TBR News March 29, 2017

Mar 29 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 29, 2017: «There is global climate change upon us.

No one knows why this is happening but dozens of idiot bloggers certainly know.

One says it is ultra-violet rays from the sun while others blame coal burning, fumes from car exhausts, cow farts, (seriously!) rotting vegetation in the Arctic and other entertaining theories.

Of course all of these are supported by legions of “scientists” whose names the proponents are too shy to mention.

At any rate, competent climatologists agree that the most probably happening will be a very sudden overturn of the climate in the far north.

What they all see is a bit more warming, the very rapid melting of global ice, such as the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps (which are vanishing at an increasing speed, raising the sea levels as they do so) and then the mass of fresh, cold water forcing its was down into the north Atlantic will shove the arm of the warm Gulf Stream far south and diminish its warmth.

Once this happens, and it is train as I write, there will be a very sudden plunge in northern polar temperatures and all across the northern Hemisphere the winters will be deadly cold and very long and ice will start to form.

Springs will bevery cool and short as will summer and the winters will return quickly with sub-sero temperatures and more snow and ice.

We can see this trend today in the so-called “polar vortex” winds that have come to the United States for the last three years.

Temperatures plunged to well below zero and these stayed for a brief time and then temperatures returned to normal.

If one studies (on official government climate maps) the degree and extent of these “polar vortex” drops, and compares these with maps of the furthest extent of glaciers during the last ice age, one can see with great clarity that the areas match perfectly.

When the ice period comes back, it is now believed it will come in a day, not in a decade.

One of the reasons for this belief is that just before the last ice age, the tundra in northern Siberia was very warm.

Tropical trees and grasses grew there and the mammoth herds were large.

Very suddenly, the temperatures plunged and mammoths were frozen to death as they stood, fresh food still in their mouths.

As current temperatures continue to rise, in Siberia many more thawing mammoth remains are discovered and the flash freezing hypothesis is reinforced.

And the human populations of the rapidly freezing northern hemisphere will flee to the south where it will be warmer.

And there will be turf wars as floods of refugees will fight with resident locals for land and housing,

The northern tier states; Illinois, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Montana, the Dakotas, Vermont, and the Great Lakes will all be covered with ice.

During the last era, the so-called Wisconsin Period, the ice was two miles thick.

Of course the sea levels will drop again as the water is taken up in ice.

The last time this happened, the sea levels were 400′ lower than they are today.

Governments cannot control the weather nor cope with its consequences so they prefer to ignore catastrophic events by getting their own fictional “scientists” to claim that all of this might just possibly happen but in the distant future so that no one need to worry. “

Table of Contents

  • An American Century of Carnage
  • Cyber Firm Rewrites Part of Disputed Russian Hacking Report
  • You Shouldn’t Blame Islam for Terrorism. Religion Isn’t a Crucial Factor in Attacks.
  • Long road to Brexit: the UK triggered Article 50, but what happens next?

An American Century of Carnage

Measuring Violence in a Single Superpower World

by John W. Dower

March 20, 2017


On February 17, 1941, almost 10 months before Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Life magazine carried a lengthy essay by its publisher, Henry Luce, entitled “The American Century.” The son of Presbyterian missionaries, born in China in 1898 and raised there until the age of 15, Luce essentially transposed the certainty of religious dogma into the certainty of a nationalistic mission couched in the name of internationalism.

Luce acknowledged that the United States could not police the whole world or attempt to impose democratic institutions on all of mankind. Nonetheless, “the world of the 20th Century,” he wrote, “if it is to come to life in any nobility of health and vigor, must be to a significant degree an American Century.” The essay called on all Americans “to accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such measures as we see fit.”

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the United States wholeheartedly onto the international stage Luce believed it was destined to dominate, and the ringing title of his cri de coeur became a staple of patriotic Cold War and post-Cold War rhetoric. Central to this appeal was the affirmation of a virtuous calling. Luce’s essay singled out almost every professed ideal that would become a staple of wartime and Cold War propaganda: freedom, democracy, equality of opportunity, self-reliance and independence, cooperation, justice, charity – all coupled with a vision of economic abundance inspired by “our magnificent industrial products, our technical skills.” In present-day patriotic incantations, this is referred to as “American exceptionalism.”

The other, harder side of America’s manifest destiny was, of course, muscularity. Power. Possessing absolute and never-ending superiority in developing and deploying the world’s most advanced and destructive arsenal of war. Luce did not dwell on this dimension of “internationalism” in his famous essay, but once the world war had been entered and won, he became its fervent apostle – an outspoken advocate of “liberating” China from its new communist rulers, taking over from the beleaguered French colonial military in Vietnam, turning both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts from “limited wars” into opportunities for a wider virtuous war against and in China, and pursuing the rollback of the Iron Curtain with “tactical atomic weapons.” As Luce’s incisive biographer Alan Brinkley documents, at one point Luce even mulled the possibility of “plastering Russia with 500 (or 1,000) A bombs” – a terrifying scenario, but one that the keepers of the U.S. nuclear arsenal actually mapped out in expansive and appalling detail in the 1950s and 1960s, before Luce’s death in 1967.

The “American Century” catchphrase is hyperbole, the slogan never more than a myth, a fantasy, a delusion. Military victory in any traditional sense was largely a chimera after World War II. The so-called Pax Americana itself was riddled with conflict and oppression and egregious betrayals of the professed catechism of American values. At the same time, postwar U.S. hegemony obviously never extended to more than a portion of the globe. Much that took place in the world, including disorder and mayhem, was beyond America’s control.

Yet, not unreasonably, Luce’s catchphrase persists. The twenty-first-century world may be chaotic, with violence erupting from innumerable sources and causes, but the United States does remain the planet’s “sole superpower.” The myth of exceptionalism still holds most Americans in its thrall. U.S. hegemony, however frayed at the edges, continues to be taken for granted in ruling circles, and not only in Washington. And Pentagon planners still emphatically define their mission as “full-spectrum dominance” globally.

Washington’s commitment to modernizing its nuclear arsenal rather than focusing on achieving the thoroughgoing abolition of nuclear weapons has proven unshakable. So has the country’s almost religious devotion to leading the way in developing and deploying ever more “smart” and sophisticated conventional weapons of mass destruction.

Welcome to Henry Luce’s – and America’s – violent century, even if thus far it’s lasted only 75 years. The question is just what to make of it these days.

Counting the Dead

We live in times of bewildering violence. In 2013, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Senate committee that the world is “more dangerous than it has ever been.” Statisticians, however, tell a different story: that war and lethal conflict have declined steadily, significantly, even precipitously since World War II.

Much mainstream scholarship now endorses the declinists. In his influential 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker adopted the labels “the Long Peace” for the four-plus decades of the Cold War (1945-1991), and “the New Peace” for the post-Cold War years to the present. In that book, as well as in post-publication articles, postings, and interviews, he has taken the doomsayers to task. The statistics suggest, he declares, that “today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’s existence.”

Clearly, the number and deadliness of global conflicts have indeed declined since World War II. This so-called postwar peace was, and still is, however, saturated in blood and wracked with suffering.

It is reasonable to argue that total war-related fatalities during the Cold War decades were lower than in the six years of World War II (1939–1945) and certainly far less than the toll for the twentieth century’s two world wars combined. It is also undeniable that overall death tolls have declined further since then. The five most devastating intrastate or interstate conflicts of the postwar decades – in China, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and between Iran and Iraq – took place during the Cold War. So did a majority of the most deadly politicides, or political mass killings, and genocides: in the Soviet Union, China (again), Yugoslavia, North Korea, North Vietnam, Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan/Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, and Cambodia, among other countries. The end of the Cold War certainly did not signal the end of such atrocities (as witness Rwanda, the Congo, and the implosion of Syria). As with major wars, however, the trajectory has been downward.

Unsurprisingly, the declinist argument celebrates the Cold War as less violent than the global conflicts that preceded it, and the decades that followed as statistically less violent than the Cold War. But what motivates the sanitizing of these years, now amounting to three-quarters of a century, with the label “peace”? The answer lies largely in a fixation on major powers. The great Cold War antagonists, the United States and the Soviet Union, bristling with their nuclear arsenals, never came to blows. Indeed, wars between major powers or developed states have become (in Pinker’s words) “all but obsolete.” There has been no World War III, nor is there likely to be.

Such upbeat quantification invites complacent forms of self-congratulation. (How comparatively virtuous we mortals have become!) In the United States, where we-won-the-Cold-War sentiment still runs strong, the relative decline in global violence after 1945 is commonly attributed to the wisdom, virtue, and firepower of U.S. “peacekeeping.” In hawkish circles, nuclear deterrence – the Cold War’s MAD (mutually assured destruction) doctrine that was described early on as a “delicate balance of terror” – is still canonized as an enlightened policy that prevented catastrophic global conflict.

What Doesn’t Get Counted

Branding the long postwar era as an epoch of relative peace is disingenuous, and not just because it deflects attention from the significant death and agony that actually did occur and still does. It also obscures the degree to which the United States bears responsibility for contributing to, rather than impeding, militarization and mayhem after 1945. Ceaseless U.S.-led transformations of the instruments of mass destruction – and the provocative global impact of this technological obsession – are by and large ignored.

Continuities in American-style “warfighting” (a popular Pentagon word) such as heavy reliance on airpower and other forms of brute force are downplayed. So is U.S. support for repressive foreign regimes, as well as the destabilizing impact of many of the nation’s overt and covert overseas interventions. The more subtle and insidious dimension of postwar U.S. militarization – namely, the violence done to civil society by funneling resources into a gargantuan, intrusive, and ever-expanding national security state – goes largely unaddressed in arguments fixated on numerical declines in violence since World War II.

Beyond this, trying to quantify war, conflict, and devastation poses daunting methodological challenges. Data advanced in support of the decline-of-violence argument is dense and often compelling, and derives from a range of respectable sources. Still, it must be kept in mind that the precise quantification of death and violence is almost always impossible. When a source offers fairly exact estimates of something like “war-related excess deaths,” you usually are dealing with investigators deficient in humility and imagination.

Take, for example, World War II, about which countless tens of thousands of studies have been written. Estimates of total “war-related” deaths from that global conflict range from roughly 50 million to more than 80 million. One explanation for such variation is the sheer chaos of armed violence. Another is what the counters choose to count and how they count it. Battle deaths of uniformed combatants are easiest to determine, especially on the winning side. Military bureaucrats can be relied upon to keep careful records of their own killed-in-action – but not, of course, of the enemy they kill. War-related civilian fatalities are even more difficult to assess, although – as in World War II – they commonly are far greater than deaths in combat.

Does the data source go beyond so-called battle-related collateral damage to include deaths caused by war-related famine and disease? Does it take into account deaths that may have occurred long after the conflict itself was over (as from radiation poisoning after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or from the U.S. use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War)? The difficulty of assessing the toll of civil, tribal, ethnic, and religious conflicts with any exactitude is obvious.

Concentrating on fatalities and their averred downward trajectory also draws attention away from broader humanitarian catastrophes. In mid-2015, for instance, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the number of individuals “forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations” had surpassed 60 million and was the highest level recorded since World War II and its immediate aftermath. Roughly two-thirds of these men, women, and children were displaced inside their own countries. The remainder were refugees, and over half of these refugees were children.

Here, then, is a trend line intimately connected to global violence that is not heading downward. In 1996, the U.N.’s estimate was that there were 37.3 million forcibly displaced individuals on the planet. Twenty years later, as 2015 ended, this had risen to 65.3 million – a 75% increase over the last two post-Cold War decades that the declinist literature refers to as the “new peace.”

Other disasters inflicted on civilians are less visible than uprooted populations. Harsh conflict-related economic sanctions, which often cripple hygiene and health-care systems and may precipitate a sharp spike in infant mortality, usually do not find a place in itemizations of military violence. U.S.-led U.N. sanctions imposed against Iraq for 13 years beginning in 1990 in conjunction with the first Gulf War are a stark example of this. An account published in the New York Times Magazine in July 2003 accepted the fact that “at least several hundred thousand children who could reasonably have been expected to live died before their fifth birthday.” And after all-out wars, who counts the maimed, or the orphans and widows, or those the Japanese in the wake of World War II referred to as the “elderly orphaned” – parents bereft of their children?

Figures and tables, moreover, can only hint at the psychological and social violence suffered by combatants and noncombatants alike. It has been suggested, for instance, that one in six people in areas afflicted by war may suffer from mental disorder (as opposed to one in ten in normal times). Even where American military personnel are concerned, trauma did not become a serious focus of concern until 1980, seven years after the U.S. retreat from Vietnam, when post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was officially recognized as a mental-health issue.

In 2008, a massive sampling study of 1.64 million U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq between October 2001 and October 2007 estimated “that approximately 300,000 individuals currently suffer from PTSD or major depression and that 320,000 individuals experienced a probable TBI [traumatic brain injury] during deployment.” As these wars dragged on, the numbers naturally increased. To extend the ramifications of such data to wider circles of family and community – or, indeed, to populations traumatized by violence worldwide – defies statistical enumeration.

Terror Counts and Terror Fears

Largely unmeasurable, too, is violence in a different register: the damage that war, conflict, militarization, and plain existential fear inflict upon civil society and democratic practice. This is true everywhere but has been especially conspicuous in the United States since Washington launched its “global war on terror” in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Here, numbers are perversely provocative, for the lives claimed in twenty-first-century terrorist incidents can be interpreted as confirming the decline-in-violence argument. From 2000 through 2014, according to the widely cited Global Terrorism Index, “more than 61,000 incidents of terrorism claiming over 140,000 lives have been recorded.” Including September 11th, countries in the West experienced less than 5% of these incidents and 3% of the deaths. The Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, another minutely documented tabulation based on combing global media reports in many languages, puts the number of suicide bombings from 2000 through 2015 at 4,787 attacks in more than 40 countries, resulting in 47,274 deaths.

These atrocities are incontestably horrendous and alarming. Grim as they are, however, the numbers themselves are comparatively low when set against earlier conflicts. For specialists in World War II, the “140,000 lives” estimate carries an almost eerie resonance, since this is the rough figure usually accepted for the death toll from a single act of terror bombing, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The tally is also low compared to contemporary deaths from other causes. Globally, for example, more than 400,000 people are murdered annually. In the United States, the danger of being killed by falling objects or lightning is at least as great as the threat from Islamist militants.

This leaves us with a perplexing question: If the overall incidence of violence, including twenty-first-century terrorism, is relatively low compared to earlier global threats and conflicts, why has the United States responded by becoming an increasingly militarized, secretive, unaccountable, and intrusive “national security state”? Is it really possible that a patchwork of non-state adversaries that do not possess massive firepower or follow traditional rules of engagement has, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared in 2013, made the world more threatening than ever?

For those who do not believe this to be the case, possible explanations for the accelerating militarization of the United States come from many directions. Paranoia may be part of the American DNA – or, indeed, hardwired into the human species. Or perhaps the anticommunist hysteria of the Cold War simply metastasized into a post-9/11 pathological fear of terrorism. Machiavellian fear-mongering certainly enters the picture, led by conservative and neoconservative civilian and military officials of the national security state, along with opportunistic politicians and war profiteers of the usual sort. Cultural critics predictably point an accusing finger as well at the mass media’s addiction to sensationalism and catastrophe, now intensified by the proliferation of digital social media.

To all this must be added the peculiar psychological burden of being a “superpower” and, from the 1990s on, the planet’s “sole superpower” – a situation in which “credibility” is measured mainly in terms of massive cutting-edge military might. It might be argued that this mindset helped “contain Communism” during the Cold War and provides a sense of security to U.S. allies. What it has not done is ensure victory in actual war, although not for want of trying. With some exceptions (Grenada, Panama, the brief 1991 Gulf War, and the Balkans), the U.S. military has not tasted victory since World War II – Korea, Vietnam, and recent and current conflicts in the Greater Middle East being boldface examples of this failure. This, however, has had no impact on the hubris attached to superpower status. Brute force remains the ultimate measure of credibility.

The traditional American way of war has tended to emphasize the “three Ds” (defeat, destroy, devastate). Since 1996, the Pentagon’s proclaimed mission is to maintain “full-spectrum dominance” in every domain (land, sea, air, space, and information) and, in practice, in every accessible part of the world. The Air Force Global Strike Command, activated in 2009 and responsible for managing two-thirds of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, typically publicizes its readiness for “Global Strike… Any Target, Any Time.”

In 2015, the Department of Defense acknowledged maintaining 4,855 physical “sites” – meaning bases ranging in size from huge contained communities to tiny installations – of which 587 were located overseas in 42 foreign countries. An unofficial investigation that includes small and sometimes impermanent facilities puts the number at around 800 in 80 countries. Over the course of 2015, to cite yet another example of the overwhelming nature of America’s global presence, elite U.S. special operations forces were deployed to around 150 countries, and Washington provided assistance in arming and training security forces in an even larger number of nations.

America’s overseas bases reflect, in part, an enduring inheritance from World War II and the Korean War. The majority of these sites are located in Germany (181), Japan (122), and South Korea (83) and were retained after their original mission of containing communism disappeared with the end of the Cold War. Deployment of elite special operations forces is also a Cold War legacy (exemplified most famously by the Army’s “Green Berets” in Vietnam) that expanded after the demise of the Soviet Union. Dispatching covert missions to three-quarters of the world’s nations, however, is largely a product of the war on terror.

Many of these present-day undertakings require maintaining overseas “lily pad” facilities that are small, temporary, and unpublicized. And many, moreover, are integrated with covert CIA “black operations.” Combating terror involves practicing terror – including, since 2002, an expanding campaign of targeted assassinations by unmanned drones. For the moment, this latest mode of killing remains dominated by the CIA and the U.S. military (with the United Kingdom and Israel following some distance behind).

Counting Nukes

The “delicate balance of terror” that characterized nuclear strategy during the Cold War has not disappeared. Rather, it has been reconfigured. The U.S. and Soviet arsenals that reached a peak of insanity in the 1980s have been reduced by about two-thirds – a praiseworthy accomplishment but one that still leaves the world with around 15,400 nuclear weapons as of January 2016, 93% of them in U.S. and Russian hands. Close to two thousand of the latter on each side are still actively deployed on missiles or at bases with operational forces.

This downsizing, in other words, has not removed the wherewithal to destroy the Earth as we know it many times over. Such destruction could come about indirectly as well as directly, with even a relatively “modest” nuclear exchange between, say, India and Pakistan triggering a cataclysmic climate shift – a “nuclear winter” – that could result in massive global starvation and death. Nor does the fact that seven additional nations now possess nuclear weapons (and more than 40 others are deemed “nuclear weapons capable”) mean that “deterrence” has been enhanced. The future use of nuclear weapons, whether by deliberate decision or by accident, remains an ominous possibility. That threat is intensified by the possibility that nonstate terrorists may somehow obtain and use nuclear devices.

What is striking at this moment in history is that paranoia couched as strategic realism continues to guide U.S. nuclear policy and, following America’s lead, that of the other nuclear powers. As announced by the Obama administration in 2014, the potential for nuclear violence is to be “modernized.” In concrete terms, this translates as a 30-year project that will cost the United States an estimated $1 trillion (not including the usual future cost overruns for producing such weapons), perfect a new arsenal of “smart” and smaller nuclear weapons, and extensively refurbish the existing delivery “triad” of long-range manned bombers, nuclear-armed submarines, and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads.

Nuclear modernization, of course, is but a small portion of the full spectrum of American might – a military machine so massive that it inspired President Obama to speak with unusual emphasis in his State of the Union address in January 2016. “The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth,” he declared. “Period. Period. It’s not even close. It’s not even close. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.”

Official budgetary expenditures and projections provide a snapshot of this enormous military machine, but here again numbers can be misleading. Thus, the “base budget” for defense announced in early 2016 for fiscal year 2017 amounts to roughly $600 billion, but this falls far short of what the actual outlay will be. When all other discretionary military- and defense-related costs are taken into account – nuclear maintenance and modernization, the “war budget” that pays for so-called overseas contingency operations like military engagements in the Greater Middle East, “black budgets” that fund intelligence operations by agencies including the CIA and the National Security Agency, appropriations for secret high-tech military activities, “veterans affairs” costs (including disability payments), military aid to other countries, huge interest costs on the military-related part of the national debt, and so on – the actual total annual expenditure is close to $1 trillion.

Such stratospheric numbers defy easy comprehension, but one does not need training in statistics to bring them closer to home. Simple arithmetic suffices. The projected bill for just the 30-year nuclear modernization agenda comes to over $90 million a day, or almost $4 million an hour. The $1 trillion price tag for maintaining the nation’s status as “the most powerful nation on Earth” for a single year amounts to roughly $2.74 billion a day, over $114 million an hour.

Creating a capacity for violence greater than the world has ever seen is costly – and remunerative.

So an era of a “new peace”? Think again. We’re only three quarters of the way through America’s violent century and there’s more to come.


Cyber Firm Rewrites Part of Disputed Russian Hacking Report

March 24, 2017

by Oleksiy Kuzmenko and Pete Cobus

voa news

WASHINGTON —  U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has revised and retracted statements it used to buttress claims of Russian hacking during last year’s American presidential election campaign. The shift followed a VOA report that the company misrepresented data published by an influential British think tank.

In December, CrowdStrike said it found evidence that Russians hacked into a Ukrainian artillery app, contributing to heavy losses of howitzers in Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists.

VOA reported Tuesday that the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which publishes an annual reference estimating the strength of world armed forces, disavowed the CrowdStrike report and said it had never been contacted by the company.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also has stated that the combat losses and hacking never happened.

Some see overblown allegations

CrowdStrike was first to link hacks of Democratic Party computers to Russian actors last year, but some cybersecurity experts have questioned its evidence. The company has come under fire from some Republicans who say charges of Kremlin meddling in the election are overblown.

After CrowdStrike released its Ukraine report, company co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch claimed it provided added evidence of Russian election interference. In both hacks, he said, the company found malware used by “Fancy Bear,” a group with ties to Russian intelligence agencies.

CrowdStrike’s claims of heavy Ukrainian artillery losses were widely circulated in U.S. media.

On Thursday, CrowdStrike walked back key parts of its Ukraine report.

The company removed language that said Ukraine’s artillery lost 80 percent of the Soviet-era D-30 howitzers, which used aiming software that purportedly was hacked. Instead, the revised report cites figures of 15 to 20 percent losses in combat operations, attributing the figures to IISS.

The original CrowdStrike report was dated Dec. 22, 2016, and the updated report was dated March 23, 2017.

The company also removed language saying Ukraine’s howitzers suffered “the highest percentage of loss of any … artillery pieces in Ukraine’s arsenal.”

Finally, CrowdStrike deleted a statement saying “deployment of this malware-infected application may have contributed to the high-loss nature of this platform” — meaning the howitzers — and excised a link sourcing its IISS data to a blogger in Russia-occupied Crimea.

In an email, CrowdStrike spokeswoman Ilina Dmitrova said the new estimates of Ukrainian artillery losses resulted from conversations with Henry Boyd, an IISS research associate for defense and military analysis. She declined to say what prompted the contact.

CrowdStrike defends report

“This update does not in any way impact the core premise of the report that the FANCY BEAR threat actor implanted malware into a D-30 targeting application developed by a Ukrainian military officer,” Dmitrova wrote.

Reached by VOA, the IISS confirmed providing CrowdStrike with new information about combat losses, but declined to comment on CrowdStrike’s hacking assertions.

“We don’t think the current version of the [CrowdStrike] report draws conclusions with regard to our data, other than quoting the clarification we provided to them,” IISS told VOA.

Dmitrova noted that the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community have also concluded that Russia was behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager.

The release of embarrassing Democratic emails during last year’s U.S. political campaign, and the subsequent finding by intelligence agencies that the hacks were meant to help then-candidate Donald Trump, have led to investigations by the FBI and intelligence committees in both the House and Senate.

Trump and White House officials have denied colluding with Russians.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 23

March 28, 2017


The US Air Force should practice an information policy of “maximum disclosure, minimum delay,” says a newly revised Air Force directive. See Air Force Instruction 35-107, Public Web and Social Communication, 15 March 2017.

“The free flow of information between the government and the public is essential to a democratic society. It is also essential that the government minimize the federal paperwork burden on the public, minimize the cost of its information activities and maximize the usefulness of government information,” the Instruction said.

Information that is classified, inaccurate, or obscene is not to be posted. But Air Force websites should maintain online reading rooms for information “that has been requested via FOIA or could be requested via FOIA [emphasis added].”

Furthermore, “the Air Force views personal Web sites and weblogs positively, and it respects the right of Airmen to use them as a medium of self-expression.”

By itself, the new policy does not mean that the Air Force is now practicing maximum disclosure or that it will necessarily do so in the future. The policy is not self-enforcing.

Still, it represents an official statement of Air Force values, and it therefore provides a point of leverage that can be used by anyone, in the service or among the public, who would seek to uphold those values in practice.

The new version of the Instruction contrasts with the previous version of AFI 35-107 that was released in 2009 and that took a notably less upbeat and more restrictive approach to public disclosure of Air Force information.


Sometimes eating bugs may be the right thing to do.

“When food is limited and insects are available, they can become a valuable food source.”

That bit of practical wisdom comes from a new US Air Force Handbook on Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) Operations that was published this week.

However, “Caterpillars with hairs should be avoided. If eaten, the hairs may become lodged in the throat causing irritation or infection.”

More promisingly, “The praying mantis. . . contains 58 percent protein, 12 percent fat, three percent ash, vitamin B complex, and vitamin A. The insect’s outer skeleton is an interesting compound of sugar and amino acids.”

The Air Force Handbook addresses the needs of an Air Force individual who has been captured or otherwise isolated by accident or operational mishap. Whatever his or her mission may have been before, the new mission immediately becomes to “return to friendly control without giving aid or comfort to the enemy, to return early and in good physical and mental condition.”

The 652-page Handbook provides detailed guidance on how, with good fortune, that might be accomplished.

The military SERE program became somewhat notorious in recent years because early post-9/11 CIA interrogation techniques such as water-boarding were derived in part from SERE training. The new Air Force SERE Handbook makes only passing reference to torture and interrogation and does not mention water-boarding.


Former President Barack Obama “is gearing up to throw himself into the wonky and highly partisan issue of redistricting, with the goal of reversing the electoral declines Democrats experienced under his watch,” the Washington Post and other news outlets reported this week.

The legal framework governing redistricting is discussed in a new report from the Congressional Research Service. See Congressional Redistricting Law: Background and Recent Court Rulings, March 23, 2017.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Pipeline Security: Recent Attacks, CRS Insight, updated March 21, 2017

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense–Issues for Congress, updated March 23, 2017

State and Local “Sanctuary” Policies Limiting Participation in Immigration Enforcement, March 23, 2017

Stafford Act Assistance and Acts of Terrorism, March 22, 2017

The Financial Action Task Force: An Overview, updated March 23, 2017

Issues with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, March 24, 2017

Commercial Truck Safety: Overview, March 21, 2017

Collective Bargaining and the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute: Selected Legal Issues, March 21, 2017

An Overview of Accreditation of Higher Education in the United States, updated March 23, 2017

Budget Actions in 2017, March 22, 2017

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, updated March 24, 2017

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 22, 2017

Navy Columbia Class (Ohio Replacement) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated March 22, 2017



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 article 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.


You Shouldn’t Blame Islam for Terrorism. Religion Isn’t a Crucial Factor in Attacks.

March 29 2017

by Mehdi Hasan

The Intercept

What do you think of when you hear the word “terrorist”? Big beards and brown skins? Turban-wearing Muslim migrants from the Middle East? Refugees maybe?

Yet according to a report from the New America Foundation, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.” A recent study in Britain, which last week endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 2005, revealed that more than two out of three “Islamism-inspired” terrorist offenses were carried out by individuals “who were either born or raised in the UK.”

The common stereotype of the Middle Eastern, Muslim-born terrorist is not just lazy and inaccurate, but easy fodder for the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam far right. Consider the swift reaction of White House official Sebastian Gorka to the horrific terror attack in London last week. “The war is real,” he told Fox News while the bodies of the victims were still warm, “and that’s why executive orders like President Trump’s travel moratorium are so important.”

Sorry, what? The 52-year-old perpetrator of the London attack, Khalid Masood, was born and brought up in the UK and would not have been affected in the slightest by a travel ban on Muslims from the Middle East. He was neither a refugee nor an immigrant. He was not of Middle Eastern origin either, and he was not even a Muslim for the vast majority of his life. Born to a white mother and black father as Adrian Elms, and raised as Adrian Ajao, he is believed to have converted to Islam in prison in 2003 and had a well-documented history of criminality prior to mowing down innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and stabbing a police officer outside the Houses of Parliament, last Thursday afternoon.

Does it sound like I am trying to excuse or exculpate Islam and Muslims from responsibility for his heinous crime? You bet I am. And why shouldn’t I?

After all, was the Islamic faith at fault for Ajao’s first conviction, for criminal damage, in 1983 when he was aged 18? Was it the Prophet Muhammad who instructed him to deal drugs in his teens? Was it the Quran that inspired the drunken Ajao to slash a man across the face in 2000, leaving him needing more than 20 stitches? Was Ajao engaged in jihad when he stabbed a man in the nose in 2003, leaving him in need of cosmetic surgery?

No, no, no and no. Later, as Khalid Masood, he may have been radicalized by violent Islamists in a UK prison or by Salafi jihadists while visiting Saudi Arabia — we simply do not know and may never know — but what we can be sure of is that his violent tendencies and anti-social behavior long predated his conversion to Islam, “radical” or otherwise. As even the conservative British academic, and Christian blogger, Adrian Hilton conceded, “Adrian Elms was a violent Christian before he became Muslim terrorist Khalid Masood… Islam didn’t make him an evil bastard; he was already a nasty piece of work.”

As with other Muslim converts who have turned to terror, such as Canadian Aaron Driver and Texan John Georgelas, as well as the born-again types, such as the Kouachi brothers in Paris and the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, a distorted, simplistic and politicized form of Islam may have provided Masood with a ready-made justification for his violence, but I doubt it was the main motivation. While politicians and pundits obsess over the role played by political ideology — Islamism — or religious faith — Islam — they conveniently if irresponsibly avert their gaze from other, perhaps more crucial factors. There is the role of social networks and family ties; issues of identity and belonging; a sense of persecution; mental illness; socio-economic grievances; moral outrage over conflict and torture; a craving for glory and purpose, action and adventure. These have proved to be much better predictors of terrorist tendencies than religion and, specifically, religiosity.

Don’t take my (Muslim) word for it. In 2008, a leaked report by researchers for MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, found that “far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly,” according to the Guardian’s Alan Travis, who obtained, revealed and reported on the classified document, which is based on “hundreds of case studies” by the security service.

“They are mostly British nationals, not illegal immigrants and, far from being Islamist fundamentalists, most are religious novices,” wrote Travis, after reading the report, adding: “Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes.”

Sound familiar?

And the report had this as a kicker: “MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.”

Over the past decade since the MI5 research was first leaked, more and more studies have challenged the conventional and lazy wisdom on the role of religion in the radicalization process. In recent years, I have spoken with a range of leading experts — anthropologist Scott Atran, psychiatrist Marc Sageman, historian Lydia Wilson — all of whom have interviewed “jihadi” terrorists, from the battlefields of Iraq to the prison cells of the United States, and all of whom agree that faith, Islamic or otherwise, is not the key driver of this latest wave of global terror.

“Terrorism is really political violence, first and foremost,” Sageman told me last year. Atran, when I interviewed him for my Al Jazeera English show in 2015, said, “If you dialogue with these people, if you look at how they actually move into ‘jihad’ … there is very little discussion of religion.”

Yet every major terrorist attack in the West is followed by a very public “discussion of religion.” How Islamic is ISIS? Does Islam require a reformation? Do Muslims pose a threat to liberal values? Should Western countries ban immigration from Muslim-majority countries?

In fact, these days, members of the ‘Blame Islam’ crowd don’t even try and hide their evident glee when a terrorist attack occurs. They assume that the attacker’s Muslim name in and of itself is a vindication of their anti-Muslim bigotry. Their claim that “Islam is the problem” has now gone mainstream: it has a committed supporter in the White House, if not in Downing Street. The absence of clear and empirical evidence for their spurious theory of radicalization does not seem to bother them in the slightest. That most terrorists are “religious novices” and a “diverse collection of individuals, fitting no single demographic profile, nor do they all follow a typical pathway to violent extremism,” to quote MI5, is ignored or downplayed.

What was it Einstein once joked? “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” Or deploy “alternative” ones, maybe. Such an approach makes sense if your aim is to demonize Islam and Muslims, no matter the cost. But if your aim is to prevent the next attack, this excessive focus on faith, on belief, on ideology — in defiance of the evidence and the experts — is a dangerous distraction. The terrorists may want to try and legitimize their violence by cynically appealing to Islamic motifs or doctrines, but there is no reason the rest of us should help them do it.

Long road to Brexit: the UK triggered Article 50, but what happens next?

British Prime Minister Theresa May has invoked Article 50, marking the official start of the UK’s divorce proceedings with the EU 27. Here’s a look at what’s to come over the next two years of negotiations.

March 29, 2017

by Kate Brady



Long road to Brexit: the UK triggered Article 50, but what happens next?

British Prime Minister Theresa May has invoked Article 50, marking the official start of the UK’s divorce proceedings with the EU 27. Here’s a look at what’s to come over the next two years of negotiations.

UK and UK flag with ‘one way’ road sign

Some nine months since 52 percent of the UK voted in favor of leaving the European Union, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday triggered Article 50, kicking off two years of talks with the EU 27 to hammer out a Brexit deal.

Here’s a look at what’s to come:

What exactly is Article 50?

Article 50 is part of the Lisbon Treaty, which was signed by all members of the European Union in December 2007. The plan sets out the rules for any country wishing to leave the EU. Until it became law two years later, there was previously no formal mechanism for a member state to leave the EU.

At just five paragraphs long, Article 50 stipulates that any EU country wishing to quit the EU must notify the European Council. With that task under its belt, the UK will now negotiate its withdrawal with the EU.

Will triggering Article 50 immediately affect the UK’s EU membership?

Over the next two years, the UK will remain bound by EU laws and regulations including the single market and freedom of movement.  It is also obliged to honor its commitments as a member state, although London gave up its rotating presidency of the European Council – which was scheduled for the second half of 2017 – to concentrate on Brexit negotiations instead.

The UK can also take part in adopting EU acts unrelated to Brexit, but is not allowed to participate in any EU internal discussions about its departure.

Can the UK revoke Article 50?

No country has ever invoked Article 50, therefore there is no precedent as to whether it is reversible. While Theresa May has repeatedly insisted that “Brexit means Brexit,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel previously suggested to British daily “The Independent” that “maybe during the procedure of divorce [the UK] will say ‘we love you that much that we are not able to conclude that divorce’.”

If Westminster decides to withdraw its application to leave the EU, however, the question could be put to the European Court of Justice.

What is the Brexit schedule?

In light of Theresa May triggering Article 50, the remaining EU 27 are due to meet at a summit on April 29, at which they will set out the arrangements for the UK’s departure, “taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the union.”

By June at the latest, negotiations between the UK and EU should be underway, with Westminister expected to introduce legislation – the Great Repeal Bill – by fall this year. This will put all existing EU laws into British law, enabling parliament to pick and choose which laws should be kept or revoked.

After a draft deal is agreed, the UK Houses of Parliament, the European Council and the European Parliament will all vote. If the EU and UK keep to schedule, the UK will formally withdraw from the European Union by March 2019.

Who are the negotiators?

There are three main negotiators from the UK who will play pivotal roles in talks with the EU: Brexit Secretary David Davis, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Prime Minister Theresa May, however, will have the final say on any deal.

Representing the EU 27 is the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator and former French minister Michel Barnier.

What key factors need to be agreed?

Access to the EU single market and trade deals for goods and services between Britain and the remaining member states will be top of the agenda.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier previously said London will have to accept freedom of movement  “without exception or nuance” if it wants to retain access to the single market.

Free movement and the living and working rights of the 3 million EU nationals already in the UK, as well as the 1.2 million Brits living in other EU countries, will also need to be agreed upon.

Many EU and UK citizens living abroad have already raised concerns that they will be used as bargaining chips in the process.

How much will Brexit cost the UK?

London can expect an expensive divorce, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker previously warning that “our British friends need to know – and they know it already – that it will not be cut-price or zero-cost.”

EU Brexit negotiator and so-called “hardliner” Michel Barnier is reportedly seeking a 60-billion-euro (US$65.4 billion) “exit bill” from UK.

What happens if there’s no Brexit deal after two years?

Several analysts expect Brexit negotiations to be a difficult divorce that is likely to take more than the stipulated two years. Should an agreement failed to be reached in that time frame, negotiations can be extended, but only if every EU member state agrees to do so.

Before the UK can leave the EU, any Brexit deal must be approved by a “qualified majority” – i.e. 72 percent of the remaining 27 EU states, representing 65 percent of the population backed by MEPs.

Could the UK leave the EU without a Brexit deal?

In theory, the UK could leave the EU without any agreement and existing treaties and EU law would cease to apply. In that case, however, there might be some acquired rights for EU and UK citizens.

Without any trade deals, this would also see the UK adopting default World Trade Organization tariffs, which are higher than those currently in place.

Would there be a financial penalty for no post-Brexit deal?

An inquiry by the UK’s upper house of parliament, the House of Lords, concluded that the UK would be in a “strong” position to walk away from the EU without paying anything if there is no post-Brexit deal.

The Lords warned against leaving without a making a financial contribution, however, as this “would also damage the prospects of reaching friendly agreement on other issues.”

Can the UK rejoin the EU after leaving?

Should the UK decide in the future that it wants to rejoin the EU, London would have to re-apply under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty, just like any other country wanting to attain EU membership for the first time.










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