TBR News July 21, 2016

Jul 21 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. July 21, 2016: “We have just received a notice from a firm that specializes in digging electronic information out of the woodwork. The firm lists several pages of topics, some of which are unbelievable. They are very expensive but one must assume that their data is correct. We are excerpting some of this list and have included their address for those who have the money to learn the truth as, according to the précis, it has never been available before.

  • Successor to the NSA ‘Harvest” programs that catalog important overseas telephone calls made via communications satellites.
  • In depth information on the DoD’s DISA sytems / VIPER and others
  • USIA/Warrentown files
  • In depth dossiers on members of Congress. These, the list advises us, consists of medical and financial records.
  • A 250 page report on the fake Anthrax scare
  • Firms and individuals in foreign countries known to be friendly sources.
  • Scanned copies of Governor George W. Bush’s personal correspondence and financial records, now hidden in the George H.W.Bush Presidential Library
  • Lists of offshore bank accounts for senior political and military figures
  • The so-called ‘Wilson Blvd.’ technical and scientific records

There are many more fascinating offerings but it should be noted that on the list we were sent, prices are very high indeed but approved credit cards, especially American Express, can be used. We have not availed ourselves of this reported service but as it might prove to be interesting to our many readers, especially those with large amounts of cash, we are including the address for your general information: www.spywarelabs.inc and one must apply for an entrance code.

Good hunting!

Thoughts of the Forbidden Man

The art of leadership, as displayed by really great popular leaders in all ages, consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention into sections. The more the militant energies of the people are directed towards one objective the more will new recruits join the movement, attracted by the magnetism of its unified action, and thus the striking power will be all the more enhanced. The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to the one category; for weak and wavering natures among a leader’s following may easily begin to be dubious about the justice of their own cause if they have to face different enemies.

As soon as the vacillating masses find themselves facing an opposition that is made up of different groups of enemies their sense of objectivity will be aroused and they will ask how is it that all the others can be in the wrong and they themselves, and their movement, alone in the right?

Such a feeling would be the first step towards a paralysis of their fighting vigour. Where there are various enemies who are split up into divergent groups it will be necessary to block them all together as forming one solid front, so that the mass of followers in a popular movement may see only one common enemy against whom they have to fight. Such uniformity intensifies their belief in the justice of their own cause and strengthens their feeling of hostility towards the opponent.

Trump supports conditions on NATO allies for US military support

Donald Trump has said US military support of NATO would be conditional if he becomes president. He said only a country that had fulfilled commitments to the alliance would receive help from the US

July 21, 2016


In comments made in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said a NATO ally would not necessarily receive the backing of the US military in a crisis situation.

A NATO member would only receive help from the US military if they had fulfilled their commitments to the alliance, Trump said.

Other parts of the interview indicated that Trump would be willing to significantly lower the priority of US troop deployments. He mostly cited the costs of such deployments, indicating that the US was shouldering too much of the burden of keeping other countries safe and that America suffers in terms of trade losses as a result.

“We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,” Trump told the Times.

Trump also referred to America’s role as a global influencer, saying America needed to focus on its own problems before lecturing other nations on how to handle theirs.

“When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger,” he said, referring specifically to whether or not the United States should weigh in on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s handling of a coup attempt in Turkey.

This is in line with Trump’s ‘America First’ policy, which he said meant “we are going to take care of this country first before we worry about everyone else in the world.”

Trump is set to deliver a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on Thursday after accepting the party’s presidential nomination earlier this week. On Wednesday, Trump’s vice presidential candidate Mike Pence delivered a speech but was overshadowed by former presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump as the nominee. Cruz was booed off the stage in Cleveland, highlighting the deep divide in the Republican party over Trump as the presidential candidate.

Ted Cruz Booed and Heckled for Refusing to Endorse Donald Trump

July 20, 2016

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

In a remarkable show of disunity at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Sen. Ted Cruz was booed and heckled by many delegates on Wednesday night as it became clear that he had no intention of endorsing Donald Trump for the presidency.

Cruz, who called Trump “a pathological liar” and “utterly amoral” when he dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination in May, refused to follow the lead of two of the other defeated candidates, Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Marco Rubio, who did endorse the billionaire in their speeches.

Watching Cruz give what seemed like a campaign speech for himself, Trump’s children sat in silence. Then there were cheers and a ripple of applause from the delegates as Cruz looked into the camera and said, “to those listening, please don’t stay home in November.”

Cruz was then jeered as he pointedly stopped short of asking Americans to vote for Trump, the man who had mocked the senator’s wife as unattractive and suggested that his immigrant father might have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

“If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience — vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the constitution.”

As reporters in the hall noted, Trump supporters, led by the New York delegation directly in front of the stage, chanted for Cruz to endorse Trump, yelled “say it!” and heckled and booed him when he did not.

The booing intensified as Cruz wrapped up his speech, and was interrupted only by the sudden appearance in the hall of Donald Trump, who upstaged the speaker by making his way to his seat even before the senator finished speaking.

The booing, mixed with some applause from the senator’s supporters, continued as Cruz finally concluded his remarks and left the stage.

The senator’s wife, Heidi Cruz, was also reportedly heckled and threatened as she was escorted from the convention floor.

What It Means To Be a Muslim Today

Blowback, terrorism, and the evolution of a religion

July 20, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


I was reading my local rag this [Tuesday] morning, when I came across a very small item buried somewhere between an ad for a for-profit college and a story about the acquittal of yet another police officer in the death of Freddie Gray. The three-paragraph article had the following headline: “Bastille Day attacker had interest in jihad.”

I thought to myself: No sh*t, Sherlock!

The piece informs us that “Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel drank, ate pork, and had an ‘unbridled sex life.’But his computer and phone showed online searches relating to IS and other jihadi groups.”

Recall the initial reactions in the media to the Bastille Day horror, once the identity of the truck-terrorist was known and details about his life began to come out: there were plenty of doubts about his motives. After all, those who knew him said he wasn’t at all religious: he was a “loner” who often exhibited the telltale signs of being somewhat sociopathic. He beat his ex-wife. He did un-Islamic things. He hooked up with men as well as women! How could he be a Muslim, never mind a devout one, let alone part of some jihadist group intent on establishing Sharia law?

And yet it turns out that his phone yielded messages at least strongly implying that he had confederates who were part of some organized jhadist group. And the Islamic State dutifully claimed him as one of their own.

We went through the same exculpatory process with the Orlando shooter, who was said to have sexual “issues”: his attack on a gay nightclub was depicted as “homophobia,” albeit of the internalized variety, and his decidedly un-Islamic habits and lifestyle were characterized as evidence that he was just another “lone nut.” Yet a search of his dwelling turned up lots of Islamic literature and his contacts with the first American born suicide bomber as well as two interviews with the FBI showed that he did indeed have an “interest in jihad.” And this “interest” translated into a vicious attack that killed and injured over a hundred people. The Islamic State claimed him, too – in spite of his alleged psychological “issues.”

This dissonance between the personal habits of terrorists and their alleged religious beliefs is nothing new: it can be traced all the way back to the archetypal jihadists who pulled off the 9/11 attacks. They, too, partied it up: gambling, drinking, etc., right before they took down the World Trade Center and targeted the Pentagon. And yet they were acting as soldiers of a terrorist outfit that wants to impose Sharia law, ban alcohol, veil women, enslave unbelievers, and generally take the world back to conditions that prevailed in 12th century Saudi Arabia.

How do we account for this curious phenomenon of cognitive split personality?

There are two factors at work here. First, Islam is evolving under the pressure of modernity and the “war on terrorism” itself. Adherents must coexist in the world with Western mores and it’s inevitable that they’ll be influenced: after all, they are not apart from the society they supposedly hate and want to “purify.”

More importantly, however, Islam itself is undergoing a transformation from a set of religious principles embodied in its holy books into a full-fledged political ideology. While the more quietist strands of Islam may be largely exempt from this transformational process, the fact is that the West has been waging a war in the Muslim world – and this is seen by many as a war against the Muslim world. The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq have played right into the hands of al-Qaeda and its offshoots, so that the theological justification for jihad has been seemingly verified – and the thin line between religion and ideology has been effectively erased.

In any case, that line was always vague when it came to Islam, which, unlike Christianity, or Buddhism, or any of the other great religions, has a prescription for how society ought to be organized as well as how the individual can lead a virtuous life. Sharia law describes a comprehensive social system, validated in the holy texts, and the devout are motivated to impose it on unbelievers. This hasn’t always been the case, and Islam isn’t alone in this tendency toward statism: there are elements within Christianity (and other faiths) that have inspired militant adherents to impose religiously-inspired regimes on the unwilling.

However, this has largely been characteristic of the earlier stages in their development, when the zeal of the newly-converted has conjured visions of a “virtuous” society ruled by religious strictures. Yet this militancy has been ameliorated over centuries, certainly in the case of Christianity, until the separation of church and state has been established, enabling a policy of peaceful coexistence.

What has happened in the case of Islam – and this is a simplification – is that 1) The line of demarcation was never clearly established, and, 2) the perception that the West is at war with Islam has politicized and fundamentally transformed what was a religion into an ideology.

Therefore we get controversies like this one about a reporter for a British broadcaster covering the Nice massacre while wearing a hijab. The PC left is in an uproar over this piece that appeared in the Sun – a rightwing tabloid of dubious reputation – seeing it as a symptom of “racism” and “Islamophobia.” What they don’t get, however, is that while this sort of thing is reprehensible, they are missing the larger issue – which is that the viewer sees the hijab as an ideological symbol, and not a religious one. The hijab in this instance is perceived as making a political statement, and the audience is left wondering whether the coverage they are listening to is biased or colored. To give another example of the same phenomenon turned on its head: viewers had every right to wonder whether reporters who were wearing American flags on their lapels in the wake of the 9/11 attacks were filtering the news through an ideological prism.

The “war on terrorism” has transformed our lives in many more ways than we see at the moment, and religion is hardly exempt: it is now possible for a “soldier of Islam” to drink, be promiscuous, and indulge in other decidedly un-Islamic behavior, while engaging in “jihad” as a religio-ideological act of “devotion.” It also allows some in the West to engage in systematic denial: to aver that the Orlando shooter and the Nice truck-terrorist weren’t really jihadists, they just had psychological problems that caused them to “go postal.”

War poisons everything it touches: religion, journalism, and everyday life itself. It distorts our perceptions, and makes it nearly impossible to think clearly about anything. It changes us in ways that are not immediately apparent, and certainly not for the better.

The irony is that those who warn us that Islam is inherently violent and anti-Western, and advocate a “global war” of endless military intervention in the Muslim world, are engaging in a self-fulfilling prophecy. They and the policies they urge us to pursue are the catalyst that has set these forces in motion.

Reversing this process is going to be a long and drawn out process: just as the progress of a disease, even once it is checked, continues to have its effect on the body, so the body politic is not easily drained of the poisons that have accumulated due to war. What is required is a fundamental reversal of our foreign policy of perpetual war: then and only then can the healing process begin.

Turkey to suspend European human rights convention following failed coup

July 21, 2016


Turkey’s state of emergency means temporary suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights, the deputy prime minister has said, adding this is expected to last for a month and a half. The state of emergency in Turkey follows a failed military coup.

“We want to end the state of emergency as soon as possible. We believe [it could end within] one to one and a half months. I do not need a second extension,” said Deputy PM Numan Kurtulmus, as cited by Turkish broadcaster NTV.

According to Kurtulmus, there were “structural and individual” intelligence failures during the coup attempt. He added that the government is planning to restructure the army.

As a result, the European Convention on Human Rights will be “temporarily suspended” due to the state of emergency, he added.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag later said the state of emergency will not negatively affect the economy or investments.

On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a state of emergency for three months following a coup attempt. It took effect Thursday morning.

“The purpose of the state of emergency is to most effectively and swiftly take steps necessary to eliminate the threat to democracy in our country,” Erdogan said, adding that EU has no right to criticize the decision.

Under the emergency measure, the Turkish president and his ministers are allowed to bypass the parliament in passing new laws. Rights and freedoms in the country may also be limited or suspended if the government decides to do so, the news agency explained.

The military’s attempt to seize power in the country took place on July 15, when Erdogan was on holiday in the Turkish resort of Marmaris. Thousands of people took to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. Erdogan said that 246 government supporters were killed. At least 24 coup plotters were also killed, officials said.

Tens of thousands have already been detained or lost their jobs following the failed coup, with some 60,000 people suspected of backing the coup attempt being investigated. The large-scale purge of state institutions has affected judiciary officials, civil servants, law enforcement and education workers.

Turkey’s Government Fears Second Coup Attempt as Purge Extends Miltary

July 19, 2016

by Patrick Cockburn

unz review

Turkish leaders are fearful that there may be a second attempt at a military uprising in Turkey following the failure of the recent coup. Several important military units are confined to their bases and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been slow to return to Ankara from Istanbul, apparently because the capital has not been deemed completely secure.

Fears of a second coup attempt stem from the realisation by the Erdogan administration that the infiltration by pro-coup forces of the senior ranks of the 600,000-strong armed forces and intelligence apparatus went far deeper than originally suspected. Some 85 generals and admirals or almost a quarter of the total of 375 were jailed on Tuesday by a court, a sign that the government privately believes that the plot involved many more senior officers than the small clique it has publicly claimed was behind the abortive putsch. Other sources suggest that the true figure for generals detained is 125.

Arrests at a high level are continuing with Mr Edrogan’s advisor on the air force, Lt Col Erkan Krivak, arrested on Tuesday. Soldiers from the Second Army, which is fighting a widespread Kurdish rebellion in the south east of the country, have been ordered to stay in their camps in the embattled region. The Second Army commander, General Adem Huduti, is the most senior military commander arrested. The gates into the main base of the 3rd Corps in Istanbul, theoretically part a Nato rapid reaction force, are blocked by municipal dump trucks and heavy vehicles according to eye witnesses.

“They are fearing another attempt at a coup,” says Asli Aydintasbas of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Istanbul, pointing to the extensive nature of the purge of the senior officer corps and judiciary, a quarter of whose members have been dismissed. Those arrested for secretly backing the original coup include some from Mr Erdogan’s inner circle such as Ali Yazici, his military secretary. Soli Ozel, professor of internationals relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul and a columnist at Haberturknewspaper, says that “the number of Manchurian Candidates” in the upper ranks of the government is extraordinary – a reference to the film about secret agents and “sleepers” who infiltrated the top political leadership in the US in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War.

The sweeping purge carried out by Mr Erdogan and his administration is being interpreted by many Turks and foreign governments as an opportunistic attempt to get rid of everybody not obedient to Mr Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Board of Higher Education dismissed 1,577 university deans on Tuesday and the Ministry of National Education said that it had sacked 15,200 for connections to the movement of the self-exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen which is accused of orchestrating the original coup. Mr Gulen and his supporters have publically denied any connection to the attempted coup.

It is true that Mr Erdogan and his administration evidently see the coup as an excuse to cleanse the army, state apparatus and civil service of all who are not loyal to them. But government officials genuinely believe that there is a very widespread conspiracy by Gulenist “sleeper” agents, not all of whom have been detected and may still be capable of armed action. When the Gulenists were allied to the AKP seven or eight years ago, they were at the cutting edge of a purge of the armed forces of secular sympathisers and were well placed to replace those dismissed or jailed by their own cadres. The AKP appears to have known about some but not all of these Gulenist networks which is why it is now casting the net so wide.

While the government wants to give the impression that the pro-coup forces have been wiped out, its restrictions on the movement of military formations are a sign that it is not yet confident that this is so. “The government has committed all the resources it is left with to deal with the fall out from the coup,” says Prof Serhat Guvenc of the Department of International Relations at Kadir Has University. “The country looks very vulnerable.” He believes the coup on 15 July was bound to fail once soldiers had fired on the protesters and bombarded the parliament building in Ankara, but says the present situation is chaotic and difficult to understand.

Prof Ozel says that Mr Erdogan may be a stronger leader because of what is seen as his heroic behaviour during the coup attempt, but he will be leader of a weaker state. He says that the Turkish Army “is like a man who has suffered a serious stroke and will be weakened for a long time afterwards”. Many senior military commanders may have equivocated during the critical hours of the coup while they waited to see which side would come out the winner.

The Erdogan government may not be giving much long term thought to its relations with the US and the EU, while it focuses on its long term survival. Mr Erdogan may get his wish for an all-powerful executive presidency run by himself in the wake of the foiled coup, but the over-all strength of Turkish state is visibly diminished. “This army, the second biggest in Nato, is now a broken army,” says Prof Ozel. Other state institutions have been hollowed out or rendered ineffective by years of purges,of which the latest is only the most all-embracing. They will take time to rebuild. Prof Gunec says that the problem is “not just a broken army, but a broken country”.

Britain adds Chinese militant group to terror list

July 20, 2016

by Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard


Britain has listed the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as a terrorist organization, pleasing China, which had demanded Western support for its fight against a group it says seeks to split off its western region of Xinjiang.

Britain’s Home Office, or interior ministry, on Friday designated ETIM, which it also called the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), as an “Islamic terrorist and separatist organization” trying to create an “independent caliphate” in Xinjiang.

The United States and the United Nations have listed ETIM as a terrorist group, though there is some discrepancy internationally over whether ETIM and TIP are the same entity as China says, and experts have questioned their cohesiveness.

Western countries have long been reluctant to share intelligence with China or otherwise cooperate when it comes to counter-terrorism in Xinjiang, saying China has provided little evidence to prove ETIM’s existence and citing worries about possible human rights abuses.

The addition of ETIM to the list of proscribed organizations comes as leaders from China and Britain have proclaimed the countries are enjoying a “golden age” in relations.

The Home Office said the group was based in tribal regions of Pakistan, had claimed responsibility for attacks in China, “maintained an active and visible presence in the Syrian war” and had detailed its “jihad against the Chinese authorities”.

China’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the designation.

“We are willing to work with Britain and other parties to increase practical counter-terrorism cooperation and resolutely crack down on international terrorist forces,” the ministry said in a faxed statement.

China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency also praised the British decision but said it came “a bit late”.

Hundreds have died in violence in recent years in Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people. Beijing blames the bloodshed on Islamist militants and separatists, though rights groups say the unrest is more a reaction to repressive Chinese policies.

“Regrettably, some western countries not only fail to recognize these East Turkestan terrorist groups as illegal, but also secretly aid them, using them as a chess piece to contain China,” Xinhua said in a commentary.

The U.S. State Department, in its annual report on terrorism around the world, said there was a lack of transparency or information from China about incidents Beijing called terrorism, and said counter-terrorism cooperation was limited.

It has also criticized Chinese restrictions on religious expression in Xinjiang, like banning veils for women.

Last week, Premier Li Keqiang called for greater global cooperation against terrorism.

Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, the main Uighur exile group, said in an email that Britain had given China the pretence it needed to “increase its crackdown on Uighurs”.

“In China, any Uighurs that are unhappy with China’s systematic policies of suppression are all accused of terror, but China is incapable of providing any evidence able to stand up to transparent examination,” he said.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by John Ruwitch and Nick Macfie)

Tor Could Protect Your Smart Fridge From Spies and Hackers

July 20, 2016

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Intercept

There’s a growing fear that the exploding internet of things — from baby cams to pacemakers — could be a goldmine for spies and criminal hackers, allowing them access to all kinds of personal photos, videos, audio recordings, and other data. It’s a concern bolstered by remarks from top national security officials.

But protecting homes from digital invaders doesn’t have to be difficult, argues Nathan Freitas, director of The Guardian Project, which brings together software developers and activists.

He teamed up with the developers of a simple open source platform that can track and control internet-connected devices throughout the home. Called Home Assistant, the software can be configured to incorporate strong security that already exists: the Tor Project’s anonymous browsing services.

Here’s how it works: You log in to your computer or phone through a Tor browser — basically an anonymized version of the internet you normally use. Tor will bounce the signal across the world, making it impossible to know from where exactly you’re connecting. Then, you connect to your device at home through Tor’s hidden onion service. “Nobody knows who you are connecting to or what you are seeing except you,” reads a slideshow explaining the concept on Github, an open software development hosting service.

Tor is preferable, the presentation suggests, to connecting through the open internet, which often doesn’t have encryption or other protections and is easily hackable. It’s also better than connecting to a cloud service, which can store and sometimes share or monetize the information you share (though some cloud services are more private than others and can include strong encryption so the hosting company can’t access the content stored there).

“We’ve seen time and time again, from all of the early devices out there, be it cars, cameras, or fridges …they’re making the same mistakes with security that apps have done, that web browsers have done,” Freitas said in an interview with The Intercept. “There’s no transport security” beyond “setting a password.”

Freitas said he realized that Tor’s features, which are often used for SecureDrop or other whistleblowing applications, could be used by anyone. “What if everyone had it in their homes and that only they could connect to it,” he said.

He compared the incorporation of Tor — free, secure, and partially funded by the U.S. government — to WhatsApp and other apps that integrate Open Whisper System’s end-to-end encryption into their code, protecting mobile phone users and their conversations from hackers and surveillance. “With the internet of things, it’s the same thing,” he said. “You want to be able to connect. You shouldn’t have to trade off that desire with the idea that someone will be monitoring you.”

The test was limited to the partnership with Home Assistant, which controls in-home devices, and doesn’t demonstrate exactly how the same system will be applied to more complex internet-connected devices like cars, however.

Tor has bandwidth restrictions because it relies on other computers to “donate” bandwidth to bounce signals around the world, so home devices might run more slowly, depending on the service. A baby camera needs a lot of bandwidth, so connecting to Tor might make it challenging for in-home systems to do more than stream choppy video, such as sending notifications when movement is detected — a popular feature in some home-surveillance systems. For things like adjusting a home thermostat, the lag would probably be less. And the trade-off of having a more secure baby monitor might be preferable, even if the connection is slow.

If vendors consider incorporating Tor into their products, they’ll also have to consider how the software might be updated when the Tor Project pushes security patches, or else it will remain vulnerable when bugs are discovered.

The proof of concept project isn’t in the product phase, says Freitas — but maybe someday it can be installed in home systems. “Our goal is to show this can work and hopefully advocate towards commercial product vendors,” he said.

France’s national assembly votes to extend state of emergency

Extra security measures in place since Paris attacks extended after truck driver ploughed through crowd in Nice on Bastille Day

July 19, 2016


France’s national assembly has voted to extend the country’s state of emergency for six months following last week’s massacre in Nice.

The state of emergency has been in place since the Paris attacks in November, and the extension would see the emergency security measures – which give the police extra powers to carry out searches and place people under house arrest – remain in place until the end of January 2017.

It is the fourth time that parliament has proposed prolonging the state of emergency, and the move now needs to be approved by the Senate.

President Francois Hollande had last Thursday announced a plan to lift the emergency measures, but he changed tack hours later after a truck driver ploughed through a crowd at a 14 July fireworks display in Nice, killing 84 people. The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State group.

Hollande’s Socialist government has been under heavy criticism for its response to a slew of extremist attacks.

The fact the president was open to the six-month extension was seen as a concession to the conservative opposition who have demanded that the state of emergency be maintained through to the end of the year.

With elections due next year, the political unity seen after last year’s attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has evaporated.

Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, has defended the government, saying it has bolstered security notably by sending thousands of troops into the streets.

Prime minister Manuel Valls warned on Tuesday that the country must be prepared for more deadly attacks and would have to “learn to live with the threat”.

But the Socialists have also said they will draw the line at some of the opposition’s more controversial demands.

Opposition leader and former president Nicolas Sarkozy, eyeing another run for the top job next year, has called for anyone showing signs of being radicalised to be forced to wear an electronic tag, placed under house arrest or kept in a detention centre.

While some on the right think the six-month extension is not sufficient, there are also critics on the left concerned about civil liberties who say even with the state of emergency in place an attack occurred.

“We can’t lock people up on the basis of mere suspicion, or suspicion of suspicion,” minister for parliamentary relations Jean-Marie Le Guen said.

Investigators said on Tuesday that 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who used a 19-tonne truck to mow down revellers enjoying Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, had shown “recent interest” in jihadist activity.

Authorities found “very violent” photos on his computer, including of corpses, fighters posing with the IS flag and photos of Osama bin Laden.

However, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said there was no direct evidence of the Tunisian’s links to IS which has claimed him as one of their “fighters.”

The Good News and the Bad News About Turkey’s Attempted Coup

July 19, 2016

by Stephen Zunes

The Progressive

The survival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Welfare Party of an attempted coup last week is a mixed blessing.

Despite the ultra-conservative policies and creeping authoritarianism of the Erdogan regime, Turks from across the political spectrum opposed the coup, which was attempted by a faction of the Turkish military.

As the putschists were claiming they had seized state power, Erdogan—instead of calling for armed resistance—used FaceTime to appeal to the nation: “I urge the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports. There is no power higher than the power of the people.”

In response, hundreds of thousands of supporters took to the streets and faced down the putschists, despite scores of unarmed protesters being killed by tanks, attack helicopters, and snipers.

The good news is that the coup’s failure may be a sign that, for the first time in history, Turkey’s elected government has successfully imposed civilian rule over the military. Having experienced military rule a number of times in recent history, the Turkish public recognized a military regime would probably be even worse. They also saw what happened in Egypt, where liberal democrats initially cheered the military coup against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood only to find themselves under a brutal military dictatorship.

Turks’ resistance to the coup demonstrates that the Turkish military no longer has the overbearing role it had for so many decades, effectively exercising veto power from behind the scenes. On four previous occasions, they easily seized power from democratically elected governments.

The bad news is that the apparent success in resisting the military may not be used for democratic ends.

Indeed, Erdogan and his AKP is already using the coup attempt as an excuse to crack down even harder on dissent. In just a matter of hours, Turkish president Erdogan ordered the jailing of more than 6,000 people, including 2,745 judges and prosecutors, for allegedly supporting the coup attempt. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has fired close to 9,000 people across country, including thirty governors.

Observers seriously doubt that a government not known for its efficiency could have carried out any credible investigations with such speed. There is little doubt Erdogan is using this as an excuse to consolidate his rule and eliminate checks on his power.

Turkey’s coup was largely defeated by massive nonviolent resistance, adding to a list of countries where military putschists have been overwhelmed by people power: Germany (1923), France (1962), Bolivia (1979), Argentina (1987), Russia (1991), Haiti (1992), Thailand (1992), Venezuela (2002) and Burkina Faso (2015). Just because the military may take over government buildings and proclaim itself in charge doesn’t mean people will recognize its authority or agree to cooperate.

But it was not exclusively nonviolent resistance. Pro-Erdogan thugs beat and even lynched soldiers suspected of supporting the coup and there are increasing reports of vendettas carried out by pro-AKP mobs.

It’s also unfortunate that this impressive show of civil resistance in the face of an illegitimate military coup was done to defend a reactionary government. But the fact that a leader targeted by a coup would recognize that civil resistance would be the key to his government’s survival is yet another indication of the growing awareness that power does not just come from the barrel of a gun.

There is no evidence to suggest that the United States supported the coup attempt, despite accusations by some Turkish officials. Charges that the moderate U.S.-based Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind the coup are murky at best. After initially simply calling for both sides to show restraint, the Obama administration joined the rest of the international community in denouncing the coup.

The U.S. has strongly supported the Turkish military on the four previous occasions when it has seized power. This included the martial law period during the 1980s during which thousands of civilians were killed and tens of thousands of nonviolent dissidents were jailed (at the same time the Reagan administration, ironically, was leading international efforts to sanction Poland for a far less-violent martial law.)

In 2003, the Turkish parliament refused to let the country be used as a launching pad for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said he was “disappointed” that the Turkish military “did not play the strong leadership role on that issue that we would have expected.”

At least the Obama administration recognized that having the United States support a military coup against a democratically elected and still fairly popular government—particularly given the history of U.S. support for coups and regime change in the region—would likely sow instability rather than order.

It would be even better if the United States were to withhold military assistance and other support unless the Erdogan government ceases its repression against nonviolent and democratic opponents.

Public Enemy No. 1: A Visit with Fethullah Gülen, Erdogan’s Chief Adversary

July 18, 2016

by Veit Medick and Roland Nelles


Fethullah Gülen is sitting in a small reception room in his home. There’s a small side table next to him, a blue fan and a glass of water. He wears a dark blazer and leather slippers. The elderly man has something he wants to say.

“I am prepared to be screened by an international commission,” he says. “If they find that I am guilty, then I will go to the execution chamber. But that won’t happen because I haven’t done anything.”

Gülen has been the focus of a considerable amount of international attention in recent days, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan having accused him and his influential Islamic movement of engineering the failed weekend military putsch in Turkey from his home in the United States. The preacher has been living in American exile since 1999 because of his many enemies in Turkey: His organization, called Hizmet, operates a global network of schools, firms and media companies — and is treated like a terrorist organization by Erdogan’s people. Gülen’s guarded complex, located near the small town of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, around 100 miles from New York, is considered by officials in Ankara to be the headquarters of its greatest enemy.

Erdogan’s accusations are serious, and Gülen wants to defend both himself and his movement. He says he had nothing to do with the putsch and that Erdogan’s behavior borders on insanity. “I have already said several times that I am against any form of violence when it comes to achieving political goals,” he says. Gülen also claims that he supports democracy in Turkey. “I reject military putsches,” he says.

A Rare Visit

Those visiting the 75-year-old are subjected to a security screening at the entrance to his spacious complex, with armed guards conducting checks of each guest. The subject of anonymous death threats, the FBI advised Gülen to take this precaution several years ago. There are several buildings on the park-like property where his followers dedicate themselves to prayer. Few people are in sight and a Porsche SUV can be seen in a parking spot. Normally, guests are only rarely received here — and the media have virtually no access.

But this weekend, Gülen opened his doors to a group of reporters. He lives reclusively, in the back part of the property and guests must either take off their shoes or wrap them with plastic foil before entering his rooms. Women must cover their shoulders.

The reception room is formal, with lots of gold, ornamentation, elegant carpets and fine porcelain. Koran suras hang from the walls and an encyclopedia of Islam can be found on the shelves. One shelf unit is covered with all kinds of knick-knacks: a plastic combat helicopter, a globe, a vase. There’s a portable radio in one corner and a view of the surrounding green hills from the window.

A Friendship Turned Sour

Gülen is sitting on a beige sofa and looks weak. One of his aides says he has been suffering from heart trouble and diabetes. Gülen speaks in Turkish with a quiet voice, but his answers are long — very long. The preacher comes across like a statesman himself as he talks about Erdogan. He knows the Turkish president well.

During the rise of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), Gülen and Erdogan were allies, united by their deep faith. Today they despise each other.

When Gülen went into exile, he called on his supporters to take over power in Turkey by infiltrating state institutions, thus prompting law enforcement officials to issue an arrest warrant for him.

Gülen’s rise began in the 1970s when he was an imam at a mosque in the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne. The charismatic cleric distributed his sermons via video and audio cassettes, and his following continuously grew. During the same period, he built up a network of private schools, private tutoring centers and dormitories, which he called “houses of light.” The alumnus of these institutions ultimately grew into a network of Gülen supporters over the decades. Today they own newspapers, television stations and banks.

Opinions about the imam couldn’t be more divergent. People who have left his movement describe the community as a sect, not unlike Scientology. Others view Gülen as being one of the most important preachers of modernist Islam, which seeks to spread a more tolerant interpretation of the religion.

For a long time, Erdogan was one of Gülen’s most prominent supporters — and they even entered into an informal alliance: Gülen’s supporters secured votes for AKP and Erdogan gave protection to the Gülen movement’s opaque businesses after he came into power in 2002.

Parting Ways

But after the parliamentary elections in 2011, in which AKP won almost 50 percent of the vote, Erdogan apparently felt strong enough on his own to break the pact with Gülen. Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, fired important justice officials and party functionaries considered to be Gülen followers. He also ordered the secret services to monitor the movement.

The final break between the two came in November 2013, when Erdogan announced his decision to close the Gülen movement’s tutoring centers. Around 2 million Turkish youth visit the schools in order to prepare for university entrance examinations. They provide Gülen with his most important source of revenue, but also serve as places where he can recruit new followers.

For years, Erdogan has believed that Gülen sought to challenge his hold on power. Gülen, meanwhile, believes that his one-time friend has become a tyrant intent on eliminating any opposition.

“Erdogan is so hungry for power that he believes everyone else is too,” says Gülen. “Erdogan comes from a poor background and now he lives in many palaces. Success and power have poisoned him.”

In Gülen’s Bedroom

These days, Gülen is seeking to present himself as the polar opposite of the president in Ankara. His organization has millions in assets at its disposal, but Gülen himself claims to have practically no personal belongings. His aides say that he lives solely for his faith. His small apartment, which he has willingly opened up to his visitors on this day, has two rooms. He sleeps on a mattress on the floor, and next to it is a desk with books on it, small bottles of oil and a little Ottoman treasure box. A picture of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is hanging on the wall and a Turkish flag covers the shelf.

A closer inspection suggests that much consideration here has been given to security. Gülen’s large veranda is furnished with black panels to ensure that he can’t easily be seen and the rooms in his apartment can only be opened with a special chip card. An elevator takes Gül directly to the garage, from which he is driven to the hospital for regular check-ups. Otherwise, his people say, he never leaves the house.

Why Is He So Sealed Off?

Gülen has been described as extremely introverted, but it’s difficult to imagine that being the case. How, after all, could someone so reserved build up such a major and influential movement? Followers of his movement are in important positions at all levels of the state — in the judiciary, the military and in the political sphere. When Erdogan flexes his muscles inside the government apparatus, as he is currently doing, parts of Gülen’s network are also affected.

But this quiet and modest-seeming gentleman also has a firm grasp on the political game back in his home country. Gülen insinuates it may have been Erdogan himself who staged the putsch in order to strengthen his power and he notes that the president spoke of a golden opportunity to conduct a purge. But Gülen says he was also surprised by the unusual course taken by the putsch. After all, he said, the rebels failed to eliminate the political leadership right at the beginning. In effect, he is spinning his own conspiracy theory to counter Erdogan’s. But he has no proof.

Intrigues, Propaganda and Power Struggles

In this conflict, it is difficult to tell those telling lies from those telling the truth, or even just the half-truth. Turkish domestic politics long ago became filled with intrigue, propaganda and power struggles. But a visit with Gülen doesn’t leave you with the impression that he is some sort of terror mastermind or putschist. Still, it is impossible to be certain. In such appearances, it is difficult to tell what is real and what is staged.

So what happens next? Erdogan is demanding that the United States extradite Gülen, but he hasn’t yet filed an official request and Gülen doesn’t believe he will be extradited. Erdogan, he says, has no evidence to show the Americans. “The US justice system works. The Americans won’t turn me over if there isn’t a tangible reason.”

His praise is more than idle. With permanent resident status, he says he likes America a lot and feels at home here. Indeed, he has even taken up an interest in American politics.

With additional reporting by Christoph Sydow

Police departments across US on high alert for online threats against officers

After fatal shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, police are keeping a close eye on social media, but what constitutes a ‘true threat’ remains up for debate

July 21, 2016

by Ryan Felton

The Guardian

Detroit-Since the fatal shootings of police officers in Texas and Louisiana, the Detroit police chief, James Craig, has been particularly on alert for social media threats against officers.

Craig made a “conscious decision” following the killing of five officers in Dallas to respond to threatening social media comments and “act on it quickly”, he said – despite acknowledging legal questions about whether these comments are protected by the first amendment.

So last week, Detroit police arrested four people for allegedly making online threats to kill police officers, including one man who called the Dallas shooter, Micah Johnson, a hero, and said he “inspired me to do the exact same thing”. A separate post specifically mentioned killing white police officers, Craig said.

Since the Dallas incident and the shooting that left three officers dead in Baton Rouge, police departments across the US are increasingly focused on threats made on social media, and in some cases pursuing criminal charges. The comments they are targeting are incendiary and violent. But experts caution that the cases exist in murky legal territory, threatening to test the line between what is known as a “true threat” and criminalization of free speech.

“While a true threat that endangers the community ought to be investigated, it’s important that people are allowed to freely express their protected opinions without the threat of prosecution,” said Stephanie Lacambra, a criminal defense staff attorney at the not-for-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Craig said he plans to err on the side of protecting police, given recent events.

“While I might not be a lawyer, the thing I am clear on is what constitutes a threat to someone’s life. If you make a specific threat to kill someone, that’s specific enough for me,” said Craig. “I’m suggesting a police officer, in this environment today, faced with a threat, it should not be taken lightly.”

In the past few weeks, Craig said, his rank-and-file officers have unquestionably felt a heightened concern for their own safety. “Officers want to go home at night and, given the recent events, certainly everyone – including myself – we are concerned,” he said in an interview after a funeral on Tuesday for one of the Dallas officers.

“It’s important [for police] not to underreact but equally important not to overreact,” he added. “And when you’re well trained, and you’re vigilant in how you deal with situations in the field, it can minimize making a bad decision.”

In the Detroit case, none of the men have been identified, nor charged yet in connection with the posts. A spokesperson for the Wayne County prosecutor’s office, which covers Detroit, said felony warrant requests were submitted by police and remain under review. (Detroit police didn’t respond to requests for copies of the alleged social media posts.)

Other departments across the US have followed suit. Minneapolis police confirmed this week that they were investigating a statement posted in the comment section of a USA Today story about the Baton Rouge shooting. The Minneapolis-St Paul area in Minnesota has been mired in tense protests for days, after police in a nearby suburb fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor.

“I’m anxiously looking forward to the Minneapolis headlines when they come, and they, more than likely, will, people. More than likely will,” the comment under the newspaper’s story stated. Minneapolis police echoed Craig’s remarks, and said such potentially threatening posts should be investigated.

“This, and every other threat, has to be taken very seriously because of the recent attacks on officers,” Minneapolis police Sgt Catherine Michael told a local ABC affiliate.

Louisiana police arrested a 19-year-old man after he posted a video on social media while idling behind a police officer’s car. In the clip, the man brandished a handgun and mentioned recent police-involved shootings in the US, authorities said, while allegedly making threats against the officer ahead of him. The man turned himself in and was charged with public intimidation.

A day after the Dallas shooting, a 24-year-old Illinois woman was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly posting on Facebook that she would shoot any police officer who pulled her over for a traffic stop and asked her to get out of her car.

Lacambra said more charges over online posts are likely forthcoming.

“I expect that these kinds of charges will increase in reaction to recent events as more people feel the need to weigh in on the issue of the intersection of race and law enforcement violence,” she said. But, she added, they may test the limits of who can be prosecuted.

Josh Wheeler, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, cautioned that while some of the statements made on social media may be “horrible”, the current state of the law on online threats is is uncertain and remains a “difficult issue”.

While the first amendment provides broad protection to comments online, it doesn’t cover what are known as “true threats”, Wheeler said. The problem is that courts haven’t settled what sort of intent is required to interpret something as a “true threat” rather than just protected speech.

Do prosecutors have to prove that the speaker intended to threaten the police? Or “is it sufficient that the prosecution prove that a reasonable person hearing or seeing this threat … would interpret them as threatening?” Wheeler said.

In a case before the US supreme court last year, Elonis v United States, the justices overturned the conviction of a man who wrote violent social media posts about his estranged wife. The court ruled that prosecutors must prove the defendant’s intent, and that a reasonable person would view the statements as a threat.

But the justices didn’t set a constitutional threshold, Wheeler said.

“They punted it,” he said. They made their decision by interpreting a federal law, not the constitution. “That’s what’s left open.”

North Korea says it has been practicing to blow up South Korean airports

July 20, 2016

by Anna Fifield

The Washington Post

TOKYO — North Korea said Wednesday that it practiced trying to blow up South Korean ports and airports with nuclear warheads during its most recent ballistic missile launches, the latest sign of Pyongyang’s anger over attempts to contain it.

North Korea launched three missiles — two short-range Scuds and one medium-range Rodong — from a launch site south of Pyongyang early Tuesday. They flew about 350 miles across the peninsula to land in the sea off the eastern coast, and South Korean military officials said the missiles had the potential to hit even the southernmost parts of their country.

The launches were part of a drill overseen by Kim Jong Un, the third-generation leader of North Korea who bears the official title of “Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army.”

The drill rehearsed “making preemptive strikes at ports and airfields in the operational theater in South Korea, where the U.S. imperialists’ nuclear war hardware is to be hurled,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday.

In response to the North’s provocations this year — a nuclear test in January and the steady stream of missiles that have followed it — South Korea has agreed to host a sophisticated antimissile system despite strong objections from China, a key trading partner.

The United States and South Korea this month finalized the details for deploying a terminal high-altitude area defense (THAAD) battery to South Korea that would be operated by U.S. forces stationed there. It is designed to intercept incoming missiles.

Han Min-goo, the South’s defense minister, told lawmakers in an emergency session Tuesday afternoon that the North’s missiles constituted a “sort of protest” against the planned THAAD deployment.

The decision also has been controversial in South Korea, particularly in the rural area of Seongju, which has been chosen as the site for the battery. Residents pelted the South Korean prime minister with eggs last week when he visited the area, about 130 miles southeast of Seoul, to try to alleviate their concerns that they would become a target for North Korea.

The North has unleashed a steady stream of invective over the South Korean government’s increasingly assertive response, and it has boasted of technological breakthroughs in its nuclear weapons program.

Tuesday’s drill simulated detonating “nuclear warheads mounted on the ballistic rockets at the designated altitude over the target area,” KCNA said.

North Korea has proved it has nuclear devices and has also shown advances in its missile program, although progress has not always been smooth. Most of the six intermediate-range Musudan missile tests carried out in recent months have been failures.

Despite North Korea’s boasts, there is considerable doubt about whether North Korea has mastered the next, difficult steps: making nuclear warheads small enough to mount on a missile, and then being able to deliver the blow. While many analysts, and a considerable number of U.S. officials, think that it is just a matter of time until the North figures it out, no evidence yet suggests that the country’s nuclear weapons program is at such a level.

But North Korea has continued to pump out statements that increase tension on the peninsula, where the two sides remain technically at war, more than 60 years after the Korean War.

“Kim Jong Un expressed great satisfaction over the successful drill,” the KCNA statement said, and he praised the soldiers for being “fully ready to carry out any order issued all of a sudden.”

In the US, Money Talks When It Comes to Israel

July 21, 2016

by Jonathan Cook


The grubby underside of US electoral politics is on show once again as the Democratic and Republican candidates prepare to fight it out for the presidency. And it doesn’t get seamier than the battle to prove how loyal each candidate is to Israel.

New depths are likely to be plumbed this week at the Republican convention in Cleveland, as Donald Trump is crowned the party’s nominee. His platform breaks with decades of United States policy to effectively deny the Palestinians any hope of statehood.

The question now is whether the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, who positions herself as Israel’s greatest ally, will try to outbid Mr. Trump in cravenly submitting to the Israeli right.

It all started so differently. Through much of the primary season, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had reason to be worried about Israel’s “special relationship” with the next occupant of the White House.

Early on, Mr. Trump promised to be “neutral” and expressed doubts about whether it made sense to hand Israel billions of dollars annually in military aid. He backed a two-state solution and refused to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On the Democrat side, Mrs. Clinton was challenged by outsider Bernie Sanders, who urged “evenhandedness” towards Israel and the Palestinians. He also objected to the huge sums of aid the US bestows on Israel.

Mr. Sanders exploited his massive support among Democrats to force Mrs. Clinton to include well-known supporters of Palestinian rights on the committee that drafts the party’s platform.

But any hopes of an imminent change in US policy in the Middle East have been dashed.

Last week, as the draft Republic platform was leaked, Mr. Trump proudly tweeted that it was the “most pro-Israel of all time!” Avoiding any mention of a two-state solution, it states: “We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier. … Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism.”

The capitulation was so complete that even the Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based apologist group for Israel, called the platform “disappointing” and urged the Republican convention to “reconsider”. After all, even Mr. Netanyahu pays lip service to the need for a Palestinian state.

But Mr. Trump is not signaling caution. His two new advisers on Israel, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, are fervent supporters of the settlements and annexation of Palestinian territory.

Mr. Trump’s running mate, announced at the weekend, is Indiana governor Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian and a stalwart of pro-Israel causes.

So why the dramatic turnaround?

Candidates for high office in the US need money – lots of it. Until now Mr. Trump has been chiefly relying on his own wealth. He has raised less than $70 million, a fifth of Mrs. Clinton’s war-chest.

The Republican party’s most significant donor is Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and close friend of Mr. Netanyahu. He has hinted that he will contribute more than $100 million to the Trump campaign if he likes what he sees.

Should Mr. Netanyahu offer implicit endorsement, as he did for Mitt Romney in the 2012 race, Christian Zionist preachers such as John Hagee will rally ten of millions of followers to Mr. Trump’s side too – and fill his coffers.

Similar indications that money is influencing policy are evident in the Democratic party.

Mr. Sanders funded his campaign through small donations, giving him the freedom to follow his conscience. Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, has relied on mega-donors, including some, such as Haim Saban, who regard Israel as a key election issue.

That may explain why, despite the many concessions made to Mr. Sanders on the Democratic platform, Mrs. Clinton’s team refused to budge on Israel issues. As a result, the draft platform fails to call for an end to the occupation or even mention the settlements.

According to The New York Times, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers are vetting James Stavridis as a potential running mate. A former NATO commander, he is close to the Israeli defense establishment and known for his hawkish pro-Israel positions.

Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, has promised to use all her might to fight the growing boycott movement, which seeks to isolate Israel over its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory.

The two candidates’ fierce commitment to Israel appears to fly in the face of wider public sentiment, especially among Democrats.

A recent Pew poll found 57 per cent of young, more liberal Democrats sympathized with the Palestinians rather than Israel. Support for hawkish Israeli positions is weakening among American Jews too, a key Democratic constituency. About 61 per cent believe Israel can live peacefully next to an independent Palestinian state.

The toxic influence of money in the US presidential elections can be felt in many areas of policy, both domestic and foreign.

But the divorce between the candidates’ fervor on Israel and the growing doubts of many of their supporters is particularly stark.

It should be dawning on US politicians that a real debate about the nation’s relationship with Israel cannot be deferred much longer.














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