TBR News June 11, 2017

Jun 11 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 11, 2017: “We have entered into what Lao Tsu called interesting times. Centers of political gravity are changing, former certainties are proving to be illusions, controls are weakening, population shifts threaten violence, control of populations is collapsing and soon, to quote Yeats, a blood-dimmed tide will be loosed upon the land. The First World War erupted because the political and national leaders were inept and did not know how to stop it before it started. The current major political and economic shifts will cause havoc in many centers of power also because no one knows how to stop them before they get out of control.”

Table of Contents

  • Comey and Mueller: Russiagate’s Mythical Heroes
  • Britain Refuses to Accept How Terrorists Really Work
  • Theresa May’s plan to govern with DUP support thrown into confusion
  • French voters head to the polls in parliamentary elections
  • Why printers add secret tracking dots
  • How To Stop Your Smart TV From Spying on You
  • Trump seeks to reopen cases of hundreds reprieved from deportation
  • Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail
  • Russia may seize U.S. property if its own compounds not returned: Kommersant
  • Merkel’s G-20 Climate Alliance Is Crumbling

Comey and Mueller: Russiagate’s Mythical Heroes

June 8, 2017

by Coleen Rowley


Mainstream commentators display amnesia when they describe former FBI Directors Robert Mueller and James Comey as stellar and credible law enforcement figures. Perhaps if they included J. Edgar Hoover, such fulsome praise could be put into proper perspective.

Although these Hoover successors, now occupying center stage in the investigation of President Trump, have been hailed for their impeccable character by much of Official Washington, the truth is, as top law enforcement officials of the George W. Bush Administration (Mueller as FBI Director and James Comey as Deputy Attorney General), both presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited plain vanilla incompetence.

TIME Magazine would probably have not called my own disclosures a “bombshell memo” to the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry in May 2002 if it had not been for Mueller’s having so misled everyone after 9/11. Although he bore no personal responsibility for intelligence failures before the attack, since he only became FBI Director a week before, Mueller denied or downplayed the significance of warnings that had poured in yet were all ignored or mishandled during the Spring and Summer of 2001.

Bush Administration officials had circled the wagons and refused to publicly own up to what the 9/11 Commission eventually concluded, “that the system had been blinking red.” Failures to read, share or act upon important intelligence, which a FBI agent witness termed “criminal negligence” in later trial testimony, were therefore not fixed in a timely manner. (Some failures were never fixed at all.)

Worse, Bush and Cheney used that post 9/11 period of obfuscation to “roll out” their misbegotten “war on terror,” which only served to exponentially increase worldwide terrorism.

Unfulfilled Promise

I wanted to believe Director Mueller when he expressed some regret in our personal meeting the night before we both testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. He told me he was seeking improvements and that I should not hesitate to contact him if I ever witnessed a similar situation to what was behind the FBI’s pre 9/11 failures.

A few months later, when it appeared he was acceding to Bush-Cheney’s ginning up intelligence to launch the unjustified, counterproductive and illegal war on Iraq, I took Mueller up on his offer, emailing him my concerns in late February 2003. Mueller knew, for instance, that Vice President Dick Cheney’s claims connecting 9/11 to Iraq were bogus yet he remained quiet. He also never responded to my email.

Beyond ignoring politicized intelligence, Mueller bent to other political pressures. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mueller directed the “post 9/11 round-up” of about 1,000 immigrants who mostly happened to be in the wrong place (the New York City area) at the wrong time. FBI Headquarters encouraged more and more detentions for what seemed to be essentially P.R. purposes. Field offices were required to report daily the number of detentions in order to supply grist for FBI press releases about FBI “progress” in fighting terrorism. Consequently, some of the detainees were brutalized and jailed for up to a year despite the fact that none turned out to be terrorists.

A History of Failure

Long before he became FBI Director, serious questions existed about Mueller’s role as Acting U.S. Attorney in Boston in effectively enabling decades of corruption and covering up of the FBI’s illicit deals with mobster Whitey Bulger and other “top echelon” informants who committed numerous murders and crimes. When the truth was finally uncovered through intrepid investigative reporting and persistent, honest judges, U.S. taxpayers footed a $100 million court award to the four men framed for murders committed by (the FBI-operated) Bulger gang.

Current media applause omits the fact that former FBI Director Mueller was the top official in charge of the Anthrax terror fiasco investigation into those 2001 murders, which targeted an innocent man (Steven Hatfill) whose lawsuit eventually forced the FBI to pay $5 million in compensation. Mueller’s FBI was also severely criticized by Department of Justice Inspector Generals finding the FBI overstepped the law improperly serving hundreds of thousands of “national security letters” to obtain private (and irrelevant) metadata on citizens, and for infiltrating nonviolent anti-war groups under the guise of investigating “terrorism.”

For his part, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, too, went along with the abuses of Bush and Cheney after 9/11 and signed off on a number of highly illegal programs including warrantless surveillance of Americans and torture of captives. Comey also defended the Bush Administration’s three-year-long detention of an American citizen without charges or right to counsel.

Up to the March 2004 night in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room, both Comey and Mueller were complicit with implementing a form of martial law, perpetrated via secret Office of Legal Counsel memos mainly written by John Yoo and predicated upon Yoo’s singular theories of absolute “imperial” or “war presidency” powers, and requiring Ashcroft every 90 days to renew certification of a “state of emergency.”

The Comey/Mueller Myth

What’s not well understood is that Comey’s and Mueller’s joint intervention to stop Bush’s men from forcing the sick Attorney General to sign the certification that night was a short-lived moment. A few days later, they all simply went back to the drawing board to draft new legal loopholes to continue the same (unconstitutional) surveillance of Americans.

The mythology of this episode, repeated endlessly throughout the press, is that Comey and Mueller did something significant and lasting in that hospital room. They didn’t. Only the legal rationale for their unconstitutional actions was tweaked.

Mueller was even okay with the CIA conducting torture programs after his own agents warned against participation. Agents were simply instructed not to document such torture, and any “war crimes files” were made to disappear. Not only did “collect it all” surveillance and torture programs continue, but Mueller’s (and then Comey’s) FBI later worked to prosecute NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed these illegalities.

Neither Comey nor Mueller — who are reported to be “joined at the hip” — deserve their current lionization among politicians and mainstream media. Instead of Jimmy Stewart-like “G-men” with reputations for principled integrity, the two close confidants and collaborators merely proved themselves, along with former CIA Director George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, reliably politicized sycophants, enmeshing themselves in a series of wrongful abuses of power along with official incompetence.

It seems clear that based on his history and close “partnership” with Comey, called “one of the closest working relationships the top ranks of the Justice Department have ever seen,” Mueller was chosen as Special Counsel not because he has integrity but because he will do what the powerful want him to do.

Mueller didn’t speak the truth about a war he knew to be unjustified. He didn’t speak out against torture. He didn’t speak out against unconstitutional surveillance. And he didn’t tell the truth about 9/11. He is just “their man.”

Britain Refuses to Accept How Terrorists Really Work

June 8, 2017

by Patrick Cockburn

The Unz Review

The Conservative government largely avoided being blamed during the election campaign for its failure to stop the terrorist attacks. It appealed to British communal solidarity in defiance of those who carried out the atrocities, which was a perfectly reasonable stance, though one that conveniently enables the Conservatives to pillory any critics for dividing the nation at a time of crisis. When Jeremy Corbyn correctly pointed out that the UK policy of regime change in Iraq, Syria and Libya had destroyed state authority and provided sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and Isis, he was furiously accused of seeking to downplay the culpability of the terrorists. Nobody made the charge stick that it was mistaken British foreign policies that empowered the terrorists by giving them the space in which to operate.

A big mistake in British anti-terrorist strategy is to pretend that terrorism by extreme Salafi-jihadi movements can be detected and eliminated within the confines of the UK. The inspiration and organisation for terrorist attacks comes from the Middle East and particularly from Isis base areas in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Their terrorism will not end so long as these monstrous but effective movements continue to exist. That said, counter-terrorism within the UK is much weaker than it need be.

The attacks in London and Manchester come very much from the Isis playbook: minimum human resources deployed to maximum effect. Overall direction is distant and at a minimum, no professional military skills on the part of the killers are necessary, and the absence of guns makes them almost impossible to forestall. Tracing the movement of a small number of weapons is usually easier than following a large number of people.

There is a self-interested motive for British governments to portray terrorism as essentially home-grown cancers within the Muslim community. Western governments as a whole like to pretend that their policy blunders, notably those of military intervention in the Middle East since 2001, did not prepare the soil for al-Qaeda and Isis. This enables them to keep good relations with authoritarian Sunni states like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan, which are notorious for aiding Salafi-jihadi movements. Placing the blame for terrorism on something vague and indefinable like “radicalisation” and “extremism” avoids embarrassing finger-pointing at Saudi-financed Wahhabism which has made 1.6 billion Sunni Muslims, a quarter of the world’s population, so much more receptive to al-Qaeda type movements today than it was 60 years ago.

Deliberate blindness to very specific places and people – Sunni states, Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia, Syrian and Libyan armed opposition – is a main reason why “the War on Terror” has failed since 9/11. Instead, much vaguer cultural processes within Muslim communities are targeted: President Bush invaded Iraq, which certainly had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, and today President Trump is denouncing Iran as the source of terrorism at the very moment that Isis gunmen are killing people in Tehran. In Britain the main monument to this politically convenient lack of realism is the ill-considered and counter-effective Prevent programme. This not only fails to find terrorists, but actively assists them, by pointing the security agencies and police in the wrong direction. It also poisons the waters for anybody trying to improve relations between the British state and 2.8 million Muslims in the UK by generating a mood of generalised suspicion and persecution.

Under the 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, people who work in public bodies – teachers, doctors, social workers – have a legal duty to report signs of terrorist sympathy among those they encounter, even though nobody knows what these are. The disastrous consequences of this are explained, with a wealth of devastating supporting evidence, by Karma Nabulsi in a recent article on the Prevent programme in the London Review of Books entitled ‘Don’t Go to the Doctor.’ She tells the story of Syrian refugees, a man and his wife, who sent their small son, who spoke almost no English, to a nursery school. Because of his recent traumatic experiences in Syria he spent much of his time there drawing planes dropping bombs. The staff of the nursery might have been expected to comfort the young war victim, but instead they called the police. These went to see the parents and questioned them separately, shouting questions like: “How many times a day do you pray? Do you support President Assad? Who do you support? What side are you on?”

If Isis or al Qaeda were asked to devise a programme least likely to hamper their attacks and most liable to send the police off on wild goose hunts, they would find it difficult to devise anything more helpful to themselves than Prevent and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act. The great majority British people have as much idea about how to identify a potential terrorist as their ancestors 400 years ago did about detecting witches. The psychology is much the same in both cases and 2015 Act is in effect a crackpots’ charter in which five per cent of the British population are vaguely regarded as suspicious. Nabulsi writes that a Freedom of Information request to the police “revealed that more than 80 per cent of the reports on individuals suspected of extremism were dismissed as unfounded”.

The Government may persuade the gullible that turning everybody working for the state into a potential informant produces lots of useful intelligence. In fact, it serves to clog up the system with useless and misleading information. On the rare occasion it produces a nugget, there is a good chance that it will be overlooked.

The oversupply of information explains why many who say they reported genuinely suspicious behaviour found that they were ignored. Often this action was very blatant and revealing such as the Manchester bomber Salman Abedi shouting down a preacher in a mosque who criticised Isis. He was also associated with the extreme jihadi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. One of three killers on London Bridge and in Borough Market, Khuram Butt, had even expressed his pro-Isis views on television and another of the three, the Italian-Moroccan Youssef Zaghba, was stopped by Italian police at Bologna Airport on suspicion of trying to go to fight for Isis or al-Qaeda in Syria. Yet none of these were picked up by the police.

In most cases, potential terrorists do not have to be sniffed out, but have made their Isis sympathies only too apparent. The government’s obsessive belief that terrorists are isolated individuals “radicalised” by the internet without being a member of any network is simply untrue. Dr Peter Neumann of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at Kings College London is quoted as saying that “the number of cases where people have been entirely radicalised by the internet is tiny, tiny, tiny.”

Absurdities like the Prevent programme mask the fact that Isis and al-Qaeda type terrorists are closely interlinked, mostly by participation in or sympathy for the jihadi armed opposition in the Libyan and Syrian wars. “If you start connecting the dots,” says Professor Neumann, “a very large number of those in Britain who went to Syria were connected to each other, people who had already known each other.” Contrary to conventional and governmental wisdom, terrorist conspiracies have not changed much since Brutus, Cassius and their friends plotted to murder Julius Caesar.

Theresa May’s plan to govern with DUP support thrown into confusion

No 10 announces deal has been reached, but is then forced to backtrack after Democratic Unionists say negotiations are continuing

June 11, 2017

by Michael Savage and Henry McDonald in Belfast

The Guardian

Theresa May’s plan for a loose alliance with the Democratic Unionists to prop up her government was thrown into confusion last night after the Northern Ireland party contradicted a No 10 announcement that a deal had been reached.

A Downing Street statement on Saturday said a “confidence and supply” agreement had been reached with the DUP and would be put to the cabinet on Monday. But the DUP last night put the brakes on that announcement, saying talks were continuing, not finalised. The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said “discussions will continue next week to work on the details and to reach agreement on arrangements for the new parliament”.

Following talks between May and the DUP last night, a second statement from No 10 clarified that no final deal had been reached. A Downing Street spokeswoman said the prime minister had discussed “finalising a confidence and supply deal when parliament returns next week … As and when details are finalised, both parties will put them forward.”

Earlier it emerged that angry Tory MPs had threatened to object to a formal coalition. The MPs had begun warning party whips they would oppose any formal deal, because of the DUP’s position on gay rights, abortion and climate change. The looser deal on offer would see the Northern Ireland party’s 10 MPs support the prime minister in key votes but not enter a closer pact with the Tories.

The decision to rule out a formal pact, which could make it harder for May to govern, comes after her trusted joint chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, resigned following her shock failure to secure a majority in Thursday’s general election. May had been under pressure from ministers to sack the pair or face an immediate leadership challenge. Gavin Barwell, who lost his Croydon Central seat, has taken up the role of chief of staff.

May is fighting to keep the job she won less than a year ago. As the general election result emerged, senior Tories are understood to have contacted Boris Johnson to sound him out about launching another leadership bid should May be unable to continue. Friends of the foreign secretary dismissed any suggestion that he would try to force May out, stating that he was backing her decision to stay in post. “It is nonsense to suggest he is manoeuvring,” they said.

Boris Johnson tweeted on Saturday night that reports of a challenge were “tripe”.

The Observer has learned that the DUP was planning to dodge a row when negotiations began by avoiding the inclusion of any controversial social policies, such as opposition to gay marriage or abortion, in its so-called “shopping list” of demands to the Tories. Party sources said it would be seeking commitments from May that there would be no Irish unity referendum and no hard border imposed on the island of Ireland.

However, some Tories remained concerned that a pact would damage a brand they have spent years trying to detoxify.

“More and more colleagues are becoming distinctly uneasy about the idea of a formal pact with the DUP,” said one senior Conservative. “It is up to the DUP if they want to support a Conservative government and vote for various measures that we put through, but there is a feeling that we are damaged if we are seen to be entering into a formal agreement with a party whose views on a number of things we just don’t share.

“Why should we damage what we painstakingly built up through David Cameron’s work on personal issues, and indeed what the prime minister’s own instincts are, with any form of formal linkage with people who plainly have some views that the vast majority of Conservative MPs would not share?”

Nicky Morgan, an education secretary under David Cameron, said: “As a former minister for women and equalities, any notion that the price for a deal with the DUP is to water down our equalities policies is a non-starter.”

An online petition calling for May to resign rather than form a coalition with the DUP had attracted more than 500,000 signatures Saturday night.

The DUP is opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. It has also appointed climate change sceptics to senior posts within the party. The former Tory cabinet minister Owen Paterson sparked alarm by suggesting that his party might have to enter into “a debate on further reduction of abortion times as medical science advances”. But it is understood that the DUP will argue that controversial issues such as gay marriage and abortion can be dealt with only in a Northern Ireland context by the Stormont assembly.

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, has expressed concern over the impact of a DUP deal on gay rights and other issues. But one DUP source said: “Someone is stirring the pot with Ruth, who we regard as a hero of the union.”

The DUP has been at the forefront of opposition in Stormont to legalising gay marriage and reforming the near-total ban on abortion in the region. Seeking a soft border would raise the question of whether or not the DUP backs the UK staying in the EU’s customs union. The party will also insist that there are no checks at English, Scottish or Welsh ports and airports on any citizens travelling from Northern Ireland after Brexit.

DUP sources said the list of demands would be similar to its 2015 “Northern Ireland” plan, when the party laid out its price for supporting either a minority Tory or Labour administration. That included more Treasury cash for Northern Ireland’s schools and hospitals. Also among the DUP’s conditions will be at least a 50% cut or the total abolition of air passenger duty in Northern Ireland.

Discussions between the DUP and the Conservatives will run parallel with negotiations this week involving all the main parties in Northern Ireland. The latter talks are aimed at restoring the power-sharing devolved government in Belfast. Writing in today’s Observer, Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s secret negotiator with the IRA after the 1998 Good Friday agreement, saidon Monday: “If Mrs May depends on the DUP– Ian Paisley’s party, not the old Official Unionists who used to work with the Tories – to form a government it will be impossible for it to be even-handed.”

French voters head to the polls in parliamentary elections

Voting has begun in mainland France in the first round of its parliamentary election. Surveys suggest the new party of President Emmanuel Macron is heading for a majority in the 577-member National Assembly.

June 11, 2017


Turnout in the first round had reached 19.24 percent by midday (1000 UTC), the interior ministry said, below the 21.06 percent recorded at the same time of day during the first-round ballot in 2012.

French polling stations were due to close at 6:00 p.m. in many cities, but two hours later in Paris and other major centers.

Very few lawmakers are expected to be elected directly in Sunday’s first round as they would need more than half of the votes cast. The run-off takes place next weekend.

Voters in Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and other overseas French territories had on Saturday already cast their ballots in the first of two rounds of France’s parliamentary election.

Seeking majority

President Emmanuel Macron, who himself was elected on May 7, is seeking a clear majority in parliament to be able to pass laws and endorse his prime minister, Edouard Philippe.

Opinion polls indicate that Macron’s centrist La Republique en Marche (The Republic on the Move, LREM) party could end up with between 360 and 427 seats in the 577-strong parliament.

There are a total of 7,882 candidates competing for the seats.

Former President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party could lose most of the 280 seats it held in the previous assembly.

Far-right politician Marine Le Pen, the runner-up in the last month’s presidential election with 34 percent of votes, is aiming for a parliamentary breakthrough for her National Front party.

Overseas French territories located outside of the European continent are administered by France and have representation in both houses of the French parliament – the National Assembly and the Senate.

Overseas France includes island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, French Guiana on the South American continent, and several Peri-Antarctic islands.

Why printers add secret tracking dots

They’re almost invisible but contain a hidden code – and now their presence on a leaked document has sparked speculation about their usefulness to FBI investigators.

June 7, 2017

by Chris Baraniuk

BBC  News

On 3 June, FBI agents arrived at the house of government contractor Reality Leigh Winner in Augusta, Georgia. They had spent the last two days investigating a top secret classified document that had allegedly been leaked to the press. In order to track down Winner, agents claim they had carefully studied copies of the document provided by online news site The Intercept and noticed creases suggesting that the pages had been printed and “hand-carried out of a secured space”.

In an affidavit, the FBI alleges that Winner admitted printing the National Security Agency (NSA) report and sending it to The Intercept. Shortly after a story about the leak was published, charges against Winner were made public.

At that point, experts began taking a closer look at the document, now publicly available on the web. They discovered something else of interest: yellow dots in a roughly rectangular pattern repeated throughout the page. They were barely visible to the naked eye, but formed a coded design. After some quick analysis, they seemed to reveal the exact date and time that the pages in question were printed: 06:20 on 9 May, 2017 – at least, this is likely to be the time on the printer’s internal clock at that moment. The dots also encode a serial number for the printer.

These “microdots” are well known to security researchers and civil liberties campaigners. Many colour printers add them to documents without people ever knowing they’re there.

In this case, the FBI has not said publicly that these microdots were used to help identify their suspect, and the bureau declined to comment for this article. The US Department of Justice, which published news of the charges against Winner, also declined to provide further clarification.

In a statement, The Intercept said, “Winner faces allegations that have not been proven. The same is true of the FBI’s claims about how it came to arrest Winner.”

But the presence of microdots on what is now a high-profile document (against the NSA’s wishes) has sparked great interest

“Zooming in on the document, they were pretty obvious,” says Ted Han at cataloguing platform Document Cloud, who was one of the first to notice them. “It is interesting and notable that this stuff is out there.”

Another observer was security researcher Rob Graham, who published a blog post explaining how to identify and decode the dots. Based on their positions when plotted against a grid, they denote specific hours, minutes, dates and numbers. Several security experts who decoded the dots came up with the same print time and date.

Microdots have existed for many years. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) maintains a list of colour printers known to use them. The images below, captured by the EFF, demonstrate how to decode them:

As well as perhaps being of interest to spies, microdots have other potential uses, says Tim Bennett, a data analyst at software consultancy Vector 5 who also examined the allegedly leaked NSA document.

“People could use this to check for forgeries,” he explains. “If they get a document and someone says it’s from 2005, [the microdots might reveal] it’s from the last several months.”

If you do encounter microdots on a document at some point, the EFF has an online tool that should reveal what information the pattern encodes.

Hidden messages

Similar kinds of steganography – secret messages hidden in plain sight – have been around for much longer.

Slightly more famously, many banknotes around the world feature a peculiar five-point pattern called the Eurion constellation. In an effort to avoid counterfeiting, many photocopiers and scanners are programmed not to produce copies of the banknotes when this pattern is recognised.

The NSA itself points to a fascinating historical example of tiny dots forming messages – from World War Two. German spies in Mexico were found to have taped tiny dots inside the envelope concealing a memo for contacts in Lisbon.

At the time, these spies were operating undercover and were trying to get materials from Germany, such as radio equipment and secret ink. The Allies intercepted these messages, however, and disrupted the mission. The tiny dots used by the Germans were often simply bits of unencrypted text miniaturised to the size of a full-stop.

This sort of communication was widely used during WWII and afterwards, notably during the Cold War. There are reports of agents operating for the Soviet Union, but based undercover in West Germany and using letter drops to transmit these messages.

And today, anyone can try using microtext to protect their property – some companies, such as Alpha Dot in the UK, sell little vials of permanent adhesive full of pin-head sized dots, which are covered in microscopic text containing a unique serial number. If the police recover a stolen item, the number can in theory be used to match it with its owner.

Many examples of these miniature messages do not involve a coded pattern as with the output of many colour printers, but they remain good examples of how miniscule dispatches physically applied to documents or objects can leave an identifying trail.

Some forms of text-based steganography don’t even use alphanumeric characters or symbols at all. Alan Woodward, a security expert at the University of Surrey, notes the example of ‘Snow’ –  Steganographic Nature Of Whitespace – which places spaces and tabs at the end of lines in a piece of text. The particular number and order of these white spaces can be used to encode an invisible message.

“Locating trailing whitespace in text is like finding a polar bear in a snowstorm,” the Snow website explains.

Woodward points out, though, that there are usually multiple ways of tracing documents back to whoever printed or accessed them.

“Organisations such as the NSA have logs of every time something is printed, not just methods of tracking paper once printed,” he says. “They know that people know about the yellow dots and so they don’t rely upon it for traceability.”

There is a long-running debate over whether it is ethical for printers to be attaching this information to documents without users knowing. In fact, there has even been a suggestion that it is a violation of human rights and one MIT project has tracked more than 45,000 complaints to printer companies about the technology.

Still, many believe that the use of covert measures to ensure the secrecy of classified documents remains necessary in some cases.

“There are things that governments should be able to keep secret,” says Ted Han.

However, he adds, “I hope that folks think about their operational security and also about how journalists can protect themselves – and their sources as well.”

Is your printer sharing your history?

According to a freedom of information request to the US Secret Service made by journalist Theo Karantsalis in 2012, these printer manufacturers agreed to fulfil “document identification requests”:

  • Canon
  • Brother
  • Casio
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • Konica
  • Minolta
  • Mita
  • Ricoh
  • Sharp
  • Xerox


How To Stop Your Smart TV From Spying on You

February 7, 2017

by Brian Barrett


This week, Vizio, which makes popular, high-quality, affordable TV sets, agreed to pay a $2.2 million fine to the FTC. As it turns out, those same TVs were also busily tracking what their owners were watching, and shuttling that data back to the company’s servers, where it would be sold to eager advertisers.

That’s every bit as gross as it sounds, but Vizio’s offense was one of degree, not of kind. While other smart TV platforms don’t sell your viewing data at the IP level to the highest bidder without consent, like Vizio did, many do track your habits on at least some level. And even the companies that have moved on from ACR—like LG when it embraced webOS—have older models that liberally snoop.

But good news! There are ways to keep your smart TV from the prying eyes of the company that made it. In fact, there’s one absurdly easy way that will work for any television you can buy. Let’s start there.

Dumb It Down

The single most foolproof way to keep an internet-connected TV from sending data to far-flung ad tech servers around the globe? Disconnect it from the internet. And honestly, you should be doing that anyway.

Think about what you’re really getting from the “smart” part of your high-tech television. A shoddy interface? Voice commands that work half the time, if you’re lucky? A few bonus ads popping up in unexpected places? No thank you! Go to Settings, find the Wi-Fi On/Off toggle, and shut it down.

That doesn’t mean you have to live a Netflix-free life. But you should very much opt for a streaming box or dongle for your televised internet interests. They’re more user-friendly, often more feature-packed, and while some still track your viewing habits pretty aggressively—looking at you, Roku—they at least give you a little more control, or at the very least act the way you’d expect them to. Apple TV, for instance, hardly tracks you at all, as is in keeping with Apple’s stance on privacy generally. Chromecast and Android TV are both Google products, which, well, let’s just say they’re subject to the same privacy agreement you sign away for all of your Google needs.

The one arguable exception here? TV sets that have absorbed traditional streaming box platforms, like Roku TVs from TCL and Hisense, or Sony’s Android TV models. On these the experience—including the privacy strengths and weaknesses—are practically identical to what you’d get out of a separate set-top box anyway.

If you insist on keeping your smart TV hooked up to the big bad internetregardless, here’s a quick primer on how to limit what it tracks by brand.


The good news about the Vizio settlement, if you happen to have one of the 11 million data-collecting sets they sold over the last few years, is that the company has to delete all of the data it collected prior to March 1, 2016. Vizio also says that the setting has been disabled on all of its TVs with the Vizio Internet Apps platform, but just in case, here’s how to cut it off yourself.

From your TV’s Menu option, head to System. Select Reset & Admin, choose Smart Interactivity, and hit the right arrow to toggle over to OFF.

Newer Vizio sets use SmartCast, which is basically a built-in Chromecast, meaning they’re not afflicted with ACR. Google will still collect some data though..


The good news, according to Consumer Reports, is that LG’s current line of webOS sets doesn’t automatically collect your data. The bad news is that LG’s older sets, well, do.

If you have one of those Live Plus models, go to Options, then Live Plus, and switch it off.


Samsung does ask for your consent to track your viewing behavior when you first turn it on, so hopefully you declined at the time if that bugs you. If instead, in your haste to set up your shiny new big screen before the Castle series finale, you opted in, it’s still not too late for you.

Head to the Smart Hub menu, then to Terms & Policy. Chooose__SyncPlus and Marketing__, and disable it. While you’re in there, you may also want to deactivate Voice Recognition Services; in 2015 Samsung TVs were found to be listening to literally everything within earshot. The company has since amended its voice recognition to listen only when spoken to specifically, but, you know, still.


The bulk of high-end Sony TVs today use Android TV, which means you’re subject to Google’s data-collection practices. Sony itself can also collect data through audio recognition, but the company offers a clear-eyed privacy terms and conditions screen when you first use it, and it’s easy to opt out then.

That should about do it! It’s important to remember that practically any device that’s connected to the internet will probably track you in some way or another. But having even a little control over who and how matters. How many episodes of The Bachelor you’ve watched this season is nobody’s business, especially not an advertiser’s.


Trump seeks to reopen cases of hundreds reprieved from deportation

Administration asks court to reopen cases of 1,329 undocumented immigrants who saw reprieve under Obama in evidence of White House crackdown

June 9, 2017


The Trump administration has moved to reopen the cases of hundreds of undocumented people who were reprieved from deportation under Barack Obama, according to government data, court documents and interviews with immigration lawyers.

Donald Trump signaled in January that he planned to dramatically widen the net of undocumented immigrants targeted for deportation, but his administration has not publicized efforts to reopen immigration cases. News of the administration’s effort represents one of the first concrete examples of the crackdown and is likely to stir fears among tens of thousands of undocumented people who thought they were safe from deportation.

Cases were reopened during the Obama administration, but generally only if a person had committed a serious crime, attorneys said. The Trump administration has sharply increased the number of cases it is asking the courts to reopen, and its targets appear to include at least some people who have not committed any crimes since their cases were closed.

Between 1 March and 31 May, prosecutors moved to reopen 1,329 cases, according to an analysis of data from the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR). The Obama administration filed 430 similar motions in the same period in 2016.

Jennifer Elzea, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), confirmed the agency was now filing motions to reopen cases where illegal immigrants had “since been arrested for or convicted of a crime”.

It is not possible to tell from the EOIR data how many of the cases the Trump administration is seeking to reopen involve immigrants who committed crimes after their cases were closed. Attorneys said some of the cases were being reopened because immigrants had been arrested for serious crimes, but said they were also seeing cases involving people who had not committed crimes or who were cited for minor violations such as traffic tickets.

“This is a sea change,” said the attorney David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “Before, if someone did something after the case was closed out that showed that person was a threat, then it would be reopened. Now they are opening cases just because they want to deport people.”

Elzea said the agency reviewed cases “to see if the basis for prosecutorial discretion is still appropriate”.

In 2011, Obama initiated a policy change, pulling back from deporting migrants who had formed deep ties in the US and whom the government considered no threat to public safety. Instead, the administration would prioritize undocumented migrants who had committed serious crimes.

Between January 2012 and Trump’s inauguration on 20 January 2017, the government shelved about 81,000 cases, according to Reuters analysis. These so-called “administrative closures” did not extend full legal status to those whose cases were closed, but they did remove the threat of deportation.

Trump signed an executive order overturning the Obama-era policy on 25 January. While criminals remain the highest priority for deportation, anyone in the country illegally is now a potential target. In cases reviewed by Reuters, the administration explicitly cited Trump’s executive order in 30 motions as a reason to put the immigrant back on the court docket.

Since immigration cases are not generally public, Reuters was able to review only cases made available by attorneys. Motions to reopen closed cases have been filed in 32 states, with the highest numbers in California, Florida and Virginia, according to the review of EOIR data. The bulk of the examples reviewed were two dozen motions sent over the span of a couple of days by the New Orleans Ice office.

Sally Joyner, an immigration attorney in Memphis, Tennessee, said one of her Central American clients, who crossed the border with her children in 2013, was allowed to stay in the US after the government filed a motion to close her case in December 2015. Since crossing the border, the woman has not been arrested or had trouble with law enforcement, said Joyner, who asked that her client’s name not be used because of the pending legal action.

Nevertheless, on 29 March, Ice filed a two-page motion to reopen the case against the woman and her children. When Joyner queried Ice, an official said the agency had been notified that her client had a criminal history in El Salvador, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The woman had been arrested for selling pumpkin seeds as an unauthorized street vendor. Government documents show US authorities knew about the arrest before her case was closed.

Dana Marks, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said revisiting previously closed matters would add to a record backlog of 580,000 pending immigration cases.

“If we have to go back and review all of those decisions that were already made, it clearly generates more work,” she said. “It’s a judicial do-over.”


Opioid Dealers Embrace the Dark Web to Send Deadly Drugs by Mail

Anonymous online sales are surging, and people are dying. Despite dozens

of arrests, new merchants — many based in Asia — quickly pop up.

June 10, 2017

by Nathaniel Popper

New York Times

As the nation’s opioid crisis worsens, the authorities are confronting a resurgent, unruly player in the illicit trade of the deadly drugs, one that threatens to be even more formidable than the cartels.

The internet.

In a growing number of arrests and overdoses, law enforcement officials say, the drugs are being bought online. Internet sales have allowed powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — the fastest-growing cause of overdoses nationwide — to reach living rooms in nearly every region of the country, as they arrive in small packages in the mail.

The authorities have been frustrated in their efforts to crack down on the trade because these sites generally exist on the so-called dark web, where buyers can visit anonymously using special browsers and make purchases with virtual currencies like Bitcoin.

The problem of dark web sales appeared to have been stamped out in 2013, when the authorities took down the most famous online marketplace for drugs, known as Silk Road. But since then, countless successors have popped up, making the drugs readily available to tens of thousands of customers who would not otherwise have had access to them.

Among the dead are two 13-year-olds, Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth, who died last fall in the wealthy resort town of Park City, Utah, after taking a synthetic opioid known as U-47700 or Pinky. The boys had received the powder from another local teenager, who bought the drugs on the dark web using Bitcoin, according to the Park City police chief.

“It’s unimaginable that Grant could gain access to a drug like Pinky so easily, and be gone so quickly, poof,” said Jim Seaver, Grant’s father. “The pain and brutality of this tragedy is crippling.”

Largely because of their potency, synthetic opioids have become the fastest-growing cause of the overdose epidemic, overtaking heroin in some areas. Just a few flakes of fentanyl can be fatal.

Their deadly efficiency also makes them ideal for sale online. Unlike heroin and prescription painkillers, which are relatively bulky, enough fentanyl to get nearly 50,000 people high can fit in a standard first-class envelope.

Dark net drug markets first gained attention six years ago with the rise of Silk Road, the online market created by Ross Ulbricht. Mr. Ulbricht was arrested and the site taken down in late 2013, but imitators quickly proliferated.

No federal agencies have released data on the prevalence of drugs ordered online. But the leading sites are doing far more business than the original Silk Road, according to findings by RAND Europe and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

The authorities say these markets account for a small proportion of the overall traffic in most drugs, including heroin and cocaine. But when it comes to synthetic opioids, many authorities tracking the traffic say that dark web markets have quickly assumed a more prominent and frightening role.

The dark web “has become such an important source of distribution for this sort of deadly drug,” said Kathryn Haun, who was a prosecutor in San Francisco until last month, and the Justice Department’s first Digital Curency Coordinator. “It has enabled distribution channels that previously didn’t exist.”

As of Friday, the leading dark net market, AlphaBay, had more than 21,000 listings for opioids and more than 4,100 for fentanyl and similar drugs, from dozens of dealers large and small. Many of those individual listings are like items in a catalog, representing an endless back-room supply of pills, powders and nasal sprays.

Just last month, the federal authorities announced charges against a six-person operation in Utah that was purchasing fentanyl in bulk from China on the dark web and then pressing the powder into pills and selling the pills on the dark web to users in the United States.

The authorities said the group had sold hundreds of thousands of these pills, often marketed as less dangerous drugs like Xanax and Oxycodone.

The alleged ringleader of the operation, Aaron Shamo, was identified by many AlphaBay users as the vendor known as Pharma-Master, who had 8,332 verified sales on the site.

The social forums on AlphaBay and other sites are filled with conversations about how potent the drugs are, with frequent mentions of trips that ended up in emergency room visits or blackouts.

“I was injecting slowly got 1/3rd of the hit in, next thing i know i wake up with 3 paramedics above me,” a user named AgentOrange 007 wrote in a forum posting on AlphaBay. “If i hadn’t been found because i was making a loud snoring sound (tongue rolled back in my throat) i’d be dead no doubt.”

Court documents show that in the last year, there have been more than two dozen arrests of American drug dealers who were operating significant operations buying or selling synthetic opioids online, most of which were tied to specific overdose deaths.

In late February, a man in South Carolina was accused of receiving more than three kilograms of fentanyl ordered on the dark net — or enough to kill 1.5 million adults, given that just two milligrams is a lethal dose.

A few weeks later in New Jersey, authorities arrested Chukwuemeka Okparaeke, who allegedly went by the screen name of Fentmaster on AlphaBay. He had received two kilograms of fentanyl from an address in Hong Kong, according to a criminal complaint.

Then in April, a Cleveland man, Alec Steinberger, 21, was arrested and accused of receiving a package of furanyl fentanyl that he was preparing to sell on the streets. He is said to have texted a 19-year-old who was helping him distribute the drugs to warn about their strength.

“Bro I did it last night any my pupils got so small they disappeared and then I was nodding for 18 hrs,” the text said, according to the indictment.

When the 19-year-old tried the drugs, he overdosed and died.

Mr. Okparaeke, Mr. Steinberger and Mr. Shamo have all pleaded not guilty. Lawyers for the men had no comment on their cases.

Law enforcement officials investigating these cases say that public documents underrepresent the number of cases involving the dark web because many court documents don’t mention the online sources of the drugs.

And many cases — including the death last year of the musician Prince from a fentanyl overdose — are still being investigated because of the relatively recent advent of the phenomenon.

“It has come to play a key role in the overdose crisis,” said Tim Plancon, who oversees the Drug Enforcement Administration in Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, states at the epicenter of the overdose crisis. “It’s expanded beyond just your traditional drug smuggling and trafficking. There is just a lot more involved with it when you are dealing with folks on the dark web with virtual currencies.”

The United States is not the only country dealing with an influx of mail-order synthetic opioids. Canada and several European countries have also made recent arrests of suspects accused of being major online drug dealers responsible for multiple deaths.

But the numbers are particularly staggering in America. In 2015, the last year for which national data is available, fentanyl and similar drugs killed 9,580 people, or 73 percent more than 2014. The number of deaths rose even faster last year in areas that have released figures, such as Ohio and New Hampshire. Over all, deaths from drug overdoses are soaring in the United States, and most likely exceeded 59,000 last year.

Authorities say that most of the illicit supply of synthetic opioids is produced in labs in Asia and especially China, where many of the precursor chemicals are either legal or easier to procure.

Latin American drug cartels are also getting synthetic opioids from Asia and moving them into the United States. But the operational ease of sending the drugs through the mail gives the method obvious appeal for Chinese producers, many of whom are technologically skilled enough to set up their own dark web shops.

One of the most frequently reviewed vendors of synthetic opioids on AlphaBay goes by the screen name BenzoChems. The vendor has shared online videos of his operations in China.

In a series of messages exchanged on AlphaBay’s internal messaging system, BenzoChems, who declined to provide his real name, said he had found that routing packages through Hong Kong, and then through the United States Postal Service, was the most efficient method of transit.

Some Chinese producers also list synthetic opioids for sale on websites on the ordinary internet, without requiring users to navigate to them through a special dark web browser. But most of the recent criminal complaints in the United States appear to involve drugs procured through markets that exist only on the dark web.

BenzoChems said that he had sold his products on ordinary websites, but those sites were quickly shut down by the authorities.

Dark web technology was originally developed by American intelligence agencies to allow for encrypted communication. News organizations, including The New York Times, use it to receive story tips from vulnerable sources.

But the illicit markets enabled by the dark web have made stopping the flow of deadly drugs much more complicated than it was when the authorities were trying to stop earlier waves of drug overdoses

“We could give you a pretty good idea of the drug traffickers in town who can order kilos from Mexico — that’s a known commodity,” said Joseph M. Pinjuh, the chief of the organized crime task force in the United States attorney’s office in Cleveland. “What’s harder to track is the person ordering this from his grandmother’s basement.”

Lawmakers have tried to attack the problem by introducing legislation in Congress that would tighten the requirements on information gathered by the Postal Service. Last month,  at a Senate hearing on the problem, Postal Service officials said they were working to collect information on more packages coming from China.

In recent months, though, the number of listings for fentanyl on AlphaBay and other dark web sites has been rising steadily.

Ms. Haun, the former federal prosecutor in San Francisco, said the tools that enabled dark web commerce made it very unlikely that the expanding traffic would be curtailed anytime soon.

“It’s only going to increase, and increase the types of communities and markets that might not have had as easy access to it before,” she said.


Russia may seize U.S. property if its own compounds not returned: Kommersant

June 9, 2017


Russia may seize U.S. diplomatic property in Moscow and complicate life for an Anglo-American school unless Washington hands back two diplomatic compounds in the United States before July, the daily Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday.

In December, then U.S. president Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russians over what he said was their involvement in hacking last year’s U.S. presidential election, allegations Moscow flatly denies.

The U.S. authorities seized two Russian diplomatic compounds, one in Maryland and another on Long Island, at the same time. Moscow did not retaliate, saying it would wait to see if relations improved under the incoming U.S. president, Donald Trump.

Kommersant, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, said on Friday that Moscow wanted the compounds back before a possible meeting at the G20 in Germany in July between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.

If that did not happen, the newspaper cited the sources as saying Russia could retaliate by seizing a U.S. diplomatic dacha, or country house, in Serebryany Bor in north-west Moscow and a U.S. diplomatic warehouse in Moscow.

It said that Russian authorities could also complicate life for Moscow’s Anglo-American school by altering its legal status.

Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Thursday that Moscow was still waiting for the return of its U.S. compounds and could retaliate in kind if that did not happen.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe)

Merkel’s G-20 Climate Alliance Is Crumbling

The German chancellor had been hoping to isolate Donald Trump on climate issues at the upcoming G-20 summit in Hamburg. But Merkel’s hoped-for alliance is crumbling, underscoring Germany’s relative political weakness globally. Many countries are wary of angering the United States.

June 9, 2017

by Christiane Hoffmann, Peter Müller and Gerald Traufetter


German Chancellor Angela Merkel had actually thought that Canada’s young, charismatic prime minister, Justin Trudeau, could be counted among her reliable partners. Particularly when it came to climate policy. Just two weeks ago, at the G-7 summit in Sicily, he had thrown his support behind Germany. When Merkel took a confrontational approach to U.S. President Donald Trump, Trudeau was at her side.

But by Tuesday evening, things had changed. At 8 p.m., Merkel called Trudeau to talk about how to proceed following Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. To her surprise, the Canadian prime minister was no longer on the attack. He had switched to appeasement instead.

What would be wrong with simply striking all mentions of the Paris Agreement from the planned G-20 statement on climate, Trudeau asked. He suggested simply limiting the statement to energy issues, something that Trump would likely support as well. Trudeau had apparently changed his approach to Trump and seemed concerned about further provoking his powerful neighbor to the south.

The telephone call made it clear to Merkel that her strategy for the G-20 summit in early July might fail. The chancellor had intended to clearly isolate the United States. at the Hamburg meeting, hoping that 19 G-20 countries would underline their commitment to the Paris Agreement and make Trump a bogeyman of world history. A score of 19:1.

If even Trudeau is having doubts, though, then unity among those 19 is looking increasingly unlikely. Since then, the new formula has been to bring as many countries as possible together against one.

The first cracks began appearing on the Thursday before last. After returning from the G-7 summit in the Sicilian town of Taormina, Merkel had sent a clear signal to her team: “We have to stay together, we have to close ranks.”

From the G-6 to the G-3

But even before Trump announced the American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that evening in the White House Rose Garden, it had become clear in Berlin that they would miss their first target. Led by the Italian G-7 presidency, the plan had been for a joint reaction to Trump’s withdrawal, an affirmation from the remaining six leading industrial nations: We remain loyal to Paris.

Suddenly, though, Britain and Japan no longer wanted to be part of it. British Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t want to damage relations with Trump, since she would need him in the event of a hard Brexit, the Chancellery surmised last week. And given the tensions with North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe couldn’t put his country’s alliance with the U.S. at risk. In other words: Climate policy is great, but when it comes to national interests, it is secondary.

In the end, the Germans, French and Italians were on their own. The G-6 had become the G-3.

It is a defeat for Merkel, and not just when it comes to climate policy. It is also a setback for her claim to leadership on the global stage. Germany’s geopolitical influence, the incident shows, remains limited. When it comes to power, security and interests, Germany is a not a global player, but a mid-sized power that isn’t even able to keep Europe together.

The German chancellor may have become the hero of liberals and democrats around the globe, but she is unable to fulfill the expectations placed on her as the putative “leader of the free world,” at least not when it comes to power politics. Even Merkel’s psychological deftness in dealing with the posturing potentates of the world isn’t enough to make up for the fact that Germany is not a global power when it comes to foreign and security policy.

America, it seems, will remain the world’s power broker for the time being.

Unpredictable Variables

When the most powerful heads of state and government gather in Hamburg in less than a month, that fact could make things difficult for the event’s German hosts, and not just when it comes to climate policy. The international situation hasn’t been this unclear in a very long time and it is impossible to predict how the meeting participants will act and how the summit will unfold. There are “so many fault lines,” says a source in the Chancellery: The battle for free trade and protectionism, the war in Syria, the Qatar crisis and the ongoing fighting in Ukraine all pose a threat to summit bonhomie.

In internal discussions, a list of unpredictable variables has been drawn up. At the very top is Donald Trump.

Indeed, the U.S. president’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to overshadow the entire summit. Merkel had hoped that the two would organize a meeting prior to the Hamburg summit so that their encounter would not become a central issue. But now, all eyes are likely to be on the face-to-face meeting between the leaders of America and Russia, particularly given that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Moscow is gaining steam in Washington.

In Berlin, preparations for the summit are continuing full speed ahead, with the Chancellery focusing primarily on the preparation of two documents. One is the summit’s official closing communiqué, which all 20 heads of state and government are to sign. The document is to reflect Merkel’s stamp on the summit, and it focuses on a broad array of issues from trade to Africa to women’s rights.

Several drafts have circulated among the G-20 members in recent weeks. Of particular note: There isn’t a single mention of the climate in the document. There is a decent possibility that, if the U.S. is to sign it, the closing document will remain completely silent on climate issues.

Hope Fades

In parallel, though, Merkel’s advisers are working on an “Action Plan on Climate, Energy and Growth,” a document that had initially been planned for the 19 in Merkel’s original 19:1 calculation. But hope is fading that enough heads of state and government can be found to sign the document. Thirteen pages long, the paper asks signatories to commit themselves to “the restructuring of energy systems consistent with Paris” and to their “nationally determined contributions” to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

For the Americans, the document is an imposition. It includes a number of items in which the Paris Agreement is expressly affirmed and substantiated – the pact that Trump has just withdrawn from. “Our actions are guided by the Paris Agreement,” the document states, the goal of which is that of “holding global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees.” The paper also discusses the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the $50 billion that industrialized nations have pledged to make available to help developing nations reach their targets. An array of items that, as has recently become apparent, Trump has little use for.

Officials in Brussels are cautiously optimistic. “We expect that the document will be signed by the 19 countries,” says one diplomat involved in G-20 preparations. Nobody at EU headquarters, though, has any hope that the U.S. will join them.

In Berlin, the mood is less confident. There are widespread concerns that a whole list of countries might pull back out of fear of the consequences for their relations with Trump – something they aren’t willing to risk over the question as to how hot it might be on the planet in 100 years. Indeed, the Chancellery has begun recalibrating its view of success, now content to settle for a situation in which no other country joins the U.S. in withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

German officials believe there are several countries whose signatures to the document are by no means certain. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for instance, could be on the search for revenge following the dispute over German parliamentarians’ rights to visit German troops stationed in Incirlik. The Saudis, meanwhile, might jump ship because of the multibillion-dollar defense deal they just signed with Trump.

A Lesson from China

Moscow, meanwhile, has signaled to the Chancellery that Russian President Vladimir Putin stands behind Paris and would sign the document. But can he really be trusted? Merkel has spent a lot of time on the phone in recent days and has also been traveling. This week, she visited Argentina and Mexico, both of which are allies when it comes to climate issues.

Just how difficult it is to keep partners together on climate protection issues was on full display to Merkel last Friday in Brussels. Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang was in the EU capital and was eating dinner with European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Juncker just as Trump announced his withdrawal from Paris. The trio didn’t bother to turn on the television since they already knew what the U.S. president was going to announce.

Indeed, they had planned to issue a joint response the next day at the EU-China summit. They had negotiated a summit declaration in which both sides would call for a significant intensification of the fight against climate change. High-ranking EU officials had already begun crowing that the statement was the response from China and Europe to Trump’s effrontery.

But it never happened. It wasn’t because the two sides disagreed on climate issues, but there was discord surrounding a different part of the statement dealing with trade policy. Ultimately, the disagreement could not be resolved and Juncker, Tusk and Li appeared before the press after a three-hour delay – and without a joint statement on the climate.

Indeed, trade policy is likely to be another significant sticking point at the G-20 summit in Hamburg. The Europeans got an indication of what is likely in store for them on Wednesday and Thursday of this week at the ministerial meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The U.S. declined even to support sentences that merely repeated the minimal compromise that Trump had grudgingly agreed to in Sicily. The G-7 had only been able to find common ground on a few thin statements criticizing predatory pricing or condemning overcapacity in steel production. In the closing document of the OECD meeting on globalization, there is now no mention at all of trade or climate.

The Role of Mediator

As such, the G-20 could result in something that hosts of the event normally do all they can to avoid: open discord. On the issue of climate, the decisive question will be whether the Germans are willing to seek conflict with Trump. But it currently doesn’t look as though they are, with government officials eager to avoid turning the climate statement into an instrument of power politics. Instead, Merkel is likely to retreat to a role that suits her better anyway: that of mediator. As the host, officials say, Germany will focus on playing intermediary at the summit.

On the other hand, though, Merkel also isn’t interested in the type of compromise proposed by Trudeau. After the G-7, she said that climate protection was too important to her to engage in compromise.

Ultimately, the end result could be that the issue is largely ignored. The G-20 isn’t a climate conference, officials are saying, and the conflicts might be better suited for the next global climate summit, scheduled to take place in Bonn at the end of the year.

The German population, of course, would almost certainly prefer to see the chancellor stand up to Trump. If Merkel, who has staked a significant portion of her political legacy on climate change, were to exclude climate from the G-20 summit, she could face accusations of caving in to the U.S. president. And in a campaign year, that’s not a good look. Indeed, the center-left Social Democrats are already positioning themselves to benefit. “It would of course be good if as many participants of the G-20 summit as possible were to reconfirm their adherence to the Paris climate deal,” says Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD. “Silent consent in opposition to the climate deal cannot be the message sent by the G-20.”









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