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TBR News September 3, 2016

Sep 03 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  September 3, 2016:  “Because of the upcoming holiday, we will be out of town until Tuesday, September 6, 2016.”

Significant 5.6 quake hits Oklahoma, strongest in years

September 3, 2016


The US state of Oklahoma has been hit by a 5.6-magnitude earthquake, while no injuries have been reported. The quake, which took place on Saturday morning, matches the strongest tremor to have hit the area, which occurred in 2011.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the epicenter of the quake was in the north of the state, 14km (8.7 miles) northwest of the town of Pawnee, which has a population of over 2,000 people. It was recorded at a shallow depth of 4.1 miles (6.6 km).

We have had a spate of quakes over the last several years, but nothing like this,” Pawnee Mayor Brad Sewell told Reuters. “It was a long, sustained quake. … Clearly it was felt far and wide,” he added.

There have been no immediate reports of casualties or damage in the Midwest state.

Saturday’s tremors were the strongest in years in the area, where the landscape is largely flat as it is part of the Great Plains.

Although no people have been reported injured, the wall of a historic building collapsed in downtown Pawnee, according to the local authorities, which were cited by local media.

Reports of the tremors were received from neighboring Texas, as well as from Nebraska and Iowa.

The earthquake is now tied with the 2011 Oklahoma 5.6 magnitude quake, which was the most powerful ever recorded in the state, according to the USGS.

The 2011 quake was not too severe with a couple of people suffering minor injuries, while several house were damaged. However, threats of earthquakes have risen over the last few years due to concerns about hydraulic fracking taking place in the region.

The USGS confirmed a link between fracking and seismic activity in the state. The organization released a report earlier in the year stating that the 2011 quake was caused by human activity.

Having published the USGS National Seismic Hazard Map, researchers said injecting wastewater under high pressure underground had triggered the earthquake.

FBI: Whereabouts of Clinton phones would ‘frequently become unknown’

September 2, 2016

by Jessie Hellmann

The Hill

Hillary Clinton used at least 13 mobile phones while secretary of State, many of which cannot be found, according to an FBI report released Friday.

Top Clinton aide Huma Abedin told the FBI the former first lady often replaced her BlackBerry.

It wasn’t uncommon, she said, for Clinton to use a new BlackBerry for a few days before switching it out for an older version “with which she was more familiar.”

The sim cards to old devices were disposed of by aides, but the whereabouts of the devices in question would “frequently become unknown” once she transitioned to a different device.

The FBI on Friday released a detailed report on its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server, including the summary of its three-hour interview with the former secretary of State, now the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.

An aide told the FBI he recalled two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.

The investigation revealed Clinton used 11 email capable BlackBerry cellphones associated with one of her known phone numbers, and eight of those devices were used while she served as secretary of State.

Clinton used another two email-capable devices associated with another of her known phone numbers after her tenure, the report said.

When the Department of Justice requested 13 devices as part of the investigation, they were unable to be located.

“As a result, the FBI was unable to acquire or forensically examine any of these 13 mobile devices,” reads the report.

How Spy Tech Firms Let Governments See Everything on a Smartphone

September 2, 2016

by Nicole Perlroth

New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Want to invisibly spy on 10 iPhone owners without their knowledge? Gather their every keystroke, sound, message and location? That will cost you $650,000, plus a $500,000 setup fee with an Israeli outfit called the NSO Group. You can spy on more people if you would like — just check out the company’s price list.

The NSO Group is one of a number of companies that sell surveillance tools that can capture all the activity on a smartphone, like a user’s location and personal contacts. These tools can even turn the phone into a secret recording device.

Since its founding six years ago, the NSO Group has kept a low profile. But last month, security researchers caught its spyware trying to gain access to the iPhone of a human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates. They also discovered a second target, a Mexican journalist who wrote about corruption in the Mexican government.

Now, internal NSO Group emails, contracts and commercial proposals obtained by The New York Times offer insight into how companies in this secretive digital surveillance industry operate. The emails and documents were provided by two people who have had dealings with the NSO Group but would not be named for fear of reprisals.

The company is one of dozens of digital spying outfits that track everything a target does on a smartphone. They aggressively market their services to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. The industry argues that this spying is necessary to track terrorists, kidnappers and drug lords. The NSO Group’s corporate mission statement is “Make the world a safe place.”

Ten people familiar with the company’s sales, who refused to be identified, said that the NSO Group has a strict internal vetting process to determine who it will sell to. An ethics committee made up of employees and external counsel vets potential customers based on human rights rankings set by the World Bank and other global bodies. And to date, these people all said, NSO has yet to be denied an export license.

But critics note that the company’s spyware has also been used to track journalists and human rights activists.

“There’s no check on this,” said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. “Once NSO’s systems are sold, governments can essentially use them however they want. NSO can say they’re trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more surveilled place.”

The NSO Group’s capabilities are in higher demand now that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems, in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects.

The NSO Group’s spyware finds ways around encryption by baiting targets to click unwittingly on texts containing malicious links or by exploiting previously undiscovered software flaws. It was taking advantage of three such flaws in Apple software — since fixed — when it was discovered by researchers last month.

The cyberarms industry typified by the NSO Group operates in a legal gray area, and it is often left to the companies to decide how far they are willing to dig into a target’s personal life and what governments they will do business with. Israel has strict export controls for digital weaponry, but the country has never barred the sale of NSO Group technology.

Since it is privately held, not much is known about the NSO Group’s finances, but its business is clearly growing. Two years ago, the NSO Group sold a controlling stake in its business to Francisco Partners, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, for $120 million. Nearly a year later, Francisco Partners was exploring a sale of the company for 10 times that amount, according to two people approached by the firm but forbidden to speak about the discussions.

The company’s internal documents detail pitches to countries throughout Europe and multimillion-dollar contracts with Mexico, which paid the NSO Group more than $15 million for three projects over three years, according to internal NSO Group emails dated in 2013.

“Our intelligence systems are subject to Mexico’s relevant legislation and have legal authorization,” Ricardo Alday, a spokesman for the Mexican embassy in Washington, said in an emailed statement. “They are not used against journalists or activists. All contracts with the federal government are done in accordance with the law.”

Zamir Dahbash, an NSO Group spokesman, said that the sale of its spyware was restricted to authorized governments and that it was used solely for criminal and terrorist investigations. He declined to comment on whether the company would cease selling to the U.A.E. and Mexico after last week’s disclosures.

For the last six years, the NSO Group’s main product, a tracking system called Pegasus, has been used by a growing number of government agencies to target a range of smartphones — including iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry and Symbian systems — without leaving a trace.

Among the Pegasus system’s capabilities, NSO Group contracts assert, are the abilities to extract text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant messages and GPS locations. One capability that the NSO Group calls “room tap” can gather sounds in and around the room, using the phone’s own microphone.

Pegasus can use the camera to take snapshots or screen grabs. It can deny the phone access to certain websites and applications, and it can grab search histories or anything viewed with the phone’s web browser. And all of the data can be sent back to the agency’s server in real time.

In its commercial proposals, the NSO Group asserts that its tracking software and hardware can install itself in any number of ways, including “over the air stealth installation,” tailored text messages and emails, through public Wi-Fi hot spots rigged to secretly install NSO Group software, or the old-fashioned way, by spies in person.

Much like a traditional software company, the NSO Group prices its surveillance tools by the number of targets, starting with a flat $500,000 installation fee. To spy on 10 iPhone users, NSO charges government agencies $650,000; $650,000 for 10 Android users; $500,000 for five BlackBerry users; or $300,000 for five Symbian users — on top of the setup fee, according to one commercial proposal.

You can pay for more targets. One hundred additional targets will cost $800,000, 50 extra targets cost $500,000, 20 extra will cost $250,000 and 10 extra costs $150,000, according to an NSO Group commercial proposal. There is an annual system maintenance fee of 17 percent of the total price every year thereafter.

What that gets you, NSO Group documents say, is “unlimited access to a target’s mobile devices.” In short, the company says: You can “remotely and covertly collect information about your target’s relationships, location, phone calls, plans and activities — whenever and wherever they are.”

And, its proposal adds, “It leaves no traces whatsoever.”

Did We Do It? Taking Stock One Year After Refugees’ Arrival

One year ago, Angela Merkel opened Germany’s door to what would ultimately be over a million refugees, with the words, “We can do it.” How much progress has been made integrating the hundreds of thousands of new residents? A report card.

September 2, 2016

by Philipp Wittrock


“We can do it.” These are the four words that are dividing Germany. It has now been exactly one year since Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her motto for overcoming the refugee crisis. Even though many of her critics can no longer stand to hear her “approach to tackling the problem,” as she recently described it in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the chancellor isn’t backing down.

Germany has achieved a lot, Merkel says today, but there is also much left to be done. So where do we stand? What have we achieved? And where have we fallen short?

Germany has achieved a lot, Merkel says today, but there is also much left to be done. So where do we stand? What have we achieved? And where have we fallen short?

There are two reasons for this decline. The first is that after months of chaos the southeastern European countries have sealed off the Balkan route — without outside help. The second is that Turkey, as part of a morally dubious deal with the EU, is preventing refugees from continuing to Europe.

Whether this pact remains in place is now more uncertain than ever, following the attempted coup in Turkey. At the same time, migration pressure remains high as the war continues to rage in Syria. Refugees are now searching for alternative routes.

Asylum Procedures

During the first months of the refugee crisis, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) became the poster child for the bureaucratic failures of the German government. But BAMF has since become “significantly more efficient,” according to agency head Frank-Jürgen Weise. It has increased its staff from 2,300 employees in early 2015 to 8,000 today, and dozens of new offices have been opened.

BAMF made more than 330,000 asylum decisions during the first seven months of this year, an increase of 146 percent over the same period last year.

At the same time, however, the mountain of pending applications has grown to more than half a million. Contrary to original plans, BAMF will be unable to process these applications by the end of the year. Agency officials attribute the delays to the large number of complicated, older cases, which continue to drive up the average processing time to more than six months today. On the other hand, says Weise, BAMF does its best to decide on new cases within 48 hours.

According to Weise’s plan, all refugees in Germany will at least be able to submit an asylum application by the end of September.


Chaos is now a thing of the past. Germany has found housing for about a million refugees. There are thousands of empty beds in emergency shelters, and a large share of the roughly 1,000 repurposed gymnasiums are no longer needed, now that refugees have been able to move to so-called standard accommodations. But these are often temporary and include repurposed shipping containers.

Efforts to house refugees and migrants have been more successful in smaller cities and towns than in metropolitan regions. According to public broadcaster WDR, 9,000 people still live in emergency shelters in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, even though there are almost 14,000 beds available in regular housing.

In Berlin, dozens of gymnasiums are still reserved for refugees, and authorities there say the makeshift shelters currently house more than 5,000 people. And although the city administration had promised that the gymnasiums would be empty again by the beginning of the year, that is now likely to take several more months. In the German capital, a total of 23,600 refugees and migrants are still living in emergency shelters, including hangars at the city’s former Tempelhof Airport. Some 60 new group housing units are being built to provide more permanent housing for these refugees.

Federal Environment and Building Minister Barbara Hendricks, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), has tripled funding for the construction of subsidized housing to 1.5 billion euros ($1.68 billion) for 2018. Hendricks is also pushing for the repeal of a constitutional amendment that went into effect in 2006, that shifts responsibility for construction of social housing entirely to the state level. Under those rules, the federal government is only authorized to provide the states with financial assistance for subsidized house until 2019. But Hendricks has argued that Germany is suffering from an acute shortage of social housing and that the problem is too large for the states to handle on their own.


The real test is whether Germany can integrate hundreds of thousands of new residents. But the country has already run into problems in the first step of the process: language and integration courses. In April, BAMF head Weise estimated that there will be a shortfall of about 200,000 slots in these courses this year alone.

The federal government has announced plans to massively expand the program, which often suffers from a shortage of teachers, and from the fact that pay has been modest. To address the problem, wages paid to teachers of these courses were raised significantly on July 1. Still, the task remains enormous, with the BAMF anticipating about half a million course participants for 2016.

Only those refugees and migrants with strong prospects of remaining in Germany have access to the courses. For instance, close to 80,000 Afghans who had submitted asylum applications by the end of July are ineligible to participate in federal integration courses.

Refugee children pose another challenge. Statistics from KMK, the national body representing education ministers from the 16 federal states, indicate that 325,000 refugee children and adolescents were integrated into the German school system in 2014 and 2015. They now comprise 2 percent of all schoolchildren nationwide. To address their needs, schools need additional teachers and social workers trained to work with traumatized children.

An informal SPIEGEL ONLINE poll of officials in the German states in the spring, found that 12,000 new teachers had already been hired. But GEW, a union representing educators and scientists, estimates that more than 20,000 teachers are still needed. Some state education ministries have already written to retirees asking them to return to work, indicating a lack of applicants for the new positions.

In its current report on education, KMK also assumes that up to 58,000 additional daycare spots are needed for the children who arrived in Germany in 2015 alone. To provide adequate care, up to 9,400 additional daycare professionals are needed.

Labor Market

More than 100 companies are participating in the “Us Together” integration initiative launched a few months ago. So far, 1,800 internships, more than 500 training positions and more than 400 full-time positions have been filled with refugees. But these numbers are still too small, says Chancellor Merkel, who has invited the leaders of major German corporations to a refugee summit in September.

So far, very few refugees have succeeded in breaking into the job market. According to the Federal Labor Office, 322,000 refugees were registered as seeking employment in July — in other words, those whose asylum applications had already been approved. Refugees and migrants have no access to the job market until they have been granted asylum. Of the 322,000 registered refugees, 141,000 were unemployed. Many speak little or no German at all or have inadequate education. However, the majority are still young, and the hope is that migrants can be integrated into the labor market through education and training programs.


Germans were alarmed by the New Year’s Eve assaults in Cologne. Had Germany introduced a crime problem by allowing the refugees into the country? Of course, the normal statistical probability also applies to refugees. In any group of a million people, there are bound to be those who do not abide by the law.

But the statistics compiled by the authorities also show that the probability is no higher among refugees than in the domestic population. According to police crime statistics, the number of criminal acts increased by about 4 percent in 2015 over the previous year. The increase was mainly attributable to a rise in asylum- and visa-related offences. If these offences are factored out of the equation, the number of criminal acts remained virtually constant, even though the number of people in the country had increased by hundreds of thousands.

The events in Cologne triggered a debate about whether a perpetrator’s country of origin should be mentioned in connection with the offence. In fact, there is no denying that a certain group of immigrants are more likely to attract the attention of law enforcement. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), migrants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia are suspected of committing a crime significantly more frequently than people from other countries.

In one respect, the refugee crisis has led to an increase in crime statistics. But in this case the migrants are the victims, not the perpetrators. This year, the BKA has already recorded 665 assaults on refugee accommodations. There were 1,031 such assaults in 2015, or five times as many as in the previous year.

The attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach also cast a spotlight on the possible relationship between immigration and the risk of terror. Both perpetrators came to the country as refugees, albeit before last year’s big migration wave. Both were not previously on the radar of security authorities.

The authorities routinely follow up on tips about the alleged Islamist activities of refugees. There was recently talk of more than 400 such reports, but investigators have yet to uncover concrete plans for an attack. However, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, is concerned that radical groups are trying to recruit members in refugee hostels.


A tiresome topic in politics — the “accelerated repatriation of rejected asylum-seekers” is part of every action plan. The number of deportations in Germany has in fact risen considerably. However, the system still does not appear to be efficient.

According to the central register of foreign nationals, there are currently more than 220,000 people in Germany who should be required to leave the country. Of that total, 172,000 are officially tolerated because, for example, there are wars raging in their native countries.

But there are also plenty of other reasons preventing deportations.

◾In the case of rejected asylum-seekers who have no identity papers, for example, there is often a presumption by the authorities that the person’s native country will not accept them. This is often employed as a strategy by people entering Germany, and several thousand people use this approach to avoid deportation. The German government is now pressing many countries to be more cooperative when it comes to repatriating their citizens.

◾Asylum-seekers also can’t be deported if they are unable to travel due to illness. A plan to allow only government doctors to issue the relevant health reports is now being discussed.

◾Another problem is that many asylum-seekers facing deportation go into hiding. In order to make this more difficult, the time of deportation is no longer announced in advance.

Politics and Society

The European Union is drifting apart with Brexit and squabbling between member states, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the CSU, are at odds, and the Alternative for Germany party is doing well in the polls. In fact, the right-wing populist party even threatens to overtake the Christian Democrats in the state parliamentary election in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Sunday, Sept. 4.

The refugee crisis is shaking up politics and polarizing society. Thousands of Germans are volunteering to help refugees, taking over where the authorities are too slow or overburdened.

On the other hand, many fear that refugees are changing the country. Xenophobic sentiments are on the rise, people are taking to the streets to protest what they see as the Islamization of Germany, citizens are trying to block refugee housing and politicians are berated as “traitors.” “Germany will remain Germany,” Chancellor Merkel tells these self-appointed concerned citizens, “with everything that is near and dear to us.” But it remains completely unclear whether and when the cracks in German society will be repaired.

EU needs US-style border controls & warning systems to properly process migrant influx – Merkel

September 3, 2016


Almost a year since Germany announced its open-door refugee policy, Angela Merkel has defended her decision. In the wake of terrorist attacks in the EU and to better deal with any further refugee influx, she proposed introducing US-modeled border controls.

On September 4, 2015, the German Chancellor made an epic policy decision which resulted in over one million refugees flocking into Germany by the end of the year. The move by the EU’s largest economy has sparked a downward spiral for the EU-wide migration policy.

Merkel’s decision impacted the entire European Union with some Schengen countries, forced to close their borders in light of the massive refugee influx. To aid and somewhat correct the situation, Merkel rallied the EU countries to agree to a €6 billion ($6.bn) deal with Turkey to reduce the illegal refugee flows in exchange for an eventual promise for Ankara to potentially join the EU.

While focusing on external protection of borders, Merkel arguably contributed to the demise of the EU as we know it when the UK opted to leave the Union in June. As cases of refugee violence, rape and attacks intensified over the course of last year, and EU unable to agree on migrant quotas, Merkel defended her initial position in an interview with the German Bild newspaper.

Claiming her welcome was “misunderstood,” she explained that her “point was not to open the borders for everybody – but rather not to close them for those people who… had started their trek to us ..on foot,” Merkel said, as quoted by Business Insider.

Answering “no” to whether or not she regrets announcing the German open door policy, Merkel also defended the EU-Turkey deal which went into effect in March. This as tensions between Ankara and the union continue to rise, with European politicians warning that the EU must not allow itself to be bullied by Turkey over the migrant deal.

Bringing up shortcomings of the refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, she said that Turkey’s approximately 3 million refugees were “left alone by us for too long.”

“This is why the agreement between the EU and Turkey was, and is, so important. It is the only way to stop the traffickers and to be in a better position to help people.”

“With the EU-Turkey agreement, we managed to stem the traffickers’ activities and to save human lives – which is our most important aim,” she explained.

The landmark deal agreed by the two sides in March is aimed at returning all illegal migrants reaching Greece from Turkey’s shores. In exchange, the EU would take in thousands of Syrian refugees “legally” and directly from Turkey. The EU would also give Turkey €6 billion (US$6.7bn) in funding over the next five years.

The deal also envisaged an accelerated process for Turkey’s EU accession, and visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone for its citizens. However, the visa-free agreement has failed to come to fruition, despite a plan to introduce it in July, as Turkey has failed to comply with all of the EU’s 72 criteria – a sticking point of which is a requirement that Ankara relax its stringent anti-terrorism legislation.

The Chancellor said that positive results came out of the migration crisis, namely a better understanding on how to proceed with the largest migration to Europe since World War II.

“We have created a common European Agenda on Migration. Everyone has to contribute to it. It is, therefore, important that, for example, Poland participates in protecting the external borders, in the NATO mission in the Aegean, and in foreign aid. The question of who should take in how many refugees needs further discussion,” Merkel told Bild.

Merkel also went on to stress that fighting the root causes of refugee numbers is not Europe’s task alone but “entire world’s humanitarian responsibility.”

Asked about the Ansbach and Würzburg Islamic State-inspired terrorist attacks this summer, Merkel said that while Germany has been exposed to the threat of Islamist fundamentalism, the “Islamist terrorism represents great challenges for our security services.”

In fact, in two major terrorist attacks in Germany this summer, German’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees failed to account for migrants’ extremist motives.

Mohammed Daleel was due to be deported when he detonated a bomb in the Bavarian town of Ansbach on 24 July. The bomber was a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who had pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL). While Daleel was the only fatality in the incident, 15 civilians were also injured in the blast.

On 18 July 2016, a 17-year-old refugee injured five people when he attacked passengers with a knife and hatchet on a train near Würzburgin. German authorities later discovered that Ahmadzai was also in contact with members of the terrorist organization. Media reports suggested that the 17-year-old Afghan male arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied child refugee in 2015.

The Ansbach and Würzburg attacks Merkel said have shown that Germany needs a better early warning system, while the EU needs border controls similar to those in the United States.

“On the European level, we should start working on an electronic entry control system modeled on the US system. This means that – regardless of whether they travel visa-free or not – anyone who enters a European country and who leaves again is registered so that you know exactly who has not left and is still somewhere in the Schengen Area,” Merkel said.

America’s Journalistic Hypocrites

The U.S. news media flip-flops on whether international law is inviolate or can be brushed aside at America’s whim – and similarly whether killing civilians is justified or not depending on who’s doing the killing, says Robert Parry.

August 16, 2016

by Robert Parry


Over the past few decades, the U.S. mainstream media has failed the American people in a historic fashion by spinning false or misleading narratives on virtually every important global issue, continuing to this day to guide the nation into destructive and unnecessary conflicts.

To me, a major turning point came with the failure of the major news organizations to get anywhere near the bottom of the Iran-Contra scandal, including its origins in illicit contacts between Republicans and Iranians during the 1980 campaign and the Reagan administration’s collaboration with drug traffickers to support the Contra war in Nicaragua. (Instead, the major U.S. media disparaged reporting on these very real scandals.)

If these unsavory stories had been fully explained to the American people, their impression of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would be far less favorable and the rise of Reagan’s neocon underlings might well have been halted. Instead the neocons consolidated their dominance over Official Washington’s foreign policy establishment and Bush’s inept son was allowed to take the White House in 2001.

Then, one might have thought that the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 – justified by a legion of lies – would have finally doomed the neocons but, by then, they had deeply penetrated the national news media and major think tanks, with their influence reaching not only across the Republican Party but deeply into the Democratic Party as well.

So, despite the Iraq catastrophe, almost nothing changed. The neocons and their liberal interventionist chums continued to fabricate narratives that have led the United States into one mess after another, seeking more and more “regime change” and brushing aside recommendations for peaceful resolution of international crises.

Cognitive Dissonance

As part of this phenomenon, there is profound cognitive dissonance as the rationales shift depending on the neocons’ tactical needs. From one case to the next, there is no logical or moral consistency, and the major U.S. news organizations go along, failing again and again to expose these blatant hypocrisies.

The U.S. government can stand for a “rules-based” world when that serves its interests but then freely violate international law when it’s decided that “humanitarian warfare” trumps national sovereignty and the United Nations Charter. The latter is particularly easy after a foreign leader has been demonized in the American press, but sovereignty becomes inviolate in other circumstances when Washington is on the side of the killing regimes.

George W. Bush’s administration and the mainstream media justified invading Iraq, in part, by accusing Saddam Hussein of human rights violations. The obvious illegality of the invasion was ignored or dismissed as so much caviling by “Saddam apologists.” Similarly, the Obama administration and media rationalized invading Libya in 2011 under the propagandistic charge that Muammar Gaddafi was planning a mass slaughter of civilians (though he said he was only after Islamic terrorists).

But the same media looks the other way or make excuses when the slaughter of civilians is being done by “allies,” such as Israel against Palestinians or Saudi Arabia against Yemenis. Then the U.S. government even rushes more military supplies so the bombings can continue.

The view of terrorism is selective, too. Israel, Saudi Arabia and other U.S. “allies” in the Persian Gulf have aided and abetted terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, in the war against the largely secular government of Syria. That support for violent subversion followed the U.S. media’s demonization of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Thus, trying to avoid another Iraq-style morass, President Obama faces heavy criticism from neocon-dominated Washington for not doing more to force “regime change” in Syria, although he actually has authorized shipments of sophisticated U.S. weaponry to the supposedly “moderate” opposition, which often operates under Nusra’s command structure.

In other words, it’s okay to intervene overtly and covertly when Official Washington wants to do so, regardless of international law and even if that involves complicity with terrorists. But it’s different when the shoe is on the other foot.

In the case of Ukraine, any Russian assistance to ethnic Russian rebels under assault from a Ukrainian military that includes neo-Nazi battalions, such as the Azov brigade, is impermissible. International law and a “rules-based” structure must be defended by punishing Russia.

The U.S. news media failed its readers again with its one-sided coverage of the 2014 coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who had undergone another demonization process from U.S. officials and the mainstream press. So, the major U.S. news outlets cheered the coup and saw nothing wrong when the new U.S.-backed regime announced an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” – or ATO – against ethnic Russian Ukrainians who had voted for Yanukovych and considered the coup regime illegitimate.

In the Western media, the “white-hatted” coup regime in Kiev could do no wrong even when its neo-Nazi storm troopers burned scores of ethnic Russians alive in Odessa and spearheaded the ATO in the east. Everything was Russia’s fault, even though there was no evidence that President Vladimir Putin had any pre-coup role in destabilizing the political situation in Ukraine.

Indeed, the evidence was clear that the U.S. government was the one seeking “regime change.” For instance, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland was caught on an intercepted phone call conspiring with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt regarding who should take power – “Yats is the guy,” she said about Arseniy Yatsenyuk – and discussing how to “midwife” and “glue this thing.” The coup followed a few weeks later, with Yatsenyuk emerging as the new prime minister.

U.S. Exceptionalism

The U.S. news media acts as if it is the unquestionable right of the U.S. government to intervene in the internal affairs of countries all over the world – whether through subversion or military invasion – but the U.S. media then gets outraged if anyone dares to resist Washington’s edicts or tries to behave in any way similar to how the U.S. government does.

So, regarding Ukraine, when neighboring Russia intervened to prevent massacres in the east and to let the people of Crimea vote in a referendum on seceding from the new regime in Kiev, the U.S. government and media accused Putin of violating international law. National borders, even in the context of a violent coup carried out in part by neo-Nazis, had to be respected, Official Washington piously announced. Even the 96 percent will of Crimea’s voters to rejoin Russia had to be set aside in support of the principle of state sovereignty.

In other words, if Putin shielded these ethnic Russians from violent repression by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists, he was guilty of “aggression” and his country needed to be punished with harsh sanctions. U.S. neocons soon began dreaming of destabilizing Russia and pulling off another “regime change,” in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime prosecuted its ATO, bringing heavy armaments to bear against the eastern Ukrainian dissidents in a conflict that has claimed some 10,000 lives including many civilians. The Ukrainian conflict is one of the worst bloodlettings in Europe since World War II, yet the calls from neocons and their liberal-hawk pals is to arm up the Ukrainian military so it can – once and for all – crush the resistance.

Early in the crisis, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, who has cultivated a reputation as a caring humanitarian, was eager to send more weapons to the Kiev regime and to western Ukrainians (who include his father’s relatives) so they could kill their ethnic Russian neighbors in the east – or “go bear-hunting,” as Kristof put it. By calling Russians “bears,” Kristof was likening their slaughter to the killing of animals.

Yet, in a recent column, Kristof takes a very different posture regarding Syria, where he wants the U.S. military to invade and create so-called “safe zones” and “no-fly zones” to prevent the Syrian army and air force from operating against rebel positions.

Sovereignty means one thing in Ukraine, even following a coup that removed the elected president. There, national borders must be respected (at least after a pro-U.S. regime had been installed) and the regime has every right kill dissenters to assert its authority. After all, it’s just like hunting animals.

But sovereignty means something else in Syria where the U.S. government is called on to intervene on one side in a brutal civil war to prevent the government from regaining control of the country or to obviate the need for a negotiated settlement of the conflict. In Syria, “regime change” trumps all.

Selective Outrage

In the column, Kristof noted other conflicts where the United States supposedly should have done more, calling the failure to invade Syria “a stain on all of us, analogous … to the eyes averted from Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, to Darfur in the 2000s.”

Note again the selectivity of Kristof’s moral outrage. He doesn’t call for a U.S. invasion of Israel/Palestine to protect the Palestinians from Israel’s periodic “mowing the grass” operations. Nor does he suggest bombing the Saudi airfields to prevent the kingdom’s continued bombing of Yemenis. And, he doesn’t protest the U.S.-instigated slaughter in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of people perished, nor does he cite the seemingly endless U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Like many other mainstream pundits, Kristof tailors his humanitarianism to the cause of U.S. global dominance. After all, how long do you think Kristof would last as a well-paid columnist if he advocated a “no-fly zone” inside Israel or a military intervention against Saudi Arabia?

Put differently, how much professional courage does it take to pile on against “black-hatted” U.S. “enemies” after they’ve been demonized? Yet, it was just such a “group think” that cleared the way for the U.S. invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, a decision embraced by “liberal hawks” as well as neoconservatives and touching off mass suffering across the Mideast and now into Europe. Some estimates put the Iraqi dead at over one million.

So, it’s worth remembering how The New Yorker, The New York Times and other supposedly “liberal” publications hopped on George W. Bush’s Iraq War bandwagon. They became what Kristof’s former boss, Bill Keller, dubbed “the I-Can’t-Believe-I‘m-a-Hawk Club.” (Keller, by the way, was named the Times executive editor after the Iraq WMD claims had been debunked. Like many of his fellow hawks, there was no accountability for their gullibility or careerism.)

Kristof did not join the club at that time but signed up later, urging a massive bombing campaign in Syria after the Obama administration made now largely discredited claims accusing Bashar al-Assad’s government of launching a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.

We now know that President Obama pulled back from those bombing plans, in part, because he was told by U.S. intelligence analysts that they doubted Assad was responsible. The preponderance of evidence now points to a provocation by Al Qaeda-connected rebels to trick the United States into intervening in the civil war on their side, but the mainstream U.S. media continues to report as “flat fact” that Obama failed to enforce his “red line” against Assad using chemical weapons.

Though the Kristof-endorsed bombing campaign in 2013 might well have played into Al Qaeda’s hands (or those of the Islamic State) and thus unleashed even a worse tragedy on the Syrian people, the columnist is still advocating a U.S. invasion of Syria, albeit dressed up in pretty “humanitarian” language. But it should be clear that nice-sounding words like “safe zones” are just euphemisms for “regime change,” as we saw in Libya in 2011.

Forgetting Reality

The U.S. news media also often “forgets” that Obama has authorized the training and arming of so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels with many of them absorbed into the military command of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and with sophisticated U.S. weapons, such as TOW anti-tank missiles, showing up in the arsenals of Nusra and its jihadist allies.

In other words, beyond the selective outrage about morality and international law, we see selective reporting. Indeed, across American journalism, there has been a nearly complete abandonment of objectivity when it comes to reporting on U.S. foreign policy. Even liberal and leftist publications now bash anyone who doesn’t join the latest version of “the I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club.”

That means that as the neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment continues to push the world toward ever greater catastrophes, now including plans to destabilize nuclear-armed Russia (gee, how could that go wrong?), the U.S. news media is denying the American people the objective information needed to rein in the excesses.

Virtually nothing has been learned from the Iraq War disaster when the U.S. government cast aside negotiations and inspections (along with any appreciation of the complex reality on the ground) in favor of tough-guy/gal posturing. With very few exceptions, the U.S. media simply went along.

Today, the pro-war posturing has spread deeply within the Democratic Party and even among some hawkish leftists who join in the fun of insulting the few anti-war dissenters with the McCarthyite approach of accusing anyone challenging the “group think” on Syria or Russia of being an “Assad apologist” or a “Putin stooge.”

At the Democratic National Convention, some of Hillary Clinton’s delegates even chanted “USA, USA” to drown out the cries of Bernie Sanders’s delegates, who pleaded for “no more war.” On a larger scale, the mainstream U.S. news media has essentially ignored or silenced anyone who deviates from the neocon-dominated conventional wisdom.

The 12 juiciest bits from the FBI’s Clinton report

From smashing phones to Colin Powell’s warning to ‘be very careful,’ here are the most revealing portions of the FBI’s investigation notes.

September 2, 2016

by Nick Gass


On at least two occasions when Hillary Clinton changed electronic devices as secretary of state, the outgoing mobile devices met a violent end on the other side of a hammer or got broken in half.

At other moments, two of Clinton’s top aides recalled that the retiring devices’ whereabouts would often be a mystery.

And elsewhere in the FBI’s report of its investigation and its interview with Clinton that was released publicly Friday, Clinton demonstrated a willingness to defer to others on matters of classified material, claiming on multiple occasions that she could neither recall receiving training or, in one particular instance, responding that she did not know that “(C)” markings in an email chain denoted confidential material.

From the drones to hammers to Colin Powell, here are 12 of the most remarkable sections from the FBI’s notes related to its investigation and from its July 2 interview with Clinton at its Washington headquarters.

  1. The ‘oh shit’ moment

After Clinton’s staff members completed their response to the State Department for her email records in December 2014, Clinton said she told staff that she did not need them anymore.

“In or around this same timeframe the retention policy for her email was changed as part of her move to a new personal office account,” the FBI stated in notes from Clinton’s interview.

Former chief of staff Cheryl Mills said that Clinton in December 2014 decided she did not need access to any of her emails older than 60 days. But, according to a redacted source, another redacted entity did not modify the retention policy on Clinton’s clintonemail.com account until March 2015.

“In his interviews with the FBI, [redacted] indicated that sometime between March 25-31, 2015, he realized” that he did not make the changes requested by Mills the previous December, and in a Feb. 18, 2016, interview with the FBI, [redacted] indicated that he did not “recall conducting deletions based upon this realization.”

Speaking to the FBI on May 3, 2016, “[redacted] indicated he believed he had an ‘oh shit’ moment and sometime between March 25-31, 2015 deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from the PRN server and used BleachBit to delete the exported .PST files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s e-mails.”

  1. Trusting judgment of others

Clinton told the FBI that she relied on the judgment of others at State to determine what should and should not be sent in messages to her private email system.

“Clinton did not recall receiving any emails she thought should not be on an unclassified system,” the FBI’s report on Clinton’s interview states. “She relied on State officials to use their judgment when emailing her and could not recall anyone raising concerns with her regarding the sensitivity of the information she received at her email address.”

  1. Breaking and smashing

Longtime Bill Clinton aide Justin Cooper, who helped set up the private email account that Hillary Clinton used as secretary of state, was the person “usually responsible” for setting up her new devices and syncing them to the server. Top aides Huma Abedin and Monica Hanley, as well as another person whose name is redacted, also helped Clinton set up her BlackBerry.

According to Abedin and Hanley, Clinton’s old devices would often disappear to parts “unknown once she transitioned to a new device.”

Cooper, according to the report, “did recall two instances where he destroyed Clinton’s old mobile devices by breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.”

  1. Powell’s warning

Responding to an email from Clinton asking about his use of a BlackBerry while secretary of state, Colin Powell warned her that should that become “public,” her emails would become “official record[s] and subject to the law.”

“Be very careful. I got around it all by not saying much and not using systems that captured the data,” Powell also wrote.

Clinton said that Powell’s comments did not factor into her decision to use a personal email address.

  1. Server switch

Clinton was not part of the decision to move from the Apple server managed by Cooper to a server built by Bryan Pagliano, according to the report, which stated that Clinton “had no knowledge of the reasons for selecting it to install it in the basement” of her Chappaqua, New York, home.

Clinton also denied using the server to avoid the Federal Records Act, and did not have any conversations about using the server to avoid the Freedom of Information Act, according to the FBI’s investigation notes.

  1. The meaning of (C)

Clinton told the FBI that she did not know what the “(C)” portion markings on an email chain signified, explaining that she thought it meant the paragraphs were marked in alphabetical order.

As far as her knowledge of the various classification levels of U.S. government information, Clinton responded that she took all classified material seriously regardless of the “level,” be it “TOP SECRET,” “SECRET” or “CONFIDENTIAL.”

  1. Drone classification

Clinton told the FBI that she was not concerned about email deliberations regarding future drone strikes as far as whether there might be future classification, remarking that she recalled other discussions about strikes that never ended up taking place.

The U.S. treats CIA-conducted drone operations as classified, even though President Barack Obama has previously acknowledged U.S.-directed drone strikes in Pakistan.

  1. The suspicious porn email

The FBI said it uncovered multiple instances of phishing or spear-phishing emails sent to Clinton’s account, including one that appeared to be sent from another State official’s account. Clinton responded to the email by trying to confirm that the person actually sent it, adding, “I was worried about opening it!”

But in another incident, the FBI noted that Abedin emailed someone (whose name is redacted) conveying Clinton’s concern that “someone [was] hacking into her email” after receiving an email from a “known [redacted] associate containing a link to a website with pornographic material.”

“There is no additional information as to why Clinton was concerned about someone hacking into her e-mail account, or if the specific link referenced by Abedin was used as a vector to infect Clinton’s device,” the FBI’s report states, and after roughly two lines of redacted text goes on to note that “open source information indicated, if opened, the targeted user’s device may have been infected, and information would have been sent to at least three computers overseas, including one in Russia.”

  1. Email security

Clinton told the FBI that she did not recall department employees’ Gmail accounts being compromised when reminded of a June 4, 2011, email warning about the vulnerability of Google accounts and civilian technology in general.

Clinton “did recall the frustration over State’s information technology systems,” the FBI said in its notes from the interview.

In addition, Clinton said she did not remember a State email going out in late June 2011 informing employees of the importance of securing their personal email accounts in correlation with the upgrading of her clintonemail.com server.

Clinton said she did not consider switching over to a State.gov account, as she, according to the report, “understood the email system used by her husband’s personal staff had an excellent track record with respect to security and had never been breached.”

  1. Concussion

Clinton also told the FBI that she was not informed about any instruction or direction about the preservation of records from the department during her transition out of office in early 2013. But the report noted that Clinton’s concussion in December 2012 and subsequent blood clot led to limited work at State for only a few hours a day and also that she “could not recall every briefing she received.”

The FBI’s report stated that Clinton did not have any discussions with aides about turning over her email records, nor did anyone at State ask for them.

“She believed her work-related emails were captured by her practice of sending email to the state.gov email addresses of her staff,” the report continued, adding that the secretary of state “was unaware of the requirement to turn over printed records at that time. Her physical records were boxed up and handled by aides.”

  1. Blumenthal’s work

Commenting on the foreign policy memos from longtime friend Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton said she “had no concerns regarding the sources of the memos being classified.”

In addition, the report stated that Clinton “viewed the content as journalistic because Blumenthal did not have a clearance and was not in government at that time.”

Clinton said she did not solicit the memos, deeming Blumenthal “a prodigious writer whose information was sometimes accurate and sometimes not.”

  1. The work-related email that wasn’t; a ‘difficult time’ at State

Clinton remarked that a Nov. 26, 2010, email with the subject line ‘MbZ call – 7:15 am” would likely fall into the classification of a work-related message and, according to the report, said she did not know why it was classified.

The FBI report said that Clinton recalled that being the time period of the WikiLeaks disclosures “because it was a difficult time at State.”

Clinton email scandal: ‘Whole world should know about her crimes & what she’d like to do’

September 3, 2016


How was it possible that the FBI could not find several devices used by Hillary Clinton to send emails? Was her “could not recall” defense an attempt to avoid responsibility? Will Clinton be charged after she failed to protect top-secret information?

Experts spoke to RT and answered these and other questions.

All the information about incidents where she was involved, like the one in Benghazi, should be revealed to the public, said Lew Rockwell, who is chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. People should know why she “doesn’t recall” the key details, while having perfect health, he added.

RT: How is it that the FBI was not able to find any of the 13 devices used by Hillary Clinton to send her emails?

Lew Rockwell: I think she is a criminal, so she attempted to hide what she was doing. She was at the very least selling favors from the government to get money for the Clinton Foundation for herself, her husband, and the rest of their crew. That is why she used the special program to prevent retrieval, or so she hoped, of the e-mails that she erased. We should see it all; we should see everything about Benghazi, about every other thing she was involved in. She is a warmonger; certainly the way she talks she’d like to bring back the Cold War times seven; she’s very dangerous. So the more we can find out, the more we see her funny excuses about why her health is perfect, but she can’t remember everything, she had such a fall and hit her head.

RT: What can we make of this Clinton “could not recall” defense? Is it an attempt to avoid responsibility?

LR: No, it is just typical. She is a lawyer herself. That would be the typical lawyer advice, because they feel you can’t be gotten for perjury if you can’t recall. Of course there must be some things you can’t recall. But it is interesting she can’t recall the really key stuff and she blames it on her fall, which was a serious brain injury. But again, is that having an effect today? Shouldn’t she have a neurological exam? Shouldn’t we hear about what is actually wrong with her? We know what is wrong with her in terms of criminality, or at least we know some of it, but we need to know much more about this, before she is allowed into the White House, not her and the rest of the Clinton crew.

RT: Doesn’t it seem that the mainstream media, for example, is more interested in the fact that the leak occurred rather than the content of the documents that were leaked?

LR: You can tell, and the American media doesn’t even pretend anymore to be balanced, or to be fair. They are 100 percent in Hillary’s pocket. They are promoting Hillary; they hate her opponent; they hate anybody who says anything against her; they don’t want to say anything bad about her. When they are forced, when there is a huge story like this, they feel they have to cover it. But of course they don’t want to cover the meat of the story – they want just to talk about the extraneous material.

We shouldn’t pay any attention to that; we have to do our own reading, our own research. I hope there will be many more people weighing in on this – people who know far more than what we’ve been told so far. It is very encouraging [that] there is more to come, more about her crimes – both in terms of foreign policy and personal corruption with the very corrupt Clinton Foundation. This is all to the good, bring it all out, tell the American people; tell the whole world by the way – this woman threatens the whole world. The whole world should know what she’s done and what she’d like to do and all the crimes she’s committed.

Clinton’s ‘Don’t recall’ –phrase to legally protect something, someone

Hillary Clinton’s claim that she doesn’t remember some things indicates that something legally is being protected, as one doesn’t say this phrase unless a person wants to protect some information, Jack Rasmus, a professor at St. Mary’s College told RT.

The FBI released the findings of its investigation into Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server to send classified information while she was US Secretary of State.

RT: The main question is still out there. Do you think Clinton could be charged after she failed to protect top-secret information?

Jack Rasmus: What is interesting in a report is that we have 39 instances of “don’t recall.” That usually indicates that something legally is being protected when you give depositions like that, you usually don’t make that phrase, unless there is a reason to protect someone, or something. So they would have to turn out some more information to prosecute her any further.

Another interesting thing is you don’t destroy mobile devices in these kinds of situation, unless there is something that needs to be destroyed. Also there is reference to emails being transferred to a laptop and a thumb drive. If there is any prosecution, they would have to find a laptop, a thumb drive, and an unnamed person that is associated with the transferring of that information to the laptop and the thumb drive.

RT: FBI documents indicate that “Clinton relied on the judgment of the people that worked for her to handle information appropriately.” Is this a case of shifting responsibility?

JR: It may, or may not be. In her role, people pretty much rely on their experts to tell them what they should, or shouldn’t do. I am sure they told her what she should, or shouldn’t do. Her answer is “I don’t recall.” Sounds like they are trying to protect some of the lower level people from having to testify or give depositions, which relates to what kind of deposition did she give. She really didn’t give a deposition. It was kind of a strange thing, where the FBI just took notes. There is nothing really verboten [forbidden] here and thus there’s no real record that she can prosecuted on.

RT: Large parts of the report have been redacted. Does this mean the case is much more serious than Clinton has tried to make people think?

JR: It depends on what was redacted and could very well be. You don’t redact information that is innocuous. You usually cut out something referring to a person, or something really important. It seems to imply that there was some cooperation between the interviewers and her.



Turkey removes more than 10,000 security personnel, academics in purge

September 2, 2016


Turkish authorities have suspended about 8,000 security personnel and more than 2,000 academics, adding to a purge of people suspected of having links to perpetrators of a failed coup, the Official Gazette said on Friday.

Since the coup attempt in mid-July, in which rogue soldiers tried to topple President Tayyip Erdogan’s government, Turkey has removed 80,000 people from public duty and arrested many of them, accusing them of sympathizing with the plotters.

Of the security personnel removed in the latest purge, 323 were members of the gendarmerie and the rest police, according to the Official Gazette, in which the government publishes new laws and orders.

Turkish authorities have suspended about 8,000 security personnel and more than 2,000 academics, adding to a purge of people suspected of having links to perpetrators of a failed coup, the Official Gazette said on Friday.

Since the coup attempt in mid-July, in which rogue soldiers tried to topple President Tayyip Erdogan’s government, Turkey has removed 80,000 people from public duty and arrested many of them, accusing them of sympathizing with the plotters.

Of the security personnel removed in the latest purge, 323 were members of the gendarmerie and the rest police, according to the Official Gazette, in which the government publishes new laws and orders.

It said 2,346 more academics had been removed from universities. Hundreds of academics and others have already been swept from their posts, accused of links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan says masterminded the coup.

About 3,300 judiciary officials have also been dismissed, leaving a depleted workforce to manage the legal process against a growing number of detainees.

The Gazette said retired judges and prosecutors would be allowed to return to work if they applied to do so in the next two months.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay, writing by Edmund Blair, editing by John Stonestreet




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