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TBR News July 24, 2014

Jul 24 2014

The Voice of the White House

           Washington, D.C. July 24  2014: “Given the grotesque international news, may I postulate a possible scenario for the very near future?

The United States, balked in their territorial and political adventures in the Ukraine, are now turning their eager eyes towards the oil-rich Arctic, like the Crimea, mostly occupied by Russians.

Determined to terrify that country, Washington has been pressuring Canada to allow a massive influx of American military personnel to occupy yet-to-be-built Arctic-fronting bases.

The Canadians, mindful that these completely undisciplined soldiers will immediately begin a campaign of rape and looting among the seal population, have objected to this occupation.

At the height of diplomatic dung-tossing, some joker cranks up a five foot wingspan RC high-wing monoplane he has painted jet black and sends it across the Washington Mall in the direction of the White House.

As it is very difficult to judge size from the ground, there are frantic warnings flying all over the capital; the President and his family are rushed into the basement bomb shelter; hundreds of overweight and panting White House employees are  seen scurrying away from the building, clutching pictures of their relatives and small cactii in pots. On the roof, the anti-aircraft batteries have their concealing air conditioner covers ripped off and the weaponry manned and ready.

The approaching small plane is spotted and the roof erupts like Mt. Etna, showering all of areas east of the building with exploding shells and rockets.

The plane, too small a target for the anti-aircraft barrage, clips a tree in the White House grounds, flips up and crashes. Since the owner filled the fuselage with plastic bags of milk sugar, there is white powder scattered all over the grounds.

Twenty three people, including seven in a special-needs school bus, are killed by falling anti-aircraft rockets and later, lumbering men in hazmat suits spend hours cleaning up the harmless milk sugar.

In the White House, a livid and still trembling President and many right-wing Senators are blaming the Canadians and the President declares sanctions against that country while in Saskatchewan, a flight of US jet fighters obliterates the town of Moose Junction, killing all the inhabitants, because absolutely accurate information from the CIA has indentified it as a hotbed of anti-US resistance.

And to add insult to injury, American troops pour out of attack helicopters and land on remote Canadian northern islands, in clear defiance of Canadian objections. Unfortunetely, a large mass of starving polar bears attack and eat many of the Champions of Liberty and American Justice and survivors are gang-raped by Eskimo tribesmen.

And by Presidential Order, all RC aircraft are declared illegal, milk sugar cannot be bought without a government permit and new sanctions also include Canadian bacon

And here is a list of invasions by American troops in order to improve the quality of life of so many needy countries:


China 1945-46
Korea 1950-53
China 1950-53
Guatemala 1954
Indonesia 1958
Cuba 1959-60
Guatemala 1960
Belgian Congo 1964
Guatemala 1964
Dominican Republic 1965-66
Peru 1965
Laos 1964-73
Vietnam 1961-73
Cambodia 1969-70
Guatemala 1967-69
Lebanon 1982-84
Grenada 1983-84
Libya 1986
El Salvador 1981-92
Nicaragua 1981-90
Iran 1987-88
Libya 1989
Panama 1989-90
Iraq 1991
Kuwait 1991
Somalia 1992-94
Bosnia 1995
Iran 1998
Sudan 1998
Afghanistan 1998
Yugoslavia – Serbia 1999
Afghanistan 2001
Libya 2011 “

The New Meaning of ‘Isolationism’: How an epithet becomes a compliment

July 23, 2014

by Justin Raimondo,


 Washington, D.C., is a world unto itself: inside the bubble, where politicians and their kept pundits endlessly massage each others’ egos (and bank accounts), the world is America’s oyster, to be greedily gulped and washed down with a swig of the Imperial City’s most popular intoxicant – hubris. Oblivious to the unwholesome spectacle of their ongoing public orgy, the Bourbons of the foreign policy establishment ignore growing hostility emanating from us peasants in flyover country – to their peril.

Let’s look at the numbers. While the downing of MH17 has politicians in both parties calling for direct US intervention in Ukraine, a recent poll of voters in battleground states has a pathetic 17 percent agreeing with them – and more than double that opposed. While the poll was taken before this latest ginned up “crisis,” most Americans aren’t paying the least bit of attention to the war propaganda coming out of Washington – they are tuning it out just as they have steadfastly ignored the neocons’ recent call to arms urging us to re-invade Iraq. Bill Kristol’s assessment that Americans are just waiting to be “rallied” to the cause underscores the delusional blindness not only of the neocons but of the entire foreign policy establishment, which routinely pushes grandiose projects normal Americans scoff at. The Politico poll puts a mere 19 percent in favor of Commander Kristol’s Iraqi expeditionary force.

The tone-deafness of our political class when it comes to foreign policy was underscored by a recent trip to Kentucky by newly-elevated Republican majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Goldman Sachs). Asked what he thought about Sen. Rand Paul’s nascent presidential campaign, McCarthy said he could support Paul if nominated but made a point of distancing himself from the Kentucky Senator’s increasingly visible opposition to Washington’s foreign policy of global meddling:

“I see what’s happening in the world. Do not think if you’re an isolationist… I do not think that’s a strength for America. I think there’s a reason why America should lead. I think it makes the world safer. It makes America safer. I think being president of the United States, you should be strong.”

The recent rash of attacks on “isolationism” by leading Republican warmongers is doing nothing but making us isolationists more popular than ever – and is turning what is supposed to be a marginalizing epithet into a compliment and a political asset for politicians like Sen. Paul. I have news for the Majority Leader: Americans want to be isolated from the violence and chaos of a wacked-out world. Not only that, but they resist the superior “wisdom” of Washington know-it-alls who say such a policy is neither practical nor possible.

If the new meaning of “isolationism” is that one doesn’t want the country fighting other peoples’ wars, then ordinary people in this country will increasingly embrace it – no matter how many times John McCain and Peter King liken anti-interventionists like Paul to such half-forgotten historical figures as Charles Lindbergh. Insofar as Americans vaguely recall the Lone Eagle, they remember his transatlantic flight, not his views on US entry into World War II. And I think most Americans would be shocked by the assumption that we’re on the cusp of yet another world conflict: they are smart enough to know that not every conflict is the equivalent of a global holocaust that killed over 60 million – and naïve enough to be shocked that some people want nothing more than to blow every international incident into the occasion for a world war. If disbelief in this dark vision is “isolationism,” then the overwhelming majority are for it.

Senator Paul clearly sees this, which is why he is putting his supposedly un-Republican foreign policy views front and center, taking on McCain, Christie, Rubio, and calling out the neocons by name. As the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier reports:

“Paul doesn’t see his positions as revolutionary or politically risky. In fact, he thinks it’s the folks who are calling him an isolationist who are out of step with the rest of the country.

“’I think there’s a disconnect between the American people and Washington,” Paul said Monday. ‘Washington often lags a decade behind American opinion. I think I’m actually where the people are, and it’s going to take everybody else awhile to figure this out.’

“To make his case, Paul points to Iraq, noting the neocon voices who are saying the U.S. should send troops, or in some cases, never should have left.

“’They’re outliers,’ Paul said. ‘They are somewhere on the extreme end of the spectrum because that’s not where the majority of the American people are.’”

“Outliers” is one way to put it, but since this is a family-friendly web site I’ll refrain from getting more specific. Most Americans may be unfamiliar with the arcane lingo of Washington-speak, but they do know who and what a neocon is, and what they know is bad news for the War Party.

McCarthy opines that Sen. Paul may become more “educated,” i.e. talked out of his more angular stances by, presumably, the Republican donor class, who agree with the new Majority Leader that “our friends don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us.” What this misses is the commonsensical view of the man-in-the-street, who knows we don’t have any real “friends” – due not only to the nature of the world we live in, but also because we’re so good at making enemies.

McCarthy is right about one thing, however: “Whoever gets through the primary,” he avers, “I think foreign policy will be a very strong element.” To which the Courier reporter adds: “What’s telling at this point is that both Paul and his critics think that’s a good thing.”

As Daniel Larison points out in The American Conservative, “If some Republicans still respond favorably to boilerplate hawkish claims, just as many now seem to be rejecting them.” I would go further and baldly assert the majority of GOP’ers are just as sick of the neocons’wars as the rest of the country, if not more so. Falling back on the assumption that GOP primary voters are as reflexively warlike as the editorial staff of the Weekly Standard may prove to be the War Party’s fatal error.

A recent Pew poll graphed a stunning reversal of what it means to be on the “right” and on the “left” in terms of foreign policy: Pew found 71 percent of “steadfast conservatives” want to focus more at home than overseas, with Republican-leaning “young outsiders” generally agreeing and only “business conservatives” (i.e. the crony capitalist-ExIm Bank crowd) dissenting. This is the winning coalition Sen. Paul is hoping to mobilize.

What’s surprising – and really kind of sad, actually – is the same poll shows both the “next generation left” and “solid liberals” as enthusiastic interventionists, with the “faith and family left” and liberal “hard-pressed skeptics” siding with conservative opponents of global interventionism.

Let’s hope Sen. Paul is right about the political class lagging at least a decade behind the American people – a decade in which an entire generation has grown up without ever knowing peace – and pray they don’t wake up in time to realize how badly they’re losing.

Like the Bourbon queen who trilled “Let them eat cake!” as the peasant masses seethed, the Republican grandees who think they can wield their vaunted veto power over the 2016 nominee may be in for quite a surprise. Unfortunately, they will evade Marie Antoinette’s fate, but at least they’ll suffer it figuratively. The beheading of the beastlike war-god, and his Washington-based priesthood, is going to be a spectacle worth waiting and working for.

            And I, like Madame Defarge, will sit up front, knitting and nursing a smile.



from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2014, Issue No. 48

July 22, 2014






In 2000, both houses of Congress passed legislation that would have made any leak of classified information a felony.

The provision, contained in the FY2001 intelligence authorization act, was designed “to ensure the prosecution of all unauthorized disclosures of classified information.” said Sen. Richard Shelby, the primary sponsor of the provision, at the time.

While some unauthorized disclosures of classified information were already prohibited by statute (including the Espionage Act), others have not been specifically outlawed, or else their legal status is uncertain, requiring strenuous efforts by prosecutors to fit a prohibition to the presumed offense. The Shelby provision would have removed all ambiguities and would have simply criminalized all leaks of classified information.

But to the astonishment of nearly everyone, and to the relief of many, President Clinton vetoed the 2001 intelligence authorization bill because of the anti-leak measure.

“Although well intentioned, that provision is overbroad and may unnecessarily chill legitimate activities that are at the heart of a democracy,” he wrote in his November 4, 2000 veto message.

But that unexpected outcome almost didn’t come to pass.

Instead of a veto, White House lawyers had prepared draft signing statements for President Clinton in which he would have approved the bill, while expressing some reservations about its potential impact.

The draft signing statements were released by the Clinton Presidential Library last week. The newly disclosed presidential documents were first noted by Josh Gerstein in Politico on July 18.

“I strongly believe… that this new provision should not be applied in a manner that could chill legitimate activity or transform questions of judgment into criminal referrals,” according to the draft signing statement for President Clinton that was ultimately set aside in favor of a veto of the bill.

The worst effects of the anti-leak measure could be avoided by the limited, judicious use of prosecutorial authority, White House lawyers initially suggested.

“It is extraordinarily important, therefore, that the Justice Department use its prosecutorial discretion wisely when apparently unauthorized disclosures are referred to it for possible prosecution under this new provision,” the draft signing statement said.

Prosecutorial discretion often seems to be in short supply, however, and in all likelihood it would not have been an effective bulwark against abuse of the vetoed anti-leak provision, had it passed into law.

An apparent excess of zeal in the prosecution of classified document (mis-)handling was highlighted just last week in the case of Navy contract linguist James F. Hitselberger, who had been charged with multiple felonies in connection with the unlawful retention of national defense information. Earlier this year, Mr. Hitselberger pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor. Last Thursday, he was sentenced to time already served (in pre-trial custody) and a fine of $250.00.





New publications from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public distribution include the following.


U.S. Sanctions on Russia in Response to Events in Ukraine, July 18, 2014


Use of Force Considerations in Iraq, July 15, 2014


The Kurds and Possible Iraqi Kurdish Independence, July 15, 2014


Unaccompanied Alien Children: A Processing Flow Chart, July 16, 2014


District of Columbia: Marijuana Decriminalization and Enforcement; Issues of Home Rule and Congressional Oversight, July 17, 2014


Improving Health Care Access for Veterans: H.R. 3230, July 16, 2014


FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act: Selected Military Personnel Issues, July 16, 2014


“Black Boxes” in Passenger Vehicles: Policy Issues, July 21, 2014

All Pentagon operations in the U.S. and abroad are threatened by climate change, according to a Defense Department official.

July 22, 2014

by Laura Barron-Lopez

The Hill


            “The effects of the changing climate affect the full range of Department activities, including plans, operations, training, infrastructure, acquisition, and longer-term investments,” Daniel Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for strategy and force development, told senators at a hearing on Tuesday.

 “By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Department can keep pace with the impacts of changing climate patterns, minimize effects on the Department, and continue to protect our national security interests,” Chiu added.

Chiu testified before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the implications of energy and climate change policies.

Given the perceived threats, Chiu said climate change is playing a key role in international efforts.

“We plan to more fully integrate the impacts of climate change into our humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and other exercise plans,” Chiu said.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) ranking member on the subcommittee, challenged the notion that climate change issues must play a key role abroad.

Barrasso railed against the Obama administration’s international climate change programs from 2010 to 2012, which he said cost the U.S. taxpayer $7.5 billion that should have been spent on fighting terrorism and aggression in the Middle East or Eastern Europe.

“Folks in my home state of Wyoming would call this spending wasteful and irresponsible at best, especially as our friends and allies struggle with violent, deadly crises that have real implications for our security,” Barrasso said.

Russia’s energy stranglehold on Ukraine, which received global attention after the annexation of Crimea, shows no end in sight, and has drummed up concern among U.S. lawmakers over U.S. energy security and where, if at all, climate change should be included in energy talks.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said the two issues are linked more now than ever when it comes to international conflicts and U.S. foreign policy.

“Two major factors have emerged in the modern era that act to strain the strands of stability until they snap; climate change and energy security,” Markey said on Tuesday.


Concrete facts are not necessary’ – Obama administration makes blacklisting air passengers easier than ever

July 23, 2014



A never-before-published document released by The Intercept on Wednesday reveals the flexibility with which United States officials may place individuals on watchlists and deem them terrorists without obtaining concrete proof.

The 166-page document, the “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” suggests that the US government relies on “a secret process that requires neither ‘concrete facts’ nor ‘irrefutable evidence’ to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist,” journalists Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux wrote this week.

According to an excerpt of the lengthy but unclassified document, the guideline was “developed to help standardize the watchlisting community’s nomination and screening process,” which federal agencies implement when encountering persons that officials may believe are linked to terroristic activity.

The document suggests that those officials have a wide breadth with regards to evaluating suspects, however, and that one White House official even has the power to unilaterally place “entire categories” of people onto lists that may bar those individuals from traveling by air. The Obama administration, the journalists claim, “quietly approved a substantial expansion” of the list last year, allowing more individuals to be targeted than before with less evidence than before.

Elsewhere, the document contains verbiage which reveals that individuals may be targeted by the feds and placed on such lists without the government relying on any evidence to support claims that those persons present a serious risk.

“In determining whether a REASONABLE SUSPICION exists, due weight should be given to the specific reasonable inferences that a NOMINATOR is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience and not on unfounded suspicions or hunches. Although irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary, to be reasonable, suspicion should be as clear and as fully developed as circumstances permit,” one excerpt reads.

In another part of the document, the journalists write, “uncorroborated” social media postings are considered fair game when it comes to deciding whether or not to place a person on such a watchlist.

“Single source information,” the guidelines state, “including but not limited to ‘walk-in,’ ‘write-in,’ or postings on social media sites, however, should not automatically be discounted … the NOMINATING AGENCY should evaluate the credibility of the source, as well as the nature and specificity of the information, and nominate even if that source is uncorroborated.”

Furthermore, in other instances federal agents may elect to nominate someone to be placed on a watchlist due to the contents of their pockets at the time of being searched, according to the report, and specifically requests that “any cards with an electronic strip on it (hotel cards, grocery cards, gift cards, frequent flyer cards)” by analyzed by officials.

Responding to The Intercept ahead of Wednesday’s publication, Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberty’s National Security Project said that “Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future.”

“On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi said. “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”

And although the document is not classified as top-secret, US Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in an affidavit, according to The Intercept, that the Watchinglist Guidance “contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”


The Boomerang Effect: Sanctions on Russia Hit German Economy Hard

July 21, 2014

by Matthias Schepp and Cornelia Schmergal



The United States and Europe last week announced the imposition of stronger sanctions against Russia in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. German industry may be among the losers.It wasn’t that long ago that Kremlin officials could hardly avoid laughing when asked about the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West. As long as every NATO member state jealously sought to protect its own business interests, things “weren’t all that bad,” they gloated.

But since last week, their moods have darkened. For months, the European Union in particular had been reluctant to enact effective penalties against Moscow. Last Wednesday, though, the 28 EU heads of state and government cleared a psychological hurdle: For the first time, they opted go beyond sanctions targeting individual political leaders in Moscow, adding prohibitions against doing business with specific Russian companies that contribute to the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine. A concrete list is to be presented by the end of the month. European development banks have also been banned from providing loans to Russian companies.

The US, for its part, penalized a dozen leading Russian conglomerates, including oil giant Rosneft, natural gas producer Novatek, Gazprombank and the weapons manufacturer Kalashnikov. From now on, they are forbidden from borrowing money from American monetary institutions and from issuing medium- and long-term debt to investors with ties to the US.

For the companies involved, the penalties are a significant blow. It has become difficult to acquire capital in Russia itself, with both domestic and foreign investors withdrawing their money from the country in recent months. It is hardly surprising, then, that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke of a return to the Cold War and President Vladimir Putin warned that sanctions “usually have a boomerang effect.”

Even prior to the sanctions, the Russian economy had been struggling. Now, though, the Ukraine crisis is beginning to make itself felt in Germany as well. German industry’s Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations believes that the crisis could endanger up to 25,000 jobs in Germany. Were a broad recession to befall Russia, German growth could sink by 0.5 percent, according to a Deutsche Bank study.


Significant Risks


The most recent US sanctions, warns Eckhard Cordes, head of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, have placed an additional strain “on the general investment climate.” Particularly, he adds, because European companies have to conform to the American penalties.

By last Thursday, just a day after the US sanctions were announced, the German-Russian Foreign Trade Office in Moscow was besieged by phone calls from concerned German companies who do business with both the US and Russia. The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimate that up to a quarter of German companies that do business abroad could be affected. And the risks are significant, with large fines threatening those who violate the American sanctions, whether knowingly or not.

Stefan Fittkau, who heads the Moscow office of EagleBurgmann, the Bavaria-based industrial sealing specialists, says company sales have already plunged by 30 percent. “Orders have been cancelled or delayed — or we simply don’t receive them anymore,” he says. Novatek, Russia’s second largest natural gas company, for example, had hired EagleBurgmann to take care of seals at a vast liquefied natural gas facility on the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. Now, though, doing business with Novatek is no longer allowed.



Radical Steps


The inclusion of Rosneft on the list also affects more than a dozen German companies: The construction firm Bilfinger maintains facilities for Rosneft, for example, while Siemens received a €90 million contract to supply turbines and generators. “In the end, both sides, the Russians and the Europeans, will lose,” says Frank Schauff, head of the Association of European Businesses in Moscow.

Already, the uneasiness can be seen in the Ifo Business Climate Index. One in three of the companies surveyed at the end of June said it expected adverse effects. “Russian customers have begun looking for suppliers outside of Europe,” says Ulrich Ackermann, a foreign trade expert with the German engineering association VDMA. “They are concerned that European companies, because of the threat of increased sanctions, won’t be able to deliver.”

Even prior to the latest sanctions, business has been slowing in almost all sectors. The Düsseldorf-based energy giant E.on, for example, recently built power stations in Russia worth €9 billion. Most of the generators are already online, but because the economy in Russia is suffering, the returns are much lower than forecast. Volkswagen is a further example. The carmaker’s sales figures for 2014 are 10 percent lower than they were last year. Opel’s figures dropped by 12 percent during the first five months of the year.

Already, Opel has been forced to take a radical step. In St. Petersburg, where the Astra is manufactured, the company shut down the assembly lines recently for several weeks.


 Translated from the German by Charles Hawley

Online ‘fingerprinting’ stalking web users, nearly impossible to block

July 22, 2014



At least five percent of the internet’s top 100,000 websites are using a new kind of online tracking system – one which essentially takes a “fingerprint” of your computer via its web browser.

What’s more, the software – known as canvas fingerprinting – is nearly impossible to block using conventional privacy tools.

According to a new report by ProPublica, the curtains over canvas fingerprinting will officially be lifted in a forthcoming paper authored by researchers at Princeton University and Belgium’s KU Leuven University.

Here’s how it works: When you visit a website that features such tracking technology, the site asks your browser to “draw a hidden image.” Since every computer renders the image in a different way, that drawing is used to label your device with a unique number that allows trackers to keep an eye on your browsing activity across the internet.

Although there is more than one type of canvas fingerprinting, the most widely used software is developed by AddThis, and is reportedly used on popular websites like Whitehouse.gov, online dating site PlentyOfFish, CBS, and even YouPorn (a list of known sites using the software can be found here).

An AddThis spokesperson also said that it did not inform the websites in question when it put its tracking technology in place. After ProPublica’s original article was published, a YouPorn spokesperson said the website was unaware the app was tracking users and has removed AddThis functionality.

AddThis chief executive Rich Harris stressed that the company does not use canvas fingerprinting for anything other than ad targeting and personalization, and that users can stop their data from being used for advertising or marketing by installing a specific opt-out cookie on their computers. This would not stop AddThis from collecting data, however; it would simply stop them from using it to custom-tailor ads for you.

The company also said it does not use any data it gathers from government websites. So far, it claims to have only used data for “internal research and development.”

Still, the fact that all users have to rely on is a promise from AddThis “is not the best privacy assurance,” said Princeton computer science professor Arvind Narayanan, who helped lead the research team responsible for uncovering the system.

If opting out is not a satisfactory option on its own, you’re left with a few different possibilities. You could download the Tor browser, which helps users avoid numerous types of online tracking, or you could block JavaScript from loading in your browser, which ProPublica notes could make many websites not work properly.

There’s also a browser in the works called Chameleon, which is specifically designed to block fingerprinting, but at this stage is only recommended for “tech-savvy users.”

AddThis is reportedly contemplating ending its test of the tracking tech soon because “it’s not uniquely identifying enough.”



Government agents ‘directly involved’ in most high-profile US terror plots

Human Rights Watch documents ‘sting’ operations: Report raises questions about post-9/11 civil rights


July 21, 2014

by Spencer Ackerman in New York

The Guardian 


Nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the “direct involvement” of government agents or informants, a new report says.

Some of the controversial “sting” operations “were proposed or led by informants”, bordering on entrapment by law enforcement. Yet the courtroom obstacles to proving entrapment are significant, one of the reasons the stings persist.

The lengthy report, released on Monday by Human Rights Watch, raises questions about the US criminal justice system’s ability to respect civil rights and due process in post-9/11 terrorism cases. It portrays a system that features not just the sting operations but secret evidence, anonymous juries, extensive pretrial detentions and convictions significantly removed from actual plots.

“In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act,” the report alleges.

Out of the 494 cases related to terrorism the US has tried since 9/11, the plurality of convictions – 18% overall – are not for thwarted plots but for “material support” charges, a broad category expanded further by the 2001 Patriot Act that permits prosecutors to pursue charges with tenuous connections to a terrorist act or group.

In one such incident, the initial basis for a material-support case alleging a man provided “military gear” to al-Qaida turned out to be waterproof socks in his luggage.

Several cases featured years-long solitary confinement for accused terrorists before their trials. Some defendants displayed signs of mental incapacity. Jurors for the 2007 plot to attack the Fort Dix army base, itself influenced by government informants, were anonymous, limiting defense counsel’s ability to screen out bias.

Human Rights Watch’s findings call into question the post-9/11 shift taken by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies toward stopping terrorist plots before they occur. While the vast majority of counterterrorism tactics involved are legally authorized, particularly after Congress and successive administrations relaxed restrictions on law enforcement and intelligence agencies for counterterrorism, they suggest that the government’s zeal to protect Americans has in some cases morphed into manufacturing threats.

The report focuses primarily on 27 cases and accordingly stops short of drawing systemic conclusions. It also finds several trials and convictions for “deliberate attempts at terrorism or terrorism financing” that it does not challenge.

The four high-profile domestic plots it found free of government involvement were the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing; Najibullah Zazi’s 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway; the attempted Times Square carbombing of 2010; and the 2002 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport’s El Al counter.

But the report is a rare attempt at a critical overview of a system often touted by the Obama administration and civil libertarian groups as a rigorous, capable and just alternative to the military tribunals and indefinite detention advocated by conservative critics. It comes as new pressure mounts on a variety of counterterrorism practices, from the courtroom use of warrantless surveillance to the no-fly list and law enforcement’s “suspicious activity reports” database.

In particular, Human Rights Watch examines the extent and impact of law enforcement’s use of terrorism informants, who can both steer people into attempted acts of violence and chill religious or civic behaviour in the communities they penetrate.

Linda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, a social services agency, told the Guardian she almost has a “radar for informants” sent to infiltrate her Brooklyn community.

While the FBI has long relied on confidential informants to alert them to criminal activity, for terrorism cases informants insert themselves into Muslim mosques, businesses and community gatherings and can cajole people toward a plot “who perhaps would never have participated in a terrorist act on their own initiative”, the study found.

Many trade information for cash. The FBI in 2008 estimated it had 15,000 paid informants. About 30% of post-9/11 terrorism cases are considered sting operations in which informants played an “active role” in incubating plots leading to arrest, according to studies cited in the Human Rights Watch report. Among those roles are making comments “that appeared designed to inflame the targets” on “politically sensitive” subjects, and pushing operations forward if a target’s “opinions were deemed sufficiently troubling”.

Entrapment, the subject of much FBI criticism over the years, is difficult to prove in court. The burden is on a defendant to show he or she was not “predisposed” to commit a violent act, even if induced by a government agent. Human Rights Watch observes that standard focuses attention “not on the crime, but on the nature of the subject”, often against a backdrop where “inflammatory stereotypes and highly charged characterizations of Islam and foreigners often prevail”.

Among the informants themselves there is less ambiguity. “It is all about entrapment,” Craig Monteilh, one such former FBI informant tasked with mosque infiltration, told the Guardian in 2012.

Informants, the study found, sometimes overcome their targets’ stated objections to engage in terrorism. A man convicted in 2006 of attempting to bomb the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan told an informant who concocted the plot he would have to check with his mother and was uncomfortable planting the bombs himself. One member of the “Newburgh Four” plot to attack synagogues and military planes – whose case is the subject of an HBO documentary airing on Monday – told his informant “maybe my mission hasn’t come yet”.

Once in court, terrorism cases receive evidentiary and pre-trial leeway rarely afforded to non-terrorism cases. A federal judge in Virginia permitted into evidence statements made by a defendant while in a Saudi jail in which the defendant, Amed Omar Abu Ali, alleged torture, a longstanding practice in Saudi Arabia. The evidence formed the basis for a conviction, and eventually a life sentence, for conspiracy to assassinate George W Bush. Mohammed Warsame, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, was held in solitary confinement for five years before his trial.

Another implication of the law-enforcement tactics cited the report is a deepening alienation of American Muslims from a government that publicly insists it needs their support to head off extremism but secretly deploys informants to infiltrate mosques and community centers.

“The best way to prevent violent extremism inspired by violent jihadists is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence. And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family,” Obama said in a high-profile 2013 speech.

Yet the Obama administration has needed to purge Islamophobic training materials from FBI counterterrorism, which sparked deep suspicion in US Muslim communities. It is now conducting a review of similar material in the intelligence community after a document leaked by Edward Snowden used the slur “Mohammed Raghead” as a placeholder for Muslims.

France hits back after UK condemns Russia Mistral ship deal

July 23, 2014



France’s foreign minister has accused the UK of double standards following its criticism of the Russian Mistral warship deal. Referring to Russian oligarchs in the UK, he said that Britain must tend to its own backyard before attacking French policies.

Following the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine, British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Paris for its plan to go ahead with the delivery of Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. Cameron stressed that the move would be “unthinkable” in Britain.

“The English in particular were very pleasant so to speak saying we would never do that, but I told my dear British friends let’s talk about the financial sector,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told TF1 television after a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels.

“I am led to believe that there are quite a few Russian oligarchs in London,” he added, as quoted by Reuters.

When asked whether he meant that the UK must first address its own business, Fabius replied: “Exactly.”

On Monday, French President Francois Hollande said the plan to deliver the Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia would go forward, despite calls from the US and UK. The first ship is nearly completed and will be presented in October.

“The Russians have paid. Should we repay 1.1 billion euros if the boat was not delivered to the purchaser?” he asked while speaking to reporters late on Monday – the night before an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss tougher sanctions on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.

“For the time being, a level of sanctions has not been decided on that would prevent this delivery,” he said. “The contract was signed in 2011, the boat is almost finished and should be delivered in October.”

France will be the first NATO country to supply Russia with military equipment. Under the 1.2 billion euro contract (US$1.6 billion) signed by Russian defense exporting company Rosoboronexport and French DCNS in June 2011, Russia is to receive two Mistral-class helicopter carriers.

The head of Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, told iTélé television on Tuesday that “Hollande is not backing down.”

“He is delivering the first (ship) despite the fact he is being asked not to…This is a false debate led by hypocrites…When you see how many (Russian) oligarchs have sought refuge in London, David Cameron should start by cleaning up his own backyard,” he continued.


US President Barack Obama expressed concern in June about France continuing significant defense deals with Moscow, following Crimea’s accession to Russia in March. He said that it “would have been preferable to press the pause button” on the deal.

On Monday, a senior US administration official reiterated that Washington has not changed its stance and continues to oppose the deliveries.

However, it is not yet clear whether France will go through with the delivery of the second ship, which is planned for the end of next year.

“Does that mean that the rest of the contract – the second Mistral – can be carried through? That depends on Russia’s attitude,” Hollande said on Monday evening.

Ukraine: Anvil of the New Cold War

To understand the present crisis over downed Malaysian flight MH17, we need to look at the roots of the new Cold War.

July 21, 2014

by Tom Hayden

The Nation


The Cold War is perhaps not even remembered by this generation of Americans, beyond dim and distorted traces. Yes, the power alignments in the world have shifted, for example, by the rise of the BRICS and their opposition to Western finance capital. And yes, the rise of China offsets the demise of the old Soviet Union. The Vatican is no longer battling “godless communism.” Communism itself is a spent force.

But no new global paradigm has come to dominance and, in that vacuum, the old Cold War premises arise to fill the chatter-boxes of our media and cultural mentality.

Ukraine is the anvil on which the new Cold War thinking is heating up.

It’s impossible to understand the roots of the current Ukraine crisis over the downed airliner without understanding the past, but the past is remembered as cliché on all sides. We can agree, however, that the “new” Cold War began when Western strategists sought to expand their sphere of influence all the way eastward across the Ukraine to Russia’s border. That push, which seemed like the spoils of Cold War victory to the Western triumphalists, ignored two salient realities. First, eastern Ukraine was inhabited by millions of people who identified with Russia’s language, culture and political orientation. Second, since it was believed that the Soviet Union was “defeated”, the assumption was that Russia lacked the will and capacity to fight back. Though both assumptions were proven wrong on the battlefield in Georgia in 2008, the machinery of the West never stopped churning and expanding.

Eventually, Russia took back Crimea by force, in an offensive that was entirely predictable but seemed to shock the Western mind. Ukraine was broken along historic ethnic lines. For a brief moment, it appeared that a power-sharing arrangement might be negotiated. There was no reason that Putin would send Russian troops to war over the eastern Ukraine if peaceful coexistence was achievable. Putin accepted the ascension of a new pro-Western elected president in Kiev and called for a cease-fire and political settlement. But as often happens in proxy wars, the proxies drove the dynamics. Ukraine’s army marched east, claiming a sovereignty that the Russian-speakers refused to accept. Putin’s allies—the so-called “pro-Russian separatists”—refused to surrender and complained loudly that the Russians weren’t giving them enough support.

In the Western narrative, these Russian-speakers weren’t really Ukrainian at all, or they were Russians in disguise, or pawns of Moscow. That designation humiliated and angered them. In the Western PR offensive, the Russians trained them, advised them and perhaps even directed them to shoot down the airliner. And, of course, those alleged Russian agents were carrying out the orders of the Kremlin. Putin is hardly wrong when he says the catastrophe would not have happened if his calls for a cease-fire were heeded. Instead, a ten-day cease-fire was terminated by Kiev on June 10, surely with US support. No one has asked whether the US government lobbied with Kiev to extend the cease-fire instead of pressing their offensive eastward. The New York Times reported that “Ukraine’s President, Petro O. Poroshenko, let the latest cease-fire lapse and ordered his military to resume efforts to crush the insurrection by force.” If he had extended the cease-fire instead, the plane would not have been shot down.

It is insane for anyone to believe that Putin would want to shoot down a plane carrying over 200 hundred Europeans at a time when the European Union was debating whether to join the United States in imposing harsh sanctions on Moscow. What makes more sense is that no one in an official capacity anywhere wants to take the blame for an unplanned moral, political and diplomatic catastrophe. If Putin bears responsibility for the chain of escalation, so does Kiev and the West. In the meantime, the West will continue freezing its Cold War position and Ukraine’s armed forces will take their war towards the Russian border unless higher authorities restrain them. No one has asked if Western forces are advising or embedded with the Ukrainian military. Either way, the Kiev fighters can advance all they desire, but they cannot pacify the east or predict Russia’s next move. If they march into a trap, will the US feel obligated to dig them out?

The inevitable tightening of Western sanctions will push Russia to exploit the economic contradictions between the United States and European nations like Germany, and make Moscow increase its links with the BRICS countries, especially the Chinese powerhouse. As a sign of Russia’s trajectory, just before the airliner shootdown, Putin visited Latin America, where he promptly forgave 90 percent of Cuba’s $32 billion massive debt to the Russians, ending a two-decade dispute. Then Putin toured six countries and sat down to dinner with four Latin American presidents. The irony barely was noticed. The purpose of the 1960 US policy towards Cuba was to separate the island from the Soviet sphere of interest. Now it is the United States which is increasingly isolated diplomatically in its “backyard” while Cuba is secure in a new Latin America with Russian support. If Cold War thinking prevails, the Obama administration will continue funding illegal “democracy programs” aimed at subverting the Cuban state. That could persuade some in the Cuban leadership to resist normalization with the States, continuing a Cold War standoff of many decades.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, America’s heralded new “pivot” to China is stalled in deep contradictions. Lacking any alternative to the Cold War model, the US is dangerously close to fighting two.

The question for progressives is how to construct a compelling alternative to the Cold War model as much of the world slides towards a new Dark Age of class struggle, climate crisis and religious fundamentalism appearing on many continents.


Flight MH17 Crash Resulted From Ukraine’s Disregard of ICAO Regulations


July 24, 2014

RIA Novosti



MOSCOW,– The Ukrainian government is responsible for the tragic Malaysia Airlines plane crash as Kiev is under binding international legal obligations articulated in the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and ICAO regulation DOC 9554/932.

Ukraine ratified the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation in 2003, which automatically classifies Ukraine as a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with all the associated legal obligations applicable upon signing.

An amendment to the Chicago Convention, the so-called Article 3bis, obliges the signatories to “refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight,” as such behavior goes out of line with the standards and norms regulating cross-country interactions. Hence, no country can use ongoing military confrontation on its territory as a right to attack a commercial plane or other types of civil aircraft

Additionally, the ICAO clearly defines in its Manual Concerning Safety Measures Relating to Military Activities Potentially Hazardous to Civil Aircraft Operations, that “the responsibility for initiating the co-ordination process rests with the States whose military forces are engaged in the conflict,” pursuant to Paragraph 10.2 of the respective international agreement. In other words, safe passage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 through Ukrainian airspace should have been coordinated well in advance, as stipulated in the manual.

Better yet, incomplete coordination or lack thereof does not relieve the state of its safety obligations, as “the responsibility for instituting special measures to ensure the safety of international civil aircraft operations remains with the states responsible for providing air traffic services in the airspace affected by the conflict, even in cases where coordination is not initiated or completed.” This excludes any loophole that might be used by Ukraine to evade being held accountable for the tragedy.

A Malaysia Airlines plane heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed July 17 near the city of Donetsk in Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. United Nations, Russia and heads of several countries stressed an importance of a transparent international investigation to determine the circumstances and causes of the accident.

Meanwhile, Kiev accused the independence supporters in the turbulent Donetsk Region of downing the passenger plane with a surface-to-air missile. The leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic said local militia did not have the means to shoot down a target at flying at such a high altitude.

In a July 21 briefing, representatives of the Russian military released some of the data gathered as part of the probe into the July 17 crash, stating that Russian monitoring systems detected up to four Ukrainian Buk M1 air defense systems in the vicinity of the crash on the day of the accident. Compounded with increased activity of Ukrainian radars and a military aircraft approaching the passenger plane sometime before the disaster, it looks like Kiev has more questions to answer.

While the investigation into the crash is still underway, Kiev’s breach of international agreements provoking the tragedy can hardly be denied.


Iron Dome is ineffective, MIT prof claims

July 23, 2014



BOSTON — An MIT security expert says that Israel’s famed Iron Dome missile defence system is flawed, with a success rate of under five percent.

An analysis posted on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, thebulletin.org, by Theodore Postol, a professor of science technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, indicates that Israel’s low casualty rates are due to the widespread availability of shelters and to the country’s early warning system, as well as the relatively small size of Hamas rockets.

Postol based his analysis on photo and video evidence as well as an analysis of Israeli insurance claim data.

Postol has previously criticized the Iron Dome system. In 2013, the Israeli Institute of National Security Studies rebutted his criticism, saying it was “dubious research without access to credible data,” according to a report by the International Business Times. Israel reportedly has claimed to have a 90 percent success rate in intercepting missiles.

Postol has responded that if the missile system matched Israeli claims, the government would make available the data to prove it.

In his post on bulletin.org, Postol wrote, “In the absence of Israeli data backing claims of Iron Dome efficiency, and based on the unambiguous evidence I have reviewed, a conclusion seems clear: The Israeli government is not telling the truth about Iron Dome to its own population, or to the United States, which has provided the Israeli government with the bulk of the funding needed to design and build the much-heralded but apparently ineffective rocket-defense system.”


$200 per barrel oil if Russia sanctions escalate- Oxford Economics

July 23, 2014



            If the standoff with Russia and the West reaches a point where the EU has to completely cut trade with Russia, oil prices could soar above $200 per barrel, sparking a global economic crisis, says Adam Slater, senior economist at Oxford Economics.

Cutting off trade with Russia, the world’s second largest oil exporter, would create a shortage in global energy supplies, which would have spillover effects into Europe, Slater told the Guardian.

“In such a scenario, world oil prices could soar above $200 per barrel and gas prices would also rise steeply,” Slater told the Guardian.

If Russian energy is banned from Western markets, Slater estimates that Russia would lose 80 percent of its energy exports. OPEC producing countries would fill in the market gap. Major economic downturns are associated with high energy prices.

“Stage three” sanctions- similar to those Iran experienced during the last decade- would bar the West from all Russia-related business, including exports.

The EU buys 84 percent of Russian oil exports, and 76 percent of natural gas exports. About a quarter of European countries completely rely on Russia for gas or oil supplies.

As of yet, Russia hasn’t halted European gas supplied through politically unstable Ukraine, but this event itself could trigger “stage three”, or trade-specific sanctions.

“These would further damage Russia’s economy. Russia’s next moves remain uncertain but an escalation of the conflict is still a significant risk which would have potentially negative global spillovers in particular via the impact on global energy markets,” Slater said.

The EU hopes that Ukraine and Russia will settle their gas row by autumn.

The puzzle that still surrounds the shooting down of flight MH17 has unleashed a new wave of accusations against Russia.

Sanctions against Russia have been driven by the US, but Europe has been more reluctant to follow suit, since its economy is still fragile, and disruption with a close trading partner could further destabilize recovery. Russia is the EU’s third largest trading partner, and the largest economies, Germany, France, and Italy have some of the strongest ties.

The US just implemented a new round of sanctions, targeting Russia’s energy, finance, and defense sectors. On Thursday, the EU will broaden its industry-specific sanctions on Russia, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday.

The US sanctions block certain Russian companies from long-term dollar loans.



How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth

July 23, 2014

by Jason Samenow

Waashington Post


On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

            “If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

             Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth.  Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

            “I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” Baker tells NASA.  “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.”

A CME double whammy of this potency striking Earth would likely cripple satellite communications and could severely damage the power grid.  NASA offers this sobering assessment:

AdvertisementAnalysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket.  Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

CWG’s Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: “The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general.”

Solar physicists compare the 2012 storm to the so-called Carrington solar storm of September 1859, named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who documented the event.  

“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” Baker tells NASA. “The only difference is, it missed.”

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii according to historical accounts.  The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA  notes.

NASA says the July 2012 storm was particularly intense because a CME had traveled along the same path just days before the July 23 double whammy – clearing the way for maximum effect, like a snowplow.

“This double-CME traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by yet another CME four days earlier,” NASA says. ” As a result, the storm clouds were not decelerated as much as usual by their transit through the interplanetary medium.”

NASA’s online article about the science of this solar storm is well-worth the read.  Perhaps the scariest finding reported in the article is this:  There is a 12 percent chance of a Carrington-type event on Earth in the next 10 years according to Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc.

“Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct,” Riley tells NASA.  “It is a sobering figure.”

It’s even more sobering when considering the conclusion of Steve Tracton’s 2013 article: Are we ready yet for potentially disastrous impacts of space weather? Tracton’s answer: “an unequivocal, if not surprising, no!”


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