinister purpose. “We have a president who is taking actions that are contra to what U.S. policy has always been, and I don’t believe that that is because of how the president feels,” he said. “I think he is a transaction-driven individual and this seems to align more with some arrangement that he has with the Russians.”

There is a growing urgency behind these efforts, following a Washington Post story that detailed the lengths Trump went to shield his interactions with Putin from his West Wing staff, as well as a New York Times report that Trump privately told officials he wanted to withdraw from NATO. The first Trump-Putin meeting, in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017, is of particular interest to lawmakers. The interpreter in that meeting said President Trump instructed him not to discuss details of the sit-down and confiscated his notes when several U.S. officials asked him what had transpired, according to the Post.

The only detail the interpreter reportedly shared with the officials—including Fiona Hill, the senior Russia adviser at the National Security Council, and John Heffern, then the acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at State—was that Trump told Putin, “I believe you,” when the Russian president denied interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The Hamburg meeting is just one of five off-record meetings between the two leaders that Democrats are eager to probe. Another is Helsinki, where Trump famously dismissed the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the election and affirmed, again, that he saw no reason to believe Putin wasn’t telling him the truth. Several U.S. officials told the Post that they were never able to get a substantive readout of the two leaders’ private conversation. (A White House spokesperson told the Post that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was in attendance at the Hamburg meeting, “gave a fulsome readout of the meeting immediately afterward to other U.S. officials in a private setting, as well as a readout to the press.”)

Despite the White House’s attempts to downplay the Post’s reporting, former U.S. officials I spoke with said the president’s behavior is anything but normal. “I have never, ever heard of that happening. It is shocking, actually,” a former high-ranking State Department official told me, outlining the deliberate and meticulous record-making process that typically takes place after such high-level meetings. This person recalled that even after former Secretary of State John Kerry held occasional one-on-one meetings with foreign leaders and officials, they would debrief the top diplomat as soon as possible and often have a debrief with the interpreter as well. Given the Russia cloud hanging over the White House, the president’s behavior is particularly befuddling. “If he were a normal person he would want that meeting to have been very carefully recorded by somebody else to demonstrate that he wasn’t doing anything weird,” this person told me.

A second former high-ranking State Department official expressed similar astonishment. “I have never heard of a president doing that. Presidents always have an official note taker. As do the people they meet with. [It is] critical to have that record, even when the two leaders meet ‘one-on-one,’” they told me. “I can’t think of any good reason not to have a note taker for a presidential meeting with a foreign official. And not to have notes of a meeting. They are often classified and often shared only with a small and select circle. But it is still crucial.”

Trump’s paranoia might have been explained, in part, by a series of high-profile and embarrassing classified leaks early in the administration. In one particularly notable example,The New York Times published an account of his May 2017 meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office, during which Trump boasted that firing “nut job” James Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him. To the president’s mind, such betrayals came at a cost to his efforts to improve U.S.-Russian relations and ultimately to lift sanctions on Moscow. “He was always very protective of the Russian relationship. [He] seemed to feel like everyone around him was out to get Russia, which he didn’t agree with,” one former administration official told me. But the former official also noted Trump’s unusual sensitivity when it came to matters involving Putin. “Russia things did seem to leak more than anything else, but he also seemed more protective of them than most things.”

Earlier on Monday, members of the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees gathered on Capitol Hill to discuss whether Democrats should subpoena the interpreters involved. Congressman Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, said during an interview with CNN that Democrats would “ultimately” pull the trigger, but that they’re not there quite yet. “No decision has been made on subpoenas or anything else, we are not going to do this cavalierly, we are going to put our heads together and get at the truth, and we are going to work together,” Engel said. “What we are not going to do is sit back and do nothing. We are going to try and get to the bottom of this.”

Republican pushback is all but certain. When Democrats first floated the possibility of calling Trump’s interpreters before Congress last summer, G.O.P. lawmakers roundly dismissed the idea. “We’re not going to go and start having interpreters in private meetings come out and testify,” Senator Lindsey Graham said at the time. On Sunday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reiterated that the president has a right to meet with foreign leaders in private. “He likes to create a personal relationship, build that relationship, even rebuild that relationship, like he does with other world leaders around,” he said.

That argument may not hold up in court. While the White House would likely claim executive privilege to block a Democratic fishing expedition, legal experts say the law is likely on the side of Congress. “Congress has very broad investigatory powers, and the fact that Trump went out of his way to take meeting[s] with foreign leaders in unconventional manners, and destroy the notes of those meetings rightfully gives members of Congress—among many others—serious pause,” said Josh Chafetz, a constitutional law professor at Cornell University. “I think there’s a very good case to be made that executive privilege (a) should be understood to be weaker against Congress than it is against the courts, and (b) should be understood to contract when the president is acting highly abnormally and has thrown aside the normal intra-executive safeguards of the presidency.”

Swalwell agreed. “I understand that presidents need to be able to communicate with world leaders in confidence,” he told me. “But we have an extraordinary incident here where not only did he meet one-on-one with Putin and he took actions that favored Putin over the next six months, but we have evidence now that he asked for the interpreter’s notes which to me is a consciousness of guilt that he would destroy any evidence of what occurred in the meeting.”

The mystery may never be resolved to Democrats’ satisfaction, because interpreters rarely take “fulsome” notes in the first place. “Their ‘notes’ aren’t really notes,” cautioned the second former State Department official. “As I’ve seen them, they often just jot down a few reminders. Because they are focused on exact words and quick interpretation,” they explained. Official note takers, if they are present, try to capture the political and diplomatic substance of the issues discussed. But “interpreters aren’t substantive experts and so just deal with interpretation.”

There is the possibility that House Democrats could subpoena Tillerson or other administration officials to help fill in the gaps. But Swalwell said there are no plans to bring the former top diplomat before Congress, at least not as of now. “I don’t want to speak for Engel or Schiff. I want to support what they do and recommend just based on my own experience and expertise but it does seem that there are more relevant witnesses than just the interpreter,” he said. “But again, I will leave it to them to decide who they are and when they would come.”



Vandals desecrate 90 Jewish graves in east France ahead of marches

February 19, 2019


STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) – Vandals have daubed swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on around 90 graves in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, local officials said on Tuesday, shortly before planned marches nationwide against a surge in anti-Semitic attacks.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the cemetery on Tuesday in the village of Quatzenheim, near the city of Strasbourg, following the overnight desecration, walking through a gate scarred with a swastika as he entered the graveyard.

“It’s important for me to be here with you today,” a solemn looking Macron told local leaders and members of the Jewish community after paying respects at one of the desecrated graves.

“Whoever did this is not worthy of the French republic and will be punished… We’ll take action, we’ll apply the law and we’ll punish them,” he said.

Many French political leaders are due to join Tuesday evening’s march in Paris against anti-Semitism. Macron will visit the national Holocaust memorial with the heads of the Senate and National Assembly.

Figures released last week showed there were more than 500 anti-Semitic attacks in France in 2018, a 74 percent increase from 2017.

Among incidents in recent days, ‘yellow vest’ protesters were filmed hurling abuse on Saturday at Alain Finkielkraut, a well-known Jewish writer and son of a Holocaust survivor.

France is home to the biggest Jewish community in Europe — around 550,000 — a population that has grown by about half since World War Two, but anti-Semitic attacks remain common.

A rabbi and three children were killed at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 by an Islamist gunman, and in 2015 four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris were among 17 people killed by Islamist militants. In 2006, 23-year-old Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by an anti-Semitic gang.

This month, artwork on two Paris post boxes showing the image of Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and former magistrate, was defaced with swastikas, while a bagel shop was sprayed with the word “Juden”, German for Jews, in yellow letters.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement in response to the cemetery attack.

“I call on all French and European leaders to take a strong stand against anti-Semitism,” he said in a video message recorded in Hebrew. “It is an epidemic that endangers everyone, not just us, and it must be condemned everywhere and every time it rears its head.”

His immigration minister, Yoav Galant, sent a tweet calling on French Jews to quit France and “come home” to Israel, where around 200,000 French Jews already live.

Additional reporting by Mayaan Lubell in Jerusalem; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Gareth Jones



The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

February 19, 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 publication


Conversation No. 33

Date: Friday, August 23, 1996

Commenced: 2:25 PM CST

Concluded: 2:38 PM CST


RTC: Did you see your old friend Irving’s latest attack on you, Gregory?

GD: Jesus, what now? I killed Abraham Lincoln?

RTC: (Laughter) Not quite but bizarre. He claims you never knew Mueller and that Mueller died in Berlin in ’45 and they found his body. Of course that’s not true but I am astounded at the depth of this shallow man’s hatred for you.

GD: I know. I have had to deal with this idiot for years. Charles Burdick put me in touch with Irving once.

RTC: Our Charles Burdick?

GD: Yes, the same one. I knew Charlie since…oh it was 1952 when he was doing graduate work at Stanford. I knew all about his work for you in ‘Nam but we seldom talked about it. Charlie spoke as a real expert on the Third Reich and, modestly, I knew more about it than he did. He was mostly into the military structure and I am into both the military and political. Besides, I was there at the time and he wasn’t. So Irving writes this book on the destruction of Dresden. Not a bad book at all but Irving kept pulling his punches.

RTC: How so?

GD: Well, he would make a strong point against the Allied policy, a nice strong point, and then stumble around and start qualifying his information. He would say, ‘could this be?’ and ‘well, maybe not…’ like that. No, after I met him the one time, I pegged him as a phony and tried to keep as far away from him as I could. Boorish person with a penchant for teen aged tarts. He was known as ‘Mr. Spanky’ in the historical world. Second book on PQ 17 was also a good book but David went down hill from there. There was the hilarious fake ‘Himmler letter’ I sent him about Hitler once. Charlie saw it and laughed so loud that his secretary thought he was having some kind of a fit. It was in the worst possible, ungrammatical and misspelled German you could imagine but Irving decided it was original because it suited his purpose. He bleated about it in print for some time, praising me as a wonderful expert and so on. Then when he found out the letter was a spoof, he went bananas and started in screeching at me like a whore who finds out her trick gave her a fake twenty.

RTC: (Laughter) Such a wonderful way of putting things, Gregory.

GD: A friend of mine ran three whorehouses in ‘Frisco so I have some knowledge of the patterns of behavior there. Anyway, when Irving found out about the Mueller books, he wrote to Sudholt, my German publisher. It was the work of a real nut, believe me. He wailed that Sudholt should not publish anything I wrote because I was pure evil and a terrible fraud. Sudholt told me that Irving was a nut and on top of that, made a living selling manuscripts to German publishers, keeping the advance money and never producing. And also, it seems, Dirty Dave sued anyone and everyone who dared to say a word against him. He would take the modest settlements and stick them into his bank account.

RTC: He has been quite successful, as I gather.

GD: Yes, but as Browning said, the kissing has to stop and for David, it stopped some time ago and he’s running on empty. Sudholt sent me Irving’s lunatic letter with a copy of his own response. My God, did he kick Irving in his flabby ass. He talked about Irving’s rip-offs of publishers and really smacked him down. After Irving failed to shut me up, he started in on his pathetic website. He once listed about twenty names he claimed I used. I never heard of any of them. Then I found out his mother was Jewish…

RTC: No! After all the attacks he makes on the holocaust and the Jews…are you sure?

GD: Have I ever been wrong?

RTC: Gregory, your hubris is showing.

GD: Well, Robert, I thought I was wrong about a year ago but I found out later I was mistaken. Yes, by Jewish law, Dave is a Jew. Jewish self-hatred is well-known. I think your Angleton must have had some Jewish blood in him. In profile…

RTC: Now, now, Jim was a good friend. True, he had his head up their ass and we could never keep him from babbling secrets to the Mossad. I did truly like Jim but he had his strange sides.

GD: Young college boys, interested in poetry? Whispering Mossad agents? The odd Mafia friend here and there? Frantic obsessions with paranoia? Yes, I would say strange sides are indicated here.

RTC: But very competent when he focused, Gregory. Poor Jim had too much on his plate. The Mafia business is best forgotten, I suggest.

GD: What about the nubile college students? Mueller told me about an incident at the Park Plaza hotel in New York once.

RTC: Jim strayed from the path from time to time, I admit, but I know from experience he was a dedicated worker.

GD: You could say the same of Sweeny Todd or Sawney Bean.

RTC: I know about Todd but Bean?

GD: A Scots cannibal. Whole family of inbreds lived in caves and made sorties to waylay travelers and eat them. The King finally got enough troops together to wipe them out.

RTC: You have the damndest mind for such things, Gregory.

GD: I try so hard, Robert. Anyway, there is Irving, sliding slowly down into literary oblivion (that’s just outside of New Orleans by the way) and clawing and scratching at me. My books are much better written, far more factual and, even better, far more successful in his little world than his own recent failures.

RTC: Do I detect professional jealousy, here?

GD: No, a reporting of facts. If you doubt me, Robert, read his latest literary efforts and compare him with the manuscript I sent you. Make up your own mind. Of course, the ironic part of all this purse-swinging is that as far as the holocaust is concerned, Irving is absolutely correct. There was never any plan, implemented or theoretical, on the part of Hitler to gather up the Jews of Europe, ship them off to so-called death camps and gas them in huge chambers. No, none of that. Yes, Hitler used the Jews as a unifying factor in his rise to power. But he was dealing with a huge flood of horrible Polish Jews that Pilsudski had chased out of Poland in the early ’20 and who refused to assimilate into the German communities and who were, in general, rather filthy and sub-human. The respectable German Jews hated them. No, Mueller has told me very often and I have boxes of documents on this; all Hitler was doing, and he used to make public speeches on this so it was never a secret, was to boot all the Jews out of Germany and later, out of German held territories. Yes, Jews were rooted out from France and the Balkans, often at the requests of their governments, and shipped off to Auschwitz. But this was not a death camp but a huge work complex the SS had set up outside the nominal range of Allied bombers. Many died of typhus and, of course, shipping these people off was a nasty business and I have no sympathy with any of it but the huge gas chambers are figments of the imagination, used to raise money for the Jews. And when Irving points this out, they all gang up on him. He may be a fraud and a gasbag but his comments on this subject are basically accurate. I hate to say that, naturally, but Irving is correct. And by his persisting in this, the Jews will gang up on him and put him out of business.

RTC: Too much influence here, Gregory. Small numbers but very powerful inside the Beltway. They own the press and politicians kiss their butts on a regular basis.

GD: Well, they don’t own me and I do love a good fight. Eventually, they will think themselves immune and all-powerful and, like Irving, their own…what was your cultivated word? Hubris, yes, hubris. That will bring both of them down. Irving’s fall will be soon forgotten but when the Jews go too far in this country and the public turns against them, which it will, because the Jews never know when to stop, it will be a great fall. It will fall and, as the Bible says in Proverbs, and great will be the fall thereof.

RTC: Not in the near future.

GD: Only God knows that one, Robert, but the end will come there. It always has in the past, always. Look at history and be enlightened.

RTC: I’ll take your word for it.

GD: Why thank you for your confidence, Robert. I hope that when the quicksands close over Irving’s straining face, the last name he mentions as the sand fills his mouth is mine. The Germans call this ‘schadenfreude’ or the joy in the suffering of others but I say that, in German, schadenfreude ist immer die beste Freude. The joy in the suffering of other is always the best.

RTC: Very Teutonic.

GD: No, very realistic. Unpleasant to contemplate but true. One must strive to attain absolute objectivity, Robert. To let yourself be mired in convention and platitudes is to know nothing. Now you can see why some elements of my co workers in the CIC hated me. I was interested in results and they were interested in cheap booze and third rate pussy.

RTC: And you never drank or womanized?

GD:I did drink sometimes and I have had more than my share of conniving girl friends but never to distraction, Robert, never. Sex, good food, a good bit of classic music, a trip to Euopean museums like the Uffizi are all pleasures but never distractions.

RTC: Yes, I can see why they hate you.

GD: How many times have I quoted Bismarck? Many. Oh yes, many enemies, much honor. I judge a man by the enemies he has. The more and the louder they are, the more I can respect him.  Never them, of course, never. Bleating, whining, snapping mass of vermin-infested sewer rats. By God, Robert, your fellow countryman was right. Dean Swift. Oh yes, Swift was dead on when he came to his literary assaults on the boobery and bipedal rodents. He’s gone, unfortunately, and they still survive, crawling around in the dung and shrieking their hatred of whatever they can not be.

RTC: No, I once said you would be a good agent but I think, on reflection, you would produce wonderful analysis and a legion of enemies.

GD: Fuck them all Robert. In the end, we all are maggot bait but I love to watch them fall off one by one before I do.


(Concluded at 2:38 PM CST)









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