TBR News July 19, 2016

Jul 19 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. July 19, 2016:” The fury of the liberal media over the nomination of Donald Trump is highly entertaining to observe. Right wing Evangelical Christians and oligarchy-sponsored delegates to the Republican convention are in a state of hysteria in their attempts to derail Trump’s elevation to the candidacy. The oligarchs and the entrenched bureaucrats are worried that Trump would not be cooperative with their usual swindles against the taxpayers and even foreign entitles like the PRC do not want him in the Oval Office because he has said he would force American business entities to return to this country from countries with minimal labor costs and provide employment for Americans.

Thoughts of the Forbidden Man

It is not the aim of our modern democratic parliamentary system to bring together an assembly of intelligent and well-informed deputies. Not at all. The aim rather is to bring together a group of nonentities who are dependent on others for their views and who can be all the more easily led, the narrower the mental outlook of each individual is. That is the only way in which a party policy, according to the evil meaning it has to-day, can be put into effect. And by this method alone it is possible for the wirepuller, who exercises the real control, to remain in the dark, so that personally he can never be brought to account for his actions. For under such circumstances none of the decisions taken, no matter how disastrous they may turn out for the nation as a whole, can be laid at the door of the individual whom everybody knows to be the evil genius responsible for the whole affair.

All responsibility is shifted to the shoulders of the Party as a whole. In practice no actual responsibility remains. For responsibility arises only from personal duty and not from the obligations that rest with a parliamentary assembly of empty talkers.

The parliamentary institution attracts people of the badger type, who do not like the open light. No upright man, who is ready to accept personal responsibility for his acts, will be attracted to such an institution. That is the reason why this brand of democracy has become a tool in the hand of that race which, because of the inner purposes it wishes to attain, must shun the open light, as it has always done and always will do.

 Turkish naval ships & choppers missing since botched coup, fears of Greece defections grow

July 19, 2016


Turkey’s navy is still unable to account for 14 ships, while two helicopters with 25 Special Forces troops are also missing since an unsuccessful coup plot against the government. There are now fears the military personnel could be seeking asylum in Greece.

With suspicions growing that the commanders of the vessels could have been behind a coup plot against the Turkish government and are now seeking asylum at Greek ports.

The ships were on duty in either the Aegean or the Black Seas on Friday before the coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took place. However, they have failed to return to port, though in theory radar and satellite tracking technology should be able to determine their locations, according to a report in the Times newspaper.

It is believed that the ships could be heading towards Greek ports. Eight Turkish military officers have already sought asylum in Greece after landing in the country on Saturday, where they were subsequently arrested.

The fate of the commander of the Turkish Navy Admiral Veysel Kosele, who has not been heard from since the attempted coup took place, is still unknown. It is also unclear if he took any part in the action against the president or whether he is being held against his will.

According to reports within the Turkish media, Admiral Kosele was tricked onto his ship by those supporting the coup who told him that a terrorist attack was taking place.

Two helicopters and 25 Special Forces troops are also missing since the failed coup, according to a report by the Hurriyet newspaper. It was reported that they were heading for a raid to target Erdogan in Marmaris, where he was enjoying a vacation.

“Two helicopters took off on the night linking July 17 to July 18. It could not be determined where the helicopters flying toward a forested area in Marmaris took off from. But its aim [to raid Erdogan] has been determined. The helicopters landed at an unknown location for a while and then went missing,” the Hurriyet stated on Monday.

Secular Turks feel isolated in post-coup Turkey

Silenced by a crackdown following the coup attempt, secular Turks feel increasingly disenfranchised and isolated. Diego Cupolo reports from Ankara.

July 19, 2016


As supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flooded the streets throughout the weekend, singing pro-government and Islamic chants, secular Turks stayed home and have remained largely silent following the attempted military coup.

The failed ouster of the ruling AKP, Justice and Development Party, was a triumph for Turkey’s Muslim majority, who support Erdogan for being not only a leader with Islamic leanings, but also one with the resilience to stay in power.

Turkey has a long history of military coups that have ejected leaders deemed too Muslim or too left-leaning, and the fact Erdogan survived the latest attempt is vindication for those who have long felt suppressed by the nation’s secular constitution.

Yet concern has overwhelmed secular and more moderate Turks, who are now contemplating their future in a country where Erdogan’s emboldened AKP party has moved to purge all possible opponents, arresting more than 8,000 people, including nearly 3,000 judges.

“I definitely feel like a minority,” said Ugur Zaman, a 24-year-old waiter in Ankara’s Tunali district, a central neighborhood known for its bars and restaurants, all of which remained closed or hauntingly empty over the weekend.

“Erdogan’s followers are like a cult,” Zaman told DW. “They know their power now and Erdogan is encouraging them.”

Leaving as the only option

Zaman, who is gay and does not practice any religion, said he spent the weekend speaking with friends about what they should do next. Many have begun applying for university programs abroad, deciding that leaving is their only option out of fear their country will move toward a less secular, less democratic, single-party governing system.

“I used to think we were moving forward, but that was 10 years ago,” Zaman said. “Turkey has changed. There is less free speech. We can’t protest like we used to and now I’m thinking more about my safety than anything else.”

People who don’t necessarily support the ruling AKP party nor any religious platform feel increasingly left out of politics, watching developments from the sidelines with no real say in the country’s future.

For example, Zaman noted several Turkish cell phone service providers, such as Turkish Telekom, provided free calls, text, and data packages for their customers over the weekend to help facilitate rallies and post-coup celebrations, while during other moments of crisis, such as terrorist attacks, social media sites are usually blocked throughout the country.

The same is true for public assemblies. Over the weekend, public transportation was free for Istanbul and Ankara residents to enable the mass movement of AKP supporters, but gay pride parades, peace rallies and May Day protests have been banned in recent years”They shut down the gay pride parade in Istanbul for the last two years, but when people want to wave the AKP flag, they are free to do it as long as they want,” Zaman said

‘New Turkey’

Following the coup attempt, Erdogan called for his supporters to fill the streets, promising a “New Turkey” once adversaries have been detained. Scenes of mobs attacking – at times lynching – coup plotters have filled social media streams, and there has been violence directed at minority neighborhoods, journalists, and even storefronts not displaying the Turkish flag.Ziya Turfan, the owner of La Bebe Angara Bar in Tunali, made sure to hang a flag in front of his establishment, but did so using a flag baring the image of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s founding president who distanced the nation from its Islamic past. Turfan, who identifies himself as a moderate Muslim, said the move was his way of supporting the nation’s secular constitution.”Erdogan is not our enemy, but he worries us,” said Turfan. “I love Islam, but I don’t like how it is being used right now. Religion is a very dangerous weapon and that’s why Ataturk separated Islam from the state.”Having closed his bar over the weekend to deter possible attacks, Turfan said he is now unable to pay his employees, not to mention that he has been struggling with an overall decrease of tourism in Turkey. Alcohol prices have also been rising steadily, with a 20 percent increase just last week, and he has problems retaining customers as a result.”The AKP is temporary, but the Turkish Republic is permanent,” Turfan told DW. “Our country will have to pay long-term consequences for the actions that keep the AKP in power over the short-term.”Hasan Topuz, a 36-year old employee at the Dubonnet Wine shop, said he also feels threatened since the failed coup attempt.”We closed the shop this weekend because Islamic people with big beards were walking around the neighborhood,” Topuz said. “I’m very scared.”Cilem, a 30-year-old school administrator who refused to give her surname out of safety concerns, shared the sentiment after watching violent mobs roam freely without police intervention.”Police normally protect us, but now I don’t know if they will,” she told DW. “There are many foreigners in my neighborhood. I’m afraid to walk in the streets because there might be a terrorist attack.”Claiming he won’t return if he manages to leave Turkey, Zaman said his worries lie not with Erdogan, but with his followers, specifically the ‘Muslim Youth,’ or adolescents educated under Islamic curriculums implemented over the last 10 years.”Even if we defeat Erdogan, we will have to deal with the Muslim Youth,” he said. “And there are many of them, which means there’s no hope for us.”

Turkey’s post-coup purge reaches 20,000

The government has now detained or fired about 20,000 people in connection with last weekend’s botched coup. The army, police, judiciary and civil servants are among those continuing to be targeted.

July 18, 2016


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s retribution picked up pace on Monday as the number of people arrested with alleged links to the plot reached 7,543. They included more than 6,000 soldiers, 100 police officers, 755 judges and prosecutors and 650 civilians.

Earlier Monday, a senior security official told the Reuters news agency that 8,000 police officers, including those based in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, had been removed from their posts on suspicion of links to last weekend’s abortive government takeover.

About 1,500 finance ministry officials were suspended, a ministry official said, and CNN Turk said 30 governors and more than 50 high-ranking civil servants were also dismissed. Annual leave was postponed for more than 3 million civil service staff, while close to 3,000 judges and prosecutors have been suspended. Other reports suggested a massive purge of staff at the Interior Ministry.

Senior officials interrogated

A total of 103 generals and admirals have been detained for questioning, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Among those accused was former air force chief General Akin Ozturk, who appeared before a criminal court in Ankara Monday. Ozturk denied being a mastermind of the plot. Anadolu cited him as saying: “I am not the person who planned or led the coup. Who planned it and directed it I do not know.”

The commander was later shown on state media in custody, badly battered and bloody, his ear bandaged.

Air base searched

The Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey was also raided Monday, and seven soldiers were detained, Anadolu reported.

A dozen other suspects were previously held, accused of backing the failed coup, officials said at the weekend.

The facility is used by the US-led coalition to launch air strikes on the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) group in Iraq and Syria. It also houses a major stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The accelerated purge came as several world leaders warned Erdogan against using the opportunity to consolidate his power and continue to stifle dissent, a strategy that has already caused tensions with Europe. EU foreign ministers urged restraint in the wake of the failed coup.

All must be done to avoid further violence, to protect lives and to restore calm,” they said in a joint statement, following a meeting Monday in Brussels.

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joined the call for Turkey’s leaders to respect the rule of law when dealing with those responsible for the thwarted plot.

But Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, hit back at criticism of the treatment of suspected coup plotters, saying it amounted to support for the failed coup.

Analysts warned Monday that the purge could have far-reaching consequences for the operations of key state institutions. It could also raise security risks following several terror attacks in Ankara and Istanbul in recent months, and as a military campaign against Kurdish rebels intensifies.

WikiLeaks to release Turkey power structure documents

WikiLeaks said it would publish data on Turkey’s political power structure following the failed coup attempt.

July 19, 2016


WikiLeaks has said it is planning to release documents on Turkey’s political power structure, after  a failed coup attempt  over the weekend that left hundreds dead, thousands injured and more than 7,500 suspects in custody.

“Get ready for a fight as we release 100k+ docs on #Turkey’s political power structure,” the whistle-blowing organisation said on Monday via its official Twitter feed.

The first batch  will contain 300 thousand emails and 500 thousand documents and   most of the material will be in Turkish, WikiLeaks said.

The organisation also claimed that the Turkish government will attempt to censor the distribution of the documents, and urged the Turkish public to be ready to bypass any government attempts at blocking access to the material.

“Turks will likely be censored to prevent them reading our pending release of 100k+ docs on politics leading up to the coup,” the organisation said on Twitter.

“We ask that Turks are ready with censorship bypassing systems such as TorBrowser and uTorrent. And that everyone else is ready to help them bypass censorship and push our links through the censorship to come.”

WikiLeaks later shared a link for a torrent browser.

The announcement caused excitement in Turkey with thousands of Twitter users sharing the organisation’s tweets. But public opinion on the subject was divided.

While many people celebrated the announcement and argued that the leaks may “finally shed some light on the coup attempt”, others questioned the timing of the release.

Some claimed that the documents will likely be “fake”, and will be used to make President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP government look “weak” or even “guilty”.

Some Turkish Twitter users also accused WikiLeaks of supporting the coup attempt. WikiLeaks responded by maintaining its neutrality and support for open access to information.

Turks ask whether WikiLeaks is pro or anti-AKP. Neither. Our only position is that truth is the way forward. 100k+ docs serves all sides.

A faction in the Turkish military attempted to stage a coup late on Friday night. In dramatic scenes, tanks blocked bridges in Istanbul, jets were seen in the skies over at least two cities, and the parliament and the headquarters of the intelligences services were strafed with gunfire from attack helicopters.

At least 290 people were killed and more than 1400 wounded. Erdogan has blamed a high-profile former ally who has since become a bitter rival, Fethullah Gulen, for the attempt.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Monday that more than 7,500 suspects had been detained in connection to the coup attempt.

Islamic State flag ‘found at home of suspected German train attacker’

Officials say handpainted Isis flag found in room of alleged assailant after attack on train in Bavaria left five people injured

July 19, 2016

by Philip Oltermann in Berlin and agencies

The Guardian

An Islamic State flag has been found in the room of an Afghan teenager accused of carrying out an axe attack on a train in northern Bavaria, according to German officials.

Five people were injured in the attack on Monday evening before the attacker was shot dead by police. Isis claimed responsibility in a statement on its Amaq news agency on Tuesday morning – its first such claim for an attack in Germany.

Bavaria’s interior minister, Joachim Herrmann, said the suspect was a 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, and that he shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack.

Herrmann said on Tuesday that investigators raiding his room also found a handpainted Isis flag.

He told ZDF Television the alleged attacker came to Germany two years ago as an unaccompanied minor, and applied for asylum in March. He lived in a home for teenage refugees until two weeks ago when he was placed with a foster family.

Two of the victims of the attack are in a critical condition, Hermann added. According to the South China Morning Post, the four victims of the attack are all members of the same family from Hong Kong, namely the father, mother, daughter and her boyfriend. According to the newspaper, a fifth member of the group, the 17-year-old son, managed to escape unharmed.

After passengers managed to alert the driver, the train was stopped in the Heidingsfeld district of Würzburg and the attacker initially managed to flee from the carriage on foot, Herrmann said.

A police taskforce that happened to be in the vicinity then pursued the attacker, shooting dead the teenager, who was carrying an axe and a knife when he had attacked members of the unit.

The man reportedly attacked passengers on the regional train travelling between the town of Treuchtlingen and Würzburg. Fourteen other passengers were reportedly in a state of shock and receiving treatment by specialists.

The interior ministry could not confirm whether any of the victims were in a life-threatening condition.

The train line between Ochsenfurt and Würzburg remained closed while police investigated. Police initially said there was no indication of a motive, and they were treating the attacker as a lone individual, citing witness reports.

There have not been any attacks with an explicit terrorist motive in Germany, which has been at the heart of the refugee crisis over the past year. In November, a football friendly between Germany and Holland in Hanover was cancelled after a terrorist attack tip-off, with the interior minister, Thomas de Maiziére, saying there had been a “concrete threat” of an attack.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

 Terrorist Bookkeepers: New Documents Help Identify Islamic State Returnees

July 18, 2016

by Jörg Diehl, Roman Lehberger and Vanessa Schlesier


In July 2014, Muhammed H., from the German city of Wuppertal, apparently decided to leave territory under the control of Islamic State after a stay of one month. His decision was duly processed by the IS bureaucracy and his file was updated accordingly.

The terror officials noted both his real name and his nom de guerre (“Ismail al-Almani” or Ismail the German). In addition, the officials noted that H. had served the terror group as a “fighter” and that he was leaving IS territory via the city of Jarabulus; the reason for his return was listed as “family.” They returned his passport to him and then he was free to go.

His file, though, stayed behind with IS. For a time, at least.

The word “state” in the terror group’s name is no accident: IS seeks to establish a country-like entity and the group’s followers dream of a caliphate. A corollary of that desire is the maintenance of an IS bureaucracy that keeps what seem to be halfway decent records. But for supporters of the militia, this urge to play state could have unpleasant consequences. Recently, exit forms such as the one filled out upon the departure of Muhammed H. have been smuggled out of Islamic State territory and have ended up in the hands of German security officials. SPIEGEL and SPIEGEL TV have obtained a significant trove of these explosive records in Arabic. In total, they provide information about some 400 jihadists who have left IS territory, including around 20 Germans.

Many of these IS personnel files specify why jihadists left the group’s territory. Most often, family or medical reasons are noted, but other entries sound more ominous. IS bureaucrats wrote “secret mission” on the form of one man who could be German but whose identity hasn’t yet been firmly established. “Skills: Murder,” the form reads.

The discovery of the files has provided investigators with important evidence. German federal prosecutors are currently pursuing more than 130 cases in connection with the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, with an additional 50 having been referred to state prosecutors. The numbers are unprecedented, but it has been difficult for justice officials to prove wrongdoing. It is, after all, impossible to question witnesses, carry out raids or monitor telephones in the warzones. As such, it is often difficult to obtain evidence that will stand up in a court of law.

But the newly discovered IS files could now help investigators prove that returning jihadists were indeed members of a terrorist organization.

Wife on a Chain

Some of the extremists named in the papers currently remain at large. Security officials are keeping a close eye on them because they are considered dangerous. But it isn’t possible to arrest many of them because investigators haven’t thus far been able to prove their Islamic State membership. In several instances, including that of Muhammed H., officials didn’t even know prior to the discovery of the files if they had really been in Syria and joined Islamic State.

Following his return from jihad, Muhammed H., 20, didn’t act as though he sought to avoid attention. In early 2015, he led his wife on a chain through Wuppertal, with one end of the chain around his spouse’s wrist, the other — as can be seen on photos in his case file — affixed to his backpack. His wife was completely veiled.

On a Wednesday in July, reporters from SPIEGEL TV approached Muhammed H. on the street, a muscular man with a beard and a cap. His appearance was reminiscent of those seen on Islamist propaganda videos: arrogant and resolute. When asked if he had been with IS, H. answered brusquely: “You’re lying. You are a liar. I don’t want anything to do with you.” He then walked away.

  1. was on the way to visit an apartment he was hoping to rent for himself and his wife — an affordable three-room place with a kitchen and a bathroom. During his apartment search, he had told other landlords in the town of Ennepetal, just outside Wuppertal, that he and his wife were both on welfare.

In his father’s apartment, H. is thought to have established a kind of living-room mosque with other radicals. One senior security official says that H. is extremely well connected and is one of the “key figures in the scene.” He says H. is “completely unpredictable.”

  1. is part of the second generation of the notorious Islamist scene in the Wuppertal region — a scene that once formed around the Salafist group Millatu Ibrahim, which was banned in 2012. The group produced the German-speaking IS propagandists Christian Emde and Mohammed Mahmoud in addition to the formerly Berlin-based rapper Denis Cuspert, now an IS poster boy. The first German to carry out a suicide attack for Islamic State — Robert B., who killed 50 people in the Syrian province of Homs — likewise belonged to the group.

No Incriminating Contacts

Police believe that Muhammed H. could be capable of carrying out an attack at any time and is classified as a so-called “endangerer,” denoting someone who could pose a security risk. Federal and state police officials currently list around 500 Islamists in this highest risk category and they are monitored as intensively as possible. Around half of them are currently in Germany.

Last August, H. tried to travel to Syria once again, but federal police stopped him and his wife at the Düsseldorf airport before they could board a flight to Istanbul. Investigators believe that they were planning to make their way to Islamic State-held territory. Wuppertal security officials established a task force to investigate Muhammed H. — which they named “Chain” in reference to his walk through Wuppertal with his manacled wife.

  1. was kept in investigative custody for a month after his detention, but officials ultimately had to let him go because they were unable to come up with proof that he had really been intending to travel to Syria. His telephone and computer produced no evidence — no incriminating contacts, messages or chat protocols. He also wasn’t found to be in possession of any compromising documents. “He is clever, there is no doubt,” says one investigator familiar with the case.

Since then, H., a German of Turkish origin, has been free and has remained so despite the discovery of the Islamic State files. One reason is that officials are currently in the process of determining whether the files are authentic. Terror investigations must meet high legal standards and Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) is carefully examining the IS lists and how they got to Germany. “Much of the data is plausible and consistent with what we know,” says BKA head Holger Münch. “That would seem to indicate that the material is authentic.” But investigators must prove that the files are real; it’s not enough that they look real. Otherwise, the documentation won’t hold up in court.

The documents originally came through the black market on the Turkish-Syrian border, a place where antiquities, drugs and oil are secretly brought into Turkey from areas under Islamic State control. Files, too, are among the goods smuggled, and not all of them are authentic.

This spring, a massive IS data leak became apparent. Thousands of digital personnel files found their way from the IS to Turkey and were sold for significant amounts of money to journalists, agents and activists. In some instances, files from different batches were pulled apart, newly packaged and changed. In the process, there were frequent data transfer errors, with names and dates sometimes being changed. That makes the data even more difficult to deal with for German officials.

Additional Information

One informant who is well networked in Syria says that the IS fighter responsible for the data leak wasn’t fully aware of the importance of the data he passed along. It was, the informant says, a Syrian rebel who ultimately recognized the value of the files and bought almost 50,000 data files. SPIEGEL received them through an intermediary. Other media outlets, too, have examined elements of the data trove, most of which were entry forms kept by the terror militia. Islamic State didn’t just interview foreign volunteers when they left IS territory, but also interrogated them upon arrival in Syria and kept records of their answers.

For security officials, the departure records that have now appeared will likely be of particular significance, because they could provide additional information about who has returned to his home country and when. Of the 800 German Islamists who traveled to Syria and Iraq, for example, around one-third have returned to Germany.

One of those is Lennart M., a married watch-maker who fought for Islamic State. That, at least, is what it says in his IS file. He lives in a neighborhood behind the Hamburg airport, an area that, with its subterranean garages and broad balconies, looks like a showcase for social housing. There is designer garden furniture on his ground-floor terrace.

A social welfare recipient in Germany, M. crossed into Islamic State-held territory in Syria on May 17, 2014, according to the IS files. As a deposit, M. handed over his passport, two iPads and an iPhone. The electronic devices remained behind when he left IS territory again that summer.

SPIEGEL approached M. in Hamburg on a recent Ramadan evening shortly before 8 p.m., about two hours before it was time to break the fast. The 23-year-old M. was walking to the subway. “You’re allowed to travel abroad,” he said, when confronted with his IS file. “There’s nothing wrong with it.” He added: “That’s a fake.”

It is thought that M. became radicalized via contacts in the Hizb-ut-Tahrir movement, a group that emerged out of the Muslim Brotherhood. It has been banned in Germany since 2003, but has continued operating underground and its aim is that of establishing a caliphate.

Names, Nicknames and Nationalities

A veiled woman peaked out from behind the curtains of M.’s apartment, likely his 19-year-old wife Betül. She is known to the authorities because she asked a passerby in Duisburg to borrow his mobile phone two years ago. The man informed the police because something didn’t seem right to him about the girl in the veil. Later, her parents lodged a criminal complaint, saying that their daughter was being held against her will, but the complaint went nowhere. Lennart M.’s presumed involvement with the IS terror group has likewise not resulted in his arrest.

IS collected information about those returning home in Word documents. The files now in circulation were compiled between the end of 2013 and spring 2015 and are named after months in the Islamic calendar: Rajab, for example, the seventh month, or Ramadan, the ninth month. Up to 62 Islamists are listed per month, with their names, nicknames and nationalities recorded in various fields, in addition to other information.

The data isn’t just of interest to security officials the world over, but also for researchers. A team under the leadership of Bryan Price, at the West Point military academy in the US state of New York, was the first to systematically analyze the Islamic State files. The team examined the IS entry forms of 4,173 foreign fighters that US broadcaster NBC made available to the researchers.

“If we are going to effectively combat our enemies, we must understand them first,” says Lieutenant Colonel Price, who is the head of the donation-funded research institute Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). The research team examined the information provided by the jihadists, most of whom traveled to Syria in 2014, upon their arrival in the war zone. They compared their origins, age, education background, religious knowledge and skills.

“The diversity in all areas is of particular interest,” says Price. “From teenagers to people in their sixties, from the uneducated to university graduates, there are people from all walks of life.” Many in the West, he says, hold the cliché that only frustrated, single men are interested in joining IS. That, though, says Price, is inaccurate. The myth of a state based on Islamist principles — one which also needs educated members — exerts a powerful attraction on educated sympathizers as well, Price says.

Vague Indications

He says that IS also possesses the ability to learn and adapt quickly. In contrast to previous groups, the terror organization has a personnel management system worthy of the name, Price says, adding that IS officials make special note on the forms of exceptional skills or knowledge exhibited by the recruits.

“Especially interesting for IS bureaucrats seem to have been people who had military and hacking experience, in addition to people with visas for Western countries,” says Brian Dodwell, an IS specialist at CTC. Indeed, it looks as though Islamic State was already planning attacks by those returning to their homelands at a time when Western security officials still believed such attacks were unlikely in Europe.

Among recruits traveling to IS-held territories from Germany, CTC researchers noted a stark lack of religious knowledge. That likely also holds true of Sinan A., a Turkish German whose name can be found in the IS files. The 27-year-old is currently being tried in Berlin for alleged membership in the terror group Deutsche Taliban Mujahedeen. The group was close to the Taliban and was active on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border several years ago.

Until recently, officials only had vague indications that A. may have made his way at some point in 2014 from Waziristan to Turkey and then onward to Syria. In September 2015, he reported to a German consulate in Turkey and was arrested on Dec. 18 that year after he landed at Tegel Airport in Berlin.

The recently discovered IS document pertaining to Sinan A.’s departure from Islamic State-held territory indicates that he belonged to the militia for two months in the early summer of 2014. IS bureaucrats noted the reason for his departure as “therapy.” The entry has proven helpful to investigators, who now have an additional piece of evidence in their attempt to convict A. Whether he sought out therapy upon his return is unclear.

Would Turkey Be Justified in Kidnapping or Drone-Killing the Turkish Cleric in Pennsylvania?

July 18 2016

by Glenn Greenwald

The Intercept

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan places the blame for this weekend’s failed coup attempt on an Islamic preacher and one-time ally, Fethullah Gulen (above), who now resides in Pennsylvania with a green card. Erdogan is demanding the U.S. extradite Gulen, citing prior extraditions by the Turkish government of terror suspects demanded by the U.S.: “Now we’re saying deliver this guy who’s on our terrorist list to us.” Erdogan has been requesting Gulen’s extradition from the U.S. for at least two years, on the ground that he has been subverting the Turkish government while harbored by the U.S. Thus far, the U.S. is refusing, with Secretary of State John Kerry demanding of Turkey: “Give us the evidence, show us the evidence. We need a solid legal foundation that meets the standard of extradition.”

In light of the presence on U.S. soil of someone the Turkish government regards as a “terrorist” and a direct threat to its national security, would Turkey be justified in dispatching a weaponized drone over Pennsylvania to find and kill Gulen if the U.S. continues to refuse to turn him over, or sending covert operatives to kidnap him? That was the question posed yesterday by Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of Guantánamo’s military commissions who resigned in protest over the use of torture-obtained evidence:

That question, of course, is raised by the fact that the U.S. has spent many years now doing exactly this: employing various means — including but not limited to drones — to abduct and kill people in multiple countries whom it has unilaterally decided (with no legal process) are “terrorists” or who otherwise are alleged to pose a threat to its national security. Since it cannot possibly be the case that the U.S. possesses legal rights that no other country can claim — right? — the question naturally arises whether Turkey would be entitled to abduct or kill someone it regards as a terrorist when the U.S. is harboring him and refuses to turn him over.

The only viable objection to Turkey’s assertion of this authority would be to claim that the U.S. limits its operations to places where lawlessness prevails, something that is not true of Pennsylvania. But this is an inaccurate description of the U.S.’s asserted entitlement. In fact, after 9/11, the U.S. threatened Afghanistan with bombing and invasion unless the Taliban government immediately turned over Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban’s answer was strikingly similar to what the U.S. just told Turkey about Gulen:The ruling Taliban of Afghanistan today further complicated the status of Osama bin Laden and rejected the ultimatum of the United States that he and his lieutenants be handed over to answer for their suspected role in last week’s terrorist attacks in the United States.

The Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said at a news conference in Islamabad, “Our position in this regard is that if the Americans have evidence, they should produce it.” If they can prove their allegations, he said, “we are ready for a trial of Osama bin Laden.”

Asked again whether Mr. bin Laden would be surrendered, the ambassador replied, “Without evidence, no.”

The U.S. refused to provide any such evidence — “These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion,” said President George W. Bush at the time — and the U.S. bombing and invasion of Afghanistan began two weeks thereafter, and continues to this day, 15 years later. The justification there was not that the Taliban were incapable of arresting and extraditing bin Laden, but rather that they refused to do so without evidence of his guilt being provided and some legal/judicial action invoked.

Nor are such U.S. actions against individual terror suspects confined to countries where lawlessness prevails. In 2003, the CIA kidnapped a cleric from the streets of Milan, Italy, and shipped him to Egypt to be tortured (CIA agents involved have been prosecuted in Italy, though the U.S. government has vehemently defended them). In 2004, the U.S. abducted a German citizen in Macedonia, flew him to Afghanistan, tortured and drugged him, then unceremoniously dumped him back on the street when it realized he was innocent; but the U.S. has refused ever since to compensate him or even apologize, leaving his life in complete shambles. The U.S. has repeatedly killed people in Pakistan with drones and other attacks, including strikes when it had no idea who it was killing, and also stormed a compound in Abbottabad — where the Pakistani government has full reign — in order to kill Osama bin Laden in 2010.

U.S. drone kills of terror suspects (including its own citizens) are extremely popular among Americans, including (in the age of Obama) those who self-identify as liberal Democrats. Yet it’s virtually certain that Americans across the ideological spectrum would explode in nationalistic outrage if Turkey actually did the same thing in Pennsylvania; indeed, the consequences for Turkey if it dared to do so are hard to overstate.

That’s American Exceptionalism in its purest embodiment: The U.S. is not subject to the same rules and laws as other nations, but instead is entitled to assert power and punishment that is unique to itself, grounded in its superior status. Indeed, so ingrained is this pathology that the mere suggestion that the U.S. should be subject to the same laws and rules as everyone else inevitably provokes indignant accusations that the person is guilty of the greatest sin: comparing the United States of America to the lesser, inferior governments and countries of the world.

The Trojan Drone

An Illegal Military Strategy Disguised as Technological Advance

by Rebecca Gordon


Think of it as the Trojan Drone, the ultimate techno-weapon of American warfare in these years, a single remotely operated plane sent to take out a single key figure. It’s a shiny video game for grown ups — a Mortal Kombat or Call of Duty where the animated enemies bleed real blood. Just like the giant wooden horse the Greeks convinced the Trojans to bring inside their gates, however, the drone carries something deadly in its belly: a new and illegal military strategy disguised as an impressive piece of technology.

The technical advances embodied in drone technology distract us from a more fundamental change in military strategy. However it is achieved — whether through conventional air strikes, cruise missiles fired from ships, or by drone — the United States has now embraced extrajudicial executions on foreign soil. Successive administrations have implemented this momentous change with little public discussion. And most of the discussion we’ve had has focused more on the new instrument (drone technology) than on its purpose (assassination). It’s a case of the means justifying the end. The drones work so well that it must be all right to kill people with them.

The Rise of the Drones

The Bush administration launched the assassination program in October 2001 in Afghanistan, expanded it in 2002 to Yemen, and went from there. Under Obama, with an actual White House “kill list,” the use of drones has again expanded, this time nine-fold, with growing numbers of attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, as well as in the Afghan, Iraqi, and Syrian war zones.

There’s an obvious appeal to a technology that allows pilots for the CIA, Joint Special Operations Command, or the Air Force to sit safely in front of video screens in Nevada or elsewhere in the U.S., while killing people half a world away. This is especially true for a president running a global war with a public that does not easily accept American casualties and a Congress that prefers not to be responsible for war and peace decision-making. Drone assassinations have allowed President Obama to spread the “war on terror” to ever more places (even as he quietly retired that phrase), without U.S. casualties or congressional oversight and approval.

One problem has, however, dogged the drone program from the beginning: just like conventional air strikes, remotely targeted missiles and bombs tend to kill the wrong people. Over the last seven years, the count of civilians killed by drones has been mounting. Actual figures are hard to come by, although a number of nongovernmental organizations and journalists have done a good job of collating information from a variety of sources and offering reasonable estimates.

Analysis from all these sources suggests that there are at least three reasons why civilians die in such attacks.

  1. The intelligence information on the individual targeted is often wrong. He isn’t where they think he is, or he isn’t even who they think he is. For example, in 2014 a British human rights organization, Reprieve, compiled data on drone strikes that targeted specific individuals in Yemen and Pakistan. According to the Guardian, Reprieve’s work

“indicates that even when operators target specific individuals — the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls ‘targeted killing’ — they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times. Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November [2014].”

Some of these men were reported in the media as killed multiple times. Even if they didn’t die in the first, second, and in some cases third attempts, other people certainly did. Reprieve also reports one particularly egregious case of mistaken identity:

“Someone with the same name as a terror suspect on the Obama administration’s ‘kill list’ was killed on the third attempt by U.S. drones. His brother was captured, interrogated, and encouraged to ‘tell the Americans what they want to hear’: that they had in fact killed the right person.”

  1. There isn’t even a named target. The CIA has long based drone assassination targeting for many missions not on direct intelligence about a particular individual, but on what it calls the “signature” of possible terrorist activity (that is, the behavior or look of people below). Such “signature strikes” target unidentified individuals based on some suspicious activity, usually picked up through drone surveillance. Such a “signature” can be as ill defined as “a gathering of men, teenaged to middle-aged, traveling in convoys or carrying weapons” in countries where many men may be armed. Unfortunately, while such a gathering may indeed indicate some kind of military activity, it may also describe a rural wedding in, say, Yemen, involving driving in convoy from the groom’s town to the bride’s, accompanied sometimes by celebratory gunfire.

Not everyone in the government is convinced that signature strikes are a good idea. In 2012, the New York Times reported this joke at the State Department: “When the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp.”

The fact that signature strikes continue to this day suggests that Secretary of State John Kerry was not entirely truthful when, in 2013, he said at a BBC forum: “The only people that we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level after a great deal of vetting that takes a long period of time. We don’t just fire a drone at somebody and think they’re a terrorist.”

  1. They were in the way, and so became “collateral damage.” This is the term military theorists regularly use to describe human beings or civilian infrastructure unavoidably destroyed in an attack on a legitimate military target. Of course, a drone operator’s understanding of the term “unavoidable” may be different from that of a woman who has just lost three of her four sons as they were returning home from shopping for supplies to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

In addition, drone strikes don’t just kill people, including women and children; they also destroy buildings and other property. For example, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says that, in Pakistan, more than 60% of all strikes target domestic buildings — people’s houses. In other words, “collateral damage” often refers to the destruction of the homes of any survivors of a drone attack.

Not surprisingly, people don’t like living in terror of deadly missiles screaming out of a clear blue sky. Many observers have argued that terrorist organizations have used widespread fear and anger over drone attacks as a recruiting tool. Al-Qaeda and ISIS appear to offer Pakistanis, Yemenis, and others an alternative to simply waiting for an attack they can’t prevent. The CIA itself recognized the counterproductive potential of drone killings, which they call “HVT [High Value Target] operations.” A leaked July 2009 CIA report on “Best Practices in Counter-Insurgency” outlines the issues:

“Potential negative effects of HVT operations include increasing the level of insurgent support, causing a government to neglect other aspects of its counterinsurgency strategy, altering insurgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents, strengthening an armed group’s bond with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or deescalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

So there are long-term strategic problems with targeted killings by drone. In addition, drones may help spread and intensify terror movements and insurgencies, rather than destroying them or their leaderships. Often, as Andrew Cockburn has made clear in his book Kill Chain, the successors to leaders assassinated by drone turn out to be younger, more effective, and more brutal.

There is, however, another problem with this sort of warfare. Such killings — at least when they take place outside a declared war zone — are almost certainly illegal; that is, they are murders, plain and simple.

Targeted Killing Is Murder

In my household we have a rule: we’re not allowed to kill something just because we’re afraid of it. This has saved the lives of countless spiders and other creatures sporting (in my view at least) too many legs.

Whatever your view on arachnids, should it really be permissible to kill people simply because we are afraid of them? After all, that’s what these drone assassinations are — extrajudicial executions of people someone believes we should be afraid of. It is easier to see an illegal execution for what it is when the killer is not separated from the target by thousands of miles and a video screen.  Drone technology is really a Trojan Horse, a distracting, glitzy means of smuggling an illegal and immoral tactic into the heart of U.S. foreign relations.

Not all killing is illegal, of course. There are situations in which both international and U.S. laws permit killing. One of these is self-defense; another is war. However, a “war” waged against a tactic (terrorism), or even more vaguely, against an emotion (terror) is only metaphorically a war. Under international law, real wars, in which it is legal to kill the enemy, involve sustained combat between organized military forces.

Outside of the fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now possibly Syria (where Congress has arguably never even declared war), the “war on terror” is not a war at all. It is instead a conflict with an ever-expanding list of targets, no defined geographical boundaries, and no foreseeable endpoint. It is a campaign against any conceivable potential U.S. enemy, fought in fits and starts in many countries on several continents. It involves ongoing covert operations largely hidden from everyone except its targets. As an undertaking, it lacks the regular, sustained conflict between armies that characterizes war in the legal sense. Such operations fit another category far better: assassination, illegal at least since President Jimmy Carter’s Executive Order 12036, which stated, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

Nor is the Middle East the only region where the United States is using targeted killing outside a shooting war. The U.S. military also deploys drones in parts of Africa. In fact, President Obama’s nominee to head U.S. Africa Command, Marine Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser, recently told Senator Lindsay Graham that he thinks he should be free to order drone killings on his own authority.

So much for war and “war.” What about self-defense? At every stage of the “war on terror,” Washington has claimed self-defense. That was the explanation for rounding up hundreds of Muslims living in the U.S. immediately after the attacks of 9/11, torturing some of them, and holding them incommunicado for months in a Brooklyn, New York, jail. It was the excuse offered for beginning torture programs in CIA “black sites” and at Guantánamo. It was the reason the U.S. gave for invading Afghanistan, and later for invading Iraq — before, as Bush administration representatives and the president himself kept saying, “the smoking gun” of Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction turned into “a mushroom cloud” over, presumably, some American city.

And self-defense has been the Justice Department’s rationale for targeted killing as well. In a November 2011 paper prepared by that department for the White House, its author (identity unknown) outlined the necessary conditions to make a targeted killing legal:

“(1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States;

(2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and

(3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

That would seem to rule out most U.S. targeted killings. Few of their targets were people on the verge of a violent attack on the United States or U.S. soldiers in the field. Ah, but in the through-the-looking-glass logic of the Obama Justice Department, “imminent” turns out not to mean “imminent” in the sense that something is about to happen. As that document explains: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”

It turns out that the threat from any “operational leader” is always imminent, because “with respect to al-Qaeda leaders who are continually planning attacks, the United States is likely to have only a limited window of opportunity within which to defend Americans.” In other words, once a person has been identified as an al-Qaeda or allied group “leader,” he is by definition “continually planning attacks,” always represents an imminent danger, and so is a legitimate target. Q.E.D.

In fact, few enough of these targeted killings, including the signature ones can be defended as instances of self-defense. We should call them what they really are: extrajudicial executions.

The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions has agreed with this view. In his 2013 report to the General Assembly, Christof Heyns noted that international human rights law guarantees a right to life. This right is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and given legal force in, among other treaties, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the United States is a party. There certainly are legal limits to the right to life, including — in countries that have the death penalty — the state’s right to execute a person after a legitimate trial. To execute someone without a trial, however, is an “extrajudicial killing” and a human rights crime.

Obama “Comes Clean”

By the middle of President Obama’s second term in office, criticism of this extrajudicial killing program, and especially of the civilian deaths involved, had mushroomed. So, in May 2013, at least 11 years after the program was launched, the president announced a shift in drone strategy, telling an audience at the National Defense University that the U.S. would engage in “targeted killings” of al-Qaeda militants only when there was a “near-certainty” that no civilians would be injured. He added that he was planning to make the drone program more transparent than it had been and to transfer most of its operations from the CIA to the Pentagon.

In the two years since, little of this has happened. Although Obama has continued the job of personally approving drone targets, the CIA still runs much of the program.

On July 1st, he did finally take a step towards providing greater transparency. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a report stating that, outside of more conventional war zones like those in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, U.S. airstrikes have killed “64 to 116 civilian bystanders and about 2,500 members of terrorist groups.” These estimates are, in fact, quite a bit lower than those supplied by the various groups that track such killings. Note as well that, legally speaking, not only the “collateral damage” victims, but all those that Americans identified as “members of terrorist groups” died via illegal, extrajudicial executions.

The document fulfills one of the requirements of a newly issued executive order, which, among other things, requires the government to release a report by May 1st of each year containing “information about the number of strikes undertaken by the U.S. Government against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities [i.e., outside genuine war zones]” for the previous calendar year.

Attached to the executive order was a “fact sheet,” which noted that one goal of the new executive order is to “set standards for other nations to follow.” How happy would the United States really be if other nations decided that they had the right to kill anyone who scares them? How would the United States react if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decided to take out a U.S. general or two, on the grounds that, since the U.S. is supporting forces that seek to depose him, those generals are (as the Fact Sheet puts it) “targetable in the exercise of national self-defense”?

Some critics of the Obama drone program have welcomed the executive order, which does include a new emphasis on protecting civilians. But the larger effect of the order is to make the practice of illegal assassination a permanent feature of U.S. policy. It assumes that we can expect an annual murder toll announcement for years to come. No future is contemplated in which the United States will not be raining death from the sky on people who cannot defend themselves. The drones will continue to fly, but the Trojan Drone’s work is complete.

Republicans to nominate Trump on day devoted to economy

July 19, 2016

by Steve Holland


CLEVELAND-Buoyed by a grand Las Vegas-style entrance at his party’s national convention, Donald Trump hopes to bolster Republican Party unity when congressional leaders take the stage on a day focused on the U.S. economy.

Trump, whose name is to be formally offered for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, saw the opening day of his convention on Monday turn from the raucous to the sublime.

Trump backers faced down a revolt from Republican delegates opposed to him, and in the end Trump’s wife Melania offered a powerful testimonial to her husband, her voice flavored with the accent of her native Slovenia.

“Let’s all come together in a national campaign like no other,” she said to cheers after her husband stepped on stage to introduce her, his image silhouetted against a misty white backdrop.

Tuesday’s theme is “Make America Work Again.”

Trump and his presidential ambitions are to receive the blessing of House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, who are to speak along with Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., daughter Tiffany and two former rivals who support him, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

It will be Christie’s first major public appearance since Trump chose Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate, instead of Christie, leaving Christie deeply disappointed.

Both Ryan and McConnell need Trump to do well in the Nov. 8 election in order to preserve Republican majorities in Congress. They also want to ensure the defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, who leads most opinion polls as Americans consider a matchup between two candidates largely seen in an unfavorable light.

The convention delegates gathered in this city on Lake Erie are also to hear speakers talk up how Trump wants to trigger more economic growth. The New York businessman touts his business record as a real estate developer and has proposed some protectionist trade policies aimed at preventing job outsourcing.

Part of the goal of the convention is to portray Trump in the most favorable light possible, softening the image of a candidate whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has factored heavily in Americans’ views of him.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in a fiery speech on Monday night, said Trump is not being treated fairly by the news media.

“You deserve to know this about your next president. He’s been a great father, father-in-law, grandfather and friend to me, my wife Judith and my family for almost 30 years. I know him personally, and this is a very good and decent man, and he will be a great president,” Giuliani said.

It was up to retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn to take the fight to Clinton, leading the crowd in chants of “lock her up” in prison for her record as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.

More dueling rallies and marches were expected for Tuesday, but after a first day of peaceful demonstrations by small, orderly crowds, Cleveland organizers had cause to hope that fears of violent, disruptive protests might have been overblown.

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams described the few occasions where police on bicycles needed to disrupt protesters on Monday as “nothing that out of hand.”

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

The Trump Convention: A Painful Moment for the Bush Family Network

July 19, 2016

by Jonathan Martin

The New York Times

CLEVELAND — Amid the balloons and parties, speeches and spectacle, one faction of the Republican Party will be almost invisible at the national convention this week: the Bush family network.

Representatives of the last Republican White House are effectively in exile from presidential politics these days, dispirited by their party’s embrace of Donald J. Trump, the presumptive nominee, and feeling betrayed by former friends who are backing him.

When Mr. Trump is nominated, former President George W. Bush will be on his Crawford, Tex., ranch, painting and bike riding. His former secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, will be in her Stanford University office working on a new book about democracy, and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida will, he wrote in a terse email, be “working in Miami.”

They are hardly the only ones staying away. An email sent to alumni of Mr. Bush’s administration this month listing those former Bush officials going to Cleveland was notable mostly because of who was not included: no former cabinet officials or members of the White House senior staff.

The former president, who turned 70 this month, has taken a vow of silence about Mr. Trump in public. But he and his longtime loyalists are confounded about what has happened in their party, and by how little appeal the Bush brand of politics carries these days.

“I’m very fearful for my republic,” said Marc Racicot, the former Montana governor who was chairman of Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign and of the Republican National Committee. “I thought my fellow citizens would exercise the judgment to steer the country in the right direction.”

Carlos Gutierrez, who served as commerce secretary to Mr. Bush, said in a telephone interview, “People are puzzled by what happened, wondering how did we let this happen.”

Addressing a few hundred Republican donors clad in blazers and polo shirts at a fund-raiser for Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri outside St. Louis last month, Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Trump by name but issued an unmistakable warning about the dangers of Mr. Trump’s politics.

“He said he was concerned about three isms: protectionism, isolationism and nativism,” recalled John C. Danforth, a former senator and United Nations ambassador for Mr. Bush who attended the $1,000-a-person dinner. “I think that said a lot.”

The departure represented by Mr. Trump is dramatic.

The presumptive nominee, who has electrified audiences with jeremiads against Hispanics and Muslims, has disregarded the former president’s effort to create a durable Republican majority by broadening the party’s appeal to accommodate a rapidly changing country. He has even more thoroughly rejected Mr. Bush’s worldview, scorning the interventionist and pro-free trade and immigration policies that were at the heart of his two terms as president.

And with his penchant for cutting ridicule and crude insults, Mr. Trump represents personal qualities that are the antithesis of Mr. Bush’s mix of Christianity and old-money restraint.

“It would be like if George Wallace had succeeded John F. Kennedy and the New Frontiersmen,” said Peter Wehner, a senior official in Mr. Bush’s White House.

But as Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida learned in their failed campaigns, there was little appetite in the Republican primary electorate for a restoration of “compassionate conservatism” or anything resembling the former president’s agenda. Voters wanted a more hard-line approach.

“Our party is changing,” said Matt Schlapp, who was White House political director in Mr. Bush’s first term, pointing to rising concern over what he called American “sovereignty.”

“People feel like they’ve lost the country,” Mr. Schlapp said of today’s Republican voters.

And many in Mr. Bush’s circle feel as though they have lost their party, at least for now.

Mr. Bush addressed the 2008 convention by video (Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on the Gulf Coast) and was featured alongside his father in a brief video during the 2012 convention. But if neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney, the last two Republican nominees, was eager to highlight the unpopular Mr. Bush, there were still ample reminders of him at their conventions.

Ms. Rice, who worked in both Bush administrations, gave one of the best-received prime-time speeches in 2012. And plenty of Mr. Bush’s loyalists were at both conventions, either as advisers to Mr. McCain or Mr. Romney, or because they always attended the party convention, which served as an informal reunion for old friends and colleagues.

This time, though, there will be no high-profile Bush veteran addressing the delegates. The most prominent figure here from the administration will probably be Karl Rove, who is attending both party conventions this year in his role as a Fox News commentator.

While many in the Bush circle are discouraged about Mr. Trump, they are also enjoying a bit of schadenfreude over the candidate’s struggles.

Over breakfast with a handful of leading Republicans last month in New York, Jeb Bush made clear he was still smarting over seeing his own presidential ambitions  extinguished by Mr. Trump. “He seems low energy with the teleprompter,” Mr. Bush said, gleefully repurposing Mr. Trump’s favorite criticism of him, according to an attendee who requested anonymity to discuss a private event.

Mr. Trump tormented not just Jeb Bush in the primary; he also assailed George W. Bush in remarkably pointed terms, arguing that the Iraq war was built on lies and that the former president had little national security record to stand on because the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place on his watch. But the contempt Bush loyalists have for Mr. Trump is driven by something deeper than his primary-season attacks.

Unlike the last two presidential races, in which the Republican nominees were largely aligned with Mr. Bush’s free-market worldview, this campaign may have profound implications for the Bush legacy. Mr. Trump’s success — or defeat — in the election would render a verdict on Mr. Bush’s presidency and vision of conservatism.

“If Donald Trump wins, he will, by definition, have created a new template of success for Republicans,” said Ari Fleischer, Mr. Bush’s first White House press secretary. “But if he loses, and particularly if he is crushed, it will reset the party back more in the direction of President Bush.”

Because Mr. Trump represents something far greater in the eyes of the Bush veterans than just an unfortunate party nominee, their determination to defeat him has become more intense.

The vast majority of the approximately three dozen veterans of Mr. Bush’s administration contacted for this article indicated that they would not cast a ballot for Mr. Trump.

“I can count on one hand the number of people I worked with who are supporting Trump,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former Bush State Department official who has been calling his onetime colleagues to solicit support for the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

A handful of high-level former Bush officials will support him. Most prominent is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has indicated to former colleagues that with his daughter on the Wyoming ballot for Congress this year, he had little choice. That is an understandable rationale to many in the Bush orbit.

But there is far less charity offered to two other former Bush staff members who have been outspoken on television and social media about their support for Mr. Trump: Mr. Fleischer and Mr. Schlapp.

After Mr. Fleischer announced his support on Twitter for Mr. Trump in May, one of his former colleagues, Tony Fratto, responded: “Then we don’t have anything to say to each other.”

In an interview, Mr. Fratto, who served in the Bush Treasury Department and White House, was still angry. “You were the White House spokesperson when Trump said the president lied the country into the death and maiming of people unnecessarily,” he said of Mr. Fleischer. “How can Ari be O.K. with that?”

Such a betrayal, Mr. Fratto said, was “unforgivable.”

Mr. Fleischer said he still considered Mr. Fratto a friend, but lamented that “Trump has split the party.”

Oregon standoff leader allegedly tried to escape jail with rope made of sheets

Ryan Bundy, charged in the federal case surrounding the takeover of a wildlife refuge, denied the escape attempt and said he was practicing braiding rope

July 18, 2016

by Sam Levin

The Guardian

San Francisco-Ryan Bundy, a protester who helped lead the Oregon militia standoff, attempted to escape jail with a rope made of bedsheets, federal prosecutors alleged in court on Monday.

The incarcerated rancher, however, denied that he was attempting to break out of jail in Portland and said he was simply “trying to practice braiding rope”.

Bundy, 43, is one of 26 protesters charged in the federal case surrounding the January takeover of the Malheur national wildlife refuge in rural Harney County and is scheduled to face a trial in September.

Along with his brother Ammon Bundy, Ryan led a group of activists in an armed occupation of the federally controlled bird sanctuary in eastern Oregon to protest government land-use rules and restrictions against ranchers.

While some have pleaded guilty, the Bundy brothers have continued to argue that the federal government has no right to control public lands and have said they plan to bring their case forward in a trial.

In a pretrial hearing on Monday in court in Portland, federal officials accused Ryan of attempting to escape Multnomah county jail, disclosing that deputies found the inmate on 8 April with torn sheets braided together under his mattress, the Oregonian reported.

Prosecutors said that deputies also found two strips of torn sheets, extra pillowcases, towels and unauthorized food containers.

Bundy responded that he was a “rancher trying to practice braiding rope”, adding: “It’s self-serving speculation and simply not true, your honor,” according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Steve Alexander, spokesman for the Multnomah County sheriff’s office, confirmed to the Guardian that deputies had found “12ft to 15ft of rope made out of some torn sheet”, along with other contraband.

Ryan also had a chair in his cell, which he was not authorized to have, Alexander said.

The spokesman said the inmate faced an administrative write-up for the violations, but did not face criminal charges for attempted escape.

Ryan was later transferred to jail in Nevada, where he is also facing criminal charges for his role in his father Cliven Bundy’s standoff with federal authorities in 2014.

He has not faced any disciplinary actions for the rope incident in the Oregon jail, according to Alexander.

The US attorney’s office, which is prosecuting both cases against the Bundys, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday about the escape attempt allegations.

Angie Bundy, Ryan’s wife, who brought their eight children to court on Monday, said by phone that the accusation that he was planning to escape was “really stupid”.

“I guarantee he wasn’t thinking he was going to break out with a sheet,” said Angie, who said she hasn’t had a chance to discuss the issue with her husband.

“When you’re sitting in a cell for that many hours, you get inventive … It was definitely him passing the time,” she said, adding, “[The prosecutors] have been making all kinds of serious charges and outright lies this whole time.”

The Bundy brothers and their father have repeatedly complained about jail conditions, arguing that they have been denied internet access and the right to gather for prayer and raising concerns about the use of solitary confinement.

In March, in an unusual move, Ryan decided to represent himself in court and waived his right to counsel.

The men are facing a slew of charges, including using “force, intimidation and threats” to conspire against and impede government officials. If convicted, they could face decades in prison.


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