TBR News July 25, 2016

Jul 25 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. July 25, 2016:” This is rapidly becoming a decade of official deceit and public disillusion.

The issue under discussion here is MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System).

MERS, set up by the government  in 1995, now claims to be a privately-held company and their official function is stated to be ‘keeping track of a confidential electronic registry of mortgages and the modifications to servicing rights and ownership of the loans.’  MERS is actually a U.S. government initiated organization like Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac and its current shareholders include AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, WaMu, CitiMortgage, Countrywide, GMAC, Guaranty Bank, and Merrill Lynch. All of these entities have been intimately, and disastrously, involved with the so-called “housing bubble,” and were subsequently quickly bailed out by the supportive Bush administration

In addition to its publicly stated purpose of simplifying mortgage registration MERS was also set up to assist in the creation of so-called  Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and Structured investment Vehicles (SIV). The CDOs is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS) whose value and payments are derived from a portfolio of fixed-income underlying assets. CDOs securities are split into different risk classes, or tranches, which permits these entities to be minced into tiny tranches and sold off by the big investment banks to pensions, foreign investors and retail investors. who in turn have discounted and resold them over and over.

It is well-known inside the American banking institutions that these highly questionable, potentially unsafe investment packages were deliberately marketed to countries, such as China and Saudi Arabia, that are not in favor with elements of the American government and banking industry and were, and are, marketed with full knowledge of their fragility.

The basic problem with this MERS system that while it does organize the mortgage market, it also knowingly permits fiscal sausage-making whereby a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (59 million by conservative estimate) are sliced up, put into the aforesaid “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign.

This results in the frightening fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own. Because of the diversity of the packaging, it is totally and completely impossible to ascertain what person or organization owns a specific mortgage and as a result, a clear title to MERS-controlled property is impossible to get at any time, even if a mortgage is fully paid. No person or entity, has been, or never can be, identified who can come forward and legally release the lien on the property once the loan is paid.

In short, MERS conceals this fact from the public with the not-unreasonable assumption that by the time the owner of the home or business discovers that they have only been paying rent on property they can never get clear title to, all the primary parties;  the banks, the government agencies, the mortgage companies, or the title companies, will be dead and gone. MERS is set up to guarantee this fact but, gradually, little by little, mostly by word of mouth, the public is beginning to realize that their American dream of owning a house is nothing but a sham and a delusion.

The solution to this is quite simple. If a home or business American mortgage payer , goes to the property offices in their county and looks at their registered property, they can clearly see if MERS is the purported holder of the mortgage. This is fraudulent – MERS has never advanced any funds in the transaction and owns nothing. It is merely a registry. If MERS is the listed holder, the mortgage payers will never, ever, get clear title to their property.

In this case, the property occupier has two choices: They can either turn the matter over to a real estate attorney or simply continue pouring good money after bad. And is there relief? Indeed there is. In case after case (95% by record) if the matter is brought to the attention of a court of law, Federal or state, the courts rule that if the actual owner of the mortgage cannot be located after a reasonable period of time, the owner receives a clear title from the court and does not need to make any further payments to an unidentified creditor! It will stop any MERS based foreclosure mid process and further, any person who was fraudulently foreclosed by MERS, which never held their mortgage, and forced from their home can sue MERS and, through the courts, regain their lost homes.”

The Damning Hillary Documents


Today, Friday 22 July 2016 at 10:30am EDT, WikiLeaks releases 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the top of the US Democratic National Committee — part one of our new Hillary Leaks series. The leaks come from the accounts of seven key figures in the DNC: Communications Director Luis Miranda (10770 emails), National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3797 emails), Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer (3095 emails), Finanace Director of Data & Strategic Initiatives Daniel Parrish (1472 emails), Finance Director Allen Zachary (1611 emails), Senior Advisor Andrew Wright (938 emails) and Northern California Finance Director Robert (Erik) Stowe (751 emails). The emails cover the period from January last year until 25 May this year.


Democrats in disarray on eve of convention to nominate Clinton

July 24, 2016

by John Whitesides


PHILADELPHIA-The head of the Democratic Party resigned on Sunday amid a furor over embarrassing leaked emails, hoping to head off a growing rebellion by Bernie Sanders supporters on the eve of the convention to nominate Hillary Clinton for the White House.

Lingering bitterness from the heated primary campaign between Clinton and Sanders erupted after more than 19,000 Democratic National Committee emails, leaked on Friday, confirmed Sanders’ frequent charge that the party played favorites in the race.

In a statement, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the best way for the party to accomplish its goal of putting Clinton in the White House was for her to step aside after the convention. Sanders had demanded earlier in the day that Wasserman Schultz resign.

The furor was a blow to a party keen on projecting stability in contrast to the volatility of Republican candidate Donald Trump, who was formally nominated at a raucous convention in Cleveland last week.

It also overshadowed preparations in Philadelphia for Clinton’s coronation as the nominee to face Trump in the Nov. 8 presidential election. She will be the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. political party.

The four-day Democratic convention will open on Monday. In some good news for Clinton, The New York Times reported that businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will endorse her in a prime-time speech on Monday, saying she will be the best choice for moderate voters in 2016.

The cache of emails leaked on Friday by the WikiLeaks website disclosed that DNC officials explored ways to undermine Sanders’ insurgent presidential campaign, including raising questions about whether Sanders, who is Jewish, was really an atheist.

Sanders said Wasserman Schultz, a U.S. representative from Florida, had made the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party. “The party leadership must also always remain impartial in the presidential nominating process, something which did not occur in the 2016 race,” he said.


The Clinton camp questioned whether Russians may have had a hand in the hack attack on the party’s emails and were interested in helping Trump, who has exchanged words of praise with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails and other experts are now saying that Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of helping Donald Trump,” Clinton campaign chairman Robby Mook said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said the Clinton camp was trying to distract from its party discord ahead of the convention.

“What’s in those emails show that it was a clearly rigged system, that Bernie Sanders … never had a chance,” Manafort said on ABC.

Clinton, 68, a former secretary of state, and Sanders, 74, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont who ran for president as a Democrat, waged a bruising months-long battle for the nomination. Branding himself a democratic socialist, Sanders galvanized young and liberal voters with his calls to rein in Wall Street and eradicate income inequality.

But Sanders repeatedly voiced frustration with a DNC and party establishment he felt was stacked against him, and the resentment from Sanders and his supporters threatened to disrupt the convention.

“I’m not shocked but I’m disappointed,” Sanders said of the emails earlier on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The emails showed DNC officials pondering various ways to undercut Sanders. Brad Marshall, the DNC’s chief financial officer, apologized on Facebook on Saturday for an email in which he discussed how some voters in upcoming nominating contests in Kentucky and West Virginia would reject an atheist.

“He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage,” Marshall wrote in a May 5 email to three top DNC officials. No names were mentioned, but Sanders was the only Jewish candidate”I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

Clinton told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired on Sunday that she had not read any of the emails but it was “wrong and unacceptable” to bring religion into the political process.


The emails angered many Sanders supporters who were already dismayed by Clinton’s choice on Friday of low-key U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her vice presidential running mate. Kaine, 58, who could appeal to independents and moderates, has never been aligned with party liberals.

Sanders, who has endorsed Clinton and will speak on her behalf to the convention on Monday, said he would have preferred she pick U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a favorite of the party’s liberal wing, as her No. 2.

“I have known Tim Kaine for a number of years. … Tim is a very, very smart guy. He is a very nice guy,” Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“He is more conservative than I am. Would I have preferred to see somebody like an Elizabeth Warren selected by Secretary Clinton? Yes, I would have,” he said.

Carrying pitchforks meant to portray Clinton as the devil, hundreds of Sanders supporters took to the streets of Philadelphia earlier on Sunday to say they felt betrayed by the DNC.

“It just validated everything we thought, everything we believed to be true, that this was completely rigged right from the beginning, and that you know it was really about what they were doing everything to set it up so she would win,” Sanders supporter Gwen Sperling said.

DNC Vice Chairwoman Donna Brazile will serve as interim chair through the election, the DNC said on Twitter.

(Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Valerie Volcovici in Washington and Labib Nasir in Philadelphia; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)


The Hunt for Red Trump-tober

Clintonistas say Russia is behind DNC leak – and the Trump campaign

July 25, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


Julian Assange has done it again: exposed the inner workings – and crimes – of our political class, that is. This time his target is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, whose emails were hacked by a Romanian who calls himself “Guccifer 2.0,” and posted online by WikiLeaks. As revelations tumble out of the enormous data dump – e.g. DNC staffers conspired to target Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, as an “atheist” – the collusion of the party leadership with the Clinton campaign to marginalize Sanders threatens the Democrats with a potential explosion on the eve of their convention. It’s “gas meets flame,” as one Democratic party leader put it.

The Clinton campaign has responded by pushing a bizarre conspiracy theory that recalls the darkest days of the cold war: the DNC leak, they claim, is part of a plot by the Kremlin to elect Donald J. Trump President of these United States.

Yes, seriously.

Here is Clintonista-in-chief Robby Mook telling Jake Tapper that “Experts are telling us Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” Echoing neoconservative complaints that efforts to insert a call for giving Ukraine offensive weapons were scotched by the Trump campaign, Mook pointed to this as “evidence” that the Russians have infiltrated and taken over the Republican party. That’s their answer to the flood of scandal pouring out of the DNC emails – a reiteration of the plot of “The Manchurian Candidate,” with a little bit of “Red Dawn” thrown in for good measure.

Who are these vaunted “experts”? On the technical side, Mook is referring to a company being paid by the DNC to “investigate” the hacking of their server. If you think there’s a bit of a conflict of interest that throws CrowdStrike’s objectivity into question, you may be quite right. Other experts, with no financial stake in this, disagree with the widely-touted contention that the hackers were Russians or Russian agents:

“What top U.S. technologists know for sure is that at least two groups of hackers were willing to take a major risk – and make a substantial investment – to access the DNC’s network. Who is behind the attacks remains unclear – and, unfortunately, a satisfying answer isn’t likely to come any time soon.

“’Attribution is incredibly difficult – I wouldn’t say impossible, but it’s very difficult,’ Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of cybersecurity strategy at Illumio, told Time. ‘Investigations like this do not wrap up quickly and often do not wrap up at all because it’s very hard to tell where they came from.’

“Amit Yoran, the president of the cybersecurity firm RSA was also noncommittal on whether there’d ever be a smoking gun.

“’I think attribution is one of those topics that people like to rush to because it makes for sexier reporting – you want to make a meaningful story for non-technologists,’ he told Time. ‘Saying you know who was responsible makes for a very compelling story. But it’s also very hard to do well in the cyber domain, especially over a short period of time with a sophisticated actor.’ ”

Gleicher was the National Security Council’s White House cybersecurity director  – but hey, compared to Robby Mook, what does he know?

The other category of “experts” Mook cites are specialists in the fine art of smearing, like fired New Republic editor Franklin Foer, who proclaimed Putin the “real winner” of the Republican national convention, Jeff Stein at Newsweek – “Does Donald Trump have a subversive partnership with Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine?” – and Israel’s unofficial ambassador to the American media, Jeffrey Goldberg, who takes the lead in the hunt for red Trump-tober:

“The Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has chosen this week to unmask himself as a de facto agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a KGB-trained dictator who seeks to rebuild the Soviet empire by undermining the free nations of Europe, marginalizing NATO, and ending America’s reign as the world’s sole superpower.”

This election is rapidly turning into one of those unintentionally campy anti-Communist movies from the 1950s. A recent “story” in the increasingly ridiculous Daily Beast is headlined: “Trump Invites Putin to Invade Melania’s Home Town,” which brings to mind the classic 1949 film “I Married a Communist!” Only in the case of that epic, the studio were too embarrassed to release it under its original title, and changed it after the previews to “The Woman on Pier 13.” The Clinton campaign and their neocon fellow-travelers, lacking the capacity for embarrassment, have no problem with plainly enunciating their McCarthyite theme.

This tidal wave of hysterical cold war era propaganda depicts Russia – a ramshackle nation in decline, with a plummeting birth rate, a crippled economy, and a military budget that palls in comparison to that of the US and its NATO allies – as practically all-powerful. Just look at the list of recent developments and political personalities the Kremlin is said to be manipulating: not only the victory of Donald Trump, but the triumph of Brexit, the success of Jeremy Corbyn, the DNC leaks, the rise of Hungary’s Victor Orban, the rise of the European far right, the rise of the European far left, the rise of the National Front, the views of the President of the Czech Republic, and the actions of the Republican platform committee.

Like all crackpot theories, the Clintonista version of None Dare Call It Treason imbues the Russians with nearly supernatural powers: it’s Alex Jones for blue-staters.

Whenever the political class decides that someone has gone “beyond the pale,” they attack him as exemplifying “the paranoid style in American politics,” a trope invented by neocon precursor and fake-historian  Richard Hofstadter. As is so often the case, this is merely a projection of their own paranoia, which is richly mocked by the very talented  Adam Johnson in his dissection of Franklin’s Foer’s farrago of falsehoods:

“The entire premise of the piece relies on the paranoid assumption that Putin wants to “destroy the West”: ‘Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West – and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.’

“Wait, what? Putin may want to undermine the West. He may want to curb the expansion of NATO, but destroy it? Is he Magneto? This is the type of unhinged, over-the-top language that goes unchallenged when discussing the US favorite Eastern menace.”

It would be a mistake to attribute this hopped-up rhetoric to election year theatrics. It points to trends that have been building for quite a while, and will transform both the political landscape and the international scene.

As I’ve written here before, the American political spectrum periodically undergoes a switch in polarities when it comes to US foreign policy. During the 1930s and 40s, the GOP and the “right” were “isolationist,” i.e. pro-peace, and it was the “left” and the Democrats who were clamoring for US military and diplomatic intervention abroad. With the coming of the cold war, the parties and their attendant ideological movements switched sides, with the rightists calling for a military “rollback” of the Soviet bloc and the left cautioning against foreign intervention and the danger of a nuclear conflict that could destroy all life on earth. When the communist colossus fell – and was revealed to have been an empty shell all along – yet another polarity switch was in the works until the 9/11 attacks delayed the process – which is now proceeding apace.

With the ascension of Trump, who threatens to get us out of NATO, out of the Pacific, and out of the business of defending the rest of the world from itself, the Republican party – and much of the conservative movement – is rejecting the globalist conception of America as the world’s gendarme-in-chief. Yes, there’s still the aftermath of the 9/11 Effect to deal with, and the blowback from out “war on terrorism,” but you’ll note that Trump always says he’s going to pulverize ISIS “quickly”: “We’re going to do it fast!” Whether or not we should believe him is another matter: the point being that he feels obligated to pay lip service to the now established principle of an “America First” distaste for foreign meddling.

Hillary Clinton represents the exact opposite worldview: hers is a decidedly protracted interventionist vision of America’s role in the world, and she’s apparently settled on a new global bogeyman in order to rationalize her program of serial regime change: Russia. Having likened Putin to Hitler, she is now following up with her own domestic “brown scare,” which bears an eerie resemblance to the “red scare” we Baby Boomers remember with not a trace of fondness.

If and when Mrs. Clinton makes it to the White House, she and her Myrmidons will launch a new cold war that could quickly escalate into a very hot one. Once again, the threat of war with nuclear-armed Russia will be center stage, and perhaps the day is not far when American schoolchildren will once again be going through a “duck and cover” routine in the classroom, and every family will be urged to build a backyard bomb shelter.

The new era certainly has its ominous aspect, but there are also hints of sunshine behind the storm clouds. The Trumpian takeover of the GOP means the exodus of the neoconservatives – the command center of the War Party – and their re-entry into the Democratic foreign policy Establishment. We are already beginning to see this with the defection of such neocon notables as Robert Kagan and Max Boot. The abortive third party efforts of the #NeverTrump crowd didn’t amount to much anyway, and the rest of the clan will troop – however reluctantly – back to where they (or rather, their ideological forefathers) came from in the first place. As I predicted in 2007:

“For these guys, it’s rule or ruin: they don’t care about regaining control of Congress (they gave up on that distant possibility a long time ago) or saving a conservative vote on fiscal and other matters. They care about one issue and one issue only: war and more war, as far as the eye can see. When they’ve run the GOP into the ground and reduced it to a mostly regional party, they’ll abandon the dried-up husk and emigrate back to where they came from – the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party, where they can join Joe Lieberman, Joshua Muravchik, and Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative fan club in ginning up a war with Iran.”

With the tilt of the Democrats toward becoming the party of war as well as Big Government – complementary aspects of the same organizing principle – the Republicans will inevitably trend in the opposite direction. The political polarities are switching once again – and this presents the anti-interventionist movement with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Trump, for all his inconsistencies and incoherence, is defining the GOP’s line of march from this day forward, and, as he put it in his acceptance speech, it is going in one direction: “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.”

Our task now is to define what that means in terms of policy – and to defeat the new incarnation of the War Party and its neoconservative brain trust.

The Saudis & US Support IS

by Harry von Johnston, PhD


It has long been rumored that the House of Saud’s head, King Salman, has desired to rule over a Sunni Muslim empire with Saudi Arabia as the center. To this end, the king decided to get rid of his lesser Shi’ite rivals and, with the cooperation of such American interests as the CIA and elements of the American military, he caused the IS organization to be set up. Their purpose was to commence guerrilla warfare against Shi’ite countries, cause them to collapse and then set up a Sunni empire.

Syria is a Shi’ite country, allied with Russia and as Israel was most unhappy with Syria for allowing Russian surface-to-surface missiles to be transshipped across Syria to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon for eventual use against Israel, the removal of the Syrian president, Asssad, was high on their list. The so-called “US led coalition” concept is a farce. Friendly with the Saudis because of their oil, the US makes a great deal of noise about attacking IS while at the same time, conniving at supporting them. Logistical support, consisting of American weaponry, comes from Saudi Arabia.

By order of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, Interior Minister, extensive weapons systems are flown into the northern Syria and Iraqi based IS by Boeing Vertol CH-46 E helicopters, flying out of King Khalid Military City. This is a U.S. Army base in northeast Saudi Arabia. These helicopters carry a payload of 5,000 pounds and there are generally five or six deliveries a day. The Saudi helicopters refuel in IS-controlled territory and fly back to their base for another load of weapons and ammunition. IS units, armed with American weapons, with Saudi support, have wreaked havoc with the smaller Shi’ite states but if it weren’t for very effective Russian intervention, they would have taken over oil-rich Iraq and Syria long ago.

Also, the Russian interdiction of shipments of stolen Syrian oil through Turkey (where the Turkish president and members of his family were getting rich from this trade) to Israel and from there to the US. And the Russian aerial attacks on IS units have been killing CIA officers who have been training the IS personnel.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 61

July 25, 2016


The Department of Justice said last week that it received dozens of “crimes reports” concerning unauthorized disclosures of classified information each year for most of the past several years, although only 18 such referrals were made in 2015.

In a July 20 response to a Freedom of Information Act request, DOJ’s National Security Division provided the following data on the number of crimes reports — i.e., referrals of suspected violations of criminal law — involving leaks of classified information for each of the last seven Calendar Years (CY):


CY2009: 44

CY2010: 33

CY2011: 41

CY2012: 46

CY2013: 55

CY2014: 41

CY2015: 18


These data are generally indicative of the number of discrete leak episodes in each year.

Only a fraction of such leak referrals ever lead to an investigation, DOJ told Congress in 2010 and only a fraction of the investigations result in criminal prosecution.

“In most cases, the information included in the referral is not adequate to initiate an investigation. The most typical information gap is a failure to identify all those with authorized access to the information, which is the necessary starting point for any leak investigation.”

“When this information is sufficient to open an investigation, the FBI has been able to identify suspects in approximately 50% of these cases over the past 5 years [i.e. 2005-2009]. Even when a suspect is identified, though, prosecution is extremely rare,” DOJ said then.

A crimes report regarding a classified leak to the media is usually accompanied by a DOJ Media Leak Questionnaire, describing the nature of the unauthorized disclosure, its origin, accuracy, significance and scope of dissemination.

In the era of the mass leak, the number of individual leak episodes does not bear any correlation to the volume of classified material that has been disclosed. So the large Manning releases of 2010 and the Snowden releases of 2013 do not clearly stand out in the new DOJ tabulation. The number of leak referrals also does not provide an indication of the magnitude of damage to national security, if any, that resulted from the leaks.

While unauthorized disclosures of classified information are often prized by reporters as indispensable for independent national security journalism, they can be cause for trepidation among the government officials who have to manage their consequences.

The 1978 book Legend by Edward Jay Epstein “contained enough details to pinpoint [KGB officer Alexei] Kulak as an American agent,” wrote David E. Hoffman in his book The Billion Dollar Spy (Doubleday, 2015, p. 58). As a result, CIA had to immediately prepare an exfiltration plan to get its agent out of the Soviet Union. “If the KGB followed up on details in the book and arrested him, Kulak would certainly face charges of treason, punishable by death.” As things turned out, “Kulak was not discovered and later died of a heart attack” without having left his country. But due to the compromise of information about him, Hoffman wrote, “CIA had lost Kulak as an intelligence source.”

A 1995 New York Times story about “dirty assets” — i.e., intelligence sources who themselves have been involved in criminal activity — is said to have led to the death of another American agent (this could not be independently confirmed by Secrecy News). In response to pleas from government officials, “Some identifying details were omitted [by the New York Times], but way too many weren’t,” wrote former CIA acting general counsel John Rizzo in his memoir Company Man (Scribner, 2014, p. 151).

“It is the only leak I can remember that indisputably caused the death of a CIA source,” wrote Rizzo.

Rio Athlete’s Village ‘not ready’ as Olympians move in

The head of the Australian Olympic team has described blocked toilets and exposed wiring at athletes’ residences. The lack of preparedness has dealt yet another blow ahead of next month’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

July 25, 2016


Brazil has faced criticism for the state of its Athletes Village, where more than 18,000 athletes and coaching staff will be hosted during the international sporting competition in Rio de Janeiro next month.

Australia’s Olympic team on Sunday complained of uninhabitable and unsafe rooms and refused to check in.

“Problems included blocked toilets, leaking pipes, exposed wiring, darkened stairwells where no lighting has been installed and dirty floors in need of a massive clean,” said Kitty Chiller, who heads the Australian team.

During a test of the facility involving taps and toilets operating on multiple floors of the new complex, “water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was ‘shorting’ in the electrical wiring,” Chiller added.

“This is my fifth Olympics Games, I have never experienced a village in this lack of state of readiness at this point in time,” she said.

New Zealand and the UK team also complained about their accommodations, although the latter has decided to remain at the complex.

Low ticket sales, public apathy, Zika fears

The lack of preparedness at the Athletes Village has dealt another blow to the Rio Summer Games, which is struggling with low ticket sales, public apathy amid a deep recession, fears over the Zika virus and a spike in street crime.

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, meanwhile, has tried to dismiss the matter through humor, according to local media reports.

“We are going to make the Australians feel at home here. I’m almost putting a kangaroo out front to jump for them,” he said.

He added that the village in Rio was “more beautiful and better” than the one in Sydney, when Australia hosted the 2000 Olympics.

Malicious computers caught snooping on Tor-anonymized Dark Web sites

Misbehaving hidden service directories are scattered around the world.

July 22,2016

by Dan Goodin

ARS Technica

The trust of the Tor anonymity network is in many cases only as strong as the individual volunteers whose computers form its building blocks. On Friday, researchers said they found at least 110 such machines actively snooping on Dark Web sites that use Tor to mask their operators’ identities.

All of the 110 malicious relays were designated as hidden services directories, which store information that end users need to reach the “.onion” addresses that rely on Tor for anonymity. Over a 72-day period that started on February 12, computer scientists at Northeastern University tracked the rogue machines using honeypot .onion addresses they dubbed “honions.” The honions operated like normal hidden services, but their addresses were kept confidential. By tracking the traffic sent to the honions, the researchers were able to identify directories that were behaving in a manner that’s well outside of Tor rules.

“Such snooping allows [the malicious directories] to index the hidden services, also visit them, and attack them,” Guevara Noubir, a professor in Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science, wrote in an e-mail. “Some of them tried to attack the hidden services (websites using hidden services) through a variety of means including SQL Injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), user enumeration, server load/performance, etc.”

There’s no evidence the malicious relays were able to identify the operators or visitors of the hidden sites or monitor the plain-text traffic passing between them. But the researchers from Northeastern can’t rule out those possibilities, either. Both SQL and XSS exploits can reveal a wealth of sensitive information on servers containing administration or configuration errors or vulnerabilities that aren’t publicly known. What’s more, more than a quarter of the rogue directories also functioned as exit nodes, a status that allowed the malicious relays to view all unencrypted traffic.

To create a misbehaving directory, an operator would have to first modify the code provided by Tor to add logging capabilities, making it unlikely the snooping was inadvertent or the result of some sort of glitch. Professor Noubir presented his findings on Friday at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium in Germany along with Amirali Sanatinia, a PhD student who also participated in the research.

The research is only the latest indication that Tor can’t automatically guarantee the anonymity of hidden services or the people visiting them. Last year, FBI agents cracked open a Tor-hidden child pornography website using a technique that remains undisclosed to this day. In 2014, researchers canceled a security conference talk demonstrating a low-cost way to de-anonymize Tor users following requests by attorneys from Carnegie Mellon, where the researchers were employed. Tor developers have since fixed the weakness that made the exploit possible.

More than 70 percent of the snooping hidden services directories were hosted on cloud services, making it hard for most outsiders to identify the operators. In some cases, the directories didn’t visit honion services immediately. Instead, they waited days before probing the honeypots, most likely in an attempt to remain undetected. In a paper accompanying Friday’s presentation, the researchers from Northeastern wrote:

Most of the visits were just querying the root path of the server and were automated. However, we identified less than 20 possible manual probings, because of a query for favicon.ico, the little icon that is shown in the browser, which the Tor browser requests. Some snoopers kept probing for more information even when we returned an empty page. For example, we had queries for description.json, which is a proposal to all HTTP servers inside Tor network to allow hidden services search engines such as Ahmia, to index websites. One of the snooping HSDirs (5.*.*.*:9011) was actively querying the server every one hour asking for a server-status page of Apache. It is part of the functionality provided by mod status in Apache, which provides information on server activity and performance. Additionally, we detected other attack vectors, such as SQL injection, targeting the information_schema.tables, username enumeration in Drupal, cross-site scripting (XSS), path traversal (looking for boot.ini and /etc/passwd), targeting Ruby on Rails framework (rails/info/properties), and PHP Easter Eggs (?=PHP*-*-*-*-*).

The paper also contains a detailed description of the way the researchers deployed their network of honions.

“The Tor Project people are aware of this problem and have been working on resolving it,” Noubir told Ars. “The long-term solution is a new design for hidden services. They also have volunteers who are tracking [malicious directories] but with a different technique/methodology” from the one he and Sanatinia used.

A representative for the Tor Project told Ars most employees were traveling and not immediately available to comment.

Turkey keen for mention in G20 communique, but rejected

July 24, 2016


Turkey wanted the final communique of the world’s financial leaders meeting in China this weekend to include an endorsement of the current government after the failed coup attempt last week, but did not succeed, G20 officials said.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek, attending the meeting, denied Ankara had sought such a reference, tweeting: “We have no such initiative.”

But European Commissioner for Economic Affairs confirmed on Sunday that Turkey had sought such a mention.

“It is true that Turkey wanted a line on that, that was debated in the drafting sessions but the minister, after talking to a few of us, estimated that it was wiser not to raise this issue in the G20 session itself. That was wise,” Moscovici told a news conference.

Finance ministers and central bank governors from 20 of the world’s biggest economies (G20) met in the Chinese city of Chengdu to discuss, among others, risks to the global economic outlook, clouded by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

The Turkish government, which introduced a state of emergency on Wednesday after the failed coup and is considering bringing back the death penalty for the plotters, wanted the final communique of the G20, closely watched by markets, to include a paragraph on Turkey.

“Strengthening the rule of law is fundamental for sustainable development and we support the legitimate government of Turkey in its endeavours to enhance economic stability and prosperity,” the additional paragraph of the G20 was to say.

Officials from European Union countries, however, did not support that and the final communique did not mention Turkey.

Western countries backed Turkey’s government during last week’s failed putsch, but are increasingly worried about Ankara’s subsequent crackdown against thousands of members of the security forces, judiciary, civil service and academia.

The possibility of Turkey bringing back capital punishment for the plotters has put further strain on Ankara’s relationship with the EU, which Turkey seeks to join but which demands candidates forego the death penalty.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Additional reporting by Gareth Jones in Istanbul; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

U.S. Media Blames Putin Conspiracy for Homegrown Trump Phenomenon

Trump is whichever villain the media wants him to be.

July 20, 2016

by Adam Johnson


Donald Trump is the media’s favorite excuse to bash Official U.S. Enemies. His Rorschach politics that shift almost weekly allows overworked writers to project onto Trump whatever traits they need to make an analogy stick (and deadline met).

Over the past year Trump has been Nicolas Maduro, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Saddam Hussein, an African dictator, Bashar al-Assad, Bernie Sanders, Fidel Castro, Ayatollah Khomeini, Hugo Chavez (a dozen times!), Mao Zedong, a Chinese communist (present day), a Chinese communist (1980s), Caligula, Rodrigo Duterte, Jeremy Corbyn, Pinochet, Norse god Loki, Brexit, Napoleon, Barry Goldwater, Mussolini, Nero, Andrew Jackson, Voldemort, Groucho Marx, Adolf Hitler, Moqtada al-Sadr, Joseph Goebbels, L. Ron Hubbard, King George III, Richard Nixon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Basically the entire cast of Game of Thrones, Batman vs. Superman, and Donald Trump himself. Twice.

The Daily Beast alone has accused Trump of simultaneously being a communist, a fascist, an Iraqi Shia cleric, an Iranian Shia cleric, a Republican president from the ’70s, a Russian president from the present, a Roman emperor, and a cult leader.

Put simply, Trump is whomever we need him to be.

And the most popular—and geopolitically convenient—person pundits need him to be is Russian “strongman” Vladimir Putin. The liberal hawks who comprise a great deal of the Democratic and media establishment love nothing more than to use far-right boogeymen like Trump as a means of bashing foreign enemies, and Putin satisfies this impulse with little effort or imagination. Trump bad, Putin bad, both vain and ideologically unpredictable, the takes practically write themselves. Above all, the Trump-bashing as a means of mocking Official Enemies permits one to appear anti-fascist and anti-racist while still properly ingratiating oneself to the NatSec crowd. For careerist center-left pundits it’s a win/win with no downside; thus its ubiquity.

With regard to Putin, this trope has been taken one step further. Not only is Trump similar to Putin, he is now secretly plotting with him. This innuendo-laden take reached new lows with a Slate piece earlier this month by Franklin Foer, a fellow at the U.S. State Department-funded (see, guilt-by-association is fun) New America:

Putin’s Puppet: If the Russian president could design a candidate to undermine American interests—and advance his own—he’d look a lot like Donald Trump.

The entire premise of the piece relies on the paranoid assumption that Putin wants to “destroy the West”:

Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.

Wait, what? Putin may want to undermine the West. He may want to curb the expansion of NATO, but destroy it? Is he Magneto? This is the type of unhinged, over-the-top language that goes unchallenged when discussing the U.S.’ favorite Eastern menace.

Note, the author never outright says Trump is actually “Putin’s puppet,” only that they have been nice to each other in the past and Trump’s nominal lack of hostility toward Russia serves the interests of Putin. But the provocative headline and political attack ad-like scary black-and-white photos of a menacing Putin leering behind Trump let the reader’s mind fill in the blanks. Indeed, if you’re trying to link two people who have never actually met, just photoshop them together. That’s how photojournalism works, right?

The primary complaint of the piece is that Trump and some of his advisers have overlapping business interests in Russia. But this, of course, is true of Clinton with several countries. The problem isn’t the underlying issue of conflicts of interests (an otherwise serious problem), it’s who those conflicts are with. This is a political issue, not an ethical one, rendering Putin-Trump pearl-clutching arbitrary at best and hypocritical at worst.

Is it possible that Putin prefers Trump? Of course, it is. But the gap between other countries leaders liking a candidate and secretly controlling them is light years wide. On Monday, liberal hawk Jon Chait of New York Magazine took it one step further, asking the positively Alex Jones-esque question: “Is Donald Trump Working for Russia?”

The article went on to do what any YouTube conspiracy theory video does: make a lot of innuendo, show a few links and use a “hey, I’m just asking questions” framing. Chait doesn’t actually think Trump is working for Russia, but it doesn’t matter. Donald Trump wanted to take some bellicose language out of the RNC platform aimed at Russia and this is a gesture that can only be done by someone who is a secret FSB agent. Never mind that by removing support for lethal aid to the pro-U.S. Ukrainian government the RNC’s position is now exactly that of President Obama’s. Chait had Cold War paranoia to sow and a candidate to mock.

Huffington Post joined the “Putin controls Trump” drumbeat Tuesday with “The Real Winner at the GOP Convention Is Vladimir Putin,” co-authored by Akbar Shahid Ahmed who writes for the Global Post, a joint partnership between Huffington Post and the billionaire-funded pro-EU think tank Berggruen Institute:

Who’s to blame for the tensions between Putin and the West? Weak Europeans, for failing to deal with their continent’s problems, and President Barack Obama, for failing to make Putin respect him. Add in, of course, anyone who has a problem with Putin’s persistent support for the dictator of Syria, a man Trump sees as an “A”-grade leader despite his responsibility for the rise of the Islamic State group and the ongoing refugee crisis, and others who dispute Putin’s cleverly twisted depiction of American foreign policy.

First, it should be noted the link that supposedly shows Trump saying Assad is a “grade A” leader is 100% false. ABC is mixing up, either deliberately or accidentally, something Trump said about Putin, not Bashar al-Assad.

Here’s what ABC wrote:

“I think in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A and our president is not doing so well,” Trump said of al-Assad during an interview with Fox News in September.

While this “mix up” may seem relatively benign, it displays how little fact-checking or thoroughness goes on when one is using the Trump spectacle to fan the flames of Cold War rhetoric.

The piece went on to repeat a claim that Trump adviser Michael Flynn has “quite literally been on the payroll of Moscow” for taking a speaking fee from RT, a staunchly pro-Russian government cable network. By this standard, any pundit or journalist who has taken a speaking or appearance fee from RAND, Voice of America, the Urban Institute, New America Foundation, Brookings Institution or dozens of other think tanks and media outlets has “quite literally” been on the payroll of Washington since the U.S. government provides funds for these organizations. But it doesn’t matter since the same standards, as we know, don’t apply to both governments because only one is uniquely clever and sinister.

It’s important to be clear because this point will be lost on many: none of this is to defend Flynn or Putin or Trump because this trope isn’t really about any of them. It’s about policing foreign policy consensus and piling on anyone who comes close to deviating from it. Russia is an enemy of the U.S. and must be uniformly seen as such or those making gestures of rapprochement must be stooges or spooks.

Again, conspiracy theories that would never pass editorial muster are entirely routine when written about Official U.S. Enemies. One theory, casually repeated in a New York Times op-ed in September of last year, that the 1999 Moscow attacks were FSB false-flag attacks so Putin could have a pretext to invade Chechnya, sounds strangely similar to popular conspiracy theory stateside that would have one blackballed from proper company. American editorial standards when it comes to bashing Russia, it seems, are in direct proportion to the tensions between our two countries.

It bears repeating once more, for those who will invariably (and likely deliberately) misread this piece, this is not at all a defense of Putin, nor is it a defense of Trump, who is indeed a xenophobic, sexist, racist demagogue. But a secret plot by Russia is not needed for an American leader to possess such qualities. And the assumption that it is, just as with those who blamed Putin for Brexit, displays an arrogance and denialism on the part of Western media about their own countries’ faults. Certainly our otherwise tolerant and liberal political discourse could never breed such an extremist, right? No, clearly it must be a foreign influence.

Like delusional middle-class parents convinced their drug dealer son is being corrupted by hip hop, Western media needs Russia to explain away its inability to keep its own house in order. In this case the U.S.’ own well-documented history of racism, xenophobia and chauvinism that, inevitably, vomited out the Trump spectacle. Blaming this entirely homegrown problem on Putin is an all-too-convenient trope and one that isn’t any less convincing when couched in ostensibly liberal, pro-Democratic Party trappings.

Turkey detains 42 journalists in crackdown as Europe sounds alarm

July 25, 2016

by Seda Sezer and Daren Butler


ISTANBUL-Turkey ordered the detention of 42 journalists on Monday, broadcaster NTV reported, under a crackdown following a failed coup that has targeted more than 60,000 people, drawing fire from the European Union.

The arrests or suspensions of soldiers, police, judges and civil servants in response to the July 15-16 putsch have raised concerns among rights groups and Western countries, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is capitalizing on it to tighten his grip on power.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker questioned Ankara’s long-standing aspiration to join the EU.

“I believe that Turkey, in its current state, is not in a position to become a member any time soon and not even over a longer period,” Juncker said on French television France 2.

Juncker also said that if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty – something the government has said it must consider, responding to calls from supporters at public rallies for the coup leaders to be executed – it would stop the EU accession process immediately.

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004, allowing it to open EU accession talks the following year, but the negotiations have made scant progress since then.

Responding to Juncker’s comments, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Haberturk TV that Europe cannot threaten Turkey regarding the death penalty.

Erdogan has declared a state of emergency, which allows him to sign new laws without prior parliamentary approval and limit rights as he deems necessary. The government has said these steps are needed to root out supporters of the coup and won’t infringe on the rights of ordinary Turks.

NTV reported that among the 42 journalists subject to arrest warrants was well-known commentator and former parliamentarian Nazli Ilicak.

State-run Turkish Airlines fired more than 100 employees, including management and cabin crew, Turkish media reported.


Erdogan has accused U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has many followers in Turkey, of masterminding the coup plot. In his first decree since the state of emergency was declared, Erdogan ordered the closure of thousands of private schools, charities and foundations with suspected links to Gulen, who denies involvement in the coup.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, says the coup may have been orchestrated by Erdogan himself.

Turkey wants the United States to extradite the cleric. Washington has said it will do so only if there is clear evidence.

Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that ties with Washington will be affected if it fails to extradite Gulen. He said he would hold meetings with political and judiciary officials during a coming visit to the United States.

Erdogan has accused Gulen, his former ally, of attempting to build a “parallel network” of supporters within the military, police, judiciary, civil service, education and media with the aim of toppling the state.

“They are traitors,” Erdogan told Reuters in an interview last week. He described Gulen’s network as “like a cancer” and said he would treat them like a “separatist terrorist organization” and root them out, wherever they may be.

Gulen denies the allegations.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday that authorities had taken around 13,000 people into custody over the coup attempt, including 8,831 soldiers. He promised they would have a fair trial.

Rights group Amnesty International said it had received credible evidence of detainees being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since the coup attempt.

Erdogan has extended the maximum period of detention for suspects from four days to 30, a move Amnesty said increased the risk of torture or other maltreatment of detainees.

The government has said there would be no backtracking on human rights and has ruled out torture and curfews in the state of emergency.


Ankara is increasingly expressing frustration over what it says in the lack of solidarity from Western partners in the aftermath of the coup.

Western countries pledged support for democracy in Turkey, but have also expressed concern over the scale of subsequent purges of state institutions.

Last week, the minister for EU affairs chided Western countries for not sending any representatives to demonstrate their solidarity with Turkey since the failed coup.

On Sunday, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin took to the opinion pages of the New York Times to defend Turkey’s actions.

“Several thousand military officers and their accomplices in law enforcement and the judiciary have been suspended or arrested for having links to the coup. Their removal from public posts makes the Turkish government stronger and more transparent,” he wrote, adding that at least 1,200 rank-and-file soldiers have been released so far.

He also dismissed claims that Erdogan had orchestrated the coup in order to launch a crackdown.

“The claim that this was a fake coup is no more credible than the laughable claim that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the United States.”

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul; Ece Toksabay in Ankara and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Michael Georgy and David Stamp)

 Syrian bomber at German music festival was set to be deported, police say

July 25, 2016

by Anthony Faiola and Stephanie Kirchner

The Washington Post

BERLIN — German authorities probed the background Monday of a Syrian bomber who was scheduled to be deported and set off an explosive-laden backpack outside a music festival, killing himself and wounding 12 others in the latest violence to rock Europe.

Police were still assessing possible motives behind the late Sunday bloodshed and whether the 27-year-old Syrian had any links to Islamist terror groups. But he had twice tried to commit suicide, officials said, suggesting a history of mental instability.

Interior Ministry spokesman Tobias Plate said the man was set to be deported to Bulgaria.

The incident marked the fourth bloody attack in seven days in Germany, with all but one — a mall shooting on Friday by an German teenager of Iranian descent — involving recently arrived asylum seekers.

In Sunday’s attack, the assailant detonated a backpack bomb near the entrance of the music festival in southern Germany after he was refused entry, officials said. About 2,500 people were rapidly evacuated from the festival in Ansbach, which also hosts a U.S. military base.

The device used was rigged with metal projectiles normally used in woodworking, according to Elke Schönwald, spokeswoman of the police in Nürnberg, which were handling the case.

The explosion went off near a wine bar toward the entrance of the music festival. Witnesses described a scene of chaos and fear that has become all too familiar in Germany and neighboring countries following a string of deadly attacks.

“We just went outside briefly because we wanted to have an ice cream and a drink and shortly after we heard a muffled bang,” Christian Hartdeck, an eyewitness, told reporters on the scene. “We were all petrified. A few people came running towards us who had been near the cafe. . . . A few people had been hit by tiles that had fallen off a roof” because of the blast.

In a nation grappling with massive backlog of hundreds of thousands of asylum applications, the attack prompted a chorus of voices critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial decision to welcome refugees and others during a huge surge into Europe last year.

Although the wave of migrants has sharply diminished this year due to a deal with Turkey to prevent them from entering Europe, more than 1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany last year, many with minimal security checks.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann — a strong critic of Merkel’s welcome mat— told reporters at a news conference Monday that in his view the incident was “an Islamist suicide attack.”

“It’s horrible that someone who came into our country to find protection carries out such a gruesome deed,” he told reporters. “It’s probably just due to lucky circumstances in the end that more people haven’t died.”

Officials said the bomber had also been detained for drug possession and other minor offenses.

The incident came only two days after a troubled Iranian-German teenager went on a shooting rampage in a Munich shopping mall, leaving 10 people dead, including himself.

On Sunday, another Syrian asylum seeker was arrested in the town of Reutlingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, after allegedly using a machete to kill a Polish woman who had apparently rejected his romantic advances.

On July 18, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic Sate was shot dead after attacking and injuring five people on a train in Wuerzburg, also in southern Germany.

The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the July 14 attack in Nice, France, when a 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a cargo truck to kill 84 people and wound dozens more.

Ukraine, after war, becomes a trove for black market arms trade

July 25, 2016

by Alessandra Prentice and Anton Zverev


SLOVIANSK, Ukraine/MOSCOW-On Feb. 12 last year, the same day that a ceasefire ended the worst of the fighting in eastern Ukraine between rebels and government forces, a former rebel fighter seized a chance to turn his inside knowledge of the conflict into hard cash.

He traveled to a spot on the Russian-Ukrainian border where he retrieved a cache of weapons hidden there earlier by his comrades in the pro-Russian rebel movement.

Four days later, shortly before 6:00 p.m., he and a friend showed up in a taxi at a fuel station in western Russia where they had arranged to meet a contact ready to buy the arms, according to Russian court documents.

He and the friend opened the trunk of the taxi, and began transferring the cargo into the buyer’s vehicle. Concealed in a sports bag and a rucksack were three automatic weapons, 1,258 bullets, 20 grenades, and 20 detonators for the grenades.

The buyer was an undercover police officer and the former rebel, identified in the court documents as Y.V. Mikhailov, was sentenced this year to two and a half years in jail.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine between the Moscow-backed separatists and Ukraine’s pro-Western government killed hundreds of people, displaced thousands of residents and created a Cold War-style stand off between Moscow in the West.

It also had another consequence that is less visible but could in time prove equally dangerous: the conflict took huge amounts of arms out of government arsenals and put them in the hands of irregular units unable to properly control them.

Now the fighting has subsided, according to security officials and experts on the arms trade, the weapons are getting into the hands of criminals and being spirited to buyers well beyond the conflict zone.

Interviews by Reuters with security officials and rebels, as well as study of law enforcement data and court documents have shown that weapons are being channeled out of the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine in significant numbers, in some cases as part of an organized underground trade.

“Of course, they have moved arms across, and they’re moving them across now,” Igor, a fighter with a pro-Russian rebel unit in eastern Ukraine told Reuters in an interview. “Mainly they take Kalashnikovs,” he said.


When, in the spring of 2014, the armed rebellion started in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, police and soldiers abandoned their bases.

That left the rebel militias to pillage the stores where Ukraine — one of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers – kept its sizable arsenal.

Meanwhile on the pro-Ukrainian side, because the army was in near-collapse, irregular militias were formed, some of them only loosely part of the chain of command, and they were given, or scavenged, weapons from official supplies.

While the fighting raged, the weapons stayed in the conflict zone. In February 2015, the sides in the conflict agreed a ceasefire. The fighting did not stop, but the intensity subsided, and weapons started leaking out of the battlefield.

Official data is patchy but what figures there are indicate the problem is getting worse. The number of prosecutions for weapons offences so far this year in Ukraine is double the amount for the whole of 2015, according to the general prosecutor’s office.

In many cases, the cause is negligence. Irregular units often do not keep proper control of the weapons in their inventories or fail to make soldiers surrender their guns when they go on leave.

“It’s mostly people taking them home for the sake of it,” said Serhiy Alyoshin, the chief of police in the town of Sloviansk, which is on the edge of the conflict zone and controlled by Kiev.

“Some say ‘I forgot’, some say ‘It’s for fishing’ or ‘It’s a present for a friend’ and then we hear about these things blowing up in apartments, in yards and on the street. It’s a threat to national security.”

In some cases, Ukrainian security officials said, irregular pro-government units set up private weapons caches to avoid surrendering their arms to the authorities in Kiev, whom they do not trust.

In March this year, the police force in Sloviansk uncovered a cache of weapons and explosives in the back of a garage filled with cardboard boxes and household junk.

In police footage seen by Reuters, officers laid the weapons and explosives out on the ground. There were at least three anti-tank rocket launchers, several rockets, hundreds of bullets, around 15 hand grenades and two anti-tank mines.


But there is evidence too of criminal intent to smuggle weapons out for sale to organized crime groups.

“Of course, anyone who has the will and the means can get into the business – organized criminal groups have always traded weapons,” said Olena Hitlyanska, a spokeswoman for Ukraine’s State Security service, or SBU. “Now the channel for buying these illegal weapons has widened,” she said.

“In past years we seized pistols and rifles that people had in their own collections or for hunting. Now grenade launchers are seized, and blocks of TNT.”

Igor, the rebel fighter, said there was now a well-organized trade in illegal weapons from eastern Ukraine into Russia.

“If before they shipped whatever came to hand, now it happens in a more orderly fashion, practically by appointment,” said Igor, who asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of reprisals for speaking about the trade.

In one rebel unit “they practically keep a list of who will take the iron across the border and when,” he said, using a slang term for weapons.

He said the weapons were smuggled from rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine into Russia via illegal border crossings.

He said much of the smuggling was done by rebel fighters from Chechnya and Ingushetia, in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, who ship the weapons back home.

A spokesman for the rebel administration in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Eduard Basurin, said about arms smuggling: “Maybe at one point it was present, but that this is being done in an orchestrated way, that’s rubbish.”


So far, there is little evidence of where the weapons smuggled out of the Ukraine conflict zone end up.

In May, Ukrainian border guards detained a 25-year-old Frenchman with ties to far-right groups in France who was trying to cross from Ukraine into Poland with weapons including rocket launchers and Kalashnikov assault rifles in his Renault van.

Ukraine’s SBU said the man had made contact with armed militias in Ukraine and inquired about buying arms from them. When they found out about this, the SBU said its agents sold the man deactivated weapons.

But that case appears to be an outlier. The illegal arms trade in western Europe — where the items most in demand are small quantities of light firearms — is dominated by supplies from ex-Yugoslavia, and it is unlikely Ukrainian weapons would be able to break into that market.

Instead, most of the weapons from Ukraine will be destined for other conflict zones in places such as Iraq, Syria and Libya where there is a demand for heavy weapons in large enough quantities to make it worthwhile for black market arms dealers.

Mark Galeotti, an expert on ex-Soviet organized crime, said some of those Ukrainian weapons would be transported through the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa, then into the Mediterranean, some south through the Balkans, and some through Russia’s North Caucasus region.

“Usually it is relatively easy to get a pistol or anything up to an assault rifle,” said Galeotti, senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague.

“But it is much harder to get an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) or a machine gun or the boring things like spare parts for the above. You actually need to have a proper war for these sorts of things to become available and, lo and behold, you have a proper war,” he said.

“At the moment you have, from the criminals’ point of view, a wonderful opportunity.”

(Additional reporting by Jason Bush, Wiktor Szary and Christian Lowe; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Peter Graff)


The ‘darknet’ and Munich murder weapon

German police have said that the 18-year-old Munich gunman had procured his weapon through an online black market site. British journalist Jamie Bartlett tells DW about the murky world of black market e-commerce.

July 25, 2016


German police have said that the 18-year-old Munich gunman had procured his weapon through an online black market site. British journalist Jamie Bartlett tells DW about the murky world of black market e-commerce.

USA Waffengeschäft Blue Ridge Arsenal

The ‘ darknet’ is a secure sphere where people can exchange information and currency anonymously that’s often exploited by criminals. In an interview with DW, UK writer Jamie Bartlett explains that while the darknet can be a haven for criminality it also has legitimate functions as well.

Deutsche Welle: German investigators have posited that the 18-year-old gunman in Munich bought his weapon on a so-called darknet marketplace. What are darknet markets and how do they work?

Jamie Bartlett: Darknet markets are anonymous marketplaces. There are only a few thousand of them which are accessed with an anonymous web browser called Tor. They buy and sell more or less anything, much like Amazon or eBay, and are highly competitive, highly functional marketplaces with all the trappings of an e-commerce site. They are used I think for drugs purchases, maybe hundreds of thousands of them every year. Far less commonly sold are things like guns, though they are bought and sold there. But it’s very, very difficult to get to the bottom of how many. People go there to buy these items that you couldn’t easily access and they use a crypto-currency, a Bitcoin, to buy things and they get delivered to people’s addresses much like Amazon or eBay. The only difference is that they all take place under the guise of anonymity.

How can a darknet market in practical terms actually ship a complete weapon to a customer? Wouldn’t the size and weight of such a shipment attract the attention of police or – when it comes to cross-border-trade – of customs officials.

That’s the great challenge. I mean, some of it’s done domestically of course. And you can never be sure where a darknet market vendor is based although they do sometimes say which country they will ship to or which country they are based in. It’s safer with certain products to buy from a domestic supplier, you never know of course the exact address where they are based but you might know that they’re in your country.

The issue of of risk in mailing these objects, whether they are drugs or guns or whatever is, of course, a significant one. I can’t speak for Germany but in the UK the Royal Mail deals with millions of parcels every single year. Of course they do spot checks but they could never hope to monitor all of them and so inevitably a lot get through. These vendors are very, very sophisticated, they are very innovative, they always look for ways of getting around systems put in place to stop them. I don’t think the issue of shipping is that much of a problem – things do get through.

There are reports that some of the most popular darknet markets have announced they will no longer allow lethal weapons to be traded on their platform. This seems to suggest a level of self-regulation. Is this a principled stance – do darknet markets operate on their own ethical code?

It’s interesting because darknet markets have often had some kind of self-regulation. The most infamous of all the darknet markets was the Silk Road which was shut down about 18 months ago, but not before hundreds of thousands of trades had gone through it. That site, although an anonymous marketplace, did not allow trade in illegal pornography, weaponry or fake identity because they said that’s actually against libertarian principles which they claimed to stand for. Because libertarian principles suggest you should be able to do anything with your own body, your own self; but things like weapons and fake identity go beyond the line. There have always been other markets, however, that have not cared so much for that at all, where there’s been absolutely no self-regulation. Now the problem with these marketplaces, is because essentially the darknet is a sort of platform, a network for any individual to try to set up a service, there’s nothing beyond self-regulation. So while some marketplaces might decide to introduce some regulations for various reasons, unfortunately I think there will always be others that won’t.

Do we have any idea of how prolific the darknet market weapons trade is in Europe? How does this compare to the illegal weapons trade on the streets? And what could realistically be done to counter act them?

It’s very, very difficult to get a handle on how big the trade in some something like weapons is on the darknet market. We have some sense from surveys that are done about how the trade is in darknet market drugs. In the UK something like 10 percent of people who have taken drugs in the last year have said they have got them or someone has got them for them from a darknet market, so we have some idea. With guns of course, people don’t own up to things like that. It’s very, very difficult to be sure. I have to be honest I was quite surprised when I heard about this revelation because even though I’ve been monitoring these markets for some time, and even though a number of markets claim to be selling weaponry, I’ve not seen many instances at all of people actually buying and using guns from there.

My strong suspicion is that it’s far easier and far more reliable – if I can use that word – for people to buy guns on the streets through criminal networks that we know already exist. I imagine the darknet market trade in guns is miniscule by comparison.

For all the problems that darknet markets pose for authorities trying to stem the flow of illicit drugs or black market weapons, there are arguments for anonymous networks. There are proponents that say encryption and secure information sharing is necessary in a free society. What are your thoughts on this?

The darknet itself isn’t only about these marketplaces and it isn’t always about these guns and drugs. There’s a lot of good reason why people use them too. The darknet generally is an idea that you can have some benefits from anonymous sites that are difficult for the authorities to censor. Even though it causes problems, it does offer a place for whistleblowers to go and political activists to securely communicate. Things like the web browser Tor has huge value for individuals who want to either circumnavigate some form of state-led censorship or want to keep their privacy intact, especially when they are working in far more difficult parts of the world. The flipside is – the problem is – that then you are going to have a disproportionate level of criminals also using it, and that’s exactly what we’ve seen happen.


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