TBR News September 14, 2017

Sep 14 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 14, 2017:” There are questions and there are answers.

When men came down out of their caves and stood on their hind legs, questions began to form in their small minds.

Would they live forever?

Where would they go when they stopped breathing and began to smell bad?

And other men, more clever, told them what they wanted to hear so desperately.

Yes, they would live forever and in a wonderful place.

Yes, they would see their dead family again who would be waiting for them, smiling.

Of course in order to get to this wonderful place and see smiling dead family members they would have to become a paying member of a certain religious group.

They would have to believe just what the leaders of this religious group told them to believe or they would go to some cold, wet and nasty place when they died and have to sleep with dead rats.

And because they wanted to believe these entertaining, and entirely invented, stories, they did.

Those who promised paradise got rich and those who believed were content.  But when they died, they slept with the worms.

Of course they weren’t aware of anything at that point.”


Table of Contents

  • North Korea threatens to ‘sink’ Japan, reduce U.S. to ‘ashes and darkness’
  • Donald Trump makes deal with Democrats to protect young immigrants
  • Sloppy U.S. Spies Misused a Covert Network for Personal Shopping — and Other Stories from Internal NSA Documents
  • The American Military Uncontained
  • Clinton’s new book removes all doubt. She still has no idea why she lost
  • The Clinton Book Tour Is Largely Ignoring the Vital Role of Endless War in the 2016 Election Result
  • State Dept propaganda team in disarray – report


North Korea threatens to ‘sink’ Japan, reduce U.S. to ‘ashes and darkness’

September 14, 2017

by Jack Kim, Kiyoshi Takenaka


SEOUL/JAPAN (Reuters) – A North Korean state agency threatened on Thursday to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution and sanctions over its latest nuclear test.

Pyongyang’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, which handles the North’s external ties and propaganda, also called for the breakup of the Security Council, which it called “a tool of evil” made up of “money-bribed” countries that move at the order of the United States.

“The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the committee said in a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency.

Juche is the North’s ruling ideology that mixes Marxism and an extreme form of go-it-alone nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong Un.

Regional tension has risen markedly since the reclusive North conducted its sixth, and by far its most powerful, nuclear test on Sept. 3.

The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously on a U.S.-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday in response, banning North Korea’s textile exports that are the second largest only to coal and mineral, and capping fuel supplies.

The North reacted to the latest action by the Security Council, which had the backing of veto-holding China and Russia, by reiterating threats to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea.

“Let’s reduce the U.S. mainland into ashes and darkness. Let’s vent our spite with mobilization of all retaliation means which have been prepared till now,” the statement said.

Japan’s Nikkei stock index and dollar/yen currency pared gains, although traders said that was more because of several Chinese economic indicators released on Thursday rather than a reaction to the North’s latest statement.

South Korea’s won also edged down around the same time over domestic financial concerns.

Despite the tension, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it planned to provide $8 million through the U.N. World Food Programme and UNICEF to help infants and pregnant women in the North.

The move marks Seoul’s first humanitarian assistance for the North after its fourth nuclear test in January 2016, and is based on a longstanding policy of separating humanitarian aid from politics, the ministry said.


The North’s latest threats also singled out Japan for “dancing to the tune” of the United States, saying it should never be pardoned for not offering a sincere apology for its “never-to-be-condoned crimes against our people”, an apparent reference to Japan’s wartime aggression.

It also referred to South Korea as “traitors and dogs” of the United States.

Japan criticized the North’s statement harshly.

“This announcement is extremely provocative and egregious. It is something that markedly heightens regional tension and is absolutely unacceptable,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference on Thursday.

North Korea had already categorically rejected the Security Council resolution imposing sanctions over its latest test, vowing to press ahead with its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of international pressure.

A tougher initial U.S. draft of Monday’s resolution was weakened to win the support of China and Russia. Significantly, it stopped short of imposing a full embargo on oil exports to North Korea, most of which come from China.

The latest sanctions also make it illegal for foreign firms to form commercial joint ventures with North Korean entities.

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its isolated neighbor. China in turn favors an international response to the problem.

The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.

Reporting by Jack Kim in SEOUL and Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO; Editing by Paul Tait


Donald Trump makes deal with Democrats to protect young immigrants

President Donald Trump has agreed to a plan with top Democratic leaders to protect thousands of young immigrants from deportation. This marks the second time in two weeks Trump has turned his back on his party.

September 14, 2017


Congressional Democratic leaders said Wednesday they had struck a deal with President Donald Trump to protect thousands of young immigrants from deportation.

The agreement will also see increased security at the US-Mexico border, though it does not include funding for Trump’s sought-after border wall.

Trump horrified many young immigrants last week when he announced his decision to repeal the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA protected nearly 800,000 immigrants, known as Dreamers, brought illegally to the US as children from deportation as long as they had no criminal record and had completed high school.

The president said he was ending the program, which was highly popular with both Democrats and Republicans, in order to give Congress six months to craft appropriate immigration legislation replacing Obama’s 2012 executive order.

“We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (photo above) in a joint statement after a meeting at the White House.

“This is a positive step toward the president’s strong commitment to bipartisan solutions for the issues most important to all Americans,” the White House said.

Bipartisan pivot

This is the second time in two weeks Trump has gone over the heads of his own Republican party to ink deals with Democrats. Last week, he turned heads when he agreed to Schumer and Pelosi’s three-month budget deal, eschewing his party’s 18-month plan to avoid a government shutdown.

Although Trump spent the first several months of his presidency berating Democrats as “obstructionist,” his pivot to bipartisanship is not a surprise to all Washington insiders. Trump is reportedly irate with his party for failing to pass health care reform and is said to be enjoying the positive press coverage he has received from working with Schumer and Pelosi.


Sloppy U.S. Spies Misused a Covert Network for Personal Shopping — and Other Stories from Internal NSA Documents

September 13 2017

by Micah Lee, Margot Williams and Talya Cooper

The Intercept

NSA agents successfully targeted “the entire business chain” connecting foreign cafes to the internet, bragged about an “all-out effort” to spy on liberated Iraq, and began systematically trying to break into virtual private networks, according to a set of internal agency news reports dating to the first half of 2005.

British spies, meanwhile, were made to begin providing new details about their informants via a system of “Intelligence Source Descriptors” created in response to intelligence failures in Iraq. Hungary and the Czech Republic pulled closer to the National Security Agency.

And future Intercept backer Pierre Omidyar visited NSA headquarters for an internal conference panel on “human networking” and open-source intelligence.

These stories and more are contained in a batch of 294 articles from SIDtoday, the internal news website of the NSA’s core Signals Intelligence Directorate. The Intercept is publishing the articles in redacted form as part of an ongoing project to release material from the files provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In addition to the aforementioned highlights, summarized in further detail below, the documents show how the NSA greatly expanded a secret eavesdropping partnership with Ethiopia’s draconian security forces in the Horn of Africa, as detailed in an investigation by longtime Intercept contributor Nick Turse. They describe the NSA’s operations at a base in Digby, England, where the agency worked with its British counterpart GCHQ to help direct drones in the Middle East and tap into communications through the Arab Spring uprisings, according to a separate article by Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher. And they show how the NSA and GCHQ thwarted encryption systems used to protect peer-to-peer file sharing through the apps Kazaa and eDonkey, as explained here by Intercept technologist Micah Lee.

NSA did not comment for this article.

American Intelligence Agents Outed Themselves Online

Members of the U.S. intelligence community routinely thwarted a system designed to mask their identities online by using it for personal shopping and to log on to websites, according to an NSA information technology manager.

The system, called “AIRGAP,” was run by “one of the world’s largest ISPs” and created around 1998 at the behest of the NSA, according to NSA Internet Program Manager Charlie Speight, writing in SIDtoday. Its purpose was to allow “non-attribution internet access,” Speight added, meaning that intelligence analysts could surf the internet without revealing that they were coming from U.S. spy agencies. By 2005, it was used by the whole U.S. intelligence community.

One early concern about the firewall was that it funneled all internet traffic through a single IP address, meaning that if any activity on the address was revealed to be associated with U.S. spies, a broad swath of other activity could then be attributed to other U.S. spies. More IP addresses were subsequently added, but “occasionally we find that the ISP reverts to one address, or does not effectively rotate those assigned,” Speight wrote.

Speight added that the “greater security concern” was the very intelligence agents the system was designed to protect. “Despite rules and warnings to the contrary, all too frequently users will use AIRGAP for registering on web sites or for services, logging into other sites and services and even ordering personal items from on-line vendors,” Speight wrote in a classified passage. “By doing so, these users reveal information about themselves and, potentially, other users on the network. So much for ‘non-attribution.’”

This sort of sloppiness mirrors behavior that has undermined Russian intelligence operatives. A slide presentation by Canadian intelligence, dating to 2011 or later, labeled as “morons” members of a Russian hacking group code-named “MAKERSMARK,” who thwarted a “really well-designed” system to hide their identities by using it to log on to their personal social and email accounts.

The two situations are not perfectly comparable; the U.S. system was managed as part of a network for obtaining unclassified information, while the Russian system was used for the more sensitive activity of staging hack attacks. But Speight hinted at aggressive use of the U.S. system, writing in his piece that the NSA had begun “using AIRGAP for reasons and in volumes not intended in its formation” — the agency thus began developing its own separate firewall.

The NSA had systems with the same goal as AIRGAP — anonymization — but for phone calls. According to a February 2005 SIDtoday article, the NSA controlled 40,000 telephone numbers, but these were almost all prefixed with area- and exchange-code combinations that were publicly associated with the agency. An analyst who needed to make a public phone call without leaking their affiliation could use “anonymous telephones,” most of them registered to Department of Defense, or “cover telephones,” registered using alias names and P.O. boxes. No security protocol lapses were described in connection with the old-fashioned voice networks.

NSA Targeted “the Entire Business Chain” to Spy on Internet Cafes

While hiding, or at least trying to hide, its own online operations, the NSA launched an all-encompassing campaign to trace online activity in internet cafes, down to specific seats.

A program called “MASTERSHAKE” accomplished this by exploiting equipment used by the cafes, including satellite internet modems, according to top-secret information reported by SIDtoday. “MASTERSHAKE targets the entire business chain, from manufacturer to Internet café installation, to ascertain any and all available data regarding … geolocation, the network connectivity of the modem, as well as the actual physical location of the installation,” according to SIDtoday.

MASTERSHAKE data was “enriched” with other information, including “geolocatable phone events,” as well as intelligence from throughout the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate and from the agency’s XKeyscore search system.

The NSA knew the precise location of over 400 internet cafes. For over 50 of these cafes, it could locate a target to a specific seat within the cafe. One goal of the monitoring was to hunt down Al Qaeda leaders, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. SIDtoday focused on the use of MASTERSHAKE in Iraq, describing an incident in the city of Ramadi where two “counterterrorism targets” began using a messenger service at an internet cafe, and “within about 15 minutes the two men were arrested.” But it also indicated the system was used more broadly, “in the Middle East and Africa.”

As the Intercept previously reported, the NSA has surveilled internet cafes in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, as detailed in agency documents.

An “All-Out Effort” To Spy on Liberated Iraq

The NSA’s surveillance against Iraqis went far beyond cafe computers. Two years after President George W. Bush’s infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech and a year after the Coalition Provisional Authority handed over the reins to the Iraqi Interim Government, the agency was trying to tap the nation’s communications — and enlist friendly Iraqis and the new government to do likewise.

In a top-secret SIDtoday report, an NSA “data acquisition lead” in Baghdad described “an all-out effort to penetrate Iraqi networks using everything in the tool box of the most sophisticated SIGINT agency in the world.” The “very forward-leaning and aggressive” collection effort brought “our technology to bear at the optimum access points” in the country. The identity of those access points is hinted at by the list of people the NSA staffer met with as the “field rep on a number of projects”: “Iraqi government personnel engaged in telecommunications and IT issues for Iraq; small and medium sized Iraqi communications contractors; the CEO’s and Chief Technical Officers of the major Iraqi telecommunications service providers; [and] Iraqi cabinet level officials,” among others.

Another article confirmed the NSA was spying on Iraqi telecommunications, describing a “dramatic drop” in information the agency collected from links carrying mobile phone traffic between Fallujah and northern Baghdad and a consequent gap in intelligence gathering. A team from the NSA and CIA was able to restore the collection within two weeks by targeting microwave signals carrying the traffic.

In addition to its own electronic spying within Iraq, the NSA sought to rebuild the country’s ability to spy on itself through another joint project with the CIA, along with GCHQ. The Western intelligence entities would build a new Iraqi spy agency, dubbed the Iraq SIGINT Element, according to another SIDtoday article. The Iraqi SIGINT Element’s expertise would come, of course, from veterans of Saddam Hussein’s regime; the NSA and GCHQ made a list of candidates “gleaned from years of targeting the Iraqi civil and military SIGINT units,” SIDtoday reported. The former targets were the new recruits. The CIA assisted in the vetting process with polygraphers, psychologists, and background checks, and the NSA trained the selected candidates on “how we do SIGINT.” The new intelligence agents’ first assignment was to find communications of former Saddam “elements” and insurgents in Baghdad. They went covertly into Baghdad neighborhoods, which U.S. and U.K. forces were unable to do.

It was at the behest of the director of central intelligence that the NSA “moved aggressively to help [Iraq] establish and enhance their signals intelligence capabilities,” SIDtoday reported separately. A similar effort was underway in Afghanistan. “Both relationships come with risks, but the overall benefit to U.S. objectives in the region outweighs these risks,” wrote an NSA foreign affairs staff officer.

Targeting Bombers in Iraq

Mass surveillance efforts in Iraq were part of a broader NSA effort to address the consequences of the coalition’s victory over Saddam Hussein. Immediately after the Ba’athist government fell to the invading forces in 2003, signals intelligence collection on the regime ceased to exist. NSA staff, some of whom had been monitoring the country for more than a decade, woke up to “no more audio cuts, no more transcripts … no more product reports,” according to an account in SIDtoday. One official wondered, “Will we lose resources because of our success?” Postwar insurgency and sectarian strife ensured this was not the case.

For example, an NSA team set about thwarting detonation systems for bombs set by insurgents. The bombs, known within the U.S. military as improvised explosive devices, were triggered from a distance, often using high-powered cordless phone systems, in which a common base station, controlled by a triggerman, connects to a cluster of wireless handsets. The team devised a way to locate triggermen: Intercepting and identifying security codes emitted by captured handsets. The codes, intended to tether a handset to a particular base station, could then be used to locate base stations, resulting in military targeting and “hopefully, the IED makers neutralized,” SIDtoday stated.

The NSA may have had a chance to deploy this technique at the end of January 2005, when Iraq’s first parliamentary elections took place. An article in SIDtoday (2005-02-16_SIDToday_-_30_January_Iraq_Election_Day.pdf) said that signals intelligence helped prevent 50 to 60 suicide bombers from making it into polling centers. Still, 285 other insurgent attacks occurred that day, and CNN reported several incidents of suicide bombings that hit police officers and Iraqis waiting to vote.

How British Spies Were Made To Atone for Bad Iraq Intel

In Iraq and elsewhere, the NSA expanded the scope of its intelligence sharing to U.S. government “customers,” as described in a January 2005 article, in which an NSA staffer in Baghdad read a new sharing guideline aloud to a hesitant colleague: “It’s OK to talk about, show and share evaluated, minimized unpublished SIGINT to customers/partners in order to facilitate analytic collaboration.”

Even amid the aggressive intelligence sharing, the NSA was taking note of what could happen when such sharing went terribly wrong. A SIDtoday story about a British government inquiry into prewar intelligence on Iraq, the Butler Review, describes how the U.K.’s signals intelligence agency GCHQ was now required to provide “Intelligence Source Descriptors” on all intel reports. This requirement came in response to the finding that the British foreign spying agency, MI6, did not adequately check human sources and relied on third-hand reporting about Iraqi chemical weapons, including “seriously flawed” information from “another country’s intelligence service.”

The new British source descriptors would include identification of sources by name or role along with judgments on whether the source had direct or indirect access to the information reported. The GCHQ descriptor would also indicate whether a source is “reliable,” “unknown,” or “uncertain” as to reliability. “There are no plans at present to use a like program on NSA reports,” SIDtoday reported.

Despite reporting on fallout from the U.K. postwar review, SIDtoday did not cover a U.S. presidential commission that prominently reported in March 2005 on how the American intelligence community was “dead wrong” in its prewar assessment of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

NSA Works with Hungary, Pakistan, Ethiopia — and an Eager Czech Republic

In parallel with its efforts to share information with more U.S. government and intelligence agencies, the NSA also forged connections with foreign partners whose collaboration would have, in previous decades, seemed inconceivable.

In early 2005, the NSA entered into a partnership with Hungary’s Military Intelligence Office, inviting the spy agency to “work with NSA as part of our extended SIGINT enterprise,” according to SIDtoday, and “write SIGINT reports for dissemination through the NSA system to our intelligence community customers.” The partnership allowed the NSA to tap into the Hungarian agency’s “unique access to Serbian and Ukrainian military targets.”

A contemporaneous NSA visit to the Czech Republic, as described in SIDtoday, showed how such “third party” partnerships can come to fruition. The trip was conducted to establish whether the NSA should partner with the Czech External Intelligence Service, or ÚZSI, which wanted to tap NSA expertise “on many technical issues.” In order to win over the Americans, spy agency “personnel essentially opened the door to their SIGINT vault,” displaying an “exceptional degree of openness.” The NSA team came away impressed, judging ÚZSI “exceptionally good at analysis of material associated with Russian [counterintelligence] targets,” and impressed with the agency’s “very good analytic effort against Russian and Ukrainian HF networks” and “overall levels of sophistication, knowledge, practical experience, ingenuity and enthusiasm that allow them to overcome many financial and equipment shortfalls.” Perhaps best of all, ÚZSI “has not requested financial support from the NSA.” The Czech Republic eventually became a third-party partner.

A March 2005 SIDtoday article, summarizing a briefing from the NSA’s principal director for foreign affairs, alluded to agency “relationships” with Pakistan and Ethiopia, “work” with Iraq (discussed elsewhere in this article) and Afghanistan, and a “multinational collaboration in the Pacific.”

More generally, third parties became vital at this time simply for providing additional staffing and coverage. For instance, after the U.S. closed several bases, the NSA developed a reliance on third-party partners to participate in High Frequency Directional Finding networks for locating the origins of targeted radio signals. And the U.S. partnered with Hungary’s military intelligence organization in part because it “has been instrumental in providing intelligence that answers high-priority CIA and DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) requirements that NSA would otherwise not be able to answer due to manpower constraints.” (2005-03-04_SIDToday_-_Hungarian_MIO_Reporting_Initiative_to_Serve_as_Model.pdf)

Intercept Backer Spoke at NSA Headquarters

Back in the U.S., the NSA’s post-9/11 “transformation,” initiated by Director Michael Hayden, promoted information sharing and collaboration to the traditionally closed community at Fort Meade. Invitations to participate at agency seminars and conferences were made not just to partners from the intelligence and military communities, but also to members of private industry and academia.

An announcement in SIDtoday for the third annual Analysis Conference from the NSA’s Analysis and Production division proclaimed the need to “keep communications open and leverage our partners’ insights.” Speakers at the May 2005 event, held at agency headquarters, included authors, U.S. senators, corporate executives, and journalists.

One “high-powered panel” at the conference on “human networking” featured eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who would go on to provide funding for The Intercept, which covers and is frequently critical of the NSA. A separate SIDtoday article touting the panel  indicated that corporate anthropologist Karen Stephenson and Wired founding executive editor Kevin Kelly also participated and that panelists were recruited through the Global Business Network, a consulting firm specializing in scenario-based forecasting. The GBN had been asked to harness its network of experts, “most of whom have had no previous involvement with the intelligence community,” to apply strategies from “the competitive marketplace” to NSA challenges.

Omidyar told The Intercept that the GBN “asked me to participate in an unclassified meeting at NSA headquarters at Fort Meade on the topic of ‘open source’ intelligence. My recollection of the people I met there is that they were very smart and genuinely interested in bringing outside ideas into the agency. I stayed involved with the GBN for some time after that meeting but when they approached me many months later to participate in additional meetings with the NSA, I declined. The invitation was made after news broke in December 2005 about the agency’s ‘warrantless wiretapping’ — and those events were deeply concerning to me. In addition, I didn’t have anything else to add beyond what I had already shared. I was not asked to meet with the NSA again after declining that invitation.”

Omidyar said he was not paid for his appearance

Advanced Word on Indian Nuclear Weapons

A series of nuclear weapons tests conducted by India in the spring of 1998 took the intelligence community by surprise, prompting an internal investigation into why these tests had not been foreseen; a subsequent report was harshly critical of the U.S. intelligence community. A similar lapse in data gathering would not happen again in 2005. An Australian NSA site, RAINFALL, isolated a signal it suspected was associated with an Indian nuclear facility, according to SIDtoday. Collaboration between RAINFALL and two NSA stations in Thailand (INDRA and LEMONWOOD) confirmed the source of the signals and allowed for the interception of information about several new Indian missile initiatives. Although these missile systems did not come to public attention for several more years (the Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missile was first tested in 2008), the NSA’s access to these signals gave them foreknowledge of their Third Party SIGINT partner’s (see last image) actions.

Attacking VPNs

An NSA working group focused on virtual private networks, or VPNs, was established in November 2004 to “conduct systematic and thorough SIGINT Development of VPN communications (typically encrypted),” SIDtoday reported — meaning that the agency wanted to break into the networks. The group published regular “VPN Target Activity Reports” on a large number of countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Russia, and China, as well as “specific financial, governmental, communication service providers and international organizations.” These reports may help analysts “exploit targets’ VPNs more successfully.”

Women at the NSA

Sonia Kovalevsky Days take place at schools and colleges nationwide, with competitions and talks to encourage young women to pursue careers in mathematics. Although the events’ namesake was a radical socialist and pioneering female mathematician, members of the NSA’s Women in Mathematics Society participated as part of the agency’s effort to recruit more female mathematicians. The NSA believed itself to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the country, but between 1987 to 1993, only one of the 30 math Ph.D.s the agency hired identified as a woman, and only 26 percent of women hired into the agency’s mathematics community had an advanced degree, according to SIDtoday. After the Women in Mathematics Society was formed, from 1994 through 2005, about 38 percent of women mathematicians hired into NSA had a doctoral degree and 27 percent held a master’s degree.

Hold the Spam, Please

“Spam affects NSA by impeding our collection, processing and storage of [Digital Network Intelligence] traffic,” said the author of a February 2005 SIDtoday article. “Unfortunately, filtering out spam has proven to be an extremely difficult and cumbersome task.”According to the author, analysts developed technology that tagged “an average of 150,000 spam sessions a day,” which greatly reduced the amount of spam that shows up in “daily searches” of intercepted emails.

Correction: September 13, 2017, 9:15 p.m.

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story gave an incorrect year for the NSA’s third annual Analysis Conference; the event occurred in May 2005, not May 2015.


The American Military Uncontained

Out Everywhere and Winning Nowhere

by William J. Astore


When it comes to the “world’s greatest military,” the news has been shocking. Two fast U.S. Navy ships colliding with slow-moving commercial vessels with tragic loss of life.  An Air Force that has been in the air continuously for years and yet doesn’t have enough pilots to fly its combat jets.  Ground troops who find themselves fighting “rebels” in Syria previously armed and trained by the CIA.  Already overstretched Special Operations forces facing growing demands as their rates of mental distress and suicide rise.  Proxy armies in Iraq and Afghanistan that are unreliable, often delivering American-provided weaponry to black markets and into the hands of various enemies.  All of this and more coming at a time when defense spending is once again soaring and the national security state is awash in funds to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars a year.

What gives?  Why are highly maneuverable and sophisticated naval ships colliding with lumbering cargo vessels?  Why is an Air Force that exists to fly and fight short 1,200 pilots?  Why are U.S. Special Operations forces deployed everywhere and winning nowhere?  Why, in short, is the U.S. military fighting itself — and losing

It’s the Ops Tempo, Stupid

After 16 years of a never-ending, ever-spreading global war on terror, alarms are going off in Asia from the Koreas and Afghanistan to the Philippines, while across the Greater Middle East and Africa the globe’s “last superpower” is in a never-ending set of conflicts with a range of minor enemies few can even keep straight.  As a result, America’s can-do military, committed piecemeal to a bewildering array of missions, has increasingly become a can’t-do one.

Too few ships are being deployed for too long.  Too few pilots are being worn out by incessant patrols and mushrooming drone and bombing missions.  Special Operations forces (the “commandos of everywhere,” as Nick Turse calls them) are being deployed to far too many countries — more than two-thirds of the nations on the planet already this year — and are involved in conflicts that hold little promise of ending on terms favorable to Washington.  Meanwhile, insiders like retired General David Petraeus speak calmly about “generational struggles” that will essentially never end.  To paraphrase an old slogan from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” as the U.S. military spans the globe, it’s regularly experiencing the agony of defeat rather than the thrill of victory.

To President Donald Trump (and so many other politicians in Washington), this unsavory reality suggests an obvious solution: boost military funding; build more navy ships; train more pilots and give them more incentive pay to stay in the military; rely more on drones and other technological “force multipliers” to compensate for tired troops; cajole allies like the Germans and Japanese to spend more on their militaries; and pressure proxy armies like the Iraqi and Afghan security forces to cut corruption and improve combat performance.

One option — the most logical — is never seriously considered in Washington: to make deep cuts in the military’s operational tempo by decreasing defense spending and downsizing the global mission, by bringing troops home and keeping them there.  This is not an isolationist plea.  The United States certainly faces challenges, notably from Russia (still a major nuclear power) and China (a global economic power bolstering its regional militarily strength).  North Korea is, as ever, posturing with missile and nuclear tests in provocative ways.  Terrorist organizations strive to destabilize American allies and cause trouble even in “the homeland.”

Such challenges require vigilance.  What they don’t require is more ships in the sea-lanes, pilots in the air, and boots on the ground.  Indeed, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks it should be obvious that more of the same is likely to produce yet more of what we’ve grown all too accustomed to: increasing instability across significant swaths of the planet, as well as the rise of new terror groups or new iterations of older ones, which means yet more opportunities for failed U.S. military interventions.

Once upon a time, when there were still two superpowers on Planet Earth, Washington’s worldwide military posture had a clear rationale: the containment of communism.  Soon after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 to much triumphalist self-congratulation in Washington, the scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson had an epiphany.  What he would come to call “the American Raj,” a global imperial structure ostensibly built to corral the menace of communism, wasn’t going away just because that menace had evaporated, leaving not a superpower nor even a major power as an opponent anywhere on the horizon.  Quite the opposite, Washington — and its globe-spanning “empire” of military bases — was only digging in deeper and for the long haul.  At that moment, with a certain shock, Johnson realized that the U.S. was itself an empire and, with its mirror-image-enemy gone, risked turning on itself and becoming its own nemesis.

The U.S., it turned out, hadn’t just contained the Soviets; they had contained us, too.  Once their empire collapsed, our leaders imbibed the old dream of Woodrow Wilson, even if in a newly militarized fashion: to remake the world in one’s own image (if need be at the point of a sword).

Since the early 1990s, largely unconstrained by peer rivals, America’s leaders have acted as if there were nothing to stop them from doing as they pleased on the planet, which, as it turned out, meant there was nothing to stop them from their own folly.  We witness the results today.  Prolonged and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Interventions throughout the Greater Middle East (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and beyond) that spread chaos and destruction.  Attacks against terrorism that have given new impetus to jihadists everywhere.  And recently calls to arm Ukraine against Russia.  All of this is consistent with a hubristic strategic vision that, in these years, has spoken in an all-encompassing fashion and without irony of global reach, global power, and full-spectrum dominance.

In this context, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the full scope of America’s military power.  All the world is a stage — or a staging area — for U.S. troops.  There are still approximately 800 U.S. military bases in foreign lands.  America’s commandos deploy to more than 130 countries yearly.  And even the world is not enough for the Pentagon as it seeks to dominate not just land, sea, and air but outer space, cyberspace, and even inner space, if you count efforts to achieve “total information awareness” through 17 intelligence agencies dedicated — at a cost of $80 billion a year — to sweeping up all data on Planet Earth.

In short, America’s troops are out everywhere and winning nowhere, a problem America’s “winningest” president, Donald Trump, is only exacerbating.  Surrounded by “his” generals, Trump has — against his own instincts, he claimed recently — recommitted American troops and prestige to the Afghan War.  He’s also significantly expanded U.S. drone strikes and bombing throughout the Greater Middle East, and threatened to bring fire and fury to North Korea, while pushing a program to boost military spending.

At a Pentagon awash in money, with promises of more to come, missions are rarely downsized.  Meanwhile, what passes for original thinking in the Trump White House is the suggestion of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, to privatize America’s war in Afghanistan (and possibly elsewhere).  Mercenaries are the answer to Washington’s military problems, suggests Prince.  And mercs, of course, have the added benefit of not being constrained by the rules of engagement that apply to America’s uniformed service members.

Indeed, Prince’s idea, though opposed by Trump’s generals, is compelling in one sense: If you accept the notion that America’s wars in these years have been fought largely for the corporate agendas of the military-industrial complex, why not turn warfighting itself over to the warrior corporations that now regularly accompany the military into battle, cutting out the middleman, that very military?

Hammering a Cloud of Gnats

Erik Prince’s mercenaries will, however, have to bide their time as the military high command continues to launch kinetic strikes against elusive foes around the globe.  By its own admission, the force recent U.S. presidents have touted as the “finest” in history faces remarkably “asymmetrical” and protean enemies, including the roughly 20 terrorist organizations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.  In striking at such relatively puny foes, the U.S. reminds me of the mighty Thor of superhero fame swinging his hammer violently against a cloud of gnats. In the process, some of those gnats will naturally die, but the result will still be an exhausted superhero and ever more gnats attracted by the heat and commotion of battle.

I first came across the phrase “using a sledgehammer to kill gnats” while looking at the history of U.S. airpower during the Vietnam War.  B-52 “Arc Light” raids dropped record tons of bombs on parts of South Vietnam and Laos in largely failed efforts to kill dispersed guerrillas and interdict supply routes from North Vietnam.  Half a century later, with its laser- and GPS-guided bombs, the Air Force regularly touts the far greater precision of American airpower.  Yet in one country after another, using just that weaponry, the U.S. has engaged in serial acts of overkill.  In Afghanistan, it was the recent use of MOAB, the “mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear weapon the U.S. has ever used in combat, against a small concentration of ISIS fighters.  In similar fashion, the U.S. air war in Syria has outpaced the Russians and even the Assad regime in its murderous effects on civilians, especially around Raqqa, the “capital” of the Islamic State.  Such overkill is evident on the ground as well where special ops raids have, this year, left civilians dead from Yemen to Somalia.  In other words, across the Greater Middle East, Washington’s profligate killing machine is also creating a desire for vengeance among civilian populations, staggering numbers of whom, when not killed, have been displaced or sent fleeing across borders as refugees in these wars. It has played a significant role in unsettling whole regions, creating failed states, and providing yet more recruits for terror groups.

Leaving aside technological advances, little has changed since Vietnam. The U.S. military is still relying on enormous firepower to kill elusive enemies as a way of limiting (American) casualties.  As an instrument of victory, it didn’t work in Vietnam, nor has it worked in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But never mind the history lessons.  President Trump asserts that his “new” Afghan strategy — the details of which, according to a military spokesman, are “not there yet” — will lead to more terrorists (that is, gnats) being killed.

Since 9/11, America’s leaders, Trump included, have rarely sought ways to avoid those gnats, while efforts to “drain the swamp” in which the gnats thrive have served mainly to enlarge their breeding grounds.  At the same time, efforts to enlist indigenous “gnats” — local proxy armies — to take over the fight have gone poorly indeed.  As in Vietnam, the main U.S. focus has invariably been on developing better, more technologically advanced (which means more expensive) sledgehammers, while continuing to whale away at that cloud of gnats — a process as hopeless as it is counterproductive.

The Greatest Self-Defeating Force in History?

Incessant warfare represents the end of democracy.  I didn’t say that, James Madison did.

I firmly believe, though, in words borrowed from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that “only Americans can hurt America.”  So how can we lessen the hurt?  By beginning to rein in the military.  A standing military exists — or rather should exist — to support and defend the Constitution and our country against immediate threats to our survival.  Endless attacks against inchoate foes in the backlands of the planet hardly promote that mission.  Indeed, the more such attacks wear on the military, the more they imperil national security.

A friend of mine, a captain in the Air Force, once quipped to me: you study long, you study wrong.  It’s a sentiment that’s especially cutting when applied to war: you wage war long, you wage it wrong.  Yet as debilitating as they may be to militaries, long wars are even more devastating to democracies.  The longer our military wages war, the more our country is militarized, shedding its democratic values and ideals.

Back in the Cold War era, the regions in which the U.S. military is now slogging it out were once largely considered “the shadows” where John le Carré-style secret agents from the two superpowers matched wits in a set of shadowy conflicts.  Post-9/11, “taking the gloves off” and seeking knockout blows, the U.S. military entered those same shadows in a big way and there, not surprisingly, it often couldn’t sort friend from foe.

A new strategy for America should involve getting out of those shadowy regions of no-win war.  Instead, an expanding U.S. military establishment continues to compound the strategic mistakes of the last 16 years.  Seeking to dominate everywhere but winning decisively nowhere, it may yet go down as the greatest self-defeating force in history.



Clinton’s new book removes all doubt. She still has no idea why she lost

September 13, 2017

by Danielle Ryan


If her newest released book is any indication, there isn’t a bus big enough to fit all the people Hillary Clinton wants to throw under it.

Clinton’s book, ‘What Happened,’ serves as a kind of personal post-mortem of the 2016 election campaign. Indeed, many have joked it would have been more appropriately titled ‘What Happened?’ with a question mark stuck on the end because almost a year later, Hillary Clinton apparently still has no idea what actually happened.

There’s little need here to rehash Clinton’s view that Russia and Vladimir Putin are behind her epic downfall and Donald Trump’s shock victory, but we should take a look at some of the other people in her crosshairs, because Clinton is still managing to expand her repertoire of excuses for losing to Donald Trump.

Blaming Bernie

In excerpts posted online before the book’s publication, Clinton lets her anger loose on Bernie Sanders, her main challenger for the Democratic nomination, for what she feels were unrealistic campaign promises. At one point, she compares Sanders to the “deranged hitchhiker” character from the 1998 movie ‘There’s Something About Mary’ who offers “seven-minute abs” instead of “eight-minute abs.”

“Well, why not six-minute abs? That’s what it was like in policy debates with Bernie,” Clinton writes.

Aside from being deranged and unrealistic, Clinton also scolds Sanders for “impugning her character” — which is rich, coming from the woman who ran a campaign that slyly tried to use McCarthyite smears to brand Sanders as a communist for the crime of spending his 1988 honeymoon in the former Soviet Union.

Clinton’s treatment of Sanders is particularly disgusting, however, when you consider that he endorsed her for president (and actually went out campaigning for her) despite the fact she “won” the Democratic nomination by secretly working to sink his campaign with the supposedly impartial Democratic National Committee (DNC). Now she shows her gratitude by devoting parts of her new book to bashing him.

The funny thing is, Sanders didn’t attack Clinton nearly as much as another Democratic challenger had done in the past. In 2008, Barack Obama pummeled and mocked Hillary Clinton in far harsher and more explicit terms than Bernie ever did — and yet, Clinton and Obama ended up the best of friends. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that Obama could offer her a fancy job and Bernie couldn’t.

The media and debate moderators

There is little more hilarious than Clinton blaming the media for her losing an election to a man who was despised and reviled by an astoundingly high percentage of that media.

Yet, she finds a way. The media helped elect Trump by giving him massive amounts of free airtime and spending too much time on her email scandal, she writes.

Of course, the media gave Trump huge amounts of coverage. Every time he opened his mouth he said something more controversial than the last time. But the coverage he was receiving was not positive coverage. The media was not rooting for him. They were almost uniformly rooting for her.

The depth of her delusion becomes apparent when she takes aim at debate moderators for supposedly being unfair to her. That’s right, the candidate who had debate moderators feed her questions in advance, thinks the moderators were too hard on her.

In particular, Clinton was unhappy with NBC’s Matt Lauer during the Commander-in-Chief forum. She lashes out at Lauer’s “pointless ambush” because he had the audacity to question her about her use of a private email server as Secretary of State. To make matters worse, Lauer “soft-peddled” Trump, which made her want to “shake some sense” into the NBC host.

Jill Stein, Julian Assange, Susan Sarandon and Barack Obama

Clinton’s argument when it comes to Green Party candidate Jill Stein is that Stein essentially threw the election to Trump because some people voted for her.

God forbid any third-party candidate would have the audacity to run for president and actually get some votes. An outrageous act of treachery against the two-party system for sure. Stein’s visit to Moscow in December 2015 was also unacceptable, according to Clinton, because it meant she shared Trump’s “pro-Russia” stance.

This is also where Clinton throws in a jab at actress Susan Sarandon for the crime of not supporting her. Sarandon, originally a Sanders supporter (and later a supporter of Jill Stein), was heavily critical of Clinton during the campaign — enough to earn her a place in the Clinton Hall of Blame.

The “odious” Julian Assange, who released DNC emails through WikiLeaks during the campaign cycle is also in the firing line. Assange is a “hypocrite” who masquerades as a champion of transparency, but who should be “held accountable” for helping Russia and Putin by releasing information that damaged her campaign.

So far, none of this is particularly surprising. What is surprising though, is that Obama has now made an appearance on her hit list. If only Obama had made a speech announcing that America was “under attack” by the Russians, maybe people would have flocked to her campaign in droves. Maybe then it all would have been so different.

What actually happened

What happened is that Clinton’s hubris got in the way of her ability to see reality.

So blinded was she by a long-held assumption that someday the White House would be hers, that she never even drafted a concession speech. In fact, she was so completely sure of victory that she forked out $1.1 million to buy the house next door to her own for her presidential staff to use while she was working away from the White House.

Aside from his access to unlimited funds, no one could have had more stacked against him than Donald Trump. He made mistake after mistake. He told lie after lie — and was caught every time. He was caught up in scandal after scandal. The media despised him with a passion.

Clinton knows this. She knows it was almost impossible to lose to a man like Trump. That’s why she can’t stop trying to rationalize it by placing the blame everywhere but at her own feet.

In her book, Clinton does mere lip service to the idea that she deserves real blame for losing the election to the most unpopular candidate in history. She knows people want her to acknowledge her part in all this, but she doesn’t really believe it. It’s when she’s blaming other people that she gets most fired up.

Clinton’s former staffers know all this, too, and it’s why they’re not exactly delighted at the prospect of having to listen to her babble on about it for a 15 city book tour. One of them aptly called the book tour “the final torture” to be endured before Clinton might finally go away and stop talking for a while — a pretty harsh indictment.

Clinton complains that Sanders was “outraged about everything” and “thundered on” at every event about the sins of millionaires and billionaires. It is incredibly telling that she uses the fact that Sanders was outraged at injustice as an insult. If she herself had displayed some outrage at the things Americans were outraged by, she might have seen better results. Then again, she ran a status quo campaign. Any outrage she claimed to feel would have been insincere.

Clinton gave Democrats nothing to get excited about. She gave them nothing to believe in. When they wanted radical change, she gave them practical and realistic, according to her own conservative standards. Her rallying cry was something akin to: “Don’t get too excited, we have to be realistic!”… not exactly a powerful call to action.

Sanders gave his supporters passion and purpose and hope. He energized progressives. He didn’t dampen their optimism. He encouraged it. He wanted them to believe that more was possible — and with him, the Democrats likely would have beaten Trump.

Clinton is not a progressive. She doesn’t even like them. She thinks they’re impractical and unrealistic and shows nothing but disdain toward them. But she missed the mark badly. She read the political climate wrong. The anger and outrage that made Sanders a real challenger and propelled Trump into the White House were completely lost on her. She should have learned this in 2008 when Obama beat her using the very same tactics.

Of course, Sanders wouldn’t have been able to wave a magic wand and create a socialist utopia, but the Democrats would be in the White House. They wouldn’t be hand-wringing and crying over spilled milk.

In their new book, ‘Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed 2016 Campaign’, journalists Jon Allen and Amie Parnes make the case that no one, no campaign team, no matter how good, could have saved Clinton from herself. They write: “The campaign was an unholy mess, fraught with tangled lines of authority, petty jealousies, distorted priorities, and no sense of greater purpose. No one was in charge, and no one had figured out how to make the campaign about something bigger than Hillary.”

It was only ever about Hillary — and it still is.


The Clinton Book Tour Is Largely Ignoring the Vital Role of Endless War in the 2016 Election Result

September 13 2017

by Glenn Greenwald

The Intercept

To pitch her book, Hillary Clinton is sitting down this week for a series of media interviews, mostly with supportive TV personalities, such as Rachel Maddow, to discuss her views of “What Happened,” the book’s title. Calls for Clinton to be quiet and disappear are misguided for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that she is a very smart, informed, and articulate politician, which means her interviews — especially when she’s liberated from programmed campaign mode — are illuminating about how she, and her fellow establishment Democrats who have driven the party into a ditch, really think.

An hourlong interview she sat for with Vox’s Ezra Klein is particularly worthwhile. Clinton, for good reason, harbors a great deal of affection for Klein, which she expressed on multiple occasions during their chat. But Klein nonetheless pressed her on a series of criticisms that have been voiced about her and the Democrats’ stunted political approach, banal policies, status-quo-perpetuating worldview, and cramped aspirations that seem far more plausible as authors of her defeat than the familiar array of villains — Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin, Jill Stein, Jim Comey, the New York Times — that she and her most ardent supporters are eager to blame.

Despite being illuminating, Klein’s discussion with Clinton contains a glaring though quite common omission: There is not a word about the role of foreign policy and endless war during the entire hour. While some of this may be attributable to Klein’s perfectly valid journalistic focus on domestic policies, such as health care, a huge factor in Clinton’s political career and how she is perceived — as a senator and especially as secretary of state — is her advocacy of multiple wars and other military actions, many, if not all, of which were rather disastrous, rendering it quite strange to spend an hour discussing why she lost without so much as mentioning any of that.

This is not so much a critique of Klein’s specific interview (which, again, is worthwhile) as it is reflective of the broader Democratic Party desire to pretend that the foreign wars it has repeatedly prosecuted, and the endless killing of innocent people for which it is responsible, do not exist. Part of that is the discomfort of cognitive dissonance: the Democratic branding and self-glorification as enemies of privilege, racism, and violence are directly in conflict with the party’s long-standing eagerness to ignore, or even actively support, policies which kill large numbers of innocent people from Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia to Yemen, Iraq, and Gaza, but which receive scant attention because of the nationality, ethnicity, poverty, distance, and general invisibility of their victims.

But a major part of this minimization is a misperception of the domestic political importance of these policies. From the beginning of his candidacy through the general election, Donald Trump rhetorically positioned himself as a vehement opponent of endless war, inveighing against both parties when doing so.

Though there is now a revisionist effort underway to falsely depict those who pointed this out as being gullible believers in Trump’s dovish and antiwar credentials, the reality is that most of us who warned of the efficacy of Trump’s antiwar campaign theme made explicitly clear that there was no reason to believe Trump would actually be dovish if he were elected. Indeed, from Trump’s history of endorsing the wars he was denouncing to his calls for greater and more savage bombing to his desire to nullify the Iran deal, there was ample reasons to doubt that he would usher in dovishness of any kind. But the point was that Trump’s antiwar posturing was a politically potent approach because of how unpopular endless war and militarism have become.

These warnings — about the efficacy of Trump’s attacks on America’s bipartisan posture of Endless War — largely fell on deaf ears. Clinton continued to defend the virtues of her record of militarism, and even now, those topics are excluded almost completely from discussions of why Clinton lost.

What makes this exclusion particularly notable is that empirical data suggests that questions of endless war and militarism played a big, if not decisive, role in the outcome of the 2016 election. A study published earlier this year by Boston University political science professor Douglas Kriner and Minnesota Law School’s Francis Shen makes the case quite compellingly.

Titled “Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?,” the paper rests on the premise that these wars have exclusively burdened a small but politically important group of voters — military families — and that “in the 2016 election Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of America.” Particularly in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan — three states that Clinton lost — “there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” Examining the data, the paper concludes that “inequalities in wartime sacrifice might have tipped the election.”

The paper notes that Trump did not run as any kind of pacifist but rather as someone who “promised a foreign policy that would be both simultaneously more muscular and more restrained,” yet “promised to be much more reticent” in committing the U.S. to new, foreign military adventures. The scholars argue that not only military families but Americans generally have grown increasingly hostile to these policies:

In one sense, all Americans have been affected by fifteen years of nearly continuous war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans of all stripes have watched each conflict’s developments unfold through extensive media coverage, movies, and personal stories from veterans returning from combat. Indeed, so great are its posited effects on American society that some analysts have proclaimed the emergence of an “Iraq Syndrome,” echoing the public skepticism about the efficacy of the use of force and the growing popular reluctance to employ it that emerged after Vietnam.

Clinton was uniquely ill-suited to channel this widespread sentiment given that she has vocally supported almost every proposed U.S. war and military intervention over the last 20 years (including ones Obama rejected in places such as Syria and Ukraine and, of course, Iraq). For that reason, she was one of the leading symbols of war and militarism, perhaps its most potent one, and Trump — however deceitful and cynical it might have been — positioned himself as her opposite.

From these premises, the authors argue that had the U.S. fought fewer wars, or at least experienced fewer casualties, Clinton would have won those three states and thus won the election

One need not uncritically accept this maximalist conclusion to acknowledge the vital point: Clinton specifically and Democrats generally are perceived, with good reason, to be proponents of endless war policies that critical constituencies now despise. From a policy perspective, endless war and militarism shape virtually every key issue, from budgetary priorities and tax policy to corporatism and lobbyist power, making it inexcusable on the merits to ignore or downplay them. But also as a political matter, any discussion of why Clinton lost, or what the Democrats must reform, is woefully incomplete if it excludes these questions.



State Dept propaganda team in disarray – report

September 14, 2017


Three members of the US government’s messaging arm, which was set up at the State Department to “counter narratives” from ISIS and Russia, quit last week, leaving the year-old operation in limbo.

The Global Engagement Center’s chief technology officer, along with two other members of its analytics team, resigned without providing reasons, Defense One reported Tuesday.

The outlet has obtained former tech chief Nash Borges’s farewell email, in which he makes general suggestions about better management.

Former President Barack Obama established the GEC in March 2016, directing it to “counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations,” including Islamic State, Al-Qaeda “and other violent extremists abroad.”

By the year’s end, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act had broadened the GEC’s mandate to include advancing “fact-based narratives that support United States allies and interests” and countering what Congress called “Russian disinformation.”

It’s not immediately clear how many analysts remain at the center. Defense One cited a former senior official describing the three team members who quit as “the whole enchilada,” adding that “things are bad.”

The GEC is currently leaderless, the outlet reported, saying the State Department has not filled the director’s job, which requires Senate confirmation, or the post of acting director, which does not.

Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed to greenlight $60 million for the GEC. Congress initially allocated $80 million for the operation, $60 million of which was to be used to counter Russia and only about $19 million aimed at ISIS, according to Defense One. It’s still unclear how the GEC plans to spend the funds that Tillerson approved.

The Secretary of State faced criticism from Republican and Democratic lawmakers for seemingly not being interested in all of the money Congress had allocated for the GEC.

“Congress has provided substantial resources to combat foreign propaganda, particularly from Russia. There is broad agreement that the US Government is behind the curve on this threat,” Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

“Countering foreign propaganda should be a top priority, and it is very concerning that progress on combatting this problem is being delayed because the State Department isn’t tapping into these resources.”

Last November, at the Defense One summit in Washington, DC, GEC’s former director Michael Lumpkin described how the center was using Facebook ads to push its messaging.

“Using Facebook ads, I can go within Facebook, I can go grab an audience, I can pick Country X, I need age group 13 to 34, I need people who have liked — whether it’s Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi or any other set — I can shoot and hit them directly with messaging,” Lumpkin said. He emphasized that with the right data, effective message targeting could be done for “pennies a click.”

Last week, Facebook issued a statement saying it had looked into whether Russia purchased ads on the platform to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election.

The social media giant claimed it “found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017” connected to “about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and Pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”

A number of news outlets, including Defense One, interpreted Facebook’s assessment that the accounts were “likely operated out of Russia,” as to assert that the Kremlin bought the ads.

Earlier this week, The Daily Beast claimed the Kremlin set up a Facebook event to organize a protest in rural Idaho last year, which was attended by four people.

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