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TBR News February 26, 2016

Feb 26 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 26, 2016: “In mid-1998 British officials investigating Russian organized criminal activities brought the attention of US authorities to a link between YBM Magnex, a front company for suspected Russian gangster Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich, and Benex, a firm owned by Peter Berlin, the husband of one of the subsequently-suspended Bank of New York (hereinafter ‘BNY’) vice-presidents. From October 1998 to March 1999, $4.2 billion in suspect money passed through the BNY accounts of Benex and other firms. Investigators allowed the account to remain open after March of 1999 as they continued their probe, and the total amount laundered eventually proved to be in excess of $10 billion. In August 1999, Swiss banks in Geneva discovered massive fraud involving Swiss banks and local prosecutors immediately froze 22 accounts of Russian individuals and corporate entities, worth a total of $15 million.

The growing evidence of  international criminal wrongdoing extended far beyond suspected organized crime figures like Mogilevich and point to high-level officials in the US and Russia. Investigators began to look into whether funds from the subsequently insolvent Russian bank, Menatep, were also involved in money laundering at BNY. Menatep was then owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and employed, as a senior executive, Konstantin Kagalovsky.

Federal officials, in the main, the New York office of the FBI in conjunction with their counterparts in Britain and Switzerland, launched an in-depth an investigation of what later proved to be the largest money-laundering scheme in US history.

The investigation revealed that billions of dollars from Russia, the bulk of it from Russian criminal elements, were channeled through accounts at the Bank of New York. Two BNY vice-presidents were initially suspended as a result of the probe.”

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. 118

Date: Friday, December 19, 1997

Commenced: 11:09 AM CST

Concluded: 11:24 AM CST

GD: Well, another damned Christmas season is upon all of us. The gap-jawed ninnies waddling around the malls, the latest electronic noise-makers clutched in sweaty hands while the owners jabber endlessly to their equally moronic friends on the other end. Jesus H. Christ, you ought to listen to them, Robert, Babble, chatter, simper and squeal. Well, this electronic new age is upon us and I have it from a friend at NASDAC that a new and major con is about to be born. Are you interested?

RTC: Of course I am. Don’t forget that I was the man with the business connections for the Company.

GD: You ought to write a book on it.

RTC: Don’t tempt me.

GD: Well, they could augment your pension, believe me. Anyway, a circle of crooked stock brokers, who ought to be in Congress, have concocted a scheme based on the public’s fascination with the flashing lights and novelty of the electronic age. What they are going to do is this. They get some computer specialist, fresh out of MIT, to set up a company called, let’s say, ‘Batdung,.com’ which postulates that they raise bats and collect their crap for sale to people raising Venus Fly Catchers. Or another system called ‘Pelco.com’ that delivers goose livers to blind orphans. Anyway, they get this front to set up a legit corporation, say in Delaware, and then they get it up onto the board. The NYSE I mean.

RTC: Understood. And then?

GD: And then, they ring up a dozen or so of their rich clients and tell them that they want them to buy ‘Batdung.com’ at ten and they will sell out at twenty. And when huge purchases are recorded on the Board, why the gap-jawed twits rush out to buy ‘Batdung.com’ or ‘Pelco.com’ and the stock shoots up into the heavens. Meanwhile, the new teen-aged wonder who owns the name and an empty office, buys five new cars, a huge slate-topped desk and some huge and ugly new house with round windows somewhere. The stock goes up and up, slows down and then when it is obvious that there is nothing behind it, takes a dive. What do the crooks care? They took their fees from the rich enablers who got in and got out. Say they sold out at twenty and the stock went up to two hundred. One day at two hundred, the next at one ninety and the following day at fifty cents. Ah well, the wise ones have gotten out and gotten out, more or less like the early arrivals at a Reno brothel. Someone else has to take sloppy seconds and at the end, they all have the clap and the gleet. But the whorehouse owner makes all the money and the stockbrokers and their rich friends do very well. The patsy ends up losing his cars, his desk and his home and has to go back living with mother in a basement apartment he shares with the rats and cockroaches.

RTC: Serious?

GD: Oh, yes, very. This will take some time to ripen but it will take place and no one will be able to do anything about it. You know, the Republicans are waiting for Clinton to finish his term and they will do everything in their power to take the White House. Who will run? Probably Gore but who knows who else? The Republican right is yammering and yearning to get into power after the liberal Clinton and if they get in, look for some attempt to establish a permanent majority. I know a number of these people and they love to rub their hands and talk about the coming Days of Wrath and Mourning for the left wing Jews and fellow travelers on both coasts. The religious freaks will crawl out from under the dead cows or up out of the cesspits all across this land and add their squawkings to the cacophony. I think this country is heading into an abyss, Robert. We will eventually see a reprise of 1929 if the Republicans get into power or get both Houses. They will screw up the stock markets, the banks and the money markets and then down all will crash and these scumbags will crawl out of the rubble, clutching bags of money and headed for Aruba or Tel Aviv. Yes, and there are now tens of thousands of young kids that get out of high school with no prospect of a job because the blue collar jobs are all going to slave labor camps in Southeast Asia. Of course this kind of poverty and denial of what we all see as the American Dream can lead to all kinds of domestic problems.

RTC: Oh, you’re right on there, my boy. Reagan set up a virtual concentration camp system and special Army units so that if he had any problems domestically like Johnson had during the Vietnam war, they could sweep up all the protestors, their mothers and wives and jam them all into the new Dachaus.

GD: Do you have chapter and verse on this, Robert? RTC: Could get it but why bother with it? If you put that in every newspaper in America, no one would believe you. Sure, I’ll look it up. Oh yes, they have plans waiting for another Vietnam rebellion, believe me. Reagan said, like the Jews, never again and if the public get their tit in the wringer, off they go with no problem and they can see their family through the barbed wire.

GD: Oh my, and then we can take a leaf from the holocaust nutties and start talking about mythic gas chambers and lampshades.

RTC: Oh God, let’s do not go there. I am so tired of hearing about that shit.

GD: Americans are far crueler than the Germans or Russians so I imagine that future historians, not like the decayed creeps you people use, historians will write about the neo fascism riding the GOP elephant. And over the cliff. Couple this with economic meddling and I will really think about permanently moving away.

RTC: There are many who would love to see you go, Gregory.

GD: And I would love to see them take long walks on short piers, Robert, and carrying heavy weights. Feed the sharks, why not? RTC: Do sharks eat crap? GD: No, but the bottom feeders like the crabs would stuff themselves. No, you can see this coming.  Maybe not right away but all the bits and pieces are there, Robert. Maybe not in your time but in mine…that is unless Wolfe comes up behind me and slugs me with his purse.

RTC: (Laughter) Do you also foresee pogroms?

GD: Of course. If the economy is artificially inflated and collapses, why scapegoats have to be found. The Mexicans, the Jews and…no, the fewer the better. I would say the blacks but there are too many of them. Probably the illegals. Yes. Mass imprisonment and deportations. Who will cut our lawns then?

RTC: Reagan foresaw closing the universities as hotbeds of anti government actions there.

GD: Why not? The students can’t learn anything because the intellectual levels of our professors would shame a baboon. My God, I have encountered a few in my life and I swear my dogs are smarter. They say a little learning is a dangerous thing, don’t they?

RTC: So I’ve heard.

GD: Well then, let’s  let our young and unemployed live dangerously. They can go to school and then to the camps.

RTC: Does this blessed season of giving always motivate you to be so bloody negative?

GD: Oh yes, the mythic Jesus is about to be born in the cow barn and save us all. I love these preachers who get up in front of the TV cameras and squeal about the fictional Jesus. Why not the Celestial Easter Bunny?

(Concluded at 11:24 AM CST)


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 18

February 24, 2016


The Department of Energy last month issued new guidance on the conduct of classified scientific research involving human subjects.

While all human subject research is governed by federal regulations, the new DOE policy imposes several additional requirements whenever such research is to be performed on a classified basis.

For example, the proposed classified research must be reviewed and approved in advance by an Institutional Review Board, and the Board must include a non-scientist member and a member who is not a governmental employee (though he or she must hold a security clearance for this purpose). Also, the normal requirement for informed consent by the human subject cannot be waived.

See Protection of Human Subjects in Classified Research, DOE Notice N 443.1, approved January 21, 2016.

The nature of any such classified human subject research was not described. Speculatively, it might include certain types of research related to polygraph testing or other deception detection techniques. In the past, the Atomic Energy Commission notoriously carried out radiation experiments on unwitting human subjects, and the Central Intelligence Agency conducted behavior modification experiments involving drugs and other stimuli.

It seems that DOE today does little classified human subject research at its own initiative. Rather, “Almost all of the classified [DOE] human subjects research is done on behalf of other Federal sponsors under full cost recovery,” according to a related 2015 DOE memorandum.

The new DOE guidance was prepared after Department attorneys determined last year that a 1997 policy issued by President Bill Clinton was still in effect and applicable to DOE and its contractors. See Strengthened Protections for Human Subjects of Classified Research, March 27, 1997.

Department of Defense policy on classified research involving human subjects is set forth in Protection of Human Subjects and Adherence to Ethical Standards in DoD-Supported Research, DoD Instruction 3216.02, November 8, 2011.

Of possible related interest, the National Declassification Center announced today that 37 cubic feet of classified subject files from the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) had been declassified and made available to researchers.


Changes in the cyber threat environment require the Army to be able to rapidly reprogram its own military software, a newly updated Army Regulation directs.

“Warfare is rapidly moving into a new domain: cyberspace. This will affect warfighting in all domains, and the Army will take measures to adapt to the cyberspace environment.”

“This increased responsiveness demands shortened timelines to combat enemy threats as they adapt to new technology and to new methods of employment.”

“RSR [Rapid Software Reprogramming] will be required to become even more adaptive, automated, and integrated with weapons systems operating in the EMS [electromagnetic spectrum].”

“This policy gives the Army a process which enables soldiers a reach-back RSR capability that will assist commanders to attain tactical superiority, achieve surprise, gain and retain the initiative, maintain awareness of new and emerging threats, and obtain decisive results…,” the unclassified Regulation said. The Assistant Secretary of the Army (ALT) will “Ensure that sensor-based weapons and CEMA [Cyber Electromagnetic Activities] systems are developed using software reprogrammable signature detection, classification, and response capabilities that can be responsive and enabling to EW [Electronic Warfare], spectrum management and cyber operations.”

See Software Reprogramming for Cyber Electromagnetic Activities, Army Regulation 525-15, 19 February 2016.

Apple Is Said to Be Trying to Make It Harder to Hack iPhones

February 24, 2016

by Matt Apuzzo and Katie Benner

New York Times

WASHINGTON — Apple engineers have begun developing new security measures that would make it impossible for the government to break into a locked iPhone using methods similar to those now at the center of a court fight in California, according to people close to the company and security experts.

If Apple succeeds in upgrading its security — and experts say it almost surely will — the company will create a significant technical challenge for law enforcement agencies, even if the Obama administration wins its fight over access to data stored on an iPhone used by one of the killers in last year’s San Bernardino, Calif., rampage. If the Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted to get into a phone in the future, it would need a new way to do so. That would most likely prompt a new cycle of court fights and, yet again, more technical fixes by Apple.

The only way out of this scenario, experts say, is for Congress to get involved. Federal wiretapping laws require traditional phone carriers to make their data accessible to law enforcement agencies. But tech companies like Apple and Google are not covered, and they have strongly resisted legislation that would place similar requirements on them.

We are in for an arms race unless and until Congress decides to clarify who has what obligations in situations like this,” said Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Companies have always searched for software bugs and patched holes to keep their code secure from hackers. But since the revelations of government surveillance made by Edward J. Snowden, companies have been retooling their products to protect against government intrusion.

For Apple, security is also a global marketing strategy. New security measures would not only help the company in its fight with the government, but also reassure investors and customers.

For all of those people who want to have a voice but they’re afraid, we are standing up, and we are standing up for our customers because protecting them we view as our job,” Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said on Wednesday in an interview with ABC News.

The company first raised the prospect of a security update last week in a phone call with reporters, who asked why the company would allow firmware — the software at the heart of the iPhone — to be modified without requiring a user password.

One senior executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, replied that it was safe to bet that security would continue to improve. Separately, a person close to the company, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed this week that Apple engineers had begun work on a solution even before the San Bernardino attack. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on what she called rumors and speculation.

Independent experts say they have held informal conversations with Apple engineers over the last week about the vulnerability. Exactly how Apple will address the issue is unclear. Security experts who have been studying Apple’s phone security say it is technically possible to fix.

There are probably 50 different ideas we have all sent to Apple,” said Jonathan Zdziarski, a security researcher.

Apple built its recent operating systems to protect customer information. As Mr. Cook wrote in a recent letter to customers, “We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.”

But there is a catch. Each iPhone has a built-in troubleshooting system that lets the company update the system software without the need for a user to enter a passcode. Apple designed that feature to make it easier to repair malfunctioning phones.

In the San Bernardino case, the F.B.I. wants to exploit that troubleshooting system by forcing Apple to write and install new software that strips away several security features, making it much easier for the government to hack into the phone. The phone in that case is an old model, but experts and former Apple employees say that a similar approach could also be used to alter software on newer phones. That is the vulnerability Apple is working to fix.

Apple regularly publishes security updates and gives credit to researchers who hunt for bugs in the company’s software. “Usually, bug reports come in an email saying, ‘Dear Apple Security, we’ve discovered a flaw in your product,’ ” said Chris Soghoian, a technology analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. “This bug report has come in the form of a court order.”

The court order to which Mr. Soghoian referred was issued last week by a federal judge magistrate, and tells Apple to write and install the code sought by the F.B.I. Apple has promised to challenge that order. Its lawyers have until Friday to file its opposition in court.

In many ways, Apple’s response continues a trend that has persisted in Silicon Valley since Mr. Snowden’s revelations. Yahoo, for instance, left its email service unencrypted for years. After Mr. Snowden revealed the National Security Agency surveillance, the company quickly announced plans to encrypt email. Google similarly moved to fix a vulnerability that the government was using to hack into company data centers.

Apple’s showdown with the Justice Department is different in one important way. Now that the government has tried to force Apple to hack its own code, security officials say, the company must view itself as the vulnerability.

This is the first time that Apple has been included in their own threat model,” Mr. Zdziarski said. “I don’t think Apple ever considered becoming a compelled arm of the government.”

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey Jr., signaled this week that he expected Apple to change its security, saying that the phone-cracking tool the government sought in the San Bernardino case was “increasingly obsolete.” He said that supported the government’s argument that it was not seeking a skeleton key to hack into all iPhones.

Apple, though, says the case could set a precedent for forcing company engineers to write code to help the government break into any iPhone. “The U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create,” Mr. Cook said in his letter.

The heated back-and-forth between the government and technology companies is, at least in part, a function of the Obama administration’s strategy. The White House has said it will not ask Congress to pass a law requiring tech companies to give the F.B.I. a way to gain access to customer data. That has left the Justice Department to fight for access one phone at a time, in court cases that often go unnoticed.

While it is generally accepted that Silicon Valley’s tech giants can outgun the government in a technical fight, the companies do face one important limitation. Security features often come at the expense of making products slower or clunkier.

Apple’s brand is built around creating products that are sleek and intuitive. A security solution that defeats the F.B.I. is unworkable if it frustrates consumers. One of the impediments to encrypting all the data in Apple’s iCloud servers, for instance, has been finding a way to ensure that customers can easily retrieve and recover photos and other information stored there.

Telling a member of the public that they’re going to lose all the family photos they’ve ever taken because they forgot their password is a really tough sell,” Mr. Soghoian said. “A company wants to sell products to the public.”

Matt Apuzzo reported from Washington and Katie Benner from San Francisco.

Schengen will ‘break down’ in 10 days if no solution to migrant crisis found – EU commissioner

February 25, 2016


There are only ten days left for European Union officials to significantly reduce the flow of migrants and asylum-seekers into the EU from Turkey, or the Schengen system is at risk of total collapse, according to the EU’s migration commissioner.

In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, told the media on Thursday

The senior EU official’s warning came after a Thursday meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels, where the officials had gathered to once again try to find a solution to the current migrant crisis.

On arriving for the meeting, Avramopoulos called it a “critical moment, the moment to deliver.”

Time is not with us anymore. There are only 10 days left till March 7,” he pointed out, referring to a special summit on the migration crisis that European Union leaders will hold with Turkey.

Despite the Schengen’s free-travel rule, a number of the bloc’s members have resorted to unilateral border tightening to stem the tide of refugees. Calling on member-countries to “step up efforts” to remedy the situation, Avramopoulos said that there is “no time for uncoordinated actions.”

Lonely initiatives do not lead anywhere,” the EU migration commissioner told reporters in Brussels.

This week, Belgium joined other countries that have temporarily abandoned Schengen rules allowing passport-free travel within the zone when it passed a measure increasing police presence along its borders. At the same time, Austria’s Defense Ministry has announced that it would dispatch more troops to its border to help deal with the crisis situation.

While the head of the EU’s border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, has warned that over a million refugees will arrive in the EU this year, the 28-state bloc has failed to agree on a common solution to stem the flow of migrants, who are primarily from the Middle East and Africa. Leggeri also pointed out that the Schengen agreement cannot function properly if the EU’s external borders are not protected effectively.

A mandatory quota of migrants and refugees that EU countries would have to resettle on their territories is one of the solutions being proposed. Yet, some of the bloc’s members are firmly against this. On Wednesday, the government of Hungary, which has consistently rebuffed the mandatory quota idea, announced that it would call a national referendum to decide on the issue, counting on public sentiment to reject the EU proposal.

Europe braces for major ‘humanitarian crisis’ in Greece after row over refugees

EU ministers struggle to reach collective agreement on crisis as Austria and Macedonia press for reintroduction of national border controls

February 25, 2016

by Ian Traynor

The Guardian

Brussels-European governments are bracing for a major humanitarian emergency in Greece amid rising panic that the EU’s fragmented efforts to cope with its migration crisis are nearing breakdown.

EU interior ministers met in Brussels on Thursday in their latest attempt to forge a common response, but the meeting was clouded by a ferocious row between Greece and Austria, which is spearheading a campaign to quarantine Greece and throttle the flow of migrants up the Balkans by partially sealing the Greek border with Macedonia.

If Greece is cut off from the rest of Europe’s free-travel Schengen area, Berlin predicts a humanitarian and security emergency within days.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner in charge of migration, said contingency planning for a major aid operation was highly advanced and would be finalised within days. “The possibility of a humanitarian crisis of a large scale is there and very real,” he said.

A senior EU official involved in the planning said “the humanitarian dimension in Europe is becoming much more important than it has been until now”.

The shift in focus from taking in refugees to dealing with the consequences of keeping most of them out amounts to an admission of abject failure in developing coherent EU policies on the crisis.

Athens reacted furiously to the latest developments, recalling its ambassador from Vienna, accusing Austria of 19th-century behaviour, and blaming Europe for creating a crisis it was now preparing to relieve.

An EU country recalling its ambassador from another EU country may be unprecedented, highlighting the depths of division and grievance in Europe over the refugee crisis.

Speaking of the interior ministers’ meeting, Yannis Mouzalas, the Greek migration minister, said: “A very large number [of participants] here attempt to discuss how to address a humanitarian crisis in Greece that they themselves intend to create.”

Ministers appear to have set themselves a deadline of 7 March before resorting to a “plan B” being pushed by anti-immigration eastern Europe, which would cut Greece off and probably also see the 26-country Schengen area being suspended for up to two years as national border controls proliferate across the EU.

In the next 10 days, we need tangible and clear results on the ground. Otherwise there is a risk that the whole system will completely break down,” warned Avramopoulos.

Austria provoked the fury of the Greeks, the Germans and the European commission by announcing last week it was limiting the number of people who could claim asylum to 80 a day, and then on Wednesday unilaterally convening a meeting of 10 Balkan countries aimed at halting the refugee flow and returning them to Greece. The Austrians did not invite the Greeks or the Germans, two pivotal countries.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, insisted on a special EU summit with Turkey on 7 March, hoping to cajole the Turks into stopping the crossings to Greece and in return pledging to take hundreds of thousands of refugees directly from Turkey.

Merkel, however, is isolated. There is little confidence that the Turks will deliver and several countries opposed to Merkel actively hope her plan will fail. A large majority of EU states will refuse to take part in directly resettling refugees from Turkey.

The clock is ticking. Time is running out on a Turkey solution,” said the Dutch immigration minister, Klaas Dijkhoff, who chaired Thursday’s meeting. “Other plans and measures are being taken in the meantime.”

The piecemeal unilateral moves being taken across Europe – this week alone Hungary, Belgium, and Austria announced solo moves on immigration curbs – are adding to the sense of chaos and impotence in the EU and are turning Greece into Europe’s immigration pressure cooker.

German government expects arrival of 3.6 million refugees by 2020: media

February 24, 2016

by Tina Bellon


Berlin-The German government expects a total influx of 3.6 million refugees by 2020, with an average of half a million people arriving each year, German media reported on Thursday, in a country that took in a record 1.1 million migrants last year.

The calculations are based on internal estimates by the Economy Ministry in coordination with other ministries, German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said.

In order to project economic development, the Economy Ministry created “an internal, purely technical estimate on migration in coordination with other government departments”.

There is no official government estimate on how many refugees Europe’s biggest economy expects over the next years, as numbers are highly volatile.

But the unprecedented arrival of 1.1 million asylum seekers last year, included in the 3.6 million forecast, stretched public resources thin and put strains on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

Merkel, whose open-door refugee policy has put her under much pressure, in recent months vowed to significantly reduce the number of people arriving this year.

On Wednesday, German federal police said that they had only registered 103 migrants arriving on Tuesday, suggesting a sharp drop as a result of tighter controls along the Balkan route.  At the start of the prior week, over 2,000 were arriving on a daily basis. Last autumn the daily arrivals sometimes totaled over 10,000.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Editing by Andrew Hay)

US Sought Data From 15 Apple iPhones in Last Four Months

February 24, 2016


Court records released on Tuesday show the US Justice Department has in the last four months sought court orders to force Apple Inc to help investigators extract data from 15 iPhones in cases across the country.

The disclosure comes amid a heated dispute between Apple and federal investigators over access to a locked iPhone belonging to one of the killers in December’s mass-shooting in San Bernardino, California.

In a letter unsealed on Tuesday addressed to a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, overseeing one such case, Apple said it had received requests since October to assist law enforcement in accessing 13 other locked iPhones.

Prosecutors said they were aware of a 15th case filed in Massachusetts, in their own letter filed late on Monday ahead of the unsealing of Apple’s Feb. 17 list of cases.

Those cases include one announced last week in which a federal magistrate judge ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone belonging to one of the killers in the San Bernardino shooting, which has escalated into a high-publicity showdown between Apple and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to Apple’s letter, the technology company has objected to providing law enforcement assistance with regards to at least 12 of the 15 iPhones so far.

The letter was addressed to US Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, who since October has been weighing whether to order Apple to provide authorities access to data on a locked iPhone in a narcotics-related case.

Prosecutors earlier said that before the Brooklyn dispute emerged, Apple had since 2008 received 70 court orders requiring it provide similar assistance to which it complied without objection.

In contrast to the San Bernardino case, many of the cases listed by Apple and the Justice Department appear to involve iPhones using an older Apple operating system, which has fewer security barriers to surmount.

The Justice Department on Friday filed a motion seeking to compel Apple to comply with a judge’s order to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters, portraying the tech giant’s refusal as a “marketing strategy.”

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has refused to do so, and sent a letter to employees Monday morning making clear the company’s hardline stance refusing to make software to unlock the phone addresses broader issues, not just a single device linked to a grisly attack.

The road to Aleppo: how the West misread Putin over Syria

February 26, 2016

by Tom Perry, Laila Bassam, Jonathan Landay and Maria Tsvetkova


Beirut-Washington:Last July, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seemed to be losing his battle against rebel forces. Speaking to supporters in Damascus, he acknowledged his army’s heavy losses.

Western officials said the Syrian leader’s days were numbered and predicted he would soon be forced to the negotiating table.

It did not turn out that way. Secret preparations were already underway for a major deployment of Russian and Iranian forces in support of Assad.

The military intervention, taking many in the West by surprise, would roll back rebel gains. It would also accelerate two shifts in U.S. diplomacy: Washington would welcome Iran to the negotiating table over Syria, and it would no longer insist that Assad step down immediately.

“That involved swallowing some pride, to be honest, in acknowledging that this process would go nowhere unless you got Russia and Iran at the table,” a U.S. official said.

At the heart of the diplomacy shift – which essentially brought Washington closer to Moscow’s position – was a slow-footed realization of the Russian military build-up in Syria and, ultimately, a refusal to intervene militarily.

Russia, Iran and Syria struck their agreement to deploy military forces in June, several weeks before Assad’s July 26 speech, according to a senior official in the Middle East who was familiar with the details.

And Russian sources say large amounts of equipment, and hundreds of troops, were being dispatched over a series of weeks, making it hard to hide the pending operation.Yet a senior U.S. administration official said it took until mid-September for Western powers to fully recognize Russia’s intentions. One of the final pieces of the puzzle was when Moscow deployed aircraft flown only by the Russian military, eliminating the possibility they were intended for Assad, the official said.

An earlier understanding of Russia’s military plans is unlikely to have changed U.S. military policy. President Barack Obama had made clear early on that he did not want Washington embroiled in a proxy war with Russia. And when the West did wake up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions, it was short of ideas about how to respond.

As in Ukraine in 2014, the West seemed helpless.

French President Francois Hollande summed up the mood among America’s European allies: “I would prefer the United States to be more active. But since the United States has stepped back, who should take over, who should act?”


In July last year, one of Iran’s top generals, Qassem Soleimani, went to Moscow on a visit that was widely reported. The senior Middle Eastern official told Reuters that Soleimani had also met Putin twice several weeks before that.

“They defined zero hour for the Russian planes and equipment, and the Russian and Iranian crews,” he said.

Russia began sending supply ships through the Bosphorus in August, Reuters reported at the time. There was no attempt to hide the voyages and on Sept. 9 Reuters reported that Moscow had begun participating in military operations in Syria.

A Russian Air Force colonel, who took part in preparations and provided fresh details of the build-up, said hundreds of Russian pilots and ground staff were selected for the Syria mission in mid-August. 

Warplanes sent to Syria included the Sukhoi-25 and Sukhoi-24 offensive aircraft, U.S. officials said. In all, according to U.S. officials, Russia by Sept. 21 had 28 fixed-wing aircraft, 16 helicopters, advanced T-90 tanks and other armored vehicles, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and hundreds of marines at its base near Latakia.

Despite this public build-up, the West either played down the risks or failed to recognize them.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sept. 22 that Russian aircraft were in Syria to defend the Russians’ base – “force protection” in the view of U.S. military experts.

At the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28, the French announced their own first air strikes in Syria.

“The international community is hitting Daesh (Islamic State). France is hitting Daesh. The Russians, for now, are not doing anything,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Fabius said at the time.

The next day Russia announced its strikes in Syria.


One former U.S. official, who was in government at the time, told Reuters that some U.S. officials had begun voicing concern that Russia would intervene militarily in Syria two weeks before the bombing began.

Their concerns, however, were disregarded by officials in the White House and those dealing with the Middle East because of a lack of hard intelligence, the former U.S. official said.

“There was this tendency to say, ‘We don’t know. Let’s see,'” recounted the former U.S. official.

Yet between October and December, American perceptions shifted, as reported by Reuters at the time.

By December, U.S. officials had concluded that Russia had achieved its main goal of stabilizing Assad’s government and could maintain its operations in Syria for years.

“I think it’s indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was,” a senior administration official said.


At that point, the U.S. pivoted to the negotiating table with Russia and Iran. Officials say they had few other options with Obama unwilling to commit American ground troops to Syria, aside from small deployments of Special Operations forces, or provide U.S.-backed opposition fighters with anti-aircraft missiles.

In Munich on Feb 12, Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced an agreement for humanitarian access and a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, far short of a ceasefire.

“Putin has taken the measure of the West… He has basically concluded, I can push and push and push and push and I am never going to hit steel anywhere,” said Fred Hof, a former State Department and Pentagon Syria expert now at the Atlantic Council think tank.

Today, U.S. officials sound a far different note than in the early days of the uprising against Assad when they said his exit must be immediate. Now, with the war entering its sixth year, they say they must push the diplomatic possibilities as far as possible and insist Kerry is fully aware of what Russia is doing to change facts on the ground.

In congressional testimony on Wednesday, Kerry acknowledged there was no guarantee the “cessation of hostilities” would work, adding: “But I know this: If it doesn’t work, the potential is there that Syria will be utterly destroyed. The fact is that we need to make certain that we are exploring and exhausting every option of diplomatic resolution.”

For the rebels, the reality is bleak.

Government forces have closed in on the city of Aleppo, a major symbol of the uprising. Their supply routes from Turkey cut, rebels in the Aleppo area now say it may only be a matter of time before they are crushed altogether.

“We are heading toward being liquidated I think,” said a former official in a rebel group from the city.

Other fighters remain determinedly upbeat, saying Assad is only gaining ground because of Russian air power and he will not be able to sustain the advances.

For Syrians living under government rule in Damascus, Moscow’s intervention has inspired a degree of confidence. They credit one of the calmest periods since the start of the war to the death of rebel leader Zahran Alloush, killed in a Russian air strike on Christmas Day.

There are few foreign visitors these days. Bashar al-Seyala, who owns a souvenir shop in the Old City, said most of his foreign customers are Russians. His shop had just sold out of mugs printed with Putin’s face.

(Additional reporting by John Irish, Arshad Mohammed, Lesley Wroughton, Warren Strobel, Lou Charbonneau and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Janet McBride)

Ukraine turmoil triggered by US provocations, majority of Russians maintain

February 26, 2016


According to the latest opinion poll, Russians’ attitude towards Ukraine has worsened and the majority sees the events in that country as “anarchy and banditry” caused by the policies of the Kiev authorities and provoked from Washington.

Russian state-owned public opinion center VTSIOM reported on Friday that the attitude of ordinary Russians towards Ukraine in general has deteriorated if compared to the same period one year ago. The share of people who confessed that their attitude to Ukraine was ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ increased from 31 percent to 36 percent. However, those who have positive sentiments about Ukraine are still a majority of 50 percent, against 60 percent one year ago.

When researchers asked the respondents to describe the so called Maidan events – the overthrow of the Ukrainian president and instating of the current Kiev regime two years ago – 34 percent said they saw them as ‘anarchy and banditry’, 18 percent called them a coup d’état and 12 percent said that the events can be described as civil war.

When asked about their ideas of the reasons behind the Ukrainian crisis, 20 percent of Russians named the wrong political course chosen by Kiev authorities, 19 percent said it was a result of a deliberate provocation on the part of the United States and 13 percent hold that the crisis resulted from regular struggle of politicians and businessmen for power and resources.

Some 81 percent of the Russian public said that the Maidan Square events had had primarily negative consequences for Ukrainian nations. 95 percent said that they were strongly opposed to attempts to implement a similar scenario in Russia.

Mass protests and riots on Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezaizhnosti in Ukrainian, also known simply as Maidan) started in late 2013 after the government announced it had no plans to sign an integration agreement with the European Union so as not to destroy established economic ties with Russia. In late February 2014, the riots led to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich, changes in the constitution and new presidential elections – won by billionaire owner of confectionary business Petro Poroshenko.

The coup also brought to power many open nationalists which caused discontent and resistance in the southeastern parts of the country, populated with ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers. Kiev’s attempts to quench the dissent with military force resulted in a full-scale military conflict and breaking away of the two self-proclaimed republics in Lugansk and Donetsk.

Peace talks are currently under way with Russia, Germany and France acting as guarantors of the ceasefire process. The next meeting of the so-called Normandy 4 (Ukraine being the fourth member of the group) is scheduled for March.

Hackers behind Ukraine power cuts, says US report

February 26, 2016


Hackers were behind an attack that cut power to 225,000 people in Ukraine, a US report has concluded.

The December 2015 incident is thought to be the first known successful hack aimed at utilities.

The report, written by the Department of Homeland Security, is based on interviews with staff at Ukrainian organisations that dealt with the aftermath of the attack.

The DHS report did not name the suspected perpetrators.

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It said the attack had several stages and initially involved hackers installing malware on computer systems at power generation firms in Ukraine. This gave the attackers remote access to these computers and allowed them to flip circuit breakers turning off power to 80,000 customers of western Ukraine’s Prykarpattyaoblenergo utility.

While the power was cut, the attackers also bombarded customer service phone lines with fake calls to stop customers reporting the cut.

The report was written by the cyber-emergency response team in the Industrial Control Systems arm of the DHS. Details of the attack were based entirely on interviews as the cyber-response team has not been able to independently review technical evidence, it said.

Although the DHS did not name any group or nation as being responsible for causing the power cuts, others have amassed information that points to a well-known Russian hacker group as the perpetrators.

Last year, US security firm iSight Partners linked it to a group known as “Sandworm”. It said the attack relied on malware known as BlackEnergy 3 – a strain of viruses that has become known as the “calling card” of the group.

The malware is believed to have been delivered via email using a technique known as “spear phishing”. This involves sending key employees carefully crafted messages that use information culled from social media to make them more convincing.

Turkey’s Convenient War

Islamist strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan relies on sketchily attributed terrorism to consolidate power and disrupt Syria.

February 23, 2016

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

The recent carnage in Ankara comes at a good time for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has been demanding that the United States and other NATO allies support him in his war against the Kurds of Syria, who are, incidentally, regarded as allies by Washington in the war against ISIS. The Turks have been bombarding Kurdish positions and staging special ops raids, warning the Kurds against the dangers of becoming too successful in their drive to occupy territory vacated by a retreating ISIS. Erdogan has been fulminating constantly about how the Kurds are all terrorists and therefore the real enemy, along the way insisting angrily that the United States join him in that assessment. “Choose me or the terrorists!” he recently demanded of a U.S. delegation, elaborating that anyone who is a friend of the Kurds will not have a friend in Turkey.

The Turkish president is not only calling for a war against the Kurds. The conflict is already metastasizing into something like a civil war, with The Economist describing Turkey’s southeastern region as a “simmering cauldron of violence.” Erdogan has also thrown down the gauntlet against the opposition parties in his own parliament, some of whom he has also described as “terrorists.” Having already hobbled his country’s press, its judiciary, its military and law enforcement and having made it a crime to protest against his policies or “insult” government officials, he is now intent on obtaining for himself near dictatorial powers as president. Erdogan is currently seeking to force through legislation that would grant him the new authority he seeks even though he lacks sufficient votes to do so. His language in dealing with his own countrymen is replete with the usual fabrications, threats and admonishments that have made him a worldwide sensation over the past two years.

As Erdogan passionately wants his war and his mandate, the Ankara bombing comes at a perfect time for him. Which should be suspicious. The Turkish military high command is known to be strongly opposed to any large scale intervention in Syria, but the killing of soldiers by the bombers might be intended to undermine its resistance. Inevitably, a Syrian Kurd of unknown antecedents has been blamed by name for the attack and also linked to Turkey’s own Kurds. Kurdish leaders both in Syria and Turkey deny any knowledge of the incident, though one spokesman conceded that it might have been a rogue attack staged by victims of the recent Turkish crack down on the Kurdish region of the country. A Kurdish splinter group the Kurdish Freedom Hawks (TAK) has taken credit, but it contradicts what Turkey is claiming about the provenance of the attack and might be a ploy intended to enhance the group’s reputation. But to be sure, apart from revenge the Kurds logically would have no motive to provoke an onslaught by the overwhelmingly more powerful Turkish military. Quite the contrary.

The bombing comes on top of Turkey’s dangerous—and suspicious—shoot-down of a Russian warplane, in which the decision to take decisive action against Moscow must surely have come from the top level of the government in Ankara. The Russian plane could not have been construed as being hostile to Turkey and a relatively minor incursion, if it indeed took place, could only explain the incident if there was actually a Turkish plan in place to engage a Russian plane as soon as it could be plausibly claimed that there had been a
violation of airspace. Why? Because Russia was demonstrating considerable success in pushing back the rebels which, pari passu, was enabling the Kurds in Syria to expand their area of control. For Erdogan, it always comes down to the Kurds.

One can reasonably argue that Turkey’s present desperation is a direct product of President Erdogan’s miscalculations. He deliberately abandoned efforts to maintain a ceasefire with the Kurds and instead escalated the conflict with them when he began bombarding their positions in Syria in the Summer of 2015. The return to the “Kurds as terrorists” meme was politically motivated, intended to discredit the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which is largely Kurdish, prior to national elections. Erdogan also continued to insist that Bashir al-Assad be removed in Syria, even though that has proven to be an unattainable goal and his decision to bring down a Russian plane was tactically unwise as well as bad news for a struggling Turkish economy.

Given Erdogan’s apparent willingness to take seemingly high risk steps in support of his domestic and foreign agendas, one must inevitably pose the question: “Was this bombing in Ankara a false flag attack carried out by Erdogan to justify a war and give him increased authority, both of which are linked?” Those who discount such a possibility would no doubt argue that no contemporary government leader would conspire to kill his own people under such circumstances. Or would they?

The Turkish people wisely are resistant to military engagement outside their country’s borders so the government of Erdogan has considered desperate expedients to create a casus belli to justify waging its own personal war against the Kurds on Syrian soil. The reality is that Turkey has suffered a number of “terrorist” attacks over the past two years, some of which are certainly suspicious in that they came at a time when the government was fearmongering before elections or seeking popular support for a war in Syria. In each case the attribution to Kurds or ISIS has been somewhat suspect or based solely on assertions made by the Turkish government, seemingly without any independent corroboration. If they were indeed false flag attacks, some steps would likely have been taken to delude the actual bombers or shooters regarding who was actually ordering the attack. Kurdish speaking Turkish intelligence officers could easily and plausibly have represented themselves as Kurds, for example.

Recent attacks inside Turkey that have been credited to ISIS or the Kurds might just as reasonably be credited to the Turkish intelligence service MIT based on the principle of “Cui bono?” or  “who benefits?” One bombing in Ankara last October, attributed alternatively to ISIS and to Kurds, killed 102 and was particularly suspicious coming as it did shortly before elections. It targeted a peace march that included many Kurds, making it a perfect target to sow discord. It was inevitably exploited to increase government pressure on the Kurdish minority and to weaken the opposition HDP. The tactic was, in the event, successful as Erdogan succeeded in reestablishing his parliamentary majority.

Several so-called ISIS attacks directed against Turkish soldiers and policemen have also been used to create the impression to the U.S. and NATO allies that Turkey was actually in the fight against the Islamic State even though it really was not. One complaint made by the Kurds in 2015 was that the Turks were facilitating the movement of ISIS along the border to attack Kurdish positions. The White House, frustrated by the Turkish inaction, was not fooled by the charade but it felt that it was in no position to contradict Erdogan as it needed to be able to use the NATO airbase at Incirlik, which the Turkish president controlled.

But perhaps the most telling, and chilling, incident relating to Erdogan and his intelligence service cronies is something that did not happen. Back in 2014, a secret telephone recording made by police investigating criminal activity by some family members within the government inner circle revealed that the then-prime minister had conspired with his intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to stage a false flag attack on the tomb of Turkish Sultan Suleyman Shah, which for historical reasons is located inside Syria and is guarded by Turkish soldiers. Davutoglu told Fidan “The Prime Minister [Erdogan] said that in current conjuncture, this attack (on the Suleyman Shah Tomb) must be seen as an opportunity for us.” Fidan responded “I’ll make up a cause of war by ordering a missile attack on Turkey.” In the event, the attack did not take place but if it had it might have meant killing fellow Turks to create a casus belli that would have justified massive retaliation and direct intervention in Syria.

Would Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan be willing to kill his own soldiers to create an incident that would enable him to advance his own agenda? The answer is apparently yes. Were the bombers in Ankara on February 18 somehow instigated or set up by the Turkish intelligence agency MIT? The answer might never be known, but President Obama, in his phone call expressing condolences to Erdogan over the bombing, carefully avoided endorsing Turkish claims that Syrian Kurds had been behind the attack. As the actual perpetrators remain somewhat of a mystery, it would behoove Washington to be very cautious before climbing on to the Turkish bandwagon.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

Kurdish solidarity in Turkey’s restive southeast frustrates its Syria policy

February 26, 2016

by Ayla Jean Yackley


Diyarbakir, Turkey- In a public cemetery next to a military air base in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, flags of a Syrian Kurdish militia are draped over many of the tombstones.

Death notices posted online by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a key U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State in north Syria, show about half of those killed on its front lines in the last three months alone were Turkish-born.

Sertip Celik, a student in the Mediterranean town of Iskenderun, was one of thousands of Turkish Kurds to cross into Syria and join the fight against Islamic State, answering a call to arms by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for three decades.

“What was being done to Kurds in Syria and Iraq, the attacks and the massacres, the kidnapping of women as slaves, repulsed him,” said his mother, Rahime Celik. “No mother wants her son to go to his death, but I could not have stopped him.”

Within three months of leaving, Sertip was dead, killed during the 2014 Islamic State siege of Kobani just over the border from Turkey.

Solidarity with their ethnic kin in Syria is a source of pride for many of Turkey’s Kurds.

But Ankara sees the links between the YPG and PKK as a threat to its unity and security, complicating international efforts to end Syria’s war and creating tensions with its NATO ally the United States. It fears the creation of a Kurdish fiefdom in Syria will fuel separatist ambitions at home.

Washington, like Turkey and the European Union, lists the PKK as a terrorist organization. But much to the frustration of Ankara, it sees the YPG and its political arm, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as a distinct group, with which it is willing to work to battle Islamic State.

“In its own reports, the U.S. has described the PYD, with all of its elements, as a terrorist group that procures its weapons from the PKK,” Saadet Oruc, a senior adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, told Reuters.

“To not see this link now requires you to close your eyes and bury your head in the sand. Statements from the U.S. that they see these as different groups are just not credible.”

Erdogan has said the YPG and the PKK jointly planned and carried out a suicide bombing in the heart of the capital Ankara last week that killed 29 people, most of them soldiers.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called the attack clear evidence of the terrorist nature of the YPG and said Ankara expected cooperation from its allies in combating the group.


The U.S. military, however, has found an adept partner in the YPG. The alliance, working with Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters, has pushed Islamic State out of Kobani and other jihadist strongholds in Syria and Iraq since 2014.

That has allowed the PYD to keep control of three Syrian provinces along the Turkish border, which it runs autonomously under the name “Rojava”, referring to the western end of Kurdish territories stretching across Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.

Before the war in Syria, the Syrian Kurdish militia was part of the PKK’s rank and file in northern Iraq.

The PKK founded the YPG as a Syrian organization a decade ago and both groups are inspired by Abdullah Ocalan, who led the PKK from inception and lived in Syria shortly before his capture in 1999, said Aliza Marcus, author of “Blood and Belief”, a history of the guerrilla group.

But the Syrian outfit has taken pains to distinguish itself.

“The YPG is the Syrian arm of the PKK but the Syrian Kurds are operating based on their own needs and goals,” Marcus said.

“The leadership is made up of Syrian Kurds, and they have a different outlook, focused on Rojava.”

That alliance has stirred the ire of Erdogan, who has said Washington must choose between Turkey and the Kurds.

In the early stages of Syria’s civil war, there were signs Turkey was willing to work with the PYD and other Kurdish groups if they met three demands: to remain resolutely opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, vow not to seek autonomy through violence and pose no threat to Turkey.

It hosted PYD leader Saleh Muslim for talks when it was negotiating with the PKK to end the conflict in southeast Turkey that has killed 40,000 people since 1984.

But a breakdown in the peace process in July and YPG advances in Syria, where the group has also taken advantage of a Russian-backed government offensive to seize territory from Turkish-backed rebels, has infuriated Ankara.

Gultan Kisanak, mayor of Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, said a Turkey at war with Kurdish militants at home was left little choice.

“Had Turkey made peace with Kurds at home, provided them with democracy and stopped the clashes, it would not see the Syrian Kurds as a threat,” she said in an interview.

“When the government’s political aims in Syria failed and clashes began in Turkey, it began its campaign that the PYD and YPG were terrorists.”


Few Kurds question the connection between the PKK and the YPG – echoing the Turkish government’s assertion.

Celik’s first brush with conflict came at the age of five, his mother said. Soldiers evacuated their village, worried it harbored PKK sympathizers, and the family fled to Diyarbakir. His father spent most of the 1990s in jail on political charges.

Like many of the Turkish Kurds fighting in Syria, Celik had no military training. He had been the first of the family’s seven children to attend university. He rarely spoke of politics but promised his mother, “I will be a great man one day,” she said.

Intelligence sources cited by Turkish newspapers last year said about 4,500 of the YPG’s estimated fighting force of 30,000 were Turkish-born and another 4,000 came from PKK bases in northern Iraq, where the group has been based since the 1990s.

“Kurds may live within the borders of different states but they have mutual, cultural, emotional links,” said Kisanak. “These borders have only been around for 100 years, and when they were drawn, families, villages and cities were divided. When one side suffers, the other is affected too.”

At the Diyarbakir cemetery where Celik rests, two dozen of the freshest graves have yet to be encased in marble, and grieving families have spelt out the names of the dead in pebbles in the dirt.

Turkish jets that have been bombing PKK camps in northern Iraq roar overhead from the nearby airbase, where the Turkish national anthem sometimes rings out.

“I watch the funerals of soldiers and police on TV, and I recognize the pain of the mothers as they cry and scream. It is the souls of mothers that burn,” said Rahime Celik. “I wish Sertip had never gone. I wish this endless war would be over.”

(Editing by Nick Tattersall and Andrew Roche)

French judge allows partial demolition of Calais ‘jungle’

February 25, 2016

by Matthias Blamont


CALAIS, France A French judge on Thursday upheld a government plan to partially demolish a shanty town near the port of Calais for migrants trying to reach Britain, an official spokesman said.

“The order is applicable, except for common social areas,” the spokesman for the Pas-de-Calais prefect’s office said. “So it won’t be applicable to places such as schools, a theater and a legal office.”

An official deadline expired on Tuesday for at least 1,000 migrants to leave the southern part of the so-called “jungle” camp, on the outskirts of the northern French port town.

Authorities have said they will use force if necessary to move them to alternative accommodation in a nearby container park and other reception centers.

Their repeated efforts to force their way through the Channel Tunnel or to stow away aboard trucks have disrupted traffic across the vital link between France and Britain, caused tension with the local population and forced French police to maintain a large deployment in the area.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the evacuation would be gradual and that there were sufficient places for all either in the region or elsewhere in France.

“Carrying out a brutal eviction in the south part of Calais with bulldozers was never envisaged,” he said on Thursday.

Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart said on BFM TV she was relieved by the decision by the administrative court in the regional capital, Lille.

“We will be vigilant about what is going to happen in the coming hours, and extremely vigilant about what happens in the coming days,” Bouchart said.

Belgium stepped up checks at its nearby border on Wednesday to prevent “jungle” residents entering the country to try to reach Britain from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

Cazeneuve criticized the Belgian move as “odd”, saying it had not been notified in advance and he did not think moving migrants out of the squalid camp would prompt many to move north along the Channel coast to Belgian ports.


The court did not immediately publish details of the decision by Judge Valerie Quemener, who was responding to an appeal by some 250 residents and nine charity groups for an injunction suspending the evacuation.

Maya Konforti, who works with local association Auberge des Migrants, told Reuters the charities would file an appeal with France’s top administrative court.

Altogether some 4,000 people are believed to live in the “jungle”, down from about 6,000 in September. The authorities would like to see this number fall to around 2,000.

“This is bad news but nobody is moving,” Aziz, 42, who fled Pakistan, said after the decision of the court was announced. He and some friends run a small shopping booth that will have to be dismantled.

Humanitarian groups say forced evictions would breach the migrants’ fundamental rights and worsen the plight of some 350 to 400 minors in the camp, some of them unaccompanied.

NGOs estimate the southern part of the “jungle” earmarked for demolition has become home to some 3,400 migrants, more than triple the official figure.

A state-run park of converted shipping containers opened last month and has about 200 free beds out of a total capacity of 1,500, but it lacks toilets and showers.

The government says other various reception centers spread across France can absorb the remaining migrants, with 600 beds immediately available, but many refugees told Reuters this week they would continue to try to reach Britain, where they believe a better life awaits them.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Paul Taylor and Dominic Evans)

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