TBR News September 12, 2017

Sep 12 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 12, 2017:”Whenever an incident that is well-reported occurs, trust me, there will be legions of those who want you to know what they think about it.

There are some who say that the Antarctic and Greenland icecaps are really not melting at all.

And others claim that sea levels are really not rising but the land everywhere along all the coasts of the world is sinking.

Others claim that hurricanes, tornados, droughts and fires are actually the work of some unknown power angry because Lesbians supported Hillary Clinton or that cigarette smokers exist in New York.

And whatever the event, trust that Infowars will claim it is a plot of some kind that only they are aware of and have to let the world know the Real Truth.

And others claim that the 9/11 attacks were all scripted in Hollywood, just like the earlier  moon landings or that a huge economic collapse is coming any day now or that silver will reach $30,000 an ounce.

I  once, in jest, mentioned the government’s development of robot geese, designed to spy on fat women taking nude sunbaths on their garage roofs and within a week, the Informative Blogs were all discussing robot geese (although a few changed these to crows or pigeons) to their drooling believers.

These were not spying on fat women on rooftops but watching citizens sweeping their driveways of dead leaves or pets scratching for fleas.

And now we learn that the dread ‘Planet X’ is coming to visit this planet, probably landing at the immense and recently-discovered under-ice city in the Antarctic.

All of this, of course, is controlled by a consortium of evil people known as the Bilderburgers, working with the hooded Illuminati in the secret caves of the Skull and Bones society.

These are located under the basements of the dread Federal Reserve Bank along with killer robots, mechanical rabbits and mind controlling dwarves.”


Table of Contents

  • Hurricane Irma: Florida to re-open storm-ravaged Keys
  • Tribalism Marches On!
  • Saakashvili plans to unite Ukraine opposition against president
  • Syria reclaims 85 percent of territory from ‘Islamic State,’ says top Russia general
  • US-backed forces on collision course with Syrian Army in ‘race for Deir ez-Zor oilfields’
  • ‘There Is Still Hope – Even for Me’ (An Interview with Edward Snowden)



Hurricane Irma: Florida to re-open storm-ravaged Keys

September 12, 2017

BBC News

Parts of the Florida Keys, the low-lying islands which bore the brunt of Hurricane Irma when the category-four storm struck on Sunday, are to re-open.

Entry is being restricted to residents and business owners as work continues to clear roads and check the state of bridges linking the islands.

Some 60% of homes in the state are still without power.

Irma, which has since rapidly weakened, is being linked to 10 deaths in the United States.

Six people died in Florida, three in Georgia and one in South Carolina.

The storm also left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean, where at least 37 people were killed.

French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in the region and is to visit devastated French islands, while UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is heading to the British Virgin Islands.

Both France and Britain have been criticised for not doing enough to help their nationals in overseas territories affected by the hurricane.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander spent Monday night on the Dutch side of St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands.

“Even from the plane I saw something I have never seen before,” the Dutch royal told the NOS public newscaster. “I have seen proper war as well as natural disasters before, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Everywhere you look there’s devastation, you see the collapse,” he added.

‘It’s horrible’

Florida Governor Rick Scott used the same word – “devastation” – after flying over the Keys on Monday.

“I just hope everybody survived,” he said. “It’s horrible what we saw. Especially for the Keys, it’s going to be a long road.

“We saw a lot of boats washed ashore and we saw any, basically, any trailer park there overturned.”

Thousands of people ignored calls to evacuate last week, and clung on in the dangerously exposed islands during the storm.

However, Governor Scott added: “I didn’t see the damage I thought I would see.” Storm surges had turned out to be “not as bad as we thought”, he said.

Teams are still working to clear Highway 1, the road connecting most of the inhabited islands, and bridge inspections are continuing.

People with authorisation were allowed into the towns of Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada on Tuesday morning, the authorities in Monroe Country said.

They were warned that services on the islands were limited: most areas were still without power and water, mobile phone signals were patchy and most petrol stations were still closed.

The US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln has arrived off Florida and other navy ships are due in the area on Tuesday to help distribute food to the Keys and evacuate residents.

In Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry said 356 people had to be rescued amid record-high storm surges and flooding, the Florida Times-Union reported.

A Jacksonville Pizza Hut sparked online backlash after a manager threatened to punish employees who evacuated too early for Irma.

“You cannot evacuate Friday for a Tuesday storm event!” the restaurant’s manager told employees in a notice, which was shared online.

Jacksonville officials began ordering a mandatory evacuation for parts of the city on Friday.

“Failure to show for these shifts,” the manager continued, “regardless of reason, will be considered a no call/no show and documentation will be issued.”

In a statement, Pizza Hut said the manager who posted the notice did not follow company guidelines.

Relief in Miami

Other parts of the state escaped the storm lightly compared to the Caribbean islands.

“The storm surge flooding in Miami is a mere fraction of what would have happened if the core of the storm had been further east,” Rick Knabb, former director of the National Hurricane Center, said in a tweet.

Returning to her home in Miami’s Little Haiti neighbourhood, evacuee Melida Hernandez, 67, found her home split down the middle by a tree.

“I wanted to cry, but this is what it is, this is life,” she told Reuters news agency.

President Donald Trump has released emergency federal aid for Florida, describing the hurricane as a “big monster”.

The storm was downgraded as it moved north towards Atlanta, Georgia, with maximum sustained winds of 35mph (56km/h) recorded, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in a statement.

More than 1.2 million people were without power in Georgia as of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s power utilities companies.

Which areas were hit before Florida?

Irma has been the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, and caused widespread destruction on several Caribbean islands:

  • Cuba: At least 10 people were killed by the storm on the island, officials say. Three quarters of the population are without power
  • St Martin and St Barthelemy: Six out of 10 homes on St Martin, an island shared between France and the Netherlands, are now uninhabitable, French officials say. Nine people had died and seven were missing in the French territories, while four are known to have died in Dutch Sint-Maarten
  • Turks and Caicos Islands: Widespread damage, although extent unclear
  • Barbuda: The small island is said to be “barely habitable”, with 95% of the buildings damaged. One death has been confirmed
  • Anguilla: Extensive damage with one person confirmed dead
  • Puerto Rico: More than 6,000 residents of the US territory are in shelters and many more without power. At least three people have died
  • British Virgin Islands: Widespread damage reported, and five dead
  • US Virgin Islands: Damage to infrastructure was said to be widespread, with four deaths confirmed

Another hurricane, Jose, has been weakening over the western Atlantic, with swells due to affect parts of Hispaniola (the island split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, later this week.


Tribalism Marches On!

September 12, 2017

by Patrick J. Buchanan


Recently, a columnist-friend, Matt Kenney, sent me a 25-year-old newspaper with his chiding that my column had been given better play.

Both had run in The Orange County Register on June 30, 1991.

“Is there no room for new nations in the New World Order?” was my title, and the column began:

“In turning a stone face toward embattled Slovenia and Croatia, President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker have not only put America’s chips on the wrong horse. They have bet on a losing horse.

“Can the U.S. Government seriously believe that a Yugoslavia of such disparate peoples, all of whom wish greater freedom, most of whose republics wish to be free of Belgrade, is a viable nation?”

The State Department had denounced “these unilateral steps by Croatia and Slovenia” to break free: “As Secretary Baker made clear last Friday, we will neither encourage nor reward secession.”

Croatia and Slovenia are today free and members of NATO.

A month later in 1991, George H. W. Bush, in what Bill Safire dubbed his “Chicken Kiev” speech, warned that Ukraine’s desire to break free of Moscow manifested a “suicidal nationalism.”

Today, Ukraine is independent and the Bush-GOP establishment wants to send weapons to Kiev to fight pro-Russia secessionists.

As nationalism tore apart Yugoslavia and the USSR in the 1990s, and surged to propel British secession from the EU and Donald Trump’s triumph in 2016, that primal force appears on the march again.

Wrote The Wall Street Journal Monday:

“Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban barely mentions his political rivals as he campaigns for a fourth term. Instead, he is targeting the European Union and its biggest members. ‘Our fiercest opponents are not in Hungarian opposition parties,’ Mr. Orban said in a speech last week, ‘They are abroad … Berlin, Brussels.’

“In neighboring Poland,” the Journal goes on, “government rhetoric is even harsher. Politicians have one-upped each other in attacking France and Germany, arguing they are forcing multicultural liberal democracy on more traditional Poles.”

Not only in the east of Europe but also in the west, nationalism is surging. Wrote The New York Times Friday:

“The accelerating battle over Catalonia’s status hit warp speed this week. Catalan lawmakers voted to go ahead with an Oct. 1 referendum on separating from Spain. Spain’s constitutional court declared the vote suspended. And Catalan politicians said they would proceed anyway.”

Yesterday, thousands of Catalans paraded through Barcelona under a banner proclaiming “Goodbye, Spain!” It was the Catalan National Day, which commemorates the 1714 capture of Barcelona by Philip V, the first Bourbon monarch of Spain.

Spain’s wealthiest region, Catalonia believes it is being milked by Madrid for the benefit of regions that contribute far less.

The question being raised by Catalonia is one America has faced before. Do peoples in a democratic republic have a right to declare their independence, secede, and establish a new nation, as the 13 colonies did in 1776 and the Confederate States of America sought to do in 1861?

Though America was born of secession, the U.S. establishment since the Cold War has been far more transnationalist and globalist than a great champion of new nations. Perhaps that is because the New World Order proclaimed by Bush I in 1991 envisioned the U.S. as the benevolent global hegemon.

Another ethnonational secession may be declared even before the Catalans go to the polls Oct. 1.

The Kurdistan Regional Government has scheduled a referendum for Sept. 25 – on independence from Iraq. Should it go forward, a massive vote to secede seems certain. And Kurds are relying on U.S. support. For they have sustained many casualties and shed much blood backing us in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State.

Yet while our sentiments may cheer the cause of an independent Kurdistan, our national interests may call for caution.

For though the Kurds, 30 million in number, are probably the largest ethnic group on earth without a nation-state of their own, creating a Kurdish homeland could ignite a Middle East war the Kurds could lose as badly as did the Confederate States.

Why? Because, the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-20 not only left millions of Kurds in Iraq, it left most of them in Turkey, Iran and Syria.

A free and independent Kurdistan carved out of Iraq could prove a magnet for the 25 million Kurds in Iran, Turkey and Syria, and a sanctuary for Kurd rebels, causing those nations to join together to annihilate the new country.

Then, there is Kirkuk, seized by the Kurds after the Iraqi army fled from an invading ISIS. The city sits on some of the richest oil deposits in Iraq.

Yesterday, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, told the BBC that if the Kurds vote for independence and Baghdad refuses to accept it, they will forcibly resist any Iraqi attempt to retake the city.

Tribalism appears to be doing to the Bush New World Order what it did to Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet Union.


Saakashvili plans to unite Ukraine opposition against president

September 11,2017

by Sergei Karazy and  Margaryta Chornokondratenko


LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – A day after forcing his way past border guards back into Ukraine, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said he would unite the opposition against his former ally President Petro Poroshenko and planned to campaign for support.

Saakashvili wants to unseat Poroshenko at the next election, accusing the president of reneging on promises to root out corruption and carry out reforms made during the 2014 Maidan protests, which ousted a pro-Kremlin leader.

At present it seems unlikely that Saakashvili, who studied in Ukraine and speaks fluent Ukrainian, will come to power. His Ukrainian citizenship, bestowed by Poroshenko when he made him governor of Odessa in 2015, has been withdrawn, and polls show little support for his party, the Movement of New Forces.

“I am fighting against rampant corruption, against the fact that oligarchs are in full control of Ukraine again, against the fact that Maidan has been betrayed,” Saakashvili said at a press conference in the city of Lviv.

Saakashvili divides opinion. Supporters see him as a fearless crusader against corruption but critics say there is little substance behind his blustery rhetoric.

Back home in Georgia, his time in office was tarnished by what critics said was his monopolizing power and exerting pressure on the judiciary. He was president at the time of a disastrous five-day war with Russia in 2008, a conflict that his critics argued was the result of his own miscalculations.

Saakashvili says he does not covet the presidency himself and wants to promote a new, younger politician to the post. But while perhaps not a threat as a direct rival, Saakashvili could prove to be an effective weapon against Poroshenko for powerful opposition figures like Yulia Tymoshenko, who was with him at the border on Sunday.

Poroshenko trails in the polls behind Tymoshenko, a former prime minister and leader of one of Ukraine’s largest opposition parties.

“This is a marriage of convenience between Tymoshenko and Saakashvili, but the parties have different interests,” said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko. “She tries to use this situation with the hope that this will provoke a political crisis in Ukraine and lead to early elections.”


Saakashvili’s relationship with Poroshenko dates back nearly three decades to when they were students at the same university in Kiev and their shared opposition to the Kremlin later brought them together as politicians.

But a bitter spat erupted in November 2016, a year after Poroshenko invited Saakashvili to be the governor of the region of Odessa to help drive reforms. The latter quit, accusing Poroshenko of abetting corruption and turned into one of his loudest critics.

Meanwhile Poroshenko’s office said Saakashvili had failed to deliver change as governor and said his Ukrainian citizenship was withdrawn because he allegedly put false information on his registration form. Saakashvili says the decision was politically motivated. It left him effectively stateless as Georgia has also withdrawn his citizenship.

On Sunday evening Saakashvili and his supporters forced their way past a cordon of border guards to return to Ukraine from Poland.

“It does not matter who violates the state border – invaders in the East or politicians in the West. There always must be legal responsibility,” Poroshenko said in televised remarks on Monday.

The president said Saakashvili should have used Ukrainian courts to challenge the revocation.

“Now this is a matter of law enforcement agencies and they have begun to act,” Poroshenko said.

Saakashvili said he would travel to all regions of Ukraine to unite “different political forces around a common theme that we must have a democracy and we should not let oligarchs hold sway.”

Ukraine’s record of implementing reforms has been patchy since Poroshenko took office in 2014.

Reformist lawmaker Mustafa Nayyem, one of the faces of the Maidan protests and a member of Poroshenko’s faction in parliament, traveled with Saakashvili on Sunday and accused the Kiev authorities of trying to silence opponents.

“We didn’t want this country when we stayed on Maidan,” he told reporters. “We wanted a country in which opponents, political opponents, have a right to say what they want.”

Saakashvili may yet face arrest. Police have launched a criminal investigation into Sunday’s incident, while General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko said those who crossed the border illegally would be prosecuted.

Kiev could leave Saakashvili alone, arrest him and possibly extradite him to Georgia.

Saakashvili took power in Georgia after a peaceful uprising, known as the Rose Revolution, in 2003. The 49-year-old is now wanted on criminal charges in Georgia, which he says were trumped up for political reasons.

Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets in Kiev; Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky


Syria reclaims 85 percent of territory from ‘Islamic State,’ says top Russia general

The Syrian army has made significant advances since breaking the siege of Deir el-Zour, said a top Russian general in Syria. The “Islamic State” has lost much of the territory it gained during its brutal 2014 campaign.

September 12, 2017


Lieutenant General Alexander Lapin, who heads Russia’s military headquarters in Syria, said on Tuesday that 85 percent of the Middle East country’s territory had been cleared of militants and rebels.

Speaking from the Hemeimeem air base in the Syrian province of Latakia, Lapin said Syrian government troops made significant advances over the past month, bringing it closer to ending the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group’s presence in the country.

Last week, the Syrian army broke a nearly three-year siege by IS on the government enclave of Deir el-Zour, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad describing it as one of the “hardest battles” fought by the country’s armed forces.

“At the moment the operation to liberate the city continues. The Syrian troops are completing the defeat of the ISIL group, which blocked Deir el-Zour’s northern and southern neighborhoods,” Lapin said, referring to the militant group by an alternative acronym.

Russian cruise missiles “have destroyed militant command posts and communication hubs, which made it possible to disrupt the management of ISIL units in this area.”

Still fighting

However, Lapin noted that IS fighters still control roughly 27,000 square kilometers (10,425 square miles) in Syria, mostly in the Deir el-Zour province that borders Iraq.

In neighboring Iraq, Baghdad-led forces have managed to force IS out of its stronghold in Mosul, marking a major victory for the Middle East nation. With the militant group losing much of the territory it gained in 2014 during a blitzkrieg campaign across the region, analysts have warned of new attacks elsewhere, including Europe.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces, which comprise several Kurdish and Arab factions, have pushed into IS’ de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria.

In September 2015, Russia launched an aerial campaign targeting the militant group, although analysts have viewed it as a ploy to bolster Assad’s grip on power.

War without end

IS rose to international notoriety in 2014, when it captured large swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq.

More than 300,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since 2011, when government forces launched a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters calling for Assad to step down.

Since then, Syria has descended into a multi-front conflict comprising global powers, regional actors and militant groups, including the US, Iran and al-Qaeda.


US-backed forces on collision course with Syrian Army in ‘race for Deir ez-Zor oilfields’

September 12, 2017


The race between legitimate Syrian government forces and the US-backed SDF umbrella group to control the oil rich Deir ez-Zor province has intensified following the lifting of the blockade by Syrian troops last week and risks turning into direct confrontation.

Last Tuesday, the Syrian military backed by the Russian air force finally broke the IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) siege of Deir ez-Zor from the west following a cruise missile strike on terrorist positions.

The advance to clear the remaining terrorists progressed at a steady pace, and by Saturday, Syrian government forces smashed the IS blockade of the military airport which for three years had served as the only lifeline to the city.

Following Damascus’ strategic victory, and while its forces continue to squash pockets of IS resistance in the west of the city, the US backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) swiftly announced on Saturday a separate offensive east of Deir ez-Zor. SDF forces raced to Deir ez-Zor which lies only 140 km south-east of Raqqa, where the US-led coalition is conducting its main offensive against ISIS.

“Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) welcomes the commencement of their offensive to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in the Khabur River Valley, dubbed ‘Operation Jazeera Storm,’ north of Dayr Az Zawr (Deir ez-Zor) in eastern Syria,” the Pentagon said in a statement Saturday. It added that the operation will be run by the Deir Ez-zor Military Coalition.

The Pentagon confirmed that US-led coalition forces will support the mainly Kurdish militia in the “Khabur River Valley offensive” as part of the advice and assist mission. The US-coalition also said that it will offer the SDF equipment, intelligence and logistics support, in addition to “precision fires and battlefield advice.”It’s going to be a race,” former Pentagon official Michael Maloof told RT. “It is going to be a race because you’ve got the Syrian army with Russian assistance coming in from the West and you have the United States coming in from the north and the East.”On Sunday, spokesman for the CJTF–OIR, Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, said the SDF has made “significant gains into the Khabur River Valley,” capturing roughly 250 km2 since launching its Operation Jazeera Storm offensive. The Khabur River runs south through Deir ez-Zor province into the Euphrates River, which is about 35 kilometers east of the provincial capital.

According to reports, the SDF was just a few kilometers across the river from Deir Ez-zor city. The coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters, allegedly advanced from the northeast, reportedly capturing the 113th Brigade Base and parts of the Al-Salihiyah District, Almasdar news noted in their report.

Meanwhile Monday, the Syrian army continued with its successes against IS fighters in the west near the airport, “liberating the 17th Hills that are located just southwest of the Liwaa Tameen Base,” the report added.

According to Almasdar, both forces are apparently aiming to block each other’s path to the city of Albukamal on the Euphrates river which lies near the border with Iraq.

“As we get closer to Deir ez-Zor and you have these forces converge upon one another, the importance of [communication] between the Russians and the coalition, SDF and the regime becomes more important,” Dillon was quoted as saying by Foreign Policy magazine.

The SDF and regime conduct all their interactions [with Russian side] through the deconfliction channel” Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a defense department spokesperson told Foreign Policy. “We pass messages on about where we’re operating, and they’ll pass on where they’re operating,” he said.

The SDF has meanwhile promised not to attack Syrian government forces.

We have clear instructions that after Daesh is eliminated, we should not act against the forces of the [Bashar Assad] regime or against the Russian, Iranian forces or the Hezbollah movement, which are allied with it,” SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Sputnik Monday.

As the SDF military offensive to expel IS and secure parts oil rich province continues, tribal figures aligned with SDF have already proposed measures to form their own form of government. Tribal figures on Monday called for “establishing a preparatory committee that will discuss the basis and starting points for a Civil Council for Deir ez-Zor.”

The statement published by SDF’s media office said the consultations would aim to reach a “formulation that will express the aspirations of all our people in Deir ez-Zor.” The statement, however, did not mention if the city council activities would be coordinated with the central government.

Maloof believes the US is intentionally using the Kurds to permanently entrench themselves in the oil rich Syrian province that is bordering Iraq.

“I think the US activity, their initiatives now are calculated. They are meant to try to maintain a US presence in Deir ez-Zor,” Maloof pointed out.

Even though the Syrian army and the Russian air assistance has basically taken over the place, the United States really wants to maintain that area. They want to occupy it with the help of the Kurds.”

“I think the United States has the intentions of building a base there. The US has political and strategic intentions for that region; aimed principally at trying to maintain influence in neighboring Iraq ultimately.”

“Ultimately the Syrian army needs to reoccupy their own area, their country,” Maloof said “I think there is going to be a need for the United States and Russia to talk about this because this could create even greater conflict on who is going to ultimately occupy Deir ez-Zor and indeed that entire region.”


‘There Is Still Hope – Even for Me’

In an interview, whistleblower Edward Snowden discusses his life in Russia, the power of the intelligence apparatuses and how he will continue his battle against all-encompassing surveillance by governments.

September 12, 2017

Interview Conducted by Martin Knobbe and Jörg Schindler


The journey to interview Edward Snowden is a long one. For DER SPIEGEL, it began over a year ago, with numerous conversations with his lawyers in New York and Berlin. It ended two weeks ago on a Wednesday in a Moscow hotel suite with a view over Red Square.

The 34-year-old former United States intelligence worker, who exposed the global surveillance system deployed by the National Security Agency (NSA), lives somewhere in the Russian capital. Since blowing the whistle, he has been an enemy of the state in his home country. He has become an icon for defenders of civil liberties and also a man on the run. The journey to Snowden almost took even longer, when he came down with a bad cold and nearly had to delay the interview. In the end, Snowden turned up — coming across as modest and astoundingly optimistic in an interview that lasted more than three hours.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Snowden, four years ago, you appeared in a video from a hotel room in Hong Kong. It was the beginning of the biggest leak of intelligence data in history. Today, we are sitting in a hotel room in Moscow. You are not able to leave Russia because the United States government has issued a warrant for your arrest. Meanwhile, the intelligence services’ global surveillance machine is still running, probably faster than ever. Was it all really worth it?

Snowden: The answer is yes. Look at what my goals were. I wasn’t trying to change the laws or slow down the machine. Maybe I should have. My critics say that I was not revolutionary enough. But they forget that I am a product of the system. I worked those desks, I know those people and I still have some faith in them, that the services can be reformed

DER SPIEGEL: But those people see you as their biggest enemy today.

Snowden: My personal battle was not to burn down the NSA or the CIA. I even think they actually do have a useful role in society when they limit themselves to the truly important threats that we face and when they use their least intrusive means. We don’t drop atomic bombs on flies that land on the dinner table. Everybody gets this except intelligence agencies.

DER SPIEGEL: What did you achieve?

Snowden: Since summer 2013, the public has known what was until then forbidden knowledge. That the U.S. government can get everything out of your Gmail account and they don’t even need a warrant to do it if you are not an American but, say, a German. You are not allowed to discriminate between your citizens and other peoples’ citizens when we are talking about the balance of basic rights. But increasingly more countries, not only the U.S., are doing this. I wanted to give the public a chance to decide where the line should be.

DER SPIEGEL: You have called mass surveillance a violation of the law. But as far as we know, so far not a single person responsible is sitting in jail.

Snowden: That is why I call it the secret law. These NSA activities were illegal. In a just world, the people who were authorizing these programs would actually be sitting in jail today. We are talking, for example, about the countless violations found and confirmed by a parliamentary inquiry of Germany’s G10 law ……

DER SPIEGEL: … … which limits the intelligence services’ right to access a person’s phone calls or emails in instances covered by the mail and communications secrecy laws.

Snowden: But rather than punishment, rather than resignations, rather than changing these spying activities, all we got was a new law saying this is all OK.

DER SPIEGEL: Were you surprised when you learned that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, was surveilling “friends” like the Israeli prime minister or had 4,000 “selectors” directed at U.S. targets?

Snowden: I was disappointed, not surprised. It is actually the same in France as in Germany and all these other countries. All the governments just want to have more power when it comes to economic espionage, diplomatic manipulation and political influence.

DER SPIEGEL: The main purpose of surveillance is to prevent attacks against our countries. In principle, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Snowden: We don’t have any proof that these mass surveillance programs are stopping terrorist attacks. But if you can’t show us that cells have been uncovered thanks to these measures, and yet you say these are absolutely necessary, why is that? Because they are super interesting for other areas of spying. Like tapping a phone call between Kofi Annan and Hillary Clinton ……

DER SPIEGEL: … … which the BND did.

Snowden: This recording probably did not help to stop too many terrorist attacks.

DER SPIEGEL: So, what’s the difference between the BND and the NSA?

Snowden: The most important difference is budget. How much play money do they have to throw around the sandbox? That really dictates the sort of capabilities. But Germany has tremendous capabilities because it is so centrally located and you sit on so many favorable geographic points, like the internet nexus DE-CIX in Frankfurt. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. It doesn’t actually matter how bad you are, doesn’t matter how poor you are, if all you have to do is dip a glass in the barrel and you come up with a fish.

DER SPIEGEL: The German authorities claim they would be deaf and blind without the NSA or CIA.

Snowden: Sure, Germany may not be the U.S. splashing out around $70 billion per year on intelligence programs. But Germany is a very wealthy country. In 2013, they spent around a half-billion euros on the BND. Now it is something over 300 million euros more. When you combine that with the fact that the German public education system is already one of the best in the world, you clearly have a very talented technical base in Germany.

DER SPIEGEL: In Berlin, the NSA inquiry committee in parliament spent three-and-a-half years probing the cooperation between the NSA and BND. The final report says that you weren’t called as a witness as originally planned because, among other reasons, getting asylum in Germany was your condition.

Snowden: It’s a lie. I never at any time demanded asylum as a condition. I don’t think we have anything that even used the word asylum in it.

DER SPIEGEL: Then how would you explain the fact that it was reported everywhere?

Snowden: Politics. The parties comprising the inquiry majority took a public position that they would block my entry into Germany to appease the White House. But as the revelations of unjustified surveillance against people around the world, including Germans, piled up over the following months, this position became increasingly unpopular and made an inquiry unavoidable. At this point, political orthodoxies incentivized the majority to devise a way to prevent the inquiry from uncovering anything too embarrassing, while simultaneously demonstrating promises to the White House are Germany’s highest law. No matter what you might think of them, politicians aren’t stupid, and I suspect they knew the only justification for such an unappealing result was to claim they had no choice. So they invent an asylum demand. Historians may not be impressed, but it works for the moment. And all too often in today’s politics, ‘for the moment’ is all that matters.

DER SPIEGEL: What would the committee have learned from you? The documents you provided had already been published.

Snowden: I know, they think I was only a system administrator. It’s true I was a system administrator at many points in my career, but that was not all I did. In my last position in Hawaii, I was literally using XKeyscore all day long to track Chinese hackers. XKeyscore was the program the Germans received from the NSA and used as well.

DER SPIEGEL: You read parts of the final report on the inquiry. What is your opinion?

Snowden: We all had so much hope that this would be a reliable product, that this would be a real investigation. But the report of the majority parties is a disappointment. It was like a creative writing exercise for them. The German public was angry about their surveillance policies, so they needed to do something about it. But not that which I think the opposition heroically tried to do, which was to find out what’s actually happening, establish some accountability and ultimately shape the activities of these intelligence services to make them comport with the law. Instead, these politicians went: Let’s make the law looser so they don’t break it anymore.

DER SPIEGEL: We hear a lot of resignation.

Snowden: Not at all. I think we have made much progress as a society — we are using math and science to limit these abuses by governments.

DER SPIEGEL: You are talking about the encryption of our communications.

Snowden: Before he retired, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that I had accelerated the adoption of an encryption by seven years. He meant it as an insult, but I took it as a kind of a compliment. We see dynamics such as the adaption of end-to-end encryption that is turned on by default — you don’t even have to think about it. Prior to 2013, most news sites didn’t even know what encryption was. Now almost every serious editorial staff has the ability to encrypt.

DER SPIEGEL: But terrorists use encryption as well.

Snowden: When you have three terrorists in a city, one uses a laptop and gets hit by a drone, the other uses a cell phone and gets hit by a drone. The guy who only sends messages via his cousin as a courier on a motorbike that are written on paper never gets hit by a drone. They can put two and two together really quickly. They don’t need DER SPIEGEL, they don’t need me to tell them what works and what doesn’t.

DER SPIEGEL: Would you at least concede that some of the information that got published helped criminals and rogue states in that they learned how intelligence agencies do their work?

Snowden: No, this is very much a comfortable allegation for governments. Their basis for classifying this information is to say it will cause harm if it is revealed. I have sent lunch plans from the cafeteria that are classified as top secret. I’m not kidding.

DER SPIEGEL: But the files also included real secrets, programs and techniques.

Snowden: I came forward in 2013. We are now in 2017 and they have never shown any harm despite being asked by Congress and despite having spent more than two years investigating it. Even Michael Rodgers, the director of the NSA, said: The sky isn’t falling, we are still doing our work. Yes, it was disruptive, but life goes on.

DER SPIEGEL: Why aren’t there more whistleblowers like you? Are they afraid they’ll wind up in Russia?

Snowden: There is a pessimistic answer to this. People feel the consequences are too severe if they get caught. But there is an optimistic one, too. Events of 2013 put these intelligence services on notice — that they could be next.

DER SPIEGEL: We believe the pessimistic version is closer to reality.

Snowden: I think it is a mix of both. Just look at the Vault7 files that WikiLeaks has published. This was an unprecedented disclosure of very sensitive information, clearly from within the CIA’s own servers. There haven’t been any arrests yet and it has been months. There are two things to learn from that: Firstly, it’s obviously still pretty easy to expose the intelligence services. And secondly, since this was clearly not my doing, there are others out there.

DER SPIEGEL: The files you leaked are a few years old now, as are the measures they described. Do they have anything more than historical value today?

Snowden: The system is pretty much the same. It’s only if you understand the basic mechanism that is being exploited to spy on innocent people that you can start to correct it. So, the challenge is what comes next and how to deal with this.

DER SPIEGEL: And? What comes next?

Snowden: Governments are realizing that mass surveillance isn’t really effective. They are moving from mass surveillance to what intelligence agencies are hoping will be their new panacea: hacking. But it is mass hacking and not really targeted hacking as they usually say. We have seen it in these darknet market takedowns and other joint operations by the EU and U.S.

DER SPIEGEL: So, it’s all about cracking encryption now?

Snowden: Not cracking encryption — the agencies are trying to bypass the encryption. They are looking for weak points on the device you use to see what you are writing before you encrypt your message. What they actually do is take over a website, infect it with a malicious software, and when you visit that website because, for example, you received a link, you get hacked. Then they own your computer or your phone. You paid for it, but they use it. I think this is far better than mass surveillance.


Snowden: Mass surveillance was incredibly cheap. It operates sort of freely, invisibly, constantly — and there was no real defense other than using encryption schemes. Attacking these browsers, phones and computers is very much an expensive proposition.

DER SPIEGEL: But you just said yourself that a lack of money isn’t the main problem for intelligence services.

Snowden: But even they can’t use this to spy on everyone in the world all the time. The new approach makes life harder for the intelligence agencies in a good way. It creates a natural discipline that forces them to decide: Is this person I want to spy on really worth the cost? There was, for instance, this jihadi group that used an encryption package called Mujahedeen Secrets. That is the kind of thing that they should go after because if you are installing Mujahedeen Secrets, you are probably part of the mujahedeen, right?

DER SPIEGEL: Even if the latitude of intelligence agencies is limited in the future, people are giving huge amounts of intimate data away for free to private corporations like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Instagram. Do we not have to accept that we have entered an era of total transparency?

Snowden: I give talks at colleges on a monthly base and get the impression that the young generation actually cares more about privacy than the older one. Simply because they are constantly sharing information voluntarily.

DER SPIEGEL: Still, an enormous amount of data is zipping around out there that can be used or also misused.

Snowden: You’re right, without ever really having had a debate about this, we have decided that this gigantic universe of third parties can own perfect histories and records of your private activities. At the same time, we see this new nexus of corporate power and politics, where we have economic leadership figures going out and giving speeches on things like economy and jobs programs and education — things that were normally topics for politicians to discuss.

DER SPIEGEL: Is it acceptable to you when authorities and companies cooperate to fight crime, terrorism or hate?

Snowden: A company should never be deputized to do the work of a government. They have entirely different goals, and when you start crossing those lines that creates unintended consequences at unforeseen costs. Of course, companies can assist the government in terrorism investigations. But to see company records for example, they should have to convince a judge. I think this is where it gets quite dangerous, when we say: Google, you are the sheriff of the internet now. You decide what the law is.

DER SPIEGEL: Which isn’t all that far from reality.

Snowden: And then we’ll see that the founder and CEO of Facebook is intending to run for president of the United States in the next cycle. Do we want the company that has the largest social media presence on earth and has clear political ambitions, to start deciding what is permissible political speech and what is not?

DER SPIEGEL: Speaking of political ambitions: Do you have an explanation for the increasing meddling on the part of the intelligence agencies with democratic elections?

Snowden: I think that is something that has always happened. What is noteworthy nowadays is that it is happening much more visibly. We know, for example, from declassified documents that the United States has interfered in elections throughout the last century. Every government that has an intelligence agency is trying to do the same thing. I would in fact be very surprised if the German government were an exception. Probably in a lighter and more polite way. But I think we are sort of tiptoeing around the Russian issue here specifically, aren’t we?

DER SPIEGEL: How did you guess?

Snowden: It wasn’t that difficult. Everybody is currently pointing at the Russians.

DER SPIEGEL: Rightfully?

Snowden: I don’t know. They probably did hack the systems of Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party, but we should have proof of that. In the case of the hacking attack on Sony, the FBI presented evidence that North Korea was behind it. In this case they didn’t, although I am convinced that they do have evidence. The question is why?

DER SPIEGEL: Do you have an answer?

Snowden: I think the NSA almost certainly saw who the intruders were. Why wouldn’t they? But I am also convinced that they saw a lot of other attackers on there, too. There were probably six or seven groups. The Democratic National Committee is a big target and apparently their security wasn’t very good. The DNC refused to provide these servers to the FBI, which is really weird. So, I think the reality here was it was narrative shaping about the Russians.

DER SPIEGEL: Is there a way to be absolutely certain who is hacking a system? It seems to be quite easy to manipulate a time stamp, use certain servers and stage a false flag operation.

Snowden: The false flag stuff is true — I know how this works. I dealt with this in China’s case. They used to be the usual suspects, nobody was talking about the Russians at that time. China didn’t really care about covering their tracks that well. They would break the window, grab everything they could and then run off laughing. But even they never attacked directly from China. They would bounce off a server in Italy, Africa or South America. But you can follow the trail back — it’s not magic.

DER SPIEGEL: You know that there are some quite influential people, even high-level German government officials, who are trying to say that you have a close relationship with the Russians.

Snowden: Yes, especially that Hans guy from Germany.

DER SPIEGEL: You mean Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service. He insinuated a couple of times that you could be a Russian spy. Are you?

Snowden: I’m not. He doesn’t even have the moral fiber to say, “I think this person is a spy.” Instead, he says, “Whether Mr. Snowden is a Russian agent or not cannot be proven.” You can literally say this about anyone. I thought, and I would hope, that in an open society, we had moved beyond the days when these secret police agencies were basically denouncing their critics. I’m not even mad about it. I’m just disappointed.

DER SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, many people, also here in Germany, have wondered what kind of concessions you had to make to become Russia’s guest.

Snowden: I’m glad you ask because again, this sounds right, he is in Russia, so surely he had to give something up, right? But when you start looking at it, it falls apart. I don’t have any documents or access to documents. The journalists have them and this is why the Chinese or the Russians couldn’t threaten me when I crossed the border. I couldn’t have helped them, even if they had torn my fingernails off.

DER SPIEGEL: It is still hard to believe for many that the Russians would let you in just like that.

Snowden: I know, you go: Putin that great humanitarian, of course he lets him in for free. Nobody believes that, there has got to be some deal, some quid pro quo. But they don’t understand. If you think about it for a second: I was trying to get into Latin America, but the U.S. government canceled my passport and trapped me in the Russian airport. The U.S. president was sending daily demarches to the Russian side demanding my extradition. Think about the Russian domestic political situation. Putin’s self-image, his image to the Russian people and how that would look if the Russian president would have said, “Yes, we are very sorry — here, have this guy.” And maybe there is an even simpler explanation for this, which is that the Russian government just enjoyed the rare opportunity of being able to say “no.” The real tragedy here is that I applied for asylum in Germany, France and 21 different countries around the world. And it was only after all of these countries said “no” that the Russians finally said “yes.” It seemed like they didn’t even want to say “yes,” and I certainly wasn’t asking.

DER SPIEGEL: Mike Pompeo, the new head of the CIA, has accused WikiLeaks, whose lawyers helped you, of being a mouthpiece for the Russians. Is that not harmful to your image as well?

Snowden: First, we should be fair about what the accusations are. I don’t believe the U.S. government or anybody in the intelligence community is directly accusing Julian Assange or WikiLeaks of working directly for the Russian government. The allegations I understand are that they were used as a tool basically to wash documents that had been stolen by the Russian government. And, of course, that’s a concern. I don’t see that as directly affecting me because I’m not WikiLeaks and there is no question about the provenance of the documents that I dealt with.

DER SPIEGEL: Currently, there’s another American guy out there who is accused of being too close to Putin.

Snowden: Oh (laughs).

DER SPIEGEL: Your president. Is he your president?

Snowden: The idea that half of American voters thought that Donald Trump was the best among us, is something that I struggle with. And I think we will all be struggling with it for decades to come.

DER SPIEGEL: Perhaps he will do your cause a favor by accidentally damaging the U.S. intelligence services.

Snowden: I don’t think a president alone has the capability to meaningfully damage the intelligence services. These groups are so well represented in Congress, in the media, in culture, in Hollywood. Some call it the deep state, but this is very much a pre-Trump thing. Donald Trump has nothing to do with the deep state. Donald Trump doesn’t even know what the deep state is. The deep state is this class of career government officials that survive beyond administrations.

DER SPIEGEL: Isn’t that just another conspiracy theory?

Snowden: I wish it was. Look at the election of Barack Obama, who by any measure at the time, people saw as a genuine man who wanted to pursue a reform to close Guantanamo, to end the mass surveillance of the time, to investigate Bush-era crimes and to do many other things. And within 100 days of taking office, he pivoted entirely on that promise and said, we are going to look forward not backward. The deep state realizes that while it may not elect the president, it can shape them very quickly — and this is through the same means with which they shape us.

DER SPIEGEL: Which means?

Snowden: Fear. Why do you think all these terrorism laws are passed without any meaningful debate? Why do we have an indefinite state of emergency, even in liberal places like France? I think you can also see reflections of this dynamic in Germany, which I think has a much lesser love for the intelligence services and spying in general given its history. But the inquiry into the NSA files didn’t look so deeply into mass surveillance. The majority parties pretended they could not confirm it despite the fact that evidence was literally everywhere and impossible to miss. They didn’t even bother to hear from me. All these things show that intelligence services have influence through an implicit threat. They are effective, they are persuasive. They created a new politics of fear. Whenever one of their policy choices is threatened, they feed the press and the public with all the dangers we should fear. As a society, we become terrorized.

DER SPIEGEL: But isn’t there reason to fear terrorism?

Snowden: Sure there is. Terrorism is a real problem. But when we look at how many lives it has claimed in basically any country that is outside of war zones like Iraq or Afghanistan, it is so much less than, say, car accidents or heart attacks. Even if Sept. 11 were to happen every single year in the U.S., terrorism would be a much lower threat than so many other things.

DER SPIEGEL: That’s not really comparable.

Snowden: All I am saying is that terror is an ideal example of a growing culture of fear. The intelligence community has used it to approach it with a new dynamic of mass surveillance. And the most tragic part of this is that, eventually it is the process itself that is doing the terrorizing. It becomes systemic and this leads us to where we are today. How else does one explain a President Donald Trump other than a systemic failure of rationality? We see things happening in places like Hungary and Poland with more authoritarian leaders. I think it is this new atmosphere of fear and that it won’t change until we, as a public, learn to perform a new kind of alchemy and recognize fear when it is being presented. We need to learn to eat fear, to convert it into an energy that can be used to better a society rather than to terrorize and weaken it. But not even Obama could do that.

DER SPIEGEL: Obama at least pardoned Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who provided WikiLeaks with U.S. documents, including the diplomatic cables.

Snowden: And I applaud him for it.

DER SPIEGEL: Were you hoping for a similar act of mercy?

Snowden: I don’t think it was ever something that was likely to happen. Obama felt personally offended by these revelations because he was the one who was held accountable for them. He viewed this as a kind of attack on him and his legacy, but that’s is actually saddening.

DER SPIEGEL: Are you still hoping that you will one day be able to return to the U.S.?

Snowden: Yes, absolutely. I’m not going to judge the likelihood of it, but you mentioned before allegations against me — you hear them less and less with each passing year. And I think that means there is still hope for the future, even for me.

DER SPIEGEL: What is your current legal status in Russia?

Snowden: I’m a lawful permanent resident — it’s basically similar to the Green Card in the U.S. But it’s not asylum and every three years or so, it is indefinitely renewable, but it is not technically guaranteed. I have been quite critical of the Russian government on Twitter and in my statements, and that probably doesn’t win me any friends. They haven’t bothered me in the period until now, but who knows what that will look like in the future.

DER SPIEGEL: In “Citizenfour,” we saw the very nice scene with your girlfriend cooking. May we ask if this is how your life looks like now?

Snowden: She is still with me, yes.

DER SPIEGEL: How do you spend your time?

Snowden: I travel a lot. I have been to St. Petersburg. My parents visit me from time to time.

DER SPIEGEL: How do you make a living?

Snowden: I give talks — mostly at U.S. universities via video. Pro bono, I do a lot of stuff for the Freedom of the Press Foundation. I am the elected president of its board.

DER SPIEGEL: It seems that surveillance is an issue that will haunt you forever.

Snowden: My life is technology work. I’m an engineer, not a politician. So, public speeches or this stuff here, as nice as you guys are, this is hard for me. This is outside my comfort zone.

DER SPIEGEL: Are you afraid of the moment when the global public attention toward you begins to wane?

Snowden: No! I will love it!

DER SPIEGEL: Attention can be like a drug.

Snowden: Yeah, for certain personality types. But for me? You have to understand that my life literally is defined by a love for privacy. The worst thing in the world for me is the idea that I will go to the grocery store and someone will recognize me.

DER SPIEGEL: Does that happen?

Snowden: Just a few days ago, I was at the Tretyakov Gallery and there was a young woman there. And this woman is like, “You are Snowden.” I think she might have been German. And I said, “yeah,” and she took a selfie. And do you know what? She never published it online.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Snowden, we thank you for this interview.


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