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TBR News May 15, 2019

May 15 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. May 15, 2019: “Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for May 15”I am constantly amazed that American intelligence agencies are apparently totally incapable of creating sensible, and believeable, false flag incidents to support military attacks on often oil-rich countries. We had the fake “yellowcake uranianum” business in Iraq, the “Russian nerve poison” in England, (which was actually highly amusing in its clumsy production) and now the dastardly ‘sabotage’ of Saudi oil tankers.

What’s next?

Angry Mexicans pelting American soldiers to death with tacos?

Canadians, who have cut off oil sales to the US, putting thumbtacks in Canadian bacon?

We don’t dare tamper with the Chinese or Russians but smaller countries, like Venezuela, who have oil we need are much better, and safer, targets.

The inventors of these excuses for invasion are so devoid of creativity that in the commercial world they couldn’t get jobs on the staff of the National Enquirer or InfoWars.

In short, their monthly pay checks ought to be gift-wrapped.”

 

 

  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Factbox: Strait of Hormuz – the world’s most important oil artery
  • Saudi Oil Tanker ‘Sabotage’ Is a Dangerous Moment in US-Iran Tensions
  • No need for plan B against US sanctions: Nord Stream 2
  • Trump’s Russian Connections
  • The Telephone as a Survellance Tool
  • Siri, Watch That Guy’: Pentagon Seeks AI that Can Track Someone Across a CiSan Francisco votes to ban city use of facial recognition technology

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Clint Werner

Marijuana is a tremendous source of ridiculous woo. But although claims to the effect that marijuana allows you to use more than the normal 10% of the brain are hardly worth discussing, the work of Clint Werner seems to have found an audience among people who really should know better. Werner is a San Francisco-based “researcher” and the author e.g. of Marijuana Gateway to Health: How Cannabis Protects Us from Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. Apparently the publishers didn’t give him sufficient space for a complete list of all the ailments from which marijuana, Werner asserts, can deliver you, which include in addition to Alzheimer’s (and most other forms of dementia) and cancer: epilepsy, tobacco addiction, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, type 1 and 2 diabetes, stroke-related disabilities, gastrointestinal irritation, schizophrenia, degenerative arthritis, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa. The book was apparently endorsed by Andrew Weil, and Werner earned himself some airtime on Coast to Coast AM with his … thing.

Werner has, of course, not the faintest trace of any relevant medical background, and has apparently no idea how scientific investigations work. Though he does, indeed, “cite” medical studies, the correlation between what these studies say and what Werner attributes to them appears to be somewhat worse than random, with a smattering of quote mining, cherry-picking, as well as liberal use of his own  imagination to fill in perceived gaps in the research. In short, there is no connection between marijuana and the effects Werner describes in his book but – big surprise – that has not prevented the book from achieving popularity among certain groups of readers.

And just for completeness sake, there is no evidence at present that cannabis cures cancer, whereas the evidence for cannabis as a therapeutic tool for dementia is “either inconclusive or still missing”. Cannabis does not help with diabetes (this little detail apart), nor is there enough evidence to draw conclusions about the safety or efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy. It is overall pretty worthless for glaucoma and has no measurable beneficial effect on anorexia or neurological disorders. A few areas of application do indeed seem promising –cannabinoids can serve as appetite stimulants, antiemetics, antispasmodics, and have some analgesic effects – but given the present state of research (due in part, of course, to legal problems any research runs into) any grand claims about the health benefits of cannabis are utter pseudoscientific rubbish.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientific rubbish.

 

Frances Cress Welsing

Frances Cress Welsing is a D.C. psychiatrist and completely batshit insane. She is particularly noted for her afrocentric “Cress Theory of Color Confrontation,” and The Isis Papers; The Keys to the Colors (1991). Welsing claims that there is a system practiced (consciously and unconsciously) by the global white minority to ensure their genetic survival by any means necessary, a system that attacks people of color (particularly of African descent) in all areas of activity, and that it is, accordingly, imperative that people of color (particularly of African descent) understand how the system of white supremacy works in order to dismantle it. So far, so good, perhaps – some over-the-top formulations, but that can probably be excused when dealing with a real issue.

But no. In The Isis Papers she formulates her pseudoscientific melanin theory, the gist of which is that white people are the genetically defective descendants of albino mutants, a mutation that may have caused them (justifiably, it seems) to have been forcibly expelled from Africa. And it is because “pure whitness” is so easily genetically lost during interracial breeding that light-skinned peoples have developed an aggressive colonial urge. She also ascribes plenty inherent and behavioral differences between black and white people to this “melanin deficiency,” since melanin is apparently a superconductor that absorbs all frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, can convert sound energy to light energy, and work as a minicomputer to process information; a deficiency would accordingly be bad). Her evidence is apparently restricted to “her experiences as a psychiatrist”.

White people’s (accurate) sense of their own inferiority is exhibited in various cultural practices: “On both St. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the white male gives gifts of chocolate candy with nut … If his sweetheart ingests ‘chocolate with nuts’, the white male can fantasize that he is genetically equal to the Black male … Is it not also curious that when white males are young and vigorous, they attempt to master the large brown balls, but as they become older and wiser, they psychologically resign themselves to their inability to master the large brown balls? Their focus then shifts masochistically to hitting the tiny white golf balls in disgust and resignation – in full final realization of white genetic recessiveness.” I suppose such gibberish is standard fare in some branches of post-modern Freudianism – big claims are justified by vague associations between words in any manner the practitioner may fancy – but it is no less loony for that.

According to Welsing psychiatry (that is, her brand of psychiatry) seems to be some sort of primary science. Her “Unified Field Theory Psychiatry” encompasses and grounds biology, psychology, and physics, and is a prerequisite to understanding the etiology of a unified field of energy phenomena, in particular the “behavior-energy” underlying racial conflict (yes, it is quantum woo), as well as homosexuality and sexism. And no, she doesn’t like gays. According to Welsing black male homosexuality was imposed on blacks by the white man in order to reduce the black population; it is a sign of weakness, and homosexual patterns of behavior are simply expressions of black male self-submission to other males in the area of sex, as well as in economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, and war.

But this, readers, is just the beginning of Welsing’s “scientifically based” theories of race. According to Welsing there is a correlation between high blood pressure and blackness of skin due to the fact that melanin picks up energy vibrations from other people under stress – the darker the skin, the more melanin, and thus the more vibrations would supposedly be picked up. This apparently explains why George Washington Carver was so successful in discovering useful products from plants – he owed his success not to his MA in chemistry, but to the fact that he was dark-skinned: The plants “talked to his melanin and told him what they were good for” during his early morning strolls. It is hard to see how such ideas, if incorporated in a school curriculum (which is what Welsing and her group try to achieve – just like creationists, the point is to get the rubbish into schools, not to gather evidence), would have any long-term positive effects for the target groups.

But melanin can do more than talking to plants. According to Welsing (and repeated in particular by Hunter Adams) the Dogon of Mali discovered a dwarf companion of Sirius, Sirius B, which is invisible to the naked eye. They did so, according to Welsing, because the Dogon’s melanin, in addition to giving you ESP, functions in a manner similar to an infrared telescope, enabling them to detect Sirius B through the melanin in their pineal glands (yes, the pineal gland). Evidence, or plausible mechanism? Forget it – her justification is a matter of Freudian associations. She further claims that everything that happens on Earth is converted to energy and beamed up to Sirius B, and that the high melanin content of black people enables them to tap into that information. Thus, for instance, Greek oracles (who were apparently black, according to Welsing) were able to foresee the future, just as present-day blacks are able to do (but of course not melanin-deficient whites).

Diagnosis: Appalling pseudoscientific bullshit. And as with other pseudoscientce, it is all about outreach, not finding out what’s actually the case.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

May 15, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

 

Conversation No. 66

Date: Wednesday, February 12, 1997

Commenced:  11:15 AM CST

Concluded:  11:45 AM CS

RTC: That has to be you, Gregory. Such timing. Corson was speaking with me a few minutes ago about you. Are your ears still ringing?

GD: No.

RTC: Ah, you are so popular. Bill was warning me that we had both best cut you loose because the wrath of God might descend. Bill has a paper asshole.

GD: Who is it this time? The Pope?

RTC: No, the Kimmel people. He regularly turns his Justice people loose on both of us. I think they need a new record. The current one gets stuck. Is it true you killed Abraham Lincoln, Gregory? I mean it’s pretty well set that you are the illegitimate son of Adolf Hitler, or is it Josef Stalin? I can’t seem to remember, it’s all so mixed up. Anyway, you are pure evil and have to be kept away from. And do let’s keep the Pope out of this. I had enough trouble with that one.

GD: Which Pope?

RTC: John Paul I. We also went after John Paul II but that one didn’t work, and we didn’t want to try it again.

GD: Why, in God’s name, did you want to kill the Pope? And out of curiosity, how did you pull it off?

RFC: The first one was going to put a terrible crimp in our drug business out of Italy and we tried to do the second one to blame the Russians. It was a sort of a game with us. Always try to do a bad bit and make it look like the Russians did it.

GD: The drug business? What did the Pope have to do with drugs?

RTC: He didn’t. It was the bank there that did. He had nothing to do with it but it was the Vatican bank.

GD: The Vatican bank was involved with drugs?

RTC: No, we used it to launder money. Who, I ask you, who would ever question the Vatican bank? It was the Mafia who had the inside bank contacts and, believe me, there was a lot of money moving around. Let’s see, the Pope was elected in, I think, August of ’79. He replaced Montini. Former Vatican Secretary of State….he was Paul VI. Anyway, we had a fine working arrangement with the Italian Mafia about the movement of money as I said.

GD: I met Montini once, I think in ’51.

RTC: The new one had been in Venice….Luciani….

GD: There was another one from Venice….

RTC: I know but not the same one. That was back in the ‘60s. But the new Pope posed quite a problem. He had been told that there were certain irregularities in the IOR…that’s the Vatican bank. And the new Pope was inclined to be honest and was demanding a full review of the books and so on. If this had happened, a good deal would have been uncovered, so the Pope had to go. It was that simple, Gregory. Politics had nothing to do with it, nothing at all.

GD: Couldn’t someone have cooked the books? Was murder necessary?

RTC: You don’t understand the whole picture, Gregory. The Mafia was involved in this up to their eyebrows and if any of it had come out, someone would have talked and pointed to us. We couldn’t have that. We had to get rid of Dag Hammarskjold because he was interfering with the uranium people in the Congo. It was nothing personal at all.

GD: How did you do it?

RTC: Our Station Chief in Rome ran the show. Contacts in the Vatican and especially with Buzonetti, the Pope’s doctor. My God, old Renata cost us plenty. On our payroll since God knows when. And our Political Psychological Division worked on this to put the blame on the KGB. And the P-2 Lodge was also involved and they were ours.

GD: The what?

RTC: The P-2 Lodge was an Italian Masonic group and early in 1970, we got our hands on it. It was designed to attract right wing Italian bankers and businessmen to combat the very active Italian Communist party.  No, if the Pope had started something, it would have wrecked years of hard work on our part and ruined some of our more important assets. In the end, it was money, not Renaissance-style politics, that did Luciani in.

GD: Does the Vatican know now?

RTC: Suspects, but would rather not know anything. After the Pope assumed room temperature, we consolidated and revamped the system. There was quite a bit of mopping-up to do. We had to kill off a number of Italian players who had been pushed out of the picture and were longing to get back into the money. One hanged himself from a bridge in England. Obviously killed himself out of remorse.

GD: Stalin said once that it was not difficult to execute a murder, but much more difficult to arrange a suicide.

RTC: Josef was a clever man.

GD: And, he said, “No man, no problem.”

RTC: That one I know. A friend and co-worker had that up over his desk. I am not joking.

GD: Oh, I believe it, Robert. It is lawful to be taught by your enemies.

RTC: I detect a critical attitude here, Gregory. You have to realize that the amount of money we were, and are, making from our drug partnerships is nothing to walk away from. Vast sums of money, Gregory, and enormous political power therefrom.

GD: I can see that, but one day they will go too far.

RTC: The Kennedy business is a classic example why nothing will ever come of this sort of thing. If you publish the ZIPPER material you already have and what I am going to give you, you will only excite the conspiracy buffs, all of whom will gather together and hiss at you and heap coals of fire on your head. Let us say that you write a newspaper article on what I just told you. It would never get published and within minutes of your submitting it to an editor, we would be notified.

GD: And then you’d shoot me?

RTC: No, trash you. Laugh at you. Get our little broken down academics to piss on you. The press would ignore you completely and eventually, you would find something else to do. Now, on the other hand, if you had been one of us and had inside knowledge and worse, proof, you would perish very quickly. The faulty brakes while driving on dangerous mountain roads, an overdose of some kind of popular drug and dead in an overheated apartment. Things like that. But as an outsider, just laughter and silence. Of course, there are those who would believe you and if you wrote about this business with the Pope and mentioned some Italian names, you might get different treatment. The bomb under the front seat of your car or something crude like that. But we wouldn’t have done it and I would recommend against stirring those people up. We would look into your tax records and turn the IRS loose on you or let your wife know you were boffing a nice waitress at a cheap local motel. Or one of your nice children would be introduced to dangerous drugs. That’s more effective than a bomb in the car or someone shooting you dead in a parking garage. The Italians tend to be very emotional, and we do not.

GD: The Italians once said that he who went softly went safely and he who went safely went far.

RTC: It would be less messy if they actually practiced that sentiment.

GD: By the way, Robert, why did you go after the other Pope? I assume that’s the one that got shot by the Arab in front of the Vatican.

RTC: Yes, but not an Arab, a Turk. They do not like to be equated with Arabs. That one? Actually, we thought that if we had him done in right in front of everybody, it would draw a lot of attention and we could really blame it on the KGB. It was a perfect set up. He was a Polack who was agitating the Solidarity people against Russia, so who would be the most logical suspect? And we had been financing the Turkish Grey Wolves for some time. They got the hit man for us. Of course, he didn’t know anything so no one shot him in the courtroom.

GD: Que bono! But for no other reason?

RTC: Isn’t that enough? Turn all the world’s Catholics against the Russians in a hurry.

GD: Let’s see here. One Pope for sure, another shot at, a dead UN chief, a dead American president, assorted deceased South American leaders, a Pakistani or two, at least one high level Indian, and so on. I would hope not all for such trivial motives.

RTC: Turning huge number of people against Russia is not a trivial motive at all.

GD: The wheel does turn, Robert, it does. And what is now at the bottom comes to the top. Out of curiosity, have you killed any Israelis?

RTC: No, they know just how far to go, and we work very closely with them. They do a lot of our dirty work for us. They blew up the Marine barracks in Lebanon and, of course, we blamed it on the Arabs. It goes on, Gregory, and if you had sat in my chair and walked in my shoes, you would be a bit more understanding.

GD: This is not aimed at you, of course.

RTC: If it were, I wouldn’t be defending you to the monkeys when they jabber about you. They aren’t worth much. I think your problem is that you never were in a position of command and at a high level. If you had been, you would be less judgmental.

GD: I am just an amateur, Robert, just a dilettante. Thank God.

(Concluded at 11:45 CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

Factbox: Strait of Hormuz – the world’s most important oil artery

May 13, 2019

Reuters

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia said on Monday that two Saudi oil tankers were among vessels targeted in a “sabotage attack” off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, condemning it as an attempt to undermine the security of global crude supplies.

The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels were sabotaged near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz. It did not say who was behind the operation, which took place amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.

Iran’s foreign ministry called the incidents “worrisome and dreadful” and asked for an investigation.

The Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond, has been at the heart of regional tensions for decades.

Below is some background about the Strait:

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that 18.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of seaborne oil passed through the waterway in 2016. That was about 30 percent of crude and other oil liquids traded by sea in 2016.

About 17.2 million bpd of crude and condensates were estimated to have been shipped through the Strait in 2017 and about 17.4 million bpd in the first half of 2018, according to oil analytics firm Vortexa.

With global oil consumption standing at about 100 million bpd, that means almost a fifth passes through the Strait.

Most crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq — all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — is shipped through the waterway.

It is also the route used for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced by the world’s biggest LNG exporter, Qatar.

During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the two sides sought to disrupt each other’s oil exports in what was known as the Tanker War.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting the commercial ships in the area.

“While the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet should ensure that the critical waterway remains open, provocative Iranian military maneuvers are likely in the immediate offing as is a nuclear restart”, analysts at bank RBC wrote on April 22.

Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear program in return for an easing of sanctions under a 2015 deal with the United States and five other global powers. Washington pulled out of the pact in 2018. Western powers fear Iran wants to make nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this.

“All of these geopolitical stories could present a cruel summer scenario for President (Donald) Trump as he seeks to keep oil prices in check,” the RBC analysts wrote.

ARE THERE ALTERNATIVE ROUTES FOR GULF OIL?

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have sought to find other routes to bypass the Strait, including building more oil pipelines.

HAVE THERE BEEN INCIDENTS IN THE STRAIT BEFORE?

In July 1988, the U.S. warship Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 aboard, in what Washington said was an accident after crew mistook the plane for a fighter. Tehran said it was a deliberate attack. The United States said the Vincennes was in the area to protect neutral vessels against Iranian navy attacks.

In early 2008, the United States said Iranian boats threatened its warships after they approached three U.S. naval ships in the Strait.

In June 2008, the then Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said Iran would impose controls on shipping in the Strait if it was attacked.

In July 2010, Japanese oil tanker M Star was attacked in the Strait. A militant group called Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility.

In January 2012, Iran threatened to block the Strait in retaliation for U.S. and European sanctions that targeted its oil revenues in an attempt to stop Tehran’s nuclear program.

In May 2015, Iranian ships fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker which it said damaged an Iranian oil platform, causing the vessel to flee. It also seized a container ship in the Strait.

In July 2018, President Hassan Rouhani hinted Iran could disrupt oil flows through the Strait in response to U.S. calls to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero. A Revolutionary Guards commander also said Iran would block all exports through the Strait if Iranian exports were stopped.

Sources: Reuters/Refinitiv/Energy Information Administration

Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar; Editing by Edmund Blair and Dale Hudson

 

Saudi Oil Tanker ‘Sabotage’ Is a Dangerous Moment in US-Iran Tensions

May 13, 2019

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

Saudi Arabia’s claim that two of its oil tankers have been sabotaged off the coast of the UAE is vague in detail – but could create a crisis that spins out of control and into military action.

Any attack on shipping in or close to the Strait of Hormuz, the 30-mile wide channel at the entrance to the Gulf, is always serious because it is the most important choke point for the international oil trade.

A significant armed action by the US or its allies against Iran would likely provoke Iranian retaliation in the Gulf and elsewhere in the region. Although the US is militarily superior to Iran by a wide margin, the Iranians as a last resort could fire rockets or otherwise attack Saudi and UAE oil facilities. Such apocalyptic events are unlikely – but powerful figures in Washington, such as the national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo, appear prepared to take the risk of a war breaking out.

Bolton has long publicly demanded the overthrow of the Iranian government. “The declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” he said last year before taking office.

“The behaviour and the objectives of the regime are not going to change and, therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.”

Bolton and Pompeo are reported to have used some mortar rounds landing near the US embassy in Baghdad in February as an excuse to get a reluctant Pentagon to prepare a list of military options against Iran. These would include missile and airstrikes, but it is unclear what these would achieve from the US point of view.

Paradoxically, the US and Saudi Arabia have been talking up war against Iran just as economic sanctions are seriously biting. Iranian oil exports have dropped from 2.8 to 1.3 million barrels a day over the last year and are likely to fall further. Inflation in Iran is at 40 per cent and promises by the EU, UK, France and Germany to enable the Islamic republic to avoid sanctions on its oil trade and banking have not been fulfilled. Commercial enterprises are too frightened of being targeted by the US treasury to risk breaching sanctions.

Iran is becoming economically – though not politically – isolated. This is in contrast to previous rounds of sanctions on Iran under President Obama prior to the nuclear deal when the reverse was true. One reason why it is unlikely that Iran would carry out sabotage attacks on Saudi oil tankers is that its strategy has been to play a long game and out-wait the Trump administration. Though the Iranian economy may be badly battered, it will probably be able to sustain the pressure. Much tighter sanctions against Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 did not lead to the fall of his regime.

The circumstance of the alleged sabotage at 6am on Sunday remain mysterious. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih says the attack “didn’t lead to any casualties or oil-spill” but did cause damage to the structure of the vessels.

The incident has the potential to lead to conflict in the context of an escalating confrontation between the US and Iran. The rise in temperature reached particularly menacing levels this month as the US sent an aircraft carrier to the Gulf and Iran suspended in part its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal after President Trump withdrew last year.

However, Iran has made serious efforts to show moderation and cultivate support from the EU, Russia and China. For this reason, it appears unlikely that it has had a hand in attacking the Saudi oil tankers. Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi asked for more information about what had really happened to the tankers. He warned against any “conspiracy orchestrated by ill-wishers” and “adventurism” by foreigners.

It is the unpredictability of US and Saudi foreign policy that has exacerbated the danger of military action – particularly when it comes to Iran. President Trump has accused the country of supporting “terrorism” and aggression in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia policy is even more mercurial ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman took charge in 2015, initiating a war in Yemen, detaining the prime minister of Lebanon, locking up Saudi businessmen, and being accused by the US congress of being behind the assassination of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.

The crown prince has displayed extreme hostility towards Iran since he took power. Saudi Arabia executed 33 members of its Shia minority on 23 April, accusing 11 of them of being spies for Iran, an overwhelmingly Shia country. The defendants said they had been tortured into making false confessions and Human Rights Watch said that none of them had received a fair trial.

In this febrile atmosphere, almost any incident, true or false – such as the unconfirmed sabotage of tankers or a few mortar rounds fired towards the US embassy in Baghdad – might provide the spark to ignite a wider conflict.

 

No need for plan B against US sanctions: Nord Stream 2

Pipeline project continues on schedule despite US’ and some European nations’ fierce opposition

May 13, 2019

by Baris Saglam

Anadolu Agency (Turkey)_

BERLIN- The Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project is in full compliance with the rule of law and does not need a plan B against any potential U.S. sanctions, the project spokesman told Anadolu Agency on Monday in Berlin.

“We are at ease,” regarding the project, Jens D. Mueller, project spokesperson told Anadolu Agency on Monday in Berlin as every step taken by the Nord Stream 2 company is in compliance with regulations.

“There is a solid commitment by investors. Financing completely assured by shareholders and investors. Pipelaying is continuing as planned. So, at the moment, we don’t see any need for plan B [against possible U.S. sanctions], Mueller said.

“It is not a secret that a way of implementing ‘America First’ in energy is opposition to Nord Stream 2. There is a huge commercial interest to increase U.S.’ LNG deliveries to Europe. The political reflection of this commercial interest is the argumentation against Nord Stream 2,” he said.

The U.S., some Eastern European countries and Baltic republics disapprove the project on the basis that it will increase the EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas exports.

The Nord Stream project — operational since 2011 with an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters — brings Russian gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The Nord Stream 2, which plans to become operational by the end of 2019, also has the same annual capacity and runs almost parallel to the first pipeline route. Together they will meet the annual gas demand of a quarter of the European continent.

On May 4, U.S. President Donald Trump, in a joint statement with Slovakian Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, strongly criticized the project and said it would leave some countries vulnerable.

“Our countries also affirm that energy security is fundamental to national security. We reiterate our opposition to the use of energy projects as geopolitical weapons, including Nord Stream 2,” the statement read.

Furthermore, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, warned German companies that they could be punished if they continue to collaborate with Russia on the project.

“Regarding sanctions, whatever we do is based on the rule of law. The sanctions bill is from August 2017, and the implementation of these sanctions are specified in guidance delivered by the state department in October 2017,” he said.

“The existing guidance, first of all, underlines all sanctions have to be coordinated with allies. Secondly, the security of energy security should not be harmed. Thirdly, all agreements signed before the law that came into force should not be touched by the sanctions,” he explained.

“All contracts regarding the pipe delivery and as well as financial agreements with all investors have been made before [the bill]. So theoretically, the current regulation in the U.S. could not be implemented to the project,” he argued.

“However, you can read every week some speculation about a new sanction. As a project developer we cannot comment on political speculations,” he added.

Opposition within EU

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia expressed their opposition to the project in early April at a meeting with Trump in the White House.

Poland, Denmark and Ukraine also oppose the project, arguing that it would increase the EU’s dependency on Russian gas and urge that Europe instead focus on diversifying its energy resources.

“Regarding the discussions in Europe about the Nord Stream 2, the activities and construction are implemented in total compliance with international and national laws and EU regulations. My understanding is that you always will find a certain share of legitimate commercial interest amongst critiques of Nord Stream 2 [in EU],” he said.

“Looking at Poland, for example, the country which has 90% of its gas from non-Russian sources, its LNG facility co-founded by EU and also the new pipeline for Norwegian gas co-founded by EU with €220 million. This legitimate interest is reflected in the political debate,” he said, adding that statements from German center-right European People’s Party candidate for the President of the European Commission Manfred Weber fit the same narrative.

Weber said in late April that the project would increase the EU’s dependence on Russian Gas.

“I am against this project. It’s not in the interest of the European Union and that is why as the head of the European Commission, I will use all legal instruments available to block Nord Stream 2,” he said.

In front of Polish media, Weber said he would like to stop the project but his statements made in public in Germany are quite different, the spokesman for the project said.

“This is a political intention. The pipeline is being constructed according to the national and international law, and EU regulations. The pipeline has got permits from four governments. This is something even Mr. Weber will not be able to stop,” the spokesman said.

Denmark’s permit procedure

Denmark passed a law at the end of November 2017 to permit the Danish foreign minister to ban the pipeline from traversing its waters. Denmark has decided that it will not grant permission for a northern route of the project and has asked the Russian-owned company to look into a southern route instead.

“There is enough reason to believe that a permit by Denmark will be granted as we applied for a third time to Danish authorities and made the necessary changes according to their demands,” Mueller said.

The project will become operational in accordance with the existing timeline before the end of 2019, he added.

The spokesman said that in the case of any delay to the project, it would incur a daily cost of $20 million based on global gas market developments, especially in the LNG sector.

 

Trump’s Russian Connections

Donald Trump has pursued business deals in Russia since 1987, and has sometimes traveled there to explore potential business opportunities. In 1996, Trump trademark applications were submitted for potential Russian real estate development deals. Mr.Trump’s partners and children have repeatedly visited Moscow, connecting with developers and government officials to explore joint venture opportunities. Mr.Trump was never able to successfully conclude any real estate deals in Russia. However, individual Russians have invested heavily in Trump properties, and following Mr.Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed money from Russian sources. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.

In 1996 Mr.Trump partnered with Liggett-Ducat, a small company, and planned to build an upscale residential development on a Liggett-Ducat property in Moscow. Trump commissioned New York architect Ted Liebman, who did the sketches.

In 1987 Mr.Trump visited Russia to investigate developing a hotel

In Russia, Mr.Trump promoted the proposal and acclaimed the Russian economic market. At a news conference reported by The Moscow Times, Mr.Trump said he hadn’t been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow” in contrast to other cities had visited “all over the world.

By this time, Mr.Trump made known his desire to build in Moscow to government officials for almost ten years ranging from the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (they first met in Washington in 1987) to the military figure Alexander Lebed.

Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, showed Trump plans for a very large shopping mall to be located underground in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The mayor complimented Mr.Trump’s suggestion that this mall should have access to the Moscow Metro, and it was eventually connected to the Okhotny Ryad station. Although the 1996 residential development did not happen, Mr.Trump was by this time well known in Russia.

Between 2000–2010, Mr.Trump entered into a partnership with a development company headquartered in New York represented by a Russian immigrant, Felix Sater. During this period, they partnered for an assortment of deals that included building Trump towers internationally and Russia was included. For example, in 2005 Slater acted as an agent for building a Trump tower alongside Moscow River with letters of intent in hand and “square footage was being analyzed.”

In 2006, Mr.Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka stayed in the Hotel National, Moscow for several days, across from the Kremlin, to interview prospective partners, with the intention of formulating real estate development projects.

Sater had also traveled to Moscow with Mr. Trump, his wife Ivanka and son Donald Jr.

Mr. Trump was associated with Tevfik Arif, formerly a Soviet commerce official and founder of a development company called the Bayrock Group, of which Sater was also a partner.

Bayrock searched for deals in Russia while Trump Towers company were attempting to further expand in the United States. Mr. Sater said, “We looked at some very, very large properties in Russia,” on the scale of “…a large Vegas high-rise.”

In 2007, Bayrock organized a potential deal in Moscow between Trump International Hotel and Russian investors

During 2006–2008 Mr.Trump’s company applied for a number of trademarks in Russia with the goal of real estate developments. These trademark applications include: Trump, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Home.

In 2008, Mr. Trump spoke at a Manhattan real estate conference, stating that he really prefered Moscow over all cities in the world and that within 18 months he had been in Russia a half-dozen times.

Mr.Trump had received large and undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products such as wine, ties, or mattresses, which would not have been identified as coming from Russian sources in the tax returns

A secret KGB memo under date of February 1, 1984 concerned the necessity of making an expanded use of the facilities of cooperating foreign intelligence services—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German intelligence networks.

The most revealing section concerned kompromat.

The document specifically requested any compromising information about Donald Trump, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself. Plus any other information that would compromise the subject (Trump) to his country’s authorities and the general public. Naturally the information could be used to cause him serious problems in his country if exposed.

Finally, the report mentioned that his attitude towards women was also of interest. The point of interest would be if he was the habit of having affairs with women.

Mr. Trumps’ first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin in 1986. His original position was Soviet ambassador to the U.N. Dubinin’s mission as ambassador was to make contact with America’s business elite.

There was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder. Mr. Trump was invited to meet the Ambassador. Ambassador Dubinin spoke fluent English and during the course of the luncheon Trump spoke at length with the Ambassador who proposed that Trump build a large luxury hotel, directly across from the Kremlin, in association with the Soviet government.

Mr.Trump at once became interested in the project and expressed his willingness to cooperate on such a project.

By January 1987, Mr.Trump had become a “prominent person” status and therefore Ambassador Dubinin deemed Mr.Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—was of assistance in this project.

Mr. Trump first visited the Soviet Union on July 4, 1987.

Mr. Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with his wife Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant. Ambassador Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow was a standard operation exercise by the KGB.

The Trump trip was orchestrated by the Intourist Agency which was under the control of the KGB. Its duty was to investigate and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union.

The Trumps were treated with great courtesy by Soviet officials and they were housed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, at the bottom of Tverskaya Street, near Red Square.

The hotel was connected to the Intourist complex next door and was under KGB control.

The Lenin suite had been fixed for electronic surveillance.

In November of 2013, the Miss Universe pageant was held iin Moscow

It was there that  Mr. Trump — then the pageant’s owner — spent several days socializing with Russia’s business and political elite and becoming acquainted with a wealthy developer whose connections his son would later seek to capitalize on. The developer, Aras Agalarov, offered to pass on information about potential rival Mrs. Clinton from Russia’s top prosecutor to help a projected Trump presidential campaign.

The contest was held at Crocus City Hall, a venue owned by Agalarov. The event would be a family affair: Agalarov’s son, a pop singer named Emin, performed on stage and his wife was a judge.

Mr.Trump remained on good and productive terms with the Agalarov family, at one point, appearing in a music video with Emin and sending him a videotaped greeting on his 35th birthday.

During his trip to Moscow on November 9-11, 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant, Mr.Trump surrounded himself with business people and those necessary to sign a deal which would bring a Trump Tower project to Moscow. These were: Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov,Yulya (Yulia) Alferova,Herman Gref, Artem Klyushin, Vladimir Kozhin, Chuck LaBella, Rotem Rosen, Phil Ruffin, Alex Sapir, Keith Schiller, Roustam Tariko and Bob Van Ronkel.

At first, President Putin, who had planned on meeting Mr.Trump at the pageant, sent numerous individuals tied to the Russian construction sector to the event to discuss potential lucrative building plans and to ascertain Mr. Trump’s attitudes.

President Putin to establish a distance, stated he was unable to attend the pagent because of a last-minute visit from the King of the Netherlands.

Previous to this meeting, there had been no positive positions on the possibility that Mr. Trump, with Russian assistance and financing, might construct a luxury hotel in Moscow. Trump made several tweets thanking individuals in Moscow and bragging about his future plans. Then on November 12th, 2013 Trump posted a link to the Moscow Times, remarking that his organization was working on building a luxury hotel in Moscow “@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”

This hotel deal was finalized during Trump’s weekend stay in Moscow for his Miss Universe pageant. At the Four Seasons Hotel at Ulitsa Okhotnyy Ryad, 2, a private meeting was held between Mr. Trump and President Putin. As the President is fluent in English, no other person was present. President Putin praised the business abilities of Mr. Trump and said that he would be a “refreshing person” as President of the United States. President Putin said that his people would be pleased to support Mr. Trump and that if this support was deemed material in achieving a victory, President Putin had one request to make of Mr. Trump. President Putin said his best wish was to establish “friendly and cooperative attitudes” by both parties, firmer business contacts and an abandonment of the policy of threats to the Russian Republic. President Putin stressed that certain very right-wing groups in America had been constantly agitating against him and against the Russian Republic and he hoped that Mr. Trump, if elected, could ignore these few people and work with, not against the Russian Republic. Mr. Trump repeatedly assured the President that he would be most eager to do just that and he agreed to work with various people in the United States who were friendly towards, and had connections with, the Russian Republic.

 

The Telephone as a Surveillance Tool

May 15, 2019

by Christian Jürs

With the advent of smartphones and SIM cards, cellphones are no longer strictly for storage of digits and 180-character short messages.

Cellphones assist in navigating for car trips, to enable making Internet purchases and to watch events on television stations.   It is possible to deposit checks with a bank app and a camera, locate businesses of interest and also to use transportation by using a QR-code. Phones hold our coupons, our favorite cat videos and functions as a credit card when we forget ours at home.

The NSA collects subscriber information from major cell phone carriers. This information is primarily based on metadata, such as location and duration of calls, along with numbers dialed, all in search of links to suspected terrorists.

In 2013, to date, law enforcement agencies made 2.3 million requests for subscriber information.

These government requests for surveillance information from the NSA, are limited to metadata. That doesn’t mean that the content of conversations is off-limits. To listen in, the government just needs a warrant, one that’s granted through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The court approves almost every request, fully denying just nine out of 133,900 government applications for surveillance over its 33-year existence, according to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reports submitted to Congress.

Although this is not new technology, law enforcement authorities are using our own cell phones to spy on us more extensively than ever before as a recent Wired article described….

Mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests last year for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data, according to data provided to Congress.

A single “request” can involve information about hundreds of customers. So ultimately the number of Americans affected by this could reach into “the tens of millions” each year.

The number of Americans affected each year by the growing use of mobile phone data by law enforcement could reach into the tens of millions, as a single request could ensnare dozens or even hundreds of people. Law enforcement has been asking for so-called “cell tower dumps” in which carriers disclose all phone numbers that connected to a given tower during a certain period of time.

So, for instance, if police wanted to try to find a person who broke a store window at an Occupy protest, it could get the phone numbers and identifying data of all protestors with mobile phones in the vicinity at the time — and use that data for other purposes.

Perhaps you should not be using your cell phone so much anyway. After all, there are more than 500 studies that claim to show that cell phone radiation is harmful to humans.

The official and unofficial tapping of telephone lines is widespread. In the United States for instance, the Communications Assistance For Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) requires that all telephone and VoIP communications be available for real-time wiretapping by Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Two major telecommunications companies in the U.S.—AT&T Inc. and Verizon—have contracts with the FBI, requiring them to keep their phone call records easily searchable and accessible for Federal agencies, in return for $1.8 million dollars per year. Between 2003 and 2005, the FBI sent out more than 140,000 “National Security Letters” ordering phone companies to hand over information about their customers’ calling and Internet histories. About half of these letters requested information on U.S. citizens.

Human agents are not required to monitor most calls. Speech-to-text software creates machine-readable text from intercepted audio, which is then processed by automated call-analysis programs, such as those developed by agencies such as the Information Awareness Office, or companies such as Verint, and Narus, which search for certain words or phrases, to decide whether to dedicate a human agent to the call.

Law enforcement and intelligence services in the United Kingdom and the United States possess technology to remotely activate the microphones in cell phones, by accessing phones’ diagnostic or maintenance features in order to listen to conversations that take place near the person who holds the phone.

Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data. The geographical location of a mobile phone (and thus the person carrying it) can be determined easily even when the phone is not being used, using a technique known multilateration to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several cell towers near the owner of the phone. The legality of such techniques has been questioned in the United States, in particular whether a court warrant is required. Records for one carrier alone (Sprint), showed that in a given year federal law enforcement agencies requested customer location data 8 million times.

 

Siri, Watch That Guy’: Pentagon Seeks AI that Can Track Someone Across a City

May 13, 2019

by Jack Corrigan

Defense One

The intel community’s researchers are looking for datasets to help train their computers.

The U.S. intelligence community’s research arm wants to train algorithms to track people across sprawling video surveillance networks, and it needs more data to do it.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is recruiting teams to build bigger, better datasets to train computer vision algorithms that would monitor people as they move through urban environments. The training data would improve the tech’s ability to link together footage from a large network of security cameras, allowing it to better track and identify potential targets.

Computer vision is a type of artificial intelligence that allows computers to interpret images and videos. Many law enforcement and public safety organizations already use the tech to investigate crimes, monitor critical infrastructure and secure major events that could be targets for terrorists. An early version of the tech was used to identify the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, for instance, its popularity has only grown in the years since.

But according to IARPA, the data used to train algorithms today is fairly narrow, which limits the tech’s ability to dissect the wide range of situations they’d see in the real world. With the new datasets, officials aim to improve the training process and enable computer vision systems to connect footage shot from cameras positioned across a broad geographic area

“Further research in the area of computer vision within multi-camera video networks may support post-event crime scene reconstruction, protection of critical infrastructure and transportation facilities, military force protection, and in the operations of National Special Security Events,” IARPA officials wrote in the solicitation.

Under the solicitation, selected vendors would compile roughly 960 hours of video footage covering numerous different environments and scenarios.

The dataset must include footage from at least 20 different security cameras with “varying positions, views, resolutions and frame rates” scattered across roughly 2.5 acres of “urban or semi-urban space.” The videos would be shot all hours of the day and in different weather conditions, and include pedestrians, moving vehicles, street signs and other “distractors.”

The footage must also include at least 200 test subjects behaving in different ways across the camera network. Ultimately, these are the people the algorithms would focus on to sharpen their identification and tracking skills.

Interested vendors must respond to the solicitation by May 17.

 

San Francisco votes to ban city use of facial recognition technology

May 14, 2019

by Jeffrey Dastin

Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – San Francisco officials on Tuesday voted 8 to 1 to ban the purchase and use of facial recognition technology by city personnel, in a move to regulate tools that local Silicon Valley companies helped develop.

The ordinance, which also would require city departments to submit surveillance technology policies for public vetting, can become final after a second vote next week by the same officials, the city’s Board of Supervisors.

The action puts San Francisco at the forefront of increasing discontent in the United States over facial recognition, which government agencies have used for years and now has become more powerful with the rise of cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies.

“We have a fundamental duty to safeguard the public from potential abuses,” Aaron Peskin, the city supervisor who championed the ban, said before the board’s vote.

Peskin said the ordinance was not an anti-technology policy. It allows continued use of surveillance tools like security cameras; the district attorney or sheriff can make an appeal to use certain restricted technology in exceptional circumstances as well.

Rather, Peskin said, the aim is to protect “marginalized groups” that could be harmed by the technology.

For instance, Amazon.com Inc has come under scrutiny since last year for selling an image analysis and ID service to law enforcement. Researchers have said this service struggles to identify the gender of individuals with darker skin, prompting fears of unjust arrests. Amazon has defended its work and said all users must follow the law.

Civil rights groups and companies including Microsoft Corp, which markets a facial recognition service, have called for regulation of the technology in recent months. This has added momentum to the effort in San Francisco and to a parallel ban reportedly in the works in nearby Oakland.

For a draft text of the San Francisco ordinance, see bit.ly/30jkPuJ

While communities at the heart of the technology industry are moving to limit facial recognition, police elsewhere have increased their use, primarily to spot potential suspects in known offender databases after a crime has occurred.

U.S. customs agents are vetting foreign travelers at airports with facial recognition, and other federal agencies use the technology too.

Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, said concerns that the U.S. government would use face identification for mass surveillance, like China has, were overblown. The non-profit includes technology industry representatives on its board.

San Francisco’s “ban on facial recognition will make it frozen in time with outdated technology,” he said.

Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; editing by Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman

 

Comment: SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS

Whether they’re walking to work, withdrawing money from an ATM or walking into their favorite local grocer, Americans could be within sight of one of the United States’ estimated 30 million surveillance cameras.

Police use them to monitor streets, subways and public spaces. Homeowners put them on their houses. Businesses mount them in stores and on buildings.

In Boston, for example, the FBI used still photos and video pulled from cameras to identify suspects after the Boston Marathon bombing. The images showed the suspects making calls from their cellphones, carrying what the police say were bombs, and leaving the scene.

New high-tech, high-definition security camera manufacturers give police departments the options of thermal imaging, 360-degree fields of view and powerful zoom capabilities for identifying people. Advances in camera technology enable new ways to monitor American citizens.

Surveillance cameras are video cameras used for the purpose of observing an area. They are often connected to a recording device or IP network, and may be watched by a security guard or law enforcement officer. Cameras and recording equipment used to be relatively expensive and required human personnel to monitor camera footage, but analysis of footage has been made easier by automated software that organizes digital video footage into a searchable database, and by video analysis software (such as VIRAT and HumanID). The amount of footage is also drastically reduced by motion sensors which only record when motion is detected. With cheaper production techniques, surveillance cameras are simple and inexpensive enough to be used in home security systems, and for everyday surveillance.

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security awards billions of dollars per year in Homeland Security grants for local, state, and federal agencies to install modern video surveillance equipment. For example, the city of Chicago, Illinois, recently used a $5.1 million Homeland Security grant to install an additional 250 surveillance cameras, and connect them to a centralized monitoring center, along with its preexisting network of over 2000 cameras, in a program known as Operation Virtual Shield. Speaking in 2009, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley announced that Chicago would have a surveillance camera on every street corner by the year 2016.

As part of China’s Golden Shield Project, several U.S. corporations, including IBM, General Electric, and Honeywell, have been working closely with the Chinese government to install millions of surveillance cameras throughout China, along with advanced video analytics and facial recognition software, which will identify and track individuals everywhere they go. They will be connected to a centralized database and monitoring station, which will, upon completion of the project, contain a picture of the face of every person in China: over 1.3 billion people Lin Jiang Huai, the head of China’s “Information Security Technology” office (which is in charge of the project), credits the surveillance systems in the United States and the U.K. as the inspiration for what he is doing with the Golden Shield Project.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding a research project called Combat Zones That See that will link up cameras across a city to a centralized monitoring station, identify and track individuals and vehicles as they move through the city, and report “suspicious” activity (such as waving arms, looking side-to-side, standing in a group, etc.).

Governments often initially claim that cameras are meant to be used for traffic control, but many of them end up using them for general surveillance. For example, Washington, D.C. had 5,000 “traffic” cameras installed under this premise, and then after they were all in place, networked them all together and then granted access to the Metropolitan Police Department, so they could perform “day-to-day monitoring”.

The development of centralized networks of CCTV cameras watching public areas – linked to computer databases of people’s pictures and identity (biometric data), able to track people’s movements throughout the city, and identify whom they have been with – has been argued by some to present a risk to civil liberties. Trapwire is an example of such a network.

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