TBR News June 15, 2016

Jun 15 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 15, 2016:’We are out of the office until June 15.”


The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Thursday, 9 November 1950

The elections are over and the Republicans have made significant gains. The public is not happy about the war, the draft and the business with the communists. Poor Truman simply cannot win on these issues. The Republicans are thirsting to get their revenge for the Roosevelt years and intend to take it out on Truman who never liked Roosevelt anyway.

Well, he has two more years and during that time, who knows what might happen?

We are angry with the Cubans now because of their attitude towards Puerto Rico and are giving their visitors trouble at Customs.

The peoples of Central and South America are not friendly to this country because of the gross interference by the United States in their internal affairs.

There is a saying: “Poor Mexico. So far from God, so near to the United States.”

This pretty well sums up the feelings in most Latin American countries.

Both the Germans and the Russians had excellent posts in some of these countries. We no longer do but the Russians often vie for postings to a comfortable tropical country. The Russian winters are horrible as our soldiers found out during the eastern campaign. The food there is enough to kill a donkey. In fact, Viktor tells me that only those in the Kremlin eat well. A donkey would be considered a beef tenderloin by comparison.

When it cools off a bit, I will take up my riding lessons. Once you have gotten over the sore muscles, it does have its advantages but horses are very much aware that their rider is not experienced and will often try to throw you off or roll over on you. The one I ride is relatively civilized and I feed him apples and a bit of sugar once in a while and he is polite to me.

They are beautiful to watch in the paddock and the countryside around here is beautiful if rather hot this time of year. Bunny tells me that spring is the best time to ride out and perhaps we can wait until then to do some extensive traveling on horseback.

They have hunting clubs out here and someone was telling me that if they can’t find a fox, they will put a cat in a bag and drag it along behind a horse to give the hounds something to smell. This does not augur well for the cat.

Hunting is permissible and I intend to take that sport up again as soon as I am able to get the right kind of gun. Abercrombe and Fitch in New York has a nice shop and the next time I go up there, I will see what I can find.

Arno said he would like to come along and buy a nice rifle with a telescopic sight. I assume this is to hunt Cape Buffalo which are so prevalent around here.

Or perhaps he has grown tired of the knife and would rather shoot people at a distance and avoid getting blood on his clothes. He is such a dandy about his clothes and Heini’s sister obviously is in love with him.

He tells her that he is a driver for me.

Saturday, 11 November 1950

Today they celebrate the end of the war of 1914. There will be speeches, parades and so on. How long will it take for the episode it marks to be long forgotten? Already, many of the veterans who fought in the war are dead or getting along in years. As aren’t we all?

While I am writing about military matters, we have concrete information that a number of Chinese soldiers have been captured in Korea and there are at least eight Chinese divisions identified in the area. So far nothing has happened vis a vis the Chinese but I am gambling that they are in this war now. Already, Soviet fighters have made sorties against the Americans (or United Nations as they like to call it. This fools no one.)

U.S. troops are moving up the peninsula and the right wing is very close to the border with China and is nearing Soviet territory. Unless a halt is called very soon, I would anticipate some kind of a strong reaction from China and very possibly Russia.

I know that orders have been issued from here not to go into either Chinese or Russian territory but bombs can fall there quite by accident or a platoon can stray over an unmarked border. There is no effective communication with the Chinese and we have to rely on the British. Philby thinks the Chinese will come into this after all and I am inclined seriously to agree with him.

Here we have forced optimism and after all, the Koreans are on the run and we have practically liquidated their army. So far, MacArthur has performed brilliantly but here we are dealing with a personality. There is no question that M. is a capable general and certainly a brave man. However, there are other considerations. M. took on Roosevelt and almost beat him. Roosevelt called him the most dangerous man in America and bribed him to leave the country. MacArthur is a dangerous type; the political general.

Truman is certain he has his eyes on the White House in 1952 and is guided accordingly. However, the general is the only thing on the table right now and is very successful. What with the losses and setbacks in the election, Truman has to put all his support behind the real Emperor of Japan or risk further erosion of his authority in this country.

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer and colder. Soon, winter will be upon us and this year, what with all the work on the property, I will not be taking a skiing vacation. I may go out for a few days but not like last time. I compare these days with the ones I had when I first lived in Berlin. Not much money but a great deal more freedom. Living in a furnished apartment with my wife at the other end of the country, I had far less in the way of possessions and comfort than I do now, but a great deal more freedom.

Now, as a landholder and a husband, I am tied here, and of course, my earlier days with the ladies are, if not over, severely restricted. I mean, one cannot eat filets every night. A bit of pork or some nice fish is a good variation from time to time.

I must say that Bunny is a rare jewel and I am very fond of her indeed but…..enough day dreaming. She loves this place and is increasing her horse holdings. I am beginning to take brief rides with her more and more and am learning to perhaps enjoy them. I have never been out solo but that will come, I am sure.

Thursday, 16 November 1950

A large Thanksgiving feast this year. Bunny wants to invite her family and there is my staff so we will have a very large assemblage here soon enough. There will be three turkeys this time not to mention a half-dozen mince and pumpkin pies and so on. Klaus will bring in help again.

The Republicans, now with greater political control, are, to use a Bunny expression, getting the bit in their teeth and going off on their own. They are on the one hand condemning McCarthy, but much more subdued than before, and others are arising to demand fuller investigations of the State Department and so on. I talked to McCarthy the other day (he is most certainly not coming down here) about his being more accurate. I quite frankly told him that he now had rivals and if he didn’t take more care in what he was doing, I would find other outlets for my information.

They have also been talking with him at Georgetown and I think the message is beginning to get through.


Omar Mateen’s wife may be charged if she knew he was planning Orlando shooting

Possibility that Omar Mateen received support from other individuals or groups is now central to the FBI’s inquiry into the deadliest mass shooting in US history

June 15, 2016

by David Smith


Orlando-The wife of the Orlando gunman could face criminal charges if the FBI establishes that she knew in advance he was planning a deadly attack.

Noor Zahi Salman has reportedly told agents that she tried to talk husband Omar Mateen out of the raid on the Pulse nightclub that became the deadliest gun massacre in US history.

Peter King, chairman of the homeland security subcommittee on counterintelligence and terrorism, told MSNBC after a classified briefing on Tuesday: “If it’s true that she did know that it was going to happen and she tried to talk him out of it, then it’s possible criminal action against her, and again there might be more involvement by her, so all that has to be investigated.”

The possibility that Mateen, 29, did not act alone but received support from other individuals or groups is now central to the FBI’s inquiry, King added. “If there’s anybody else that he was dealing with, anyone else he was talking with, anyone else who may have known about this, this is all where the investigation is going now.”

Wielding an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle and a handgun, Mateen opened fire at the club early on Sunday in a three-hour shooting rampage and hostage siege that ended with a SWAT team killing him. On Tuesday the last autopsy on the 49 victims was completed.

The Reuters news agency, citing a law enforcement source, said Salman could be charged as early as Wednesday.

Separately, Senator Angus King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which received a briefing on the attack on Tuesday, said: “It appears she [Salman] had some knowledge of what was going on.

“She definitely is, I guess you would say, a person of interest right now and appears to be cooperating and can provide us with some important information,” King told CNN.

Vice-president Joe Biden, briefed at a national security meeting, said the FBI was “getting to the bottom of the tragedy” and it was “becoming clearer and more straightforward than a lot of us even thought”.

After the same meeting, Barack Obama said there was no information to indicate that a foreign terrorist group directed the attack. “It is increasingly clear, however, that the killer took in extremist information and propaganda over the internet. He appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalised.”

NBC News reported that Mateen’s wife attempted to talk him out of the plot, citing officials familiar with her comments to the FBI, and that she was with her husband when he bought ammunition and a holster. She told the FBI that she once drove him to Pulse because he wanted to scope it out.

Another official said the FBI has Mateen’s phone and will try to use data from it to see if he had visited the club before, the Associated Press reported. Investigators have not ruled out charging anyone who may have had advance knowledge of the attack. It was also reported that Mateen browsed militant Islamist material on the internet for at least two years before the mass shooting.

FBI director James Comey has said the group is trying to determine whether Mateen had recently visited Disney World, one of the Orlando’s celebrated theme parks, to consider it as a potential target.

Disney, which is donating $1m to an official fund for victims of the shooting, installed metal detectors last December but declined to comment on the Mateen case. A spokesperson said: “Unfortunately we’ve all been living in a world of uncertainty, and we have been increasing our security measures across our properties for some time, adding such visible safeguards as magnetometers, additional canine units, and law enforcement officers on site, as well as less visible systems that employ state-of-the-art security technologies.”

Salman was Mateen’s second wife. It is not clear when they married but the Associated Press reported that a 30 August 2013 property deed in Saint Lucie County identified them as a married couple. The couple had a three-year-old son.

Salman will be key to the ongoing probe as conflicting narratives emerge, including evidence he had been influenced by militant Islamist ideas and reports he might have struggled with his own sexual identity.

A survivor of the massacre, Patience Carter, suggested on Tuesday that Mateen had an overt political motive. Cowering in a bathroom, she heard him demand that Americans “stop bombing his country” and pledge allegiance to Islamic State, she said.

Carter, 20, who is African American, told reporters at Florida Hospital: “He even spoke to us directly in the bathroom. He said, ‘Are there any black people in here?’ I was too afraid to answer but there was an African American male in the stall, where the majority of my body was, who had answered and he said, ‘Yes, there are about six or seven of us,’ and the gunman responded back to him and said: ‘You know, I don’t have a problem with black people, this is about my country, you guys suffered enough.’”

The account chimed with previous FBI statements that Mateen had called the 911 emergency service and made reference to both Isis and the Tsarnaev brothers, who were responsible for the Boston bombings. Investigators have said Mateen was probably self-radicalised and there is no evidence that he received any instruction or aid from outside groups such as Isis.

Soon after the attack, Mateen’s father indicated that his son had strong anti-gay feelings. He recounted an incident when his son became angry when he saw two men kissing in downtown Miami while out with his wife and young son.

Several media reports quoted men as saying they had seen Mateen at Pulse many times or that he had contacted them via gay dating apps such as Grindr and Jack’d. But Pulse denied that he had ever been a patron. “Untrue and totally ridiculous,” spokeswoman Sara Brady said in an email to Reuters.

Mateen’s ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told CNN she did not know if he was gay but added: “Well, when we had gotten married, he confessed to me about his past that was recent at that time and that he very much enjoyed going to clubs and the nightlife and there was a lot of pictures of him.”

“I feel like it’s a side of him or a part of him that he lived but probably didn’t want everybody to know about.”

Asked by the Guardian about rumours his son was gay, Mateen’s father Seddique Mateen said: “It’s not true. Why, if he was gay, would he do this?”

Mateen, investigated twice by the FBI, was on the government’s terrorist watch list for 10 months before being taken off.

Thirty-three people remain in hospital, including six in a critical condition. On Tuesday the first of the seriously injured to speak of their trauma was Angel Colon at the Orlando Regional Medical Center. “He’s shooting everyone that’s already dead on the floor, making sure they’re dead,” he said, speaking from a wheelchair. “I look over, and he shoots the girl next to me. And I’m just there laying down and I’m thinking ‘I’m next, I’m dead.’

“So I don’t know how, but by the glory of God, he shoots toward my head but it hits my hand, and then he shoots me again and it hits the side of my hip. I had no reaction. I was just prepared to just stay there laying down so he won’t know that I’m alive.”

The attending trauma surgeon on call that night, Dr Chadwick Smith, said: “It was singularly the worst day of my career and the best day of my career. And I think you can say that of pretty much every person standing up here.”

The atrocity continued to reverberate in Washington DC. Obama, who will visit Orlando on Thursday, launched a blistering assault on Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump over the candidate’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, which the president described as dangerous and contrary to American values.

“Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer, [they] were all US citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? … Putting them under surveillance?”

He also angrily hit back at Trump’s criticism over his non-use of the term “radical Islam”, saying of those fighting Isis: “They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans, including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows. They know who the nature of the enemy is.

“So there’s no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam’. It’s a political talking point; it’s not a strategy.”

The Candidates on Orlando: A Study in Contrasts

June 15, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


As reactions to the Orlando massacre pour in, every political faction is eager to impose its own narrative on the tragedy: if that seems vulgar, then politics is inherently vulgar, and there’s no way to prettify it. And since politics is about hate, blame, and vengeance – whom to hate, and why – two very different scapegoats emerged from the ruckus, and we can see this in the speeches both major party candidates made in response to the tragedy.

For Donald Trump, the enemy is within the gates, a conclusion that will resonate with many voters: after all, Omar Mateen was an American citizen, born in New York and living in Florida. And so most of Trump’s peroration was about how he would limit this internal threat, which in his view is summarized by Mateen’s biography: a second generation son of immigrants from war-torn Afghanistan. Trump’s solution – widely albeit inaccurately described in the media as imposing a religious test on would-be immigrants – is to “suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.”

This is almost identical to a bill proposed by none other than the libertarian-ish Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, which would have suspended “visa issuance for countries with a high risk of terrorism and impose a waiting period for background checks on visa issuance from other countries until the American people can be assured terrorists cannot enter the country through our immigration and visa system.” Sen. Paul’s proposal was a bit more extreme in that it wasn’t limited to “high-risk” countries but also imposed a waiting period on “other countries,” while the Trump proposal doesn’t go quite that far.

The problem with both proposals is that they would be next to impossible to implement: the Paul bill would have practically halted all travel between the US and “other countries.” Both the Paul bill and the Trump proposal would presumably include diplomatic and military personnel from “high risk” countries, virtually ending relations with every nation in the Middle East. And what about Britain, France, and other European countries with large Muslim populations, which we know are riddled with terrorist networks?

What is significant about the Trump speech, however, is what wasn’t in it: there is no mention of ratcheting up the bombing of ISIS in Syria, escalating the renewed conflict in Iraq, or, indeed, any overseas military action. And so in addition to restricting immigration from “high risk” countries, says Trump,

“It also means we must change our foreign policy. The decision to overthrow the regime in Libya, then pushing for the overthrow of the regime in Syria, among other things, without plans for the day after, have created space for ISIS to expand and grow. These actions, along with our disastrous Iran deal, have also reduced our ability to work in partnership with our Muslim allies in the region.

“That is why our new goal must be to defeat Islamic terrorism, not nation-building. No nation-building!

“For instance, the last major NATO mission was Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya. That mission helped unleash ISIS on a new continent.

“I’ve said NATO needs to change its focus to stopping terrorism. Since I’ve raised that criticism, NATO has since announced a new initiative focused on just that.

“America must unite the whole civilized world in the fight against Islamic terrorism, just like we did against communism in the Cold War.”

Here is the “new nationalism” that has defeated the neoconservative foreign policy orthodoxy once dominant in the GOP, its virtues and flaws on full display. First, the virtues:

The “No nation-building!” phrase isn’t in the official transcript: that was Trump ad libbing, and I think it shows where his heart truly lies. He’s spent a lot of time attacking what he calls “Hillary’s war” in Libya, and her attempts to recruit Islamist rebels in Syria in an effort to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And of course there’s his famous declaration, at a Republican presidential debate, that the Bush administration lied us into the Iraq war. Even his belligerent outbursts directed at ISIS are tinged with a distaste for overseas interventions: in his most recent statement, in an interview on Fox News, he says “we have to be fast and furious for a short period of time.”

This is typical of the classic “isolationist” elevation of air power as a military panacea: avoidance of putting troops on the ground has always been the hallmark of this tendency, and now that the “isolationists” have made a comeback in the GOP, Trump is resurrecting this “quick victory” trope.

Which brings us to the flaws inherent in the traditional “isolationist” position:

Air power alone is not going to defeat ISIS. The Pentagon knows this, and so does Hillary Clinton. It’s conceivable that some combination of local allies could pull it off, but that has not worked so far – the problem being that the Saudis and the Turks are to some degree enabling ISIS, and the other actors, the Kurds and the Iraqis, don’t have the military capacity or the desire. The only other regional actors capable of taking on ISIS, the Iranians, are unlikely to cooperate, even if Washington would permit it. Trump says he’s open to cooperating with the Russians, who have been aiding Assad, but Vladimir Putin is too smart to inject large numbers of Russian ground troops into Syria. And then there’s the problem Trump himself has pointed out in his critique of the Libyan intervention: what about “the day after”?

Another broader problem with Trump’s stance is the same problem that arose out of the Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s “anti-communist” crusade in the 1950s. Indeed, the similarities between Trump and McCarthy are quite striking: both McCarthyism and Trumpism point to the danger of internal subversion, as opposed to an external military threat that calls out for overseas intervention. In the McCarthyite/Trumpist worldview, the main danger is at home.

This was one major reason why so many right-wing anti-interventionists of the 1940s and 50s – the Old Right – were enthusiastic backers of McCarthy. (Another reason was that they had been subjected to a left-wing witch-hunt for opposing US entry into World War II, revenge being a major motivation in politics.)

Yet the “isolationists” of the Old Right, in embracing McCarthyism uncritically, soon began to undermine their own cause. As Murray Rothbard pointed out in The Betrayal of the American Right, his history of the Old Right, “It was in fact McCarthy and ‘McCarthyism’ that was the main catalyst for transforming the mass base of the right-wing from isolationism and quasi-libertarianism to simple anti-Communism.” Aside from altering the mass base of the rightist movement from small-town Midwesterners to Eastern seaboard Catholics whose interests were limited to “stamping out blasphemy and pornography at home and killing Communists at home and abroad,” the anti-Communist crusade soon set its sights overseas. It’s no accident that one of Bill Buckley’s earliest books, McCarthy and his Enemies, was a full-throated defense of “Tail-gunner Joe” – and that Buckley’s magazine, National Review, purged the Old Right from the ranks of the “new” conservative movement, excluding veteran America Firsters like John T. Flynn.

And so there are dangers, as well as opportunities for anti-interventionists, in Trumpism, but they pale in comparison to those posed by Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton’s speech, like most of her public pronouncements, is awash in bromides. Most of it is taken up with hailing “first responders,” praising “diversity,” and the like. But when it comes to how the Orlando incident impacts her foreign policy thinking, she has this to say:

“The attack in Orlando makes it even more clear, we cannot contain this threat. We must defeat it. And the good news is that the coalition effort in Syria and Iraq has made recent gains in the last months.

“So we should keep the pressure on ramping up the air campaign, accelerating support for our friends fighting to take and hold ground and pushing our partners in the region to do even more.

“We also need continued American leadership to help resolve the political conflicts that fuel ISIS recruitment efforts.

“But as ISIS loses actual ground in Iraq and Syria, it will seek to stage more attacks and gain stronger footholds wherever it can, from Afghanistan, to Libya, to Europe.

“The threat is metastasizing….”

To begin with, there is no “coalition effort” in Iraq and Syria. There is just the US and its relatively powerless local proxies: a hapless Iraqi military and the Kurds, who have no desire to “liberate” non-Kurdish towns and villages. “Ramping up the air campaign” – a militaristic note absent from Trump’s speech – is central to her plan: and as for our “partners,” these surely do not include Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, which Mrs. Clinton acknowledges (for the first time) have been funding terrorism all along.

The Clintonian solution to the problem of terrorism is, for the most part, external: it is to be solved militarily, and the battleground is primarily overseas. And in what is a blatant appeal to the neoconservatives, she references the Bush years as some kind of golden age of “unity”:

“Finally let me remind us all, I remember, I remember how it felt, on the day after 9/11, and I bet many of you do as well. Americans from all walks of life rallied together with a sense of common purpose on September the 12th and in the days and weeks and months that followed. We had each others’ backs. I was a senator from New York. There was a Republican president, a Republican governor, and a Republican mayor. We did not attack each other. We worked with each other to protect our country and to rebuild our city.”

This bizarre retelling of history has no relationship to what actually occurred. I well remember those days, when Antiwar.com was on the receiving end of hundreds of death threats directed at our staff – and when the war hysteria was so intense that only a few dared speak out against the war plans of the administration and its neoconservative cheerleaders. Attacks on Muslims were a daily occurrence, and both “left” and right united in demanding a war of vengeance, one that is still going on even as I write. “You’re either with us,” averred President Bush, “or you’re with the terrorists.” That’s when the Bush administration inaugurated an illegal program of mass surveillance of Americans, and the “Patriot” Act was pushed through Congress without being read or understood by those who voted “Aye.”It was, in short, a dark time – and Hillary Clinton wants to bring it back!

In the end, we are left with a choice between two dangers, one imminent and the other potential: one a known quantity and the other a roll of the dice. What’s significant about this is that the parties seem to have switched roles insofar as foreign policy is concerned: it’s the presumptive Republican candidate who is more reluctant to intervene abroad, while the Democrat is the more hawkish of the two.

This role reversal opens up new possibilities: the GOP, wrenched from the grasping arms of the neoconservatives, is no longer enemy territory. The “America First” foreign policy of Trump leaves plenty of room for anti-interventionists to carve out a niche within the party. On the other hand, as I pointed out above, there is the danger that Trump’s anti-Muslim crusade, for the moment aimed at the home front, could easily be redirected overseas. Not to mention the threat to the civil liberties of Muslim Americans.

In any case, what we are witnessing is a fundamental realignment that is shaking the American political landscape with seismic force. The task of libertarians, and anti-interventionists in general, is to seize the opportunities presented by the new reality, while avoiding the many pitfalls – over-adaptation to Trumpism, or, conversely, joining in the liberal-left anti-Trump hysteria.

In short, this means walking a tightrope without plunging to the ground. That is what I have tried to do over the past six months or so. I’ll leave it to you, the readers, to decide how successful I’ve been.

Take that, FBI: Apple goes all in on encryption

Apple’s newest encryption tool better secures files on all its devices, just the latest in a move to widespread encryption in the tech industry

June 15, 2016

by Nathanial Mott

The Guardian

New York-Apple revealed a slew of new software features for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and desktop computers on Monday – yet omitted an important new technology that will better protect customers’ private data stored on Apple devices.

Apple File System, or APFS, is a new version of the technology Apple’s products use to save and retrieve information, and improves the way information is organized and protected to make it faster and more secure.

The new feature is just the latest move towards more widespread encryption in consumer technology products following Apple’s standoff with the FBI earlier in 2016, in which it refused to help the agency weaken its own security processes to access information on an iPhone belonging to a terrorist. Facebook and Google both pledged support for Apple during the fight, and both are subsequently reported to be planning encrypted versions of their messaging apps. WhatsApp went first, opting to fully encrypt all conversations by default.

As part of the new system, developers building software for Apple’s devices will be able to opt for users’ information to have no encryption, single-key encryption, or multi-key encryption “with per-file keys for file data and a separate key for sensitive metadata” – comparable to leaving a door unlocked, using one key, or using two keys.

In its documentation of APFS, Apple explains that full disk encryption has been available on OS X since version 10.7 Lion. APFS differs in that it encrypts files individually rather than as a one unit, similar to other encryption mechanisms Apple introduced to its iOS platform in 2010. It also encrypts related metadata – the basic summary attached to each file – and will keen data secure even when the device has been physically hacked.

Since its battle with the FBI, Apple has made a number of important changes to increase security and tighten encryption. Apple itself couldn’t decrypt information the agency demanded, but the company did have the keys to access information stored in the shooter’s iCloud account. The company is now reportedly considering a system that wouldn’t allow it to access iCloud data.

Many of the features announced at WWDC expand security of user data, something Apple has been keen to promote as “protecting user privacy”. Safeguards include running artificial intelligence on the device itself, rather thanin the cloud, and using a technology called “differential privacy,” which anonymizes data Apple does collect from its customers.

Those features focus on protecting data in transit, yet APFS is more like a bank vault on a device that secures information even if someone gains physical access to their computer, phone, tablet, watch or Apple TV.

Apple declined to comment on the new feature.

ACLU staff technologist Daniel Kahn Gillmor said that the expansion of AFPS is likely to have been prioritised after Apple’s spat with the FBI. “Protecting the privacy of user data is one of the critical tasks of modern computing hardware and software. If Apple didn’t offer powerful encryption features for their filesystems, they’d be remiss.”

When Amazon removed full-disk encryption from the Fire OS software used by its Kindle Fire tablets, one security analyst described how the company was “chastised by the marketplace”. Encrypting data is resource-intensive, and Amazon had apparently decided to ditch encryption in favour of improving speed and memory. It later backtracked and reinstated encryption.

Apple seems intent on avoiding similar controversy.

Yet Gillmor says encryption should be switched on by default, rather than being optional, in newer versions of Apple’s macOS desktop software. “Most people don’t deviate from the vendor-supplied defaults,” he says. Gillmor also cautions that APFS hasn’t been finalised and he isn’t sure Apple has any plans to make underlying code available for public scrutiny, a practice common among the security community. There are good reasons to care about the impact of APFS. Stronger encryption doesn’t just keep information from law enforcement agencies – it also protects people from hackers who might try to grab their data by breaking into a device, whether by stealing it or by poking around a carelessly discarded hard drive. That might not be as exciting as the ability to finally remove the Stocks app from your home screen, but it’s still something.

No more polygamy & underage wives for immigrants, says German minister

June 15, 2016


German Justice Minister Heiko Maas has promised to crackdown on the growing problem of multiple, forced, and underage marriages that immigrants from developing countries are bringing with them – but which have often been ignored by authorities.

“No one who comes to us has the right to put their cultural roots or their religious beliefs above our laws,” the politician from the center-left SPD party told Bild newspaper on Tuesday.

The state of Bavaria alone has been able to confirm 550 cases of brides aged under 18, and 161 under 16, living among the asylum seekers that have arrived in the recent migrant wave, and similar statistics have been reported throughout Germany, according to Bild.

A government report from 2012 stated that more than half of all Muslim marriages in Germany involved a bride who was under 18.

Spiegel reported the same year that as many as 30 percent of Arab men had multiple wives.

“Everyone must abide by rules and laws, whether they grew up here or are new,” said Maas.

Local authorities frequently find ways to indulge and even support such practices. For example, the inheritance of one man is often distributed among his official and unofficial wives.

For other issues, Muslims often appeal to Sharia arbitrators, who bypass official institutions to rule according to Islamic scripture.

In the sphere of marriage, they have been helped by a 2009 law that allows religious marriages to be conducted without accompanying state registration, effectively giving the green light to a whole spectrum of semi-legal practices.

“No multiple marriages will be allowed to be recognized in Germany,” insisted Maas.

However, the problem has been complicated by the influx of refugees, with more than 1.1 million arriving just last year. Although the torrent of newcomers has receded, more than 500,000 relatives of Syrian refugees are expected to join their families in Germany this year, which will present its own set of problems.

“I know a few men with many wives,” Berlin Imam Abdul Adhim Kamouss admitted to Deutsche Welle. “The question is what does Maas want to do? I can understand it if he says that people who live here in Germany, and grew up here, cannot marry more than one woman – that is the law – but what about the people who come here and already have more than one wife? What are you supposed to do with those marriages?”

ISIS fighters en route to Europe for attacks on Belgium & France – security sources  

June 15, 2016


Belgian and French security forces have received an anti-terror alert about a group of Islamic State fighters who recently left Syria and are heading to Europe. They are allegedly planning attacks in Belgium and France, according to security sources cited by Reuters and AP.

The Belgian crisis center has said the alert was sent to all police forces in the country.

However, there were no immediate plans to raise the security level to the maximum showing an imminent threat of an attack, the source added.

The terrorists in question “left Syria about a week and a half ago to reach Europe via Turkey and Greece by boat without passports,” Belgian newspaper DH reported, quoting the alert.

A source in the French Interior Ministry said Belgian authorities had sent the alert to their French counterparts, who were now reviewing the data. “We know the threat is very high,” the source said, as quoted by Reuters. “We’re reviewing all the elements (in the alert).”

“We know there are fighters who are coming back (to Europe),” French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told a news conference Wednesday.

However, French authorities remain “very cautious” about the alert, as they receive such notes very often, AP quoted their source as saying.

The latest news comes just days after an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighter attacked a French police commander and his partner at their home outside Paris.

Tensions are also running high over the Euro 2016 football championship in France. Some 90,000 police and private guards have been mobilized to manage events in the face of the terror attack threat, and dual steel rings have been set up to ensure the maximum protection at venues.

Both Belgium and France have come under attack in the last few months. Belgium was hit on March 22, when 32 people died in coordinated bombings at Brussels’ Zaventem Airport and a Metro station, and last November, 130 people were killed in a series of suicide bombings and a mass shooting in Paris.


Senate Votes to Require Women to Register for the Draft

June 14, 2016

by Jennifer Steinhauer

New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the latest and perhaps decisive battle over the role of women in the military, Congress is embroiled in an increasingly intense debate over whether they should have to register for the draft when they turn 18.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved an expansive military policy bill that would for the first time require young women to register for the draft. The shift, while fiercely opposed by some conservative lawmakers and interest groups, had surprisingly broad support among Republican leaders and women in both parties.

The United States has not used the draft since 1973 during the Vietnam War. But the impact of such a shift, reflecting the evolving role of women in the armed services, would likely be profound.

Under the Senate bill passed on Tuesday, women turning 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, would be forced to register for Selective Service, as men must do now. Failure to register could result in the loss of various forms of federal aid, including Pell grants, a penalty that men already face. Because the policy would not apply to women who turned 18 before 2018, it would not affect current aid arrangements.

“The fact is,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, “every single leader in this country, both men and women, members of the military leadership, believe that it’s fair since we opened up all aspects of the military to women that they would also be registering for Selective Services.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 1981 that women did not have to register for the draft, noting that they should not face the same requirements as men because they did not participate on the front lines of combat. But since Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in December that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, military officials have told Congress that women should also sign up for the draft.

“It’s my personal view,” Gen. Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, that with the complete lifting of the ban on women in combat roles, “every American who’s physically qualified should register for the draft.”

While most Republican senators — including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and the women on the Armed Services Committee — agree with the move, it has come under fierce attack from some of Congress’s most conservative members.

“The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls in combat to my mind makes little sense at all,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas and the father of two young daughters, said on the Senate floor last week.

After voting against the bill on Tuesday, Mr. Cruz said in a prepared statement: “I could not in good conscience vote to draft our daughters into the military, sending them off to war and forcing them into combat.”

The debate will now pit the Senate against the House, where the policy change has support but was not included in that chamber’s version of the bill.

In April, Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, offered a provision related to women and the draft for the House version of the defense policy bill to highlight the issue, even though he opposes the idea — then voted against his own amendment. It passed with bipartisan support but was stripped from the final bill in a procedural move.

“If he didn’t do this in the committee and spur the national debate, who was going to do it?” Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s chief of staff, said. “So, mission accomplished.”

Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, made a mild attempt to strip the language from the Senate bill on the floor after the Armed Services Committee overwhelmingly rejected a similar effort, but his amendment never received a vote.

The two bills will now be reconciled in a conference committee between the House and the Senate, where a contentious debate is expected.

“It may well be a topic of great controversy,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who serves on the Armed Services Committee. “But it should not be.”

Military experts say that even if the efforts to compel women to enlist fails in Congress, the issue is not going away.

“I think the change is inevitable,” said Nora Bensahel, a military policy analyst at American University’s School of International Service, “whether in this debate or through the courts. It just seems that now that you have women allowed to serve in any position in the military, there is no logical basis to say women should not be drafted.”

Conservative groups, which threatened to target senators who voted for the policy bill, reacted with anger on Tuesday to the bill’s passage. “Allowing our daughters to be forced into combat if there is a draft is a clear example of Washington placing more value on liberal social engineering than military objectives and preparedness,” one such group, Heritage Action for America, said in a news release.But supporters of the policy change say opponents are oversimplifying the issue. “What people don’t seem to understand is just because there is conscription, that does not mean that all women would serve in the infantry,” Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, said. “There are many ways to serve our country in the event of a national emergency.”

The Senate is expected to hold its ground as conservative members defend the status quo. Mr. McCain, whose family has a long and storied history in the military and whose daughter-in-law is a captain in the Air Force Reserve, said to Mr. Cruz on the Senate floor: “I respect the senator from Texas’s view. Too bad that view is not shared by our military leadership, the ones who have had the experience in combat with women.”

FBI comes under scrutiny again after dropping investigation of Orlando shooter

June 14, 2016

by Jerry Markon and Adam Goldman

Washington Post

The mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando was the third time in recent years that someone who had been under FBI scrutiny carried out a terrorist attack, raising questions about whether the legendary crime-fighting agency is equipped to stop escalating threats in the digital age, experts and former federal officials said Tuesday.

The deadly assault at the Pulse nightclub followed the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and last year’s shooting at a Texas exhibition of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. While the circumstances of each case varied widely, they were united by a common thread: The FBI had looked at one of the accused assailants, including an intensive 10-month probe of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen.

Yet each remained free to inflict damage, leaving federal investigators to wonder on Tuesday whether their long-held fear of a series of “lone wolf” attacks on U.S. soil was coming to fruition. “Clearly, Orlando in particular represents one of the FBI’s great nightmares: someone they looked at who ultimately goes out and carries out a successful attack,’’ said John Cohen, a former counterterrorism coordinator for the Department of Homeland Security.

Few in Washington’s tight-knit homeland security community found fault with the bureau, saying FBI agents are swamped with terrorism cases, bound by constitutional and privacy restrictions, and facing dangerous new threats from the Islamic State. “The country might expect the FBI to have a perfect record, and they strive for that,’’ said Sean M. Joyce, a former FBI deputy director. “But today we are facing a new and different threat, and the challenge is to find every needle in the haystack. That’s an incredibly difficult task.”

But others said the carnage in Orlando, where 49 people were killed and more than 50 injured, should prompt a reevaluation of the balance the government has been trying to strike between security and civil liberties since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. David Gomez, a former senior FBI counterterrorism official in Seattle, wrote in an online posting titled “How Did The FBI Miss Omar Mateen?” that “perhaps it is time to revisit” the basic legal standard that the FBI requires probable cause of a likely crime to open full-scale investigations.

And James McJunkin, who once headed the FBI’s counterterrorism division, said that if agents didn’t dig deep enough in Orlando, it was probably because they were hampered by FBI guidelines. He said in preliminary investigations, for instance, there is a cap on the number of hours agents can conduct surveillance.

“Those are rules or guidelines that were written by lawyers who don’t have the responsibility or accountability for doing thorough investigations,’’ McJunkin said. The agents probing Mateen, he added, “ran out of leads based upon the tools that they applied. But if they had more tools, would they have found more leads?’’

Experts who study terrorism said that the bureau might require more agents and analysts to fight a metastasizing terror threat in which potential recruits are flooded with information online. FBI officials have said they have nearly 1,000 open investigations involving the Islamic State in all 50 states.

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the program on extremism at George Washington University, said the FBI might have a “resource issue” and called for a “wholesale review of the FBI’s polices and procedures when it comes to these investigations.” He added that the bureau’s performance in the Orlando, Boston and Texas cases seemed satisfactory.

“If these people weren’t investigated at all, that would tell me something about the system and some level of failure,’’ he said. “The fact that they were investigated tells me there are some red lights that are blinking on these things, which is very important.’’

FBI Director James B. Comey said this week that the bureau has sufficient resources. But the FBI has repeatedly moved hundreds of agents from its criminal division to assist in counterterrorism operations when there is a spike in threats.

Comey also said the FBI is reevaluating its contacts with Mateen to see whether any clues were missed.

The FBI scrutinized Mateen for 10 months beginning in 2013, putting him under surveillance, recording his calls and using confidential informants to determine whether he had been radicalized after he talked at work about his connections with al-Qaeda and dying as a martyr.

Then, in July 2014, Mateen surfaced in another investigation into the first American to die as a suicide bomber in Syria. In both investigations, the FBI found no evidence that Mateen had committed a crime or intended to break the law.

The FBI also ended its 2011 investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of two brothers who would place bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three people and injuring more than 200. Russian authorities had told the bureau that Tsarnaev was an adherent of Islamist groups and was preparing to travel to Russia to join militants in Dagestan and Chechnya. Investigators closed the probe after three months, having found no link to terrorism, according to a 2014 inspector general’s report.

And in the Texas shooting, the FBI began investigating gunman Elton Simpson, of Phoenix, in 2006, and closed the case after he was convicted of making false statements to federal officials and sentenced to probation. They began monitoring him again before the May 2015 attack. Simpson and another man were killed by police after opening fire at the Muhammad drawing contest, striking a security guard in the leg.

William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an expert on violent jihadism, said the FBI acted appropriately in all three instances. “We don’t allow the FBI overweening power in detaining or keeping open investigations on people,’’ he said. “It’s tough to assign blame to the FBI here, given that they were just abiding by the strictures we have placed on them.’’

IT worker at Panama Papers firm detained in Geneva, Le Temps reports

June 15, 2016

by Tom Miles


A computer technician at the Geneva office of the Panama Papers law firm was detained several days ago on suspicion of recently removing large amounts of data, the newspaper Le Temps reported on Wednesday, citing a source close to the case.

A spokesman for the Geneva prosecutor’s office confirmed to Reuters that it had opened an investigation following a criminal complaint by the company, but he declined to comment further.

Mossack Fonseca, a law firm based in Panama, is at the centre of a massive leak of data related to offshore businesses.

The paper said the suspect had denied any wrongdoing but was accused of theft of data, unauthorised access and breach of trust following a complaint lodged by the firm.

The newspaper said there was no evidence the detained man was responsible for the massive Panama Papers data leak in April, which embarrassed several world leaders and shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of offshore companies.

The paper said the prosecutor had searched the company’s office and seized computer equipment, and checks were underway to see if the detained man had stolen data and, if so, how much and when.

The prosecutor’s spokesman declined to comment on that information.

Mossack Fonseca, which specialises in setting up offshore companies, has said it broke no laws, destroyed no documents, and all its operations were legal.

The Geneva prosecutor’s office began a criminal inquiry in early April, shortly after the leaks that revealed many offshore companies set up by lawyers and institutions in the Swiss financial centre.

(Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Larry King)

How US Counterterrorism Funds Ended Up in the Orlando Terrorist’s Pocket

June 13, 2016

by Patrick Tucker

Defense One

The U.S. spends billions a year on counterterrorism, with generally poor oversight.

Before Omar Mateen took the lives of 49 people in Orlando on June 12, he was a licensed security guard with British-based G4S, a company that rode the post-9/11 wave of counterterrorism budgets. The Florida shooting has focused critical attention on the company, which has been the subject of a number of embarrassing reports. But G4S is just a symptom of a larger problem: counterterrorism spending in the United States is generally poorly managed and monitored.

In Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism, published in November, John Mueller and Mark Stewart argue that public anxiety about terrorism has resulted in the rapid expansion of counterterrorist programs and investments, very little of which justifies its cost. By their numbers, the United States spends roughly $115 billion per year on domestic homeland security, much of it on a variety of agencies, programs, technologies, and other efforts to disrupt or deter domestic terrorism. They write that the counterterrorism field includes at least 1,072 governmental organizations and agencies, plus some 2,000 private companies funded by U.S. tax dollars. That means lots of money for companies like G4S, which hired Mateen back in 2007.

Mateen worked for G4S Secure Solutions, known as Wackenhut Security before it became G4S’s U.S. subsidiary. Based in Jupiter, Florida, G4S Secure Solutions currently holds at least one contract with DHS.

Mateen was working for G4S as a security guard at a courthouse in 2013 when his co-workers became alarmed by “statements that were inflammatory and contradictory,” FBI Director James Comey told reporters on Monday. “First, he claimed family connections to al Qaeda. He also said that he was a member of Hezbollah, which is a Shia terrorist organization and a bitter enemy of the Islamic State, or ISIL. He said that he hoped that law enforcement would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so he could martyr himself. When this was reported to us, the FBI’s Miami office opened a preliminary investigation.”

Over the next ten months, the FBI examined Mateen to determine if he was, in fact, a terrorist, “something we do in hundreds and hundreds of cases all across the country,” said Comey. That involved introducing confidential sources to Mateen, recording conversations with him, following him, reviewing transactional records from his communications, and searching government holdings for any possible connections. During the interviews, Comey said, Mateen admitted that he made the statements but said he was just trying to scare co-workers who had bullied him.

In July 2014, the FBI became concerned that Mateen was connected to Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a suicide bomber affiliated with the Nusra Front, a rival to ISIS in Syria. Abusalha had grown up in nearby Vero Beach, Florida. “Our investigation turned up no ties” of any consequence between the two, Comey said Monday.

Before you blame the FBI for failing to take Mateen seriously enough, consider that the government follows up on 5,000 tips (or leads) a day according Mueller and Mark Stewart.

A bit more disturbing is that G4S continued to employ Mateen after the first incident, enabling him to keep his security guard license. He also had a license to carry a handgun, like the Glock pistol he took to the shooting at the Orlando club. Florida doesn’t require any special permit or license to purchase an assault rifle of the type Mateen used to kill his victims.

The stock market, at any rate, has punished G4S, sending its shares down significantly on Monday.

The massacre at the Pulse nightclub suggests that  the $1 trillion U.S. tax dollars that have gone to domestic counterterrorism since 9/11 are at least somewhat poorly accounted for. That conclusion is backed up by a 2010 National Academies of Science report which, noted DHS did not have any “risk analysis capabilities and methods” to make sure that the money it was giving to companies like G4S was going to the right place.

“The report, which essentially suggested that the DHS had spent hundreds of billions of dollars without knowing what it was doing, generated no coverage in the media whatsoever,” Mueller and Stewart write.

It’s hard to think of a worse place for U.S. counterrorism dollars than the pocket of Omar Mateen.

Remembering the U.S.S. Liberty

The power of the Israel Lobby

June 14, 2016

by Philip Giraldi


Last Wednesday at noon at Arlington National Cemetery I attended the annual commemorative gathering of the survivors and friends of the U.S.S. Liberty. The moving service included the ringing of a ship’s bell for each one of the thirty-four American sailors, Marines and civilians that were killed in the deliberate Israeli attack that sought to sink the intelligence gathering ship and kill all its crew. Present were a number of surviving crewmembers as well as veterans like myself and other Americans who are committed to ensuring that the story of the Liberty will not die in hopes that someday the United States government will have the courage to acknowledge what actually happened on that fateful day.

It was the forty-ninth anniversary of the attack. In truth the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty by Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats on June 8, 1967, has almost faded from memory, with a younger generation completely unaware that a United States naval vessel was once deliberately attacked and nearly sunk by America’s “greatest friend and ally” Israel. The attack was followed by a cover-up that demonstrated clearly that at least one president of the United States even back nearly fifty years ago valued his relationship with the state of Israel above his loyalty to his own country.

It was in truth the worst attack ever carried out on a U.S. Naval vessel in peace time. In addition to the death toll, 171 more of the crew were wounded in the two-hour assault, which was clearly intended to destroy the intelligence gathering vessel operating in international waters collecting information on the ongoing Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Israelis, whose planes had their Star of David markings covered up so Egypt could be blamed, attacked the ship repeatedly from the air and with gunboats from the sea.

The incredible courage and determination of the surviving crew was the only thing that kept the Liberty from sinking. The ship’s commanding officer Captain William McGonagle was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic role in keeping the ship afloat, though President Lyndon Baines Johnson broke with tradition and refused to hold the medal ceremony in the White House, also declining to award it personally, delegating that task to the Secretary of the Navy in a closed to the public presentation made at the Washington Navy Yard. The additional medals given to other crew members in the aftermath of the attack made the U.S.S. Liberty the most decorated ship based on a single engagement with hostile forces in the history of the United States Navy.

The cover-up of the attack began immediately. The Liberty crew was sworn to secrecy over the incident, as were the Naval dockyard workers in Malta and even the men of the U.S.S. Davis, which had assisted the badly damaged Liberty to port. A hastily convened and conducted court of inquiry headed by Admiral John McCain acted under orders from Washington to declare the attack a case of mistaken identity. The inquiry’s senior legal counsel Captain Ward Boston, who subsequently declared the attack to be a “deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew,” also described how “President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” The court’s findings were rewritten and sections relating to Israeli war crimes, to include the machine gunning of life rafts, were excised. Following in his father’s footsteps, Senator John McCain of Arizona has used his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to effectively block any reconvening of a board of inquiry to reexamine the evidence. Most of the documents relating to the Liberty incident have never been released to the public in spite of the 49 years that have passed since the attack took place.

The faux court of inquiry and the medals awarded in secret were only the first steps in the cover-up, which has persisted to this day, orchestrated by politicians and a media that seem to place Israel’s interests ahead of those of the United States. Liberty survivors have been finding it difficult even to make their case in public. In early April a billboard that read “Help the USS Liberty Survivors – Attacked by Israel” was taken down in New Bedford Massachusetts. The billboard had been placed by the Honor Liberty Vets Organization and, as is normal practice, was paid for through a contractual arrangement that would require the billboard company to post the image for a fixed length of time. It was one of a number of billboards placed in different states. Inevitably, Israel’s well connected friends began to complain. One Jewish businessman threatened to take his business elsewhere, so the advertising company obligingly removed the billboard two weeks early.

After forty-nine years, the dwindling number of survivors of the Liberty are not looking for punishment or revenge. When asked, they will tell you that they only ask for accountability, that an impartial inquiry into the attack be convened and that the true story of what took place finally be revealed to the public.

That Congress is deaf to the pleas of the Liberty crew should surprise no one as the nation’s legislative body has been for years, as Pat Buchanan once put it, “Israeli occupied territory.” The Lobby’s ability to force Congress and even the presidency to submit to its will has been spelled out in some detail by critics, first by Paul Findley in They Dare to Speak Out, later by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in The Israel Lobby, in Alison Weir’s Against Our Better Judgment, and most recently in Kirk Beattie’s excellent Congress and the Shaping of the Middle East.

Congressional willingness to protect Israel even when it is killing Americans is remarkable, but it is symptom of the legislative body’s willingness to go to bat for Israel reflexively, even when it is damaging to U.S. interests and to the rights that American citizens are supposed to enjoy. I note particularly legislation currently working its way through Congress that will make it illegal for any federal funding to go to any entity that supports the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement, better known as BDS. BDS is a way to put pressure on the Israeli government over its human rights abuses that is both non-violent and potentially effective. As the federal government has its hooks all over the economy and at various levels in education as well as state and local government its threat to force the delegitimization of BDS is far from an empty one.

Existing laws in more than twenty states with more on the way, including most recently New York, punishing entities that support the peaceful BDS movement by labeling BDS as anti-Semitic and making it illegal or sanctionable to support it are direct attacks on free speech. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated “We want Israel to know we are on its side.” And it doesn’t stop with BDS. Recently signed trade agreements with Europe were drafted to be conditional on European acceptance of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank while Israel is also pushing to censor the internet to make material that constitutes “incitement” banned. Incitement would, of course, include anything critical of Israel or its government on the grounds that it is anti-Semitic.

Democratic candidate presumptive Hillary Clinton has explicitly promised to do all in her power to oppose BDS, telling an adoring American Israel Public Affairs Committee audience in March that “Many of the young people here today are on the front lines of the battle to oppose the alarming boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world, especially in Europe, we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people. I’ve been sounding the alarm for a while now. As I wrote last year in a letter to the heads of major American Jewish organizations, we have to be united in fighting back against BDS.”

So the treatment of the U.S.S. Liberty should surprise no one in a country whose governing class has been for decades doing the bidding of the powerful lobby of a tiny client state that has been nothing but trouble and expense for the United States of America. Will it ever end? As the Israel Lobby currently controls the relevant parts of the federal government and much of the media change is not likely to happen overnight, but there are some positive signs. If the Democratic Party platform committee under the influence of Bernie Sanders is successful in toning down the usual extravagant praise of Israel – against the wishes of Hillary, one might add – that would be a sign that change is difficult but not necessarily impossible. If Donald Trump wins and holds to his promise to be neutral between Israel and Palestine in negotiations that too would be a marked shift in perception of the conflict. And if the American people finally wake up and realize that they are tired of the entire farce and decide to wash their hands of the Middle East that would change everything. Just imagine picking up the morning newspaper and not reading a front page story about the warnings and threats coming from that great world leader Benjamin Netanyahu. That would be quite remarkable.

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