TBR News September 6, 2017

Sep 06 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 6, 2017:”One hurricane tore into Houston and Louisiana and now another, much more dangerous one, is bearing down on the Florida Keys and quite probably Miami. That city lies so close to the ocean that even if the hurricane goes to the south of them, the surge of waves will do terrible damage to them. The Keys look as if they are doomed because the winds are now over 200 mph and the waves are up to twenty feet high. And no one seems to notice that another storm is coming up right behind the current one. Bloggers and conspiracy idiots will give many reasons for all of this carnage but the simple fact is that the oceans are warming and a hurricane thrives on warm water. The Gulf of Mexico is now at 85 degrees and if the storms get into that body of water, the Gulf coast is certain to be ravaged. Let’s all move to Detroit and chase out the legions of rats that now occupy it. Much safer there although Detroit looks like Dresden after the 1945 terror attack that killed over 200,000 people.”

Table of Contents

  • Hurricane Irma heads for Caribbean, triggers states of

emergency for Puerto Rico, Florida

  • Florida prepares for powerful Hurricane Irma
  • North Korea Says It Might Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons. But the Washington Post Isn’t Reporting That.
  • The USS Liberty Wins One!
  • Fifty Years Later, NSA Keeps Details of Israel’s USS Liberty Attack Secret
  • An Agent from Ankara: Did Turkey Plan To Kill Kurdish Official in Germany?
  • The Armenian Holocaust: A Turkish Delight

 Hurricane Irma heads for Caribbean, triggers states of

emergency for Puerto Rico, Florida

Hurricane Irma strengthened to a Category 5 storm as it made landfall in the Caribbean islands. It is the second powerful hurricane to threaten the US in two weeks, after a similar storm hit Texas.

September 6, 2017


The Category 5 storm, the highest level, barreled over the Caribbean’s northern Leeward Islands on Tuesday night packing maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (300 km/h).

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that as one of the five most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in 80 years, it could be “potentially catastrophic.”

The eye of the hurricane is forecast to move over parts of the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday night and Wednesday morning before hitting portions of the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico later on Wednesday.

Barbuda and Antigua were the first islands hit, with powerful winds blowing off roofs and cutting phone lines as residents sought cover in homes and shelters.

The US National Hurricane Center said there was potential for severe damage should the storm make landfall over Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida.

Meteorologists have warned Irma could bring up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain, trigger landslides and flash floods, and create waves up to 23 feet (7 meters) high.

The storm comes after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas as a Category 4 hurricane on August 25. The rain totaled nearly 52 inches and caused the worst flooding in Houston. At least 60 people died during the storm.

Emergency status ahead of Irma

Ahead of the latest hurricane’s arrival, US President Donald Trump declared states of emergency in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and all across Florida.

On Monday, Puerto Rico activated the National Guard. Governor Ricardo Rossello also canceled school classes for Tuesday and declared a half-day of work as he warned of flooding and power outages.

“The decisions that we make in the next couple of hours can make the difference between life and death,” Rossello said on Tuesday. “This is an extremely dangerous storm.”

Rossello has also approved a $15 million (€12.6 million) emergency relief fund “despite the economic challenges Puerto Rico is facing.” The island of about 3.4 million people has 456 emergency shelters prepared to house up to 62,100 people.

An ongoing financial crisis on the island has seen the US territory’s debt increase to more than $70 billion, with cutbacks in state spending, especially on health care and public transport. To help people prepare for the storm, the Puerto Rican government activated a price freeze on basic necessities, including food and water, medicines, power generators and batteries.

In the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis ordered a mandatory evacuation of southern islands in preparation for the “monster” hurricane.

Florida takes no chances

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency across the whole state on Monday in preparation for a possible landing this weekend.

The state ordered a mandatory evacuation of the touristy Florida Keys starting on Wednesday.

Authorities have also warned residents of Miami-Dade County to move to higher ground in anticipation of storm surges.


Florida prepares for powerful Hurricane Irma

September 5, 2017

by Bernie Woodall


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – Emergency management officials across South Florida hastened disaster preparations on Tuesday in anticipation of Hurricane Irma’s expected weekend arrival on the U.S. mainland with possibly greater force than Hurricane Harvey unleashed on Texas.

Irma, a Category 5 storm – the highest hurricane ranking used by U.S. forecasters – neared the Caribbean’s northern Leeward Islands, east of Puerto Rico, late on Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (300 km/h).

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami forecast the storm would make landfall in Florida on Saturday, although Irma’s precise trajectory remained to be seen.

Forecasters described the storm as “potentially catastrophic.” Irma ranks as one of the five most powerful Atlantic hurricanes during the past 80 years and is the strongest Atlantic storm ever recorded outside the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, the NHC aid.

Mindful of the devastation wrought by Harvey days ago along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, Florida officials were taking no chances.

“Normally, people here don’t like to prepare,” said Gary Palmer, a 60-year-old deputy sheriff who visited a home supply store in Fort Lauderdale. “But what happened in Texas opened up everybody’s eyes.”

Authorities in the Florida Keys, the popular resort archipelago stretching from the southern tip of the state’s mainland peninsula, called for a mandatory evacuation of the islands’ visitors, starting at sunrise on Wednesday.

Roman Gastesi, administrator of Monroe County, which includes the Keys, said a mandatory evacuation of residents there was likely at some point.


Residents of low-lying areas in densely populated Miami-Dade County to the north were urged to move to higher ground by Wednesday as a precaution against coastal storm surges.

Public schools throughout South Florida were to be closed ahead of the storm, starting with Monroe and neighboring Lee County on Wednesday and Miami-Dade and several others districts beginning on Thursday.

“My wife is leaving the Keys today,” Monroe County Emergency Management Director Martin Senterfitt said in a statement. “She would rather go to the dentist than sit in traffic. The sooner people leave the better. If ever there was a storm to take serious in the Keys, this is it.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, acting at the request of Governor Rick Scott, approved an emergency declaration on Tuesday mobilizing federal disaster relief efforts in Florida ahead of Irma’s arrival, the White House said.

Scott has also directed all 7,000 of the state’s National Guard troops to report for duty Friday morning, saying additional Guard members would be activated as needed beforehand.

Fort Lauderdale native Alexandra Nimmons, 25, said she was taking Irma’s possible impact on South Florida more seriously after seeing the extreme damage Harvey left behind in Texas.

“I spent a while today collecting water,” Nimmons said. “I hoard Mason and salsa jars so that finally paid off.”

She also planned to stock up on candles, matches and canned food.

Annisa Ali, 45, who just moved to Oakland Park, Florida, from New York City said she was having a hard time finding water at local stores.

“Last night, I went to Wal-Mart. No water. I went to Target. No water. Now I‘m here. No water,” Ali said at a grocery store in Wilton Manors, Florida.

James Foote, a 56-year-old handyman in Fort Lauderdale, said he was unable to find any plywood to nail over windows at a local home supply store on Tuesday. He said more wood was expected to be delivered on Wednesday.

“I will be back tomorrow before this place opens at 7 o’clock,” Foote said. “I’ve waited in lines for concert tickets before. This is way more important than that.”

Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait


North Korea Says It Might Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons. But the Washington Post Isn’t Reporting That.

September 5 2017

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

No normal human being should ever have to read the Washington Post’s op-eds and unsigned editorials. But the Post’s words have a huge impact on the hive-mind of America’s foreign policy apparatus — and hence where we’re going to war next — so it’s important that someone normal pay attention and report back.

So as a quasi-normal person, I recommend you pay close attention to this, from a recent column by the Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Jackson Diehl, about North Korea:

[North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un] has shown no interest in talks — he won’t even set foot in China, his biggest patron. Even if negotiations took place, the current regime has made clear that “it will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table,” as one envoy recently put it. [emphasis added]

Here’s why that matters:

  1. While the Post’s link is dead, it’s meant to take you to this Associated Press story.

This is what the envoy, North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In Ryong, actually said, according to a transcript from North Korea’s UN Mission quoted in the AP article:

“As long as the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat continue [emphasis added], the DPRK, no matter who may say what, will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiation table or flinch an inch from the road chosen by itself, the road of bolstering up the state nuclear force.”

There’s of course a significant difference between North Korea saying it will never negotiate to halt or eliminate its nuclear weapons program, and that it will never negotiate as long as the U.S. continues to threaten it.

Moreover, many North Korean officials, including Kim himself, have used precisely this formulation over and over again since July 4, when North Korea launched what appeared to be its first genuine intercontinental ballistic missile.

And Diehl’s column is by no means the only example of this misrepresentation. As long as North Korean officials have been saying this, the U.S. media has frequently been cutting the qualifier.

It’s also worth noting that Diehl likely knew he was making this important elision. North Korea’s qualifier appears both in the article’s headline and its first paragraph:

Finally, Diehl clearly read North Korea’s statement, since he cut and pasted its language. It’s hard to imagine he didn’t consciously or unconsciously decide to leave that crucial part out.

So does North Korea’s current rhetoric mean it would ever agree to halt, roll back, or even eliminate its nuclear weapons program? If they did agree to it, would they follow through? North Korea observers disagree on the likelihood of this.

But it does in fact matter that debates among foreign policy elites in the pages of the Post and elsewhere be based in reality. The reality is that North Korea is saying that, under certain conditions, it will put its nuclear weapons on the table.

  1. Jackson Diehl’s title obscures his importance at the Post’s editorial page.

It’s long been reported that Diehl is a primary force behind the Post editorial page’s drift to constant belligerence on foreign policy – which can be seen in its unsigned editorials, the writers chosen to be regular columnists, and its guest op-eds. When Colbert King, one of the few African Americans on the Post’s editorial board, decided to step down, he wrote a memo criticizing Diehl’s influence.

Unsurprisingly, Diehl was a supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (although he urged the Bush administration to make its case more on human rights than unconventional weapons). And just as with North Korea today, Diehl made basic factual errors, such as referring to “the 1998 expulsion of the inspectors” from Iraq. In reality, the UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq by the UN itself ahead of the U.S. Desert Fox bombing campaign. Iraq then refused to allow the inspectors to return, citing the fact that the inspectors had been used to spy on the Iraqi regime and that Desert Fox was a clear violation of the UN charter.

According to Fred Hiatt, the overall editor of the Post’s editorial page, Diehl is “rigorously honest, and I have never seen him reluctant to engage in an argument to defend his position.” Diehl didn’t respond to an email asking him why he failed to portray North Korea’s rhetoric accurately.


The USS Liberty Wins One!

The American Legion finally calls for a congressional inquiry

September 5, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz Review

On June 8th 1967 the United States Navy intelligence ship the U.S.S. Liberty was attacked in international waters by aircraft and vessels belonging to Israel. Thirty-four sailors, Marines and civilians were killed in the attack. The deliberate Israeli air and sea onslaught sought to sink the clearly identified intelligence gathering ship and kill all its crew. It was in truth the worst attack ever carried out on a U.S. Naval vessel in peace time. In addition to the death toll, 171 more of the crew were wounded in the two-hour assault, which was clearly intended to destroy the intelligence gathering vessel operating in international waters collecting information on the ongoing fighting between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Israelis, whose planes had their Star of David markings covered up so Egypt could be blamed, attacked the ship repeatedly from the air and with torpedo boats from the sea. When one Israeli pilot hesitated, refusing to attack what was clearly an American ship, he was instructed to proceed anyway.

Most Americans are completely unaware that a United States naval vessel was once deliberately targeted and nearly sunk by America’s “greatest friend and ally” Israel. The attack was followed by a comprehensive cover-up that demonstrated clearly that at least one president of the United States even back nearly fifty years ago valued his relationship with the state of Israel above his loyalty to his own country.

The most disgusting part of the tale relates to how U.S. warplanes sent to the Liberty’s aid from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean were called back by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara acting under orders from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who declared that he would rather see the ship go to the bottom of the sea than embarrass his good friend Israel. Ironically, the first ship to reach the foundering Liberty and offer assistance was from the Soviet Union, an offer that was declined.

The incredible courage and determination of the surviving crew was the only thing that kept the Liberty from sinking. The ship’s commanding officer Captain William McGonagle was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic role in keeping the ship afloat, though President Lyndon Baines Johnson broke with tradition and refused to hold the medal ceremony in the White House, also declining to award it personally, delegating that task to the Secretary of the Navy in a closed to the public presentation made at the Washington Navy Yard. The additional medals given to other crew members in the aftermath of the attack made the U.S.S. Liberty the most decorated ship based on a single engagement with hostile forces in the history of the United States Navy.

The cover-up of the attack began immediately. The Liberty crew was sworn to secrecy over the incident, as were the Naval dockyard workers in Malta, and even the men of the U.S.S. Davis, which had assisted the badly damaged Liberty to port were ordered to be silent. A hastily convened and conducted court of inquiry ordered by Admiral John McCain interviewed only a few crewmen and did not seek to determine what had actually happened, instead, acting under orders from Washington, it moved quickly to declare the attack a case of mistaken identity. The inquiry’s senior legal counsel Captain Ward Boston, who subsequently declared the attack to be a “deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew,” also revealed that Admiral Isaac Kidd, who presided over the inquiry, had told him that “President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him [Kidd] to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” The court’s findings were rewritten and sections relating to Israeli war crimes, to include the machine gunning of life rafts, were excised.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Senator John McCain of Arizona has used his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to effectively block any reconvening of a board of inquiry to reexamine the evidence. The documents relating to the Liberty incident from the White House perspective of McNamara and Johnson, if they have not been destroyed, have never been released to the public in spite of the 50 years that have passed since the attack took place.

In retrospect, one might well have expected little better from the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara and either Admiral John McCain or his son, but the cover-up that has endured for fifty years involving the national media as well as politicians from both parties is perhaps even more disgraceful because it has established the principle that even when Israel targets and kills American military personnel it will never ever be held accountable. Such is the power of the Israel Lobby in the United States.

Even if one is not exactly surprised by the behavior of Washington’s own apparatchiks there has been one constituency that has been steadfast in its support of the U.S.S. Liberty and its surviving crew and that is America’s veterans. Or at least that has been true with one major exception, consisting of the largest veterans’ organization, the American Legion. The second largest veterans’ group the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) has long demanded a proper investigation into what happened to the Liberty as have also the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled Veterans of America, and the Retired Officers Association, but the Legion has long been actually hostile to any attempts to establish accountability for the Liberty survivors.

The Legion’s history of opposition to any examination of what happened to the U.S.S. Liberty is interesting in that it demonstrates how one or two individuals can work insidiously within a large organization to prevent the endorsement of policies overwhelmingly favored by most of its members. The American Legion did, in fact, decry the Israeli attack on the Liberty shortly after it occurred. In August 1967, after the conclusion of the flawed Admiral John McCain directed inquiry, the American Legion adopted Resolution 508 declaring that the published report “fails to provide the American public with a satisfactory answer as to the reason for the attack.” It asserted that “The American Legion denounces and condemns Israel’s irresponsible attack” and demanded “a complete and thorough investigation of the incident.” Immediately after the passage of the resolution there were complaints and pressure coming from Jewish groups and individuals, which is why the resolution was unfortunately never acted upon at a time when it might have had some impact on a congress that was not yet completely Israeli occupied territory. The 1967 resolution was rescinded by the Legion’s National Executive Committee in 1984.

There followed more than thirty years of futility as Liberty survivors and veterans groups sought to reintroduce their demand for a proper inquiry as an active American Legion resolution, but the group’s National Executive exploited a number of stratagems to block every attempt to introduce a new resolution, including rejecting proposals in committee, changing convention rules and physically confronting and expelling those who objected. Indeed, the Legion’s executive did its best to drop the U.S.S. Liberty story down a memory hole. An article written by James Ennes, an officer wounded in the attack, was commissioned for publication in the Legion magazine but was pulled at the last minute because it was “too controversial.”

Efforts by the Legion’s Michigan Department in 2012 to introduce a new resolution resulted in some heated exchanges with senior Legion officials who clearly were the driving force on blocking any action relating to the Liberty. The Legion’s Judge Advocate General Phil Onderdonk confronted the Michigan delegate Ted Arens and angrily informed him that “Your resolution is going nowhere” before describing the Liberty survivors as “anti-Semites.” He also said that “The ship should never have been there. It was a spy ship.” Onderdonk was true to his word about the resolution going nowhere. He reportedly personally removed Arens’ name from the foreign affairs committee agenda to block him from either speaking or presenting his resolution.

Onderdonk’s name pops up regularly in the reminiscences of those who have been advocating for a new Liberty resolution. Indeed, he appears to have been the Legion point-man for dealing with the U.S.S. Liberty inquiries. He is a lawyer from Indiana who served as a “contracting officer” during the Vietnam War. Onderdonk was obviously badly informed regarding the facts in the case as the Liberty was in international waters and clearly marked as an American vessel. And if it was a spy ship, that spying was being done under orders from and to benefit the United States government. And, of course, the claim of anti-Semitism is as ever the last refuge of a scoundrel who has nothing better to say, particularly if one is allegedly representing a patriotic organization and is discussing a surprise attack by a foreign government in which 34 American sailors, Marines and civilians were killed.

I should also note that Onderdonk has been the Legion Judge Advocate General since 1983, shortly before the original Liberty resolution by the Legion was rescinded. If past interaction with Liberty survivors is anything to go by, it can be assumed that he will do everything in his power to block any recognition for the ship and its crew. He is, unfortunately, still the Legion Judge Advocate General and it is at least somewhat ironic that a Religious Liberty Award has been named in his honor and recently presented to Senator Ted Cruz.

Also in 2012, two Liberty survivors were turned away from the annual convention where they had expected to man a booth for the Liberty Veterans Association, which they had paid for. They were forcibly ejected from the convention hall and the Legion’s conference coordinator Dick Holmes turned on Arens and told him “I am sick of you bastards and am going to throw you out on your ass.” In 2013, Liberty survivors’ application for a booth was similarly rejected without any reason being offered. In the following year, the Legion reached out to the VFW and tried to convince it to ban the Liberty survivors from its own gatherings. The VFW rejected the appeal.

So the attempt of the U.S.S. Liberty survivors and their supporters to get the American Legion on board for an inquiry seemed doomed to fail – until this year, the 50th anniversary of the attack. A new resolution was adopted in March by Post 40 in Seattle Washington and was later passed unanimously at the State of Washington’s own American Legion convention, thus placing it on the agenda of the national convention. It was then endorsed by the Iowa delegation, which introduced it to the Foreign Relations subcommittee. Gunnery Sergeant Bryce Lockwood, who received a Silver Star for gallantry during the Israeli attack, worked the August 17-24 national convention in Reno and performed heroically for a second time on behalf of his shipmates, shepherding the draft resolution through in spite of resistance from the American Legion Executive and Foreign Relations subcommittee chair William Flanagan.

One of the participants in the process described how the critical vote came at the National Security Committee level, which was where previous draft resolutions had been derailed. The National Executive had recommended against the resolution and there was considerable opposition from the leadership on the Foreign Relations subcommittee, but the rank-and-file on Foreign Relations did not back down and were successful in a 27-11 vote. The Security Committee then passed it on an overwhelmingly favorable voice vote, with Gunny Lockwood working hard from the sidelines on both committees as well as on the convention floor. When the resolution finally was presented to the full membership it easily passed on another voice vote, revealing that there was strong support from the Legion membership.

Resolution 40 begins by making the case for the Liberty in 11 “Whereas” paragraphs. It then states: “RESOLVED, By The American Legion in National Convention assembled in Reno, Nevada, August 22, 23, 24, 2017, that The American Legion calls upon the 115th United States Congress to publicly, impartially, and thoroughly investigate the attack on the USS Liberty and its aftermath and to commence its investigation before the end of 2017, the 50th anniversary year of the attack.”

Whether Congress can be induced to do the right thing by the Liberty remains to be seen, but the adoption of the resolution was a major victory brought about by a confluence of factors as well as a lot of hard work on the part of the Liberty survivors and their supporters. And certainly, it is no time to relax as the Israel Lobby never sleeps, never gives up. The resolution is posted on the American Legion website but one should assume that there will still be some pushback against actually doing anything about the resolution being exerted by senior officials within the American Legion bureaucracy. Israel meanwhile will certainly use all the resources that it has at hand, and they are considerable, to make sure that Congress never looks into the attack on the U.S.S.Liberty in any capacity.

We Americans who care for the Liberty and are concerned by the 50 years of lies, cover-up and general obfuscation regarding it can do our bit by calling or writing our members of Congress to remind them that all major veterans groups now are expecting action. We should also tell them that the investigation into what happened on that day is way past due. Sometimes even Senators and Representatives listen.


Fifty Years Later, NSA Keeps Details of Israel’s USS Liberty Attack Secret

June 6 2017

by Miriam Pensack

The Intercept

On June 8, 1967, an Israeli torpedo tore through the side of the unarmed American naval vessel USS Liberty, approximately a dozen miles off the Sinai coast. The ship, whose crew was under command of the National Security Agency, was intercepting communications at the height of the Six-Day War when it came under direct Israeli aerial and naval assault.

Reverberations from the torpedo blast sent crewman Ernie Gallo flying across the radio research room where he was stationed. Gallo, a communications technician aboard the Liberty, found himself and his fellow shipmates in the midst of an attack that would leave 34 Americans dead and 171 wounded.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the assault on the USS Liberty, and though it was among the worst attacks in history against a noncombatant U.S. naval vessel, the tragedy remains shrouded in secrecy. The question of if and when Israeli forces became aware they were killing Americans has proved a point of particular contention in the on-again, off-again public debate that has simmered over the last half a century. The Navy Court of Inquiry’s investigation proceedings following the incident were held in closed sessions, and the survivors who had been on board received gag orders forbidding them to ever talk about what they endured that day.

Now, half a century later, The Intercept is publishing two classified documents provided in the cache of files leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden related to the attack and its aftermath. They reveal previously unknown involvement by Government Communications Headquarters, the U.K. signals intelligence agency; internal NSA communications that seem to bolster a signals intelligence analyst’s account of the incident, which framed it as an accident; as well as a Hebrew transliteration system unique to the NSA that was in use at least as recently as 2006.

The first document, a formerly unreleased NSA classification guide, details which elements of the incident the agency still regarded as secret as of 2006. The second lists a series of unauthorized signals intelligence disclosures that “have had a detrimental effect on our ability to produce intelligence against terrorist targets and other targets of national concern.” Remarkably, information relevant to the attack on the Liberty falls within this highly secret category.

Though neither document reveals conclusive information about the causes of the assault, both highlight that at the time of their publication — approximately four decades after the incident — the NSA was determined to keep even seemingly minor details about the attack classified. The agency declined to comment for this article.

The classification guide, dated November 8, 2006, indicates previously unknown GCHQ involvement in the ship’s intelligence gathering. The specifics of this involvement remain classified, and it is therefore unclear if involvement was of a material nature on board the ship or through other means. GCHQ declined to comment.

The guide also reveals NSA’s own classified Hebrew transliteration system, the existence of which underlines that the agency has historically counted Israel as an intelligence target even as the nation acted as a key partner in signals collection. This inherent tension in the U.S.-Israeli relationship was also manifest on the Liberty, where the Hebrew translators brought aboard the ship were referred to as “special Arabic” linguists, according to journalist James Bamford, in order to conceal their surveillance of Israeli communications.

The Six-Day War between Israel and its neighbors Jordan, Syria, and Egypt was a conflict that the United States chose to stay out of, despite Israel’s entreaties for military support. Egypt and Syria were Soviet allies at odds with American-aligned Israel. The local conflict could easily have turned into a direct conflict between the superpowers, which neither the United States nor the USSR wanted. The countries directly involved were left to fend for themselves in what proved to be an overwhelming military and territorial victory for Israel — one that doubled the fledgling country’s size in less than a week.

Though the United States refused to intervene on behalf of its ally, it was nevertheless eavesdropping on Israeli military communications during war. There, according to Bamford, lies the rub: Over the course of Israel’s remarkable territorial acquisition and military victory, it allegedly committed a war crime by slaughtering Egyptian prisoners of war in the city of El Arish in the northern Sinai. Bamford argued in his 2001 book, “Body of Secrets,” that the USS Liberty’s proximity to the Sinai, and its ability to intercept Israel’s motives and activities during the Six-Day War, might have prompted Israel’s attack on the vessel. Other national security experts, including Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, disputed Bamford’s analysis, however. According to Aftergood, who directs the FAS Project on Government Secrecy, the killing of Egyptian POWs never happened. “[There] appears to be no verifiable evidence that such a massacre ever took place, and Bamford’s description of events at El Arish doesn’t hold up,” Aftergood wrote in 2001 following the publication of “Body of Secrets.”

Ultimately, both the United States’ and Israel’s investigations deemed the attack on the Liberty an accident that resulted when Israel mistook the American spy ship for an Egyptian freighter. Bamford considers that conclusion a cover-up, however, citing the gag order issued to survivors, as well as the fact that NSA’s deputy director at the time, Louis Tordella, referred to the Israeli Defense Forces preliminary inquiry into the attack “a nice whitewash.” Still, other sources assert that any notion of cover-up is mere paranoia. According to a spokesperson at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs, the Liberty assault was “a tragic accident … that was settled between the parties involved years ago,” and that, “as is the case with many of these matters, there are always enough conspiracy theories to go around, but they never hold water.”

The USS Liberty’s legacy indeed fed conspiracy theories, and Bamford is not alone in asserting a cover-up. The Liberty Veterans Association, an organization comprised of survivors of the 1967 attack, has called for a robust and transparent investigation into the incident for decades, to no avail.

In a statement to The Intercept, Ernie Gallo, who currently serves as the president of the Liberty Veterans Association, said, “We now know that the Navy Court of Inquiry was merely for show, as the officers were told to come to the conclusion the Liberty did [its] job and the attack was accidental.” Bamford also references the magnitude and length of the attack as proof of its deliberateness: The ship was hit repeatedly, first by planes dropping thousand-pound bombs and napalm, and then by torpedo boats. Israeli forces also jammed the Liberty’s antennas and communication channels, took out the four .50-caliber machine guns on board, and reportedly shot at life rafts and crew members as they attempted to evacuate the vessel. “It was an attack in broad daylight,” said Bamford. “They were flying a large U.S. flag. [The ship] said USS Liberty on the back. … I mean, what do you need?”

The incident and its aftermath took a significant psychological toll on survivors, many of whom were reported to suffer from PTSD. One survivor and member of the Liberty Veterans Association, James Ennes, was shot in the femur during the attack, and was then instructed never to discuss it. Ernie Gallo had a fellow crewmate die in his arms. It was decades before survivors began sharing their experiences, and they were sometimes criticized for being anti-Semitic or slanderous of Israel for doing so.

Not all veterans involved believe in a cover-up, however. Former Navy Chief Petty Officer Marvin Nowicki, the chief Hebrew-language analyst aboard a U.S. Navy EC-121 spy plane that was intercepting Israeli aircraft communications as they were assaulting the Liberty, believed the attack was an accident. He stated in a letter to the Wall Street Journal in 2001 that though he heard and recorded Israeli pilots’ and captains’ references to the U.S. flag flying on the deck of the Liberty, these remarks were made only after the attack was underway, and not before. It was when aircraft and motor torpedo boat operators moved closer to the Liberty, recalled Nowicki, that they were able to recognize and therefore reference the American flag.

Unbeknownst to Nowicki at the time, his letter to the editor sparked concerns at NSA that he had revealed classified information on the Liberty. The second Snowden document, dated 2002, referenced several disclosures in his letter “surrounding National Security Agency sources and methods or NSA’s ability to successfully exploit a foreign target.” Though the document does not specify which details in Nowicki’s article constituted such disclosures, it does reference materials related to the investigation. Nowicki, in a statement that would stir apparent concern at both the NSA and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, called the accident a “gross error.” “How can I prove it?” he wrote. “I can’t unless the transcripts/tapes are found and released to the public. I last saw them in a desk drawer at NSA in the late 1970s before I left the service.” After several unsuccessful attempts to reach Nowicki by phone and email, he ultimately responded to a mailed request for comment. He returned The Intercept’s original posted letter, on which he had hastily scrawled: “I cannot comply w[ith] your request. The last time I spoke publicly, I was visited by NCIS agents.” (NCIS stated that it had no records related to Nowicki’s claim.)

Even 50 years after the attack, and in a radically different geopolitical climate than that of the Six-Day War, extremely limited information is available about the assault and its subsequent investigations. Inquiries by the media and by the survivors have yielded profoundly limited results, despite considerable attempts; ABC’s Nightline interviewed survivors decades after the attack, the results of which never aired. And while James Bamford presumes this is because interested parties didn’t want unsavory information about Israel broadcast on mainstream American television, Nightline’s then-host Ted Koppel said otherwise: “At the risk of contributing to the veneer of ‘cover-up’ that surrounds any discussion of the USS Liberty story, my only recollection is that we did nothing because we found nothing new or substantive.” Neither, it seems, has anyone else.


An Agent from Ankara: Did Turkey Plan To Kill Kurdish Official in Germany?

An espionage trial in Hamburg is raising questions about the Turkish government’s intelligence activities in Germany. It has shed light on a murky world in which Ankara may even be trying to eliminate its political opponents.

September 6, 2017

by Martin Knobbe


It isn’t easy to set up a meeting with Yüksel Koç. He never spends more than three days in the same city and he books his trips at the last minute. Or he just jumps onto the next train; he has an unlimited monthly rail pass for Germany.

As co-chair of the European Kurdish Democratic Societies Congress, he represents a significant number of Kurds living in exile in the world. But it isn’t just the office he holds that keeps him on the road. More than anything, it is fear – fear that he could be assassinated.

Our meeting with Koç ultimately takes place in a café in the center of Bremen, the city he has called home since 1990. Koç arrives late, but he brings along discussion minutes, photos and notes that allegedly prove who has been threatening him.

Koç says that his name is on a hit list assembled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and adds that he was told as much by an agent of the Turkish secret service in May. Not long later, he received via a circuitous route the handwritten notes of another agent who, he says, had been charged with hunting him down. In the documents Koç has in his possession, for example, there is a note from June 28, 2016, reading: “If Yüksel Koç is to die, then we have to be in constant contact with the team and discuss everything precisely.”

Since receiving the notes, Koç has made sure that friends are waiting to pick him up in whatever city he travels to, fearful that his murderer could pose as a taxi driver. Only very few people know where his wife and two grown children live. Life in Germany, Koç says, has become more difficult.

One of the alleged spies sent to track down Koç will be on trial in Hamburg starting this Thursday. His files also apparently contained the handwritten note regarding Koç’s impending death and German prosecutors have charged the man, named Fatih S., with operating as a secret service agent in the country. German officials initiated the investigation into Fatih S. after they were approached by Yüksel Koç.

An Unexperienced Agent

It is believed that Fatih S. has been an agent for the Turkish intelligence agency Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT) since 2013. In fall 2015, if not before, he is believed to have received orders to begin monitoring the Kurdish scene in Germany. Prosecutors, however, have not found sufficient evidence to suggest that he intended to actually murder the Kurdish politician.

Nevertheless, Fatih S. has testified in his interrogations about MIT plans to murder Koç and another Kurdish man. The suspect also said that an attack against Cem Özdemir, the national co-chair of the Green Party, had been planned. It has been difficult for investigators to determine how much of what he says is true – and whether some of it might just be an attempt to cover his tracks or make himself appear more important than he really is. It has also proven impossible to figure out who was supposed to ultimately carry out the hit.

Fatih S. was apparently not a particularly accomplished Turkish agent. He wasn’t able to find out much about the targets he cased and parts of his reports often read like fairy tales. He also didn’t operate as one might expect from a real espionage professional, giving out his real name, for example, and sending communications that weren’t encrypted. He is only secretive when it comes to his age, to the point that even investigators haven’t been able to determine exactly when he was born. In his passport, his birthdate is listed as Jan. 1, 1985, but he has repeatedly claimed that he is actually two years younger, just 30 years of age.

Still, the case is a sensitive one. The trial in Hamburg means that the political tensions between Germany and Turkey have now reached the German judiciary. German security officials believe that Turkish intelligence agents have long been active in Germany, though speculation in some quarters that the MIT maintains more than 6,000 informants in the country is likely excessive. Experts believe the true number is much smaller.

But it’s not just MIT agents that spy on Erdogan’s behalf. Earlier this year, it was reported in the German press that some imams at mosques operated by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) also worked as spies. German federal prosecutors are currently pursuing legal action against 20 suspects for allegedly working as Turkish agents, and most of them are clerics. DITIB, which is funded and has direct ties to the Turkish government, operates close to 900 mosques in Germany.

Lists of Names

The Hamburg trial doesn’t just shed light on a labyrinthine spy story — it also shows how the Turkish state attempts to monitor and influence people of Turkish origin in Germany. The Erdogan government’s ongoing conflicts with both the Kurds and the Gülen movement are also being carried out within the Turkish communities in Germany.

In addition, the Turkish government has repeatedly sent lists of names to German security officials. The names belong to alleged members of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or of the movement led by the Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Erdogan believes was behind the failed coup attempt in July 2016. German prosecutors are investigating whether these lists were compiled by way of espionage.

State prosecutors, however, have found it difficult to find evidence that spying has been conducted on behalf of Turkey. They say that German intelligence hasn’t yet been able to provide reliable information and many witnesses refuse to testify for fear of retaliation from the Turkish state.

As such, Fatih S. was a stroke of luck for Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office. The suspected spy’s lover initially told her story to a Kurdish journalist in Frankfurt and handed him material. He then approached Koç, which is how the information ended up in the hands of the state criminal police office in Hamburg before being shared with officials in Bremen and then, ultimately, with German federal prosecutors. Fatih S. then incriminated himself, even if he later withdrew elements of his testimony. If convicted, he could face a prison sentence of up to five years.

It was Dec. 12, 2016, when Fatih S. first spoke extensively about his life with German officials. Seven days earlier, he had flown from Istanbul to Germany and applied for asylum. His hearing with the Hamburg branch of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) lasted more than six hours.

Fatih S. said he was a Kurd from Kiziltepe in southeast Anatolia and that he was married and had a daughter and two sons. In 2010, he told officials, he completed his university studies in journalism and had worked as a reporter ever since. His father, he said, was killed by PKK fighters in Iraq in 2004, which is why he quickly agreed to cooperate with MIT when they approached him in 2013. “I was very amenable to cooperating,” he said, according to the minutes of his hearing, and he related how he initially was sent to spy on Kurds in Iraq and Syria, supplied with several tens of thousands of euros by the Turkish intelligence agency. He then requested a transfer to Germany.

On Their Side

MIT came up with the perfect cover: Fatih S. got a job with the Kurdish broadcaster Denge TV and was even given his own show in 2014. As a result, his name became known among Kurds, which gave him access to high-ranking functionaries, who all thought that Fatih S. was on their side.

Starting in 2014, the presumed journalist traveled several times to Germany and established contact with Koç, who at the time was still co-chair of the Kurdish Democratic Societies Congress in Germany, the umbrella organization of Kurdish groups in the country. According to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the group maintains close contacts to the PKK. For one extended interview, Fatih S. even visited Koç at his home in Bremen. “He did everything he could to win my trust,” Koç says. At Kurdish demonstrations, Fatih S. even showed up to wave the Kurdish flag or helped out with crowd management.

It isn’t difficult to understand why Fatih S. was so open with German asylum officials during his December 2016 interview: A short time before, on Nov. 15, the Kurdish newspaper Yeni Özgür Politika had exposed him as an intelligence agent and accused him of planning a murder. The alleged spy’s girlfriend had approached a journalist from the paper several weeks before. A confidential assessment assembled by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, concludes that his application for asylum had been a “panic reaction.”

The woman thought to have been Fatih S.’ lover — we’ll call her Nesrin for the purposes of this article — is from the same region of Turkey as he and she got to know Fatih S. soon after he joined the Kurdish broadcaster when she became his assistant. Nesrin, who is now 24 years old, says that she was never his lover and claims that he had forced her to act as though they were together. But investigators believe that the two were a couple.

She traveled with Fatih S. to Brussels, Paris, Munich and elsewhere, always under the pretext of producing television spots sympathetic to the Kurdish cause. Together, they met the heads of Kurdish organizations in France and Remzi Kartal, one of the most important Kurdish officials in Europe. Only around 10 percent of the footage they took, Nesrin estimated in her testimony, was used for journalistic purposes. Most of the filming was done on behalf of Turkish intelligence.

According to the prosecution, MIT instructed Fatih S. in fall 2015 to move to Germany and spend at least one year spying on the Kurdish scene in the country. Fatih S. terminated his permanent position with Denge TV, and from then on worked for the broadcaster as a freelancer. He moved into an apartment in Bremen on Jan. 4 together with Nesrin.


The two took German language classes for eight months, with MIT paying the fees, according to the prosecution. The intelligence agency also took care of the couple’s living expenses, initially supplying around 1,500 euros per month. Fatih S. received the money in cash whenever he visited his case officer in Ankara. In total, he is thought to have received around 30,000 euros in 2016.

German prosecutors have apparently been unable to find out who Fatih S.’ MIT case officers were. During his interrogation, he claimed that he could only remember two first names: Kemal and Ahmed. When in Germany, he received his orders via an email address that bore the name of a supposed cousin of his. When he wanted to indicate that he had new material, he would write that he was bringing “chocolate” along on his next visit.

If one can believe what she told the police, Nesrin quickly became suspicious of the way her colleague worked. She testified that he used two laptops and two external hard drives that nobody was allowed to touch. In September 2015, he took her to an expensive café in Ankara where the waiter greeted him by name and didn’t bring him a bill. Fatih S. later said that it was one of the places where he often met with his case officer.

On one occasion, during a stay in a spa hotel in Ankara, Fatih S. disappeared for several days without telling Nesrin that he was leaving. As she later determined from the stamps in his passport, he traveled to Poland, Romania and Ukraine during that period. And although he hardly worked for the Kurdish broadcaster anymore in 2016, he went to numerous political events held by Kurds around Europe, apparently paying for the trips himself.

In summer 2016, Nesrin says she discovered handwritten notes in her partner’s travel bag by chance. Among them were notes about the daily and professional life of Yüksel Koç in Bremen. She photographed the notes and began poking around in his computer, where she found some photos that she saved to a USB stick. She then confronted Fatih S., whereupon he admitted to working for MIT and suggested that she too begin working for the intelligence service. Nesrin said he proposed that she begin spying on the wives of Kurdish functionaries and told her she would make 5,000 euros per month. Nesrin says she declined the offer.

Exaggerated or False

Instead, she turned to the Kurdish journalist in Frankfurt using an assumed name. The journalist, in turn, contacted Yüksel Koç and prosecutors in Bremen began investigating in late September 2016. On Dec. 15, 2016, three days after his asylum interview in Hamburg, police arrested Fatih S.

An analysis of his files makes it look as though Fatih S. did everything he could to fulfill the expectations of his handlers. One of the photos shows a police officer in civilian clothing at a demonstration organized by a Kurdish group in Bremen that German officials believe is sympathetic to the PKK. Fatih S. reported that the picture showed the Bremen police chief and claimed that he maintained close contacts to the Kurdish organization. It is an accusation that Erdogan likes to level at German officials: that they protect terror organizations like the PKK instead of fighting them.

But the police officer in the picture is neither a part of the Bremen police department’s leadership nor does Koç know him particularly well. Indeed, Koç says that the photo was the first time he had really noticed the officer. Other information provided by Fatih S. was also either exaggerated or completely false.

It remains unclear whether the MIT had serious intentions of murdering Kurdish functionaries like Koç. There have been, to be sure, high-profile killings of Kurds in the recent past. In January 2013, three Kurdish activists were shot and killed in Paris and the suspected assassin died of a brain tumor four years later. It still isn’t known if the killer was a Turkish agent.

Nesrin, Fatih S.’ assistant, has exonerated her partner on this point: killing Koç, she said, “was never discussed.” In the indictment, however, it says that the two MIT case workers made it clear to Fatih S. at one of their last meetings in September 2016 that the information they were demanding was for the purpose of killing Koç.

Initially, Fatih S. cooperated with investigators. In speaking to an investigative judge at Germany’s Federal Court of Justice, he was up front about his work on behalf of MIT and about the agency’s assassination plans and other planned attacks. He says he was told to “organize two Kurds” to beat up Cem Özdemir, the German parliamentarian and senior Green Party official who is hated by the Turkish government, at a public appearance.

Promised Secrecy

But in February, Fatih S. told a completely different version of his story to officers with Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, saying that he had actually never worked for MIT at all but was actually an agent for the Gülen Movement. He said that a joint opposition movement against President Erdogan had been planned with the PKK and that his job had been that of establishing contacts with Kurdish functionaries who were close to the PKK. He said that he had only told asylum authorities that he was working for MIT because he thought it would increase the chance that his application would be granted.

Prosecutors believe this version of the story is merely an attempt by Fatih S. to save his skin. German officials, including the country’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, believe that convergence between the Gülen Movement and the PKK “isn’t plausible given the diametrically opposed ideologies of the two entities.”

The BND does, however, know of one attempt made by the Gülen Movement to establish contacts with the PKK, but the PKK representatives rejected the effort.

Fatih S.’ defenders say that the accusations against their client aren’t supported by the facts. The story told about him and his alleged spying activities by his supposed lover Nesrin, they say, isn’t plausible. “I am not convinced of the credibility of the testimony this witness gave to the investigating judge,” says Marvin Schroth, a lawyer based in Karlsruhe.

Kurdish functionary Yüksel Koç remains uneasy, even though Fatih S. can no longer threaten him. There is, after all, the other MIT agent who told him of the hit list. According to the agent, there are several teams of agents, made up of three spies apiece, who are targeting Kurds in Germany. Koç says he could also report this agent to the authorities and he claims to know his name. But he promised secrecy and it is a promise he intends to keep.

Koç continues to travel extensively by train. And he doesn’t spend much time in one place.


The Armenian Holocaust: A Turkish Delight

Before World War I the Ottoman Empire came under the Young Turks government. At first some Armenian political organizations supported the Young Turks in hopes that there would be a real change from Abdul Hamid’s policies towards the Armenian population.

There were Armenians elected to the Ottoman Parliament, where some remained throughout the ensuing world war. However they were later to be disappointed. Other parliamentarians such as Muradyan and Garo would go on to lead Armenian rebels in ethnic cleansing campaigns against Muslim and Jewish Ottoman villagers.

The Young Turks feared the Armenian community, which they had believed was more sympathetic to allied powers (specifically Russia) than to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1914 Ottomans passed a new law that required all adult males up to age 45, to either be recruited in the Ottoman army or pay special fees in order to be excluded from service. Most of the Armenian recruits were later turned into road laborers and the executed. Those who escaped joined the Russians on the east.

In early 1915, simultaneously with a disastrous Ottoman defeat at the hands of Russia at Sarikamish, with the loss of over 80% of a huge military force, battalions of Russian Armenians organized the recruiting of Turkish Armenians from behind the Turkish lines. In response the Young Turk government executed 300 Armenian nationalist intellectuals, although a partisan source as Peter Balakian’s

“The Burning Tigris” tells us most were imprisoned and there were even survivors. The fact that most Armenian men were also butchered in the army and many influential figures arrested and killed, places a question mark over certain arguments that Armenians organized revolts and that there was a civil war, given that Armenians were outnumbered, outmanned and outgunned. After the recruitment of most men and the arrests of certain intellectuals, widespread massacres were taking place throughout Ottoman Empire.

In desperate attempts at survival, upon hearing of massacres of nearby villages, Armenians in Musa Dagh and Van organized their self-defense. In Van, they handed over control of the city to advancing Russians.

After waves of massacres and countermassacres, the Ottoman government ordered the deportation of over 1 million Armenians living in Anatolia to Syria and Mesopotamia though this figure has not been conclusively established. Indeed, there is another consensus this number did not exceed 700,000, and Arnold Toynbee reported in his Wellington House (British propaganda division) report of “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire” that 500,000 were alive in 1916.

Although the word deportation seems pretty innocent (some would prefer the word “relocation,” as the former means banishment outside a country’s borders; Japanese-Americans, for example, were not “deported” during WWII), things were not, because the deportations themselves were a silent method of mass execution that led to the death of many of the Armenian population, by forcing them to march endlessly through desert, without food or water or enough protection from local Kurdish or Turkish bandits.

In the process several hundred thousand died in the resulting death marches from starvation, dehydration, disease or exhaustion. Several hundred thousands more were massacred by Kurdish militia and Ottoman gendarmes (while other gendarmes gave up their lives defending the Armenians), giving an estimated total under certain counts of 1,500,000 Armenians dead.




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