TBR News May 25, 2016

May 25 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. May 25, 2016:” ’They spy on us and we spy on them.’ This is a phrase sent to me by a reader who is heavily involved in computer code-writinig and apparently very proficient. The more official Washington’s minions spy on American citizens, the more computer experts spy on them. One of them said recently to a communicant that there are no secure computer systems operating in the United States systems that cannot be read. This, it has been said, extends to the specially protected computer system of the President himself. There are no secrets anymore. When US agencies send top secret information to Israel, Russian implants in their systems send these to Moscow so Putin knows exactly what is on the table. He probably also knows what is under it! Bibi the Fat’s messaging to his embassy in Washington is being read by others as fast as the embassy staff can.”



The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.


Sunday, 18 December 1949

After Mass, a talk with my religious friends about the communist menace. I was in good form and gave them Truman’s personal views. He doesn’t like them but doesn’t want to upset the left wing of the Democratic Party who still thinks in terms of the New Deal, or the Dead Deal, as I like to call it.

We have agreed that I will see to it that McCarthy (and others) gets to look at some interesting figures which should get them to stir up enough trouble to allow us to mount a really effective attack on the remnants of Roosevelt’s Red Army.

At least twice in the conversation, the position of Jews was brought up. It is their belief, and certainly that of many others here, that the spies and traitors were almost all Jewish. This, of course, is true. I explained the background on this to the company, going back to post-war Germany, the Council Republics, and so on.

These people are so ignorant of history after all.

I did say, and no doubt the Jews will love me for this, that stirring up pogroms in this country would most certainly not be a good idea although the spirit is certainly ready for such a thing. I explained all of the problems that Germany now faced because of this and recommended that spies either be secretly done away with or that their racial backgrounds are carefully ignored. The public can draw its own opinions from the names.

We spoke of the attempts on Truman’s life and other matters, but I still hold firm that the long-term results of racial warfare are not worth the short-term gains. They do listen to me in the end but I know that if I were somehow discovered here and the Jews (and the communists on the eastern coast) got their hands on it, chaos would prevail.

Three people have already been sent to see Jesus. That includes the one Arno gave a heart attack to in Colorado, and a former OSS man who went for a swim in the river one night wearing only an old steel safe and some lengths of chain. The other one, another unfortunate refugee from the Third Reich, does not bear talking about at all.

Arno is a marvelous murderer but sometimes he does like his tableaux. The thought of policemen vomiting violently when faced with his small entertainments is distressing to me as a former policeman. And, I am sure, to those who had to remove what was left of the remains of the little man with the very big mouth for forensic examination. I can at this very moment hear one of the doctors saying to another:

My God, how did his penis get into there? Or, are you sure this is human? I think it’s probably a skinned sheep or maybe two skinned sheep that someone dropped off of a very tall building. I ought to give Arno a nice set of carving knives for Christmas but he wants an English bible so he can have that instead. Arno once wanted to be a Lutheran minister at home before he developed his skills in dealing with people I do not like and when he gets older and slows down a bit (he can get so vigorous at times) maybe we will be regaled by the sight of him, his collar on backwards, preaching the word of the Lord. This we did not discuss!

I am to have a nice discussion with Cardinal Spellman when I go to New York tomorrow. His Eminence has told my friends that he would very much like to meet me and so he shall. Perhaps I can go to Rome and have a Papal audience next! Pius is the best Holy Father in years and he understands from personal experience what beasts the communists are and how necessary it is to drive them back into the swamps they crawled out of.

While there, and just before having to hurry back for Christmas, I and my sweet neighbor (who has given me a very nice cashmere scarf for Christmas) will be attending a gala performance of the “Messiah” by Handel. The aunt will come too and introduce me to some of the more elegant people in New York. I am to have a luncheon at the Knickerbocker Club there to meet them. Wonderful how things go along.

One of my new friends wants to “put me up” for membership in the Metropolitan Club here in Washington and I am assured of getting in. Having eaten there a number of times, it is passable enough although my cook is so much more accomplished than theirs and my wine cellar, at least the one for my private use, is far better.

Monday, 26 December 1949

There has been almost no time at all to do more than put down a brief outline of my affairs up through Christmas.

First, I have been a week out of service and there is a huge pile of paper that has to be gone through. Then to record events but briefly.

To New York with my new lady friend and aunt. There we attended a very gala performance of Handel’s “Messiah.” Impressions: A very rich setting for an equally rich work of art. We sat in a box and everyone was in full formal. The women were dripping with jewels and all you could see were the gleam of white shirtfronts and the glitter of diamonds. A very fulsome, solemn and often exalted work. Not the original scoring but a moving work indeed.

We stood, as is the custom, for the great Hallelujah Chorus and I can well understand what the composer meant when he wrote upon its completion: “I did see before me Almighty God in all His glory,” and this great chorus certainly gives truth to his words.

And there I stood, in the midst of America’s elite, thinking of the strangeness of fortune. At the worst, I would have been executed if I had been caught at the end of the war and at the least, stuck in a damp cell for dozens of years. Now I am on friendly terms with the American President and many of the important people in the country that only a few years ago was our most dangerous enemy. Strange indeed are the ways of the Lord! And to be sure, His servant, very humble servant indeed, Heinrich, is filled with gratitude.

A banquet at aunt’s suite at the Waldorf later with a number of very rich people of old families. More white shirts, more diamonds and the food was acceptable enough. I am spoiled with my own chef. The humble servant Heinrich was also filled with very good champagne and spent some profitable time in making the acquaintance of a number of helpful people. When I become a member of the Metropolitan Club, I can entertain there and not at home. Much safer that way.

My romance, and I can now call it that, is making great headway. I call her my little rabbit. The American word is “bunny” and that will do henceforth. She likes, and as she says, admires me. Off we go for another romp. Irmgard will be most happy now as she has her own romps to consider.

Visited several clubs. Note that Colonel (Sosthenes) Behn, head of ITT is a member of both the Knickerbocker Club in New York and the Metropolitan in DC. I really must look him up one of these days and renew our old friendship. Courtesy to a fellow club member. That one won’t dare open his mouth about me or I might open my mouth about him. At a certain level, morality and assumption seem to vanish into infinity.

Back to Washington to take care of Christmas.

As I planned, Heini’s family came into town on the train Wednesday and they were put up at the Hay Adams in two suites. Mother and Father, younger brother and sister. Of course, they are poor farmers and not used to such luxury and certainly do not have the right kind of clothes for a formal dinner so the best part of a day was consumed in outfitting the lot.

A huge tree in the central hall and boxes of presents for all plus a small string orchestra, courtesy of Mr. Hayes, which played in the music room with the doors opened into the living room. Or assembly room as aunt calls it.

Heini was almost in tears when he found out about the arrival of his people but he has good self-control. He ought to, being around me every day.

We sat ten to table with five wines and nine courses, including the famous turkey and traditional side dishes.

The family is excellent people, if totally unsophisticated.

Father is a farmer in Iowa, borrowed too much money from the bank and now has economic problems. Both are German, second generation for the father, third for the mother. Brother and sister are handsome, blonde and well set up. Father looks older than he is because of all the hard work. Actually, very much like Bavarian farmers. Good, solid people.

There was some confusion about which glass to use and which knife or fork to pick up but I made a few jokes and everyone managed to get by without embarrassment.

I spoke well of their son to them, as is my habit at such times, and to his face that caused him to get very red above the stiff collar.

Irmgard is very possessive and hangs onto him a bit more than is proper but after the wine, no one would have noticed if she got naked up onto the table and did a country dance in the centerpiece. Heini’s sister is attractive but one does not meddle with employees or their sisters. Not that I wouldn’t want to, but the household is quite compact and friendly and why disrupt it?

Arno was friendly with the sister and I wish him well. If she knew about his little nocturnal habits, I doubt if she would have received his attentions quite so openly, although Arno is a handsome devil. And a master carver after all! As a joke, I had him carve the turkey, telling everyone that Arno was a genius with a knife. We both understood this little joke and he even twitched an eyelid in my direction. I kept imagining Stalin on the table and Arno slicing off various portions of the “great Georgian’s” anatomy. People wonder why I laugh so suddenly but I doubt I would bother to explain it to them.

After dinner, some music and then, when all were headed back to the hotel and a train trip back, I presented the father with an envelope containing a banker’s check that will pay off his mortgage, including all the interest. He and Heini made a terrible, emotional scene in the hall. For a moment, I thought they were both French and not German.

Still, a good Christmas for all and Heini told me later that it was the best Christmas he had ever had and walked away blowing his nose. A sudden cold, no doubt.





Report: Change in cockpit temperature before EgyptAir MS804 disappearance

The A320’s engines had operated normally throughout most of the flight, reported Egypt’s state newspaper. But the aircraft’s final electronic messages reveal an unexpected change prior to vanishing from radar.

May 25, 2016


Egypt’s state-owned al-Ahram newspaper on Tuesday reported that EgyptAir flight MS804 pilot Mohammed Shoukair signed off on the aircraft’s technical condition before departing Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France

The aircraft transmitted 11 electronic messages from when its engines started on Wednesday evening until it disappeared on Thursday. The first two messages showed the engines operating normally.

However, a message at 0026 UTC indicated a change in the temperature of the co-pilot’s cockpit window, according to al-Ahram.

The aircraft continued to transmit messages for three minutes until it vanished from radar with 66 people on board, including 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel.

The report comes as the head of Egypt’s forensic teams on Tuesday downplayed the theory that an explosion brought down EgyptAir flight MS804.

The A320 aircraft lost contact with air traffic controllers last week shortly after entering Egyptian airspace.

The following day, an Egypt-led search and rescue operation “found personal belongings of passengers and parts of the wreckage 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Alexandria,” according to an Egyptian army spokesman.

Egypt and French authorities have yet to discover the cause behind the aircraft’s tragic end, although technical failure and terrorism have not been ruled out.

Investigators hope that the black boxes will shed light on flight MS804’s last moments before vanishing from radar.

Aviation crises

Over the past year, Egypt has suffered a series of aviation disasters. In March, a man hijacked a domestic Cairo-bound EgyptAir flight and forced the pilot to divert the aircraft to Cyprus. The man claimed to have a suicide belt strapped to his body.

In October, a Russian passenger plane was downed over the Sinai Peninsula minutes after departing from the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

All 224 people on board died in the aviation tragedy. The “Islamic State” militant group’s Sinai affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack shortly afterwards.


How cracking down on America’s painkiller capital led to a heroin crisis

Critics say Florida’s efforts to contain an epidemic unleashed within its borders have only had limited effect in curbing one crisis while making another worse

May 25, 2016

by Chris Mc Greal

The Guardian

Ft. Lauderdale-For James Fata, the transition from prescription painkillers to heroin was seamless.

The 24-year-old came to Florida to shake an addiction to opioid pills, but trying to go through rehab in a region known as the prescription capital of America proved too much. When a government crackdown curtailed his supply of pills, Fata turned to readily available heroin to fill the void.

“The pills were hard to get. They got to be very expensive. Heroin is cheap,” said Fata, 24. “Almost everyone that I was close to, anybody that was doing pills with me, typically they would at least get to the point where pills were not an option. You were either snorting heroin or shooting heroin.”

Florida was the crucible of the opioid epidemic now gripping the US. Before deaths from opiates spiked nationwide, the state’s south corridor earned the name “Oxy Express” for its liberal access to the extraordinarily powerful synthetic heroin painkiller, OxyContin.

But after Florida spent years trying to shake off its reputation by driving out of business the worst of the notorious “pill mills”, the twist came that state officials hadn’t predicted.

When the addicts Florida facilitated could not get prescription opioids anymore, they turned to heroin.

“I’d like to say it’s getting better because I see at least things are being brought to the surface and there’s an advocacy movement,” Fata said. “But on a numbers level, it’s getting worse. On the amount of deaths I see, it’s getting worse. The amount of heroin use I’m seeing, it’s getting worse.”

As heroin deaths in the US have more than tripled nationwide since 2010, critics say Florida’s efforts to contain an epidemic unleashed within its borders have only had limited effect in curbing one crisis while making another worse.

Florida’s problems started after OxyContin swept on to the market in 1996, just as medical authorities began pressing doctors to pay greater attention to alleviating pain. Unscrupulous businessmen in Florida spotted an opportunity.

Within a few years, hundreds of pain clinics popped up around the state dispensing opioid pills to just about anyone who asked. Among the earliest and biggest was American Pain in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area, with a pharmacy run by former strippers and doctors carrying guns under their white coats.

It took in tens of millions of dollars a year selling Oxycontin and its generic, oxycodone, to people who travelled from Kentucky and West Virginia where painkillers were known as “hillbilly heroin”. They came south along the “Oxy Express” by bus or the carload, sometimes driven by dealers who took a cut of the pills.

At one point, more than 90% of all the prescription opioids dispensed by doctors in the US were sold in Florida.

‘Nothing had ever brought me to my knees’Robert Eaton was introduced to opioids at the age of 24 after suffering herniated discs in 2009. After a couple of months of therapy and low levels of pain killers, his doctor said he had done all he could for Eaton. The doctor pointed him to the pill mills.

“He recommended me to go see a pain management doctor. I started seeing him every month. Immediately he increased all of my prescriptions,” he said.

Eaton reels off a list of hundreds of oxycodone, methadone and muscle relaxants he was prescribed each month.

“It’s a lot but by the time I got to him, the pills already had a stranglehold on me. A lot more just seemed better. I didn’t realise at the time just how far this thing was going to take me,” he said. “Nothing had ever brought me to my knees. Once the pills went into my body, it was over. As soon I took that drug I was like, ‘whoa, this is good. I need more of this now’.”

Those hooked on oxycodone say that they do not so much feel a craving for pills as a fear of not getting them and, as they put it, getting sick. If they don’t get a fix, they get hit by increasingly intense pain from withdrawal much worse than the pain they were treating.

“By the end, I was locking myself in a room, never getting that kind of high,” Eaton said. “Needing this to not get sick and to be able to get out of bed.”

Eaton quickly came to realise that the doctor wasn’t so much treating him as taking his money, writing a prescription, and getting him out of the door as fast as possible in order to get the next patient in.

“Not once did he ever ask me: ‘Did your pain improve this month?’. There was no intention to ever bring the medication level down at all. You’re walking in and he’s prescribing you the max,” he said. “If you had insurance, it didn’t matter. You paid cash to see the doctor.”

Eaton is still not sure how much he spent between the doctors and the pills but said it ran into hundreds of dollars a day.

He lost his job as a Budweiser delivery driver because the pills affected his work. He lost his house. He even sold his stepchildren’s toys.

“I would take the mortgage money. My wife at the time would try and scrounge up money to pay for things and I would steal it,” he said.

Eaton found another job training as an emergency medic with a fire department and managed to keep his addiction hidden for a while.

“One day we walked into this lady’s house. It was a grandma. She’s sitting in her bed. She’s dead and she had a pill bottle in her hand,” he said. “That messed me up so bad I went and did roxies (oxycodone).

“My way to fix what I was experiencing was to go do the very drug that just killed her.”

Oxycodone down; heroin up

Florida started to crack down on “pill mills” in 2010.

American Pain was shut down in an FBI raid and its owners were imprisoned. The Florida legislature passed laws to kill off other pill mills and curtail the largely unfettered prescription of opioids. Deaths from oxycodone in Florida dropped 69% in the five years from 2010.

But the clampdown left those already addicted without a ready supply. It limited access to pills, forced up prices on the street, and made heroin a cheaper alternative. As the drug flooded in from Mexico, heroin deaths in Florida more than doubled in 2014 alone to a record 408.

Doctors also reported an increase in the number of babies born addicted to heroin, and Florida leads the US in new HIV-Aids infections, attributed to needle-sharing by drug users.

“What was going on here in Florida was different to any other place,” Fata said. “The pill mills were blatantly illegal. Anybody could walk in and get a prescription. When that stopped, those people either latched on to people who still had a prescription or they moved to heroin. As those people they could latch onto dwindled and dwindled because it got stricter and more restrictive, the shift was to heroin.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse declared a heroin epidemic in south Florida two years ago.

The Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry noted a shift toward greater use by white people from affluent backgrounds and said that most were drawn to heroin after becoming addicted to opioid painkillers

The 2014 study reported that 75% of those on heroin said they came to it via prescription opioids and noted a rise in heroin use as prescription opioid use decreased.

Florida officials were as caught off guard by the rise of heroin as they were by the sudden boom of the pill mills in the late 2000s.

Fata got hooked on prescription pills in his home state of Texas, where he grew up in what he describes as an upper-middle-class family. He began popping painkillers he found in his parents’ cabinet when he was in his mid-teens, a pastime he said was common among his friends.

Before long he was hooked and taking even larger doses supplemented with heroin. He paid for his habit by dealing in drugs. But at the age of 20, after four years of drugs, his parents forced him to go to rehab in Florida.

“It got to a point where I was about to die and my parents said: ‘You need to go to treatment’,” he said.

Fata was clean for about six months but, surrounded by people with easy access to prescriptions painkillers, his resolve failed.

“I was living in a halfway house when I relapsed. Working in a menial job. I just felt stuck. There was nowhere for me to go,” he said.

But already the pills were becoming harder to find.

The federal authorities were moving against businessmen running Florida’s pain clinics. Prosecutors called American Pain the US’s largest illegal prescription drug ring, earning an estimated $43m in three years, and said it was responsible for at least 50 overdose deaths in Florida alone. Owner Jeff George was sent to prison for 20 years for the death of one of those patients. His brother Chris George received a reduced sentence of 14 years after testifying against doctors he hired.

The Florida legislature passed a package of reforms five years ago requiring that pain clinics be owned and run by a doctor. It also established a system to allow doctors and pharmacies to track prescriptions in an attempt to put an end to doctor shopping.

“I already knew that the scandal was shutting the pill mills down, so there’s no way somebody like me, without a legitimate ailment, to get pills,” Fata said.

Fata moved in with the man who would become his main supplier. His housemate had a prescription for back pain, still did a bit of doctor shopping, and sold some of the drugs. But it became more difficult as doctors became more wary with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and prosecutors sniffing around.

And the shortage drove the price of pills up on the black market.

“As soon as the prices of the pills went up, I knew I would just use heroin,” Fata said. “I moved to heroin because the price of OxyContin turned to more expensive than the price per ounce of gold.”

Heron was about one-eighth of the price of pills for the same hit and more readily available.

With its rise has come an increase in deaths from a drug authorities say is as much as 50 times more powerful – fentanyl, a synthetic opiate frequently laced into heroin. The DEA last year issued a nationwide alert over what it called an alarming increase in the number of deaths related to fentanyl and heroin.

‘New addictions every day’

But the rise of heroin does not mean the prescription opioid crisis is going away.

Janet Colbert was instrumental in getting the pill mills closed down. Working as a neonatal intensive care nurse near Fort Lauderdale, Colbert had to deal with children born addicted to opioids through their mothers.

“In years past we had a cocaine baby once in a while. All of a sudden our unit is full of these babies. We’re all like, what’s going on? We had no idea why there were so many. Screaming. It was bad. You couldn’t feed them. They’re in withdrawal,” she said.

“If there is a heroin epidemic, nine out of 10 heroin users start with prescription opiates. We’ll never control the heroin if we don’t control the opiates because there are new addictions every day.”

Colbert points the finger at the drug manufacturers – led by Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin – and a medical establishment she said that puts too much emphasis on prescribing powerful drugs to deal with pain.

In 2007, Purdue paid a $634m penalty for misrepresenting the drug’s addictiveness. In December it reached a $24m settlement with Kentucky after the state claimed Purdue cost it “an entire generation” to OxyContin.

Colbert accuses the pharmaceutical companies and doctors of attempting to shift blame for the epidemic by accusing those hooked on prescription opioids of “abusing” the drugs.

That was the experience of Eaton, who calmly recalls the trauma of his years of addiction but becomes visibly angry when talking about drug manufacturers and doctors.

“This thing took me to a place where I didn’t want to live any more, really. Do I have to accept responsibility? Yeah. I’m a drug addict. Am I a bad person? No. I was going to a doctor who was just taking my money from me. He wasn’t trying to help me get better at all,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who are dead who were getting prescriptions from doctors, and it’s a doctor’s job to protect them. It gets me really pissed off that they weren’t protected.”

Florida’s attorney general, Pam Bondi, called doctors working in pill mills “drug dealers in white coats”.

Some physicians have been called to account. A Lake Worth doctor, Sergio Rodriguez, was sentenced to 27 years in prison more than four overdose deaths. But it has proved hard to convict others. Cynthia Cadet wrote more prescriptions than any other doctor at American Pain and was paid $1.5m. But a jury cleared her of criminal charges after she said she could not know if patients were lying about pain levels. She was later imprisoned for money laundering.

Colbert said that jailing a few doctors does not go far enough when hundreds were employed in what she regards as a criminal racket. She would like to see the state medical authorities strip them of their licences to practice.

Her organisation, Stopp Now, is also pushing for doctors to be required to use a monitoring programme that would tell them if a patient is obtaining prescriptions from another doctor. The programme is compulsory in 20 states but voluntary in Florida.

Colbert said state legislators have told her they will not support the measure because it is opposed by the Florida Medical Association.

“The doctors have a lot of clout and they don’t want the legislation because somebody’s telling them what to do,” she said.

The Florida Medical Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Fata said he finally kicked heroin when he recognised it was going to kill him. He is studying to be a social worker and plans to return to Texas.

“I knew this past time, right before I got clean, that I was ready to kill myself,” he said. “I was at breaking point.”

Eaton also shook his reliance on drugs with the help of a religious group and now runs a personal training business. But getting off the pills came at a price. His marriage broke up. Friends were dying around him.

“My best friend died on just the prescriptions alone. His sister found him on the morning of his 30th birthday, dead in his room,” he said.

Eaton missed the funeral because he was on the hunt for a fix.



77% of Germans don’t want their leader bowing to Erdogan’s demands – poll

May 25, 2016


The majority of Germans want to see Chancellor Angela Merkel take a strong stand against the Turkish president and stop caving in to his demands even if it undermines the EU refugee deal with Ankara, a recent poll has shown.

The survey which found that as many as 77 percent want Merkel to stand up to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was published on Tuesday by Stern-RTL.

The poll also witnessed an 8.5 percent drop in backing for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union.

The news coincides with Erdogan’s latest threat to suspend the EU migrant deal signed by Turkey if Ankara is not provided with a visa-free travel to Europe.

“If that is not what will happen… no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic,” Erdogan said at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Merkel insists that to implement the visa-free travel agreement, Turkey needs to change its anti-terror legislation and to fulfill all 72 requirements mentioned in the refugee deal. Berlin has recently announced that visa-free travel will not be implemented until 2017 due to Ankara’s “controversial anti-terrorism laws.” Ankara, in turn, said it will by no means change its anti-terror laws which it claims are only meant to help tackle the threat posed by Kurdish militants in the southeast of the country, as well as the threats posed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“Turkey is supposed to fulfill criteria? What criteria are these I ask you?” Erdogan asked at the end of the summit.

Erdogan is using the refugee crisis to “blackmail Europe” and get the visa-free travel, Kani Xulam from American Kurdish Information Network told RT. “If he gets a free-visa travel he will basically export the Kurdish question to Europe, and that I don’t think Europeans are ready for,” he added.

The hasty deal signed between Brussels and Turkey in March stipulated that all refugees and asylum seekers arriving on Greek shores illegally would be sent back to Turkey.

For each Syrian migrant returned, the EU agreed to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request. In return, the bloc promised to give Ankara additional funding of some €6 billion ($6.8 billion) and hold enhanced talks on Turkey’s potential EU membership.

According to another poll released by ARD-Deutschlandtrend in April, 56 percent of Germans described the deal as ‘rather bad’, compared to 39 percent rating it ‘rather good’.

While Merkel repeatedly praised the agreement saying it would alleviate the crisis, human rights groups, including the UN Refugee Agency and MSF denounced the “quick-fix” and “short-sighted” refugee deal.

“The ‘EU-Turkey deal’ effectively outsources caring for these people to Turkey in exchange for, among other things, a multibillion euro financial aid package,” Joanne Liu, MSF International President, wrote in an open letter. “This aid is now conditional on shipping suffering offshore, betraying the humanitarian principle of providing aid based on need alone.”

The UN Refugee Agency earlier said the deal was “not consistent with international law” as “collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Overall the migrant deal does not look “promising” for the EU and is on the brink of falling apart, believes Xulam.

“If Turkey was truly wanting to join the EU, Turkey would have a democratic country…It would respect the Constitution, the checks and balances. Since Erdogan became president he has basically bypassed the parliament and the prime minister’s office. And now he’s threatening Europe with opening his borders,” he said. “It doesn’t look promising at all.”

Merkel has also fallen under a wave of sharp criticism since she gave the greenlight to the prosecution of a German comedian who recited a poem insulting Erdogan. Critics said that she was compromising freedom of speech so as not to “upset” the Turkish president, who has become a key player in the refugee deal.

“Prosecution of satire due to ‘lese majeste’ does not fit with modern democracy,” Thomas Oppermann, Social Democrats (SPD) leader in parliament, said.

Merkel must now “live with the accusation that the deal with Turkey is more important to her than defending freedom of the press,” said Anton Hofreiter of the opposition Greens.

In March, German comedian Jan Bohmermann recited the poem, in which he stated that the Turkish president had an inclination to zoophilia and enjoyed watching child pornography. In response, Erdogan requested that the German government prosecute the comic. Chancellor Merkel complied with the request.


Russia’s Putin pardons Ukrainian pilot, hands her over to Kiev

May 25, 2016

by Maria Tsvetkova and Pavel Polityuk


MOSCOW/KIEV-Ukrainian military pilot Nadiya Savchenko arrived home in Kiev on Wednesday after nearly two years in a Russian jail, part of a prisoner swap in which two Russians held in Ukraine were returned to Moscow.

Handing over Savchenko, whose release had been demanded by Western governments and who has become a national hero in Ukraine, is likely to ease tensions between Moscow and the West a few weeks before the European Union decides whether to extend sanctions against Russia.

“A presidential plane with Ukraine’s hero Nadiya Savchenko has landed,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a post on Twitter.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Savchenko, who while in Russian jail was elected a member of the Ukrainian parliament, was granted a pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin to allow her to leave jail and return home.

Peskov also said that the two Russians, Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, were now back in Russia, having landed at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on a special flight from Kiev.

Ukraine accused them of being Russian special forces officers fighting in eastern Ukraine, though Moscow has never acknowledged the two were following its orders.


Savchenko, a military pilot, volunteered to fight with a ground unit against pro-Moscow separatists who rose up against Kiev’s rule in eastern Ukraine.

She was captured and put on trial in southern Russia, charged with complicity in the deaths of Russian journalists who were killed by artillery while covering the conflict. She was accused of acting as a spotter, calling down the fire that killed the journalists, but denied the accusation.

A Russian court in March sentenced her to 22 years in jail. She is widely seen in Ukraine as a symbol of resistance against Russia, a perception bolstered by her defiant behavior in court during her trial.

At one point, she interrupted the judge reading out his verdict by standing on a bench and singing the Ukrainian anthem at the top of her voice.

Yerofeyev and Alexandrov both told Reuters in interviews last year they were Russian special forces soldiers who were captured while carrying out a secret operation in eastern Ukraine.

Alexandrov’s mother, Zinaida, told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday: “I’m glad, I’m very happy. I hope that everything will be okay for him, I really want to see him.”

Russia’s relations with its neighbor Ukraine have been toxic since an uprising in 2014 forced out the Moscow-backed Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich and installed a pro-Western administration.

Russia then annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula. Moscow said it was protecting the local Russian-speaking population from persecution by the new authorities in Kiev, but Western governments called it an illegal land-grab and imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Soon after, pro-Moscow separatists began an armed separatist rebellion in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, an area with a large-Russian speaking community. Fighting between the rebels and Ukraine’s forces killed thousands of people.

A fragile ceasefire has been in place since last year, but there is no permanent settlement to the conflict.

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Ralph Boulton)


“American Sniper” Chris Kyle Distorted His Military Record, Documents Show

May 25, 2016

by Matthew Cole, Sheelagh McNeill

The Intercept

No American has been more associated with the Navy SEAL mystique than Chris Kyle, known as the deadliest sniper in military history. His bestselling autobiography, American Sniper —  a story of honor, glory, and quiet heroism —  has sold more than a million copies. The movie adaptation became the highest-grossing war film in American history.

“All told,” Kyle wrote in his book, “I would end my career as a SEAL with two Silver Stars and five Bronze [Stars], all for valor.”

But Kyle, who was murdered by a fellow military veteran several years after leaving the Navy, embellished his military record, according to internal Navy documents obtained by The Intercept. During his 10 years of military service and four deployments, Kyle earned one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with Valor, a record confirmed by Navy officials.

Kyle was warned at least once before American Sniper was published that its description of his medal count was wrong, according to one current Navy officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the case. As Kyle’s American Sniper manuscript was distributed among SEALs, one of his former commanders, who was still on active duty, advised Kyle that his claim of having two Silver Stars was false, and he should correct it before his book was published.

Current and former Navy SEALs interviewed for this article, who agreed to speak on background because they feared being shunned by their close-knit community, did not dispute Kyle’s heroism in combat, but saw the inflation of his medal count as significant because they consider battlefield embellishments to be dishonorable.

The Silver Star, the third-highest award given for battlefield conduct, is considered a prestigious commendation.

The discrepancy raises new questions about Kyle’s credibility and highlights a continuing controversy in the SEAL community over members exaggerating or distorting their war records. In one high-profile controversy, two members of SEAL Team 6 engaged in a public dispute over who deserved credit for the fatal shots that killed Osama bin Laden.

Within the military community, embellishing medals and achievements — so-called stolen valor — is considered a serious ethical violation. In 1996, Adm. Jeremy Boorda, who was then the highest-ranking uniformed naval officer, committed suicide after questions were raised about two valor pins — known as “devices” — he wore on his uniform for service during the Vietnam War. It was later determined that he was not authorized to wear the “V” devices.

According to two current Navy officials, inaccurate information about Kyle’s awards is also contained in his separation document, known in the military as a DD214, which usually reflects a veteran’s official service record. Kyle’s DD214 form, which lists two Silver Stars and six Bronze Stars with Valor among his decorations, also differs from the number of Bronze Stars with Valor — five — that Kyle listed in his book.

The Navy provided records for one Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with Valor after The Intercept requested all documentation related to Kyle’s medals. The Navy Department Awards System maintains records of the official awards. Navy officials could not say why Kyle’s separation papers contained inaccurate information about his medals, but one official described Kyle as a “decorated war hero” and questioned the “motivations” of looking into Kyle’s account.

“The Navy considers the individual service member’s official military personnel file and our central official awards records to be the authoritative sources for verifying entitlement to decorations and awards,” said Cullen James, a spokesperson for the Navy Personnel Command, in a statement emailed to The Intercept. “The form DD214 is generated locally at the command where the service member is separated. Although the information on the DD214 should match the official records, the process involves people and inevitably some errors may occur.”

Normally, the personnel clerk handling a sailor’s separation is required to ensure that the awards match the service member’s official personnel file. It is unclear whether that done in the case of Kyle’s DD214.

“Given [Kyle’s] celebrity, you’d think the Navy would have gone back and fixed the discrepancy,” said one Navy official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “But he’s only got the three Bronze and one Silver Star.”

Kyle separated from the Navy in 2009 after almost 11 years as a SEAL. In 2013, he was murdered in Texas by a fellow veteran struggling with mental health problems.

A public memorial service for Kyle held at Cowboys Stadium near Dallas drew nearly 7,000 people.

Since the publication of American Sniper, Kyle’s exploits in Iraq during the height of the war have taken on almost mythic proportions and many of his fellow soldiers regard his actions during his four deployments in Iraq as heroic. During the November 2004 American siege of Fallujah, for example, Kyle saved an injured Marine’s life by dragging him to safety while taking and returning fire down an alleyway.

Kyle also wrote in his book that he had 160 “confirmed kills” as a sniper. Service members in battle largely self-report the number of enemy combatants they kill.

“SEALs are silent warriors, and I’m a SEAL down to my soul,” Kyle wrote in American Sniper. “If you want to check me out, ask a SEAL.”

Two members of the SEAL community said that while Kyle’s actions under fire were commendable, he tarnished his accomplishments through misrepresentation.

“It takes away from the legitimate heroism he showed,” said a retired SEAL who was deployed to Iraq when Kyle was also deployed there.

The 2004 incident resulted in a Bronze Star with Valor, one of three that Kyle was awarded. That action was recommended by his commanding officers for a Silver Star, but it was denied by the secretary of the Navy at the time. Kyle was aware that the Silver Star was denied, according to his autobiography, and did not count it among the two Silver Stars he claimed to receive. He did not say in the book what either of those Silver Stars were for.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, a military historian, said that public reports of stolen valor became more common in the decade after the Vietnam War. Bateman also said it was inexcusable that Kyle, or any other veteran, would inflate his record, even if the veteran, like Kyle, had demonstrated clear heroism during his service.

Résumé inflation may be less of a scandal for civilians, Bateman said, but for those in the military “some elements are paid in blood.”

A retired SEAL officer said several of Kyle’s commanding officers were aware that he had misrepresented how many decorations he had collected. The retired officer attended the ceremony for Kyle’s single Silver Star, which was awarded to him for a 2006 deployment in Ramadi, Iraq. “During 32 sniper overwatch missions,” the citation reads, “he personally accounted for 91 confirmed enemy fighters killed.”

When asked if he had been aware of Kyle’s inaccurate accounting of his awards, Jocko Willink, one of Kyle’s former commanding officers, said, “Chris Kyle, like many of the SEALs, soldiers, and Marines I had the honor to serve with, deserve much more than whatever ribbons and medals they received.”

Another former commanding officer, Leif Babin, declined to comment. Willink and Babin co-authored a book, Extreme Ownership, which details their time commanding SEALs in Iraq. It includes a section about Kyle’s prowess as a sniper, but does not tally his medals.

This is not the first time that Kyle has been accused of misrepresentation. In 2014, just over a year after Kyle’s death, a Minnesota jury found that he had lied in American Sniper and defamed former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura by claiming to have punched Ventura out at a bar in Coronado, California. The jury awarded Ventura, who served in a precursor unit to the Navy SEALs during the Vietnam War, $1.8 million in damages and ordered Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, to pay. (Taya Kyle is appealing the ruling.)

When contacted by The Intercept, Taya Kyle, through a representative, declined to comment about her husband’s service record.

The former SEAL officer who attended Kyle’s Silver Star ceremony said it was a poorly kept secret in the naval special operations community that Kyle embellished his record. “The SEAL leadership was aware of the embellishment, but didn’t want to correct the record because Kyle’s celebrity status reflected well on the command.”

“Everybody went on a pilgrimage to his funeral at Cowboys Stadium,” the ex-SEAL said, “knowing full well his claims weren’t true.”


The Pentagon’s War on Accountability

Slush Funds, Smoke and Mirrors, and Funny Money Equal Weapons Systems Galore

by William D. Hartung

Tom Dispatch

Now you see it, now you don’t. Think of it as the Department of Defense’s version of the street con game, three-card monte, or maybe simply as the Pentagon shuffle.  In any case, the Pentagon’s budget is as close to a work of art as you’re likely to find in the U.S. government — if, that is, by work of art you mean scam.

The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on the military this year — more, that is, than was spent at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War military buildup, and more than the military budgets of at least the next seven nations in the world combined.  And keep in mind that that’s just a partial total.  As an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project has shown, if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans’ affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries, and interest on the military-related national debt, that figure reaches a cool $1 trillion.

The more that’s spent on “defense,” however, the less the Pentagon wants us to know about how those mountains of money are actually being used.  As the only major federal agency that can’t pass an audit, the Department of Defense (DoD) is the poster child for irresponsible budgeting.

It’s not just that its books don’t add up, however.  The DoD is taking active measures to disguise how it is spending the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year — from using the separate “war budget” as a slush fund to pay for pet projects that have nothing to do with fighting wars to keeping the cost of its new nuclear bomber a secret.  Add in dozens of other secret projects hidden in the department’s budget and the Pentagon’s poorly documented military aid programs, and it’s clear that the DoD believes it has something to hide.

Don’t for a moment imagine that the Pentagon’s growing list of secret programs and evasive budgetary maneuvers is accidental or simply a matter of sloppy bookkeeping.  Much of it is remarkably purposeful.  By keeping us in the dark about how it spends our money, the Pentagon has made it virtually impossible for anyone to hold it accountable for just about anything.  An entrenched bureaucracy is determined not to provide information that might be used to bring its sprawling budget — and so the institution itself — under control. That’s why budgetary deception has become such a standard operating procedure at the Department of Defense.

The audit problem is a case in point.  The Pentagon along with all other major federal agencies was first required to make its books auditable in the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990.  More than 25 years later, there is no evidence to suggest that the Pentagon will ever be able to pass an audit.  In fact, the one limited instance in which success seemed to be within reach — an audit of a portion of the books of a single service, the Marine Corps — turned out, upon closer inspection, to be a case study in bureaucratic resistance.

In April 2014, when it appeared that the Corps had come back with a clean audit, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was so elated that he held a special ceremony in the “Hall of Heroes” at the Pentagon. “It might seem a bit unusual to be in the Hall of Heroes to honor a bookkeeping accomplishment,” he acknowledged, “but damn, this is an accomplishment.”

In March 2015, however, that “accomplishment” vanished into thin air.  The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), which had overseen the work of Grant Thornton, the private firm that conducted the audit, denied that it had been successful (allegedly in response to “new information”).  In fact, in late 2013, as Reuters reported, auditors at the OIG had argued for months against green-lighting Grant Thornton’s work, believing that it was full of obvious holes.  They were, however, overruled by the deputy inspector general for auditing, who had what Reuters described as a “longstanding professional relationship” with the Grant Thornton executive supervising the audit.

The Pentagon and the firm deny that there was any conflict of interest, but the bottom line is clear enough: there was far more interest in promoting the idea that the Marine Corps could pass an audit than in seeing it actually do so, even if inconvenient facts had to be swept under the rug. This sort of behavior is hardly surprising once you consider all the benefits from an undisturbed status quo that accrue to Pentagon bureaucrats and cash-hungry contractors.

Without a reliable paper trail, there is no systematic way to track waste, fraud, and abuse in Pentagon contracting, or even to figure out how many contractors the Pentagon employs, though a conservative estimate puts the number at well over 600,000.  The result is easy money with minimal accountability.

How to Arm the Planet

In recent years, keeping tabs on how the Pentagon spends its money has grown even more difficult thanks to the “war budget” — known in Pentagonese as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account — which has become a nearly bottomless pit for items that have nothing to do with fighting wars.  The use of the OCO as a slush fund began in earnest in the early years of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and has continued ever since.  It’s hard to put a precise number on how much money has been slipped into that budget or taken out of it to pay for pet projects of every sort in the last decade-plus, but the total is certainly more than $100 billion and counting.

The Pentagon’s routine use of the war budget as a way to fund whatever it wants has set an example for a Congress that’s seldom seen a military project it wasn’t eager to pay for.  Only recently, for instance, the House Armed Services Committee chair, Texas Republican Congressman Mac Thornberry, proposed taking $18 billion from the war budget to cover items like an extra 11 F-35 combat aircraft and 14 F-18 fighter-bombers that the Pentagon hadn’t even asked for.

This was great news for Lockheed Martin, which needs a shot in the arm for its troubled F-35 program, already slated to be the most expensive weapons system in history, and for Boeing, which has been lobbying aggressively to keep its F-18 production line open in the face of declining orders from the Navy.  But it’s bad news for the troops because, as the Project on Government Oversight has demonstrated, the money used to pay for the unneeded planes will come at the expense of training and maintenance funds.

This is, by the way, the height of hypocrisy at a time when the House Armed Services Committee is routinely sending out hysterical missives about the country’s supposed lack of military readiness.  The money to adequately train military personnel and keep their equipment running is, in fact, there. Members of Congress like Thornberry would just have to stop raiding the operations budget to pay for big ticket weapons systems, while turning a blind eye to wasteful spending in other parts of the Pentagon budget.

Thornberry’s gambit may not carry the day, since both President Obama and Senate Armed Services Committee chair John McCain oppose it.  But as long as a separate war budget exists, the temptation to stuff it with unnecessary programs will persist as well.

Of course, that war budget is just part of the problem.  The Pentagon has so many budding programs tucked away in so many different lines of its budget that even its officials have a hard time keeping track of what’s actually going on.  As for the rest of us, we’re essentially in the dark.

Consider, for instance, the proliferation of military aid programs.  The  Security Assistance Monitor, a nonprofit that tracks such programs, has identified more than two dozen of them worth about $10 billion annually.  Combine them with similar programs tucked away in the State Department’s budget, and the U.S. is contributing to the arming and training of security forces in 180 countries.  (To put that mind-boggling total in perspective, there are at most 196 countries on the planet.)  Who could possibly keep track of such programs, no less what effect they may be having on the countries and militaries involved, or on the complex politics of, and conflicts in, various regions?

Best suggestion: don’t even think about it (which is exactly what the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex want you to do).  And no need for Congress to do so either.  After all, as Lora Lumpe and Jeremy Ravinsky of the Open Society Foundations noted earlier this year, the Pentagon is the only government agency providing foreign assistance that does not even have to submit to Congress an annual budget justification for what it does.  As a result, they write, “the public does not know how much the DoD is spending in a given country and why.”

Slush Funds Galore

If smokescreens and evasive maneuvers aren’t enough to hide the Pentagon’s actual priorities from the taxpaying public, there’s always secrecy.  The Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists recently put the size of the intelligence portion of the national security state’s “black budget“ — its secret spending on everything from spying to developing high-tech weaponry — at more than $70 billion. That figure includes a wide variety of activities carried out through the CIA, the NSA, and other members of the intelligence community, but $16.8 billion of it was requested directly by the Department of Defense.  And that $70 billion is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to secret spending programs, since billions more in secret financing for the development and acquisition of new weapons systems has been squirreled away elsewhere.

The largest recent project to have its total costs shrouded in secrecy is the B-21, the Air Force’s new nuclear bomber. Air Force officials claim that they need to keep the cost secret lest potential enemies “connect the dots” and learn too much about the plane’s key characteristics.  In a letter to Senator McCain, an advocate of making the cost of the plane public, Ronald Walden of the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office claimed that there was “a strong correlation between the cost of an air vehicle and its total weight.” This, he suggested, might make it “decisively easier” for potential opponents to guess its range and payload.

If such assessments sound ludicrous, it’s because they are.  As the histories of other major Pentagon acquisition programs have shown, the price of a system tells you just that — its price — and nothing more.  Otherwise, with its classic cost overruns, the F-35 would have a range beyond compare, possibly to Mars and back. Of course, the real rationale for keeping the full cost estimate for the B-21 secret is to avoid bad publicity.  Budget analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that it’s an attempt to avoid “sticker shock” for a program that he estimates could cost more than $100 billion to develop and purchase.

The bomber, in turn, is just part of a planned $1 trillion splurge over the next three decades on a new generation of bombers, ballistic missile submarines, and ground-based nuclear missiles, part of an updating of the vast U.S. nuclear arsenal.  And keep this in mind: that trillion dollars is simply an initial estimate before the usual Pentagon cost overruns even begin to come into play.  Financially, the nuclear plan is going to hit taxpayer wallets particularly hard in the mid-2020s when a number of wildly expensive non-nuclear systems like the F-35 combat aircraft will also be hitting peak production.

Under the circumstances, it doesn’t take a genius to know that there’s only one way to avoid the budgetary equivalent of a 30-car pile up: increase the Pentagon’s already ample finances yet again.  Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Brian McKeon was referring to the costs of building new nuclear delivery vehicles when he said that the administration was “wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it, and probably thanking our lucky stars we won’t be here to answer the question.”  Of course, the rest of us will be stuck holding the bag when all those programs cloaked in secrecy suddenly come out of hiding and the bills come fully due.

At this point, you may not be shocked to learn that, in response to McKeon’s uncomfortable question, the Pentagon has come up with yet another budgetary gimmick.  It’s known as the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund,” or as Taxpayers for Common Sense more accurately labels it, “the Navy’s submarine slush fund.” The idea — a longstanding darling of the submarine lobby (and yes, Virginia, there is a submarine lobby in Washington) — is to set up a separate slush fund outside the Navy’s normal shipbuilding budget. That’s where the money for the new ballistic missile submarine program, currently slated to cost $139 billion for 12 subs, would go.

Establishing such a new slush fund would, in turn, finesse any direct budgetary competition between the submarine program and the new surface ships the Navy also wants, and so avoid a political battle that might end up substantially reducing the number of vessels the Navy is hoping to buy over the next 30 years.  Naturally, the money for the submarine fund will have to come from somewhere, either one of the other military services or that operations and maintenance budget so regularly raided to help pay for expensive weapons programs.

Not to be outmaneuvered, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James has now asked Congress to set up a “strategic deterrence fund” to pay for its two newest nuclear delivery vehicles, the planned bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed ballistic missile.  In theory, this would take pressure off other major Air Force projects like the F-35, but as with the submarine fund, it only adds up if a future president and a future Congress can be persuaded to jack up the Pentagon budget to make room for these and other weapons systems.

In the end, however the specifics work out, any “fund” for such weaponry will be just another case of smoke and mirrors, a way of kicking the nuclear funding crisis down the road in hopes of fatter budgets to come. Why make choices now when the Pentagon and the military services can bet on blackmailing a future Trump or Clinton administration and a future Congress into ponying up the extra billions of dollars needed to make their latest ill-conceived plans add up?

If your head is spinning after this brief tour of the Pentagon’s budget labyrinth, it should be. That’s just what the Pentagon wants its painfully complicated budget practices to do: leave Congress, any administration, and the public too confused and exhausted to actually hold it accountable for how our tax dollars are being spent. So far, they’re getting away with it.


Kosovo: Hillary Clinton’s Legacy of Terror

The “liberation” of Kosovo unleashed radical Islamism in Europe

May 25, 2016

by Jason Rsimondo


Kosovo is Clinton Country: a 10-foot-high statue of Bill overlooks “Bill Clinton Boulevard” in the capital city of Pristina. Hillary is also memorialized in what has become the crime capital of Europe: right off the street named for her husband is a store named “Hillary,” featuring women’s clothing modeled after the putative Democratic party nominee for President. Pantsuits figure prominently. As Vice puts it: “While former President Bill Clinton has had a boulevard named after him, it’s without a doubt that his wife’s the real star out here.” Why is that?

As Gail Sheehy pointed out in her biography of Hillary, it was Mrs. Clinton who hectored her husband into bowing to a chorus of neoconservative and liberal interventionist voices and finally giving the order to bomb the former Yugoslavia. Traveling to Kosovo when Serbs in the northern part of the country were demanding some form of local autonomy to stave off violent attacks by Kosovar ultra-nationalists, Mrs. Clinton reassured her hosts that the US would stand behind Pristina: “For me, my family and my fellow Americans this is more than a foreign policy issue, it is personal.” She then physically embraced Kosovo President and Mafia chieftain Hacim Thaci – who has since been credibly accused by the Council of Europe of stealing human organs from Serb victims and selling them on the black market.

Hillary owns Kosovo – she is not only personally responsible for its evolution from a province of the former Yugoslavia into a Mafia state, she is also the mother of the policy that made its very existence possible and which she carried into her years as Secretary of State under Barack Obama.

As the “Arab Spring” threatened to topple regimes throughout the Middle East, Mrs. Clinton decided to get on board the revolutionary choo-choo train and hitch her wagon to “moderate” Islamists who seemed like the wave of the future. She dumped Egyptian despot Hosni Mubarak, whom she had previously described as a friend of the family, and supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s bid for power. In Libya, she sided with Islamist rebels out to overthrow Moammar Ghaddafi, celebrating his gruesome death by declaring “We came, we saw, he died.” And in Syria, she plotted with Gen. David Petraeus to get around President Obama’s reluctance to step into the Syrian quagmire by arming Syrian rebels allied with al-Qaeda and other terrorist gangs.

The Clintonian legacy of enabling Islamist terrorists extends to present day Kosovo, where the New York Times has revealed an extensive network of ISIS-affiliated madrassas – indoctrination centers – funded by the Saudis, the Qataris, and the Kuwaitis. The Times reports:

“Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store.”

“The mosque is one of scores built here with Saudi government money and blamed for spreading Wahhabism” in the 17 years since the war ended with Kosovo’s independence, says the Times.

“Since then – much of that time under the watch of American officials – Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.”

Kosovo is jihadi heaven. The Times informs us that “Over the last two years, the police have identified 314 Kosovars – including two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children – who have gone abroad to join the Islamic State, the highest number per capita in Europe.”

The Wahabist ideology carried by radical imams is directly financed by the Saudis, the Qataris, the Kuwaitis, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. All of these countries, by the way, are major donors to the Clinton Foundation.

Hillary Clinton’s Islamist-friendly foreign policy created a terrorist base in Kosovo, and her friends the Saudis are instrumental in setting up the conditions whereby ISIS has gained a foothold in the heart of Europe. At sprawling Camp Bondesteel, where US troops have been stationed since the “liberation,” radical imams recruited three Kosovar employees, including Lavdrim Muhaxheri, who is today a commander of the Islamic State: his claim to fame is that he was videotaped executing a Syrian by blowing him to bits with a rocket-propelled grenade. (“I did not do anything less or more than what KLA soldiers did during the war,” he declared in an interview with an Albanian newspaper.)

After ignoring the problem for years, the authorities are making a show of rounding up terrorist suspects: five were recently arrested and given long sentences, but there are hundreds more where that came from.

Kosovo today is a fulcrum of terrorism, violence, crime, and virulent nationalism. The Parliament is in chaos as Albanian ultra-nationalists demanding union with Albania shut down sessions with smoke bombs and mob action. This is the legacy of the Clintons in the Balkans: a terrorist state run by Mafia chieftains that has become the epicenter of radical Islamism in the midst of Europe.

This is “blowback” with a vengeance, and Hillary Clinton and husband Bill have their fingerprints all over this outrage: but of course the “mainstream” media isn’t holding them to account. The Times story on the rise of ISIS in Kosovo never mentions the dubious duo, and is vague when it reports on the three employees of Camp Bondesteel who wound up in Syria’s terrorist camps. Who are the other two besides Muhaxheri? Did  they receive any military training? This Reuters report confirms that NATO brought Muhaxheri to Iraq, where he worked for two years at a military base.

And there’s more where he came from. As Reuters informs us:

“Thousands of Kosovars have moved on from Bondsteel to work with U.S. contractors on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, earning the kind of money they can only dream of in Kosovo.”

The terrorist pipeline runs from Kosovo, to Iraq and Afghanistan, and then on to Syria – where they fill the ranks of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Could there be a more perfect illustration of how the principle of “blowback” works, and how we’re creating an army of Frankenstein monsters?


Syria blames Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for deadly bombings

May 24, 2016

BBC News

The Syrian government has accused Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia of being behind a wave of bombings in the coastal cities of Tartous and Jableh.

The state-run news agency Sana said the attacks constituted a “serious escalation”, and were aimed at derailing peace efforts.

State media said at least 78 people were killed, while a monitoring group put the death toll at more than 145.

So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it was behind the attacks.

The cities, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, are part of the heartland of President Bashar al-Assad and have, until now, escaped the worst of the civil war.

Sana said letters condemning the bombings had been sent from the foreign ministry to the UN.

“The ministry asserted that these terrorist bombings constitute a serious escalation by the extremist and malicious regimes of Riyadh, Ankara, and Doha,” the report said.

“They also seek to derail the Geneva [peace] talks and the cessation of hostilities and truce arrangements, as well as turning attention away from the Syrian Arab Army’s achievements in the war against terrorism.”

Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia support various rebel forces in Syria but are part of an international coalition battling IS.

Seven co-ordinated bombings happened within minutes of each other in the port of Tartous and in Jableh, further north.

In Tartous, a car bomb was detonated at the city’s bus station, Sana said. As rescuers ran to the scene, two suicide bombers also detonated explosives.

Minutes later in Jableh, a car bomb and three suicide attackers struck at a bus station, a power station and a hospital.

One report said a suicide bomber had detonated explosives inside the emergency department of a hospital after helping to carry victims of the first attack there.

Sana said 45 people were killed in Jableh and 33 in Tartous, with many more wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group which relies on a network of sources on the ground, reported that 97 people died in Jableh and 48 in Tartous.

The Amaq news agency, which is linked to IS, quoted an IS source as saying militants had targeted “gatherings of Alawites”, a reference to the heterodox Shia sect to which President Assad belongs.

Russia – a key backer of Mr Assad – has a naval base in Tartous and an air base near Jableh, from where it has conducted air strikes on IS targets across Syria.

Russia expressed concern at the blasts and said they underscored the need to revive the UN-led peace talks, which broke down last month amid mounting violence.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon denounced the attacks, as did the US.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, by phone and urged him to put pressure on the Syrian government to stop attacks on Aleppo in the north and Daraya near Damascus.

A state department spokesman said Russia had “a special responsibility” to rein in Syrian government forces.


What’s driving Silicon Valley to become ‘radicalized’

May 24, 2016b

by Elizabeth Dwoskin

The Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO — Like many Silicon Valley start-ups, Larry Gadea’s company collects heaps of sensitive data from his customers.

Recently, he decided to do something with that data trove that was long considered unthinkable: He is getting rid of it.

The reason? Gadea fears that one day the FBI might do to him what it did to Apple in their recent legal battle: demand that he give the agency access to his encrypted data. Rather than make what he considers a Faustian bargain, he’s building a system that he hopes will avoid the situation entirely.

“We have to keep as little [information] as possible so that even if the government or some other entity wanted access to it, we’d be able to say that we don’t have it,” said Gadea, founder and chief executive of Envoy. The 30-person company enables businesses to register visitors using iPads instead of handwritten visitor logs. The technology tracks who works at a firm, who visits the firm, and their contact information.

In Silicon Valley, there’s a new emphasis on putting up barriers to government requests for data. The Apple-FBI case and its aftermath have tech firms racing to employ a variety of tools that would place customer information beyond the reach of a government-ordered search.

The trend is a striking reversal of a long-standing article of faith in the data-hungry tech industry, where companies including Google and the latest start-ups have predicated success on the ability to hoover up as much information as possible about consumers.

Now, some large tech firms are increasingly offering services to consumers that rely far less on collecting data. The sea change is even becoming evident among early-stage companies that see holding so much data as more of a liability than an asset, given the risk that cybercriminals or government investigators might come knocking.

Start-ups that once hesitated to invest in security are now repurposing limited resources to build technical systems to shed data, even if it hinders immediate growth.

“Engineers are not inherently anti-government, but they are becoming radicalized, because they believe that the FBI, in particular, and the U.S. government, more broadly, wants to outlaw encryption,” said prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen in a recent interview. Andreessen’s firm, Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Envoy.

The government abandoned its effort to force Apple to help unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists and paid professional hackers to crack the phone instead. But experts say that the issue is far from settled, and will probably be the subject of court and legislative battles.

Start-ups are particularly wary, Andreessen said, of legislation proposed recently by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would compel tech companies to build technical methods to share customers’ encrypted data, at a court’s request.

“They believe there’s this window of opportunity that if we build strong encryption now, we can make it a fait accompli. But if we let five years pass, it may never happen,” Andreessen said.

In the past two years, more companies have embraced encryption, which scrambles information so that it looks like a stream of unintelligible characters to an outsider who accessed it without permission. What’s changed more recently, industry officials say, is that companies are encrypting data and throwing away the key to prevent their gaining access, a move that started with Apple but is spreading across the Valley.

This latter tactic is the most worrisome to law enforcement. Government officials have said repeatedly they do not want to outlaw encryption; FBI Director James B. Comey has called strong encryption a vital means of protecting the public’s personal information from hackers.

But officials insist that there must be a technical means to access that information when companies are served with warrants. Otherwise, there will be “profound consequences for public safety,” Comey told Congress in March. Terrorists and criminals are already using messaging services to which tech companies have thrown away the key, he said. Investigators say two such services, WhatsApp and Telegram, were used by terrorists in the Paris attacks last November.

“This is a Silicon Valley delusion that the government wants to outlaw encryption,” Stewart A. Baker, a former National Security Agency general counsel, said in an interview. “I grant that there is a radicalized subculture of engineers that is very prone to that delusion, but it is a delusion.”

Surely not every company will resort to building such systems. Many simply can’t. Their business relies on targeted advertising or the mining of customer data, and cutting off access would be a recipe for failure. But many start-ups that wouldn’t have considered it before the Apple FBI fight are now doing so and discussing the accompanying trade-offs, said Bret Taylor, formerly Facebook’s chief technology officer and now chief executive of the start-up Quip.

The trade-offs can be significant: Heavy encryption risks slowing down your service. It limits the ability to analyze customer behavior or introduce new features. (Encrypting email, for example, would make it harder to search through email.) Once you give customers the only key to their data, you can’t give them a backup if they lose it.

Such efforts over the past few years have been described as part of an arms race between large tech companies and potential invaders, spurred largely by the growing threat of cyberattacks. To some extent, they’ve also been prompted by a newfound wariness of government after Edward Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance, as well as a growing awareness among entrepreneurs of the sheer sensitivity of the data on their services.

Apple led the pack, launching end-to-end encryption with its popular messaging app, iMessage, in 2011. In 2014, the company blocked its own access to information stored on iPhones — data that disappears permanently after 10 failed passcode attempts. (End-to-end encryption enables only the partners trading messages to decode them. The companies providing the means to transmit them cannot.)

WhatsApp, the global messaging service owned by Facebook, announced end-to-end encryption this year, as did Viber, a messaging app that is popular in Europe. These years-long technical efforts predated the FBI case. Cloudera and Box, two larger tech start-ups selling data storage and processing systems to large corporations, have built encrypted systems over the past year in which only the customer has the keys needed to unscramble data.

The case between Apple and the FBI and the possibility of “backdoor” legislation — mandating encryption bypasses for law enforcement — is a new inflection point. Earlier this month, Google launched Allo, a chat app that allows users to switch on end-to-end encryption, and Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos said he was exploring measures to encrypt data and throw away the keys on devices owned by the Seattle-based company.

Stealth Worker — a start-up funded six months ago by the prominent incubator Y-Combinator — provides contract cybersecurity experts to early-stage start-ups, which often operate on a shoestring budget. Stealth Worker chief executive Ken Baylor said that in the past month he had been approached by a half-dozen companies looking for ways to build tougher encryption and other secure technical architectures. But many don’t want to talk about it, he said.

“They are afraid of a phone call from someone high up saying that they are unpatriotic,” Baylor said.

Bracket Computing, a 70-person Silicon Valley start-up, embarked on an encryption project about a month ago intended to make it easier for customers to hold the keys to their own data.

That way, “I can’t get subpoenaed the way Apple did,” Bracket chief executive Tom Gillis said. “This clears up the whole issue: If you have an issue with my customer, go talk to my customer, don’t talk to me. I’m just a tech guy, and I don’t want to be in the middle of these things.”

Gillis said that initially, customers seeking the ability to hold the keys to their data were large, sophisticated financial services companies, such as Goldman Sachs and Blackstone. Today, a broader array of companies, including media and automotive firms and small banks, are making these requests. Advances in Intel’s chips, he said, have made it possible to build these complex systems 13 times as fast as in 2010.

Building systems that cut off a company’s access to customer data is time- and resource-intensive, and these systems don’t come without risks.

Envoy CEO Gadea, an engineering prodigy who was hired by Google when he was just 18, estimates that his company’s data-wiping project will take a few months and about three engineers working full time.

Currently, when a visitor enters a building with an Envoy registration system, a message is sent alerting the appropriate employee that they have a guest. Envoy can send such messages — by text, email or other messaging services — because the customer data is stored on its servers, which are hosted remotely by Amazon Web Services, the cloud division of Amazon. The information is encrypted, but Envoy holds the keys to unscramble it. (Amazon CEO Bezos owns The Washington Post).

Under the new protocol, the engineering team will have to reconfigure the system so that the keys to unscramble the data are kept by the customers on the iPads used to sign people in. Envoy will no longer have the ability to access the keys. The technical challenge will be making it possible for the iPads to alert people when they have visitors, instead of having the alerts come from Envoy’s servers. The goal is to make the change unnoticeable to users, Gadea says, but it could take months to get there.

There will undoubtedly be many trade-offs, Gadea said. Not only will Envoy sacrifice the ability to send visitor notifications directly, but customer service also could be become more challenging. Today, if one of Envoy’s 2,000 customers asks for help correcting a mistake in a visitor name or resetting a password, an Envoy customer service rep can lend a hand. Under the new system Envoy’s reps could have their hands tied.

The new system could also make it harder to fix software errors because Envoy will no longer be able to push out automatic updates from its servers. And if a customer loses its passwords or keys, Envoy won’t have the ability to restore the lost data. It will be inaccessible forever.

Gadea said he is not anti-government and would sell Envoy’s services to the FBI if the agency wished to become a customer. “It’s like with your friends,” he said, “you’re always going to find one thing you don’t like about them. But you’re not going to hate a person because of one disagreement.”

And he said he understands the trade-offs.

““For a small startup trying to iterate quickly, it definitely slows things down,” Gadea said. “But in the long run, it’s a competitive advantage and it reduces risk on our company. I can sleep better at night.”

Staff writer Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report




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