TBR News November 5, 2018

Nov 05 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. November 5, 2018:” Wishful thinking aside, the mid-term elections tomorrow will be interesting in the extreme. Cheating and vote-stealing aside, nothing may happen out of the ordinary and the current political system may well endure and prosper. On the other hand, an aroused and generally silent public might overturn the system and create havoc with the national leadership. Public opinion polls are not always to be trusted and neither are media projections, Many voters say one thing and vote another way so the results can go either way; for Trump or against him. A single issue is seldom a determinant one but many smaller ones sink down into the consciousness and suddenly erupt at unexpected moments. I think it is reasonable to quote a Chinese proverb: Spare me from living in interesting times.

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 71
  • “They Will Not Forgive Us
  • S. Elections Are Neither Free Nor Fair. States Need to Open Their Doors to More Observers
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Betrayed by “INURL”
  • Termination with extreme prejudice


Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 71

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • May 5, 2018

“We need to get rid of catch-and-release; we need strong, strong tools. We don’t want the lottery system; we want a merit system. Can you imagine a lottery system? Can you imagine it? We take people based out of a lottery. A lottery. Do you think the country is putting their finest in the lottery? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. All right? Think about that. ”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: Again, foreign countries do not “put” people in the U.S. visa lottery, and, therefore, do not dump in their problem citizens in order to get rid of them, as Trump has repeatedly claimed. Individuals enter the lottery of their own free will, because they want to immigrate to the U.S.

Trump has repeated this claim 21 times

“You got to see that recently when you saw what we did in Syria, where they said, ‘Oh, we shot down 40 missiles.’ I don’t think so. I called up. I said, ‘How many were shot down?’ ‘None. None.’ Stealth missiles. It’s called, ‘stealth missiles.’ And every single one – we shot at 109 and we had 109 hit their target.”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: Trump’s number was slightly exaggerated. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said 105 missiles were fired and hit their targets, not 109.

“You know, we have — up in Wisconsin, we have Foxconn coming in. That’s a friend of mine. They make many of the Apple iPhones and Apple equipment. And I said to Tim Cook, who is now investing $350 billion — Apple — and they’re bringing much of it in from foreign lands, from overseas. They’re bringing it in because of our new tax plan because it gave them the incentive to bring money…And Apple is spending $350 billion on new plants and a campus. ”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: Apple did not say it would spend $350 billion on new plants and a campus, nor is it making a new investment of $350 billion. It did indeed say in its January press release that it would open a new campus, but it said this would cost a fraction of $350 billion: “Apple expects to invest over $30 billion in capital expenditures in the U.S. over the next five years and create over 20,000 new jobs through hiring at existing campuses and opening a new one.” Most of the rest of the $350 billion in spending it touted in the press release was regular spending on “domestic suppliers and manufacturers”: Apple said this kind of non-investment spending would amount to an estimated $55 billion in 2018, a pace of $275 billion over five years.

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times

“I mean, you take a look at the tax — I call it the tax cut plan. You know, they wanted to call it the tax reform plan. I say, ‘How come since Reagan, nothing has passed having to do with tax cuts?’ How can — and, being a nonpolitician, I say, ‘How is it possible not to be able to pass tax cuts?’ They said, ‘Well, it hasn’t happened since Ronald Reagan anywhere near what we’re doing. But essentially tax cuts, even at a small level.'”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: Trump’s history was inaccurate even if he was only talking about his own party’s tax cuts. In claiming “nothing has passed having to do with tax cuts” since the Reagan presidency, he again ignored the passage of George W. Bush’s major tax cuts.

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“In San Diego, they wanted a wall built; we have the money to build a wall.”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: There is no evidence San Diego wants a border wall. Its city council voted 5-3 in September to express opposition to the wall proposal, and even the Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has stated that he is opposed: “Mayor Faulconer has been clear in his opposition to a border wall across the entirety of the U.S. southern border,” a spokesperson said in September. The board of supervisors of San Diego County has voted to endorse a lawsuit against California “sanctuary” laws protecting unauthorized immigrants, but “this county has taken no action with regard to the wall,” county spokesperson Michael Workman told local news outlet KPBS. KBPS reported that a White House official told its reporter, on condition of anonymity, that Trump “might have been referring to some San Diego area residents” when he spoke of San Diego more broadly.

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“And just to show how ridiculous, we have judges. We have thousands of judges. Do you think other countries have judges? We give them, like, trials. That’s the good news. The bad news is, they never show up for the trial. OK? So they release them, and they have a trial, and it’s supposed to take place in a year. A year. Not the following day. But that’s okay. There’s only one problem: Nobody ever shows up.”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: Other countries, obviously, also have judges that hear immigration cases. And it is not true that “nobody ever shows up” for immigration hearings. While no-shows are a problem, most people do show. A 2017 report released by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that advocates a hard line on illegal immigration, concluded that 37 per cent of people who were free pending trial did not show up for hearings over the past two decades. The author of the report, a former immigration judge, said the number was 39 per cent in 2016. In other words, even according to vehement opponents of illegal immigration, most unauthorized immigrants are indeed coming to court.

Trump has repeated this claim 10 times

“We have massive trade deficits with Mexico. Who would think? A hundred billion dollar trade deficit with Mexico. Who would even think that?”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: The U.S. does not have a $100 billion trade deficit with Mexico. Trump was off by at least $31 billion, or at least $29 billion if you give him the benefit of the doubt. The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico was $71 billion in 2017 when counting goods alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Including trade in services, the net deficit was $69 billion, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis says. (The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses a different method of calculating deficits and surpluses than the Census Bureau.)

Trump has repeated this claim 34 times

“You look at our trade deficits with every country virtually. I mean, I don’t even have to ask. I don’t have to go around, ‘How are we doing with this country or that country?’ For the most part, almost every time, we’re doing badly. We have deficits with everybody.”

Source: Remarks at tax reform event in Cleveland, Ohio

in fact: The U.S. does not have a trade deficit with “everybody” or “every country virtually.” While the U.S. has a substantial overall trade deficit — $566 billion in 2017 — it has surpluses with more than half of its trading partners, according to data from the U.S. government’s own International Trade Commission: in 2017, the U.S. had surpluses with Hong Kong, Brazil, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, Chile, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Kuwait and dozens more countries and territories. And that’s only counting trade in merchandise; when you count trade in services too, the U.S. also has a surplus with Canada.

Trump has repeated this claim 21 times

  • May 7, 2018

“Lisa Page, who may hold the record for the most Emails in the shortest period of time (to her Lover, Peter S), and attorney Baker, are out at the FBI as part of the Probers getting caught?”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Page was found to have sent a large number of texts, not emails, to a colleague, Peter Strzok, with whom she was having an affair. Both Page and James A. Baker, formerly the FBI’s top lawyer, left the bureau voluntarily; Trump appeared to wrongly suggest they were forced out after being “caught” in wrongdoing.

  • May 8, 2018

“A constructive deal could easily have been struck at the time, but it wasn’t. At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Source: Speech on the Iran nuclear deal

in fact: We give Trump broad leeway to offer opinions on the Iran nuclear deal, but it is simply nonsensical to claim that the deal was based on a belief that Iran sought only a peaceful nuclear energy program. The very reason the U.S. and its allies sought a deal to restrict and monitor the Iranian program was a belief that Iran’s intentions were not peaceful. (In addition: Trump used vague wording when discussing the documents published by Israel, but they did not catch Iran violating the deal, as Trump may have been trying to suggest; the documents contained information about Iran’s activities up to 2003, 12 years before the deal was made.)

  • May 9, 2018

“And, by the way, I know you don’t care about this, but that also includes raises for our military. First time in 10 years.”

Source: Speech at celebration of military mothers and spouses

in fact: Military Times reported: “In fact, troops have seen a pay raise of at least 1 percent every year for more than 30 years. The 2018 military pay raise — which was 2.4 percent — was the largest for the armed forces in eight years.”

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“That was a one-sided deal that we spent $150 billion and $1.8 billion in cash on getting done. And it was not good, and it was not appropriate.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The “$150 billion” figure has no basis. Experts said Iran had about $100 billion in worldwide assets at the time; after the nuclear deal unfroze Iranian assets, Iran was able to access a percentage of that $100 billion, but not all of it. PolitiFact reported: “The actual amount available to Iran is about $60 billion, estimates Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pinned it at $56 billion, while Iranian officials say $35 billion, according to Richard Nephew, an expert on economic sanctions at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.”

Trump has repeated this claim 19 times

“You look at the deal that we had with Iran, it was a one-sided deal that ultimately was going to lead to nuclear proliferation all over the Middle East. And they were talking about it; other countries were talking about it. It was going to lead to that. They are all very happy at what I did.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: While some countries were happy that Trump announced the U.S. would abandon the nuclear deal with Iran, notably Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it is far from true that “all” countries were pleased. Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, among many others, opposed his decision.

“San Diego has asked us to go forward with their section of the wall in California. And rather than not doing that and letting them lobby for us with Governor Brown, we decided to do it. And we’ll have a little bit less of a lobby, but we’ll have a lot of people happy in San Diego.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: San Diego has not asked Trump to go forward with a border wall. Its city council voted 5-3 in September to express opposition, and even the Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has stated that he is opposed: “Mayor Faulconer has been clear in his opposition to a border wall across the entirety of the U.S. southern border,” a spokesperson said in September. The board of supervisors of San Diego County has voted to endorse a lawsuit against California “sanctuary” laws protecting unauthorized immigrants, but “this county has taken no action with regard to the wall,” county spokesperson Michael Workman told local news outlet KPBS. KBPS reported that a White House official told its reporter, on condition of anonymity, that Trump “might have been referring to some San Diego area residents.”

Trump has repeated this claim 11 times

“And we have to do something about it — not only the wall, which we’re building sections of wall right now.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Trump has given various definitions of “the wall,” so we often cut him some slack in checking his claims about it, but it is false that the U.S. government has started building his proposed new barrier. When making this claim, he has usually appeared to be referring to a project in which a 2.25-mile stretch of existing wall in California is being replaced by a taller wall. That project was proposed in 2009, and the Los Angeles Times reported that Border Patrol spokesperson Jonathan Pacheco told reporters in March: “First and foremost, this isn’t Trump’s wall. This isn’t the infrastructure that Trump is trying to bring in. … This new wall replacement has absolutely nothing to do with the prototypes that were shown over in the San Diego area.”

Trump has repeated this claim 20 times


“They Will Not Forgive Us”

Donald Trump Welcomes in the Age of “Usable” Nuclear Weapons

by James Carroll


It was only an announcement, but think of it as the beginning of a journey into hell. Last week, President Donald Trump made public his decision to abrogate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), a 1987 agreement with the Soviet Union. National Security Advisor John Bolton, a Cold Warrior in a post-Cold War world, promptly flaunted that announcement on a trip to Vladimir Putin’s Moscow. To grasp the import of that decision, however, quite another kind of voyage is necessary, a trip down memory lane.

That 1987 pact between Moscow and Washington was no small thing in a world that, during the Cuban Missile Crisis only 25 years earlier, had reached the edge of nuclear Armageddon. The INF Treaty led to the elimination of thousands of nuclear weapons, but its significance went far beyond that. As a start, it closed the books on the nightmare of a Europe caught between the world-ending strategies of the two superpowers, since most of those “intermediate-range” missiles were targeting that very continent. No wonder, last week, a European Union spokesperson, responding to Trump, fervently defended the treaty as a permanent “pillar” of international order.

To take that trip back three decades in time and remember how the INF came about should be an instant reminder of just how President Trump is playing havoc with something essential to human survival.

In October 1986 in Reykjavik, Iceland, the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, briefly came close to fully freeing the planet from the horrifying prospect of nuclear annihilation. In his second inaugural address, a year and a half earlier, President Reagan had wishfully called for “the total elimination” of nuclear weapons. At that Reykjavik summit, Gorbachev, a pathbreaking Soviet leader, promptly took the president up on that dream, proposing — to the dismay of the aides of both leaders — a total nuclear disarmament pact that would take effect in the year 2000.

Reagan promptly agreed in principle. “Suits me fine,” he said. “That’s always been my goal.” But it didn’t happen. Reagan had another dream, too — of a space-based missile defense system against just such weaponry, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also dubbed “Star Wars.” He refused to yield on the subject when Gorbachev rejected SDI as the superpower arms race transferred into space. “This meeting is over,” Reagan then said.

Of the failure of Reykjavik, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze would then comment: “When future generations read the transcripts of this meeting, they will not forgive us.” At that point, the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and the USSR had hit a combined 60,000 weapons and were still growing. (Five new American nuclear weapons were being added each day.) A month after Reykjavik, in fact, the U.S. deployed a new B-52-based cruise missile system in violation of the 1979 SALT II Treaty. Hawks in Moscow were pressing for similar escalations. Elites on both sides — weapons manufacturers, intelligence and political establishments, think tanks, military bureaucracies, and pundits — were appalled at what the two leaders had almost agreed to. The national security priesthood, East and West, wanted to maintain what was termed “the stability of the strategic stalemate,” even if such stability, based on ever-expanding arsenals, could not have been less stable.

But a widespread popular longing for relief from four decades of nuclear dread had been growing on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In a surge of anti-nuclear activism, millions of ordinary citizens took to the streets of cities in the U.S. and Europe to protest the superpower nuclear establishments. Even behind the Iron Curtain, voices for peace could be heard. “Listen,” Gorbachev pleaded after Reykjavik, “to the demands of the American people, the Soviet people, the peoples of all countries.”

A Watershed Treaty

As it happened, the Soviet leader refused to settle for Reagan’s no. Four months after the Iceland summit, he proposed an agreement “without delay” to remove from Europe all intermediate missiles — those with a range well under that of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). When Pentagon officials tried to swat Gorbachev’s proposal aside by claiming that there could be no such agreement without on-site inspections, he said fine, inspect away! That was an unprecedented concession from the Soviet Union.

President Reagan was surrounded by men like then-Assistant Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz (later to become infamous for his role in promoting a post-9/11 invasion of Iraq), who assumed Gorbachev was a typical Soviet “master of deceit.” But for all his hawkishness, the president had other instincts as well. Events would show that, on the subject of nukes (SDI notwithstanding), Reagan had indeed recognized the threat to the human future posed by the open-ended accumulation of ever more of those weapons and had become a kind of nuclear abolitionist. Even if ending that threat was inconceivable to him, his desire to mitigate it would prove genuine.

At the time, however, Reagan had other problems to deal with. Just as Gorbachev put forward his surprising initiative, the American president found himself engulfed in the Iran-Contra scandal — a criminal conspiracy to trade arms for hostages with Iran, while illegally aiding right-wing paramilitaries in Central America. It threatened to become his Watergate. It would, in the end, lead to the indictments of 14 members of his administration. Beleaguered, he desperately wanted to change the subject. A statesman-like rescue of faltering arms-control negotiations might prove just the helping hand he was looking for. So the day before he went on television to abjectly offer repentance for Iran-Contra, he announced that he would accept Gorbachev’s INF proposal. His hawkish inner circle was thoroughly disgusted by the gesture. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger promptly resigned in protest. (He would later be indicted for Iran-Contra.)

On December 8, 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev would indeed meet in Washington and sign the INF Treaty, eliminating more than 2,000 ground-based warheads and giving Europe the reprieve its people had wanted. This would be the first actual reduction in nuclear weapons to occur since two atomic bombs were built at Los Alamos in 1945. The INF Treaty proved historic for turning back the tide of escalation. It showed that the arms race could be not just frozen but reversed, that negotiations could lead the two superpowers out of what seemed like the ultimate impasse — a model that should be urgently applicable today.

In reality, the mutually reinforcing hair-trigger nuclear posture of the United States and the Soviet Union was not much altered by the treaty, since only land-based, not air- and submarine-launched missiles, were affected by it and longer range ICBMs were off the table. (Still, Europe could breathe a bit easier, even if, in operational terms, nuclear danger had not been much reduced.) Yet that treaty would prove a turning point, opening the way to a better future. It would be essential to the political transformation that quickly followed, the wholly unpredicted and surprisingly non-violent end to the Cold War that arrived not quite two years later. The treaty showed that the arms race itself could be ended — and eventually, it nearly would be. That is the lesson that somehow needs to be preserved in the Trump era.

A Man for All Apocalypses

In reality, the Trump administration’s abandonment of the INF Treaty has little to do with the actual deployment of intermediate-range missiles, whether those that the Pentagon may now seek to emplace in Europe or those apparently already being put in place in Russia. In truth, such nuclear firepower will not add much to what submarine- and air-launched cruise missiles can already do. As for Vladimir Putin’s bellicosity, removing the restraints on arms control will only magnify the Russian leader’s threatening behavior. However, it should be clear by now that Donald Trump’s urge to trash the treaty comes from his own bellicosity, not from Russian (or, for that matter, Chinese) aggressiveness. Trump seems to deplore the pact precisely because of what it meant to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, as well as to the millions who cheered them on long ago: its repudiation of an apocalyptic future. (As his position on climate change indicates, the president is visibly a man for all apocalypses.)

Trump has launched a second nuclear age by rejecting the treaty that was meant to initiate the closing of the first one. The arms race was then slowed, but, alas, the competitors stumbled on through the end of the Cold War. Shutting that arms-contest down completely remained an unfinished task, in part because the dynamic of weapons reduction proved so reversible even before Donald Trump made it into the Oval Office. George W. Bush, for instance, struck a blow against arms control with his 2002 abrogation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which rekindled Reagan’s Star Wars fantasy. The way Washington subsequently promoted missile defense systems in Europe, especially in Poland, where a nearly $5 billion missile contract was agreed to this year, empowered the most hawkish wing of the Kremlin, guaranteeing just the sort of Russian build-up that has indeed occurred. If present Russian intermediate-range missile deployments are in violation of the INF Treaty, they did not happen in a vacuum.

Barack Obama, of course, won the Nobel Peace Prize in the early moments of his presidency for his vision of a nuclear-weapons-free world, yet not even he could curb the malevolent influence of nuclear planning in the Pentagon and elsewhere in Washington. To get approval of the 2010 New START Treaty, which was to further reduce the total number of strategic warheads and launchers on both sides, from the Republican Senate, the Peace Laureate president had to agree to an $80 billion renewal of America’s existing nuclear arsenal just when it was ripe for a fuller dismantling. That devil’s bargain with Washington’s diehard nuclear hawks further empowered Russia’s similarly hawkish militarists.

All of this reflects a pattern established relatively early in the Cold War years. U.S. arms escalations in that era — from the long-range bomber and the hydrogen bomb to the nuclear-armed submarine and the cruise missile to the “high frontier” of space — inevitably prompted the Kremlin to follow in lockstep (and these days, you would need to add the Chinese into the equation as well). Americans should recall that, since August 6, 1945, the ratcheting up of nuclear weapons competition has always begun in Washington. And so it has again.

By the time the Obama administration left office, the Defense Department was already planning to “modernize” the U.S. nuclear arsenal in a massively expensive way. Last February, with the release of the Pentagon’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration committed to that arsenal’s full bore reinvention, big time, to the tune of at least $1.2 trillion and possibly $1.6 trillion over the next three decades. ICBM silos only recently slated for closing will be rebuilt. There will be new generations of nuclear-armed bombers and submarines, as well as nuclear cruise missiles. There will be wholly new nuclear weapons expressly designed to be “usable.” And in that context, American nuclear strategy is also being recast. For the first time, the United States is now explicitly threatening to launch those “usable” weapons in response to non-nuclear assaults.

The surviving lynchpin of arms control is that New START Treaty that mattered so to Obama in 2010. It capped deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550 and implied that there would be further reductions to come. It must, however, be renewed in 2021. Trump is already on record calling it a bad deal, but he may not have to wait until possible reelection in 2020 to do it in. His INF Treaty abrogation might do the trick first. Limits on long-range strategic missiles may not survive the pressures that are sure to follow an arms race involving the intermediate variety.

No less worrisome, the Trump administration’s fervent support for the Pentagon’s modernization, and so reinvention, of the American nuclear arsenal amounts to a blatant violation of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which required nuclear powers to work toward “the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date.” The president’s explicit desire to maintain an ever more lethal nuclear arsenal into the indefinite future violates that requirement and will certainly undermine that treaty, too.

It’s no exaggeration to say that those arms control treaties, taken together, probably saved the world from a nuclear Armageddon. President Trump’s cavalier and supremely ignorant readiness to walk away from America’s most solemn international commitments should offer us all a grim reminder of just how precious that nuclear weapons treaty regime has been. The most decisive covenant of all was the 1987 INF Treaty, which demonstrated that nuclear reductions are possible, and that the movement toward nuclear abolition is, too. The INF Treaty was the pin that has held the mechanism of hope together all these years. Now, our nihilistic president has pulled the pin, apparently mistaking that structure of human survival for a grenade, sure to blow.


U.S. Elections Are Neither Free Nor Fair. States Need to Open Their Doors to More Observers.

November 5, 2018

by Mehdi Hasan

The Intercept

Voter suppression. Disenfranchisement. Gerrymandering. Can Tuesday’s midterms in the United States really be considered free and fair elections?

Perhaps we should consult with the experts. Few Americans have heard of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); even fewer are aware that OSCE observers have been keeping tabs on U.S. elections since 2002, at the invitation of the U.S. State Department.

On October 26, the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Washington D.C. issued an interim report on the 2018 midterms. It didn’t make for pleasant reading. “The right to vote is subject to many limitations,” warned the report, “with racial minorities disproportionately impacted.”

This isn’t the first time the OSCE has sounded the alarm. In the wake of the 2016 presidential race, OSCE observers praised the U.S. for holding a “highly competitive” election while also criticizing a campaign “characterized by harsh personal attacks, as well as intolerant rhetoric” and changes to election rules that “were often motivated by partisan interests, adding undue obstacles for voters.”

“Suffrage rights,” the 2016 observers concluded, were “not guaranteed for all citizens, leaving sections of the population without the right to vote.”

Is that what a free and fair election is supposed to look like? It should be a source of shame that the United States, once held up as a model to emerging democracies around the globe, now needs outside observers to remind it of its most basic democratic obligations. The OSCE mission to the U.S. began in 2002, in response to the “serious shortcomings” in the 2000 presidential election, which saw tens of thousands of black voters in Florida purged from electoral rolls and prevented from voting.

But have these international observers succeeded in nudging the U.S. in a more democratic direction? Not quite. The OSCE’s final report on the 2016 presidential election issued a series of recommendations to U.S. officials, including:

* “To meet requirements regarding the equality of the vote, states should consider the establishment of independent redistricting commissions to draw district boundaries free from political interference.”

* “Election officials at the state and county level should be released from their duties if they are candidates in elections.”

* “Restrictions on voting rights for persons with criminal convictions should be reviewed to ensure that all limitations are proportionate.”

* “Authorities should review existing measures to further reduce the number of unregistered voters, including addressing undue obstacles and burdensome procedures faced by marginalized sections of the population.

* “States should refrain from introducing voter identification requirements that have or could have a discriminatory impact on voters.”

Two years later, none of these recommendations have been acted on by U.S officials, either at the federal or state levels. On the contrary, at least nine states have brazenly enacted further restrictions on voting since the 2016 election which have had a clear “discriminatory impact” on voters.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Since 2000, the story of the Republican Party’s approach to elections, in fact, is one of racist voter suppression; of targeting minority voters with “almost surgical precision,” to borrow a line from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And Republicans are equal opportunity vote suppressors. They have disenfranchised and purged people of color from a wide range of communities, across a wide range of states. “No child left behind” was the name given to Republican education reforms in the era of George W. Bush. “No minority left behind” could be the tagline of Republican voter suppression efforts in the era of Donald Trump.

Native Americans? Check. In North Dakota, where Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won her Senate race in 2012 by a razor-thin margin of <3,000 votes, six in ten Native Americans — who tend to lean Democratic — live on reservations and lack street addresses. In 2013, the state’s Republicans passed a law requiring voters to present identification that displays a street address, which was upheld by the Republican-led Supreme Court in October.

African-Americans? Check. In Georgia, where Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are locked in a tight race for the governor’s mansion, an Associated Press investigation in October found 53,000 voter registrations were on hold, of which “nearly 70 percent” were black.

Latino Americans? Check. In Dodge City, Kansas, which is 60 percent Latino, Republican officials moved the town’s sole polling station “to a tough-to-access location outside the city limits.” Voters, literally, have to “get out of Dodge” in order to cast their ballots on Tuesday.

Incidentally, to make matters worse, in both Georgia and Kansas, the Republican secretaries of state, in charge of the election process, are also running as the Republican candidates for governor.  Thus their Democratic opponents, in the words of Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith, are “competing against a rival who is also the referee.” So much for elected officials being “released from their duties if they are candidates in elections,” as per the OSCE’s 2016 recommendation.

The United States is in dire need of election observers. Such observers, according to Duke University’s Judith Kelley, “can – under some conditions – lead to improvements in conduct and quality of elections.”

Domestic observers, however, are few and far between — especially since a 2013 Supreme Court ruling gutted the Voting Rights Act and “severely curtailed” the Justice Department’s power to deploy federal election monitors to states with a history of racial discrimination. As a result, the 2016 presidential election saw one of the smallest deployments of domestic observers since 1964.

Meanwhile, international observers — in the form of the OSCE, which has spent the past 20 years observing more than 300 elections in 56 countries — are subject to a host of constraints on U.S. soil.

For a start, as it’s the midterms, the OSCE mission is miniscule. It features a “13-member core team” based in Washington, D.C. and only “36 long-term observers deployed throughout the country.”

Second, contrary to the hysterical claims from some conservatives, they are OSCE observers, not United Nations monitors. As the Atlantic’s Uri Friedman has observed, “the difference is that observers don’t intervene in the political process,” so OSCE observers have to report voter complaints “to U.S. authorities rather than taking action themselves.”

Third, as the OSCEs interim report revealed in October, “several state political and electoral authorities have declined to meet with… observers,” while “explicit restrictions on observation of voting by international observers are in place in 18 states.” And guess what? The majority of those 18 states have introduced “significant voter restrictions” since 2010, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Despite OSCE-participating states, including the United States, agreeing in 1990 to allow each other to observe elections, on the basis that such observers “can enhance the electoral process,” individual U.S. states can and do have the power to block international observers from… observing. In 2012, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott even threatened OSCE observers with criminal prosecution for violating state law.

You might think a healthy and vibrant democracy wouldn’t have any qualms about conducting its elections out in the open for all to see. That it wouldn’t have anything to hide or cover up. That it would welcome international observers as a way of setting an example to the rest of the world.

The problem is that the U.S., plagued by rampant voter suppression and partisan election officials, is far from a healthy or vibrant democracy. These days, as the midterms once again remind us, it’s more of a banana republic.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 5, 2018

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

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


Conversation No. 54

Date: Thursday, December 19, 1996

Commenced: 12:12 PM CST

Concluded: 12:38 PM CST


GD: Mrs. Crowley? This is Gregory. Is Robert able to come to the phone?

EC: Yes, dear, he’s much better now. I’ll get him for you. He’s trying to take it easy.

GD: If it’s any problem…

EC: No, no, I’m sure he’ll want to talk to you. Just a moment.

RTC: Gregory? Good to hear from you. I’m really sorry I couldn’t make it to the lunch. Pneumonia got me at the last minute. Did everything go OK? I haven’t heard a word from Kimmel and Bill’s wife is having some kind of medical problems of her own.

GD: It went off fine. A little bizarre if you ask me. By the way, I got the books and I have been going through them. I can certainly use some of your comments later on. Such a compilation of feces.

RTC: Welcome to Washington. Had you ever met Kimmel? I know you never met Bill before.

GD: No, I never had. He’s physically impressive and I’m sure he knows it. Bill looked like I expected him to. I was sitting in the lobby waiting for three people I had never seen and finally in came those two. They walked right by me and were standing in the center of the hallway, you know, the one with the library door on the right?

RTC: Right.

GD: I didn’t see a third person, a tall man with a cane, so I walked up to them and introduced myself. That’s when I learned you had gone to hospital. We stood there making small talk and then went in to lunch. I had crab cakes, which I am very fond of, and they proceeded to impress everyone the table with their knowledge. We had just gotten past Pearl Harbor Day and that was the main theme. Kimmel on my left and Corson on my right, talking back and forth like two Irish maids over the back fence. Corson telling Kimmel about some secret person he met who knew all about the Roosevelt conversations with Churchill and Kimmel all rapt attention. I have to say I didn’t believe a word of it, but Kimmel certainly did. These people do love to go on.

RTC: Did they ask you anything?

GD: Not that I recall. I think they talked more to the waiter than they did to me.

RTC: That’s unfortunate. Again, I’m sorry I missed you. I’m sure we can get together sometime in the future. Was the food good?

GD: Certainly it was. Of course, if you had come, it might have been a little awkward if we wanted to talk. Then, they would both have shut up and turned on their tape recorders. Kimmel did ask me if I spoke very much with you, how often and what did we talk about?

RTC: What did you say? Bill will be asking me.

GD: Trust is wonderful, Robert. I just said that we spoke on and off and my, how good the crab cakes were and how was the campaign going to get the Admiral back his stars? Kimmel went off on that subject but I can’t remember much of it. They have has much chance of rehabilitating Grandpa as they do of finding the Lost Dutchman Mine, but I was not asked for any kind of opinion. I have a feeling that they were greatly honoring me with their presences and I could just sit there, basking in the warm glow from two, count them Robert, two suns. And eating crab cakes while getting a psychic tan.

RTC: No mention of Kennedy?

GD: Now that you mention it, yes there was. Corson asked me if we ever talked about that subject and I managed to look surprised. I said that it had never come up and then Corson said, with a really superior smirk, that when he died, the real truth would come out. It seems he had it in his deposit box. Before I could fall on the floor in awe, he smiled, held up his hand and told me that it was just too sensitive to talk about. He likes people to know that he is conversant with very significant information, given in confidence to him by very important, but unnamed people. I acted awed and they went back to impressing each other. I don’t remember the dessert. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, Robert.

RTC: I understand from one of my friends that Langley is getting quite annoyed with your book. Tell me, have…or rather has, anyone contacted you about this? About any proof about this you might have?

GD: Oh, God yes, Robert. Some weasel is always calling me on my unlisted number. It’s the same silly crap every time. ‘Oh Mr. Douglas, my name is Roger Tinkle and I was really thrilled by your book on Heinrich Muller. A friend of mine is working on another book on him too. He is so excited. Do you think we might come and visit with you? Timmy can bring some documents he has that might be of use to you…by the way, are you going to write another book? When can we come?’

RTC: Pitiful. The staff there has gotten much worse than when I was working. And what do you do?

GD: I would like to invite them over, receive a box of cheap candy as a token of their esteem, whack them over the heads with a croquet mallet, drag them into the garden and shove them into a wood chipper, one at a time, of course, and mulch the garden. Of course, I can’t do any of this, but one can dream. What do I do with these idiot approaches? Tell them to bend over and I’ll drive them home? That would be very rude. No, I act thrilled and I always say that I’m expecting a Russian journalist any day and he, too, wants to see the documents so perhaps we can wait until after he and his photographer leave.

RTC: (Laughter) My, my, that ought to pop the pucker string.

GD: (Laughter) No doubt it does. But think about that for a moment, Robert. The pucker string pops in their office, not my living room. Then it becomes their janitor’s problem, not mine. Listen, while you were incapacitated, I came across a book by someone named Peter Dale Scott. Is he one of yours?

RTC: Why do you ask?

GD: Well, he drags in every silly story I have ever heard. He takes a placid, clear pond and dumps two garbage cans of trash into it. You can’t see the bottom of the pond anymore and the flies are buzzing all over the place. By the garbage I mean the silly stories about men with umbrellas, the grassy knoll, Ruby’s dog, mysterious men in black underwear meeting in a pub in Philly, sabot shells and all the rest of the idiot crap. And by the flies, I mean the airheads who call themselves ‘researchers’ who swarm around like blowflies on pig shit with about as many brains. But what is really funny about this book…it’s on the table here…’Deep Politics and the Death of JFK’ published…oh here we go, the University of California. My, my, and I always thought they put out worthwhile books. But what is really funny is that the author solemnly talks about Occam’s Razor. He said, Occam did,‘entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem,’ which translates into: “Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Are you into Latin, Robert?

RTC: Not really but you seem to be.

GD: I’m fluent in ten languages, Robert. My sister knows twelve, but she can’t say ‘no’ in any of them. The original good time that’s been had by everybody. Anyway, Occam is dead on. If you take a complex subject like the Kennedy killing, strip away all the silly shit, you will find the answers you need. I think this Scott fellow stuck that in to impress people. Of course he went right on to violate the concept, so I doubt if he had any idea what he was talking about. So few of them really do. I had to stop reading about every third page because I was laughing so loud. He, in essence, covers himself with his own confusion, as with a mantle.

RTC: Is that Occam?

GD: No, Psalm 109, verse 29. There are so many nice things in the Bible. Nice to quote, but as history, as worthless as most of the Kennedy books. Apropos of nothing, speaking of worthlessness, do read some of James Montgomery Burns’ books sometime. He thinks the sun radiated out of Roosevelt’s raddled anus. Burns must have taught Posner his tricks. And if you want to read a really important book, read ‘The True Believer’ by Hoffer. A wonderful book, Robert. I met the man at a book signing at Paul Elder’s in the City once and paid him several visits later. It’s about fanatics and I highly recommend it. Or, if you want to go to sleep, read Hermann Hesse. He could put a speed freak to sleep.

RTC: Well, the body of literature on Kennedy is, as you said, full of yesterday’s dinner, but we like it that way and, in point of fact, we have paid for some of it. We got Posner to whore for us and a number more, but this Scott is not a name I recognize.

GD: But he, his wife and his cousin do. I am certain of that. You know, Robert, I like the outdoors because there are so few people around. I love the forest and every time I read these essays in mendacity, sired by broke-backed academics, I think of all the beautiful trees that were sacrificed for such a worthless cause. That’s a terrible cross for the CIA to bear, along with, naturally, all the killings and disruptions they fathered. No offence meant to you, of course.

RTC: Sometimes you are not kind, Gregory.

GD: Sometimes? Always. Emily said you were resting. Am I keeping you up?

RTC: Not at all. I’m just a little worn out, that’s all. You did get the books? Good. I think you’ll find some interesting notes scattered around in it. And speaking of idiots calling you, I’m going to send you a computer printout with the names of thousands of people like the ones you are talking about. Thousands. Alphabetically listed. I used my own lists and the AFIO lists to put it together. And if someone rings you up and pulls that silly crap on you, you can look them up in the list immediately.

GD: I appreciate that, Robert. Can I publish that?

RTC: I would rather you did not, Gregory. It might stunt a career or two, especially in the media.

GD: They’re stunted to begin with. My late Grandfather, of blessed memory, once said that ‘once a newspaperman always a whore.’

RTC: That’s hardly a constructive thing to say to an impressionable child, do you think?

GD: I told my son that once and now he’s working for a newspaper. They always defy the father, don’t they?

RTC: Not always.

GD: Well, listen, Robert, I am sorry I missed you but I am happy I can talk with you still.

RTC: Oh yes. I still have my case with all the Kennedy material in it. I will have it sent to you when I can find the right person to do it for me.

GD: Thank you very much, Robert, and in advance. If it’s as interesting as the annotated Warren Report, I can write a best-seller.

(Concluded at 12:38 PM CST)


Betrayed by “INURL”

  • How did Iran find CIA spies? They Googled it
  • Yahoo News report points to exposure of CIA communications causing deaths of dozens.

November 2, 2018

by Sean Gallagher

ars technica

A covert “transitional” channel used for communicating with sources that Central Intelligence Agency handlers couldn’t reach directly was exposed and infiltrated by Iranian intelligence in 2009. The breakdown in operational security—which apparently relied heavily on security through obscurity—was the result of Iranian intelligence officials simply using Google to locate the websites used as the communications channel after a double-agent exposed the method used by the CIA, according to a report from Yahoo News’ Zach Dorfman and Jenna McLaughlin.

Once a double agent presented information about a website the agent had been directed to in order to communicate with the CIA, Iranian intelligence apparently used aspects of the URL to search for other, similar websites. Iranian officials were reportedly able to rapidly identify a number of other such sites, which were set up as temporary communications systems for new, unvetted sources by the CIA. As a result, Iran’s intelligence was able to quickly identify the Iranians communicating through those sites. The breach led to the roundup in 2011 of 30 people identified by Iran as CIA spies.

Further digging into these compromised sites may have exposed the identity of CIA personnel as well. During the same timeframe, Iranian intelligence officials were also directly approaching US CIA officers, trying to recruit them to be double agents.

The exposure didn’t end there. Yahoo reported that a similar system used to manage Chinese sources was also compromised, leading to the arrest and execution of another approximately 30 people working on behalf of the US between 2011 and 2012.

Some of those deaths have been attributed to information provided to China by former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee. Former intelligence and national security officials told Yahoo News that the CIA’s recruited agents in China were rounded up so quickly because the Chinese government had gained access to the temporary system used by the CIA to communicate with unvetted new sources—possibly because Iranian intelligence officials shared information about the details of the CIA’s communications that they had discovered.

The former intelligence officials that spoke with Yahoo believe that the compromise of CIA assets may have been worldwide. And when coupled with the breach of the Office of Personnel Management discovered in 2015 and its potential counterintelligence value, the damage done was likely compounded, as the CIA reportedly was forced to withdraw field agents around the world that might have been exposed.

The nature of the “transitional” communications system isn’t clear beyond it having a Web front end that was identifiable by using advanced Google search terms. But given that Iran and China both tightly control Internet traffic, simply identifying the sites could have allowed counter-intelligence teams to identify who was visiting sites like them, allowing those countries to potentially redirect them to bogus versions of the sites in order to further extract information about those individuals.


Termination with extreme prejudice

The disposal of William Colby

November 5, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Former CIA director William Colby died from drowning and hypothermia after apparently collapsing from a heart attack or stroke and falling out of his canoe, the state’s medical examiner said Friday.

Colby’s body was found Monday after an eight-day search that included helicopters, divers, dogs and sonar equipment. Colby, who disappeared April 27 while canoeing near his waterfront home in southern Maryland, was found lying facedown in a marshy riverbank.

An autopsy found that Colby, 76, had suffered from hardening of the arteries, Chief Medical Examiner John Smialek said in a statement.

The death was ruled accidental, rather than from natural causes, because even though there was evidence Colby was ill before falling out of the canoe, in the final analysis it was the drowning and hypothermia that killed him, said Jeannette A. Duerr, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature.

No blood clots were found, although they could have dissolved during the week-long search for his body, the medical examiner said.

The autopsy also showed that Colby had died a short time after eating, and that he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.07 percent due to having wine with dinner. No drugs were found in his system, the medical examiner said.

On April 27, 1996, Colby died in a boating accident near his home in Rock Point, Maryland.

Colby’s body was eventually found, underwater, on May 6, 1996. The life jacket his friends said he usually wore was missing. The body was found 20 yards from the canoe, after the area had been thoroughly searched multiple times. The subsequent inquest found that he died from drowning and hypothermia after collapsing from a heart attack or stroke and falling out of his canoe

Colby’s tenure as DCI, which lasted two and a half tumultuous years, was overshadowed by the Church and Pike congressional investigations into alleged U.S. intelligence malfeasance over the preceding twenty-five years. Colby cooperated, not out of a desire for major reforms, but in the belief that the actual scope of such misdeeds–encapsulated in the so-called “Family Jewels”–was not great enough to cause lasting damage to the CIA’s reputation. Colby believed that the CIA had a moral and practical obligation to cooperate with the Congress.

In 1959, Colby became the CIA’s Deputy Chief and then Chief of Station in Saigon, Vietnam, where he served until 1962. In 1962 he returned to Washington to become the Deputy and then Chief of CIA’s Far East Division. During these years he was deeply involved in Washington’s policies in East Asia, particularly with respect to Vietnam as well as Indonesia. In 1968, President Johnson sent Colby back to Vietnam as Deputy to Robert Komer, who had been charged with streamlining the civilian side of the American efforts against the Communists. Shortly after arriving Colby succeeded Komer as head of the U.S./South Vietnamese rural pacification effort. This was an attempt to quell the Communist insurgency in South Vietnam. Part of the effort was the controversial Phoenix Program, an initiative designed to identify and attack the “Viet Cong Infrastructure”. There is considerable debate about the merits of the program, which has been alleged to have involved assassination and torture. However it does appear to have had some effect in reducing the level of insurgent strength–as opposed to North Vietnamese Army strength–in South Vietnam. Some authors, including Colby himself in his book “Lost Victory, have argued that the tripartite leadership of U.S. Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, U.S. COMUSMACV General Creighton Abrams, and Colby performed ably and, in effect, accomplished their objective of securing South Vietnam. According to this argument, the South Vietnamese successfully outlasted the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army’s big offensive of 1972, but were overwhelmed after the withdrawal of American support after 1973.

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