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TBR News March 4, 2017

Mar 04 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. March 4, 2017: “A Russian reader has dug out, from official Russian archives, a most informative and important file. The most important document in it is a copy of a secret message sent by Josef Stalin to American President Roosevelt on October 12, 1941.

This document states that the Russian government has learned, via their top agent in Japan, (Dr.Richard  Sorge ‘Ramsay’) that the Japanese were going to launch a surprise attack against the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor “within 60 days.”

This message was received by Roosevelt and he responded at once, thanking Stalin for his “vital and gratefully received” input.

The Stalin message and the Roosevelt response will be published in a forthcoming book, the autobiography of Robert T. Crowley, a senior official of the CIA.”

Table of Contents

  • We Shouldn’t Feel Too Optimistic if Isis Are Defeated in Mosul
  • WIKILEAKS: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Funds and Logistically Supports ISIL
  • Iran tests new Russian-made S-300 missile system
  • Syria’s Kurdish-led administration sees end to economic ‘siege’
  • The CIA and the Ukraine: A retrospective view
  • FBI undercover stings foil terrorist plots – but how many are agency-created?
  • Brexit: UK ‘not obliged’ to pay divorce bill say peers
  • Did Sessions Do Anything Wrong?
  • “Secret” S. Drone and Intelligence base in the Saudi desert.
  • Nazi Roots of Ukraine’s Conflict
  • DUP edges out Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland post-Brexit vote
  • 125,000yo skull fragments may have belonged to little known extinct human species, Denisovans

 We Shouldn’t Feel Too Optimistic if Isis Are Defeated in Mosul

March 3, 2017

by Patrick Cockburn

The Unz Review

After Isis captured Mosul in June 2014, people in Baghdad waited in terror to see if its fighters would go on to storm the capital. There was very little to stop them as the Iraqi army in northern Iraq broke up and fled south. Many government ministers and MPs rushed to the airport and took refuge in Jordan. When an American military delegation arrived to review the defences of Baghdad, they were told by a senior Iraq official “to look to see which ministers had put fresh sandbags around their ministries. Those that have done so like myself will stay and fight; where you see old sandbags it means the minister doesn’t care because he is intending to run.”

Two and a half years later, it is Isis fighters who are battling street-to-street to hold onto west Mosul, their last big stronghold in Iraq, in the face of multiple assaults by a revived Iraqi army backed by US airpower. The last road out of the city to the west was cut by Iraqi government forces on 1 March and they have also captured one of the half-ruined bridges over the Tigris River that bisects Mosul, which they are planning to repair using US-supplied pontoons. Iraqi military units backed by some 50 US airstrikes a day are getting close to the complex of buildings that used to house the government headquarters in the centre of the city.

Iraqi officials and officers announce only advances and victories, reports that often turn out to be premature or untrue. But there is no doubt that the Iraqi security services are winning the struggle for Mosul, though fighting could go on for a long time amid the close-packed buildings and narrow, twisting alleyways. Already shelling and airstrikes are causing heavy casualties among families sheltering in cellars or beneath the stairs in their houses.

The battle will probably continue for a long time, but the capture of Mosul looks inevitable and will be a calamitous defeat for Isis. When its few thousand fighters seized the city and defeated a government garrison of 60,000 in 2014, it portrayed its victory as a sign that God was on its side. But the same logic works in reverse and today all Isis can offer its followers is a series of hard-fought defeats and withdrawals.

The crucial question concerns whether or not the fall of Mosul means the effective end of the caliphate declared by its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The caliphate’s significance was that at one time it ruled territory with a population of five or six million people in Iraq and Syria, where it sought to establish a truly Islamic State. It is this dream – or nightmare – that is now being shattered. Isis may still control some territory in Iraq and more in Syria, but it has nothing like the human and material resources it enjoyed at the height of its power when it controlled territory stretching from the Iranian border almost to the Mediterranean coast.

Isis still has some strengths, including experienced and skilful commanders leading a core of fanatical fighters numbering as many as 4,000 in west Mosul alone. They have already killed 500 and wounded 3,000 of the Iraqi security service’s best soldiers in the struggle for east Mosul, which was meant to last a few weeks and instead took three months. There is a no reason the same thing should not happen in the west of the city where the warren of streets gives the defence an advantage. Foreign fighters know they cannot blend into the population and escape, so they have no choice but to fight to the death.

Other factors work in favour of Isis: it is fighting a vast array of enemies forced into an unwilling coalition against Isis because they fear and hate it just a little bit more than they hate and fear each other. As Isis weakens and becomes less of a threat, the edgy détente between different anti-Isis forces, such as the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Kurds, will begin to fray. People in Baghdad recall that the Kurds took advantage of the defeat of the Iraqi army in 2014 to grab extensive lands long disputed between themselves and the Arabs. Once freed of the menace of Isis, non-Kurdish Iraqis will want these territories back.

In Syria, there is an even more complicated three-cornered fight between the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian Kurds and Turkey for the areas from which Isis is retreating. Turkish troops and their local proxies have just taken al-Bab, northeast of Aleppo, from Isis after a hard fought siege, and have started attacking the town of Manbij nearby, which was taken from Isis after a long battle late last year by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Mobilisation Units (YPG) and its Arab allies. As Isis is driven out, the YPG and Turkish-backed forces are left facing each other in what might be the beginning of a new Kurdish-Turkish war waged across northern Syria.

Even those familiar with the complexities and shifting alliances of the Syrian civil war are baffled by the likely outcome as the different players in Syria position themselves to take advantage of a likely attack on Raqqa, the de facto Syrian capital of Isis. Will the US continue to use the devastating firepower of its air force to support a YPG-led ground offensive? Or could the US administration under Trump take a more pro-Turkish stance and, if it did so, would the Syrian Kurds look for an alternative military alliance with Assad and his Russian backers?

The answers to such questions will decide if we are really getting towards the end of the terrible wars in Iraq and Syria that have ravaged the region since 2003 or if we are only seeing an end to a phase in the conflict. In Iraq, the government has survived the disasters of 2014 and is about to defeat Isis in Mosul, though the Baghdad administration remains spectacularly corrupt, sectarian and dysfunctional. Assad in Syria has already won a crucial victory by capturing east Aleppo, the last big urban stronghold of the armed opposition in Syria, and is evidently intending to win back the whole country.

These successes give an exaggerated idea of the real power of the Iraqi army, which owes the reversal in the military tide to the support of foreign powers and, above all, to US airpower. The same is true of the Syrian army in its reliance on Russia and Russian airstrikes. So far, the mix of cooperation and rivalry between the US and Russia in Syria that developed  under President Obama has not changed much under Donald Trump.

Yet the war is not quite over. Isis has a tradition of responding to defeats on the battlefield by carrying out terrorist attacks in the region, Europe, Turkey or other parts of the world. Some spectacular atrocities would enable it once again to dominate the news agenda and show it is not beaten.

Isis may want to test the Trump administration and see if it can provoke it into an overreaction by some act of terror, just as al-Qaeda was able to do at the time of 9/11.

WIKILEAKS: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Funds and Logistically Supports ISIL

by Kristen Breitweiser

The Huffington Post

“Aren’t the Saudis your friends?” Obama smiled. “It’s complicated,” he said. “My view has never been that we should throw our traditional allies”—the Saudis—“overboard in favor of Iran.” President Barack Obama

“We have as solid a relationship, as clear an alliance and as strong a friendship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as we have ever had.” Secretary of State John Kerry

“I think it’s important to the United States to maintain as good a relationship with Saudi Arabia as possible.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

“The strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia is based on mutual interests and a longstanding commitment to facing our common threats together.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan

“I think Saudi Arabia is a valuable partner in the war on terror. If you want to lose Saudi Arabia as an ally, be careful what you wish for.” Senator Lindsey Graham

“There is a public relations issue that exists. That doesn’t mean that it’s in our national interest to not have an alliance with them — I mean they’re an important part of our efforts in the Middle East.” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker

“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends.” Senator John McCain

Citing Western Intelligence, U.S. Intelligence, and Intelligence from the Region, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—not just its rich donors— was providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups,/ why do President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senator Bob Corker, Senator Lindsey Graham, and Senator John McCain, consider the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia our ally?

Markedly, this is not complicated, nor is it a friendship, a special relationship, a valuable partnership, a clear alliance, a strategic partnership, or a public relations issue.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is evidently a clear sponsor of terrorism.

According to Western Intelligence, U.S. Intelligence and Intelligence from the region, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia clandestinely funds and logistically supports ISIS.

How could a nation like Saudi Arabia (or Qatar) that funds and logistically supports ISIS be considered an ally of the United States in the fight against ISIS?

The Saudis (and the Qataris) are funding and logistically supporting our enemy.

The United States Government should not condone, enable, or turn a blind eye to that fact.

As an American citizen and a 9/11 widow whose husband was brutally murdered by 19 radical Sunni terrorists, I’d like these appointed and elected officials to immediately explain their indefensible positions with regard to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its now clearly evident role in underwriting and logistically supporting radical Sunni terror groups worldwide.

Moreover, these appointed and elected officials, in good conscience, should also immediately explain to the American public why they oppose JASTA or want to re-write JASTA—anti-terrorism legislation specifically designed to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for its funding and logistical support of radical Sunni terror groups that kill Americans.

Iran tests new Russian-made S-300 missile system

For 10 years, Iran had been trying to get its hands on a Russian air defense system but was held back by embargos. It finally has a chance to show off its newly allowed firepower.

March 4, 2017

DW

Iran successfully tested a Russian-made missile defense system, the official Iranian news outlets reported Saturday.

The IRNA news agency said the military launched the sophisticated S-300 system during a recent military exercise named Damvand, named after Iran’s highest mountain.

State TV posted videos online of the missiles being launched from the back of trucks in Iran’s central desert

It reported the system, which has a range of 200 kilometers (125 miles), targeted various flying objects including a ballistic missile and a drone.

The air defense system was finally delivered by Russia in February after years of delay. Iran had been trying to acquire the system in response to repeated threats by Israel to bomb its nuclear facilities, but Russia had held off delivery of the 750 million euro ($800 million) project for years, in line with UN sanctions imposed over the nuclear program.

A deal under which Iran limited its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions went into force in 2016, triggering tightened trade ties with Russia.

Just 18 months after the deal was signed, Iran tested several missiles despite fresh US sanctions on Iranian interests.

Air defense commander General Farzad Esmaili told state television that a domestically manufactured air defense system dubbed Bavar 373, which was “more advanced than the S-300,” would be tested very soon. “The S-300 is a system that is deadly for our enemies and which makes our skies more secure,” he said.

Syria’s Kurdish-led administration sees end to economic ‘siege’

March 3, 2017

by Tom Perry and Rodi Said

Reuters

BEIRUT/AMUDA, Syria-The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria says a new land corridor to the government-controlled west marks an economic breakthrough for their autonomous region that has been under “siege” by hostile parties.

Abdul Karim Saroukhan, head of the Kurdish-led administration, also warned that Turkey risked igniting a new war in the north, where Ankara and its Syrian rebel allies have vowed to march on a city held by Kurdish-allied groups.

Syrian Kurdish groups and their allies are one of the main players in the conflict for northern Syria. Their growing influence has led to direct military intervention by Turkey, which sees them as a threat to its national security.

Their relations with Syria’s central government, despite historic enmity, are more nuanced. They have steered clear of confrontation in the six-year-old war and their critics say they have occasionally cooperated against common enemies, notably the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. The YPG denies this.

The war in northern Syria has accelerated in recent weeks with the Russian-backed Syrian military launching an offensive against Islamic State in the same area. This week, the army reached territory that falls under the sway of the Kurdish groups for the first time since early in the conflict.

“The opening of a corridor between us and Aleppo will have a great positive impact,” said Saroukhan, the head of the Kurdish-led administration in the northeast. “It is like an artery that will feed part of the Syrian body,” he told Reuters in an interview.

It holds out the prospect of a big boost to a region that is home to rich agricultural areas and oil fields but which has little in the way of its own manufacturing base.

Syria’s Kurdish region is bordered to the north by Turkey and to the east by the Kurdish government of northern Iraq. Both are hostile to the YPG, the main Syrian Kurdish militia. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency in Turkey.

Islamic State meanwhile controls areas to the south.

NEW CHANCE FOR TRADE

Saroukhan said recent Syrian government advances in rural areas east of Aleppo had led to tensions with the YPG in some areas. Asked if there were contacts with Damascus over trade, he said there were none and such talk was premature.

But he saw the prospect of private commerce with Aleppo, Homs and other government-held cities.

“Our expectations are that we can reach understandings with everyone in the other provinces,” said Saroukhan, head of the biggest of three Kurdish administrations in northern Syria.

The people of northeastern Syria – Kurds, Arabs and other groups – were particularly in need of medicines and construction materials to rebuild from the YPG’s conflict with Islamic State.

Northeastern Syria could in turn sell surplus agricultural output to other parts of the country, though Saroukhan said poor rainfall meant there would be no wheat for sale this season.

He also said surplus oil output from the region was looking for “exits, ways, crossings” to other parts of Syria, describing the area as the “oil well that supplied Syria for 65 years” and that “we can cooperate” in this regard.

He added that while the oil was under YPG protection, it was a national resource whose status should be determined in a final settlement to the Syria crisis.

“A NEW WAR”

The YPG and allied militias are the main partner for the United States in the war it is waging against Islamic State in Syria, though Washington does not support the Kurdish groups’ political project.

The main Syrian Kurdish party, the PYD, and its allies are seeking to deepen their autonomy in northern Syria through the establishment of a new system of government. They say they do not seek an independent country.

Saroukhan said Turkey was afraid of the “democratic model” established in northern Syria and was trying to block it. He said that while the Kurdish-led administration wanted to deal with Turkey as a neighbor, Ankara was making threats and occupying Syrian land.

“If Turkey continues in this way, in this vein, it will be the start of a new war in Syria, in the north,” he said.

Turkey has said the next target of its campaign in northern Syria will the city of Manbij, which was captured from Islamic State last year by a U.S.-backed alliance of militias that includes the YPG.

Saroukhan said the alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces was ready to send reinforcements there if necessary. “They will not allow the entry of any other forces to this city,” he said.

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Dominic Evans)

 The CIA and the Ukraine: A retrospective view

Anonymous

The Central Intelligence Agency has had a controlling role in operations inside the Ukraine. The plans for this operation go back to when Russia first started the BRICS organization about 2009..

Not long after this, the US decided to support a “color revolution” (Orange) and install a CIA sponsored and controlled Ukrainian government. Permitted would be an extensive CIA-controlled intelligence network designed to both secure rich Ukrainian minerals and oil for American use but also to secure the Sevastopol naval base for the U.S. Navy. Their primary goal, however, was to oust the pro-Russian president and replace him with a trusted agent. They did so with  Petro Poroshenko..

During the Maidan Operation, the CIA dealt with coordination of the sniper teams as well as security for US assets in Ukraine’s government and liaison activity with active and pro-Nazi elements (the Vladimir Trident movement) it had been financing and otherwise supporting. The CIA agents were sent, under diplomatic cover to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and to established safe houses in the Kiev area. Weapons and technical equipment was send in to Kiev in the diplomatic bags.

There were also safe house facilities in Donetsk and Lugansk known only to individual CIA agents working from the U.S. Embassy. These controlled the Ukrainian invasion of the DNR or LNR by Kiev forces.

The CIA was also directing the intelligence activities in the Donetz contested areas and, using Ukrainian anti-aircraft rocketry located in that area, fired at, and shot down, a commercial Malaysian aircraft. Their intended target, a Lufthansa commercial aircraft, was flying behind the Malaysian plane.The purpose of this act was to be able to put the blame on either Russia directly or on Russian-supported separatsts in the Donetz basin.

When the Russians occupied the vital Crimea with its extensive oil offshore deposits and the naval base, the CIA launched, through Ukrainian army units they controlled, guerrilla actions against the Crimea with the hope of starting a war that could lead to nuclear attacks on Russia.

FBI undercover stings foil terrorist plots – but how many are agency-created?

March 2, 2017

by Ian Cummings

mcclatchy

Announcements of foiled terrorist plots make for lurid reading.

Schemes to carry out a Presidents Day jihadist attack on a train station in Kansas City. Bomb a Sept. 11 memorial event. Blow up a 1,000-pound bomb at Fort Riley. Detonate a weapon of mass destruction at a Wichita airport — the failed plans all show imagination.

But how much of it was real?

Often not much, according to a review of several recent terrorism cases investigated by the FBI in Kansas and Missouri. The most sensational plots invoking the name of the Islamic State or al-Qaida here were largely the invention of FBI agents carrying out elaborate sting operations on individuals identified through social media as being potentially dangerous.

In fact, in terrorism investigations in Wichita, at Fort Riley and last week in Kansas City, the alleged terrorists reportedly were unknowingly following the directions of undercover FBI agents who supplied fake bombs and came up with key elements of the plans.

“What I get concerned about is where the plot is being hatched by the FBI,” said Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and former FBI agent. “There has been a clear effort to manufacture plots.”

Law enforcement has increasingly used undercover agents and informants to develop such cases in recent years, especially against people suspected of being inspired by the Islamic State.

Of 126 Islamic State-related cases prosecuted by federal authorities across the country since 2014, nearly two-thirds involved undercover agents or informants, according to the Center on National Security at the Fordham University School of Law in New York. The FBI has stepped up its use of sting operations, which were once seen as a tactic of last resort.

FBI officials have said the sting operations are just one tool for thwarting terrorist attacks and that the suspects in such cases are given many opportunities to back out before their arrest. Federal authorities employ the stings on the theory that a person willing to engage in terrorism would eventually find real accomplices to carry out an attack.

Such cases are almost never successfully challenged in court with entrapment defenses.

But some question whether the FBI is catching real terrorists or tricking troubled individuals into volunteering for a long prison sentence.

The most recent alleged plotter, 25-year-old Robert Lorenzo Hester Jr. of Columbia, was indicted last week after federal prosecutors accused him of participating in an Islamic State plan to cause mass casualties in a bombing attack on a train station and possibly buses and trains in Kansas City on Feb. 20.

The two men leading Hester in the alleged plot were actually undercover FBI employees. They suggested the time, place and type of attack, and loaned Hester $20 to buy the 9-volt batteries, duct tape, roofing nails and copper wire that they implied would be ingredients for a bomb. Hester reportedly failed to buy the copper wire, saying he could not find it. There were no actual bombs.

The FBI employees had identified Hester as a suspect after seeing Facebook posts he made about his “conversion to Islam, his hatred for the United States and his belief that supposed U.S. mistreatment of Muslims had to be ‘put to an end,’ ” according to court documents.

But despite Hester’s denials, the FBI employees noted, he continued to test positive for marijuana even though it is frowned upon by Islamic teachings. And he allegedly found it necessary to bring his children to a meeting with the FBI workers because he had no other options for child care.

At a December meeting, one of the FBI employees threatened Hester with a knife, saying he “knew where Hester and his family lived” to make the point that Hester was not to plan any attacks of his own.

“It seems like outrageous conduct,” said German, the former FBI agent, who noted other aspects of the investigation that he thought seemed “odd.”

The FBI found Hester on Facebook in August and made contact with him through an undercover employee on Oct. 2, a day before Hester was arrested in Columbia for reportedly throwing a pocket knife through a grocery store window during an argument with his wife and menacing store employees with a 9 mm handgun he carried in a diaper bag.

Hester was released from jail on bond and remained under electronic monitoring for the next three months as he continued talking with the undercover employees and allegedly grew more deeply involved in their plans.

In January, Hester pleaded guilty in the Columbia case. He remained free on bond and was taken off electronic monitoring. The plot with the undercover FBI employees sped up, ending with his arrest in February, a month before he was to be sentenced in the Columbia grocery store incident.

German questioned why Hester was allowed to walk free.

“If the government had a legitimate reason to think this person was a danger to society, why would they let him out on bond?” he asked. “And this person was about to walk into a jail cell. It makes me think the reason is they didn’t believe he was a threat, but they could use him to make a case.”

It’s not unusual for authorities to go undercover to try to foil terrorist plots, said Daryl Johnson, a former analyst for the Department of Homeland Security. And some plots show evidence of being very real.

In 2007, Johnson noted, six Muslim men from New Jersey and Philadelphia were charged with plotting to attack Fort Dix with automatic weapons and possibly rocket-propelled grenades in what authorities said was a plan “to kill as many soldiers as possible.”

“The Fort Dix case was the most serious — they actually had a small arsenal,” Johnson said.

In Kansas last year, authorities uncovered what they said was a plot by a militia group to detonate bombs at a Garden City apartment complex where a number of Somalis live. The defendants in that case included three men who, according to court documents, had stockpiled weapons and told an FBI source of their plan.

Johnson said it’s harder to find the real threat in sting cases, such as Hester’s, where a person spouting off on social media, with no resources or ability to carry out an attack, is led by undercover FBI agents down a path to acting out a pretend terrorist plot.

“Most of these cases are trumped-up, FBI facilitated,” Johnson said. “A lot of times, these people are just engaging in free speech. If they’re American citizens, they can say they hate America, they can say, ‘I support ISIS.’ Then they become targeted.”

In these cases, he said, law enforcement has facilitated a terrorist plot with someone who held some hateful views but didn’t have the capability to do anything.

“And they were either provided the capability, or they were arrested for just the plotting aspect,” he said.

KC terrorism cases

Several of the Kansas and Missouri cases followed a similar pattern.

In 2013, FBI agents arrested a 58-year-old Kansas man as he tried to use his employee badge to bring a fake bomb onto the tarmac of a Wichita airport. The arrest of Terry L. Loewen came after a months-long sting operation in which two FBI agents posed as his co-conspirators and led him in a supposed plot they devised with phony explosives.

The FBI had found Loewen on Facebook, where he told an undercover agent of his interest in jihad. Over a period of about six months, the agents arranged for Loewen to meet in person an undercover agent posing as a terrorist, asked him to scout the airport and take photos for an attack they planned, and instructed him to gather items supposed to be used in bomb-making. According to court documents, Loewen eagerly participated and expected to die in the explosion.

In 2015, FBI agents arrested 20-year-old John T. Booker Jr. as he attempted to set off a fake car bomb at Fort Riley. Booker had been befriended by a pair of undercover FBI agents after posting inflammatory messages on Facebook. Booker told the agents he wanted to join the Islamic State and would do whatever they said. “I will follow you,” he said.

When the agents, posing as terrorists, asked what target they should attack, Booker suggested Fort Riley. At the agents’ direction, Booker rented a storage locker and went with an agent to local retailers to buy components for what was supposed to be a homemade bomb. No real explosives were involved in the operation.

In court, Booker’s attorney said Booker was being treated for bipolar disorder. He pleaded guilty to two counts related to the bomb plot and faces 30 years in prison.

The same year, an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested 20-year-old Joshua R. Goldberg at his parents’ home in Orange Park, Fla. Goldberg was accused of trying to help plan — online — an attack on a 9/11  memorial in Kansas City by providing details on how to build a pressure cooker bomb.

FBI agents had become aware of Goldberg through a social media account in which he reportedly posed as a terrorist instigator living in Australia. Online, Goldberg allegedly took credit for inspiring a May 2015 attack on a “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest” in Garland, Texas, in which police killed two armed men.

An undercover FBI agent contacted Goldberg online and expressed interest in carrying out a bomb attack in Kansas City. Goldberg allegedly suggested targeting the Sept. 11 memorial event, supplied links to online bomb-building manuals and suggested packing the bomb with nails, glass and metal dipped in rat poison.

While FBI agents kept Goldberg’s home under surveillance, they received information from Australian police that Goldberg had been identified as an “online troll” who engaged in internet hoaxes. Days later, they arrested Goldberg on one federal count of distributing information relating to explosives.

Since his arrest, Goldberg has been held in a federal detention center in Miami and repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness. Psychological examinations found him to be “paranoid,” “childlike” and unable to understand the legal proceedings against him.

His defense attorney, Paul Shorstein, said a federal court may make a decision in the next few weeks on whether Goldberg can be tried. Shorstein said Goldberg was not a real terrorist.

“He was sort of pretending to be somebody and playing the role,” Shorstein said. “He’s not a threat to anybody. It’s not a terrorism case — it’s a mental health case.”

Still, these investigations could help thwart terrorism, said Dru Stevenson, a law professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston who has studied how such undercover cases prevail over entrapment defenses.

By locking up people who would be willing to carry out terrorist acts, the stings can reduce the potential recruiting pool for real terrorists looking for willing followers, Stevenson said. And the knowledge that undercover FBI agents and informants are out there could make that recruitment more dangerous, difficult and slow for actual Islamic State plotters.

“If the choice is between waiting for the person to find some real terrorists to get involved with, or giving them a phony plot, I’m fine with giving them a phony plot,” Stevenson said.

Taking the Boston Marathon bombers as an example, he said, “Those are the kind of people I wish someone had caught in a sting before they hurt a lot of people.”

So far, the courts have agreed. No defendant in the Islamic State sting cases has successfully argued entrapment.

But the sheer volume of cases that depend on sting operations in which FBI agents supply the plot says something about the reality of the terrorist threat, said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security, which authored the Islamic State prosecutions report.

Most of the potential terrorists being prosecuted have a lot in common, Greenberg said. Their average age is 26, 77 percent are U.S. citizens, a third are converts to Islam and a third live with their parents. Nearly 90 percent are active on social media. Only a handful had any link to Islamic State members overseas.

“If you take away the undercover cases to see what are the real organized terrorism cases, we’re not seeing it,” Greenberg said. “What do we have? The threat is different from what we’re being told.”

Brexit: UK ‘not obliged’ to pay divorce bill say peers

March 4,2017

BBC News

The UK could exit the EU without paying anything if there is no post-Brexit deal, a group of peers has claimed.

The government would be in a “strong” legal position if the two-year Article 50 talks ended with no deal, the Lords EU Financial Affairs Committee said.

But it warned failure to reach any kind of financial terms would undermine PM Theresa May’s aim of securing continued favourable access to EU markets.

It has been reported the EU may demand a “divorce bill” of up to £52bn.

Mrs May has warned the EU against punishing the UK for voting to leave in last year’s referendum but several EU leaders have said the UK cannot enjoy better arrangements outside the EU than it currently has.

The question of what, if anything, the UK remains financially liable for after Brexit is likely to be one of the flashpoints in negotiations when they begin in earnest.

Potential sticking points are likely to include:

  • Whether already-agreed contributions to the EU budget should be honoured and up to what point
  • What the UK should pay to continue to participate in EU programmes such as Erasmus
  • Whether the UK chooses to pay to retain access to the single market on a transitional basis

The cross-party committee said talk of billions in pounds in liabilities was “hugely speculative” and there was a case that there may be no upfront cost to leaving.

“Although there are competing interpretations, we conclude that if agreement is not reached, all EU law – including provisions concerning ongoing financial contributions and machinery for adjudication – will cease to apply, and the UK would be subject to no enforceable obligation to make any financial contribution at all,” it said.

“This would be undesirable for the remaining member states, who would have to decide how to plug the hole in the budget created by the UK’s exit without any kind of transition.

“It would also damage the prospects of reaching friendly agreement on other issues.

“Nonetheless, the ultimate possibility of the UK walking away from negotiations without incurring financial commitments provides an important context.”

‘Concrete’

The peers, led by the LibDem peer Baroness Falkner of Margravine, said some member states could take legal action against the UK for any outstanding liabilities but it was “questionable” whether any international court could have jurisdiction.

“Even though we consider that the UK will not be legally obliged to pay into the EU budget after Brexit, the issue will be a prominent factor in withdrawal negotiations.

“The government will have to set the financial and political costs of making such payments against potential gains from other elements of the negotiations.”

During their inquiry, the committee was told the UK had signed up to “concrete” commitments under the terms of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, which sets a ceiling for EU spending up to 2020.

Professor Takis Tridimas, from Kings College London, said he believed these were legally binding under existing EU treaties.

But he said they could be amended in “unforeseeable circumstances”, if all member states agreed, and that the Brexit vote would constitute such a circumstance.

Did Sessions Do Anything Wrong?

In a period when any contact with Russia is considered toxic, the attorney general is being tried by innuendo.

March 3, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

We are entering into a politically charged environment where ordinary interactions between senior government officials and their foreign counterparts can quickly become toxic.

Incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did nothing wrong when he spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is just as evident that Sen. Jeff Sessions did nothing wrong when he spoke twice to the same gentleman in the context of his membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The first Sessions meeting in June was part of a conference organized by the State Department and the Heritage Foundation that included 50 ambassadors. Sessions was the keynote speaker and was approached by some of the ambassadors afterwards, including the Russian envoy.

The second meeting in September took place in Sessions’s office. There were staffers present at the meeting, which was held in a Senate building because Sessions had turned down a request by the ambassador for a private lunch, which he considered inappropriate. No one is claiming that anything discussed at either meeting was in any way incriminating or damaging to national security. According to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, FBI investigators have reportedly gone farther than that, having already indicated to the House and Senate intelligence committees that there is “no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.” That conclusion has, however, been challenged by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who countered that the investigation is still in its initial stages.

Flynn was forced to step down after a campaign of vilification orchestrated by some senior officials at CIA and NSA, possibly acting on behalf of the outgoing Obama administration, though the actual issue that led to his resignation was a reported failure to be completely honest with Vice President Mike Pence regarding his phone calls with Kislyak. Whether that was an oversight or deliberate remains to be determined, but the Trump administration clearly decided that it was not a fight worth engaging in given the superheated media coverage that it produced.

The Sessions story is somewhat different, though it too includes hysterical reactions from the media and also from some leading Democrats. The controversy surrounding Sessions is based on a single question asked by Sen. Al Franken, “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

Sessions responded that he was “not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

Explanations of what Sessions did or not mean have generally taken two approaches. If you believe Sessions was discussing how Moscow might help defeat Hillary, was he was hiding something nefarious? Or, if you believe he was innocent, was he honestly responding to Franken’s apparent focus on contact with Russians as an element in the campaign?

As I believe the entire narrative seeking to portray the Trump victory as some kind of Manchurian-candidate scheme concocted by the Kremlin is complete nonsense, I tend to believe Sessions was answering honestly, after interpreting the question in a certain fashion. His spokesman has described the exchange as: “He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign—not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”

It is important to note that Sessions was not part of the Trump campaign staff, which explains his answer to Senator Franken. It would have been nice if he had begun his response to by noting that he has had intermittent interaction with Russian officials as part of his responsibilities in the Senate and then gone on to state that there had been no such contact that he was aware of as part of the campaign. But he did not do that, which has opened the door to the current politically-motivated firestorm.

What is particularly disturbing about the attack on Sessions is the hypocrisy evidenced by congressmen like Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, who are demanding that the attorney general resign because they claim he committed perjury. Answering questions in such a way as to avoid saying too much is a fine art in Washington—a skill that both Schumer and Pelosi have themselves also developed—but it does not amount to perjury. Sessions’s answer to Franken is not completely clear, but it is not an out-and-out lie. In that respect the attack on Sessions is like the attack on Flynn, basically a way of getting at and weakening President Donald Trump by opportunistically discrediting his high-level appointments.

That Sessions has now recused himself from anything having to do with Russia may be politically advisable, at least in part, to quell the outrage in the media and among nearly all Democrats and the usual caballero Republicans. But the original demands were inappropriate, as no one has demonstrated that Sessions has in some way worked with a foreign power to damage the national security of the United States. He is being tried by innuendo and in the cooperative media.

And then there is the even more disturbing Russian aspect to all of this. Sessions’s staff noted that as a senior senator on the Armed Services Committee, he met with 25 ambassadors. Why aren’t Schumer and Pelosi asking for a list of all those contacts? Ambassadors are doing their jobs when they represent their nations’ interests, which include working against some U.S. policies and trying to get foreign officials to reveal sensitive information “off the record.” Russia does indeed do that, but so do many countries that are regarded as close friends.

Russia is yet again being singled out for political reasons, even though Moscow and Washington are not at war. The evidence that Vladimir Putin has been somehow interfering in U.S. politics is definitely on the thin side and apparently not about to get any better. And fooling with Russia can be dangerous as it is the only country on earth that can destroy the United States. Nevertheless, in spite of that, there are many in the Democratic Party and the media who would like to make Russia something like a permanent enemy, to sustain the warfare state while also having a punching bag that can be blamed for whatever else might be going wrong.

One might reasonably consider the attacks on Sessions to be less about him and more about both Trump himself and Russia. Indeed, Trump and Russia are conjoined as the impending investigation into Moscow’s possible role in the election is also by its very nature a way to begin a process that would reverse the Trump electoral victory. Implicating yet another senior government official as a possible Kremlin patsy—and pressing ahead with a broader, bipartisan inquiry into the alleged subversion of the Trump campaign by Moscow—will narrow the president’s options for any reset with Russia while weakening his administration.

I note that President Trump has appointed hardliner Fiona Hill as his point person for dealing with Russia on the National Security Council. It is a bad move and possibly a sign that the relentless pressure regarding Moscow is beginning to bear fruit, forcing Trump to backtrack on his campaign promises to seek a reset with Putin.

“Secret” U.S. Drone and Intelligence base in the Saudi desert.

March 4, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

The U.S. built its secret Saudi drone base approximately eight years ago. Its first lethal mission was in September of 2011: a strike on Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born propagandist for al-Qaida’s affiliate in Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia. Since then, the U.S. has launched dozens of drone attacks on Yemeni targets. News organizations eventually found out about the base. But they agreed to keep it out of their pages — part of an informal arrangement with the Obama administration, which claimed that the disclosure of the base’s location, even in a general way, might jeopardize national security.

There are a quartet of clamshell-type hangars, surrounded by fencing and elevated guard posts. Each is more than 150 feet long and approximately 75 feet wide, sufficient to hold U.S. Predator, Reaper and two newer style drones. The hangars are slightly larger, though similar in shape, to ones housing unmanned planes at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan and  Shamsi Air Field in Pakistan, which have held U.S. drones and both of which boasts a group of three hangars like the ones on the US/Saudi base.

What is important to note is the base’s remote location. It’s  located in the Rub al Khali desert area , and was built with material flown into Sharorah and then trucked more than 400 kilometers up the existing highway and a newly-built access road,

Three airstrips are in place, two of which can land drones or conventional light aircraft. A third runway is substantially longer and wider.  The facility is expanding to fly much larger aircraft which will import drones and more military/CIA operating personnel.

It should be noted that American forces officially withdrew from Saudi Arabia several years ago, in part because the presence of foreign troops in the Muslim holy land was causing extreme discomfort among inflamed Sunni militants.

In the event that should a  suspected foreign destabilization of the current Saudi ruling house become manifest, plans now exist, and are in place, for rapid evacuation of all CIA and U.S. military personnel from the country.

 Nazi Roots of Ukraine’s Conflict

Lvov, the largest city in western Ukraine and the seventh largest city in the country,has for nearly a century been a breeding ground of extreme Ukrainian nationalism, spawning terrorist movements, rabid anti-Semitism, and outright pro-Nazi political organizations that continue tostrongly influence Ukrainian politics.

Ukranians are basicially anti-Semitic and in 1941, over 4,000 Jewish residents were murdered by membersof the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), whose founder and wartime leader is today a national hero to many of his countrymen.

On April 28, 2011, the 68th anniversary of the formation of a Ukrainian Waffen-SS division, hundreds of people marched through Lviv, with support from city council members, chanting slogans like “One race, one nation, one Fatherland!”

In June of that year, residents of Livov celebrated the 70th anniversary of the German invasion “as a popular festival, where parents with small children waived flags to re-enactors in SS uniforms,”

Later that year, extreme right-wing deputies at a nearby town in Livov renamed a street from the Soviet-era name Peace Street to instead carry the name of the Nachtigall [Nightingale] Battalion, a Ukrainian nationalist formation involved in the mass murder of Jews in 1941, arguing that ‘Peace’ is a holdover from Soviet stereotypes.

Such inconvenient truths rarely get aired in Western media, but they are important for at least two reasons. They help explain the recent violent, anti-democratic upheavals that have made Ukraine the battleground of a dangerous new cold war between Nato and Russia.

And they should inspire Americans to reflect on the United States’ contribution to recent political extremism in the Ukraine, going back to the early post-World War II era, when the CIA funded former Nazi collaborators to help destabilize the Soviet Union.

The revolutionary, ultra-nationalist OUN was founded in 1929 to throw off Polish rule and establish Ukraine as an independent state. It burned the property of Polish landowners, raided government properties for funds, and assassinated dozens of intellectuals and officials, including the Polish interior minister in 1934.

A particularly radical faction, known as OUN-B, split off in 1940 under the leadership of the young firebrand Stepan Bandera, who studied in Lvov. It enjoyed support during World War II from a Gestapo-supported secret police official, Mykola Lebed. Lebed had earlier been convicted with Bandera by Polish authorities for the 1934 murder of their interior minister, and would become notorious for his involvement in the wartime torture and murder of Jews.

Bandera’s OUN-B collaborated closely with the German foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, to form a German-led Ukrainian Legion. On June 30, 1941, just days after Hitler’s invasion of the USSR, OUN-B declared an independent Ukrainian state with Lvov as its capital. Lebed served as police minister of the collaborationist government.

In the days that followed, OUN-B’s Nachtigall Battalion and its civilian sympathizers apparently slaughtered several thousand Jews and Polish intellectuals before moving on to join German forces on the Eastern Front. Another 3,000 Jews in Lviv were soon murdered by an SS death squad outside the city. OUN publications called these “exhilarating days.”

Although the OUN, in a letter to Adolf Hitler, officially welcomed the “consolidation of the new ethnic order in Eastern Europe” and the “destruction of the seditious Jewish-Bolshevik influence,” the Nazi leader rejected their nationalist ambitions and eventually banned the OUN.

The Germans imprisoned Bandera. His organization went underground, forming the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). There were no neat sides in the violent conflict that ensued. UPA units clashed with the Nazis on occasion, fought the Red Army much more often, and engaged in “ethnic cleansing” of thousands of Poles and Jews. (More rarely, OUN members saved local Jews as well.)

They also killed tens of thousands of fellow Ukrainians in a bid to dictate the region’s political future. Many OUN members also directly joined police and militia groups sponsored by the Waffen-SS. Bandera himself was released by the Germans in 1944 and provided with arms to resist the advancing Red Army.

After the war, the OUN continued its losing battle for independence. Soviet forces killed, arrested, or deported several hundred thousand members, relatives or supporters of the UPA and OUN. Bandera was assassinated by the KGB in Munich in 1959. But right-wing nationalism enjoyed a resurgence after Ukraine won its independence in 1990-91, stoked by emigrees in the West who were loyal to OUN-B and to Bandera’s memory.

The city of Lvov in particular led the revival of Bandera worship. In 2006 it transferred his tomb to a special area of the town’s cemetery dedicated to victims of Ukraine’s national liberation struggles. It erected a statue dedicated to him and established an award in his honor.

Finally, in 2010, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko (who came to power in the U.S.-backed Orange Revolution), named Bandera a Hero of Ukraine for “defending national ideas and battling for an independent Ukrainian state.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center and other anti-fascist groups condemned the honor, which was annulled a year later by a Ukrainian court.

One of Bandera’s legacies was the creation of the ultra-nationalist Social National Party in Lviv in 1991.

“As party symbol, it chose a mirror image of the so-called Wolfsangel, or Wolf’s hook, which was used by several SS divisions and, after the war, by neo-Nazi organizations,” notes Rudling. “It organized a paramilitary guard and recruited skinheads and football hooligans into its ranks.”

In 2004 it rebranded itself as Svoboda and dispensed with its SS imagery. Nonetheless, Svoboda’s new leader lauded the OUN and UPA for having resisted “Jews and other scum, who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state.” He was decorated by veterans of a Ukrainian Waffen-SS division and championed the cause of Ukrainian death camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk. His ideological adviser organized a think tank called the “Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center” in 2005.

Svoboda became the largest party in Lvov in 2010 and today enjoys strong influence at the national level. It has also extended its influence by allying itself with other far-right and fascist parties in Europe.

Most important for understanding today’s East-West crisis, Svoboda supplied many of the shock troops who turned the protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square into a violent confrontation with government forces and eventually precipitated the putsch against President Viktor Yanukovych in early 2014.  Svoboda leaders took important posts in the post-Yanukovych government, including the head of national security.

Svoboda militants from Lvov played an important role in the violent putsch.

Svoboda’s cause was championed during the Maidan protests by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who egged on the crowds while standing under banners celebrating Stepan Bandera. McCain’s appearance was no accident. Since World War II, the Republican Party has been closely allied with pro-Nazi exile leaders from Eastern Europe. Many of them were recruited and paid by the CIA, and given secret legal exemptions to emigrate to the United States despite their history of war crimes.

For example, the OUN-B Gestapo collaborator and mass murderer Mykola Lebed made his way incognito to the United States after World War II. The CIA, which valued his help in organizing resistance movements against the USSR, exercised its veto power over anti-Nazi immigration laws to legalize his residence.

The CIA provided similar assistance to General Pavlo Shandruk, as the chief of the Ukrainian quisling ‘government-in-exile’ created by the Nazi Rosenberg ministry in 1944. Despite his pro-Nazi past, he received large CIA stipends to help organize intelligence networks against the Soviet Union after the war.

The CIA and Pentagon also earmarked millions of dollars’ worth of arms and other military aid to anti-Soviet Ukrainian guerrillas in the late 1940s, despite their record of atrocities against Jews and other civilians.

It is clear that the Ukrainian guerrilla option became the prototype for hundreds of CIA operations worldwide that have attempted to exploit indigenous discontent in order to make political gains for the United States.

Instead of rallying to the new ‘democratic’ movement, there is every indication that many of the ordinary people of the Ukraine gave increased credence to the Soviet government’s message that the United States, too, was really Nazi at heart and capable of using any sort of deceit and violence to achieve its ends.

CIA assistance to pro-Nazi Ukrainian and other East European ethnic leaders created powerful political lobbies in the United States that backed hard-line “liberationist” policies toward the Soviet Union and its “captive nations.” One such political group was the Ukrainian-dominated, neo-Nazi Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, which enjoyed support from Sen. Joseph McCarthy, among many other U.S. politicians.

Before the latest crisis in the Ukraine, precipitated in large measure by extreme rightists inspired by the OUN, plunged Nato and Russia into a series of military and economic confrontations that resemble the Cold War of old. But even today, the American political impulse to support anti-Russian agitation in the Ukraine reflects Cold War-era policies that forged an ugly alliance between the United States and Nazi mass murderers.

You won’t see that point made in the New York ‘Times’, or in a fluffy promotion for Lvov in ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine. But it’s clearly written in history that Americans would do well to study.

DUP edges out Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland post-Brexit vote

The Democratic Unionist Party has won Northern Ireland’s elections. The nationalist Sinn Fein, the DUP’s erstwhile governing partner, enjoyed a historic surge in support.

March 4, 2017

DW

The Democratic Unionist Party won Northern Ireland’s parliamentary elections, according to results announced Saturday, edging ahead of Sinn Fein by a single seat. At 65 percent, voters turned out in their highest numbers in Thursday’s vote, the UK’s first regional election since last summer’s Brexit referendum.

“Let us now move forward with hope – hope that civility can return to our politics,” Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, who appeared likely to step down as head of the DUP, said after the results emerged.

Sinn Fein pressed Foster to step down pending an investigation of a botched energy scheme that could cost taxpayers 500 million pounds (609 million euros/$615 million), but she stood her ground and accused the nationalists of politicizing the issue. Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness triggered the election by resigning in January, declaring the vote a referendum on Foster’s leadership.

Unionist candidates, Protestants’ preferred choice, captured less than half the seats for the first time. The DUP won 28 of the 90 seats, but the surging Sinn Fein almost wiped out the 10-seat advantage that the unionists had secured in elections a year ago.

An ‘amazing day’

Sinn Fein, which favors uniting Ireland, had never come so close to toppling the pro-crown DUP. In a contest with 1.25 million voters and more than 800,000 ballots cast, barely more than 1,000 votes split the main parties – making it the assembly’s closest election yet.

Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill, the daughter of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) veteran, said the nationalists had an “amazing day.”

The parties have three weeks to form a government to avoid Northern Ireland’s devolved power returning to the UK Parliament at Westminster for the first time in a decade. But with relations at their lowest point in a decade, Sinn Fein has insisted that Foster step aside while months of investigations begin into a botched green energy scheme she established – or the party will not re-enter government. Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said he could not guarantee that London would not resume direct rule over Northern Ireland’s 1.8 million people.

The United Kingdom created the nation of Northern Ireland in 1920 to ensure a Protestant-majority territory on an otherwise overwhelmingly Catholic island. Sinn Fein disarmed in 2005.

125,000yo skull fragments may have belonged to little known extinct human species, Denisovans

March 4, 2017

RT

Two partial skulls discovered in China are believed to be pieces from a little-known species of humans extinct since the Ice Age. The 105,000- to 125,000-year-old fossils were found in Lingjing in the Xuchang prefecture.

The Denisovans were discovered in 2010, when an ancient finger bone fragment was found in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains, Siberia. Since then, however, scientists have only analyzed Denisovans through DNA.

If these partial skulls are found to belong to the Denisovans, it could lead to a much greater understanding of the species.

The findings were published this week in the latest edition of Science, and the study’s researchers, a team of Chinese and US scientists, suggest the bone fragments could also hail from a new type of human or an eastern variant of Neanderthals.

After the initial discovery of a piece of skull by archaeologist Zhan-Yang Li in 2007, the team found 45 more fossils that together fit into two partial skulls, without faces or jaws. While the fossils bear a close resemblance to Neanderthals, certain variations mean they are neither fully Neanderthals nor Homo sapiens.

Until investigators extract DNA from the remains, their true origin will remain unknown.

The fragments “definitely” have the characteristics that paleoanthropologists have come to expect from Denisovans, said María Martinón-Torres of the University College London, but without DNA, “the possibility remains a speculation.”

Either way, “China is rewriting the story of human evolution,” she added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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