TBR News May 23, 2017

May 23 2017

The Voice of the White House

        Washington, D.C. May 23, 2017:”Why is it that there have been no IS terrorist acts inside the United States?

Is it because the DHS and the FBI are so effective that no terrorist dare show his face in the 48 states?

No, it is because the Saudis have founded IS and turned them loose on their Shiite enemies and further, because the US makes big business with Saudi Arabia that the Royal Family has declared the US off limits, at least for the time being.

Carefully shoved under the carpet is the Saudi attack on New York and Washington during 9/11.

As long as Trump can make money with Saudi Arabia and as long as their oil holds out, America is (temporarily) safe.”

Table of Contents

  • Suicide bomber kills 22, including children, at British concert hall
  • How US covered up Saudi role in 9/11
  • At CNN, Imagining an Absurd Iranian/ISIS Alliance
  • Facebook Won’t Say If It Will Use Your Brain Activity for Advertisements
  • America’s Reign of Terror
  • Trump seeks to slash $3.6 trillion of government spending in budget
  • North Korea link to WannaCry ransomware ‘highly likely’
  • Facebook flooded with ‘sextortion’ and revenge porn, files reveal

 Suicide bomber kills 22, including children, at British concert hall

May 23, 2017

by Michael Holden and Andrew Yates


MANCHESTER, England-A suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and wounded 59 at a packed concert hall in the English city of Manchester in what Prime Minister Theresa May called a sickening act targeting children and young people.

Islamic State, now being driven from territories in Syria and Iraq by Western-backed armed forces, claimed the attack as revenge against “Crusaders”. But Western experts were skeptical, noting it had offered two accounts of the attack partly contradicting each other and the British police version.

British police moved quickly, arresting a 23-year-old man in connection with Monday night’s bombing, carried out as crowds began leaving a concert given by Ariana Grande, a U.S. singer who attracts a large number of young and teenage fans.

They also raided a property in the district of Fallowfield where they carried out a controlled explosion. Witnesses in the Whalley Range district said armed police had surrounded a newly-built apartment block on a usually quiet tree-lined street.

In a statement made outside her Downing Street offices after a meeting with security and intelligence chiefs, May said police believed they knew the identity of the bomber.

“All acts of terrorism are cowardly,” she said. “But this attack stands out for its appalling sickening cowardice, deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”

She said security services were working to see if a wider group was involved in the attack, which fell less than three weeks before a national election.

The northern English city remained on high alert, with additional armed police drafted in. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more police had been ordered onto the streets of the British capital.

Monday’s attack was the deadliest in Britain since four British Muslims killed 52 people in suicide bombings on London’s transport system in 2005. But it will have reverberations far beyond British shores.

Attacks in cities including Paris, Nice, Brussels, St Petersburg, Berlin and London have shocked Europeans already anxious over security challenges from mass immigration and pockets of domestic Islamist radicalism. Islamic State has repeatedly called for attacks as retaliation for Western involvement in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Witnesses related the horror of the Manchester blast, which unleashed a stampede just as the concert ended at what is Europe’s largest indoor arena, full to a capacity of 21,000.

“We ran and people were screaming around us and pushing on the stairs to go outside and people were falling down, girls were crying, and we saw these women being treated by paramedics having open wounds on their legs … it was just chaos,” said Sebastian Diaz, 19. “It was literally just a minute after it ended, the lights came on and the bomb went off.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said the bomber’s explosives were packed with metal and bolts.

A video posted on Twitter showed fans, many of them young, screaming and running from the venue. Dozens of parents frantically searched for their children, posting photos and pleading for information on social media.

“We were making our way out and when we were right by the door there was a massive explosion and everybody was screaming,” Catherine Macfarlane told Reuters.

“It was a huge explosion – you could feel it in your chest.”

World leaders expressed solidarity with Britain.

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with May by telephone and agreed the attack was “particularly wanton and depraved”, the White House said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it “will only strengthen our resolve to…work with our British friends against those who plan and carry out such inhumane deeds”.

Singer Ariana Grande, 23, said on Twitter: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.” May, who faces an election on June 8, said her thoughts were with the victims and their families. She and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, agreed to suspend campaigning ahead of the election.


Islamic State, while claiming responsibility on its Telegram account, appeared to contradict British police’s description of a suicide bomber. It suggested explosive devices were placed “in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders”.

“What comes next will be more severe on the worshippers of the cross,” the Telegram posting said.

It did not name the bomber, which it usually does in attacks it has ordered, and appeared also to contradict a posting on another Islamic State account, Amaq, which spoke of “a group of attackers”. That reference, however, was later removed.

“It clearly bears the hallmark of Daesh (Islamic State),” said former French intelligence agent Claude Moniquet, now a Brussels-based security consultant, “Very clearly the aim was to do as much harm as possible, to shock British society as much as possible.”

Islamic State supporters took to social media to celebrate the blast and some encouraged similar attacks elsewhere.

In March, a British-born convert to Islam plowed a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four people before stabbing to death a police officer who was on the grounds of parliament. The man was shot dead at the scene.

In 2015, Pakistani student Abid Naseer was convicted in a U.S. court of conspiring with al Qaeda to blow up the Arndale shopping center in the center of Manchester in April 2009.


Desperate parents and friends used social media to search for loved ones who attended Monday’s concert while the wounded were being treated at six hospitals across Manchester.

“Everyone pls share this, my little sister Emma was at the Ari concert tonight in #Manchester and she isn’t answering her phone, pls help me,” said one message posted alongside a picture of a blonde girl with flowers in her hair.

Paula Robinson, 48, from West Dalton about 40 miles east of Manchester, said she was at the train station next to the arena with her husband when she felt the explosion and saw dozens of teenage girls screaming and running away from arena.

“We ran out,” Robinson told Reuters. “It was literally seconds after the explosion. I got the teens to run with me.”

Robinson took dozens of teenage girls to the nearby Holiday Inn Express hotel and tweeted out her phone number to worried parents, telling them to meet her there. She said her phone had not stopped ringing since her tweet.

“Parents were frantic running about trying to get to their children. There were lots of lots of children at the Holiday Inn.”

(Additional reporting by Alistair Smout, Kate Holton, David Milliken, Elizabeth Piper, Paul Sandle and Costas Pitas in LONDON, Mark Hosenball in LOS ANGELES, John Walcott in WASHINGTON, D.C., Leela de Kretser in NEW YORK, Omar Fahmy in CAIRO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Nick Tattersall; editing by Ralph Boulton/Mark Heinrich)

 How US covered up Saudi role in 9/11

by Paul Sperry

New York Post

In its report on the still-censored “28 pages” implicating the Saudi government in 9/11, “60 Minutes” said the Saudi role in the attacks has been “soft-pedaled” to protect America’s delicate alliance with the oil-rich kingdom.

That’s quite an understatement.

Actually, the kingdom’s involvement was deliberately covered up at the highest levels of our government. And the coverup goes beyond locking up 28 pages of the Saudi report in a vault in the US Capitol basement. Investigations were throttled. Co-conspirators were let off the hook.

Case agents I’ve interviewed at the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Washington and San Diego, the forward operating base for some of the Saudi hijackers, as well as detectives at the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department who also investigated several 9/11 leads, say virtually every road led back to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, as well as the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles.

Yet time and time again, they were called off from pursuing leads. A common excuse was “diplomatic immunity.”

Those sources say the pages missing from the 9/11 congressional inquiry report — which comprise the entire final chapter dealing with “foreign support for the September 11 hijackers” — details “incontrovertible evidence” gathered from both CIA and FBI case files of official Saudi assistance for at least two of the Saudi hijackers who settled in San Diego.

Some information has leaked from the redacted section, including a flurry of pre-9/11 phone calls between one of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego and the Saudi Embassy, and the transfer of some $130,000 from then-Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s family checking account to yet another of the hijackers’ Saudi handlers in San Diego.

An investigator who worked with the JTTF in Washington complained that instead of investigating Bandar, the US government protected him — literally. He said the State Department assigned a security detail to help guard Bandar not only at the embassy, but also at his McLean, Va., mansion.

The source added that the task force wanted to jail a number of embassy employees, “but the embassy complained to the US attorney” and their diplomatic visas were revoked as a compromise.

Former FBI agent John Guandolo, who worked 9/11 and related al Qaeda cases out of the bureau’s Washington field office, says Bandar should have been a key suspect in the 9/11 probe.

“The Saudi ambassador funded two of the 9/11 hijackers through a third party,” Guandolo said. “He should be treated as a terrorist suspect, as should other members of the Saudi elite class who the US government knows are currently funding the global jihad.”

But Bandar held sway over the FBI.

After he met on Sept. 13, 2001, with President Bush in the White House, where the two old family friends shared cigars on the Truman Balcony, the FBI evacuated dozens of Saudi officials from multiple cities, including at least one Osama bin Laden family member on the terror watch list. Instead of interrogating the Saudis, FBI agents acted as security escorts for them, even though it was known at the time that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens.

“The FBI was thwarted from interviewing the Saudis we wanted to interview by the White House,” said former FBI agent Mark Rossini, who was involved in the investigation of al Qaeda and the hijackers. The White House “let them off the hook.”

What’s more, Rossini said the bureau was told no subpoenas could be served to produce evidence tying departing Saudi suspects to 9/11. The FBI, in turn, iced local investigations that led back to the Saudis.

“The FBI covered their ears every time we mentioned the Saudis,” said former Fairfax County Police Lt. Roger Kelly. “It was too political to touch.”

Added Kelly, who headed the National Capital Regional Intelligence Center: “You could investigate the Saudis alone, but the Saudis were ‘hands-off.’ ”

Even Anwar al-Awlaki, the hijackers’ spiritual adviser, escaped our grasp. In 2002, the Saudi-sponsored cleric was detained at JFK on passport fraud charges only to be released into the custody of a “Saudi representative.”

It wasn’t until 2011 that Awlaki was brought to justice — by way of a CIA drone strike.

Strangely, “The 9/11 Commission Report,” which followed the congressional inquiry, never cites the catch-and-release of Awlaki, and it mentions Bandar only in passing, his named buried in footnotes.

Two commission lawyers investigating the Saudi support network for the hijackers complained their boss, executive director Philip Zelikow, blocked them from issuing subpoenas and conducting interviews of Saudi suspects.

9/11 Commission member John Lehman was interested in the hijackers’ connections to Bandar, his wife and the Islamic affairs office at the embassy. But every time he tried to get information on that front, he was stonewalled by the White House.

“They were refusing to declassify anything having to do with Saudi Arabia,” Lehman was quoted as saying in the book, “The Commission.”

Did the US scuttle the investigation into foreign sponsorship of 9/11 to protect Bandar and other Saudi elite?

“Things that should have been done at the time were not done,” said Rep. Walter Jones, the North Carolina Republican who’s introduced a bill demanding President Obama release the 28 pages. “I’m trying to give you an answer without being too explicit.”

A Saudi reformer with direct knowledge of embassy involvement is more forthcoming.

“We made an ally of a regime that helped sponsor the attacks,” said Ali al-Ahmed of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs. “I mean, let’s face it.”


At CNN, Imagining an Absurd Iranian/ISIS Alliance

May 19, 2017

by Jim Naureckas


Pro-torture legal scholar Alan Dershowitz was on CNN the other night (Anderson Cooper 360, 5/17/17) arguing that the person who told the Washington Post that Donald Trump had disclosed classified information about ISIS to Russian visitors in the Oval Office was “a felon, a criminal and should go to jail.” After former Obama strategist demurred that publishing leaks was sometimes in the public interest, Dershowitz replied:I have no problem with the Washington Post publishing it or the [New York] Times publishing it. I do have problems with the people who work for the national security agencies leaking confidential information that may cost lives, may make it much more difficult to detect laptops. Remember, the only way ISIS got this information is through the leak.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper took issue with this last claim. “You can’t say definitively what Russia would have done with the information,” he insisted. To which Dershowitz replied, accurately enough: “They’re not giving it to ISIS. They’re not on talking terms.”

Axelrod chimed in: “What about Iran? Professor, what about Iran?” Cooper attempted to back up this claim:

Bashar al-Assad has certainly done things which are actually helpful to ISIS in Syria. It’s not as if Bashar al-Assad is fighting a war against ISIS.

Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin attempted to clarify: “David is saying he’s allied with Iran”—though it’s not clear whether the “he” in question was Syrian President Assad or Russian President Vladimir Putin. Leading to this finale of the discussion:

DERSHOWITZ: That’s very speculative.

COOPER: Oh, we just don’t know.

DERSHOWITZ: We know the first public disclosure of it came from the leaks from within the National Security Agencies and those leaks should be plugged.

Well, we do know, contrary to Cooper’s assertion, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is fighting a war against ISIS, along with a variety of other rebel factions. As Newsweek (5/5/17) reported earlier this month:

With support from Russia, Iran and pro-government militias, the Syrian military has secured most of the country’s population centers taken over by insurgents and ISIS earlier throughout the nation’s six-year war. After retaking the former rebel bastion of Aleppo in December, Syrian troops and their allies ousted ISIS from the historic city of Palmyra earlier this year. Representing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the forces pushed further Thursday, capturing four areas from the jihadists in Palmyra’s southeastern countryside, according to pro-government Al Masdar News. The Syrian military is aiming to relieve an enclave of fellow soldiers and tens of thousands of civilians under ISIS siege in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour since 2014.

Furthermore, Axelrod’s suggestion that Iran might be sharing intelligence with ISIS is absurd. ISIS’s stance toward Shia Islam, the kind practiced by most Iranians, is openly genocidal: “Shia have no medicine but the sword,” an ISIS video proclaimed, showcasing Shiites decapitated by ISIS’s militants (Independent, 3/20/14).

The Iranian government is predictably hostile toward a movement that would exterminate 90 percent of its citizens. Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds special forces unit, called ISIS “a plague and a grave catastrophe in the world” in explaining why Iran was supporting the government in Syria’s civil war (Al-Monitor, 3/8/15): “We need to quarantine our borders and aid our neighbors so this cancer does not spread to our country.”

Donald Trump was rightly scorned when he gave a foreign policy speech which seemed to not understand the Shia/Sunni division in the Muslim world. The New York Times editorial board (8/16/16) lectured him:

Lumping Iran, which is a Shiite nation, with the Sunni militants of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda makes no sense. In fact, Iran and the Sunni groups are enemies.

Indeed, it’s the kind of thing you’d want a presidential candidate to know. But it’s also something you’d hope that hosts and leading analysts on national cable news networks would understand as well. Dershowitz’s proposal to put journalists’ sources in prison deserves a better retort than this geopolitical nonsense.


Facebook Won’t Say If It Will Use Your Brain Activity for Advertisements

May 22 2017

by Sam Biddle

The Intercept

Every year, Facebook gathers hundreds of developers, corporate allies, and members of the press to hear CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of our shared near future. The gathering is known as “F8,” and this year’s iteration included some radical plans, one of which could’ve been pulled from a William Gibson novel: Facebook is working on a means of using your brain as an input device.

Such technology is still many years off, as is, apparently, Facebook’s willingness to publicly think through its very serious implications.

Details on how the Facebook brain/computer interface would function are scant, likely because the company hasn’t invented it yet. But it’s fair to say the company has already put a great deal of effort into considering what capabilities such an interface would have, and how it would be designed, judging from its press announcement: “We have taken a distinctly different, non-invasive and deeply scientific approach to building a brain-computer speech-to-text interface,” the company says, describing the project as “a silent speech interface with the speed and flexibility of voice and the privacy of text,” with a stated goal of allowing “100 words per minute, straight from the speech center of your brain.” This process will be executed “via non-invasive sensors that can be shipped at scale” using “optical imaging” that can poll “brain activity hundreds of times per second.”

“The privacy of text” is an interesting turn of phrase for Facebook, which has, like its competitor Google, built itself into a multi-hundred-billion-dollar company more or less on the basis of text typed into a computer not being private but rather an excellent vector through which to target advertising. For its thought-to-text project, Facebook claims it’s built a team of “over 60 scientists, engineers and system integrators” from some of the most esteemed research universities around the U.S. (headed by a former DARPA director, no less). Privacy concerns drove some of the very first questions from journalists after the F8 announcement, including in this passage from The Verge:

[Facebook research director Regina] Dugan stresses that it’s not about invading your thoughts — an important disclaimer, given the public’s anxiety over privacy violations from social networks as large as Facebook. Rather, “this is about decoding the words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain,” reads the company’s official announcement. “Think of it like this: You take many photos and choose to share only some of them. Similarly, you have many thoughts and choose to share only some of them.”

Facebook was clearly prepared to face at least some questions about the privacy impact of using the brain as an input source. So, then, a fair question even for this nascent technology is whether it too will be part of the company’s mammoth advertising machine, and I asked Facebook precisely that on the day the tech was announced: Is Facebook able to, as of right now, make a commitment that user brain activity will not be used in any way for advertising purposes of any kind?

Facebook spokesperson Ha Thai replied:

We are developing an interface that allows you to communicate with the speed and flexibility of voice and the privacy of text. Specifically, only communications that you have already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain. Privacy will be built into this system, as every Facebook effort.

This didn’t answer the question, so I replied:

My question is this: Is Facebook able, as of right now, to make a commitment that user brain activity will not be used in any way for advertising purposes of any kind?

To which Thai replied:

Sam, that’s the best answer I can provide as of right now.

Fair enough — but also an implicit answer that no, Facebook is at least at the moment not able to assure users that their brain activity will not be appropriated to sell ads. This is of course not an indication that the company will do this, only that it is not prepared to rule it out. And to be sure, this is still a hypothetical — it’s possible the company’s neural keyboard will remain somewhere between vaporware and marketing stunt, as has been the case with its solar-powered flying internet relay, or Amazon’s national delivery drone fleet.

But while the tech may be far off, its privacy implications aren’t far fetched — ignore at your own peril Facebook’s history of experimenting with the thoughts of its users, whether by deliberately manipulating their emotions or by putting their faces on advertisements without consent (“They trust me — dumb fucks,” Zuckerberg famously quipped to a friend via IM as he built Facebook in his Harvard dorm).

Facebook’s interest in mental typing was certainly noted by neuroethicists; for them, it helped underline that recent breakthroughs in brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs, really will bring what was once a science fiction scenario into the real world.

“I worry a little about whether we’ve given enough thought about what it means to no longer have control over a zone of privacy,” Dr. Eran Klein, a neurology professor at Oregon Health and Sciences University and neuroethicist at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, told me. “One of the things that makes us human is we can decide what stays in our mind and what comes from our mouth.”

Any inadvertent spillover from our inner monologues to online servers could have profound consequences: In society, “if you have a prejudice but you’ve worked diligently to squash that prejudice, that says something good about your character,” Klein pointed out. But if, thanks to your handy Facebook Neuro-Keyboard, “all those prejudices are open for other people to see and be judged, it opens up a whole different way of evaluating people’s moral character and moral choices.”

The importance of thinking things but leaving them unexpressed or unarticulated is fundamental to humanity, society, and morality — and it’s a line Facebook has stomped all over in the past. In 2013, Facebook published a study detailing how it had been recording and storing not just text that had been typed and published on its website, but also text users had written but then decided against publishing and deleted for whatever reason. The study’s authors lamented that “[Facebook] loses value from the lack of content generation” in such cases of “self-censorship.” Should users trust a company that so failed to grasp the essential intimacy of an unpublished thought with a line into their brains?

Facebook’s assurance that users will be able to easily toggle between thoughts that should and should not be transmitted to Facebook’s servers doesn’t ring true to Klein, who points out that an intrinsic part of speech is that you don’t have to think about each word or phrase before you speak it: “When we’re engaged in a conversation, I don’t have this running dialogue that comes up before my mind’s eye that I say yes or no to before it comes out of my mouth.” Facebook’s announcement made it seem as if your brain has simple privacy settings like Facebook’s website does, but with speech, “if you have to make a decision about every little thing, it becomes exhausting,” and would carry what neurologists call a “high cognitive load.” Klein added that, far from being able to switch between public and private thoughts on the fly, “the only way these technologies really will become part of our second nature is if they become subconscious at some level,” at which point Facebook’s “analogy with photographs” — that “you take many photos and choose to share only some of them” — “breaks down, because then you’re not consciously choosing each thing to let through the sieve.” The whole thing comes down to a sort of paradox, according to Klein: For this technology to be useful, it would have to be subconscious, which precludes the kind of granular privacy decisions described in Facebook’s PR comments.

Howard Chizeck is a neuroethicist and professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, where he also co-directs the school’s Biorobotics Laboratory. Like Klein, Chizeck thinks Facebook might be overestimating (or oversimplifying) how easy it could be to switch your brain into some sort of “privacy mode” for consciousness: “I doubt that you can precisely choose words you want to ‘think’ to an external system, versus verbal thoughts that occur otherwise.” Chizeck added that such activity “may look sufficiently different in different people’s brains, and under different conditions” (e.g., if you’re drunk or exhausted) so as to make Facebook’s project difficult to ever pull off. Even if it does prove possible to somehow cherry pick thoughts intended for speech, Chizeck adds that there’s a risk of other thoughts bleeding through (and onto Facebook’s servers): “Even if it is possible to see words that are desired to be sent, other brain signals might also be monitored … which is a privacy concern.”

As for the advertising potential (and other spooky what-ifs), Klein doesn’t think it’s too soon to start asking Facebook for serious answers about its serious research. “I would favor assurances that they need to be transparent about what they’re actually recording and how it might be used for advertising,” even in these early days. The necessity to make brain-to-text input streamlined and subconscious makes the advertising implications even dicier: “If it’s subconscious, you don’t have conscious control over what information companies get about you … so you could be targeted for ads for things you don’t even realize that you like.”

Both Klein and Chizeck said that Facebook, rather than deferring on the most obvious privacy questions, should set out its principles on brain research from the get-go. “I think that they should design their system, from the beginning, with privacy a consideration,” said Chizeck. “Ultimately I think that there is a need for standards (developed by an industry/professional society/government consortium), with mechanisms for self-enforcement by industry, and oversight by government or third parties.” Klein also thinks it’s important for private sector entities like Facebook conducting what could become pioneering scientific work to establish ground rules in advance, to “lay out ahead of time what their values are and what the vision is.” Klein concedes that Facebook “can only predict so much, but I think that if you just let the technology drive everything, then I think ethics is always the dog trying to catch the car.”

 America’s Reign of Terror

May 23, 2017

by John W. Whitehead,


“The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.” ~ James Madison

Who designed the malware worm that is now wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers internationally by hackers demanding a king’s ransom? The U.S. government.

Who is the biggest black market buyer and stockpiler of cyberweapons (weaponized malware that can be used to hack into computer systems, spy on citizens, and destabilize vast computer networks)? The US government.

What country has one the deadliest arsenals of weapons of mass destruction? The US government.

Who is the largest weapons manufacturer and exporter in the world, such that they are literally arming the world? The US government.

Which is the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon in wartime? The United States.

How did Saddam Hussein build Iraq’s massive arsenal of tanks, planes, missiles, and chemical weapons during the 1980s? With help from the US government.

Who gave Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida “access to a fortune in covert funding and top-level combat weaponry”? The US government.

What country has a pattern and practice of entrapment that involves targeting vulnerable individuals, feeding them with the propaganda, know-how and weapons intended to turn them into terrorists, and then arresting them as part of an elaborately orchestrated counterterrorism sting? The US government.

Where did ISIS get many of their deadliest weapons, including assault rifles and tanks to antimissile defenses? From the US government.

Which country has a history of secretly testing out dangerous weapons and technologies on its own citizens? The US government.

Are you getting the picture yet?

The US government isn’t protecting us from terrorism.

The US government is creating the terror. It is, in fact, the source of the terror.

Just think about it for a minute: almost every tyranny being perpetrated against the citizenry – purportedly to keep us safe and the nation secure – has come about as a result of some threat manufactured in one way or another by our own government.

Cyberwarfare. Terrorism.

Biochemical attacks. The nuclear arms race.

Surveillance. The drug wars.

In almost every instance, the US government has in its typical Machiavellian fashion sown the seeds of terror domestically and internationally in order to expand its own totalitarian powers.

It’s time to wake up and stop being deceived by government propaganda.

We’re not dealing with a government that exists to serve its people, protect their liberties and ensure their happiness. Rather, these are the diabolical machinations of a make-works program carried out on an epic scale whose only purpose is to keep the powers-that-be permanently (and profitably) employed.

Case in point: For years now, the US government has been creating what one intelligence insider referred to as a cyber-army capable of offensive attacks.

As Reuters reported back in 2013:

Even as the US government confronts rival powers over widespread Internet espionage, it has become the biggest buyer in a burgeoning gray market where hackers and security firms sell tools for breaking into computers. The strategy is spurring concern in the technology industry and intelligence community that Washington is in effect encouraging hacking and failing to disclose to software companies and customers the vulnerabilities exploited by the purchased hacks. That’s because US intelligence and military agencies aren’t buying the tools primarily to fend off attacks. Rather, they are using the tools to infiltrate computer networks overseas, leaving behind spy programs and cyber-weapons that can disrupt data or damage systems.

As part of this cyberweapons programs, government agencies such as the NSA have been stockpiling all kinds of nasty malware, viruses and hacking tools that can “steal financial account passwords, turn an iPhone into a listening device, or, in the case of Stuxnet, sabotage a nuclear facility.”

And now we learn that the NSA is responsible for the latest threat posed by the “WannaCry” or “Wanna Decryptor” malware worm which – as a result of hackers accessing the government’s arsenal – has hijacked more than 57,000 computers and crippled health care, communications infrastructure, logistics, and government entities in more than 70 countries already.

All the while the government was repeatedly warned about the dangers of using criminal tactics to wage its own cyberwars.

It was warned about the consequences of blowback should its cyberweapons get into the wrong hands.

The government chose to ignore the warnings.

That’s exactly how the 9/11 attacks unfolded.

First, the government helped to create the menace that was al-Qaida and then, when bin Laden had left the nation reeling in shock (despite countless warnings that fell on tone-deaf ears), it demanded – and was given – immense new powers in the form of the USA Patriot Act in order to fight the very danger it had created.

This has become the shadow government’s modus operandi regardless of which party controls the White House: the government creates a menace – knowing full well the ramifications such a danger might pose to the public – then without ever owning up to the part it played in unleashing that particular menace on an unsuspecting populace, it demands additional powers in order to protect “we the people” from the threat.

Yet the powers-that-be don’t really want us to feel safe.

They want us cowering and afraid and willing to relinquish every last one of our freedoms in exchange for their phantom promises of security.

As a result, it’s the American people who pay the price for the government’s insatiable greed and quest for power.

We’re the ones to suffer the blowback.

Blowback: a term originating from within the American Intelligence community, denoting the unintended consequences, unwanted side-effects, or suffered repercussions of a covert operation that fall back on those responsible for the aforementioned operations.

As historian Chalmers Johnson explains, “blowback is another way of saying that a nation reaps what it sows.”

Unfortunately, “we the people” are the ones who keep reaping what the government sows.

We’re the ones who suffer every time, directly and indirectly, from the blowback.

We’re made to pay trillions of dollars in blood money to a military industrial complex that kills without conscience. We’ve been saddled with a crumbling infrastructure, impoverished cities and a faltering economy while our tax dollars are squandered on lavish military installations and used to prop up foreign economies. We’ve been stripped of our freedoms. We’re treated like suspects and enemy combatants. We’re spied on by government agents: our communications read, our movements tracked, our faces mapped, our biometrics entered into a government database. We’re terrorized by militarized police who roam our communities and SWAT teams that break into our homes. We’re subjected to invasive patdowns in airports, roadside strip searches and cavity probes, forced blood draws.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

We can persuade ourselves that life is still good, that America is still beautiful, and that “we the people” are still free.

However, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the moment you tune out the carefully constructed distractions – the year-round sports entertainment, the political theatrics, the military’s war cries, the president’s chest-thumping, and the techno-gadgets and social media that keep us oblivious to what’s really going on in the world around us – you quickly find that the only credible threat to our safety and national security is in fact the government itself.

As science fiction writer Philip K. Dick warned, “Don’t believe what you see; it’s an enthralling – [and] destructive, evil snare. Under it is a totally different world, even placed differently along the linear axis.”

In other words, all is not as it seems.

The powers-that-be are not acting in our best interests.

“We the people” are not free.

The government is not our friend.

And America will never be safe or secure as long as our government continues to pillage and plunder and bomb and bulldoze and kill and create instability and fund insurgencies and police the globe.

So what can we do to stop the blowback, liberate the country from the ironclad grip of the military industrial complex, and get back to a point where freedom actually means something?

For starters, get your priorities in order. As long as Americans are more inclined to be offended over the fate of a Confederate statue rather than the government’s blatant disregard for the Constitution and human rights, then the status quo will remain.

Stop playing politics with your principles. As long as Americans persist in thinking like Republicans and Democrats – refusing to recognize that every administration in recent years has embraced and advanced the government’s authoritarian tactics – then the status quo will remain.

Value all human life as worthy of protection. As long as Americans, including those who claim to value the sanctity of human life, not only turn a blind eye to the government’s indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians but champion them, then the status quo will remain.

Recognize that in the eyes of the government, we’re all expendable. As long as we allow the government to play this dangerous game in which “we the people” are little more than pawns to be used, abused, easily manipulated and just as easily discarded – whether it’s under the guise of national security, the war on terror, the war on drugs, or any other manufactured bogeyman it can dream up – then the status quo will remain.

Demand that the government stop creating, stockpiling and deploying weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical, biological, cyber, etc. As long as the government continues to use our tax dollars to create, stockpile and deploy weapons of mass destruction – whether those weapons are meant to kill, maim or disable (as in the case of the WannaCry computer virus) – we will be vulnerable to anyone who attempts to use those weapons against us and the status quo will remain.

Stop supporting the war machine and, as Chalmers Johnson suggests, “bring our rampant militarism under control”:

From George Washington’s “farewell address” to Dwight Eisenhower’s invention of the phrase “military-industrial complex,” American leaders have warned about the dangers of a bloated, permanent, expensive military establishment that has lost its relationship to the country because service in it is no longer an obligation of citizenship. Our military operates the biggest arms sales operation on earth; it rapes girls, women and schoolchildren in Okinawa; it cuts ski-lift cables in Italy, killing twenty vacationers, and dismisses what its insubordinate pilots have done as a “training accident”; it allows its nuclear attack submarines to be used for joy rides for wealthy civilian supporters and then covers up the negligence that caused the sinking of a Japanese high school training ship; it propagandizes the nation with Hollywood films glorifying military service (Pearl Harbor); and it manipulates the political process to get more carrier task forces, antimissile missiles, nuclear weapons, stealth bombers and other expensive gadgets for which we have no conceivable use. Two of the most influential federal institutions are not in Washington but on the south side of the Potomac River–the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. Given their influence today, one must conclude that the government outlined in the Constitution of 1787 no longer bears much relationship to the government that actually rules from Washington. Until that is corrected, we should probably stop talking about “democracy” and “human rights.”


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 38

May 23, 2017


The possibility that more U.S. troops will be deployed to Afghanistan, a move that is reportedly under consideration by the Trump Administration, was critically examined by the Congressional Research Service in a new report.

One source of uncertainty concerns the shifting U.S. strategy in the region.

“Since the post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan, the United States and its allies have pursued a variety of different strategic objectives,” including counterterrorism and nation-building. But “Within the military campaign alone, those objectives are, at times, in tension with each other,” CRS said. “At present, it is difficult to discern an overall, coherent strategy for Afghanistan, although this may be resolved by the Trump Administration’s review of U.S. activities in that region.”

“Given the complexity of the campaign, along with the imprecise nature of U.S. goals for the region and absent a definitive statement from the Trump Administration regarding its priorities, it is currently difficult to evaluate the likely impact that additional forces may have.” See Additional Troops for Afghanistan? Considerations for Congress, May 19, 2017.

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

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated May 19, 2017

A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense–Issues for Congress, updated May 19, 2017

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress, updated May 19, 2017

21st Century U.S. Energy Sources: A Primer, May 19, 2017

The Value of Energy Tax Incentives for Different Types of Energy Resources: In Brief, May 18, 2017

OPEC and Non-OPEC Crude Oil Production Agreement: Compliance Status, CRS Insight, May 17, 2017

North American Free Trade Agreement: Notification for Renegotiation, CRS Insight, May 19, 2017

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA): Compensation Related to Exposure to Radiation from Atomic Weapons Testing and Uranium Mining, updated May 18, 2017

Obstruction of Justice Statutes: Legal Issues Concerning FBI Investigations, Specific Intent, and Executive Branch Personnel, CRS Legal Sidebar, May 19, 2017

As an institution, the Congressional Research Service is facing significant upheaval in the near term as many of its most senior analysts are expected to retire, with attendant loss of expertise. “Roughly about 25% of our staff will be eligible to retire in the next fiscal year,” CRS director Dr. Mary Mazanec told the House Legislative Appropriations subcommittee last week.

Trump seeks to slash $3.6 trillion of government spending in budget

May 23, 2017

by Roberta Rampton


WASHINGTON-U.S. President Donald Trump wants lawmakers to slash $3.6 trillion in government spending over the next decade, taking aim in his first budget plan at healthcare and food assistance programs for the poor while boosting the military.

The Trump administration on Tuesday will ask Republicans who control the U.S. Congress – and the federal purse strings – for the politically sensitive cuts.

The proposal in its current form is unlikely to be approved by lawmakers as they craft their own tax and spending plans but the document makes Trump’s budget priorities clear and lays down a marker with Congress.

Trump seeks to balance the budget by the end of the decade, according to a preview given to reporters on Monday. There is some new spending in his plan for fiscal year 2018, which starts in October.

The Pentagon would get a spending hike, and there would be a $1.6 billion down payment to begin building a wall along the border with Mexico, which was a central promise of Trump’s presidential campaign.

Trump’s proposal foresees selling half of the U.S. emergency oil stockpile, created in 1975 after the Arab oil embargo caused fears of price spikes. The announcement surprised oil markets, and briefly pulled down U.S. crude prices.

The biggest savings would come from cuts to the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor made as part of a Republican healthcare bill passed by the House of Representatives.

Trump, who is traveling overseas this week, wants lawmakers to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid and more than $192 billion from food stamps.

Republicans are under pressure to deliver on promised tax cuts, the cornerstone of the Trump administration’s pro-business economic agenda, which would cut the business tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent, and reduce the number of personal tax brackets.

But their policy agenda has stalled as the White House grapples with the political fallout from Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey whose agency is probing alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Republican leaders in the House said lawmakers would be able to find common ground with the budget plan.

“At least we now have common objectives: grow the economy, balance the budget. So at least we are now on that common ground, and we will have a great debate about the details about how to achieve those goals,” U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.


U.S. stocks were slightly higher on Tuesday as investors parsed details of the plan.

“The budget will not pass in its current state, but people will keep an eye on any sort of indication of corporate tax reform as well as infrastructure spending,” said Nadia Lovell, U.S. Equity Strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank in New York.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said Trump’s plan would devastate rural areas – with the Medicaid cuts directly hitting hospitals and nursing homes – and harm poorer voters who backed Trump at last year’s presidential election.

“This is a sea change in terms of how we would look at taking care of the most vulnerable in our country. And frankly it is really going to have a big impact on the parts of my state that were the biggest supporters for Donald Trump,” she said.

The budget foresees an increase in military spending. Trump is seeking a $52 billion hike, which is almost 10 percent higher than current budget caps but only three percent more than what former President Barack Obama had sought in his long-term budget plan.

The Republican president has vowed to build up the armed forces, as the United States faces challenges from adversaries like Islamic State, Iran and China.

Trump upheld his promise – for the most part – that he would not cut Medicare and Social Security, two social insurance programs that deficit hawks have long targeted for reforms.

Those so-called entitlement programs may not come out of Capitol Hill unscathed, however. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Republican, said lawmakers would have to reform both programs to save them.

“We have to look at the entitlements if we believe that we want them to be there for future generations,” he told CNBC.

The healthcare bill passed by the House aims to gut the Obama administration’s signature 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, that expanded insurance coverage and the government-run Medicaid program. But it faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which is writing its own law.

The White House proposed changes that would require more childless people receiving help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, to work.

The budget plan would slash supports for farmers and impose user fees for meat inspection. Another politically fraught item is a proposal for cuts to the U.S. Postal Service, a goal that has long eluded lawmakers and administrations from both political parties.

Most government departments would see steep cuts, particularly the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The plan drew immediate fire from lobby groups, including from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which said it relied on “rosy assumptions,” gimmicks and unrealistic cuts.

“While we appreciate the administration’s focus on reducing the debt, when using more realistic assumptions, the president’s budget does not add up,” Maya MacGuineas, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Trump’s plan relies on forecasts for economic growth of 3 percent a year by the end of his first term – well beyond Congressional Budget Office assumptions of 1.9 percent growth/

(Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb, David Shepardson, Timothy Gardner, Ginger Gibson, Jason Lange and Julia Edwards Ainsley in Washington, and PJ Huffstutter in Chicago; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Peter Cooney and Andrea Ricci)

 North Korea link to WannaCry ransomware ‘highly likely’

May 23, 2017

It is ‘highly likely’ that Lazarus hackers were responsible for this month’s WannaCry cyberattack, the US anti-virus firm Symantec reports. The cell is widely believed to be connected to North Korea.


The US cybersecurity firm Symantec reports that a hacking group allegedly affiliated with North Korea perpetrated the WannaCry ransomware attack. According to Symantec, the ransomware had many of the hallmarks of other Lazarus attacks, including the 2014 strike on Sony Pictures and a multimillion-dollar theft from the Bangladesh Central Bank.

Symantec’s analysis revealed “substantial commonalities in the tools, techniques, and infrastructure used by the attackers and those seen in previous Lazarus attacks, making it highly likely that Lazarus was behind the spread of WannaCry.” However, Symantec allowed that “the WannaCry attacks do not bear the hallmarks of a nation-state campaign but are more typical of a cybercrime campaign.”

WannaCry seized up 300,000 computers at banks, hospitals and state agencies in150 countries while hackers demanded payment in bitcoin to return control to users. Without mentioning the links between Lazarus and North Korea, Symantec reported that, prior to the global outbreak on May 12, hackers had used an earlier version of WannaCry in a small number of attacks in the previous three months.

‘Dirty and despicable’

Seoul-based internet security firm Hauri, known for its vast troves of data on official hacking in North Korea, has warned of ransomware attacks since last year. Researchers in the United States, Russia and Israel – no slouches at cyberwarfare – also pointed to a potential link to North Korea. And the Google researcher Neel Mehta also found similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus code.

After South Korean cybergurus alleged that their counterparts in the north of the peninsula had ordered the attack last week, officials in Pyongyang vehemently dismissed the accusations as pure propaganda from old opponents. As recently as Monday, hours before Symantec released its assessment, North Korean officials called the earlier allegations “a dirty and despicable smear campaign.”

Cybersecurity pros say North Korea has stepped up a hook-or-crook campaign to bring in hard foreign currency in the face of sanctions imposed by the United Nations to cripple the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

In November 2014, for just one example, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history just before its release of the critically panned racial-caricature comedy “The Interview,” which takes North Korea as its setting. US officials blamed their North Korean counterparts for the attack, a claim denied loudly in Pyongyang even as authorities there strongly condemned the film, which features a fictional CIA plot to assassinate leader Kim Jong Un.


Facebook flooded with ‘sextortion’ and revenge porn, files reveal

Leaked documents show site struggles with with mammoth task of policing content ranging from nudity to sex abuse

  • Revealed: Facebook’s secret rules on sex, violence and terrorism
  • Ignore or delete: could you be a Facebook moderator?

May 22. 2017

by Nick Hopkins in London and Olivia Solon in San Francisco

The Guardian

Facebook had to assess nearly 54,000 potential cases of revenge pornography and “sextortion” on the site in a single month, according to a leaked document.

Figures shared with staff reveal that in January Facebook had to disable more than 14,000 accounts related to these types of sexual abuse – and 33 of the cases reviewed involved children.

The company relies on users to report most abusive content, meaning the real scale of the problem could be much greater.

But the Guardian has been told that moderators find Facebook’s policies on sexual content the hardest to follow. “Sexual policy is the one where moderators make most mistakes,” said a source. “It is very complex.

Facebook admitted this was a high priority area and that it was using “image-matching” software to stop explicit content getting on to the site. It also acknowledged it was difficult to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable sexual content.

“We constantly review and improve our policies,” said Monika Bickert, ‎ head of global policy management at Facebook. “These are complex areas but we are determined to get it right.”

The company declined to comment on the figures in the document. “We receive millions of reports each week but we do not release individual figures,” it said.

The use of Facebook for the proliferation of pornography as well as the rise of revenge porn and sextortion have become some of the biggest challenges for social media groups. They are coming under huge political pressure to do more to keep abusive and illegal content off their platforms or face substantial fines.

Documents seen by the Guardian, which form part of the Facebook Files, show for the first time the detailed rules applied by the company to police sexual content published on the site – as well as the scale of the challenge faced by moderators tasked with keeping Facebook clean.

One slide showed that in January moderators alerted senior managers to 51,300 potential cases of revenge pornography, which it defines as attempts to use intimate imagery to shame, humiliate or gain revenge against an individual.

In addition, Facebook escalated 2,450 cases of potential sextortion – which it defines as attempts to extort money, or other imagery, from an individual. This led to a total of 14,130 accounts being disabled. Sixteen cases were taken on by Facebook’s internal investigations teams.

One 53-slide document explains Facebook has introduced two “hotkeys” for moderators to help them quickly identify potential cases of sextortion and revenge porn, which it refers to as “non-consensual intimate imagery”.

Besides these two areas, which Facebook ranks alongside child exploitation and terrorism in importance, the Facebook Files set out various issues facing the service when it comes to sexual content.

They explain that the social media site allows “moderate displays of sexuality, open-mouthed kissing, clothed simulated sex and pixelated sexual activity” involving adults. The documents and flowcharts then set out what is permitted on Facebook in detailed sub-categories called “arousal”, “handy-work”, “mouth work”, “penetration”, “fetish” and “groping”.

The use of sexualised language is also addressed. Facebook decides whether to allow or ban remarks based on the level of detail they contain.

One Facebook document, titled Sexual Activity, explains it is permitted for someone to say: “I’m gonna fuck you.” But if the post adds any extra detail – for instance, where this might happen or how – it should be deleted if reported.

According to this 65-slide manual, other general phrases allowed on Facebook include: “I’m gonna eat that pussy”; and “Hello ladies, wanna suck my cock?”

Facebook also allows sexual references that have a “humorous context”. The example it uses to illustrate the point involves a joke about a little boy interrupting his parents having sex. Facebook said some of these examples “appear to be out of date”, but it declined to say which ones or when the policy had changed.

Until recently Facebook had allowed comments such as “I’d like to poke that bitch in the pussy” and “How about I fuck you in the ass girl?” Asked specifically about these comments, Facebook said it would now remove them if they were reported.

“Not all disagreeable or disturbing content violates our community standards,” said Facebook. “For this reason we offer people who use Facebook the ability to customise and control what they see by unfollowing, blocking or hiding posts, people, pages and applications they don’t want to see.

“We allow general expressions of desire but we don’t allow sexually explicit detail.”

The files also show Facebook is constantly updating certain policies – reacting to criticism that it has been too slow to delete some sexually graphic content, while simultaneously being too strict about other material

Last September, Facebook was condemned for removing the Pulitzer-prize-winning “Napalm girl” photograph from the Vietnam war because it showed a naked child. After a row over censorship, Facebook relented.

The files, seen by the Guardian, reveal that Facebook has tried to avoid similar situations arising again by issuing fresh rules. One document explains that under Facebook’s new “terror of war” guidelines, there are “newsworthiness exceptions”.

Though the documents does not define newsworthy, it says Facebook now allows, among other things, “photographs of naked babies so young they clearly cannot stand unless the photo closes in on the baby’s genitals … [and] images of adult nudity in the context of the Holocaust”.

However, Facebook says images from the Holocaust depicting naked children should be removed if users complained.

The Guardian has been told moderators are struggling to make sense of other guidelines on sexual imagery. Under these rules, Facebook says it will “allow all handmade and digital nudity … [and] allow handmade sexual activity”. But moderators are told to “remove digital sexual activity” if reported.

However, the accompanying slides make clear it is sometimes difficult to draw a distinction between the two. One allowed artwork shows a topless woman riding on a giant, erect penis.

The document explains: “We allow nudity when it is depicted in art like paintings, sculptures, and drawings. We do not allow digitally created nudity or sexual activity. We drew this line so that we could remove a lot of very sexual digital nudity, but it also covers an increasing amount of non-sexual digitally made art. The current line is also difficult to enforce because it is hard to differentiate between handmade art and digitally made depictions.”

In an earlier document, Facebook moderators had been warned to delete images of Giambologna’s 16th-century statue the Kidnapping of the Sabine Women in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence if reported.

They were also told to delete, if reported, images of the Rape of Europa – paintings that depict the mythological story of the abduction of Europa by Zeus. The updates seen by the Guardian do not make clear whether these images are allowed or not.

Facebook has also developed detailed policies around “sexual solicitation” on the site. According to its rules, providing contact information is allowed, and solicitation using acronyms is also permissible.

But if the post includes any extra information – such as mentioning sexual acts “in a non medical/ scientific/ educational context” then the post should be deleted if it is flagged up.

Facebook said it was “building better tools to keep our community safe”, adding: “We’re going to make it simpler to report problems to us, faster for our reviewers to determine which posts violate our standards and easier for them to contact law enforcement if someone needs help.”
















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