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TBR News January 9, 2016

Jan 09 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. , January 8, 2016:”The lust after oil, religious fanaticism, expansionism on the part of many states, including the US and Russia, have led to the vicious and potentially very dangerous upheavals in the Mid East.  To America’s frantic search after secure oil sources coupled with the Shi’ite/Sunni contentions has been added Russia’s growing successes in the Mid East resulting in a loss of American dominence. The cloumsy and ill-advised adventures of the CIA are a contributing factor in this shift of the balance of power.”

The Root Causes of the Mid-East Conflicts

by Harry von Johnston

With the savage Israeli bombing and artillery attack on the civilian population of Gaza under the specious excuse of “anti-terrorist” actions, there are very few people, outside of Israel, who actually understand the underlying reasons for this decades-long and very bloody struggle between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. Many historians are, in fact, well aware of the underlying  factors but few, if any, would dare to discuss them in light of the savage retaliation that would immediately be visited upon them by pro-Israeli entities.

Forced out of Roman-controlled Judea by the Romans following a long and bloody series of revolts, internal massacres and destructive activities, the Jews were eventually expelled from Judea and went to reside in various places such as Alexandria, Egypt.

These deportees are today known as Sephardic Jews and are the descendants of the original Semitic inhabitants of Judea.

Another, larger, group of Jews are called Ashkenazi and are the direct descendents of the Khazar tribes of Central Asia. Originally nomadic peoples, the Khazars were located on the west bank of the Caspian Sea, noted for their savage behavior and in about 700 AD, were converted by their king to Judaism.

Defeated by the Russians, the Khazars spread to Russia, what is now Poland and other eastern European areas. They are not Semitic by background and today, 95% of the citizens of Israel are descended from these nomads, which were composed of Mongols, the occasional Swedish rus or Viking and other diverse ethnic groups.

The oft-repeated claim by Israel that they were the original inhabitants of Judea or Palestine is, from a historical point of view, entirely false.

Modern Zionism was the creation of Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) a Hungarian Jewish writer who advocated a Jewish state in Palestine. That the area was occupied, as it had been for thousands of years, by Arabs, themselves of Semitic origins, did not seem to bother the modern Zionists at all.

Following the end of the Second World War when huge masses of Eastern European Jews had been displaced from their countries in Poland, the Baltic states, Hungry, Romania, Greece, Germany, Austria and other European countries, they decided to move to Palestine and form their own state.

From 1944 through 1948, the entire area was subject to a literal reign of terror as large groups of DPs (Displaced Persons) descended on Palestine, wreaking havoc on the area. Murders, kidnappings, bombings, counterfeiting, bank robberies, blowing up hotels full of people and drive-by shootings were commonplace.

Eventually, the disruptions proved to be too much for the British, who occupied Palestine after the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which once controlled it, withdrew and in 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed.

To anyone not conversant with this detailed background, who wonders why the Palestinians, and later the entire Arab Middle East world hates Israel, a study of the background of the foundation of the current state of Israel immediately puts the motivating factors behind the long-ongoing bloodshed in accurate perspective.

What is past is certainly prologue.

 

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. 33

 

Date: Friday, August 23, 1996

Commenced: 2:25 PM CST

Concluded: 2:38 PM CST

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GD: Have I ever been wrong? RTC: Gregory, your hubris is showing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTC: I know about Todd but Bean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

RTC: Not in the near future.

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

RTC: I’ll take your word for it.

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

RTC: Very Teutonic.

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

RTC: And you never drank or womanized?

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

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

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

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

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

 

(Concluded at 2:38 PM CST)

 

Turkey claims to have foiled ISIS raid on training camp, Iraq denies any battle

January 9, 2016

RT

Turkish forces foiled an attack on their training camp in Iraq, killing 18 jihadists, said President Erdogan in defense of an unauthorized military deployment. However, Iraq’s military said no battles between Turkish troops and ISIS recently took place.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants attempted to infiltrate the Turkish training camp in Iraq this week, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed, referring to an event that allegedly took place on January 7.

I have been told that some 18 Daesh [the Arabic name for IS] terrorists who tried to sneak into the Bashiqa camp were neutralized,” he said, adding that no Turkish troops were injured in the fight.

The Turkish President has taken the opportunity to praise the usefulness of the military installation located near the city of Mosul, saying that the ISIS attack “proves just how appropriate was the step taken regarding the camp.”

It is clear that with our armed soldiers there, our officers giving the training are prepared for anything at any time,” he told reporters in Istanbul.

However, a statement from Iraq has cast doubt on Erdogan’s announcement. According to Iraq’s joint operations command, there was no such attack on a Turkish base or any recent military engagement between the Turkish forces and ISIS whatsoever.

The joint operations command denies there was a terrorist attack on the position of Turkish forces in Bashiqa by the terrorist Daesh recently,” said a news flash on state television, Reuters reported. According to another similar statement: “The joint operations command denies what was relayed in some media outlets from the Turkish president about clashing between the Turkish forces inside Iraqi territory and the terrorist Daesh whether in Bashiqa or any other areas.”

Relations between Ankara and Baghdad have been tense following Turkey’s December 4 unauthorized deployment of about 150 soldiers backed by artillery and around 25 tanks to camp Bashiqa, a base near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that is controlled by terrorists.

While Turkey claims its “training mission” falls under the mandate of the US-led coalition, Baghdad insists that the deployment was illegal and in breach of the country’s sovereignty. Facing harsh backlash from Iraq and global criticism, Turkey has vowed to partially withdraw its troops, but failed to deliver on promises.

The camp, located some 140 kilometers south of the Turkish border and about 20 km from IS-controlled Mosul, is allegedly being used to train Iraqi militia against to fight the jihadists. Official Iraqi troops are not present in the area ever since the Nineveh province has fallen under terrorists’ control in June 2014.

There is no Iraqi armed forces, there are only terrorist groups’ camps,” Razzaq Mihebis, an MP from the Iraqi Badr bloc,told RT earlier, rejecting Erdogan’s justifications for the deployment as an “absolute lie.”

They [Iraq] asked us to train their soldiers and showed us this base as the venue,” Erdogan reiterated on Friday. He claimed that the “negative developments”, meaning Baghdad’s backlash against Turkish invasion, began only after “problems between Russia and Turkey” had emerged.

However, Turkish forces are “not taking any action against” IS militants even when located right “in front of them,” another MP told RT last month, referring to some videos shown to parliamentarians by the country’s security services.

It was clear from the beginning that Turkey is the main sponsor of Daesh. Now [Turkey] created camps in northern Iraq and invaded our territory under the pretext of fighting against Daesh. But in reality it is training their fighters,” Iraqi MP from the State of Law bloc, Awatif Nima said.

Given the overwhelming and evidence there is no doubt that oil is being smuggled into Turkey on a massive scale. But there is also proof that Turkey is keeping its border open for the jihadi fighters and aiding them to get medical treatment on its territory before sending them back to fight in Syria and Iraq, Iraqi MP and a former national security adviser, Mowaffak al Rubaie told RT.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Popular Front’s Badr Organization, one of Iraq’s most prominent Shiite militias, Karim al-Nouri told RT that their forces were able to secure enough data from the dead ISIS terrorists’ bodies to directly implicate Turkey in involvement with IS affairs.

We have documents that prove that the largest logistical support [to ISIS] and supply routes are supplied by the Turks,” he claimed. According to al-Nouri, jihadists are also freely crossing the Turkish border, where they are being offered “save heavens.”

 

US stocks suffer their worst first week of the year since records began

Standard & Poor’s 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 6% and 6.2%, respectively, in the biggest ever fall for the first five days of January

January 8, 2016

by Rupert Neate in New York, Katie Allen in London and Tom Phillips in Beijing

The Guardian

Happy new year, investors. US stocks have suffered their worst first week of the year since records began.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 6% and 6.2%, respectively, in the biggest ever fall for the first five days of January and the worst for any week since September 2011.

US markets, which have been suffering big falls since Wednesday, continued to decline on Friday despite the release of data showing better than expected US jobs growth in December.

The losses amounted to “more than the estimated US student loan debt and 12% of the US debt”, noted Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones indices.

The US stock declines follow drops in markets across most of the world sparked by renewed concerns about the health of the Chinese economy, the world’s second-largest. This week’s declines wiped more than $2.3tn off the value of global stock markets, according to the S&P Global Broad Market index (BMI).

Every major European stock market also fell on Friday, with the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index also suffering its worst week since 2011.

The FTSE 100 in London lost 0.7%. That took the FTSE 100’s losses this week to 5.3%, wiping almost £85bn off the value of the biggest 100 companies.

There were also sharp moves on commodity markets. The prospect of weaker global growth coupled with a supply glut pushed the price of crude oil to its lowest level for almost 12 years.

The price of Brent crude, the global benchmark, had risen more than 2% on Friday after China sought to boost the yuan, and its stock exchanges abandoned a new “circuit breaker” mechanism that had been blamed for much of the stock market havoc.

However, in an echo of the see-saw pattern in stock markets those gains were later erased and Brent was trading at about $33 a barrel, near a low hit in 2004.

With worries about a global downturn intensifying, investors offloaded riskier shares and flocked to so-called safe-haven assets such as gold and government bonds.

So much for the new year bringing some relief to the markets” said credit strategists at the French bank Société Générale.

Worries about China, the endless drop in oil prices and even new geopolitical tensions pounded the markets, punishing risk assets with a flight to quality that was in full swing,” they wrote, in a research note entitled: What’s the Chinese for “ouch”?

Chinese stock markets were suspended twice in a week after 7% falls tripped a new circuit breaker mechanism. It had been intended to stem sharp sell-offs but in the end appeared to have the opposite effect. In a dramatic U-turn, the mechanism was withdrawn just days after it had been introduced.

Chinese stocks recovered by 2% on Friday after the yuan edged higher following days of depreciation that spooked investors and fuelled capital flight out of the country.

Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “China’s removal of counter-productive circuit breakers, state buying and a rise in the yuan helped prevent another stock market rout and alleviated concerns that the central bank would continue the rapid devaluation of the currency.”

After a day of wild trading, the Shanghai composite index and the CSI 300, which comprises the biggest stocks from the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, finished about 2% higher, at 3,186.78 and 3,361.56 respectively. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.6%.

The latest bout of stock market turmoil presents a major challenge to the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who has portayed himself as the country’s top economic steward, ahead of prime minister Li Keqiang.

Xi was reportedly livid over a humiliating stock market debacle in mid-2015, lambasting senior economic officials after he appeared on the front cover of the Economist fighting to prop up Chinese shares.

 

Defense Industry Revenue Forecast Gushes Over Global Turmoil

January 9, 2016

by Lee Fang

The Intercept

The global aerospace and defense industry is out of its doldrums. According to a new report by the accounting firm Deloitte, “the resurgence of global security threats” promises a lucrative “rebound” in defense spending.

The report alerts investors that “revenue growth” is “expected to take a positive turn” due to the terrorism and war in the Middle East and the tensions in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea.

Many analysts predicted declining revenue for the weapons industry as the U.S. scaled down military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. After all, as this chart from the Deloitte report shows, no other country even comes close to spending as much as the U.S. does.

But now governments around the world have moved swiftly to hike defense budgets to “combat terrorism and address sovereign security matters.”

The Deloitte report is almost giddy:

2015 was a pivotal year that saw heightened tensions between China, its neighbors and the US over “island building” in the South and East China Seas, and the related claims of sovereign ocean territory rights by China. In addition, Russia and the Ukraine are at odds related to Russia’s takeover of Crimea and their military actions in Eastern Ukraine. North Korea continues to threaten its neighbors with its nuclear ambitions and aggressive rocket launches. The Islamic State (ISIS) has become a key threat in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan and is involved in exporting terrorism to Europe, Africa, and elsewhere. The recent tragic bombings in Paris, Beirut, Mali, the Sinai Peninsula, and other places have emboldened nations to join in the fight against terrorism.

Several governments affected by these threats are increasing their defense budgets to combat terrorism and address sovereign security matters, including cyber-threats. For defense contractors, this represents an opportunity to sell more equipment and military weapons systems. Products, which are expected to experience renewed interest from buyers, include armored ground vehicles, ground attack munitions, light air support aircraft, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance electronic sensors, cyber protections, maritime patrol ships and aircraft, as well as provision for equipment maintenance and sustainment, as the military operations tempo is likely to increase and more missions are executed.

It is expected that a return to growth for defense subsector companies will likely occur, due to the increased interest by several involved nations as described above. In addition, many large, mainly US DoD defense programs representing billions of US dollars, are likely to start soon, enter the engineering manufacturing design phase, and reach low-rate or full-scale production over the next few years. These programs include Ohio Class Submarine replacement, F-35 fighter jet, KC-46A aerial refueling tanker, Long Range Strike Bomber, USAF T-X trainer, and Rafale fighter programs.

As for factors that might slow the global arms race, the report says little about diplomacy or peace movements. It does note that the fall in oil prices might eventually blunt the weapons-buying trend in the Persian Gulf, although not anytime soon.

In the U.S., as we’ve reported, defense contractors have bragged about pushing candidates towards adopting more militaristic policies. The libertarian trend in the Republican Party, for instance, has largely reversed itself and most candidates have adopted increasingly hawkish views.

 

America Revisits the Dark Side: Candidates Compete to Promise the Most Torture and Slaughter

by Rebecca Gordon

TomDispatch

They’re back!

From the look of the presidential campaign, war crimes are back on the American agenda. We really shouldn’t be surprised, because American officials got away with it last time — and in the case of the drone wars continue to get away with it today. Still, there’s nothing like the heady combination of a “populist” Republican race for the presidency and a national hysteria over terrorism to make Americans want to reach for those “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That, as critics have long argued, is what usually happens if war crimes aren’t prosecuted.

In August 2014, when President Obama finally admitted that “we tortured some folks,” he added a warning. The recent history of U.S. torture, he said, “needs to be understood and accepted. We have to as a country take responsibility for that so hopefully we don’t do it again in the future.” By pinning the responsibility for torture on all of us “as a country,” Obama avoided holding any of the actual perpetrators to account.

Unfortunately, “hope” alone will not stymie a serial war criminal — and the president did not even heed his own warning. For seven years his administration has done everything except help the country “take responsibility” for torture and other war crimes. It looked the other way when it comes to holding accountable those who set up and ran the CIA’s large-scale torture operations at its “black sites” around the world. It never brought charges against those who ordered torture at Guantánamo. It prosecuted no one, above all not the top officials of the Bush administration.

Now, in the endless run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, we’ve been treated to some pretty strange gladiatorial extravaganzas, with more to come in 2016. In these peculiarly American spectacles, Republican candidates hurl themselves at one another in a frenzied effort to be seen as the candidate most likely to ignore the president’s wan hope and instead “do it again in the future.” As a result, they are promising to commit a whole range of crimes, from torture to the slaughter of civilians, for which the leaders of some nations would find themselves hauled into international court as war criminals. But “war criminal” is a label reserved purely for people we loathe, not for us. To paraphrase former President Richard Nixon, if the United States does it, it’s not a crime.

In the wake of the brutal attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the promises being openly made to commit future crimes have only grown more forthright. A few examples from the presidential campaign trail should suffice to make the point:

* Ted Cruz guarantees that “we” will “utterly destroy ISIS.” How will we do it? “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion” — that is, “we” will saturate an area with munitions in such a way that everything and everyone on the ground is obliterated. Of such a bombing campaign against the Islamic State, he told a cheering crowd at the Rising Tide Summit, “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” (It’s hard not to take this as a reference to the use of nuclear weapons, though in the bravado atmosphere of the present Republican campaign a lot of detailed thought is undoubtedly not going into any such proposals.)

* Kindly retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson evidently has similar thoughts. When pressed by CNN co-moderator Hugh Hewitt in the most recent Republican debate on whether he was “tough” enough to be “okay with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian[s],” Carson replied, “You got it. You got it.” He even presented a future campaign against the Islamic State in which “thousands” of children might die as an example of the same kind of tough love a surgeon sometimes exhibits when facing a difficult case. It’s like telling a child, he assured Hewitt, that “we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.” So, presumably, will those “dead innocent children” in Syria — once they get over the shock of being dead.

* Jeb Bush’s approach brought what, in Republican circles, passes for nuance to the discussion of future war crimes policy. What Washington needs, he argued, is “a strategy” and what stands in the way of the Obama administration developing one is an excessive concern with the niceties of international law. As he put it, “We need to get the lawyers off the back of the warfighters.  Right now under President Obama, we’ve created… this standard that is so high that it’s impossible to be successful in fighting ISIS.” Meanwhile, Jeb has surrounded himself with a familiar clique of neocon “advisers” — people like George W. Bush’s former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and his former Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who planned for and advocated the illegal U.S. war against Iraq, which touched off a regional war with devastating human consequences.

* And then there is Donald Trump. Where to start? As a simple baseline for his future commander-in-chiefdom, he stated without a blink that he would bring back torture. “Would I approve waterboarding?” he told a cheering crowd at a November rally in Columbus, Ohio. “You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat.” And for Trump, that would only be the beginning.  He assured his listeners vaguely but emphatically that he “would approve more than that,” leaving to their imaginations whether he was thinking of excruciating “stress positions,” relentless exposure to loud noise, sleep deprivation, the straightforward killing of prisoners, or what the CIA used to delicately refer to as “rectal rehydration.” Meanwhile, he just hammers on when it comes to torture. “Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.”

Only a stupid person — like, perhaps, one of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who carefully studied the CIA’s grim torture documents for years, despite the Agency’s foot-dragging, opposition, and outright interference (including computer hacking) — would say that. But why even bother to argue about whether torture works? The point, Trump claimed, was that the very existence of the Islamic State means that someone needs to be tortured. “If it doesn’t work,” he told that Ohio crowd, “they deserve it anyway.”

Only a few days later, he triumphantly sallied even further into war criminal territory. He declared himself ready to truly hit the Islamic State where it hurts. “The other thing with the terrorists,” he told Fox News, “is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” Because it’s a well-known fact — in Trumpland at least — that nothing makes people less likely to behave violently than murdering their parents and children. And it certainly doesn’t matter, when Trump advocates it, that murder is a crime.

The Problem with ImpunityNot that you’d know it in this country, but the common thread in all of these proposed responses to the Islamic State isn’t just the usual Republican hawkishness.  Each one represents a serious violation of U.S. laws, international laws of war, and/or treaties and conventions that the United States has signed and ratified under Republican as well as Democratic presidents. Most campaign trail discussions of plans — both Republican and Democratic — to defeat ISIS have focused only on instrumental questions: Would carpet bombing, torture, or making sand glow in the dark work?

Candidates and reporters alike have ignored the obvious larger point — if, that is, we weren’t living in a country that had given itself a blanket pass on the issue of war crimes. Carpet-bombing cities, torturing prisoners, and rendering lands uninhabitable are all against the law. They are, in fact, grave crimes. That even critics of these comments will not identify such potential acts as war crimes can undoubtedly be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that no one — other than a few low-level military personnel  and a CIA whistleblower who spoke publicly about the Agency’s torture agenda — has been prosecuted in the U.S. for the startling array of crimes already committed in the so-called War on Terror.

President Obama set the stage for this failure as early as January 2009, just before his first inauguration.  He told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that, when it came to the possible prosecution of CIA officials for U.S. torture policies, “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” He didn’t, he assured Stephanopoulos, want the “extraordinarily talented people” at the Agency “who are working very hard to keep Americans safe… to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.” As it turned out, lawyering up was never a problem. In the end, Attorney General Eric Holder declined to charge any CIA personnel, closing the only two cases the Justice Department had even opened.  Nor did any of the top officials responsible for the “enhanced interrogation” program, including President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, or CIA Director George Tenet, need to waste a cent on a lawyer. Instead, they’re now happily publishing their memoirs.  Or, in the cases of Jay Bybee and John Yoo, the Justice Department authors of some of the more infamous “torture memos,” serving as a federal judge or occupying an endowed chair at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, respectively.

On December 1, 2015, perhaps driven to frustration by the Obama administration’s ultimate failure to act, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a 153-page report titled “No More Excuses.” In it, the organization detailed the specific crimes relating to that CIA torture program for which a dozen high-level officials of the Bush administration could have been brought to trial and called for their prosecution. HRW pointed out that such prosecutions are not, in fact, a matter of choice. They are required by international law (even if the alleged criminals have run the planet’s last superpower). For example, the United Nations Convention against Torture, a key treaty that the United States signed in 1988 (under President Ronald Reagan) and finally ratified in 1994 (under President Bill Clinton), specifically requires our nation to take “effective legislative, administrative, judicial, or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

It doesn’t matter if there’s a war on, or if there’s internal unrest. The Convention says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Whenever torture is used, it’s a violation of that treaty, and that makes it a crime. When it’s used against prisoners of war, it’s also a violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and therefore a war crime. No exceptions.

But when Obama acknowledged that “we tortured some folks,” he claimed an exception for American torture. He cautioned us against overreacting. “It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had,” he said, referring to the CIA’s corps of torturers. He pointed to American fear — of the very sort we’re seeing again over San Bernardino — as an exculpatory factor, reminding us of just how frightened all of us, including CIA operatives, were in the days after 9/11.

As it happens, whatever the former constitutional law professor in the White House or hotel-builder Donald Trump may believe, torture remains illegal. It makes no difference how frightened people may be of potential terrorists. After all, it’s partly because people do wicked things when they are afraid that we make laws in the first place — so that, when fear clouds our minds, we can be reminded of what we decided was right in less frightening times. That’s why the Convention against Torture says “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” excuse such acts.

But the U.N. Convention is just a treaty, right? It’s not really a law. In fact, when the United States ratifies a treaty, it becomes part of American law under Article VI of our Constitution, which states that the Constitution itself and

“… all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

So even if torture did work, it would still be illegal.

War Crimes for the New Year

What about the other proposals we’ve heard from Republican candidates? Some of them are certainly war crimes. “Carpet bombing,” a metaphor that describes an all-too-real air-power nightmare (as many Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians learned during our wars in Indochina), means the saturation of an entire area with enough bombs to destroy everything standing without regard for the lives of anyone who might be on the ground. It is illegal under the laws of war, because it makes no distinction between civilians and combatants.

Because aerial bombardment hadn’t even been invented in 1907 when the Hague Conventions were signed, they don’t name carpet bombing specifically in a list of prohibited “means of injuring the enemy, sieges, and bombardments.” Nevertheless, at the center of the Hague Conventions, as with all the laws and customs of war, lies the crucial distinction between combatants and civilians. To destroy an entire populated area in order to eliminate a handful of fighters violates the long-held and internationally recognized principle of proportionality.

The Hague Conventions also put into the written international legal code long-held beliefs about the importance of distinguishing between civilians and combatants in war. Ben Carson’s willingness to allow the deaths of thousands of civilians and children in the pursuit of ISIS fundamentally violates exactly that principle.

In another shameful exception, the United States has never ratified a 1977 addition to the Geneva Conventions that specifically outlaws carpet bombing. Additional Protocol 1 specifically addresses the protection of civilians during warfare. Apart from such U.S. allies as Israel and Turkey, 174 countries have signed Protocol 1, explicitly making carpet bombing a war crime.

If the United States has not ratified Protocol 1, does that mean it is free to violate its provisions? Not necessarily. When the vast majority of nations agree to such an accord, it can take on the power of “ international customary law” — a set of principles that have the force of law, whether or not they are written down and ratified. The International Committee of the Red Cross maintains a list of these rules of law. One section of these explicitly states that “indiscriminate attacks,” including “area bombardment,” are indeed illegal under customary law.

Senator Cruz’s promise to discover whether or not sand glows in the dark, presumably through the use of nuclear weapons, would violate the 1907 Hague Convention’s prohibitions on employing “poison or poisoned weapons” and on the use of “arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering.” It no more matters that the United States ratified this convention over a century ago than that the Constitution is more than 200 years old. Jeb Bush’s suggestion that we get the lawyers “off the back of the warfighters” notwithstanding, both remain the law of the land.

That they don’t appear to have the force of law in the United States, that the description of possible future war crimes can rouse crowds to a cheering frenzy in this political season, represents a remarkable failure of political will; in particular, the willingness of the Obama administration to call a crime a crime and act accordingly.  Globally, it is a failure of power rather than of the law. Prosecuting a former African autocrat or Serbian leader for war crimes is obviously a very different and far less daunting matter than bringing to justice top officials of the planet’s only superpower. That is made all the more difficult because, under George W. Bush, the United States informed the world that it would never ratify the accords that set up the International Criminal Court.

In the Glare of San Bernardino

Human Rights Watch released its report on December 1st. The next day, a married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, attacked a holiday party at San Bernardino’s Department of Public Health, where Farook worked. They killed 14 people before dying in a police shootout. It was a horrific crime and it appears that the two were, at least in part, inspired by the social media presence of the Islamic State (even if they were not in any way directed by that group). Not surprisingly, the HRW report sank like a stone from public view. With it went their key recommendations: that a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate and bring to trial those responsible for CIA torture practices and that U.S. torture victims be guaranteed redress in American courts, something both the Bush and Obama administrations have fought fiercely, even though it is a key requirement of the U.N. Convention against Torture.

As last year ended, the fear machine had cranked up once again, and Americans were being reminded by those who aspire to lead us that no price is too high to pay for our security — as long as it’s paid by somebody else. Expect more of the same in 2016.

And yet it is precisely now, when we are most afraid, that our leaders — present and future — should not be stoking our fears. They should instead be reminding us that there is something more valuable — and more achievable — than perfect security. They should be encouraging us not to seek a cowardly exception from the laws of war, but to be brave and abide by them. So here’s the challenge: Will we find the courage to resist the fear machine this time? Will we find the will to prosecute the war crimes of the past and prevent the ones our candidates are screaming for? Or will we allow our nation to remain what it has become: a terrible and terrifying exception to the international rule of law?

 

Silicon Valley appears open to helping US spy agencies after terrorism summit

Obama administration acknowledges ‘complicated first amendment issues’ after top counter-terrorism officials traveled to California to woo technology executives from companies including Apple, Facebook and Twitter

January 8, 2016

by Danny Yadron in San Francisco and Julia Carrie Wong in San Jose, California

The Guardian

Technology giants appeared to be open to helping the US government combat Islamic State during an extraordinary closed-door summit on Friday that brought together America’s most senior counter-terrorism officials with some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful executives.

The remarkable rendezvous between Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and others and a delegation from the White House revealed a willingness on the part of tech firms to work with the government, and indicated that the Obama administration appears to have concluded it can’t combat terrorists online on its own.

Top officials – including National Security Agency director Michael Rogers, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough and FBI director James Comey – appeared to want to know how they could launch a social media campaign to discredit Isis, a person familiar with the conversation said.

A briefing document sent to tech executives Friday morning in advance of the meeting and shared with the Guardian laid out a wish list from the government delegation, which included America’s most senior spy, director of national intelligence James Clapper.

We are interested in exploring all options with you for how to deal with the growing threat of terrorists and other malicious actors using technology, including encrypted technology,” the briefing document said. “Are there technologies that could make it harder for terrorists to use the internet to mobilize, facilitate, and operationalize?”

Despite recent fights over civil liberties, encryption, and surveillance, tech executives appeared receptive to this message, according to sources familiar with conversations at the meeting.

I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of the conversation,” said one attendee, Matthew Prince, chief executive of CloudFlare, a San Francisco-based security and network company. Christopher Young, head of Intel’s security group, who was also in the room, added it was “a good discussion today”.

In Washington earlier, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters “many of these technology companies that are participating in the meeting today are run by patriotic Americans” and would want to cooperate.

Earnest acknowledged there are “obviously a lot of complicated first amendment issues and other things” but added: “you know, our sense here is that there’s some common ground that we should be able to find”.

One area of discussion was over how a system used by Facebook to deal with users at risk of suicide could serve as a model for identifying terrorist sympathizers.

The social network’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, walked government officials through how Facebook currently enables users to flag people who appear to be posting suicidal thoughts, a person familiar with the conversation said. The government officials in the room wondered if such a system could be used to flag terrorist content or detect a user who appears to be radicalizing, added the person, declining to be quoted on the record.

“This meeting confirmed that we are united in our goal to keep terrorists and terror-promoting material off the Internet,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “Facebook does not tolerate terrorists or terror propaganda.”

It wasn’t all agreement. At another point, Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook told the government it needs to state publicly that it supports strong encryption. Over the past year, Apple has faced repeated attacks from the FBI for selling products that, officials say, criminals could use to communicate in secret.

Other technology companies present included LinkedIn, DropBox, YouTube, Yahoo and PayPal.

This was not the first time such a senior delegation has traveled to Silicon Valley, but the attempt by America’s leading counter-terrorism officials to court tech executives was an unusual sight.

The top Obama administration officials walked past a Mexican restaurant; a sign on an office window describes the region as “the world’s innovation incubator”. Moments later, Johnson was seen shaking hands with Drew Houston, founder and CEO of Dropbox.

No tech executive would want to be seen supporting terrorism online, but the government’s ask is trickier than it may seem.

Ideally, the Obama administration wants technology companies to be able to find terrorists on social media and chat apps for them, current and former US officials said. This would involve piecing together communications networks and message content to map terrorist cells. The government’s assumption, these people said, is that technology firms are doing much of this anyway for business purposes.

However, since Edward Snowden leaked western government secrets to the Guardian and other outlets in 2013, Silicon Valley has become increasingly cautious about seeming too cozy with Washington’s three-letter agencies.

Government requests also raise legal issues. Under current US law, tech firms only are supposed to share user content with authorities if faced with a court order for a specific user or there is a credible, immediate threat of harm.

It’s a very fine line to get that information,” said Andre McGregor, a former FBI terrorism investigator and now director of security at Tanium Inc, a Silicon Valley security company. “You’re essentially trying to take what is in someone’s head and determine whether or not there’s going to be some violent physical reaction associated with it.”

Companies provide some voluntary assistance now – such as when it removed a Facebook page last month linked to the shootings in San Bernardino – but it’s unclear how much further they would go.

The government also appears conscious of the risks. In the briefing document sent to tech executives before the meeting it asked if any terrorist content flagging system “were clearly independent from government involvement, would that increase its viability”.

They also face competing demands from different US officials. Public-facing politicians – such as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the respective Democratic and Republican presidential frontrunners – have called on technology companies to effectively kick terrorists off the internet. That’s impossible, the companies respond.

Others, such as those inside the FBI and NSA, sometimes want American firms to keep terrorist accounts up – and keep authorities in the loop.

It’s a no-brainer to keep Isis using US products,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union and a privacy advocate. Soghoian countered however that it’s up to the government to find terrorists online and it would be impractical to ask companies to do it.

Referring to the armies of overseas contractors tech companies use to police social media he said, “are you going to entrust that decision to someone getting paid $2 an hour in the Philippines?”

After the meeting wrapped up, the nation’s top spies demonstrated their skills of evasion. Attendees slipped out various side doors. Others exited the building. None were available to comment.

 

Man claiming to be Jesus and love child of JFK and Marilyn Monroe arrested ‘for trying to steal President Obama’s dogs’

President Obama has two Portuguese Water Dogs, Sunny and Bo

January 9, 2016

by Rachael Revesz in New York

The Independent

A man who claimed to be Jesus was foiled in his attempt to kidnap one of President Obama’s dogs, Sunny and Bo, according to court documents.

Scott Stockert, who said he is the love child of John F Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, was arrested at Hampton Inn, Washington DC with unregistered firearms and ammunition.

He told police he was in town to announce his candidacy for President and to advocate for $99-per-month health care – but he secretly had a plan to use the weapons to kidnap one of President Obama’s two Portuguese Water Dogs.

Sunny and Bo are walked by a handler every morning on the South Lawn of the White House and are the Obama’s family pets.

The man from North Dakota was arrested a week after making the plan when authorities discovered the weapons in his truck, which was parked near the Washington Convention Center.

Mr Stockert reportedly said: ”You picked the wrong person to mess with. I will **** your world up,” as reported by NBC Washington.

The court documents did not reveal why Mr Stockert wanted to kidnap one of the President’s dogs or which one he would choose

 

 

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