TBR News May 17, 2014

May 17 2014

The Voice of the White House


          Washington, D.C. May 17, 2014: “In the propaganda war that rages parallel with the oil wars, the loser is the American media, both print and television. The legend of the free press is just that; a legend. Like the Russian press, the American counterpart is throughly controlled by the wishes of their respective governments. The Russians are more skillful at their jobs as witness the botched propaganda filling the pages of both the New York Times and the Washington Post, There were the pictures published in the Times that were designed to prove that Ruasian troops had invaded the Ukraine and when these turned out to be poor fakes, they waffled and published a retraction on the back pages. If one wants to read the views of the American government agencies, they can read the Times or the Post and be fascinated with the doings of airheaded Hollywood stars and various pop stars as well as watching videos of cats attacking dogs, fat teachers slapping small children in school or an endless series of brush fires raging in various drought-ridden American states. To get at reality, it is necessary to read a whole stable of Internet news sites but one of the most accurate and dispassionate is Reuters. The Guardian in England has excellent articles from a left-wing viewpoint of course, and RIA Novosti is a balanced view of Russian reportage. But one should beware of the so-called “blogs” which, in the main, are nothing but distortions of actual stories, designed to heighten the importance of the poster and, more often than not, the views of his government employers.”



New York Times under fire for spiking NSA leaks story in 2004


May 14, 2014

by Renee Lewis



The New York Times is under fire for bowing to White House pressure and spiking a 2004 article that would have unveiled crucial aspects of the National Security Agency’s domestic spy program, according to an episode of PBS Frontline.


“United States of Secrets,” which aired Tuesday, spotlighted the decision by New York Times then- executive editor Bill Keller to kill the story that would have exposed the warrantless surveillance of millions of Americans.


That decision delayed the spying revelations until the summer of 2013, when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of the agency’s spying techniques to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald — igniting international controversy.



Click for more coverage of the NSA leaks Dubbed “The Program,” the NSA domestic surveillance program was authorized by former president George W. Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Frontline reported. Some high-level NSA and Justice Department officials objected to the program, calling it illegal and unconstitutional.


In spring 2004, Justice Department attorney Thomas Tamm made an anonymous call to Times reporter Eric Lichtblau after learning of the program. Tamm worked in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court — set up as an NSA watchdog to ensure its surveillance programs were legal — where he saw references to wiretaps and information that hadn’t come through FISA warrants.


“The law specifically said that if you didn’t go through the court, you were committing a federal felony,” Tamm told Frontline.


After Tamm’s call to Lichtblau, another Times reporter, James Risen, who also had knowledge of the spy program, made a call to then-NSA director Michael Hayden, Frontline reported. Risen told him he knew about the warrantless wire tapping program targeting Americans. Hayden reportedly hung up abruptly. Soon after, the White House demanded a series of meetings with the paper.


Recalling the meetings, Philip Taubman — the D.C. bureau chief at the time — described them as “Orweillian,” adding that Bush administration officials would only speak in hypotheticals: “If the U.S. had such a program, we would request that the New York Times not publish any information about it.”


“We argued that this was really important, that our sources were telling us it was illegal or unconstitutional, that there were clearly people in the government who disagreed with what the government — what officials were saying to the editors,” Lichtblau told Frontline.


Their editors disagreed and the story did not run.


That fall the Bush administration invited top Times editors to a closed-door meeting where Keller met with the president’s top advisers. They told Keller, according to Frontline, that revealing the existence of the program would endanger national security.


“I had a consensus of everybody that we had contact with in the administration that this would be an extremely dangerous thing to do,” Keller said. “These were, you know, serious people, a consensus across the board of those who talked to us that it was going to be dangerous, a level of stridency that was quite impressive, and you know, after much discussion, decided that we weren’t ready to go with it.”


It wasn’t until December 2005 that the Times decided to run a story on the domestic program. However, the newspaper only did so after Risen threatened to publish the information independently.


In his public response, Bush minimized the scale of the program, saying the NSA only targeted people with terrorist links — as opposed to mass, dragnet surveillance — and succeeded in misleading the American public about the extent of the program, Frontline reported.


Bush said it was “consistent with U.S. law and the constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with links to Al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.” There was no mention of the NSA tracking phone calls or emails inside of the U.S., and Hayden even went so far as to dismiss the idea that there had been any internal dissent over the program.


The New York Times did not reply to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.



German N-TV Phone Poll Shows 89% Back Putin’s Ukraine Policy


May 13, 2014



MOSCOW,– A phone opinion poll conducted by the German TV channel N-TV has yielded a surprise finding that 89 percent of its viewers sympathize with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy on Ukraine.


A poll on Russia’s handling of the Ukraine crisis by the Berlin-based N-TV went spectacularly wrong in the channel’s opinion, when the majority of its audience said “yes” to the question “Do you have understanding for Putin’s policy?”


The response was indeed so baffling that the poll was wiped off the N-TV home page the same day, but not before some people managed to make screenshots of it, which they posted online.


A screenshot posted on the Facebook page of Christoph Hoerstel from Potsdam shows that 89 percent answered with a resounding “yes,” with the remaining 11 percent responding with a “no.” Respondents could choose only those two options.


The subsequent deletion of the controversial survey raised an important question of news coverage in the German mainstream media, which has been remarkably vocal in its disapproval of Russia’s stance on Ukraine.


In February, the Ukrainian parliament backed by far-right movements ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and scheduled an early presidential election for May 25.


Moscow has described the uprising in Kiev as an illegitimate fascist coup and a military seizure of power, which resulted in it taking steps to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine, including the reunification with Crimea.



Israel’s Aggressive Spying in the U.S. Mostly Hushed Up


May 8, 2014

by Jeff Stein



            When White House national security advisor Susan Rice’s security detail cleared her Jerusalem hotel suite for bugs and intruders Tuesday night, they might’ve had in mind a surprise visitor to Vice President Al Gore’s room 16 years ago this week: a spy in an air duct.


According to a senior former U.S. intelligence operative, a Secret Service agent who was enjoying a moment of solitude in Gore’s bathroom before the Veep arrived heard a metallic scraping sound. “The Secret Service had secured [Gore’s] room in advance and they all left except for one agent, who decided to take a long, slow time on the pot,” the operative recalled for Newsweek. “So the room was all quiet, he was just meditating on his toes, and he hears a noise in the vent. And he sees the vent clips being moved from the inside. And then he sees a guy starting to exit the vent into the room.”


Did the agent scramble for his gun? No, the former operative said with a chuckle. “He kind of coughed and the guy went back into the vents.”


To some, the incident stands as an apt metaphor for the behind-closed-doors relations between Israel and America, “frenemies” even in the best of times. The brazen air-duct caper “crossed the line” of acceptable behavior between friendly intelligence services – but because it was done by Israel, it was quickly hushed up by U.S. officials.


Despite strident denials this week by Israeli officials, Israel has been caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades, according to U.S. intelligence officials and congressional sources. And they still do it. They just don’t get arrested very often.


As Newsweek reported on Tuesday, American counter-intelligence officials told members of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees at the end of January that Israel’s current espionage activities in America are “unrivaled and unseemly,” going far beyond the activities of other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan.   


“It has been extensive for years,” a former top U.S. security official told Newsweek Wednesday after Israeli Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, among other top Israeli officials, “unequivocally” denied the Newsweek report, saying Israel stopped all spying operations in the U.S. after Jonathan Pollard was convicted of spying for Israel in 1987. One anonymous official was quoted in the Israeli media as saying Newsweek’s account “had the whiff of anti-Semitism in it.”


But a former U.S. intelligence operative intimately familiar with Israeli espionage rejected the anti-Semitism charge. “There is a small community of ex-CIA, FBI and military people who have worked this account who are absolutely cheering on [the Newsweek] story,” he said. “Not one of them is anti-Semitic. In fact, it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It has only to do with why [Israel] gets kid-glove treatment when, if it was Japan doing it or India doing it at this level, it would be outrageous.”


Beginning in the mid-1990s, well after Israel promised to stop spying in the U.S. in the wake of the Pollard affair, the FBI regularly felt compelled to summon Israeli diplomats in D.C. for a scolding, two former top counterintelligence officials told Newsweek. During the decade following 9/11, one said, the Israelis were summoned “dozens” of times and told to “cut the shit,” as one, a former top FBI official, put it. But as an “ally,” the Israelis almost always got off with only a warning.


But no matter how stern the FBI’s lecture – usually delivered personally to the embassy’s senior intelligence representative – the Israelis were unmoved, another former top intelligence official said. “You can’t embarrass an Israeli,” he said. “It’s just impossible to embarrass them. You catch them red-handed, and they shrug and say, ‘Okay now, anything else?’”


Always lurking, former intelligence officials say, was the powerful “Israeli lobby,” the network of Israel’s friends in Congress, industry and successive administrations, Republican and Democratic, ready to protest any perceived slight on the part of U.S. security officials. A former counterintelligence specialist told Newsweek he risked Israel’s wrath merely by providing routine security briefings to American officials, businessmen and scientists heading to Israel for meetings and conferences.


“We had to be very careful how we warned American officials,” he said. “We regularly got calls from members of Congress outraged by security warnings about going to Israel. And they had our budget. When … the director of the CIA gets a call from an outraged congressman–’What are these security briefings you’re giving? What are these high-level threat warnings about travel to Tel Aviv you’re giving? This is outrageous’ – he has to pay close attention. There was always this political delicacy that you had to be aware of.”


The annual exercise in which the State Department publishes security profiles on foreign countries gave the intelligence agencies huge headaches, he added. “When we were doing the annual threat rating for the U.S. Embassy and consulates [in Israel], it was always a huge debate,” he said. “The intelligence community would always be urging the highest level of threats, while the State Department would be saying, ‘This is not going to go over very well, we can’t give this kind of rating, because there will be certain consequences in terms of travel warnings and restrictions.’ It was always a big, big debate on how you rate the threat over there.”


But the danger is real, he and other former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with Israel’s methods say. Israeli agents “go after senior U.S. Navy officers on shore leave in Haifa, after space industry officials, or scientists with intellectual property, anywhere. This has always been a huge concern for the community.”


In the States, Israeli officials and businessmen are forever trying to lure attractive American targets to visit Israel. Representatives of Maf’at, an administrative body that yokes the Israel Defense Ministry to its military industries, give U.S. counterintelligence agencies great concern, one of the former U.S. intelligence officials said. “They were the ones that really caused us a lot of concern. Because they had a plausible reason to attend all these conferences and defense contracting facilities and whatnot. It was a great cover vehicle for industrial espionage,” he said.


“I remember speaking to one U.S. scientist who was at a conference and being worked by a group from [Israel],” the former U.S. intelligence operative continued. “And this scientist, who was savvy enough to recognize what she saw, said it was really unbelievable how the elicitation techniques were being used – the invitations to come over – basically getting the data dump from a fellow scientist. And the naïveté on the part of the American scientists was really striking. We saw this all the time.”


Israeli officials were brazen enough to pitch even him. After giving a speech at a recent security industry gathering in Washington, he said, he was approached by the commercial attaché of the Israeli Embassy. “He said, ‘Oh, it was great to hear your background, that was a great talk you gave, how interesting,’ and so forth. And I thought, Here it comes, here comes the pitch. And sure enough, he said, ‘Have you ever thought of coming over? We’d love to have you come over, we’ll pay all your expenses while you’re over there, we’ll give you the tour…’ I thought to myself, Come on guys, come on.”


“Their goal,” he continued, “is to get contacts to come out of the U.S. and over there and then wine them, dine them, assess them, see what their weaknesses are. I mean, we had government officials going over there who were offered drugs, like, ‘Hey, do you want to go get some pot?’ What? These are U.S. government officials. The drugs, women coming to your hotel room – they throw everything at you. No matter how high the official.”


On Wednesday, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz batted away such espionage allegations, saying “Israel does not spy in the U.S., does not enlist spies in the U.S., and does not do intelligence gathering in the U.S.” Likewise, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said he “would not agree to any spying on the United States, neither directly nor indirectly.” He called the allegations, attributed by Newsweek to intelligence officials who have briefed Congress, “malicious.”


But current and former U.S. intelligence officials stood their ground.


“It really spans the gamut of everything you can think of,” said a former U.S. intelligence official who has been a familiar face in the executive suites of several U.S. security agencies over the decades. “It used to be when French students came to the United States as interns, summer employees and things like that, they all had a French DGSE officer they had to report back to at the embassy,” he said. “Similar things occur with respect to the Israelis … [who] have a lot of Israeli travelers in the United States.”


Such blanket accusations infuriate defenders of Israel, who detect that “whiff of anti-Semitism” in them. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials who opposed Pollard’s early release were also accused of anti-Semitism. 


The high number of young Israelis who overstay their visits to the U.S. has been a sticking point in Israel’s drive to get off the U.S. visa-required list.  Another is its failure to regularly report lost and stolen passports to Interpol. A bigger issue has been its rough treatment of Arab Americans and pro-Palestinian activists travelling to Israel. But Israeli efforts to pursue U.S. military, scientific and industrial secrets has also emerged as a major hurdle, if not the major hurdle, in normalizing visa relations, according to congressional sources.


“I was in this briefing — there were several” on Israeli espionage by U.S. security officials in 2013, a former congressional aide told Newsweek. “The one I was in had senior staffers from foreign affairs, the full committee, the subcommittee … from judiciary, Republicans and Democrats, senior leadership staff. I don’t think there was anyone in there who didn’t work for a member that wasn’t ardently and publicly pro-Israel,” he said.


“And afterwards, we were saying, ‘No way. You’ve got to be fucking kidding.’” The evidence of Israeli spying was overwhelming, he said. Visa waivers was off the table.


“The voices in the room,” the aide recalled, were, “‘There’s just no way that this is possible.’”

Holocaust scammer now owes $22.5 million for bogus memoir


May 11, 2014

by David K. Li

New York Post


A shameless Holocaust fraudster must fork over the $22.5 million she made from penning a book of her completely fabricated tales of World War II survival, a court ruled.


Massachusetts resident Misha Defonseca, 76, had previously admitted to completely inventing her 1997 best-seller “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years.”


But before the scam was exposed, she and ghostwriter Vera Lee won a $32.4 million judgment against publisher Mt. Ivy Press and company founder Jane Daniel in 1998 for breach of contract for hiding profits from the author.


That civil suit, however, pushed Daniel, journalists and forensic genealogists to check out Misha’s wild tale of survival — which all turned out to be fake.


Defonseca’s cut of the $32.4 million judgment was $22.5 million, and a Massachusetts court found she committed fraud and set aside the earlier verdict against the publishers.


Appeals court Judge Marc Kantrowitz penned what he called the “third, and hopefully the last” opinion in the case two weeks ago, affirming the lower court’s order for Defonseca to pay up, according to The Daily Mail.


In her book, Defonseca recounted how she trekked across snowy Europe, accompanied by wolves, and fatally stabbed a Nazi would-be rapist — all while she was between the ages of 7 and 11.


It turned out that Defonseca isn’t even Jewish and was enrolled in a Brussels school during World War II.


Defonseca rationalized that her parents’ arrest, for assisting the anti-Nazi resistance, led her to “feel Jewish.”


Daniel talked Defonseca into writing the book after hearing her recount the fantastic tales at a Massachusetts synagogue.


After telling the highly detailed, sensational lies for so many years, Defonseca said, she “found it difficult to differentiate between what was real and what was part of my imagination.”


“Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” has been printed in 18 languages and was made into a French feature film.



Int’l survey says anti-Semitic attitudes pervasive and growing

May 14, 2019
Associated Press

            NEW YORK (AP) — Anti-Semitism remains prevalent around the world with one in four adults surveyed in a new international study expressing anti-Jewish sentiment, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

 The ADL Global 100 Index found someone to be anti-Semitic if they answered “probably” or “definitely” true to six or more of 11 stereotypes about Jews offered on the survey.

            The survey, which the ADL called “the broadest survey of anti-Jewish attitudes ever conducted,” found the lowest level of anti-Semitism in Laos, with just 0.2 percent of the adult population expressing such views. The highest level of anti-Semitism was found in the Palestinian territories of West Bank and Gaza at 93 percent.

            Greece was the most anti-Semitic country in Western Europe, with 89 percent of the adults surveyed expressing such opinions and Sweden, with four percent, was the least. In the United States, thirty-two percent of adults were found to harbor strong anti-Semitic views.

            “Our findings are sobering but sadly not surprising,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. “We can now identify hotspots, as well as countries and regions of the world where hatred of Jews is virtually non-existent.”

            Foxman said findings about Greece had already led to an invitation from that country’s prime minister to discuss possible remedies.

            “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/to the countries they live in,” was the most commonly accepted stereotype with 41 percent of respondents surveyed across 101 countries and the West Bank and Gaza saying that it was at least “probably true.” The second most accepted stereotype, held by 85 percent of respondents, was: “Jews have too much power in the business world.”

            The survey also found that only 32 percent of those polled had heard about the Holocaust, a figure Foxman called “disturbingly low.”

             Holocaust awareness was highest in Western Europe where 64 percent of respondents said they had heard about it and lowest in sub-Sarahan Africa with only 4 percent.

             According to the survey, 49 percent of Muslims hold anti-Semitic views compared with 34 percent of Christians.

            But Jeffery Liszt, who oversaw the survey for Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, said that anti-Semitic views conformed more closely to region than religion with 75 percent Muslims in the Mideast and North Africa holding anti-Semitic views while only 18 percent of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa expressing similar sentiments.

            The Mideast and North Africa region was found to the most anti-Semitic and the Oceania region the least, followed by the Americas.

            Anti-Semitic attitudes were relatively low in English speaking countries at 33 percent compared with 40 percent for Spanish speaking countries, the report found.

            The survey also found that among the 74 percent of those surveyed who said that they had never met a Jewish person, 45 percent nonetheless harbored anti-Semitic attitudes.

            The survey interviewed 53,100 adults across 102 countries with funding from New York philanthropist Leonard Stern. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 0.97 percentage points for results across all nations surveyed and varies for results from individual nations

 Skyrocketing Prison Population Devastating US Society: Report

National Research Council report documents severe costs to communities, families, and society


May 2, 2014

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Common Dreams


             Impacted communities have long slammed U.S. policies of mass incarceration that are locking up more people than any other country in the world. Now that criticism is also resounding from the highly-regarded National Research Council (an arm of the National Academy of Sciences), which issued a devastating report this week charging that “unprecedented” levels incarceration are spreading great social harm.


Following two years of data review, the 464-page report delivers a round indictment of four decades of skyrocketing incarceration that has quadrupled the prison population and torn apart families, communities, society, and the lives of the incarcerated people.


“Those in power have tried to dismiss and disparage the communities and organizations who have been calling attention to these issues and struggling to change things,” Isaac Ontiveros of Critical Resistance told Common Dreams. “Now you have the center saying the same thing people having been vocal about for a generation.”


Commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation, the report notes that 2.23 million people are currently locked in U.S. prisons and jails, but that number multiplies when people who are on parole or probation are considered. This is the result of an “unprecedented and internationally unique rise in U.S. state and federal prison populations” since 1973, according to an NRC statement.


The rising numbers do not correspond to an increase in violence, but rather, are driven by politically-motivated policy changes, including: the imposition of “mandatory minimums” in the 1980s, longer sentences for repeat convictions, and increased criminalization of drug offenses due to the War on Drugs.


The political push for these policies employs racist rhetoric. “Deeply held racial fears, anxieties, and animosities likely explain the resonance of coded racial appeals concerning crime-related issues,” states the report.


While the financial price of these incarceration rates has been high for society overall, the social and economic costs to poor communities and people of color is unmatched.


According to the report, “The U.S. prison population is largely drawn from the most disadvantaged part of the nation’s population: mostly men under age 40, disproportionately minority, and poorly educated.” Sixty percent of incarcerated people are people of color, and black males who did not complete high school and are younger than 35 are more likely to be incarcerated than employed in the formal labor market.


Said Ontiveros, “We can read UN reports about genocide in another country, and do that at an arm’s length, but now we have even fairly conservative institutions like the National Research Council pointing out systematic state violence in the U.S. that uses courts, police, the prison system, cultural institutions, and media to target and unleash incredible amounts of violence against certain groups of people.”


Furthermore, incarcerated people disproportionately face “drug and alcohol addictions, mental and physical illnesses, and lack of work preparation or experience,” charges the report.


While the these high incarceration rates are financially costly for society at large, the social and economic blow to low-income communities of color is unmatched. Prisons spread trauma and poverty through communities and tear families apart, charges the report. “Prisons are part of a poverty trap, with many paths leading in, but few leading out,” said committee vice chair Bruce Western, professor of sociology, Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice, and the director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.”


The committee made a series of recommendations for policies aimed at decreasing incarceration rates, including a “reconsideration of drug crime policy” and re-examination of mandatory minimum sentencing.


The report also called for steps to “improve prison conditions” and expand programming on the inside. Yet James Kilgore, who spent more than 6 years in prison and currently organizes with the No More Jails campaign in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, told Common Dreams, “What’s far more important is to reinvest money into communities that have been decimated by mass incarceration. Resources should go into community programs that keep people out of jail and prison, including public housing, substance abuse treatment, and mental health programs. Those programs, in the long run, will be more important than programs offered inside prisons and jails.”


Ontiveros agrees: “We should prioritize re-entry services and programs that are community-based and not under the purview of corrections. We cannot count on those who have propped up this abhorrent institution to be in charge of changing it.”


He added, “The bare minimum response to this report should be the immediate rolling back of the policies and sentencing guidelines and conditions of parole and probation and a swift and rigorous decarceration strategy for those who are locked up. If things still don’t change, we need to hold the people continuing these policies accountable.”


WSJ/NBC Poll: Americans Want Less Interventionist Foreign Policy


April 30, 2014

by John Glaser,



This morning’s Wall Street Journal has the following headline on the front page: “Americans Want to Pull Back From World Stage, Poll Finds.”


             Americans in large numbers want the U.S. to reduce its role in world affairs even as a showdown with Russia over Ukraine preoccupies Washington, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.


In a marked change from past decades, nearly half of those surveyed want the U.S. to be less active on the global stage, with fewer than one-fifth calling for more active engagement—an anti-interventionist current that sweeps across party lines.


…The poll findings, combined with the results of prior Journal/NBC surveys this year, portray a public weary of foreign entanglements and disenchanted with a U.S. economic system that many believe is stacked against them. The 47% of respondents who called for a less-active role in world affairs marked a larger share than in similar polling in 2001, 1997 and 1995.


You can tell from the way the reporter frames the poll’s findings that she’s unhappy about what she calls “anti-interventionist” sentiment. She is shocked such sentiments can be so popular even as (in her words) Russia defies U.S.-EU sanctions and Ukraine continues to unravel.


But she must have missed the YouGov poll conducted last month finding that only 14 percent of Americans said the U.S. has “any responsibility” to get involved in Ukraine, and only 18 percent think the U.S. “has any responsibility to protect Ukraine if Russia were to invade.”


“Americans are more likely than not to say that the United States has no responsibility to get involved in Ukraine even under extreme circumstances, the new survey shows,” the Huffington Post reports. “Pluralities of Democrats, Republicans and independents agreed that the U.S. does not have a responsibility to protect Ukraine.”


The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is consistent as well with the Pew poll from back in December that found a majority of Americans – more than ever before in Pew’s 50-year history of polling this question – think the U.S. “should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along as best they can on their own.”


It will be interesting to see how these popular sentiments shape the upcoming 2016 presidential elections. One thing we can expect is a lot of vitriol for these kinds of opinions by Republican and Democratic standard-bearers. Typically, pro-war sentiments are taken to be very serious, while non-interventionist sentiments are condemned as either dangerously isolationist or naive.


It’s worth noting though that the poll numbers themselves have disproven the isolationist charge: most Americans (77%) think increased trade and business ties with the rest of the world is a good thing, while only 18% think its negative. So, quite explicitly, Americans don’t like greater involvement in the world by the U.S. government and they do like greater economic involvement in general.





Obama resets the ‘pivot’ to Asia

by M K Bhadrakumar

Asia Times


The dust has settled down sooner than one would have thought on the US President Barack Obama’s four-nation Asia tour, and the inevitable stocktaking is well under way. Obama earmarked an entire week for the trip that took him to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.


Without doubt, it was a major statement of the Obama administration’s strategic foreign-policy reorientation. But that statement is already lending itself to varying interpretations because of endemic geopolitical realities and priorities in the

contemporary world situation. The sharpest criticism is, interestingly, appearing in the US itself.


The salience of the tour came to be that China didn’t figure in Obama’s itinerary and this is at a time when Beijing has locked horns with America’s key allies in the East and South Asia Seas. Clearly, China was the elephant in the room.


As the New York Times noted, “The balancing act has become even trickier because of the sharp deterioration of America’s relations with Russia. Perhaps no country has more to gain from a new Cold War than China, which has historically benefited from periods of conflict between the United States


To be sure, Obama spoke to different audiences simultaneously. On the one hand, he tried to reassure US allies of its commitment to remain supportive at a juncture when there are fears that China could exploit the prevailing international climate to become even more assertive or even belligerent on the Pacific Rim.


On the other hand, while vowing to defend the allies, the US would expect them to show restraint themselves and even insisted that Washington sought solid relations with Beijing and hoped to enlist the latter to find solutions to various issues.


Furthermore, while underscoring at all available opportunities during his tour that “we’re not interested in containing China”, Obama also insisted that the US is interested in China “being a responsible and powerful proponent of the rule of law” and expected that in such a role China “has to abide by certain norms.”


Getting the balance right


The jury is still out whether Obama got the balance right in reaffirming America’s support for allies while carefully calibrating his statements to avoid giving an impression that the US sought to isolate or antagonize China. To quote New York Times, “So far, China’s reaction has been muted … China, some analysts said, is content not to pick a fight with the United States at a time when events, in Asia and elsewhere, seem to be going in its favor.”


Broadly, there are two perspectives possible on Obama’s Asian tour, which are not necessarily contrarian. One, this was a catch-up appearance by Obama following his failure to show up last October at the string of ASEAN-related summit meetings, especially the East Asia Summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.


Obama failed to attend the summits due entirely to America’s domestic preoccupations over the budgetary crisis on Capitol Hill and the government shutdown.


But Obama’s absence from the ASEAN-related conclaves was perceived in geopolitical terms in the Asia-Pacific, especially the Southeast Asian region, as a telltale sign of the wavering commitment in Washington to the “pivot” to Asia, which in turn spawned gnawing worries in the minds of US allies. At the ASEAN-Japan summit in Tokyo early this year, the Southeast Asian countries refused to be persuaded by the Japanese entreaties to take an open stance against China.


Indeed, the contrast couldn’t have been sharper: while the government shutdown in Washington presented a picture (rightly or wrongly) of a superpower in inexorable decline and cast the US political system itself in poor light as increasingly dysfunctional, China promptly capitalized on Obama’s absence by the grand unveiling of its strategy to reopen the so-called Maritime Silk Road (that has a history of over two thousand years), devolving upon a promise of massive investments by Beijing in the economies of its ASEAN partners, which America would be hard-pressed to match in sheer financial terms.


A second perspective on Obama’s Asian tour builds on the above perception that the “pivot” already has lost its shine and a “reset” is in order. The heart of the matter is that the world has changed unrecognizably in the past couple of years since the former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton unveiled the “pivot” strategy in her famous article in the Foreign Affairs magazine. In retrospect, the pivot turned out to be Clinton’s swan song, so to speak.


Strong on rhetoric


Clinton is no more in the driving seat when it comes to American foreign policy, and in the highly personalized business of policymaking in Washington, her absence through the past one year appears to have made all the difference to the pivot strategy. Furthermore, the original architects of the pivot strategy – apart from Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell – they have all left the administration.


Having said that, there was always a question mark as to how far Obama himself genuinely felt passionate about the strategy as such or, more importantly, as regards its main thrust on “militarization”, although he has been consistent in his emphasis on the crucial importance of the US tapping into the phenomenal growth of the Asian region in the world economy.


Without doubt, there is growing evidence that in his first term as president, Obama didn’t really subscribe to many of the things that Clinton or Gates espoused. Indeed, he had misgivings about the “surge” in Afghanistan. Again, he chose a path ultimately on Syria that wouldn’t have found favor with Clinton. (In fact, although she had left office, she still advocated US military intervention in Syria.)


Most certainly, Clinton’s other pet project, the “new Silk Road” in Central Asia, has already become distant memory. There is even talk that Obama may be willing to consider a presence of fewer than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan. The opening to Iran has been almost exclusively an Obama initiative.


The point is, how far has Obama been really committed to the pivot strategy? There are no clear answers here, although conceptually and geopolitically, the strategy serves the US’s long-term interests. There cannot be two opinions that Asia is a crucial arena for the US’ global strategies, being a region which accounts for 40% of the world’s population and a third of the world’s global Gross Domestic Product (in purchasing-power parity terms).


However, as it happened, excessive attention came to be placed on the “militarization” of the pivot strategy, which instead of deterring China, held out the danger of precipitating a confrontation with China at some point. On the other hand, doubts have arisen over the long-term execution and sustainability of the strategy, given the grim reality that a fiscally-stretched US may be hard-pressed to locate the budgetary means to fund the pivot.


US allies in Asia already complain that the pivot is strong on rhetoric but lacking in substance. Indeed, the US deployments so far have been mostly symbolic. Meanwhile, the American commanders during recent Congressional hearings have been openly acknowledging that the US armed forces are being starved of resources.


For instance, in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington last month, Commander of the US Pacific Command Admiral Samuel J Locklear said:


Budget uncertainty has hampered our readiness and complicated our ability to execute long-term plans and to efficiently use our resources … Due to continued budget uncertainty, we were forced to make difficult short-term choices and scale back or cancel valuable training exercises, negatively impacting both the multinational training needed to strengthen our alliances and build partner capacities as well as some unilateral training necessary to maintain our high end war-fighting capabilities. These budgetary uncertainties are also driving force management uncertainty. Current global force management resourcing, and the continuing demand to source deployed and ready forces from USPACOM AOR to other regions of the world, creates periods in USPACOM where we lack adequate intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities as well as key response forces, ultimately degrading our deterrence posture and our ability to respond.


While referring to the pivot strategy in Asia, General John Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps posed a key question during a recent speech, “Do we US have enough people and enough ships to do it?” He lamented, “We are on our way … to a less than a 300-ship navy. We are on our way to a 175,000 man Marine Corps.”


According to General Paxton, the Marine Corps needs 54 amphibious ships to do its job, while current plans call for only 38, and that too is likely to shrink to 33. He asked, “With the dollars we have, and the ships we have and the aircraft we have, and the people we have, are we going to be ready to do what we need to do?”


Nuanced demeanor


In political terms, there is lingering uneasiness among US allies about the depth of Washington’s resolve, notwithstanding remarks by the US President Barack Obama’s hosts during his Asia tour that they were reassured by his words. To quote Narushige Michishita, a Japanese expert on security policy:

The wording of his Obama’s statements was OK, but if you look at his demeanor and tone, he was very nuanced and trying not to get entangled in disputes with China.

This “nuanced” approach suits China fine, because it always took pains to maintain that its interests in the East China Sea are unrelated to those in the South China Sea, and vice versa. While not a mere naval strategy, China’s two-fold objective is to make good its territorial claims while at the same time ensuring unimpeded strategic breakout beyond the constraints of the so-called First Island Chain that could be deemed to run from Northeast China through Japan and the Ryukyu archipelago, the Philippines and down to the Strait of Malacca.


Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian capitals are staying on the sidelines when it comes to tensions in the East China Sea, and they prefer to adopt a less direct and non-confrontational approach to China and keep tensions in check in the South China Sea.


The South Asian capitals have by and large kept a studied silence over the tensions between China and Japan. Simply put, they aren’t interested in pushing the envelope in the East China Sea and would opt for a differentiated approach that serves the interests of maritime relations in the South China Sea.


Obama offered a clue to his own thinking on the ‘pivot’ strategy at his press conference in Manila at the fag-end of his Asia tour when he gave “the general takeaway” from his regional tour:


Our alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger. Our relationship with ASEAN countries in Southeast Asia has never been stronger. I don’t think that’s subject to dispute.


But what followed was something quite extraordinary – the core tenets of what can probably be called by now the “Obama Doctrine”. Obama held forth at some length to dispel the criticism in America regarding his foreign policy. Its application to the pivot strategy has stunning implications, and the important thing is that Obama articulated these thoughts during his Asia tour.


The bottom line, he said, is that he is being criticized at the failure to use military force, which is uncharitable because military force is something that needs to be deployed only as a last resort and it ought to be deployed wisely. Besides, he said that the American people have no interest in policies that “go headlong into a bunch of military adventures” that would have no bearing on the US’s core security interests.


Obama elaborated, “There are disasters and difficulties and challenges around the world, and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us US.” Therefore, the prudent thing to do is to “look at what is it that is going to advance our security interests over the long term, to keep out military in reserve for where we absolutely need it.”


Obama went on to stress that military force is only one of “the tools we’ve got in the toolkit” and if there are occasions where “targeted, clear actions can be taken that would make a difference, then we should take them.” But otherwise, it is the diplomatic track that ought to be given priority.


Obama claimed that this foreign-policy approach is paying off and “it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest.”


He concluded that the focus, therefore, ought to be on “steadily” advancing the interests of the American partnerships. The stress was on an incremental approach.


Ironclad pledge


It is extraordinary that Obama spoke in this vein at the concluding lap of his Asia tour, which was being widely looked to locally for signs of a robust confirmation that America-led bilateral security relationships remained the backbone of peace and stability in the region and that was what the pivot primarily aimed at.


In a nutshell, Obama underscored that he eschewed military adventures abroad in countries engaged in messy conflicts, and wanted instead to focus more on diplomacy and trade.


This is perfectly understandable because Obama hopes to spend more time on domestic issues at a time when the economy is barely recovering and when social disparities are growing. Call it one of the vagaries of history, or the decline of a superpower, but Obama hopes to pay attention only on foreign-policy issues that affect the US’s core interests.


Indeed, Syria has been a glaring example of how the “Obama Doctrine” is at work. We know that he nixed the proposal for arming and organizing vetted moderate Syrian opposition commanders – something that was collectively proposed by the then secretaries of state and defense Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and the then CIA Director David Petraeus. Later, he chose the path to work with Russia on eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons rather than embark on a military strike.


Of course, the detractors are galore – be it on Obama’s approach toward the Syrian conflict or on relations with Russia and the ‘pivot’ strategy in the Asia-Pacific. As an American columnist Trudy Rubin wrote:

Sending the Ukrainian army MREs – yes, more of them – just makes us look foolish. People are asking whether, as was the case with those sent to the Syrian rebels, their sell-by date is about to expire … In Manila, Obama seemed not to recognize that China is watching. So are America’s Asian allies, who have to judge whether Washington will support them if Beijing makes aggressive moves… That kind of approach will convince Moscow, Beijing and Tehran that Obama can be ignored, which will create new foreign-policy headaches. It signals a president who isn’t really interested in the foreign-policy game.


Unsurprisingly, an opinion piece in the Philippine Daily Inquirer framed the big question as the US president headed home: “Is Obama pledge really ironclad?”


The fact of the matter is that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed during Obama’s visit to Manila defines a new mode of security relationship between the two countries and revises the framework of the expanded presence of US forces in Philippine military bases. It is perceived by many as a counterweight to Chinese territorial expansion in the South China Sea as well as to meet the Chinese challenge to the US hegemony in Asia-Pacific.


The EDCA emanates out of a US commitment to defend the Philippines, which, in Obama’s words, is “ironclad … because allies never stand alone.” But how much ironclad is Obama’s commitment? In a symbolic speech to Filipino and American soldiers at Fort Bonifacio last Tuesday before his departure after the overnight stop in Manila, Obama quoted from the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and said the two countries had pledged to defend each other “against external attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone.” He added that the “deepening of our alliance is part of our broader vision for the Asia-Pacific.”


On the other hand, Obama didn’t give a categorical answer when asked after the signing of the EDCA whether the 1951 MDT would apply in case the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China escalated into an armed confrontation. He sidestepped neatly and said China had an “interest in abiding by international law” and that “larger countries have a greater responsibility” doing so. Obama added, “Our goal is not counter China. Our goal is not to contain China.”


Throttled in the cradle


The big question will be how China perceives the reset of the pivot strategy by Obama. While Beijing is intensely watching Obama’s policies on Ukraine, given its far-reaching impact on the world order, it will be wrong to rush to judgment that China views all of American policy through the prism of the most difficult crisis of the day, rather than taking the longer view.


The coming weeks and months will show whether Beijing would choose to exploit the recrudescence of old European enmities (and America’s entanglement in them, being a congenital Atlantic power), to lean hard on China’s neighbors in the region.


So far, the official Chinese reaction by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has narrowed down to a perfunctory objection to Obama’s assertion that the US-Japan alliance treaty also covers Senkaku.


As for the 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines, a commentary by Xinhua over the weekend analyzed that “the next few days could actually derail the implementation of the agreement”, given the groundswell of opposition in the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives that their country “would not be getting much in return” for “virtually allowing the whole country to be an American military base.”


The paradox cannot be lost on Beijing that although Obama is as “Pacific” an American president as could be in a long while, his presidency is still tied by umbilical cords to trans-Atlantic concerns and constrained by its involvement in the never-ending exigencies in the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere.


In a sense, therefore, it is possible to say that Obama’s tour is a valiant attempt to revert US Asia-Pacific policy to a “pre-pivot” mode – which was never going to be easy, because Obama also has to cope with the rise in regional tensions following the unveiling of the pivot two years ago. The latest standoff between China and Vietnam becomes a test case.


Without doubt, the fizz has gone out of the US’ pivot strategy, as unveiled by the then secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Arguably, Beijing throttled the pivot in the cradle in 2012 on the Scarborough Shoal. The ‘pivot’ never really regained its verve after the US’ failure to militarily intervene.


Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe subsequently has tried his best to inject fresh life into the “pivot”, but then came the Chinese move to create the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). China promulgated the ADIZ but then, curiously, it wouldn’t enforce it. Suffice to say, Beijing has been reactive. Interestingly, Obama’s Air Force One flew through the ADIZ after filing a routine fight plan.


The core issue comes down to the US’ willingness to engage in a conflict with China, which could well happen if the US is bent on perpetuating its dominance of the region. But Obama understands the severe limitations in going to war with China. During his recent tour, he was throughout taking a position of strategic ambiguity when directly confronted with that question.


It is a moot point why Obama wouldn’t give a blanket, all-weather commitment to protect Japan or the Philippines when he is prepared to do that in the case of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies. But then, the US, including the Obama administration, has never made any bones about the fact that the NATO is of pivotal importance to America’s global strategies. US Secretary of State John Kerry made a pretty strong valedictorian speech at the 50th Munich Security Conference in February to emphasize the point.


Ironically, the US is better placed today in Asia than it has been in the recent decade or two and why should it upset the apple cart? China’s growth is integral to the recovery and rejuvenation of the American economy. China is potentially the principal source of investment in the American economy. China’s proposed reforms in the direction of opening up the financial system and domestic market are hugely attractive for the American business. China’s cooperation is vital to contain the North Korea problem; to conclude an Iran nuclear deal; to stabilize Afghanistan, and so on.


Again, India has transformed as a close friend of the US and there is huge untapped reserve in the US-Indian partnership. Malaysia has turned the corner and has left behind the openly anti-American decades in its foreign policy. Myanmar is moving out of China’s orbit and is manifestly eager to engage the US. Vietnam has buried the old enmities and looks at the US as a counterweight to rising China, which creates more space for Hanoi to negotiate with Beijing.


Most certainly, the specter of nuclearization of the Far East haunts Beijing as well as Washington. Again, the US too feels uneasy about the surge in Japanese militarism, as indeed China (and South Korea). As for Beijing, the burgeoning trade and investment relations with the US (and the West) are critical to the realization of China’s Dream. Thus, on the whole, the US-China interdependency could become a factor of regional stability in Asia-Pacific.


Therefore, if a reasonably good case can also be made that the present Chinese leadership consists of cool, rational, thinking people, and, secondly, assuming that China has set its national priorities of reform in all earnestness, Obama is doing the right thing to initiate a reset of the pivot strategy.


Era of retrenchment


Obama is not going to compel China to accept US leadership, which he knows is an unachievable goal anyway. During the remainder of the Obama presidency, a US-China confrontation can be safely ruled out.


Besides, it isn’t at all as if the US’s Asian partners do not have a mind of their own and are blithely taking shelter under the American umbrella. Expanding the flourishing trade and investment ties with China is a top priority for each of them.


Obama failed to meet the principal objective of his Asian tour, which was to secure agreements on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a US-dominated free-trade area. The TPP is facing stiff resistance from Japan and Malaysia, in particular.


By the way, not once during his Asia tour, Obama touched on China’s “assertiveness”, an argument that originally provided the raison d’etre for the pivot strategy. Obama’s emphasis was on China’s adherence to international law and an overall conduct with a sense of responsibility, which is only expected of big powers.


The notion of China’s assertiveness was a flawed one in the first instance. The plain truth is that according to World Bank estimate, China is expected to replace the US this year as the world’s largest economy on a “purchasing power parity” (PPP) basis. It means that very soon, China will have a bigger economy than of the US for purposes of military spending.


In PPP terms, China’s economy can be 60% bigger than the US economy in a decade. Clearly, the talk about assertiveness has lost relevance. Containment of China, or the pivot to Asia, is no longer an affordable proposition, either. As a Guardian columnist put it recently, “Are Americans prepared to give up social security or Medicare in order to maintain US military supremacy in Asia?”


The heart of the matter is that paradigm shifts often take time to sink in. There is a shift in the US foreign policies taking place under the Obama presidency, which is away from its ‘militarization’. David Sanger of the New York Times recently wrote, “Obama acknowledges, at least in private conversations that he is managing an era of American retrenchment.”


Equally, the Asian region is rapidly transforming and while it is in need of more regional security contributions from the US, it is the resident states that are going to make the ultimate difference in the medium and long term. The economic trends are making the pivot unsustainable and the need arises for the US to negotiate more with China, promoting peace and stability by working with its allies for a regional framework that can manage tensions in the contested neighborhood.


It involves sharing power with China, which may not be easy but is becoming unavoidable and it could even have a pleasant outcome, as the end result could be more social and economic progress and reduced risk of wars.





Willing Accomplices: The NSA’s Corporate Collaborators


May 9-11, 2014

by Bill Blunden



Emails published by Al Jazeera America, in addition to showing hi-tech executives and senior intelligence officials interacting on a casual first-name basis, reference a government program referred to as the Enduring Security Framework (ESF) [1]. An NPR piece on the ESF back in 2012 offers a nutshell summary of what this initiative is all about [2]:


“For each session, the CEOs get special, top-secret clearances so they can be told about the latest in cyberweaponry. They can then go back to their companies and take steps to deal with the threats they hear about, threats they may not previously have taken seriously. In the words of one government participant: We scare the bejeezus out of them”


This description reinforces the notion that the big bad NSA somehow coerced hi-tech companies into collaboration. Since Ed Snowden’s documents have trickled out into public view companies like Google have tried to distance themselves from the NSA [3], to make public displays of anger [4], to create the impression that they were somehow strong-armed into helping government spies [5] and that they’ve been working to bolster their security against the NSA’s prying eyes [6]. Above all hi-tech companies want to look like they’re siding with their users [7].


These gestures are likely theater, being performed by executives on behalf of quarterly earnings. Such is the beauty of PR. Hi-tech companies don’t really need to fend off government spies but merely provide users with the perception of resistance.


Keep in mind that social media survives by selling user data. Spying is their business model. In padding their bottom lines executives have worked diligently to dilute privacy legislation [8] in addition to garnering a myriad of fines [9]. All of this data harvesting services a data broker industry which generates something in the neighborhood of $200 billion in revenue annually [10].


Those who resist government pressure like Nicholas Merrill, who was running an Internet service provider in New York called Calyx, and Ladar Levison, the former owner of Lavabit, are rare exceptions to the rule. For the big multinationals too much money is at stake to let something like civil liberties get in the way. Google’s Larry Page opines that [11]:


“There’s many, many exciting and important things you could do that you just can’t do because they’re illegal or they’re not allowed by regulation”


Though the Washington Post may imply otherwise [12], in reality as far as the National Security State is concerned there is very little dividing line between the public sector and the private sector. According to Heidi Boghosian, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild [13]:


“People need to know that for all intents and purposes, the distinction right now between government and the corporate world is virtually nil. They are hand-in-hand working to gather information about Americans as well as people across the globe, to really be in a race to collect more information than any other country can, because I think in their eyes, having this information, storing it, and being able to access it for years on end is a symbol of power and control. So that you can’t really make that distinction anymore between big business and government.”


Glenn Greenwald echoed this point after the Polk Award ceremony [14]: ”There almost is no division between the private sector and the NSA, or the private sector and the Pentagon, when it comes to the American national security state. They really are essentially one.”


Despite Eric Schmidt’s vocal tirade over NSA spying [15], Google is linked tightly with the elements of the defense industry (e.g. SAIC, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Blackbird) [16] and is no stranger to covert cooperation with the U.S. government. For example, in an e-mailed published by WikiLeaks Fred Burton, a former State Department official and a VP at Stratfor, described the director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, as involved in secret missions near the Iranian border with the support of the White House and the State Department [17]. Ostensibly Burton heard this from Eric Schmidt.


When a provider like Amazon is awarded a $600 million 10-year contract to provide the CIA with cloud services [18] do you suppose that Amazon is inclined to cater to government requests? Think of it this way: Roughly 70% of the intelligence budget goes to the private sector [19]. There are incentives for executives to go along.


Years ago the banking industry single-handedly used its resources to push through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, effectively repealing the protections of Glass-Steagall, in addition to deregulating the market for derivatives with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. If the moneyed elite don’t like certain laws, in the absence of a strong countervailing public opinion, they have the means to impose change. Their influence isn’t total but history has shown that it’s often sufficient.


Yahoo has been known to help Chinese officials identify citizens who make critical remarks about the Chinese government [20]. According to news reports from overseas, Microsoft has redesigned Skype so that government security forces in countries like Russia can tap into and monitor Skype traffic [21]. Companies like Microsoft (sitting on 60 billion in cash [22]) or Apple (sitting on $147 billion in cash [23]) aren’t exactly defenseless. Corporate spies choose to collaborate with government spies because the benefits outweigh the negative consequences.




[1] Jason Leopold, “Exclusive: Emails reveal close Google relationship with NSA,” Al Jazeera America, May 6, 2013, http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/5/6/nsa-chief-google.html


[2] Tom Gjelten, “Cyber Briefings ‘Scare The Bejeezus’ Out Of CEOs,” NPR, May 9, 2012, http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=152296621


[3] Craig Timberg and Tom Hamburger, “Tech executives visit White House to discuss online surveillance issues with Obama,” Washington Post, March 21, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/tech-ceos-to-meet-with-obama-this-afternoon/2014/03/21/dfdd7140-b109-11e3-95e8-39bef8e9a48b_story.html


[4] Andy Greenberg, “Zuckerberg Says He Called Obama To Express ‘Frustration’ Over NSA Surveillance,” Forbes, March 13, 2014,http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2014/03/13/zuckerberg-says-he-called-obama-to-express-frustration-over-nsa-surveillance/


[5] Dominic Rushe, “Zuckerberg: US government ‘blew it’ on NSA surveillance,” Guardian, September 11, 2013,http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/sep/11/yahoo-ceo-mayer-jail-nsa-surveillance


[6] Craig Timberg, “Google encrypts data amid backlash against NSA spying,” Washington Post, September 6, 2013,http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-encrypts-data-amid-backlash-against-nsa-spying/2013/09/06/9acc3c20-1722-11e3-a2ec-b47e45e6f8ef_story.html


[7] Craig Timberg, “Apple, Facebook, others defy authorities, notify users of secret data demands,” Washington Post, May 1, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/apple-facebook-others-defy-authorities-increasingly-notify-users-of-secret-data-demands-after-snowden-revelations/2014/05/01/b41539c6-cfd1-11e3-b812-0c92213941f4_story.html


[8] Melissa Eddy And James Kanter, “Merkel Urges Europe to Tighten Internet Safeguards,” New York Times, July 15, 2013,http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/world/europe/merkel-urges-europe-to-tighten-internet-safeguards.html


[9] Claire Cain Miller, “F.T.C. Fines Google $22.5 Million for Safari Privacy Violations,” New York Times, August 9, 2012, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/f-t-c-fines-google-22-5-million-for-safari-privacy-violations/


[10] Yasha Levine, “What Surveillance Valley knows about you,” Pando Daily, December 22, 2013, http://pando.com/2013/12/22/a-peek-into-surveillance-valley/


[11] Claire Cain Miller, “Google Gives a Hint About Its Mystery Barges,” New York Times, November 6, 2013, http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/google-gives-a-hint-about-its-mystery-barges/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0


[12] Brian Fung, “NSA e-mails purport to show a ‘close’ relationship with Google. Maybe, maybe not,” Washington Post, May 6, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/05/06/nsa-e-mails-purport-to-show-a-close-relationship-with-google-maybe-maybe-not//?print=1


[13] “Segment: Heidi Boghosian on Spying and Civil Liberties,” Moyers and Company, November 8, 2013, http://billmoyers.com/wp-content/themes/billmoyers/transcript-print.php?post=48454


[14] “”We Won’t Succumb to Threats”: Journalists Return to U.S. for First Time Since Revealing NSA Spying,” Democracy Now! April 14, 2014,http://www.democracynow.org/2014/4/14/we_wont_succumb_to_threats_journalists#


[15] Deborah Kan, “Google’s Eric Schmidt Lambasts NSA Over Spying,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2013,http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304391204579177104151435042


[16] Yasha Levine, “The revolving door between Google and the Department of Defense,” Pando Daily, April 23, 2014, http://pando.com/2014/04/23/the-revolving-door-between-google-and-the-department-of-defense/


[17] Julian Assange, “Google and the NSA: Who’s holding the ‘shit-bag’ now?,” Stringer, August 24, 2013, http://thestringer.com.au/google-and-the-nsa-whos-holding-the-shit-bag-now/#.UzC6EVdBdUo


[18] Frank Konkel, “Sources: Amazon and CIA ink cloud deal,” FCW, March 18, 2013, http://fcw.com/articles/2013/03/18/amazon-cia-cloud.aspx


[19] “Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State,” Democracy Now! June 11, 2013,http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/11/digital_blackwater_how_the_nsa_gives#


[20] Yasha Levine, “Rentacops on desktops: Edward Snowden’s dismissal of Surveillance Valley is wrong, and dangerous,” Pando Daily, December 30, 2013,http://pando.com/2013/12/30/rentacops-on-desktops-edward-snowdens-dangerous-dismissal-of-surveillance-valley/


[21] RAPSI, “FSB, Russian police could tap Skype without court order,” March 14, 2013, Moscow News,



[22] Juliette Garside, “Microsoft Windows performance helps cash reserves grow by $5bn in six months,” Guardian, January 24, 2013,http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/24/microsoft-cash-reserves-grow-5-billion/print


[23] Emily Chasan, “Apple Now Holds 10% of All Corporate Cash: Moody’s,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2013, http://blogs.wsj.com/cfo/2013/10/01/applenow-holds-10-of-all-corporate-cash-moodys/?mod=trending_now_3



US Blackwater mercenary units behind Kiev regime’s outburst in Ukraine

May 14, 2014,



US mercenaries are controlling the repression of pro-Russian protesters in Ukraine’s east by the fascist groups of the NATO puppet regime in Kiev, according to reports emerging from German media. These individuals have been employed on by the group better known as in the past as Blackwater, a large private military contracting company established by ex-US Navy SEAL Erik Prince.


However, it is no longer called Blackwater and was renamed Xe in 2009 with a later name change to Academi in 2011. It has changed its name to most likely avoid the negative association attached to its old name, since massacres of civilians in US-occupied Iraq took place under the name Blackwater.


Presently, individuals who are part of this organization are directing the attacks by the fascist Right Sector militia, the Kiev regime’s National Guard, and loads of hooligans have led to casualty numbers in the hundreds throughout eastern Ukraine, according to an article on wsws.org.


The office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and many other top German officials were sent this sensitive information on April 29. Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) claimed that 400 Blackwater troops are assisting Kiev’s security troops in Ukraine’s east, which also includes Slavyansk.


As stated on wsws.org, Der Spiegel wrote, “This information reportedly comes from US intelligence services and was communicated during a so-called Intelligence Situation meeting, a regular discussion chaired by Chancellery Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier (CDU). The Presidents of the intelligence services and of the Federal Criminal Office and the intelligence coordinator of the Chancellery as well as high-ranking government officials attended the meeting.”


However, the BND did not disclose who hired the mercenaries, employed by Blackwater now battling it out in Ukraine, but it is believed that they are working very closely with US intelligence. Prince personally said in 2013 that after the US invaded Iraq, his company “became a virtual extension of the CIA.”


Reports from the German government give confirmation to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s allegations a month ago that hundreds of mercenary fighters from Greystone, conveniently a subsidiary of Academi, were directing Right Sector combatants and other pro-Kiev units in Ukraine.


The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that the mere existence and the activities that US mercenaries execute “threaten to trigger civil war.” It then alleged that English-speaking fighters were caught coordinating the fascist individuals along with the hooligans who executed the May 2 massacre of dozens of anti-Kiev regime protesters who were present in Odessa.


For the most part, US news media has blocked the German and Russian reports of Blackwater’s dealings in Ukraine. As part of a news releases on the firm’s website, Academi gave its best attempt at dismissing the latest reports coming out from German government sources as mere “rumors” issued out by ” some irresponsible bloggers and online reporters.”


“Such unfounded statements combined with the lack of factual reporting to support them and the lack of context about the company are nothing more than sensationalistic efforts to create hysteria and headlines in times of genuine crisis,” the firm stated, wsws.org reported in an article.


Academi also felt the need to highlight that it “has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince.” It then added, “Erik Prince sold the company (which he had renamed ‘Xe’) in 2010 and retained the rights to the Blackwater name.”


In accordance with Academi’s role in US media, which did not care to even report on the company’s denial of the reports issued out by German officials, is seen as living proof that Academi is an active player in Ukraine. Though, it looks very cowardly of the US to not even acknowledge such reports in its mainstream media.



Washington Denies Involvement of US Mercenaries in Ukraine


MOSCOW, May 15 (RIA Novosti) – A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council has denied German media reports that claim hundreds of well-trained US mercenaries are involved in the Ukraine conflict, the LifeNews agency reported.


The news came after the German newspapers Bild am Sonntag and Der Spiegel said last week some 400 elite commandos from the notorious military firm Academi, previously known as Blackwater, were taking part in the “anti-terror” operation mounted by the self-styled Ukrainian interim government against its own people in the country’s east and south.


According to Bild am Sonntag, Academi troops participated in the regime’s punitive operation near the restive city of Slaviansk, one of the strongholds of anti-coup activists in the Donetsk region.


It also claimed the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) was informed about the American involvement in the crisis by US officials and on April 29 shared the information with the Merkel administration, in particular with the Head of the Federal Chancellery Peter Altmaier, who was present at a series of intelligence consultations.


Following reports on its secret presence in Ukraine, US National Security Council spokeswoman Laura Magnuson cited the military firm’s official denial published on its webpage on March 17. In its statement, Academi blamed some “irresponsible bloggers and an online reporter” for posting “rumors” that its employees are present in Ukraine.


“They are not and Academi has no relationship with any entity named Blackwater or with the former owner of Blackwater, Erik Prince,” the statement emphasized.


The message acknowledged that Prince formerly owned the company, but vowed that its new management had made “tremendous efforts to build a responsible, transparent company ethos.”


Blackwater was renamed to Academi in 2010 after its mercenaries were implicated in a brutal shooting of Iraqi civilians in a helicopter incident during the US campaign in Iraq. It was also accused of smuggling arms and other crimes.


According to Der Spiegel, many Blackwater employees were tried in the United States for murdering Iraqis, while the private security firm ransomed itself with a fine worth millions of dollars.


In April, the Russian Foreign Ministry also reported that some 150 US commandos from Greystone, a private military contracting firm, had been deployed to Ukraine to help authorities suppress protest movement in the country’s east.


Greystone was quick to refute the accusation, claiming that although it “has the ability to deploy world-class security staff and trainers anywhere in the world,” it “does not currently, nor do we have any plans to, send personnel to the Ukraine.”


The news came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed in an English-language interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday that Moscow had received further indications of a US military presence in Ukraine.


            “The reports about the foreign mercenaries involvement in this operation once again raises a grave issue of external interference in Ukrainian affairs and the role of the West in provoking this situation instead of sending the necessary limiting signals to the Kiev authorities, instead of encouraging them to rein in all those unbridled extremists and radical nationalists,” Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, recently told RIA Novosti.





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