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TBR News January 16, 2016

Jan 16 2016

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.

http://www.amazon.com/Conversations-Crow-Gregory-Douglas-ebook/dp/B00GHMAQ5E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1450147193&sr=8-1&keywords=conversations+with+the+crow

 

Conversation No. 67

Date: Sunday, February 16, 1997

Commenced: 10:45 AM CST

Concluded: 11:15 AM CST

 

GD: I got your packet today, Robert, and thank you for it. I have a problem with the classification stamps on them. Would I have any problem putting these into a book with the stamps showing?

RTC: I would suggest that you use them for reference, Gregory, and would appreciate it if you did not photo copy them. As you say, there could be serious trouble for both of us if you did. What did you think of them?

GD: Amazing. I had no idea the blessed Republicans were so underhanded and vicious.

RTC: The Democrats, and my father was an active one, are more interested in social issues, but the GOP wants unfettered economic power and to get and keep it, they have no scruples. Clinton may be left of center, but he’s economically pretty sound. The Republicans, and I used to be the man for connections with really big business, don’t forget, have two goals and two only. They want to establish an ideological police state that is anti-black, anti-Mexican, anti-intellectual and in this category, anti-Jew. Once they have this, their next goal would be to allow unfettered capitalism to rage unchecked throughout the land so that they and their friends can get rich quick on crooked businesses like the huge fraud now going on in the electronics stock. It goes up, Gregory, because it’s rigged and I just know it will go higher and higher.

GD: Yes, and what goes up, must come down. And if it goes up too fast, when it crashes, it takes legitimate businesses with it. My grandfather got out of the market in September of ’29 because it was going up too fast and businesses were heavily overcapitalized. This electronic business is not genuine?

RTC: No, it’s rigged. How it works is this way: The stock fraud people grab some engineering student from MIT, set him up in a nice office in San Francisco and then incorporate him with some fancy, arty name. Next step is to get the stock listed on the New York board. After that, a ring of very reputable stock brokers call up their friends with an offering. They tell them they are going to buy a certain stock at ten dollars for them and then sell it when it gets to, let’s say, twenty. The client goes along with this and when this is repeated across the country, the stock shoots up. The original investors get double their money back, minus brokerage fees, and then the brokers do it again, and again. This forces almost all technology stock up into the heavens. Maybe some of the initial investors gripe when they see stock they bought at ten and sold at twenty up at two hundred, but when all of it will come crashing down, they are satisfied that they have a safe return.

GD: Well, gravity works on the market as well as fat women’s tits.

RTC: (Laughter) There you go again, Gregory, illuminating a serious economic lecture with lewd remarks.

GD: A little levity to offset crude capitalism.

RTC: Oh, if the Republicans have their way, all the restrictions on Wall Street would be lifted and everything would shoot up. Some of it rigged and the rest just being copycats.

GD: You’re not a Republican?

RTC: No, a relatively modest Democrat, but not a poor one.

GD: It’s none of my business, Robert, but what do you have your money in?

RTC: Not communications stock, I can tell you that. Very conservative investments. And you?

GD: I’m almost broke, Robert. I don’t make that much money on the books and now that the rodent brigades from the CIA are starting to squeal that I am a really terrible liar, the sales are slowing down some. But I have an idea that might pay off. I told you about the gold Jimmy Atwood and I dug up in ’90. Well, I have some old gasbag down in Florida who wants me to go over with him to Austria in the future and dig up more. Only this one doesn’t want to dig up gold. He wants to put a party together and get the money from them and come back with me later to get the money which we can split up.

RTC: The concentration camp money?

GD: Oh, yes and lots of it. We had to quit in ’90 because one was sick and the other a total asshole. And Atwood, being one of your people, tried all kinds of transparent tricks to cheat me. Didn’t work. But this Florida phony wants to work with me. I could always go back with him, or stay there after his rich friends went home, and dig up more money. Of course, this time he could have a boating accident and fall into the lake. It’s very deep and very cold. What goes down into it Robert, does not come up.

RTC: And how would you get the loot back?

GD: I would keep it in Europe and invest it.

RTC: Probably not a bad idea. How much did you get last time?

GD: About five million and there must be five times that still left. Yes, I think a boating accident. Sort of like Colby’s assisted departure. If he has any family, I can tell them he ran off to Sofia with a Bulgarian whore instead of being refrigerated at the bottom of a deep lake in Austria. Well, we will see. I have a friend in the electronics business. How long before the stock boom busts?

RTC: I have no idea but eventually. Two years, three years…who knows? You don’t have any electronics stock, do you?

GD: God no. If I did have money, I would stay as far away as I can from the trendy stocks that the press loves to shill for. No, if I had a lot of money, I would put it in gold and property.

RTC: Anything left from your late jaunt?

GD: I invested it in long-term property and kept some of the gold. Of course I got the wedding rings and had to melt them all down and put them into bullet molds I bought in Klagenfurt. Poor Aunt Minnie’s ring is gone forever.

RTC: I wouldn’t let the Jews find out about that, Gregory. They would be very angry with you.

GD: Well, who is to prove that this ring or that gold coin came from such and such a person? The people who owned this are long dead and mostly forgotten. So what?

RTC: For God’s sake, Gregory, don’t even hint at this in your books. Hell hath no fury like a Jew deprived of money.

GD: Well, his own or someone else’s? Jimmy and I got all kinds of gold crucifixes, wedding rings, coins and other material and I melted most of it down. Used a portable acetylene torch and bullet molds working in an Italian hotel room. Cheap hotel and no one complained about the smell of melting metal. Took two weeks to melt it all down. Just think, so many precious memories, gone forever and all mine, Robert, all mine.

RTC: Well, just be discreet.

GD: I don’t mind the concept of screeching and imploring Hebrews, so I invest elsewhere because I would mind the screeching and other problems of the IRS.

RTC: Yes, that would be different, wouldn’t it?

GD: Oh, yes. Now Atwood could get away with it because he belongs to your agency, but I have no such cover. Jimmy got bagged for all kinds of thefts but your people got him off the hook…I think it was in ’62. Anyway, we make our own way in life, don’t we? And remember, we have a pool on how long it will be before the Company ices poor Jimmy for his loud mouth.

RTC: Yes, I remember.

GD: Ah, well, I am going to leave you, Robert, and go to church and see what sort of really awful pornography I can slip into the hymnals.

RTC: Now that’s not Christian, is it?

GD: Disagree, Robert. Quintessentially Christian, absolutely

 

(Concluded at 11:15 CST)

 

Why rejected asylum seekers are seldom deported

January 14, 2016

DW

In no other industrialized nation have so many people applied for asylum in the past year than in Germany. Around half of the applications are rejected, but that seldom has consequences for the applicant.

In this digital age, it’s not just millions of banal emails that are sent around the world, but also important messages. Information that can spark a massive reaction. Like the fact that in Germany, the risk of being deported is pretty small despite a rejected asylum application. Refugees know this, and it’s one of the reasons why Germany remains their preferred destination.

Wilfred Burghardt, the former leader of a committee on repatriation known as AG Rück, says the flaws in Germany’s deportation system are a significant “pull factor.” Clearly, the Achilles’ heel of Germany’s generous asylum law is the lack of consequences that follow rejection. The biggest obstacles to deportation are:

Unknown identity

Around 80 percent of asylum seekers arrive in Germany with fake papers, or no papers at all. That’s especially true for migrants from countries where there is no war or persecution. Aid organizations say that many people opt for fake papers because there are no legal means to enter Germany. But it’s not possible to deport a person without any papers once their application for asylum has been rejected. Even once the country of origin has been established, many states refuse to take their citizens back.

Disappearing before deportation day

Until recently, it was the case that once an applicant had exhausted all legal means to be granted asylum, the authorities would assign a date for deportation. But in many cases, the person could no longer be found on that day. Now, the system has changed so that asylum seekers are no longer told on which day they are to be deported. In some cases, families hide one of their children with friends or relatives in order to delay deportation. Following verdicts from the European Court for Human Rights, taking people into custody prior to deportation is no longer allowed.

Legal hurdles

Rejected asylum seekers do have some legal recourse. Refugee organizations will often help them file an appeal, so that the decision is reviewed. Certain illnesses or courses of therapy can help delay deportation or at least allow the applicant to remain in the country as an illegal foreigner. Once that status has been exhausted, there is still the hardship application, and as a last option, church asylum.

Overtaxed bureaucracy

The massive increase in the number of refugees and, correspondingly, asylum applications, almost brought German bureaucracy to its knees. At times, there were more than 600,000 unprocessed applications on hold. In the meantime, the immigration authorities and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Nuremberg have hired additional staff. Applications are now supposed to be processed in three months, and not the six months or longer that was the case previously.

Psychological inhibitions

Nobody likes to deport people. That seems to explain the psychological resistance that can be observed at the German state level, given that the states are responsible for more than 90 percent of deportations. Local politicians seldom go on the offensive when it comes to repatriation decisions; they fear the negative headlines that would follow, for example, when a family of six is driven to the airport and forced to board a plane.

But such inhibitions are weakening in the face of the uninterrupted influx of refugees. In addition, more countries, such as Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro, have been declared safe countries of origin, so that applicants from these countries can be sent back. There is also an ongoing discussion about whether or not to extend safe country status to Morocco and Algeria.

13 ways the NSA has spied on us

by TImothy B. Lee

Vox.com

Over the last couple of years, through the revelations of Ed Snowden and independent reporting by others, we’ve learned more and more about the National Security Agency’s spying programs. Indeed, there have now been so many revelations that it can be hard to keep them straight. So here’s a handy guide to the most significant ways the NSA spies on people in the United States and around the world.

1. The NSA collects every American’s phone records

This was one of the first programs revealed by Snowden and it continues to be one of the most controversial. The Patriot Act allows the NSA to obtain business records that are relevant to terrorist investigations. The government claims that this gives it the power to obtain records — phone number dialed, time and duration of call — about every domestic phone call in the United States. Last year the Obama administration proposed changes to require judicial oversight of access to the database

2. The PRISM program lets the NSA access private user data on leading online services

A slide disclosed by Snowden lists 9 major internet companies — Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple — as participating in the PRISM program. The program allows the NSA to get private information such as emails, Facebook messages, and stored documents. It’s not known how carefully these information requests are scrutinized.

3. The NSA engages in offensive hacking operations

Tailored Access Operations is the NSA’s elite hacking unit. While some other NSA programs collect information in bulk, TAO engages in targeted attacks on high-value targets. It is believed that the NSA has a large library of exploits, allowing it to hack into a wide variety of consumer gadgets and business IT systems.

4. The NSA taps long-distance internet connections

The NSA works with countries around the world to tap into underseas fiber optic cables carrying vast quantities of fiber optic data. There’s also evidence that the NSA has been tapping into fiber optic cables in the United States.

5. The NSA intercepted data flowing within Google and Yahoo data centers

When you log into GMail, you’ll see a “lock” icon indicating that communications between your computer and Google’s server is protected by encryption. But until recently, Google didn’t employ encryption when it moved data between its own servers. The NSA tapped into these connections and harvested large quantities of user data. Yahoo was also targeted.

6. The NSA has spied on foreign leaders

Documents released by Snowden suggest that at least 35 world leaders have been targeted by the NSA, including Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. There were also allegations last year that the NSA spied on German chancellor Angela Merkel, though a subsequent investigation cast doubt on that claim.

7. The NSA spies on millions of ordinary people overseas

The NSA tapped into communications systems in Brazil and Germany — and likely other countries as well — to collect information about ordinary peoples’ phone calls and emails.

8. The NSA has tracked cell phone locations around the world

The NSA has spied on cell phone networks around the world, collecting 5 billion records per day about the locations of users’ cell phones. The agency isn’t allowed to deliberately target cell phone users in the United States, but some American cell phone records have been collected “incidentally.”

9. From 2001 to 2011, the NSA collected vast amounts of information about Americans’ internet usage

In 2001, the Bush administration began collecting data about Americans’ internet usage. The data collected included the sender and recipients of emails, as well as information about which websites a user browsed. The program operated for two years under President Obama but was shut down in 2011.

10. The NSA has undermined the security of encryption products

Over the last decade, the NSA has persuaded technology companies to modify their products to make them “exploitable” — that is, vulnerable to targeted attacks by the NSA.

11. The NSA uses tracking cookies to choose hacking targets

Most commercial websites have “tracking cookies,” small bits of data that are stored on a user’s computer to help with ad targeting. Documents released by Snowden showed that the NSA uses these cookies to identify users as hacking targets.

12. The NSA cracked a popular standard for encrypting cell phone communications

Most cell phone communications are encrypted to protect the privacy of users. But in 2013 we learned that the NSA cracked one of the most popular encryption standards, called A5, allowing them to intercept the contents of cell phone communications.

13. An NSA program allowed the NSA to record every phone call in a certain, unspecified, country and store it for 30 days

In 2014 the Washington Post has reported that an NSA program allows the agency to record every phone call in an unspecified country, and store them for 30 days for later analysis. The Post didn’t identify the country, but the Intercept has reported that the program is being used in the Bahamas. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says that Afghanistan has also been targeted under the program.

 

SECRECY NEWS

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 6

January 15, 2016

 

FIXING PRE-PUBLICATION REVIEW

As a condition of gaining access to classified information, many government employees agree to submit to official pre-publication review of any public statement they wish to make that is related to their government employment.

This procedure has long been a source of conflict and controversy, but over time the pre-publication review process has become increasingly onerous, internally contradictory, and disruptive.

As part of an ongoing dialog on the subject, I offered some thoughts on “Fixing Pre-Publication Review: What Should Be Done?” on the Just Security blog.

INTELLIGENCE-RELATED LEGISLATION, AND MORE FROM CRS

Recent legislative provisions on intelligence policy are surveyed and cataloged in a newly updated Congressional Research Service report.

In the past two annual intelligence authorization bills, Congress enacted various directions and requirements concerning intelligence agency financial auditability, insider threats, contractor oversight, and many other topics. These are tabulated and reviewed in Intelligence Authorization Legislation for FY2014 and FY2015: Provisions, Status, Intelligence Community Framework, updated January 12, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.

  • U.S.-Mexico Security Cooperation Following “El Chapo” Guzmán’s January 2016 Recapture, CRS Insight, updated January 13, 2016
  • Taiwan’s January 2016 Elections: A Preview, CRS Insight, January 12, 2016
  • Goldwater-Nichols and the Evolution of Officer Joint Professional Military Education (JPME), January 13, 2016
  • Iran Sanctions, updated January 12, 2016
  • Temporary Professional, Managerial, and Skilled Foreign Workers: Policy and Trends, January 13, 2016
  • Hedge Funds and the Securities Exchange Act’s Section 13(d) Reporting Requirements, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 13, 2016
  • Unfunded Mandates Reform Act: History, Impact, and Issues, updated January 13, 2016
  • Discretionary Spending Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), updated January 13, 2016
  • EPA’s Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants: Frequently Asked Questions, January 13, 2016
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Speech Resources: Fact Sheet, January 11, 2016

Criminal Justice Reform: One Judge’s View, CRS Legal Sidebar, January 14, 2016

 

 

Unacceptable nuisance’: German court rules Facebook ‘friend finder’ illegal

January 15, 2016

RT

A German court has ruled Facebook’s ‘friend finder’ function, which allows the social network to market services to non-users, illegal. The court said the promotion is “intrusive” and that Facebook had not adequately informed its members about it.

The court upheld the decisions of two lower Berlin courts of 2012 and 2014, confirming that Facebook had violated German laws on data protection and unfair trade practices by using deceptive marketing tools.

The ‘friend finder’ feature enables Facebook to upload contacts from users’ address books and send them invitations to join the social media network.

“Invitation emails from Facebook to people who have not clearly consented to receiving them are an unacceptable nuisance,” the court ruling said.

A panel of federal judges found Facebook’s marketing strategy to be intrusive and the social media giant guilty of ‘advertising harassment’ – referring to a lawsuit initiated in 2010 by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV). The court also noted that Facebook had not properly informed users about the way it handles their data.

A spokeswoman for Facebook in Germany released an official statement saying the company was waiting to receive a formal decision and would study the findings “to assess any impact on our services.”

The VZBV welcomed the verdict and says it expects it to influence other services in Germany that apply the same means of advertising.

In addition to Facebook, other services use this form of advertising to attract new users. They must now probably rethink [their marketing strategies],” said Klaus Mueller, head of the VZBV.

The majority of Facebook users hailed the move as a step towards more privacy protection.

Too bad the US doesn’t have consumer protections…,” wrote Facebook user Junior Smith, commenting on the news. “Proactive judiciary to protect privacy!” wrote Ahsan Habib Leon on his profile page.

At the same time, some users were less than impressed with the decision.

Another day and yet another dose of utter stupidity coming from Germany. This time it’s target is neither Poland nor Hungary – but none other than the Facebook itself. Germany decided it was not good for us to have friends. Jawohl, Herr Leutnant!” wrote Sebastian Baxter.The reaction on Twitter was mostly positive, and user Roberta Key wrote she wished the US cared about privacy as much as Germany does.

It is not the first time Facebook has found itself at the center of controversy related to privacy issues. In 2014, Facebook researchers came under fire for a study conducted in 2012 in which users’ emotional states were secretly manipulated by posts seen by nearly 700,000 users.

Last year RT reported that an Austrian court had approved a class action of some 25,000 people from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australia against the social network, accusing it of breaching European privacy laws over its alleged support of the National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program, which involved tracking users’ activity on websites and handing out their data to external applications

 

Putin denies setting his dog on Angela Merkel

January 15, 2016

Daiy Times/Pakistan

MOSCOW – It’s a tale of ruthlessness and intimidation that has dogged one of the most important political relationships of the 21st century almost since it began. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken out to deny the rumour that he used his pet labrador to frighten Angela Merkel in a remarkable power play at one of their very first meetings.

The incident, which has become infamous in Germany, took place at a meeting at Putin’s Sochi residence in 2007. The story goes that Putin, who had been briefed on Merkel’s fear of dogs, brought his black labrador Connie to the meeting.

The dog does not bother you, does she? She’s a friendly dog and I’m sure she will behave herself,” he was quoted as telling Merkel at the time. “No, she doesn’t eat journalists after all,” Merkel is believed to have replied in Russian.

Despite her joke, photographs from the meeting show Merkel looking extremely uncomfortable as Connie settles near her feet, while Putin appears to be smirking. Although Merkel never commented publicly on the incident, the rumour grew that the move had been a deliberate ploy to intimidate the chancellor during negotiations.

But Putin quashed that tale on Monday, telling German journalists he intended no such thing. “I did not know anything about that,” he said when asked whether he was deliberately trying to frighten or embarrass the chancellor. “I showed her my dog because I thought she would like it. I told her so later and apologised,” he said in an interview with Bild.

Putin said that he respects Merkel and considers her a “sincere” person. “She is very sincere and highly professional. In any case, I think the level of trust between us is very high,” he said.

Putin and Merkel’s relationship has emerged as one of the most important – and pugnacious – between European statesmen in recent times. Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel’s meeting in Sochi in 2007

They literally speak the same language – Putin speaks German and served with the KGB in Dresden, while Merkel learnt Russian while she was growing up in East Germany – and appear to have built a relatively frank rapport.

But the relationship between the two has been markedly cooler than Putin’s close friendship with Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, celebrated his 70th birthday with President Vladimir Putin at St Petersburg’s Jussapov Palace on Monday night.

In particular, Merkel has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of Mr Putin in Europe and has been instrumental in introducing and upholding European sanctions against Russia following the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Connie, who died in 2014 at the age of 15, was given to Putin in 2000 by Sergey Shoigu, Russia’s then minister of emergency situations and current minister of defence. She was by all accounts just as friendly as Putin claimed.

 

 

Doubling Down on a Failed Strategy: The Pentagon’s Dangerous “New” Base Plan

by David Vine

TomDispatch

Amid the distractions of the holiday season, the New York Times revealed that the Obama administration is considering a Pentagon proposal to create a “new” and “enduring” system of military bases around the Middle East. Though this is being presented as a response to the rise of the Islamic State and other militant groups, there’s remarkably little that’s new about the Pentagon plan. For more than 36 years, the U.S. military has been building an unprecedented constellation of bases that stretches from Southern Europe and the Middle East to Africa and Southwest Asia.

The record of these bases is disastrous. They have cost tens of billions of dollars and provided support for a long list of undemocratic host regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and Djibouti. They have enabled a series of U.S. wars and military interventions, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which have helped make the Greater Middle East a cauldron of sectarian-tinged power struggles, failed states, and humanitarian catastrophe. And the bases have fueled radicalism, anti-Americanism, and the growth of the very terrorist organizations now targeted by the supposedly new strategy.

If there is much of anything new about the plan, it’s the public acknowledgement of what some (including TomDispatch) have long suspected: despite years of denials about the existence of any “permanent bases” in the Greater Middle East or desire for the same, the military intends to maintain a collection of bases in the region for decades, if not generations, to come.

Thirty-Six Years of Base BuildingAccording to the Times, the Pentagon wants to build up a string of bases, the largest of which would permanently host 500 to 5,000 U.S. personnel. The system would include four “hubs” — existing bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Djibouti, and Spain — and smaller “spokes” in locations like Niger and Cameroon. These bases would, in turn, feature Special Operations forces ready to move into action quickly for what Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has called “unilateral crisis response” anywhere in the Greater Middle East or Africa. According to unnamed Pentagon officials quoted by the Times, this proposed expansion would cost a mere pittance, just “several million dollars a year.”

Far from new, however, this strategy predates both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.  In fact, it goes back to 1980 and the Carter Doctrine. That was the moment when President Jimmy Carter first asserted that the United States would secure Middle Eastern oil and natural gas by “any means necessary, including military force.” Designed to prevent Soviet intervention in the Persian Gulf, the Pentagon build-up under Presidents Carter and Ronald Reagan included the creation of installations in Egypt, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. During the first Gulf War of 1991, the Pentagon deployed hundreds of thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. After that war, despite the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the U.S. military didn’t go home. Thousands of U.S. troops and a significantly expanded base infrastructure remained in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Bahrain became home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. The Pentagon built large air installations in Qatar and expanded operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.

Following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon spent tens of billions of dollars building and expanding yet more bases. At the height of those U.S.-led wars, there were more than 1,000 installations, large and small, in Afghanistan and Iraq alone. Despite the closing of most U.S. bases in the two countries, the Pentagon still has access to at least nine major bases in Afghanistan through 2024.  After leaving Iraq in 2011, the military returned in 2014 to reoccupy at least six installations. Across the Persian Gulf today, there are still U.S. bases in every country save Iran and Yemen. Even in Saudi Arabia, where widespread anger at the U.S. presence led to an official withdrawal in 2003, there are still small U.S. military contingents and a secret drone base. There are secret bases in Israel, four installations in Egypt, and at least one in Jordan near the Iraqi border. Turkey hosts 17 bases, according to the Pentagon. In the wider region, the military has operated drones from at least five bases in Pakistan in recent years and there are nine new installations in Bulgaria and Romania, along with a Clinton administration-era base still operating in Kosovo.

In Africa, Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier, just miles across the Red Sea from the Arabian Peninsula, has expanded dramatically since U.S. forces moved in after 2001. There are now upwards of 4,000 troops on the 600-acre base. Elsewhere, the military has quietly built a collection of small bases and sites for drones, surveillance flights, and Special Operations forces from Ethiopia and Kenya to Burkina Faso and Senegal. Large bases in Spain and Italy support what are now thousands of U.S. troops regularly deploying to Africa.

A Disastrous Record

After 36 years, the results of this vast base build-up have been, to put it mildly, counterproductive. As Saudi Arabia illustrates, U.S. bases have often helped generate the radical militancy that they are now being designed to defeat. The presence of U.S. bases and troops in Muslim holy lands was, in fact, a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks.

Across the Middle East, there’s a correlation between a U.S. basing presence and al-Qaeda’s recruitment success. According to former West Point professor Bradley Bowman, U.S. bases and troops in the Middle East have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization” since a suicide bomber killed 241 Marines in Lebanon in 1983. In Africa, a growing U.S. base and troop presence has “backfired,” serving as a boon for insurgents, according to research published by the Army’s Military Review and the Oxford Research Group. A recent U.N. report suggests that the U.S. air campaign against IS has led foreign militants to join the movement on “an unprecedented scale.”

Part of the anti-American anger that such bases stoke comes from the support they offer to repressive, undemocratic hosts. For example, the Obama administration offered only tepid criticism of the Bahraini government, crucial for U.S. naval basing, in 2011 when its leaders violently cracked down on pro-democracy protesters with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Elsewhere, U.S. bases offer legitimacy to hosts the Economist Democracy Index considers “authoritarian regimes,” effectively helping to block the spread of democracy in countries including Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Low-Balling

The Pentagon’s basing strategy has not only been counterproductive in encouraging people to take up arms against the United States and its allies, it has also been extraordinarily expensive. Military bases across the Greater Middle East cost the United States tens of billions of dollars every year, as part of an estimated $150 billion in annual spending to maintain bases and troops abroad. Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti alone has an annual rent of $70 million and at least $1.4 billion in ongoing expansion costs. With the Pentagon now proposing an enlarged basing structure of hubs and spokes from Burkina Faso to Afghanistan, cost estimates reported in the New York Times in the “low millions” are laughable, if not intentionally misleading. (One hopes the Government Accountability Office is already investigating the true costs.)

The only plausible explanation for such low-ball figures is that officials are taking for granted — and thus excluding from their estimates — the continuation of present wartime funding levels for those bases. In reality, further entrenching the Pentagon’s base infrastructure in the region will commit U.S. taxpayers to billions more in annual construction, maintenance, and personnel costs (while civilian infrastructure in the U.S. continues to be underfunded and neglected).

The idea that the military needs any additional money to bring, as the Times put it, “an ad hoc series of existing bases into one coherent system” should shock American taxpayers. After all, the Pentagon has already spent so many billions on them. If military planners haven’t linked these bases into a coherent system by now, what exactly have they been doing?

In fact, the Pentagon is undoubtedly resorting to an all-too-familiar funding strategy — using low-ball cost estimates to secure more cash from Congress on a commit-now, pay-the-true-costs-later basis.  Experience shows that once the military gets such new budget lines, costs and bases tend to expand, often quite dramatically. Especially in places like Africa that have had a relatively small U.S. presence until now, the Pentagon plan is a template for unchecked growth.  As Nick Turse has shown at TomDispatch, the military has already built up “more than 60 outposts and access points…. in at least 34 countries” across the continent while insisting for years that it had only one base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.  With Congress finally passing the 2016 federal budget, including billions in increased military spending, the Pentagon’s base plan looks like an opening gambit in a bid to get even more money in fiscal year 2017.

Perpetuating Failure

Above all, the base structure the Pentagon has built since 1980 has enabled military interventions and wars of choice in 13 countries in the Greater Middle East. In the absence of a superpower competitor, these bases made each military action — worst of all the disastrous invasion of Iraq — all too easy to contemplate, launch, and carry out.  Today, it seems beyond irony that the target of the Pentagon’s “new” base strategy is the Islamic State, whose very existence and growth we owe to the Iraq War and the chaos it created. If the White House and Congress approve the Pentagon’s plan and the military succeeds in further entrenching and expanding its bases in the region, we need only ask: What violence will this next round of base expansion bring?

Thirty-six years into the U.S. base build-up in the Greater Middle East, military force has failed as a strategy for controlling the region, no less defeating terrorist organizations.  Sadly, this infrastructure of war has been in place for so long and is now so taken for granted that most Americans seldom think about it.  Members of Congress rarely question the usefulness of the bases or the billions they have appropriated to build and maintain them. Journalists, too, almost never report on the subject — except when news outlets publish material strategically leaked by the Pentagon, as appears to be the case with the “new” base plan highlighted by the New York Times.

Expanding the base infrastructure in the Greater Middle East will only perpetuate a militarized foreign policy premised on assumptions about the efficacy of war that should have been discredited long ago.  Investing in “enduring” bases rather than diplomatic, political, and humanitarian efforts to reduce conflict across the region is likely to do little more than ensure enduring war.

 

States lead the way in extending open-carry gun laws

While President Obama seeks to tighten gun controls nationally, at state level the movement to allow people to carry their weapons openly is gaining ground

January 15, 2016

by Matthew Teague in Fairhope, Alabama

The Guardian

President Obama’s executive action last week to expand the definition of gun dealers who must perform background checks elicited loud outrage from conservatives, as Republican presidential contenders warn that Obama wants to take all Americans’ guns away. So far, the response is only rhetorical.

But in the states, a quieter gun rights movement is gaining ground as lawmakers propose bills to pass new, even broader laws that allow gun owners to carry their weapons openly.

On Tuesday in Florida, state lawmakers gathered to start their 2016 session, and will soon consider two gun bills: one to allow 1.5 million Floridians with concealed-carry permits to carry their firearms openly. The other to allow guns on college campuses.

Despite the gun control movement’s momentum in recent years to pass many new restrictive laws, today only Florida and four other states – California, Illinois, New York and South Carolina – prohibit open carry. The other 45 allow it to varying degrees.

Even in the most open of open-carry states, gun rights advocates are scratching out new territory. Alabama, for example, has been gun-friendly since its inception. Gunpowder is baked right into the state constitution: “Every citizen has a fundamental right to bear arms in defense of himself or herself and the state.”

When Alabama’s state legislature reconvenes in February, it will consider a bill put forward by Republican representative Mack Butler, of Rainbow City, designed to allow students at universities to carry guns at school. In Alabama the age requirement to purchase a handgun is 18, so Butler’s bill would open up the possibility of freshmen walking to class armed.

I hope to eliminate every gun-free zone I possibly can,” Butler told the Yellowhammer News a week ago.

Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, said the gun rights strategy purports to turn back the national clock to a time when Americans lived closer to the land, defended themselves from harm, lived more independently – and carried six-shooters on their hips wherever they strode. It’s an appeal to romance. The problem, Winkler said, is that it’s false. “Frontier towns had more restrictive gun laws,” he said. “When you rode into town you checked your guns with the marshal, and you could pick them up again later when you left town.”

The famous shootout at the OK Corral actually started when the local lawmen, including Wyatt Earp, tried to enforce Tombstone’s gun ban. There would be no carrying, open or otherwise.

So why the push for college campuses?

That’s where the young people are,” Winkler said. They are forming ideas about what’s acceptable in society and what’s not. But more than that, he said, “It’s a sign of the success of the gun rights advocates. There is little left for them to win. The campus is one of the few contested battlegrounds left.”

The force that may eventually stop that sort of push – for more guns, everywhere, carried openly – may turn out to be other gun owners. “There is a debate now between concealed-carry and open-carry groups,” said David Helton, an optometrist in Atmore, Alabama, who carries guns for hunting and self-defense. “The concealed-carry people say open carry makes you a target. The open-carry people say it deters crime.”

On 1 January, Texas adopted open carry, in a victory for gun rights advocates. But the change has opened an unexpected schism between the two types of gun owners there. The law affects guns on public property, but private property holders can make their own rules. Businesses like restaurants and hotels don’t want their customers to feel threatened by local gunslingers, so they have started putting up signs: “No guns allowed.”

So suddenly the concealed-carry gun owners enjoy less freedom than before. And they’re angry.

Places that were mum or fine on concealed carry and now in an over pc backlash has excluded decades long CC in some of the most popular corporate chains,” a gun owner posted on TexasCHLforum.com, a site for firearm enthusiasts. “And many other mom and pops who would rather not the instagram photo freaks clicking pics in front of their menu’s so I guess congrats to us, we cut off our nose despite our face.”

That sort of internecine frustration will fade, according to the strategy described by Winkler, as the population grows more accustomed to guns. Once people stop feeling afraid, the “no guns” signs will come down.

This is about normalizing guns,” he said.

Right now I’d say the gun rights people are winning,” said Helton, the eye doctor, with a laugh. “It’s because the federal government is hamstrung – a lot of states are just doing what they want.”

 

Caught With Our Pants Down in the Gulf:The official story of those captured US sailors makes no sense

January 15, 2016

by Justin Raimondo

TomDispatch

Your bullshit-ometer should be making an awful racket in response to the shifting explanations given for the twenty-four-hour Iranian hostage scare involving two US Navy boats intercepted in the Gulf.

First they told us “at least one of the boats” had experienced a “mechanical failure.” Then they said the boats had run out of fuel, although it wasn’t clear if they meant both boats. Then they said “there was no mechanical problem.” Then they claimed that the two crews had somehow not communicated with the military command, although “they could not explain how the military had lost contact with not one but both of the boats.” As the New York Times reported:

Even as Mr. Kerry was describing the release on Wednesday morning, American military officials were offering new explanations about how the two 49-foot patrol boats, formally called riverine command boats, had ended up in Iranian territorial waters while cruising from Kuwait to Bahrain.”And they still haven’t explained it – or any of the other distinctly odd circumstances surrounding this incident.

The best they could do was have an anonymous Navy officer aver “When you’re navigating in those waters, the space around it gets pretty tight.” However, as the Times put it:

But that is hardly a new problem, and the boats’ crews would almost surely have mapped out their course in advance, paying close attention to the Iranian boundary waters. And each boat has radio equipment on board, so it was unclear how the crews suddenly lost communication with their base unless they were surrounded by Iranian vessels before they could alert their superiors.”

We are told they were on a “training mission” – but what kind of mission? The Washington Post adds a helpful detail by telling us that “The vessels, known as riverine command boats, are agile and often carry Special Operations forces into smaller bodies of water.”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

Amid all the faux outrage coming from the neocons and their enablers in the media over the alleged “humiliation” of the US – Iran “paraded” the sailors in their media! They made one of the sailors apologize! The Geneva Conventions were violated! – hardly anyone in this country is asking the hard questions, first and foremost: what in heck were those two boats doing in Iranian waters?

And if you believe they somehow “drifted” within a few miles of Farsi Island, where a highly sensitive Iranian military base is located, then you probably think there’s a lot of money just waiting for you in a Nigerian bank account.

Anyone who thinks the adversarial relationship between Washington and Tehran has turned into “détente” due to the nuclear deal is living in Never-Never Land. Our close ally, Saudi Arabia, has all but declared war on the Iranians and that means we are being dragged into the rapidly escalating conflict. In this context, two US military boats coming a mile and a half away from a major Iranian base in the Gulf isn’t an accident. This ‘training mission” was a military incursion, and although we have no way of knowing what mission the US hoped to accomplish, suffice to say that it wasn’t meant to be a kumbaya moment.

Rachel Maddow is also raising questions about this: after a load of nonsense about how showing the sailors on Iranian media violated the Geneva Conventions – they didn’t: we aren’t at war with Iran yet – she pointed out the suspicious nature of the Pentagon’s shifting story during her January 13 broadcast.

To add another layer to the mystery, the Iranian government released the sailors after holding them for less than twenty-four hours – which isn’t the sort of behavior one might expect if those sailors were on a spy mission. And the Iranians issued an Emily Litella-ish statement, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:

“’After explanations the U.S. gave and the assurances they made, we determined that [the] violation of Iranian territorial waters was not deliberate, so we guided the boats out of Iranian waters,’ said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.”

So if those two boats were “snooping,” as the Fars News Agency originally claimed, why would Tehran come out with this all-is-forgiven statement? None of it makes any sense, at least not until one realizes that the Iranian government is hardly a monolith: power is divided up between various agencies and factions, with only the loosest sort of unity being enforced by the Supreme Leader. Farsi Island is controlled by the hard-line Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the hard-line faction of the ruling elite, which wields enormous political and economic power within the multi-polar Iranian state apparatus. It was the hard-liners who released the video and photos of the American sailors with their hands in the air, and their spokesmen demanded an apology from the US. It was the diplomats, however – the moderates, who negotiated the Iran deal – whose contacts with the US facilitated the sailors’ quick release.

But it isn’t just the Iranians who are riven with factions and conflicting lines of authority: the American empire is overseen by a vast national security bureaucracy involving both military and civilians, and it isn’t monolithic, either. Although, in theory, civilians are in the drivers’ seat and the military just follows orders, in reality the Pentagon is an independent power that can obstruct or even effectively veto whatever diplomatic or military plans the White House has in mind. And while opposition to the nuke deal was centered in Congress, the Pentagon insisted at the last moment that sanctions on conventional arms and particularly those related to ballistic missiles remain in place. Iran’s recent testing of medium range ballistic missiles must have the generals in an uproar, and it could well be that this “training mission” in the Gulf was related – as either a spying mission, or an outright provocation designed to imperil relations. Or perhaps both.

We’ll probably never know for sure: but what we certainly can know is that the official explanation for this latest incident stinks to high heaven. There’s no denying we were caught by the Iranians with our pants down. The only question is – how were we trying to f—k them over?

I warned after the signing of the Iran deal that we are in for a long series of provocations in the Gulf, and this is only the beginning. In order to keep all this in perspective, just remember that the long dance between Washington and Tehran involves at least four partners, including their hard-liners and ours.

 

Russian army launches humanitarian op in Syria – General Staff

January 15, 2016

RT

The Russian military is maintaining logistics support for a humanitarian operation in Syria aimed to provide the civilian population with basic needs. International humanitarian missions have so far been providing aid to regions which remain under terrorist control

Although a number of non-governmental organizations have been providing humanitarian aid on Syrian territory, most of the supplies sent have ended up on territories controlled by terrorists.

The extremists used most of that aid for the supply of [terrorist] gangs,” Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff, said during a press briefing in Moscow.

On top of that, multiple attempts have been registered to deliver arms and munitions, and to evacuate wounded militants under the guise of humanitarian convoys,” Rudskoy stressed. According to the general, these issues with the foreign aid sent so far have led to Russia taking the decision to launch a humanitarian operation of its own in Syria.

A Syrian Ilyushin Il-76 jumbo jet has already delivered the first batch of humanitarian aid to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, Rudskoy said. At present, most of the aid is being channeled to Deir ez-Zor, which was under siege by terrorists for a long period of time, Rudskoy said. The first 22 tons of humanitarian aid have been airdropped from a Syrian Il-76 using Russian parachute platform airdrop systems. Supplies are set to continue, Rudskoy said, stressing that Russia will provide the Syrian people with all possible help to liberate the country from extremists and return peace to the nation.

At the same briefing, Rudskoy announced that up to 10,500 fighters of the democratic Syrian opposition have joined with government forces to oust Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists from Syrian territory. The armed opposition forces are playing “an increasing role” in the fight against terrorism, he said.

Also speaking at the briefing, Defense Ministry spokesman General-Major Igor Konashenkov said the ministry refutes Amnesty International’s allegations of the Russian air force delivering airstrikes on civilian installations in Syria.

Rudskoi said Moscow is set to continue to inform the international public about the results of the airstrikes delivered by the US-led coalition in Syria to avoid falsifications.

In case our colleagues stay quiet about the results of their bombings in Syria, we will have to inform the public of such facts ourselves,” Rudskoi said. “If someone does not realize that, that’s too bad.”

Over just 100 days of the Russian Air Force operation in Syria, Islamic State lost control over 217 communities; over 1,000 sq. kilometers have been liberated,” Rudskoi said.

According to the general, since the beginning of the air operation in Syria on September 30, the Russian Air Force has conducted 5,662 operational sorties, including 145 sorties made by strategic bombers from the territory of Russia. Altogether 97 cruise missiles have been launched from Russian warships in the Caspian Sea, a diesel submarine in the Mediterranean and from strategic bombers.

 

Sonic Warfare

by Harry von Johnston

 

Sonic and ultrasonic weapons (USW) are weapons of various types that use sound to injure, incapacitate, or kill an opponent. There is the audio ocillator which, if properly consrtructed, can produce a frequency that, at relatively short distances, can cause extreme discomfort, and also uncontrolled vomiting and urination.

There is also a device that produces frequency that causes vibration of the eyeballs — and therefore distortion of vision — infrasound of 18.9 Hz, 0.3 Hz, and 9 Hz.

A similar system is called a “magnetic acoustic device”. The device works by emitting an ultra-high frequency blast (around 19–20 kHz) and ahigh intensity ultrasound at frequencies from 700 kHz to 3.6 MHz can cause lung and intestinal damage

During the Second World War, the Germans worked on a field weapon, similar to the ‘Uhu’ that could be mounted on APCs and used to kill opponents. The problem with such a device is that it is difficult to focus sound in such a manner as to kill the targets. The Germans did, in theory, develop such a weapon but too late (late 1944) to be of use. The files on this weapon vanished at the end of the war but are rumored to have surfaced, in of all places, the hands of a military collector who cannot read German and therefore cannot know what an interesting set of papers he owns!

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