TBR News June 24, 2017

Jun 24 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 24, 2017: “During the Vietnam war, there began a massive growth of anti-government groups whose activities escalated as the war progressed to the point where agencies like the FBI became genuinely alarmed at the possibility of serious domestic rebellions against the government.

This is the primary reason that we have increased surveillance of the population but in turn, this is creating more resistance movements.

Eventually, this will reach a point where theory becomes practice and thoughts reality and the United States will experience the severe domestic problems of growing insurgency that many countries have today.

Times change and we must change with them but this is a dictum that bureaucrats and politicians ignore, often to their peril.”

Table of Contents

  • The Criminal ‘Laws’ of Counterinsurgency
  • Excerpts from a CIA instruction manual
  • Flimsy Evidence and Fringe Sources Land People on Secretive Banking Watchlist
  • Arconic knowingly supplied flammable panels for use in tower: emails
  • Hundreds evacuated from London towers over safety concerns
  • Why Can’t the UK Stop Terror Attacks?
  • Google to stop scanning Gmail for creating targeted ads

 The Criminal ‘Laws’ of Counterinsurgency

June 24, 2017

by Todd E. Pierce


Douglas Valentine has once again added to the store of knowledge necessary for American citizens to understand how the U.S. government actually works today, in his most recent book entitled The CIA As Organized Crime. (Valentine previously wrote The Phoenix Program, which should be read with the current book.)

The US“deep state” – of which the CIA is an integral part – is an open secret now and the Phoenix Program (assassinations, death squads, torture, mass detentions, exploitation of information) has been its means of controlling populations. Consequently, knowing the deep state’s methods is the only hope of building a democratic opposition to the deep state and to restore as much as possible the Constitutional system we had in previous centuries, as imperfect as it was.

Princeton University political theorist Sheldon Wolin described the US political system in place by 2003 as “inverted totalitarianism.” He reaffirmed that in 2009 after seeing a year of the Obama administration. Correctly identifying the threat against constitutional governance is the first step to restore it, and as Wolin understood, substantive constitutional government ended long before Donald Trump campaigned. He’s just taking unconstitutional governance to the next level in following the same path as his recent predecessors. However, even as some elements of the “deep state” seek to remove Trump, the President now has many “deep state” instruments in his own hands to be used at his unreviewable discretion.

Many “never-Trumpers” of both parties see the deep state’s national security bureaucracy as their best hope to destroy Trump and thus defend constitutional government, but those hopes are misguided. After all, the deep state’s bureaucratic leadership has worked arduously for decades to subvert constitutional order.

As Michael Glennon, author of National Security and Double Government, pointed out in a June 2017 Harper’s essay, if “the president maintains his attack, splintered and demoralized factions within the bureaucracy could actually support — not oppose — many potential Trump initiatives, such as stepped-up drone strikes, cyberattacks, covert action, immigration bans, and mass surveillance.”

Glennon noted that the propensity of “security managers” to back policies which ratchet up levels of security “will play into Trump’s hands, so that if and when he finally does declare victory, a revamped security directorate could emerge more menacing than ever, with him its devoted new ally.” Before that happens, it is incumbent for Americans to understand what Valentine explains in his book of CIA methods of “population control” as first fully developed in the Vietnam War’s Phoenix Program.

Hating the US

There also must be the realization that our “national security” apparatchiks — principally but not solely the CIA — have served to exponentially increase the numbers of those people who hate the US Some of these people turn to terrorism as an expression of that hostility. Anyone who is at all familiar with the CIA and Al Qaeda knows that the CIA has been Al Qaeda’s most important “combat multiplier” since 9/11, and the CIA can be said to have birthed ISIS as well with the mistreatment of incarcerated Iraqi men in US prisons in Iraq.

Indeed, by following the model of the Phoenix Program, the CIA must be seen in the Twenty-first Century as a combination of the ultimate “Murder, Inc.,” when judged by the CIA’s methods such as drone warfare and its victims; and the Keystone Kops, when the multiple failures of CIA policies are considered. This is not to make light of what the CIA does, but the CIA’s misguided policies and practices have served to generate wrath, hatred and violence against Americans, which we see manifested in cities such as San Bernardino, Orlando, New York and Boston.

Pointing out the harm to Americans is not to dismiss the havoc that Americans under the influence of the CIA have perpetrated on foreign populations. But “morality” seems a lost virtue today in the US, which is under the influence of so much militaristic war propaganda that morality no longer enters into the equation in determining foreign policy.

In addition to the harm the CIA has caused to people around the world, the CIA works tirelessly at subverting its own government at home, as was most visible in the spying on and subversion of the torture investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The subversion of democracy also includes the role the CIA plays in developing and disseminating war propaganda as “information warfare,” upon the American people. This is what the Rand Corporation under the editorship of Zalmay Khalilzad has described as “conditioning the battlefield,” which begins with the minds of the American population.

Douglas Valentine discusses and documents the role of the CIA in disseminating pro-war propaganda and disinformation as complementary to the violent tactics of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam. Valentine explains that “before Phoenix was adopted as the model for policing the American empire, many US military commanders in Vietnam resisted the Phoenix strategy of targeting civilians with Einsatzgruppen-style ‘special forces’ and Gestapo-style secret police.”

Military Commanders considered that type of program a flagrant violation of the Law of War. “Their main job is to zap the in-betweeners – you know, the people who aren’t all the way with the government and aren’t all the way with the Viet Cong either. They figure if you zap enough in-betweeners, people will begin to get the idea,” according to one quote from The Phoenix Program referring to the unit tasked with much of the Phoenix operations.

Nazi Influences

Comparing the Phoenix Program and its operatives to “Einsatzgruppen-style ‘special forces’ and Gestapo-style secret police” is not a distortion of the strategic understanding of each. Both programs were extreme forms of repression operating under martial law principles where the slightest form of dissent was deemed to represent the work of the “enemy.” Hitler’s Bandit Hunters: The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe by Philip W. Blood describes German “Security Warfare” as practiced in World War II, which can be seen as identical in form to the Phoenix Program as to how the enemy is defined as anyone who is “potentially” a threat, deemed either “partizans” or terrorists.

That the Germans included entire racial categories in that does not change the underlying logic, which was, anyone deemed an internal enemy in a territory in which their military operated had to be “neutralized” by any means necessary. The US military and the South Vietnamese military governments operated under the same principles but not based on race, rather the perception that certain areas and villages were loyal to the Viet Cong.

This repressive doctrine was also not unique to the Nazis in Europe and the US military in Vietnam. Similar though less sophisticated strategies were used against the American Indians and by the imperial powers of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth centuries, including by the US in its newly acquired territories of the Philippines and in the Caribbean. This “imperial policing,” i.e., counterinsurgency, simply moved to more manipulative and, in ways, more violent levels.

That the US drew upon German counterinsurgency doctrine, as brutal as it was, is well documented. This is shown explicitly in a 2011 article published in the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies entitled German Counterinsurgency Revisited by Charles D. Melson. He wrote that in 1942, Nazi commander Heinrich Himmler named a deputy for “anti-bandit warfare,” (Bevollmachtigter für die Bandenkampfung im Osten), SS-General von dem Bach, whose responsibilities expanded in 1943 to head all SS and police anti-bandit units and operations. He was one of the architects of the Einsatzguppen “concept of anti-partisan warfare,” a German predecessor to the “Phoenix Program.”

‘Anti-Partisan’ Lessons

It wasn’t a coincidence that this “anti-partisan” warfare concept should be adopted by US forces in Vietnam and retained to the present day. Melson pointed out that a “post-war German special forces officer described hunter or ranger units as ‘men who knew every possible ruse and tactic of guerrilla warfare. They had gone through the hell of combat against the crafty partisans in the endless swamps and forests of Russia.’”

Consequently, “The German special forces and reconnaissance school was a sought after posting for North Atlantic Treaty Organization special operations personnel,” who presumably included members of the newly created US Army Special Forces soldiers, which was in part headquartered at Bad Tolz in Germany, as well as CIA paramilitary officers.

Just as with the later Phoenix Program to the present-day US global counterinsurgency, Melson wrote that the “attitude of the [local] population and the amount of assistance it was willing to give guerilla units was of great concern to the Germans. Different treatment was supposed to be accorded to affected populations, bandit supporters, and bandits, while so-called population and resource control measures for each were noted (but were in practice, treated apparently one and the same). ‘Action against enemy agitation’ was the psychological or information operations of the Nazi period. The Nazis believed that, ‘Because of the close relationship of guerilla warfare and politics, actions against enemy agitation are a task that is just as important as interdiction and combat actions. All means must be used to ward off enemy influence and waken and maintain a clear political will.’”

This is typical of any totalitarian system – a movement or a government – whether the process is characterized as counterinsurgency or internal security. The idea of any civilian collaboration with the “enemy” is the basis for what the US government charges as “conspiracy” in the Guantanamo Military Commissions.

Valentine explains the Phoenix program as having been developed by the CIA in 1967 to combine “existing counterinsurgency programs in a concerted effort to ‘neutralize’ the Vietcong infrastructure (VCI).” He explained further that “neutralize” meant “to kill, capture, or make to defect.” “Infrastructure” meant civilians suspected of supporting North Vietnamese and Vietcong soldiers. Central to the Phoenix program was that its targets were civilians, making the operation a violation of the Geneva Conventions which guaranteed protection to civilians in time of war.

“The Vietnam’s War’s Silver Lining: A Bureaucratic Model for Population Control Emerges” is the title of Chapter 3. Valentine writes that the “CIA’s Phoenix program changed how America fights its wars and how the public views this new type of political and psychological warfare, in which civilian casualties are an explicit objective.” The intent of the Phoenix program evolved from “neutralizing” enemy leaders into “a program of systematic repression for the political control of the South Vietnamese people. It sought to accomplish this through a highly bureaucratized system of disposing of people who could not be ideologically assimilated.” The CIA claimed a legal basis for the program in “emergency decrees” and orders for “administrative detention.”

Lauding Petraeus

Valentine refers to a paper by David Kilcullen entitled Countering Global Insurgency. Kilcullen is one of the so-called “counterinsurgency experts” whom General David Petraeus gathered together in a cell to promote and refine “counterinsurgency,” or COIN, for the modern era. Fred Kaplan, who is considered a “liberal author and journalist” at Slate, wrote a panegyric to these cultists entitled, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. The purpose of this cell was to change the practices of the US military into that of “imperial policing,” or COIN, as they preferred to call it.

But Kilcullen argued in his paper that “The ‘War on Terrorism’” is actually a campaign to counter a global insurgency. Therefore, Kilcullen argued, “we need a new paradigm, capable of addressing globalised insurgency.” His “disaggregation strategy” called for “actions to target the insurgent infrastructure that would resemble the unfairly maligned (but highly effective) Vietnam-era Phoenix program.”

He went on, “Contrary to popular mythology, this was largely a civilian aid and development program, supported by targeted military pacification operations and intelligence activity to disrupt the Viet Cong Infrastructure. A global Phoenix program (including the other key elements that formed part of the successful Vietnam CORDS system) would provide a useful start point to consider how Disaggregation would develop in practice.”

It is readily apparent that, in fact, a Phoenix-type program is now US global policy and — just like in Vietnam — it is applying “death squad” strategies that eliminate not only active combatants but also civilians who simply find themselves in the same vicinity, thus creating antagonisms that expand the number of fighters.

Corraborative evidence of Valentine’s thesis is, perhaps surprisingly, provided by the CIA’s own website where a number of redacted historical documents have been published. Presumably, they are documents first revealed under the Freedom of Information Act. A few however are copies of news articles once available to the public but now archived by the CIA which has blacked-out portions of the articles.

The Bloody Reality

One “sanitized” article — approved for release in 2011 — is a partially redacted New Times article of Aug. 22, 1975, by Michael Drosnin. The article recounts a story of a US Army counterintelligence officer “who directed a small part of a secret war aimed not at the enemy’s soldiers but at its civilian leaders.” He describes how a CIA-directed Phoenix operative dumped a bag of “eleven bloody ears” as proof of six people killed.

The officer, who recalled this incident in 1971, said, “It made me sick. … I couldn’t go on with what I was doing in Vietnam. . . . It was an assassination campaign . . . my job was to identify and eliminate VCI, the Viet Cong ‘infrastructure’ – the communist’s shadow government. I worked directly with two Vietnamese units, very tough guys who didn’t wear uniforms . . . In the beginning they brought back about 10 percent alive. By the end they had stopped taking prisoners. …

“How many VC they got I don’t know. I saw a hell of a lot of dead bodies. We’d put a tag on saying VCI, but no one really knew – it was just some native in black pajamas with 16 bullet holes.”

This led to an investigation by New Times in a day when there were still “investigative reporters,” and not the government sycophants of today. Based on firsthand accounts, their investigation concluded that Operation Phoenix was the “only systematized kidnapping, torture and assassination program ever sponsored by the United States government. . . . Its victims were noncombatants.” At least 40,000 were murdered, with “only” about 8,000 supposed Viet Cong political cadres targeted for execution, with the rest civilians (including women and children) killed and “later conveniently labeled VCI. Hundreds of thousands were jailed without trial, often after sadistic abuse.” The article notes that Phoenix was conceived, financed, and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency, as Mr. Valentine writes.

A second article archived by the CIA was by the Christian Science Monitor, dated Jan. 5, 1971, describing how the Saigon government was “taking steps … that could help eliminate one of the most glaring abuses of its controversial Phoenix program, which is aimed against the Viet Cong political and administrative apparatus.” Note how the Monitor shifted blame away from the CIA and onto the South Vietnamese government.

But the article noted that one of the most persistent criticisms of Phoenix was that it resulted “in the arrest and imprisonment of many innocent civilians.” These were called “Class C Communist offenders,” some of whom may actually have been forced to commit such “belligerent acts” as digging trenches or carrying rice. It was those alleged as the “hard core, full-time cadre” who were deemed to make up the “shadow government” designated as Class A and B Viet Cong.

Yet “security committees” throughout South Vietnam, under the direction of the CIA, sentenced at least 10,000 “Class C civilians” to prison each year, far more than Class A and B combined. The article stated, “Thousands of these prisoners are never brought to court trial, and thousands of other have never been sentenced.” The latter statement would mean they were just held in “indefinite detention,” like the prisoners held at Guantanamo and other US detention centers with high levels of CIA involvement.

Not surprisingly to someone not affiliated with the CIA, the article found as well that “Individual case histories indicate that many who have gone to prison as active supporters of neither the government nor the Viet Cong come out as active backers of the Viet Cong and with an implacable hatred of the government.” In other words, the CIA and the COIN enthusiasts are achieving the same results today with the prisons they set up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CIA Crimes

Valentine broadly covers the illegalities of the CIA over the years, including its well-documented role in facilitating the drug trade over the years. But, in this reviewer’s opinion, his most valuable contribution is his description of the CIA’s participation going back at least to the Vietnam War in the treatment of what the US government today calls “unlawful combatants.”

“Unlawful combatants” is a descriptive term made up by the Bush administration to remove people whom US officials alleged were “terrorists” from the legal protections of the Geneva Conventions and Human Rights Law and thus to justify their capture or killing in the so-called “Global War on Terror.” Since the US government deems them “unlawful” – because they do not belong to an organized military structure and do not wear insignia – they are denied the “privilege” of belligerency that applies to traditional soldiers. But – unless they take a “direct part in hostilities” – they would still maintain their civilian status under the law of war and thus not lose the legal protection due to civilians even if they exhibit sympathy or support to one side in a conflict.

Ironically, by the Bush administration’s broad definition of “unlawful combatants,” CIA officers and their support structure also would fit the category. But the American public is generally forgiving of its own war criminals though most self-righteous and hypocritical in judging foreign war criminals. But perhaps given sufficient evidence, the American public could begin to see both the immorality of this behavior and its counterproductive consequences.

This is not to condemn all CIA officers, some of whom acted in good faith that they were actually defending the United States by acquiring information on a professed enemy in the tradition of Nathan Hale. But it is to harshly condemn those CIA officials and officers who betrayed the United States by subverting its Constitution, including waging secret wars against foreign countries without a declaration of war by Congress. And it decidedly condemns the CIA war criminals who acted as a law unto themselves in the torture and murder of foreign nationals, as Valentine’s book describes.

Talleyrand is credited with saying, “They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Reportedly, that was borrowed from a 1796 letter by a French naval officer, which stated, in the original language: Personne n’est corrigé; personne n’a su ni rien oublier ni rien appendre. In English: “Nobody has been corrected; no one has known to forget, nor yet to learn anything.” That sums up the CIA leadership entirely.

Douglas Valentine’s book is a thorough documentation of that fact and it is essential reading for all Americans if we are to have any hope for salvaging a remnant of representative government.

Excerpts from a CIA instruction manual

June 23, 2017

by Harry von Johnston. PhD


Your virtuous interrogator, like the virtuoso in any field, will tell you that formulating the principles of his art would be a presumptuous and sterile procedure. Interrogators are born, not made, he almost says, and good interrogation is the organic product of intuition, experience, and native skill, not reducible to a set of mechanical components. Yet the organic whole can usefully be dissected, and examination will reveal its structural principles.

This study selects from the many different ramifications of the interrogation art that genre which is applicable to suspected agents under arrest, and sets forth some of the principles and procedures which characterize it. The essay is slanted toward relatively unsophisticated cases, and does not cover the subtler techniques which should be used, for example, against a suspected double agent, nor those required when access to the subject or the control of his person is limited. It does, however, treat interrogation as a process designed to yield the highest possible intelligence dividend. Such an interrogation is usually incompatible with one intended to produce legal evidence for a court conviction, since statements by the accused may be barred as court evidence on the ground that they were made under duress, during prolonged detention without charge, or in some other violation of legal procedures.

An interrogation yields the highest intelligence dividend when the interrogee finally becomes an ally, actively cooperating with the interrogator to produce the information desired. It is to a discussion of principles and procedures helpful in transforming a recalcitrant prisoner into something approaching an ally that this article is devoted. This kind of interrogation is essentially a battle of wills in which the turning-point is reached as the subject realizes the futility of his position. It usually develops in three tactical phases: a) breaking the cover story; b) convincing the subject that resistance is pointless and acquiescence the better part of valor; and c) getting active cooperation.

The question of torture should be disposed of at once. Quite apart from moral and legal considerations, physical torture or extreme mental torture is not an expedient device. Maltreating the subject is from a strictly practical point of view as short-sighted as whipping a horse to his knees before a thirty-mile ride. It is true that almost anyone will eventually talk when subjected to enough physical pressures, but the information obtained in this way is likely to be of little intelligence value and the subject himself rendered unfit for further exploitation. Physical pressure will often yield a confession, true or false, but what an intelligence interrogation seeks is a continuing flow of information.

No two interrogations are the same. The character, behavior, and degree of resistance of each new subject must be carefully assessed, and his estimated weaknesses used as the basis of a plan for intensive examination and exploitation. Each interrogation is thus carefully tailored to the measure of the individual subject. The standard lines of procedure, however, may be divided into four parts: a) arrest and detention; b) preliminary interview and questioning; c) intensive examination; and d) exploitation. The first three stages may often be merged; they constitute the softening-up process during which the cover story is broken and the subject may be shown up as a liar, an important step in making him realize the futility of further resistance.

In the matter of proving the subject a liar a word of caution is necessary. Showing some subjects up as liars is the very worst thing to do, because their determination not to lose face will only make them stick harder to the lie. For these it is necessary to provide loopholes by asking questions which let them correct their stories without any direct admission to lying.

When the cover story and the will to resist have been broken, when the subject is ready to answer a series of carefully prepared questions aimed at an intelligence target, the exploitation can begin, often in a veiled spirit of cooperation and mutual assistance. At this stage the interrogation may for example be moved to an office assigned the subject, where he might even be left alone for a few minutes to show that he is being trusted and that there is something constructive for him to do. This feeling of trust and responsibility can be very important to a broken subject, because he may now have suicidal inclinations; he must be given something to occupy his mind and keep him from too much introspection.

We shall examine in detail each stage of the interrogation procedure after a word on the language problem. Without doubt an interrogator using the subject’s language is in a much better position than one who has to work through an interpreter. But the interrogation skill is infinitely more important than the language skill, and a good linguist should not be substituted for a good interrogator. In the absence of an interrogator who speaks the language, an interpreter should be used, preferably one with some training in interrogation techniques. It is very important that the interpreter not only report accurately what both parties say but also reflect as faithfully as he can their inflection, tone, manner, and emphasis. He should try to become part of the furniture in the room rather than a third personality, and the interrogator should act as though he were not there.

Arrest and Detention

The interrogations officer, since his critical objective is breaking the subject’s will to resist, should attempt to control the psychological factors in every aspect of the subject’s life from the earliest possible stage, normally the time of arrest. If possible, he should plan in advance the conditions of arrest and immediate detention. If the subject is already in detention, the principles set down in the following paragraphs may be applied to his removal from ordinary detention to the place of interrogation.

The arrest should take the subject by surprise and should impose on him the greatest possible degree of mental discomfort, in order to catch him off balance and deprive him of the initiative. It should take place at a moment when he least expects it and when his mental and physical resistance is at its lowest. The ideal time which meets these conditions is in the early hours before dawn, when an abrupt transition from sleep to alert mental activity is most difficult.

If the arrest cannot be made during the pre-dawn sleep, the next best time is in the evening, when a person is normally relaxed in his own home. One is most impressionable when relaxing at home, as witness the findings of advertising firms who have studied the impact of television commercials. A less desirable time is in the morning when the day’s routine begins, especially in the case of underground personnel, because they will have thought through the day ahead of them and steeled themselves to its risks.

The police detachment which effects the arrest, or removal from detention to the interrogation center, should impress the prisoner with its cool efficiency and assurance.   This scene is important enough to justify a rehearsal, if necessary. A subject arrested by three or four ill-dressed, clumsy policemen is more likely to regain his composure after the initial shock and draw some confidence from his superiority over his captors. If he is abruptly awakened by an arresting party of particularly tall, smart, well-equipped and business-like officers, he will probably be exceedingly anxious about his future.

The arresting party should also be schooled in observing the prisoner’s reactions and in the techniques for a quick but thorough search of his room and person. In ordinary arrests there are arguments for having the prisoner witness the searching of his room: he cannot then claim theft or willful damage to his property; he can be asked questions about what is found; and his reactions may help the searchers uncover hidden objects. But during the search preceding an intelligence interrogation it is usually better to have the subject out of the room; his ignorance as to what has been found there will foster uncertainty and uneasiness in his mind. One member of the arresting party should be specifically charged with watching the prisoner’s reaction to everything that goes on.

Other aspects of the arrest and the conditions of initial detention should be governed by the interrogator’s preliminary assessment of the subject’s personality and character on the basis of records, reports, and any other sources available. If, for example, the prisoner belongs to a subversive organization which makes a practice of stressing the harsh and summary treatment its members should expect if they let themselves fall into the hands of the security authorities, the arresting party might make a point of treating him correctly and even courteously. This unanticipated finesse might disconcert his antagonism and be a useful factor in winning him over later.

Some of the alternative detention conditions from which the interrogator must choose according to his preliminary assessment of the subject are: a) a long period or brief interval between arrest and initial questioning, b) solitary confinement or quartering with other prisoners, c) comfortable or discomfiting accommodations, and d) subjection to comprehensive personal search or no. Some subject-types would be enabled by any delay between arrest and questioning to firm up a cover story, regain their composure, and fortify themselves against the interrogation. On the other hand, a prisoner left in solitary confinement for a long period with no one, not even his custodian, speaking a word to him may be thoroughly unnerved by the experience. When this course is chosen it is important to deprive the prisoner of all his personal possessions, especially of things like snapshots and keepsakes, symbols of his old life which might be a source of moral strength to him.

Other techniques which may or may not be employed at this stage, according to the subject’s personality, include the use of a stool-pigeon, the double stool-pigeon routine, microphoning the cell and doctoring it in other ways. The double stoolpigeon technique has two stool-pigeons in the cell when the prisoner arrives. One of them befriends him, warns him that the other is a stool-pigeon, and if possible enlists his help in agitating for the removal of this plant. When the third man has been removed the subject may have come to trust his fellow-agitator and confide in him. The cell can be doctored by having messages written on the walls, either with deceptive content recommending for example some attendant as a sympathetic channel to the outside or with discouraging and depressive impact.

The Preliminary Interview

The preliminary interview is not intended to obtain intelligence, but only to enable the interrogators to make a firm assessment of the character and type of subject with whom they will have to deal. It is useful to have the interrogators – preferably two of them – seated behind a table at the far end of a long room, so that the subject after entering will have some distance to walk before taking his chair in front of them. This device will enable them to observe his poise and manner, and may often quite unsettle the subject. The interrogators should sit with their backs to the main source of light in order to obscure their faces, veil their expressions, and place a strain on the prisoner.

The subject can be placed under further strain by providing him an uncomfortable chair, say one with a polished seat and shortened front legs so that he tends to slide off it, or one with wobbly legs. On the other hand, an opposite technique has sometimes been successful: the prisoner is made so comfortable, after a hearty lunch with beer, that he drops his guard in drowsiness.

The interview must of course be recorded, either on tape or in stenographic notes. The interrogators must on no account try to do this job themselves; it would distract them from the critical task of framing questions and steering the course of interrogation according to the implications of the subject’s replies. Whether the stenographer or recorder should be concealed or visible depends on the subject’s sophistication and the state of his alert. If the recording process is not evident some subjects may become careless of what they say when they see that the interrogators are not taking notes, whereas a visible recording would alert them to be more cautious. For others, consciousness of a recording going on in full view may be unnerving, and they may betray the weak links in their stories by showing signs of distress at these points.

At a later stage of the interrogation it may be of value to play back to the subject some part of this recording. The sound of his own voice repeating his earlier statements, particularly any with intonations of anger or distress, may make a psychological breach in his defenses.

The attitude of the interrogators at the preliminary interview should usually be correct, studiously polite, and in some cases even sympathetic. It is imperative that they keep their tempers both now and throughout the interrogation. The prisoner may be given the true reason for his arrest or a false one, or he may be left in doubt, according to the circumstances of the case. The interrogators must try to determine whether his usually vigorous protestations of innocence are genuine or an act, but they should not at this stage give any indication of whether they believe or disbelieve him. A clever prisoner will try to find out how much the interrogators know; they should at all costs remain poker-faced and non-committal.

At this interview the interrogators should do as little as possible of the talking, however many questions they are anxious to have answered. The prisoner should be asked to tell his story in his own words, describe the circumstances of his arrest, give the history of some period of his life, or explain the details of his occupation. The object is to get him to talk without prompting in as much continuous narrative as possible; the more he talks the better the interrogators can assess his personality.

Personalities are individual, but some typing of subjects can be done cutting across factors of race or background. One category displays no emotion whatever and will not speak a word; another betrays his anxiety about what is going to happen to him; a third is confident and slightly contemptuous in his assurance; a fourth maintains an insolent attitude but remains silent; a fifth tries to annoy his interrogators by pretending to be hard of hearing or by some trick like repeating each question before answering it.

After the interview the interrogators should confer, formulate their assessment of the subject’s character, and work out a plan of intensive examination, including the kind of detention conditions to be applied between questionings. The details of this plan will vary widely, but it will be based on two principles, that of maintaining psychological superiority over the prisoner and that of disconcerting his composure by devices to bewilder him.

The Intensive Examination

The intensive examination is the scene of the main battle of wits with the prisoner, having the critical objective of breaking his cover story. The cover story, if it is a good one, will be a simple explanation of the subject’s activities as a straight-forward normal person, plausible even to his close friends, containing a minimum of fabrication and that minimum without detail susceptible to a check or ramifications capable of development. Its weakness may often lie in the subject’s abnormal precision about certain details, especially when two or more subjects are using the same cover story.

The most difficult subject is one who will not talk at all, and prolonging his solitary confinement usually increases the difficulty of getting him to talk. It is best to put him into a labor gang or some such group of prisoners where he may be drawn into conversation. After some days or perhaps weeks he may be communicating normally with these others, and may have concluded that his interrogators have given him up for good. At that time some incident can be created involving the labor gang which requires that they all be questioned. If innocuous questions are put to the silent prisoner rapidly in a routine and indifferent manner, he may answer them. He may then find it hard to revert to complete silence if caught off guard as the questioning is switched without break to matters of real interest. The device of starting with questions easy for the subject to answer is useful with many whose replies to significant questions are hard to elicit.

Everything possible must be done to impress upon the subject the unassailable superiority of those in whose hands he finds himself and therefore the futility of his position. The interrogators must show throughout an attitude of assurance and unhurried determination. Except as part of a trick or plan they should always appear unworried and complete masters of the situation in every respect. In the long and arduous examination of a stubborn subject they must guard against showing the weariness and impatience they may well feel. If a specialist in the subject’s field is used to interrogate him, say scientist to interrogate a prisoner with a scientific specialty, this interrogator must have unquestioned superiority over the subject in his own field.

Many prisoners have reported amazement at their own capacity for resistance to any stable pressures or distresses of an interrogation, such as onerous conditions of confinement or the relentless bullying of a single interrogator. What is demoralizing, they find, is drastic variation of cell conditions and abrupt alternation of different types of interrogators. A sample device in the regulation of cell conditions for unsophisticated prisoners is the manipulation of time: a clock in a windowless cell can be rigged to move rapidly at times and very slowly at others; breakfast can be brought in when it is time for lunch or in the middle of the night’s sleep; the interval between lunch and dinner can be lengthened to twelve or fifteen hours or shortened to one or two.

The questioning itself can be carried out in a friendly, persuasive manner, from a hard, merciless and threatening posture, or with an impersonal and neutral approach. In order to achieve the disconcerting effect of alternation among these attitudes it may be necessary to use as many as four different interrogators playing the following roles, although one interrogator may sometimes double in two of them:

First, the cold, unfeeling individual whose questions are shot out as from a machine-gun, whose voice is hard and monotonous, who neither threatens nor shows compassion.

Second, the bullying interrogator who uses threats, insults and sarcasm to break through the subject’s guard by making him lose his temper or by exhausting him.

Third, the ostensibly naive and credulous questioner, who seems to be taken in by the prisoner’s story, makes him feel smarter than the interrogator, gives him his rope and builds up false confidence which may betray him.

Finally, the kind and friendly man, understanding and persuasive, whose sympathetic approach is of decisive importance at the climactic phase of the interrogation. He is most effectively used after a siege with the first and second types, or after a troubled sleep following such a siege.

The course of the intensive questioning cannot be standardized, but some useful procedures are outlined in the following paragraphs.

When the subject is brought in he is asked to tell again the story he gave at his preliminary interview. Then he is asked to repeat it, and again a third time. He will be annoyed and with luck might even lose his temper. He at least will be worried about possible inconsistencies among the four versions he has given. In some cases it will be better that the interrogator not disclose his awareness of any such inconsistencies; in others it may be advantageous to emphasize them by making a comparison in his presence and perhaps playing back a recording.

If the cover story is still intact, the next step is to probe for detail. One of two interrogators questions rapidly into many details of a particular aspect of some incident. Then the other puts detailed questions on another aspect of the same incident. Then the first takes up a third aspect, and so on alternately for some time. The object is to force the subject to invent detail hastily. Finally, without any break, the interrogators start going back over their detail questions a second time; and the subject, not having had time to fix his improvisations in mind, is most unlikely to remember them.

By deliberately misquoting the subject’s replies the interrogator may often succeed in confusing him, or better yet in irritating him and making him lose his temper. A talkative subject should always be encouraged to give full and lengthy explanations; he is likely of his own accord to get mixed up and introduce inconsistencies into his story. Catching the subject in a lie of relatively little importance sometimes unnerves him and starts his resistance crumbling.

A not too sophisticated subject can be told that his fellow-conspirators have let him down, that an informer among them has betrayed his secret, or that some of them are in custody and have been persuaded to talk. Incriminating testimony from others, true or false, can be read to him, or a hooded man can pretend to recognize and identify him. The subject can be placed in profile at a window while two guards lead a “prisoner” past outside who will send in word that he recognizes his true identity.

Sometimes a very long period of silence while the interrogators are pretending to go over critical evidence will unnerve the subject.

The whole procedure is a probe for an opening – a confession of guilt, an admission to having lied, a state of confusion or even extreme concern on some particular point. Once an opening is found, however small, every effort is concentrated on enlarging it and increasing the subject’s discomposure. At this stage he is allowed no respite until he is fully broken and his resistance at an end.

The Exploitation

When the subject has ceased to resist his interrogators and is ready to talk freely he must be handled with great care, both because this attitude may change and because he may now have suicidal impulses. He should get better treatment and better detention conditions. He should be induced to ally himself with his interrogators, and encouraged to believe that he is doing something useful and constructive in assisting them. It is often important to keep him hard at work regardless of whether the product of his efforts is of any real value; he could be asked to write out a lot of details about his subversive organition, for example, whether or not such information were required. The object is to keep him busy, to keep his mind occupied, to prevent his having time for introspection.

Since interrogators for the exploitation must be well acquainted in the particular field of information involved, it may now be necessary either to introduce new specialist interrogators or to give the earlier ones a thorough briefing in this field. Which course is better will depend on the subject’s character, the way he was broken, and his present attitude toward those who have been handling him. Sometimes only a fresh interrogator can get real cooperation from him. Sometimes, on the other hand, he is so ashamed of having broken that he is unwilling to expose himself further and wants to talk only to his original questioner. And sometimes he has built up a trustful and confiding relationship with his interrogator which should not be destroyed by the introduction of another personality.

Flimsy Evidence and Fringe Sources Land People on Secretive Banking Watchlist

June 23 2017

by Cora Currier

The Intercept

A corporate database used by banks and other institutions to screen clients for crimes such as money laundering and terror financing has labeled dozens of U.S. citizens as connected to terrorism on the basis of outdated or unsubstantiated allegations. An analysis of a 2014 copy of the database, which is known as World-Check, also indicates that many thousands of people, including children, were listed on the basis of tenuous links to crime or to politically prominent persons.

The database relied on allegations stemming from right-wing Islamophobic websites to categorize under “terrorism” people and groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, several mosques, and national and regional Islamic organizations.

Political activists also had World-Check listings originating from old, minor infractions. For instance, 16 Greenpeace activists who were arrested for protesting the “Star Wars” missile-defense program in 2001 were listed under the general “crime” category, though they ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing and never served time.

World-Check, which is owned by Thomson Reuters, contains over 2 million entries, most of them for people who are in government, on international sanctions lists, or have convictions for financial crimes. Thomson Reuters claims that World-Check is a risk-assessment tool, not a blacklist, and that a listing is not necessarily meant to imply wrongdoing.

Yet many of the entries, especially for activist groups, raise questions about World-Check’s criteria.

Greenpeace International earned a listing as an organization apparently because of a 2005 accident when one of its ships damaged a coral reef. The entry for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals links to comments the group’s founder made in support of militant animal liberation activists. Other activist nonprofits, such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Human Rights Watch, are listed without any specific allegations.

World-Check’s data “frankly is nothing more than a Google search sometimes, at best,” said Farooq Bawja, a British lawyer who has led legal action against the company.

Thomson Reuters boasts that 49 of the top 50 banks in the world and 300 global government and intelligence agencies use World-Check to screen clients or job applicants. Nonprofits also use it to check out grant recipients. In some cases a World-Check listing has led to organizations having bank accounts closed, and may have other untold ramifications.

“This kind of list reminds me of those early years after 9/11 when almost every Muslim active in the American Muslim community was on some sort of list that caused them to be stopped or searched at the border,” said Ihsan Bagby, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky. Bagby is named in World-Check under the “terrorism” category, apparently because he was a former board member of CAIR. His World-Check profile links to right-wing sites that circulate a decades-old, chopped-up quote about Muslims in the United States.

When told about the World-Check listing, Mark Floegel, research director for Greenpeace, said, “There is no justification for placing peaceful protesters on a watchlist meant to monitor against crimes such as money laundering or terror financing. Peaceful protest is not an invitation to permanent interference in the lives of citizens.”

A copy of the World-Check database from 2014, containing some 2.2 million entries, was discovered online last year by security researcher Chris Vickery; it had been left unprotected on a third party’s servers.

The Intercept worked with media organizations across the world to analyze and research the World-Check database. They were: The Times of London, NPO Radio 1 Argos/OneWorld in The Netherlands, De Tijd in Belgium, La Repubblica in Italy, and NDR/Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany. The work was supported by Journalismfund.eu.

“I don’t know why it was exposed to the public internet or what the reasoning was, it just was,” Vickery told The Times. He shared the database with these organizations on the condition that it not be made public in its entirety, partly out of concern that the records include unsubstantiated allegations against many individuals. The Intercept is not naming individuals on the list who we were unable to contact before publication.

In February, Finsbury Park Mosque — the target of a deadly terror attack last week — won a judgment against Thomson Reuters after its World-Check listing led to HSBC closing the mosque’s bank account. Bawja, who led the suit, told The Intercept’s Dutch partner that he has roughly 20 other clients preparing to file claims against World-Check in the wake of the Finsbury case.

“I want them to start cleaning up their act, rapidly,” Bawja said. “And start apologizing to the victims.”

More than 400,000 American citizens are on the 2014 list. Some of them are connected to categories of criminality like terrorism, organized crime, or narcotics. The vast majority are, or are linked to, “politically exposed persons”— people who might be able to abuse their public roles to corrupt ends. Thomson Reuters notes in a 2008 white paper that “PEPs are by no means necessarily money launderers or embezzlers, nor automatically involved in corrupt financial practices.”

World-Check’s PEP listings include not just members of Congress and high-level federal officials, but also extend to state-level administrators, their spouses, and other family members. These often include children. One former big-city mayor is listed, as are three of his children, the youngest of whom was an infant at the time she was entered into World-Check. (We are not naming the mayor since he could not be reached for comment.) The Times of London noted that a 9-month-old baby had been listed as a relative of a PEP; her father is a distant member of the British royal family, 43rd in line for the throne.

None of the U.S.-based World-Check listees contacted by The Intercept had experienced bank account closures or other financial irregularities, but the effect of a listing is hard to judge. Most people likely never know that they are on World-Check; Thomson Reuters doesn’t inform them, and banks don’t usually reveal to people the reasons why they were denied service.

“How often are people actually being denied accounts or having accounts closed, or being denied commercial mortgages or loans?” said Bagby. “It’s not having an impact on me, to my knowledge, but this is very disturbing.”

In a statement, a senior vice president for Thomson Reuters, David Crundwell, said that he could not comment on individual listings, but pointed to the company’s privacy statement, which “sets out how any individual can contact us if they believe any of the information held is inaccurate, and we would urge them to do so.” He also said that “all profiles on World-Check are regularly reviewed” and that “it is important to point out that inclusion in World-Check does not imply guilt of any crime.”

Tenuous Terror Ties

The Intercept examined the World-Check entries for roughly 1,300 U.S. citizens labeled with the category “terrorism,” and found dozens who had never actually been convicted of terror-related offenses. In advertisements, World-Check boasts that its screeners go beyond official sanctions or law-enforcement lists to include people and groups who are “reported to be connected to sanctioned parties” or “investigated or convicted” of a variety of crimes. Thomson Reuters claims that information comes from “reputable public domain sources.” For terror-related entries, in particular, it notes that it makes use of tens of thousands of records “that reveal human terror networks.”

But World-Check’s definition of “reputable” seems flexible. Many of the entries for Muslim groups cite right-wing Islamophobic websites. In July, Vice, which also

accessed Vickery’s leaked database, identified 15,000 entries that cited Wikipedia.

And, as the publication separately reported in February 2016, World-Check often links to the websites of Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes, and David Horowitz, all described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “anti-Muslim extremists.”

For instance, the Muslim Students Union at the University of California, Irvine is listed in World-Check as a “Hamas supporter” with a link to an article on Horowitz’s Frontpage Mag about a film screening the group put on in 2008. Current MSU board members contacted by The Intercept were unaware of the controversy, and said that the group’s finances are controlled by the university.

Vice noted that CAIR and its director, Nihad Awad, were listed under “terrorism” by World-Check. The data analyzed by The Intercept includes 14 current or former CAIR staffers or board members who have no terror-related charges or convictions. CAIR, which is one of the leading Muslim advocacy groups in the country, is described by World-Check as a “Hamas-affiliated” organization and tied to the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas charity convicted of funneling millions to Hamas before it was shuttered in 2001. Awad characterized his profile to Vice as “inaccurate, bigoted garbage.” (A spokesperson for CAIR said that they did not have information to add about the listing.)

CAIR was among 300 plus organizations and individuals listed as unindicted co-conspirators in that trial. They were not charged with any crime, and in 2007 CAIR complained to a judge that publicly naming them as unindicted co-conspirators was an unfair “demonization of all things Muslim” that would taint their reputations. And indeed, years later, CAIR and many other individuals are on the World-Check list apparently only because of that designation.

Among them is Parvez Ahmed, a professor of finance in Florida. He used to be on CAIR’s national board but cut ties with the group in 2008. The CAIR link to the Holy Land case has been used against him in local politics, when he ran, successfully, for his city’s human rights commission, and later during a controversy over a local art exhibit.

“I myself was never named as an unindicted co-conspirator, but it was used by the usual suspects, the anti-Muslim crowd,” Ahmed told The Intercept. “There is this whole circular logic to this attack against Muslim groups — someone cites something and it’s an echo chamber of citations, but they are all single source and based on allegations that just don’t hold up.”

Crundwell, of Thomson Reuters, said that World-Check’s research domains are “led by subject matter experts with deep domain knowledge focused on topics such as sanctions, terrorism and insurgency, organized crime,” and that “blog content” is used only “as a secondary source.” He said that World-Check encourages its users to independently verify the information before taking any action.

Not all the people in the “terrorism” category are Muslim. In addition to right-wing anti-government extremists and anarchists convicted of terrorism-related charges, the list includes some figures publicly associated with the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist groups. It also includes animal rights activists who have made controversial statements about the use of violence against animal researchers.

The Intercept’s international partners also found instances of people listed under “terrorism” on the basis of outdated or debunked information. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the Belgian League of Muslims were wrongly labeled, as was a German sociologist who was arrested on suspicions of terrorism for writings on urban policy in a widely protested case; he was released without charges in 2007 but remained in World-Check years later. Many former Guantánamo detainees are also listed, including a man named Naquibullah who was about 14 when he was released from the U.S. detention center.

Tom Keatinge, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, told The Times of London that World-Check “creates a vast amount of redundant work” for banks and authorities looking out for terrorist activity in the financial system. Automated alerts based on World-Check, he said, could be contributing to an onslaught of suspicious activity reports that British banks submit to authorities.

The Problem With PEP

Banks and other institutions do have to take steps to comply with sanctions and international and domestic laws against money laundering and terror financing, which have only grown more numerous and complex since the 9/11 attacks. Thomson Reuters advertises World-Check with warnings about recent fines and settlements against banks for violating sanctions; HSBC’s historic $1.9 billion payment to U.S. authorities to settle money-laundering allegations in 2012 is the most famous example.

“PEP risk is the very real possibility that over breakfast tomorrow morning, you will read that your bank holds the accounts of one of the world’s most corrupt leaders — and you had no idea, and you are being held responsible,” reads a 2008 company white paper aimed at potential clients. So-called “Know Your Customer” efforts, aimed at ferreting out criminal intent, require combing through massive amounts of publicly available data, World-Check notes in a company presentation. That means dealing with “extreme volatility of information” and repeatedly facing a “struggle to ensure accurate information about a customer.”

Thomson Reuters claims that World-Check adds 20,000 profiles a month and updates 40,000. According to a recent brochure, 75 percent of the listings are PEPs — that is, government functionaries and their families or “close associates.” In Thomson Reuters’ 2008 definition, an associate could be an adviser, consultant, colleague, or shareholder.

Additionally, World-Check contains groups and individuals with public profiles that don’t have official PEP status. For instance, World-Check includes many international entities — the IMF, the World Bank, various U.S. government agencies — full of politically prominent people. WikiLeaks and Anonymous are listed, as is Occupy Wall Street (the entry for the amorphous activist movement notes, “members reportedly arrested in Brooklyn, New York”).

Some of the nonprofits and political entities it includes, however, seem arbitrary. The Tibetan Youth Congress, a prominent diaspora organization, is listed with only a link to a 2008 China Daily article in which the Chinese government accuses it of being a terrorist group. (A request for comment went unanswered by the youth group.) Human Rights Watch is listed with no rationale given, beyond a link to 2000 article about a report the group did on the FARC in Colombia. The head of HRW’s Americas division, José Miguel Vivanco, has his own listing, which describes him as “involved in the intents to prosecute former General Pinochet in Chile,” referring to the brutal military ruler who was the subject of hundreds of criminal complaints in his home country, indicted by a Spanish judge, and whose regime was the focus of a national truth commission and a U.S. Senate money-laundering investigation.

“We are surprised and puzzled to find ourselves and Mr. Vivanco in this database and can’t imagine what standards are being applied,” said HRW’s general counsel, Dinah PoKempner.

The Rainforest Action Network, an environmental activist group, is listed in connection with the journalist Jacob Appelbaum, who once volunteered there, and who is in turn listed for his work with WikiLeaks. (Appelbaum did not respond to a request for comment, but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told La Repubblica that he had long been aware that he, Appelbaum, and other WikiLeaks associates were listed in World-Check, which he called “a secret financial blacklist”). A spokesperson for Rainforest Action Network, Chris Herrera, said that the World-Check listing was “alarming to us especially at this moment when dissent and protest are under such scrutiny.”

World-Check is also used by nonprofits in order to screen grantees. Several U.S. government development organizations, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, have World-Check subscriptions, according to public contracting documents.

“It’s a part of the nonprofit sector that came about during the [George W.] Bush era,” said a source who works at a U.S.-based charitable foundation. “It was a way of us checking to make sure we weren’t funding terrorism. They used it to blacklist people.”

As a subscriber, the source discovered that her foundation was itself listed. (She requested anonymity because her organization’s work has already suffered through association with its World-Check profile.)

According to World-Check’s privacy statement, individuals may write to Thomson Reuters to request their information and challenge its accuracy. When told about its listing by The Intercept, PETA contacted Thomson Reuters and a spokeswoman said that the group’s information was removed within a day. She added, “We would have demanded its removal long ago had we known about it.”

The foundation staffer said that when her group tried to contact World-Check, the company would not engage.

“I said, ‘This is ridiculous, the info is so bogus,’ and they flat out said no” to taking her organization off. “They said, ‘No, this is public domain info and it’s allowed to be there.’” Years later, still required to subscribe to World-Check, she looked her group up again and it had been removed.

The source said she would still run all potential grantees through World-Check, and “if it was a hit, I usually would say no.” But knowing from experience the sometimes erroneous nature of a listing, she said, “I would verify, I would look at what the links were that they included, I’d go to the website and actually read the link.”

Arconic knowingly supplied flammable panels for use in tower: emails

June 24, 2017

by Tom Bergin


LONDON-Six emails sent by and to an Arconic Inc (ARNC.N) sales manager raise questions about why the company supplied combustible cladding to a distributor for use at Grenfell Tower, despite publicly warning such panels were a fire risk for tall buildings. The emails, dating from 2014 and seen by Reuters, were between Deborah French, Arconic’s UK sales manager, and executives at the contractors involved in the bidding process for the refurbishment contract at Grenfell Tower in London, where 79 people died in a blaze last week.

When asked about the emails, Arconic said in a statement that it had known the panels would be used at Grenfell Tower but that it was not its role to decide what was or was not compliant with local building regulations.

The company manufactures three main types of Reynobond panel– one with a polyethylene (PE) core, one with a fire retardant core and another with a non-combustible core, according to its website.

Diagrams in a 2016 Arconic brochure for its Reynobond panels describe how PE core panels are suitable up to 10 meters in height. Panels with a fire resistant core — the FR model — can be used up to 30 meters, while above that height, panels with the non-combustible core — the A2 model — should be used, the brochure says.

Grenfell Tower is more than 60 meters tall.

The brochure also issued a blunt warning that cladding can be a fire risk.

“When conceiving a building, it is crucial to choose the adapted products in order to avoid the fire to spread to the whole building. Especially when it comes to facades and roofs, the fire can spread extremely rapidly,” the brochure said.

“As soon as the building is higher than the fire fighters’ ladders, it has to be conceived with an incombustible material.” Nonetheless, between May and July 2014, French, who was based at Arconic’s factory in Merxheim, France, responded to requests from the companies involved in refurbishing Grenfell Tower on the availability of samples of five different types of Reynobond aluminum-covered panels, all of which were only available in the combustible PE and FR versions, according to Arconic brochures.

In the end, Arconic said on Friday, the company provided PE panels. “While we publish general usage guidelines, regulations and codes vary by country and need to be determined by the local building code experts,” the company said in an emailed statement in response to the Reuters enquiry.

“The loss of lives, injuries and destruction following the Grenfell Tower fire are devastating, and we would like to express our deepest sympathies to everyone affected by this tragedy … We will fully support the authorities as they investigate this tragedy,” the statement said.

French did not respond to requests for comment.

Arconic, which was known as Alcoa Inc until 2016, declined to say if it knew how tall the tower was and the emails seen by Reuters do not specifically refer to its height. They do, however, refer to “Grenfell Tower” and mention other high rise projects where paneling has been used when discussing the appearance that was being sought for Grenfell Tower.

Arconic also knew the quantity of panels being supplied and thus the total exterior coverage. A source at one of the companies involved in the process said Arconic had “full involvement” throughout the contract bidding process.

Omnis Exteriors, which cut the Arconic tiles to shape and supplied them to the cladding contractor, said it was not responsible for the choice of panel.

“CEP played no part in the selection of Reynobond PE and simply fulfilled the order as directed by the design and build team,” the company said in a statement on Saturday, referring to CEP Architectural Facades Ltd, the Omnis unit which fulfilled the contract.

Harley Facades Ltd., the company which installed the panels, Rydon Group, the overall contractor on the 2014-2016 Grenfell refurbishment, and the local authority, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which owns the tower block all declined to comment.

Rydon previously said in a statement that its work on the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, which was intended to give the building better heat and sound insulation, complied with all building regulations. Harley said last week it was “not aware of any link between the fire and the exterior cladding to the tower”.

In the emails, French and representatives of Harley and Rydon also discuss the choice of panel models and colors and how they were inching towards securing the contract with the local authority.

Harris did not respond to requests for comment.

On Sunday, British finance minister Philip Hammond said the type of panels used, which are cheaper than non-combustible panels, were banned for use in high rise buildings in Britain, as they are in Europe and the United States.

Omnis said combustible Reynobond PE material was safe to use on high rise buildings if the insulation material usually put behind the panels was made of incombustible material such as mineral fiber. Some safety experts say the regulations are not black and white. The UK uses a ‘principles-based’ approach to regulation which puts an onus on companies to operate safely, based on common understanding of risks and the technology available.

This differs to the highly specific ‘rules-based’ approach to regulation taken in the United States.

Supporters of the principles-based approach say it avoids the emergence of loopholes and means companies have to take account of new information on risks immediately, rather than wait for a new regulation to be drafted.

The fatal fire was started by a faulty Hotpoint fridge-freezer in one of the apartments, London police said on Friday. Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said insulation on the building, and the cladding panels, had failed safety tests carried out after the disaster.

The police investigation was considering the possibility of manslaughter and criminal offences in respect of the fire.

(Editing by Catherine Evans and Toby Chopra)


Hundreds evacuated from London towers over safety concerns

In a dramatic move, hundreds of people have been evacuated from five tower blocks because of safety concerns. Hundreds of buildings across the UK may have the combustible cladding that fueled the fire at Grenfell Tower.

June 24, 2017


Some 800 households in London were evacuated from apartment buildings on Friday because of safety concerns after a deadly fire that killed 79 people in west London’s Grenfell Tower last week.

Authorities in the London borough of Camden evacuated residents from five tower blocks with cladding similar to that on the Grenfell Tower after saying they could not guarantee the safety of the buildings. Officials said they were also concerned about the estate’s gas pipe insulation.

The Camden Council local authority is urging residents to stay with friends or relatives but has promised to provide temporary accommodation. Work to replace the cladding could take up to four weeks.

“Grenfell changes everything and I don’t believe we can take any risks,” said Georgia Gould, leader of the Camden Council local authority, told reporters on Friday. “We could not be sure that people could be safe.”

Residents responded with a mix of anger and fear after being abruptly told to evacuate the five Chalcots Estate towers on Friday evening.

One resident of the towers, Shirley Philips, told Sky News television she was given no notice.

“Why have they left it ’til half past eight on Friday night to start getting residents out? Where do they think we’re all going?”

Michelle Urquhart, a resident in the Chalcots Estate’s Bray tower, said it was “frightening” to think that she had lived in the flats for 10 years with the combustible cladding.

Reports on Saturday, however, suggested that dozens of Chalcots Estate residents had defied evacuation orders and returned to their homes.

Carl McDowell, 31, told the British Press Association that he took one look at the packed inflatable beds laid out in the center’s gym and went back to his own apartment.

Camden Council leader Gould said that if residents had not left their homes after being visited by officials a second time on Saturday, “it will become a matter for the fire service.”

Combustible cladding

The dramatic announcement came after London police earlier on Friday said both the insulation and tiles used in the cladding on Grenfell Tower had failed all fire safety tests conducted after the blaze.

Police Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack said they were looking into whether the use of the two materials was illegal and were, therefore, considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges against those responsible.

“Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell Tower combusted soon after the test started,” McCormack said. “Given the deaths of so many people, we are considering manslaughter as well as criminal offenses and breaches of legislation and regulations.”

The deadly blaze has stoked fears in the UK over how many other high-rise buildings are also covered in combustible cladding.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s office estimated that as many as 600 high-rise buildings could be at risk.

Late Friday, she wrote on Twitter that her “thoughts [were] with residents being evacuated in Camden.”

On Saturday the government confirmed that 27 high-rise blocks had already failed fire cladding safety tests. Safety officials are scrambling to assess the safety of hundreds of apartment buildings across Britain. Buildings in London, Manchester and Plymouth have already been found to be at risk.

May has also launched a public inquiry as well as a criminal investigation into the fire. Aside from the combustible cladding, it has also emerged that the west London council had ignored complaints from residents about safety violations.

Government orders immediate examination of fridge that sparked fire

McCormack also said the fire last week started in a Hotpoint fridge freezer but said the model had not been subject to a product recall. Nevertheless, the manufacturer was doing further tests, and the UK government has ordered an immediate technical examination of the model.

Whirlpool, which owns the Hotpoint brand, said it would cooperate with the government’s inquiry into the blaze.

“We are working with the authorities to obtain access to the appliance so that we can assist with the ongoing investigations,” the company said in a statement. “Words cannot express our sorrow at this terrible tragedy.”

As previously suspected, the fire was not started intentionally.

With the appliance reportedly located close to an open window, the fire spread to the outside of the building before swiftly spreading upwards and consuming the 24-storey tower block.

‘Complete’ bodies removed from charred ruins

At least 79 people were killed in the blaze, although the number could still rise. Police on Friday said they had removed every “complete” body found in the charred remains of the tower, although forensic research would likely continue until the end of the year.

However, the precise number of casualties may never be known. McCormack called on anyone with information on who might have been in the tower to come forward.

“What we haven’t got is a picture of how many people might have been in there,” said McCormack. “That’s the number I’m really worried about.”

McCormack’s comments followed a pledge by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to seek an amnesty for people who may have been living in the tower illegally.

Why Can’t the UK Stop Terror Attacks?

Let’s not make the same mistake here.

June 23, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

The recent series of terrorist incidents in Europe has produced the inevitable finger pointing regarding the ability of the security services to respond and has also reopened the debate over what might be done to prevent the attacks in the first place.

Similar discussions have been going on in the United States for some time, to include consideration of the Violent Radicalism and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 by the House of Representatives. The bill, sponsored by then congresswoman Jane Harman, was fairly toothless, seeking to establish a national commission and study center, but it was strongly criticized for many of its assumptions and definitions, with some critics noting how it might be exploited to enable the prosecution of “thought crimes.” It was passed in the House by a 404 to 6 vote but, fortunately, later died in the Senate.

More recently, congressman Peter King has held hearings on radicalization of Muslim Americans that ran intermittently for nearly two years between 2010 and 2012. As terrorist incidents actually declined in number during that period, there was little desire on the part of Congress to initiate any draconian new legislation in response to the often conflicting “evidence” compiled by King’s House Homeland Security Committee.

It should surprise no one that the Europeans are much more advanced in their creation of anti-terror legislation than is the United States, if only because they have been more often on the receiving end of ideologically motivated violence. Assuming that America might well be arriving tomorrow where Europe is today in counter-terror, it is instructive to look at one of the proactive frameworks currently in place to analyze both its effectiveness and legality.

Britain has experienced three terrorist attacks in three months. The government response has been defined by the British Counter-Terrorism and Security Act of 2015, popularly referred to by the acronym “Contest.” Contest consists of four so-called “workstreams”:   “Pursue” to physically interdict terrorist attacks; “Protect” to establish physical barriers against terrorist tactics and weapons; “Prepare” to minimize the after-the-fact impact of a terror attack; and “Prevent,” which is a highly aggressive and controversial program to prevent radicalization.

Prevent is the program that has received the most attention. It relies on the so-called conveyor belt theory which postulates that someone who is either alienated or critical of the status quo will inevitably graduate to even more extreme views and eventually cross the line from nonviolence to violence. Those who are identified as vulnerable by Prevent are sometimes entered into a government funded but privately managed counseling program referred to as “Channel,” which has worked with 8,000 mostly young Muslim men in an effort to avoid radicalization.

The problem with evaluating Prevent’s effectiveness is that it is the government doing the assessing. It equates success with the numbers going through the program and it ignores the many critics who note that it has so alienated the Muslim community that it actually creates more new potential militants than it succeeds in deradicalizing. The fundamental issue is that there is no actual model or profile of a terrorist that one can focus on in an effort to prevent radicalization, so the definition of who might be a threat has been continuously broadened lest anyone escape the net. Nearly all of the recent terrorist attacks in Britain were carried out by young men born in Britain who were at least nominally Muslim, but beyond that they had very little in common in terms of education, family and social background or even religiosity. Their belief in a violent solution to what troubled them certainly sets them apart but it is unlikely that the security services would be able to discern that in any event, so their names frequently join the 23,000 others on the British “subjects of interest” potential terrorism database. From a policing point of view, those 23,000 are joined by thousands more names submitted by ordinary Britons as part of the Prevent program, each one of which has to be investigated and either cleared or added to the database.

The British security agencies have inevitably been overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of terror suspects. Surveillance of a suspect is extremely labor intensive, even when assisted by Britain’s extensive CCTV system, which covers large parts of the country’s cities and towns as well as the roads connecting them, so it is safe to assume that very few dangerous individuals are actually being watched at any given time. This asymmetry makes the odds very much in the terrorist’s favor as he can strike anywhere with any kind of weapon while the police must try to protect everywhere.

Due to the public outcry over the recent attacks, the British government is currently undertaking a sweeping security review on terrorism. It will likely expand the Prevent program in spite of uncertainty at all levels over whether it is actually working or not. In addition to encouraging citizens to support suspicious behavior, the legislation actually compels institutions that are in any was connected to the government to actively seek out and identify those exhibiting potential terrorist sympathies. That includes, schools, universities, libraries and any government office that deals with the public. The establishing legislation for Prevent defines early warning signs of terrorist sympathies as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

A recent article in the London Review of Books entitled “Don’t go to the doctor,” explores how Prevent sometimes works in practice in an educational environment. Universities and other schools are required to aggressively seek out radicalized students. They have to submit regular reports demonstrating that they are complying with the law to include specific information regarding individual cases and follow-up action to make sure that they are diligently seeking out radicals. In one case cited, an instructor at Oxford, in dealing with a Muslim university student who was struggling with her course work, learned that the woman had gone to see her doctor regarding depression. Due to Prevent, she felt obligated to ask the student whether she was being radicalized.

Similarly, a librarian at a major university was asked by another college to provide a professional reference for a colleague. One of the questions was “Are you completely satisfied that the applicant is not involved in extremism?” Other universities in Britain have stopped allowing Muslim students to use college rooms for gatherings out of fear that the meetings will be used for radicalization. Guest lists for many university sponsored meetings that are open to students must now be provided 48 hours prior to the event for security screening. College authorities are allowed to search the rooms of Muslim students “on suspicion.”

Some might regard Prevent as a relatively innocuous but necessary measure to combat radicalization. I do not agree as any program that focuses on a particular minority while compelling ordinary citizens to report on other ordinary citizens opens the door to many types of abuse. In any event, the U.S. Constitution would seem to make the type of legislation that established Prevent in Britain unimaginable on this side of the Atlantic, but one should not relax too soon as this is the home of the Patriot and the Military Commissions Acts.

Prevent operates on the principle that individuals who are maladjusted will eventually become pathologically so if they are not counseled and convinced to abandon their wicked ways. It neither addresses nor in any way concedes that many of the disaffected that it targets are actually angry for reasons that are at least comprehensible, including what the British government continues to do to fellow Muslims overseas, which is sometimes referred to as “blowback.” End the bombing of Syrians and Iraqis and much of the motivation to bomb in Birmingham just might disappear. Oddly enough, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn raised that very issue in the recent British electoral campaign, saying that terrorism was often a response to the policies that the government was carrying out in the Middle East. His comment was largely ignored by the British media, but the Labour Party went on to win many more votes than anticipated and Corbyn nearly became Prime Minister. Perhaps the real message on what actually causes terrorism is beginning to get through to the public. Let us hope so.

Google to stop scanning Gmail for creating targeted ads

June 23, 2017


Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would stop scanning Gmail content for creating personalized ads from later this year, bringing the widely-used email service in line with its enterprise offering, G Suite.

The decision was outlined in a blog post by Google cloud computing chief Diane Greene, who joined the company in 2015 and has been responsible for the rapid growth of Google’s cloud business.

Google’s practice of analyzing incoming and outgoing emails of its free consumer Gmail users has been criticized on privacy concerns.

Google’s G Suite business bundle have been gaining more enterprise users in the past year, with more than 3 million companies paying for the G Suite service, the company said. (bit.ly/2t3zXPA)

Gmail has more than 1.2 billion users worldwide.

(Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee; Editing by Arun Koyyur)




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