Archive for June, 2016

TBR News June 10, 2016

Jun 10 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 10, 2016: “The boobs that infest our government, at the highest levels, are playing very stupid and dangerous games with the Russians. We send troops to countries bordering on Russia, put sanctions on her, and now are sending naval units into the Black Sea. Eventually, some dimbulb will fire at a Russian plane or ship and the Russians will fire back. The leadership in the United States is as empty of brains as a ladle. The devastating First World War started by miscalculation, the Second by Roosevelt’s plotting and let us hope the next war is not started by stupidity.”


The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Sunday, 13 August 1950

Wallace has now left his Progressive Party because he publicly supports the intervention in Korea. There wasn’t much left of his party anyway and there has been a great deal of pressure put on him lately. Truman called him a communist and the war in Korea, (a war and not a “police action”) has done terrible damage to the friends of the peace-loving Soviet Union. I believe that if such a war did not begin by the actions of the communists, it would have been necessary for us to instigate one.

Wars have a wonderful unifying effect on a dissident population. I recall, even though I was young at the time, the effect the declaration of war by Germany in 1914 had on the left wing in the Reichstag. Much unity…for a time. It will be that way here for a brief period and then the left wing, seeing its friends being shot at, will clamor for peace. Truman can’t give it to them because he has declared himself to be the head of the war party and cannot back down.

He is now being faced with a military, not a civilian, problem. That problem now is: where to stop in the event this country manages to shove the enemy back to their own borders? A “police action” should logically stop when the invaders have been expelled but the military will see this as a chance for greater glory and they will wish to pursue their new enemy into his own country.

Monday, 21 August 1950

I have heard from Sophie, through the cut outs, that she is not happy with her current situation. She wants more money, which I can certainly supply, and wants me to visit her! Mad woman! They are watching the house as I well know and a recent contact has told me that the Russians are also watching. Interestingly enough, my contact, Viktor, is an NKVD man who is here in Washington disguised as a Canadian businessman connected to their trade mission! How interesting to talk to another professional again and one from the enemy camp. A very clever man, this one. I met him at the club last week where he was a guest. I could see that he wanted to talk to me so I made myself available and we had a nice chat in the library.

I spotted him as a Russian immediately. He speaks perfect English…too perfect…but his questions tended to give him away. If you listen to someone very carefully, you can find out exactly what they want from you. In this case, he was probing me. He has seen me with Behn and others, knows I am Swiss, or has been told this, and is curious. Viktor also speaks German and knows the difference between German and Swiss dialects. I, on the other hand, speak Russian and we can both spot the differences in our fronts. Entertaining. Finally, yesterday, we had another chat and this time we decided to stop wasting time and get right down to business.

He knows who I am and I know who he is and there we sat, smoking good cigars and talking shop with each other. V. knows Philby who I suspect has tipped him off but at this level, who cares? The public has no idea of the fact that people like V. and myself are purely professional and are not interested in emotional ideology.

Neither one of us has the slightest intention of exposing the other. That would be unprofessional and rude so we sit and chat about various matters. His family is in Moscow, no doubt as hostages for his good behavior, and mine is in Pasing because I can’t go back and frankly, don’t want to.shares my contempt for the British who he says are unprincipled whores, kissing and sucking up to both the Russians and ourselves.

After the cigars, a very good game of chess. He is hard to beat; Russians are superb chess players, but I beat him. We will have to play again and when we were leaving the club, V. made some sly comment about the difference between the home in Pasing and my place in Georgetown.

I told him he should come by sometime for a drink and a game of chess but considering that a good part of the first floor is furnished with stolen works of art from his country, I doubt if my house would be a good idea and besides, the place is now empty. At least he doesn’t know that much and because I haven’t told Philby that I have moved, Victor is dealing with stale coffee.

The Soviets would beat the Americans with my presence here if it would benefit them but no doubt they think to turn me around to work for them. This, of course, would never happen but maybe I can turn Viktor to work for me! Stranger things have happened and he is the best chess player I have found since I came here. Those at the CIA who think they are so clever play like young children and are so easy to beat that the games are not entertainment whatsoever.

I mentioned this to Bunny and she thought it was most entertaining and that we ought to cultivate him.

I told her that as we were getting married next week, I disapproved of bringing strange men into the house, even if it is in the line of business. I told her that we had agreed to keep the business away from the house but women are peculiar after all.

Speaking of the wedding, the invitations have been sent out to her relatives and my staff and those few among my co-workers who would be infuriated not to have been invited. One takes the good along with the bad!

The house is now almost completely redecorated and furnished and I must agree with Bunny that the place looks very grand indeed. One can get used to luxury very quickly and I was thinking of the cold-water apartment I once occupied in Berlin. Comparisons are often odious but in this case, quite pleasant.

Bunny is not Catholic but I have insisted on being married in the Church and on this issue, we are in agreement. One of my friends from Georgetown will perform the services although my new friend, Cardinal Spellman, would have been more impressive.

The hothouses will supply the flowers; Hayes is supplying the music and my kitchens will supply the food and wines.

Saturday, 2 September 1950

Now I am a happily (I sincerely hope…not like the last time) married man!

Now what Bunny and I do is legal. Maybe that will rob it of some of the forbidden fun but a pleasant home is much to be desired.

Such a great deal of fuss which could be accomplished in a simple Washington court room but Bunny and her aunt had their hearts set on an elaborate ceremony and I must say, they certainly had it.

All of her friends, of course (simply showing off her catch of the day) and my staff, aunts, cousins and so on. The place smelled like a funeral and the women were weeping. The men were shaking my hand because, after all, Bunny is very attractive as well as very rich, and so on.

The service was held in the main drawing room and afterwards, we all adjourned to a huge buffet (I prefer these to a sit-down dinner) in the gallery. A string orchestra was playing Mozart. Champagne, very good vintages I regret to say, was vanishing at an alarming rate but there were no drunken rampages such as I have witnessed at the parties of a number of my CIA friends. My guests know how to hold their liquor.

An amusing incident with my new bosom friend, Viktor. He behaved like a proper Canadian businessman until he saw some of my Russian treasures and then became somewhat agitated. I took him by the arm and showed him other treasures that had come from France.

His comment? Typically Russian. “But these pieces are only stolen from rich Jews. The other pieces are stolen from our state museums!”

Like most Russians, Viktor does not like Jews and said to me later, “At least we did have some things in common with the Nazis. We both hate Jews.”

Which was typical and amusing because I do not hate Jews. I don’t have any on my staff nor do I work with any at the CIA (who doesn’t have many at all and no one in the inner circles) but I have better things to do than to persecute Jews. We can let the Republicans and the Army people do that.

And there were two Generals, one Colonel, one Admiral (retired) and a number of lesser ranks in attendance.

Bunny and I made the circle of the guests; stopping here and there to talk to people she or I knew. Very much like a royal court. A levee indeed! King Heinrich and his royal consort receiving the nobility. And tables full of very expensive gifts, mostly ornate silver pieces, only a few of which are plate.

Our rings are very simple affairs but the engagement ring I gave her has a one-carat square cut emerald mounted in platinum. Old (again, another Imperial Russian piece) but very elegant. There is a matching emerald and diamond choker (or dog collar as Bunny calls it), which I wanted her to wear, but we both decided that it was too ornate for the occasion. It will take days to clean up the mess here and I will stay and supervise.

Bunny is getting more items from her aunt’s place and she tells me that my place is being cleaned up and will be put onto the market soon. I outgrew it soon enough, but this place is a small kingdom and ought to absorb quite a bit of art.

It certainly is much cooler here than in the District and we are going to rebuild the old chapel on the roadside. My father used to do that for a living and I have acquired a bit of knowledge in that area. It obviously was for a Protestant family and I will convert it to a Catholic chapel, but I doubt if I will have a chaplain on my staff. Now if I could get Bunny to convert, that might be different. I do have a number of very valuable relics such as altarpieces, plates and so on, which would do much better in a church than in my house.

Russia: We will respond to entry of U.S. naval vessel into Black Sea

June 10, 2016


The Russian Foreign ministry said Moscow would respond to a U.S. naval ship’s entry into the Black Sea with unspecified measures, saying it and other deployments were designed to ratchet up tensions ahead of a NATO summit, the RIA news agency reported.

Russian state media reported that the USS Porter, a U.S. naval destroyer, entered the Black Sea a few days ago on a routine deployment, a move it said raised hackles in Moscow because it had recently been fitted with a new missile system.

U.S. Navy officials told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. military would also have two aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean this month ahead of a July NATO summit in Warsaw as Washington sought to balance Russian military activities.”Of course, this does not meet with our approval and will undoubtedly lead to response measures,” RIA cited Andrei Kelin, a senior Foreign Ministry official, as saying about the USS Porter’s movements.

He also said the deployment of U.S. aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean was a show of force which in his view deepened a chill in ties between Moscow and Washington caused by Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Syria.

“As regards the overall situation of course there is a definite increase and stoking of tensions in our relations,” he was quoted as saying.

“It is all being done on the eve of the Warsaw NATO summit. It is a show of force.”

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Jack Stubbs; Editing by Alexander Winning)


Spread of violence in Turkey shows no sign of abating

Kurdish militants said they were behind an Istanbul bombing as the violence in Turkey’s largely Kurdish south-east spreads. Turks in the country’s west are now seeing the deadly conflict play out on their doorstep.

June 10, 2016


A radical offshoot of the banned Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for a bombing in the center of Istanbul on Friday, marking the latest entry in a string of attacks across the country that shows no sign of abating.

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), who split with the PKK in 2006, and explicitly pursue civilian targets, detonated a car bomb next to a bus carrying Turkish police officers in Istanbul’s Veznecilar district on Tuesday. The attack was followed by another car bombing targeted a police station in Mardin, south-eastern Turkey, the following day.

For almost a year now the predominantly Kurdish provinces of Turkey’s south-east have been home to a large scale Turkish military operation nominally targeting the PKK that has left entire cities in ruins and hundreds killed.

The campaign has been compared to the Turkish army’s operations in the Kurdish regions in the 1980s and 1990s that left more than 44,000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. This week’s attack in Istanbul is yet more evidence that this time the violence is spreading west.

Kurdish militants linked to the PKK, who see themselves as resisting an incursion by the Turkish military, have suffered heavy losses in pitched urban battles with Turkish soldiers in the south-east and are increasingly turning to hit-and-run style guerrilla tactics and car bombings. Major Turkish army operations are continuing across the region, and are still ongoing in the city centers of Sirnak and Yuksekova in the country’s deep south-east.

The Turkish army has declared 24-hour military curfews in the centers of Kurdish towns and cities that independent rights groups such as the Human Rights Association (IHD) and Mazlumder claim have resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Speaking at a meeting of the relatives of soldiers killed in the operations on Tuesday, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the military operations were succeeding. “The PKK has experienced its biggest ever blow over the last year … the trenches they dug have become their graves and the bombs they planted to divide the nation have exploded in their own hands.”

President Erdogan claimed 7,600 “terrorists” had been killed or captured in the operations since July 20, 2015, however, death tolls in the conflict are hotly disputed.

An independent casualty count maintained by the International Crisis Group puts the total number of confirmed PKK fatalities at 519 (However, the organization notes that the true figure should be higher due to the difficulty of verifying reports). Crisis Group has also documented 517 police, military personnel and village guard fatalities and at least 271 civilian deaths, along with an additional 191 individuals between 16 and 35 years of age who have been killed at times of clashes or in curfew zones but cannot be positively identified either as civilians or militants.

String of attacks

Hostilities spiked after PKK militants shot down a Turkish army helicopter with an anti-aircraft system on May 13. The organization’s guerrillas followed up the attack on May 16 with a raid on an army outpost in Oremar, Hakkari province that the group claimed left more than 30 soldiers dead. The Turkish army reported only two deaths.

On June 4, PKK guerrillas targeted Turkish soldiers in the Semdinli region of Hakkari province in the far south-east, claiming subsequently to have killed 26 soldiers. Then, on June 5, PKK guerrillas attacked a bus carrying Turkish gendarmes on the main road between Trabzon and Gumushane in the country’s north, claiming to have killed six officers.

The same day, in Tunceli province, PKK guerrillas attacked an army outpost killing one soldier, and on June 6 they carried out a further attack in Sirnak’s Uludere district in yet another raid on a Turkish army outpost.

The Turkish army responded on June 8 by carrying out airstrikes on the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the PKK’s leadership is based.

‘A low-intensity war’

“The results of this war have been pretty grim for the Kurdish people,” Mehmet Sanri, a veteran Kurdish journalist and analyst from Sirnak, now living in Istanbul, told DW.

“But the Turkish generals have labeled the conflict a ‘low intensity war,’ or at least one of a lower intensity than the previous conflicts, meaning they think they have things more or less under control.”

Sanri points out that some in the region question the logic of the PKK’s strategy of continuing to fight, but that the rules of the game are still fundamentally being set by the Turkish state. “Don’t forget that the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, is still held in prison by Turkey,” he said.

“The presence of Russia in Syria, and the situation in Iraq, is also complicating and deepening the conflict and unfortunately the destruction continues at full speed.”

PKK guerrillas have recently taken credit for a string of attacks on police and army positions across south-eastern Turkey and say they plan to ramp up the attacks. Though they have received little international or domestic attention, attacks in the south-east have been deadlier than more high profile attacks such as Tuesday’s car bombing in Istanbul.

Hostilities spiked after PKK militants shot down a Turkish army helicopter with an anti-aircraft system on May 13. The organization’s guerrillas followed up the attack on May 16 with a raid on an army outpost in Oremar, Hakkari province that the group claimed left more than 30 soldiers dead. The Turkish army reported only two deaths.

On June 4, PKK guerrillas targeted Turkish soldiers in the Semdinli region of Hakkari province in the far south-east, claiming subsequently to have killed 26 soldiers. Then, on June 5, PKK guerrillas attacked a bus carrying Turkish gendarmes on the main road between Trabzon and Gumushane in the country’s north, claiming to have killed six officers.

The same day, in Tunceli province, PKK guerrillas attacked an army outpost killing one soldier, and on June 6 they carried out a further attack in Sirnak’s Uludere district in yet another raid on a Turkish army outpost.

The Turkish army responded on June 8 by carrying out airstrikes on the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the PKK’s leadership is based.

‘A low-intensity war’

“The results of this war have been pretty grim for the Kurdish people,” Mehmet Sanri, a veteran Kurdish journalist and analyst from Sirnak, now living in Istanbul, told DW.

“But the Turkish generals have labeled the conflict a ‘low intensity war,’ or at least one of a lower intensity than the previous conflicts, meaning they think they have things more or less under control.”

Sanri points out that some in the region question the logic of the PKK’s strategy of continuing to fight, but that the rules of the game are still fundamentally being set by the Turkish state. “Don’t forget that the leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, is still held in prison by Turkey,” he said.

“The presence of Russia in Syria, and the situation in Iraq, is also complicating and deepening the conflict and unfortunately the destruction continues at full speed.”


Top ‘1 percent’ in US blooms as income inequality grows, despite Obama’s efforts – report

June 10, 2016


Despite President Obama’s efforts to fight income inequality, the gap is widening. The wealthiest “one percent” take in most of the growth, a new study shows. The last 35 years saw the richest Americans’ income jump 10 times higher than the other 99 percent.

“Market income in 2013 for households in the top 1 percent was 188 percent higher than it was in 1979,” the Congressional Budget Office said in the report released Wednesday. “For households in the bottom four income quintiles, market income was 18 percent higher in 2013 than it was in 1979.”

According the new federal data, a typical American household earned market income of $86,000 in 2013. After adding another $14,000 in government benefits per household, their pretax income reached $100,000. In that scenario, consumers kept $80,000 annually after paying 20 percent in taxes.

In the meantime, in 2013, America’s richest “one percent,” made up of 1.2 million households across the country, earned on average nearly $1.6 million annually per household. The CBO estimates that in the last 35 years, after-tax income of those richest households saw at least 3 percent growth each year. Thus, in 2013, their income after paying federal taxes was 192 percent higher than it was in 1979.

In comparison, over the same period, households “at the bottom” saw their income grow only 1 percent per year on average, bringing their earnings up only 46 percent during those 35 years.

Despite the remaining wide gap between the “one percent” and the rest of the US, income inequality declined during the first five years of Obama’s presidency.

The White House successfully tamped down after-tax inequality by applying changes in the federal tax system in 2012 and 2013, when tax rates for the richest Americans rose more than five percentage points. That was the largest tax increase in 20 years.

In 2013, the “one percent” paid about $70,000 in federal taxes per household compared to $9,000 taken from the middle class and less than $1,000 from lower class families.

“That decrease in income inequality stemmed primarily from the higher rates faced by high-income taxpayers in that year, which made the federal tax system the most progressive it has been since the mid-1990s,” the CBO said.

What took even a bigger bite out of inequality was the Obama administration’s transfer policies, which largely go to low-income households.

In fact, in each year between 1979 and 2013, government transfers reduced income inequality significantly more than the federal tax system did, the CBO estimated.

At the same time, President Obama has also increased benefits, as exemplified by the Affordable Care Act and expansion of Medicaid coverage.


Latest threat to online lenders: ‘stacking’ of multiple loans

June 10, 2016

by Heather Somerville, Olivia Oran and Joy Wiltermuth


SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK-Many online lenders have failed to detect the “stacking” of multiple loans by borrowers who slip through their automated underwriting systems, lending company executives and investors told Reuters.

The practice is proliferating in the sector – led by LendingClub, OnDeck and Prosper Marketplace – because of many lenders’ hurried, algorithmic underwriting, use of “soft” credit inquiries, and patchy reporting of the resulting loans to credit bureaus, according to online lending and consumer credit experts.

Such loopholes, they said, can result in multiple lenders making loans to the same borrowers, often within a short period, without the full picture of their rising obligations and deteriorating ability to pay.

Stacking is “causing problems with the whole industry,” said Brian Biglin, chief risk officer of LoanDepot, a five-year-old mortgage lender that last year started making personal loans online.

New revelations of loose lending could make it harder for the beleaguered sector to win back trust from investors who are already concerned about slipshod underwriting and rising default risk. The marketplace lending industry – which last year hit $18 billion in annual loan originations – has seen plummeting share prices and the retreat of some major backers, including BlackRock and Citigroup.

Industry leaders LendingClub and Avant said they are aware of stacking and its dangers, but they downplayed the risks and did not provide examples of specific actions taken to prevent the practice. OnDeck and Prosper said they have launched efforts to detect and guard against stacking.“We have established proprietary algorithms,” said Prosper spokeswoman Sarah Cain.

Some higher-risk lenders allow and promote stacking as debt consolidation, but most lenders consider it a threat, particularly when not disclosed.

Edward Hanson, the owner of Ella’s Wood Fire Pizza, said he started stacking loans about five years ago to sustain his business.

“You take out another one to help you pay for the first,” Hanson said.

Hanson, 55, said he already had loans from a variety of online lenders when he received offers from online business lenders OnDeck and Kabbage, which approved his application, he said.

OnDeck knew Hanson had at least one other loan when he applied in August of 2014, and required that the existing debt be paid off as a condition of the new loan, said company spokesman Jim Larkin. When Hanson came back a year later, OnDeck declined his application because Hanson had stacked loans during the course of repayment, Larkin said.

Kabbage declined to comment on Hanson’s loans and did not respond to questions about its stacking policies.

Hanson now pays nearly 40 percent interest on his latest loan, from yet another lender.

“I pretty much feel trapped,” he said.


Institutional investors have lately grown wary of marketplace lenders after initially hailing them as disruptors of banks and credit card companies. Wall Street money is crucial for most online lenders, who need it to fund their loans.

Citigroup ended its partnership with Prosper earlier this year. The bank had repackaged about $1.5 billion of Prosper’s loans into securities since the partnership began less than a year ago.

Investor sentiment was hammered again last month by a scandal at industry leader LendingClub. The company knowingly sold $22 million in loans that did not meet the agreed specifications of one investment bank, Jefferies, and falsified the applications of $3 million of those loans.

LendingClub is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, the company said last month, and a number of its large investors have halted investments in the wake of its chief executive’s resignation. The New York Department of Financial Services also has said it will launch a probe into online lenders.

Now concerns about stacking are adding to the industry’s woes. One investment firm that was considering buying equity in a marketplace lender described stacking as a sector “blind spot.” The firm declined to be named.

Bill Kassul, a partner in Ranger Capital Group – which has about $300 million invested in marketplace lending and business lending – said stacking has become a concern in the last two years and poses a “big risk” to investors.

Blue Elephant Capital Management stopped buying loans from Prosper for several months recently over concerns about weak underwriting and profitability. Marketplace lenders need to slow their lending processes and improve sharing of credit information, said Brian Weinstein, chief investment officer at Blue Elephant.

Stacking was “one of the reasons why we think we saw credit deteriorate last summer when we stopped our marketplace lending program,” Weinstein said.Blue Elephant last month announced plans to resume buying Prosper loans, in part because the company is charging higher interest rates.


In their haste to give applicants quick loan decisions – sometimes within 24 hours – some marketplace lenders do not conduct thorough credit checks, known as “hard inquiries,” according to industry executives.

Such checks create an updated log of credit and loan applications, and they can lower a borrower’s credit score. Soft inquiries don’t require the borrower’s consent and don’t usually show up on credit reports.

OnDeck said it runs only soft checks. LendingClub and Prosper said they initially run soft checks but run hard checks later in the process, just before funding loans.

Running hard checks only at the last minute, however, can also leave other lenders in the dark, said Gilles Gade, president and CEO of Cross River Bank, which invests in many online lending platforms. At that point, the borrower may have already obtained other loans, he said, because hard checks can take about 30 days to show up on a credit report.

Another problem: Loans that never show up on credit reports at all, because of uneven reporting by online lenders.

“Not all lenders in our industry report to bureaus,” said Leslie Payne, a spokeswoman for LendUp, which makes high-interest installment loans. In a February blog post, Experian, the credit bureau, said a “significant number” of marketplace lenders do not report their loans.

Prosper, Avant and LendingClub told Reuters that they report their loans to all three major credit bureaus at least monthly. OnDeck said it reports to several leading commercial credit bureaus, including Experian and PayNet.

Many lenders said they also pull data from other sources, including paystubs, tax documents and accounting software for businesses to size up a borrower’s ability to pay.

LoanDepot said it has taken several steps to mitigate the risks of stacking, including requiring months of bank statements for its borrowers and building custom algorithms to flag potential stacking activity.


Most online lenders focus on either business or consumer lending. Those lending to small businesses may face greater risk from stacking, in part because of a separate class of high-risk, high-interest business lenders that actively promotes the practice.

Merchant cash advance lenders make loans based mainly on a business’s expected revenue rather than its credit record or existing debts. They often scour databases of business loans – such as those by OnDeck or Kabbage – and use them as marketing leads to find new borrowers, online lending executives and investors said.

OnDeck has made efforts to educate customers to stay away from lenders offering stacked loans, said Chief Operating Officer James Hobson. It has also started monitoring borrowers more frequently and joined the Small Business Finance Exchange, an effort to share lending data to guard against stacking.

After OnDeck turned down the second application from Hanson, the pizzeria owner, he turned to World Business Lenders, a small business lender founded in 2011. He now pays 39 percent interest.

Hanson would not detail his balance or his payments, but said he put up his house as collateral. The company said Hanson’s latest loan reduced his payments from 44 percent of his business’s revenue to 12 percent by offering a longer term.

Some small business owners will keep borrowing as long as lenders grant approvals, taking one loan after another, said chief executive Doug Naidus. But at some point, he cautioned, the principal needs to get paid back.

“The fifth stack pays the fourth stack, and the sixth stack pays the fifth stack,” Naidus said. “But when the music stops, everybody’s got to find a chair.”

(Reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco and Olivia Oran and Joy Wiltermuth in New York. Additional reporting by Lauren LaCapra and Michael Erman in New York. Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Brian Thevenot)


One Man’s War

Bringing Iraq to America

by Mark Wilkerson


Memorial Day is over.  You had your barbeque.  Now, you can stop thinking about America’s wars and the casualties from them for another year.  As for me, I only wish it were so.

It’s been Memorial Day for me ever since I first met Tomas Young.  And in truth, it should have felt that way from the moment I hunkered down in Somalia in 1993 and the firing began.  After all, we’ve been at war across the Greater Middle East ever since.  But somehow it was Tomas who, in 2013, first brought my own experience in the U.S. military home to me in ways I hadn’t been able to do on my own.

That gravely wounded, living, breathing casualty of our second war in Iraq who wouldn’t let go of life or stop thinking and critiquing America’s never-ending warscape brought me so much closer to myself, so bear with me for a moment while I return to Mogadishu, the Somalian capital, and bring you — and me — closer to him.


In that spring of 1993, I was a 22-year-old Army sergeant, newly married, and had just been dropped into a famine-ridden, war-torn Third World country on the other side of the planet, a place I hadn’t previously given a thought.  I didn’t know what hit me.  I couldn’t begin to take it in.  That first day I remember sitting on my cot with a wet t-shirt draped over my head, chugging a bottle of water to counter the oppressive heat.

I’d trained for this — a real mission — for more than five years.  I was a Black Hawk helicopter crew chief.  Still, I had no idea what I was in for.

So much happened in Somalia in that “Black Hawk Down” year that foreshadowed America’s fruitless wars of the twenty-first century across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, but you wouldn’t have known it by me.  That first day, sitting in a tent on the old Somali Air Force base in Baledogle, a couple of hours inland from the capital city of Mogadishu, I had a face-to-face encounter with a poisonous black mamba snake.  Somehow it didn’t register.  Not really.

This is real, I kept telling myself in the six months I spent there, but in a way it wasn’t or didn’t seem to be.

After about a month, my unit moved to the airport in Mogadishu — away from the snakes, scorpions, and bugs that infested Baledogle, but closer to dangers of a more human sort.  Within a few weeks, I became used to the nightly rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire coming at us from the city.  I watched the tracers streak by as we crouched behind our sandbagged fighting positions.  We would return from missions to find bullet holes in the skin or rotor blades of our Black Hawk helicopters, or in one case a beer-can-sized hole that a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) round punched cleanly through the rear stabilizer without — mercifully — detonating. And yet none of it felt like it was quite happening to me.  I remember lying on my cot late at night, not far from the flight line full of Black Hawks and Cobras, hearing the drone of low-flying American AC-130 gunships firing overhead for hours on end.  The first boom would come from the seaward side of the field as the gunship fired its M102 howitzer.  A few seconds later, another boom would mark the round’s arrival at its target across town, sometimes with secondary explosions as ammunition stores went up.  Lying there, I remember thinking that those weren’t the routine training rounds I’d heard a hundred times as they hit some random target in a desolate training area.  They were landing on real targets, actual people.

Two other memorable booms come to mind — one as we waited in the back of a sun-baked supply truck, heading out on a volunteer mission to give inoculations to kids at a Somali orphanage.  Boom.  The ground shook to the sound of one of our Humvees and the four Army soldiers in it being blown apart by the sort of remote-controlled bomb that would become a commonplace of insurgents in America’s twenty-first century wars.  And a second, the loudest during my six months there, as a generator perhaps 20 feet from our tent exploded into flames from an incoming RPG round that found its target in the middle of the night.

This is real.  I kept saying that to myself, but truthfully the more accurate word would have been surreal.  The care packages I was receiving, the Tootsie Rolls and Cracker Jacks and letters from my wife back home telling me how much she missed me might as well have been from another planet.

Our helicopters flew daily reconnaissance missions (“Eyes over Mog” we called them) above the Somali capital.  We did battle damage assessments, checking out pockmarked buildings the AC-130s had targeted the night before, or the shot-up safe house that Somali warlord Mohamed Aidid — our operation’s target (just as the U.S. would target Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and the leaders of various terror groups) — had reportedly been using as a control center.  Once a beautiful mansion, it was now riddled with thousands of bullet holes and TOW missile craters.

We flew over Mogadishu’s bustling marketplace, sometimes so low that the corrugated metal roofs of the stalls would blow off from our rotor wash.  We were always looking for what we called “technicals” — pick-up trucks with machine guns mounted in their beds — to take out.  Viewing that crowded marketplace through the sight of a ready-to-rock M-60 machine gun helped reinforce the message that all of this was beyond surreal.

Lives were ending violently here every day, and my own life, too, could have ended at any moment.  Yet it was just about impossible to believe that all of a sudden I was in the middle of a violent set of incidents in a third-world hellhole, the sort of thing you might read about in the paper, or more likely, would never hear about at all.  You’d never know about our near-nightly scrambles to our fighting positions behind a pile of sandbags, as the AK-47s cracked and the tracers flew overhead.  It wouldn’t even register as a blip in the news back home.  In some bizarre way, I was there and it still wasn’t registering.

A Soldier Just Like Me

Just days after returning home from Somalia, I (like so many others) watched the footage of dead American soldiers — at least one a Black Hawk crew chief — being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu by cheering Somalis.  For the first time, I found myself filled with a sense of dread, a profound that-could-have-been-me feeling.  I imagined my mother looking at such a photo of me, of her dead son’s body — as someone’s mother was undoubtedly doing.

If my interior landscape was beginning to shift in unsettling ways, if the war, my war, was finally starting to come home, I remained only minimally aware of it.  My wife and I started a family, I got a civilian job, went to college in the evening using the GI Bill, and wrote a couple of books about music — my refuge.

Still, after Somalia, I found myself drawn to stories about war.  I reread Stephen Ambrose’s blow-by-blow account of the D-Day landings, picked up Ron Kovic’s Vietnam memoir, Born On The Fourth Of July, for the first time, and even read All Quiet On The Western Front. And all of them somehow floored me. But it wasn’t until I watched Body of War, Phil Donahue’s 2008 documentary about Iraq war veteran and antiwar activist Tomas Young, that something seemed truly different, that I simply couldn’t shake the feeling it could have been me.

Tomas was a kid who had limited options — just like me.  He signed up for the military, at least in part, because he wanted to go to college — just like me.  Yes, just like so many other kids, too — but above all, just like me.

He, too, was deployed to one of America’s misbegotten wars in a later hellhole, and that’s where our stories began to differ.  Five days after his unit arrived in Iraq — a place he deployed to grudgingly, never understanding why he was being sent there and not Afghanistan — Tomas was shot, his spinal cord severed, and most of his body paralyzed. When he came home at age 24, he fought the natural urge to suffer in silence and instead spoke out against the war in Iraq.  Body of War chronicled his first full year of very partial recovery and the blossoming of his antiwar activism.

Just a few weeks after the film’s release, however, it all came crashing down. He suffered a pulmonary embolism and sank into a coma, awakening to find that he’d suffered a brain injury and lost much of the use of his hands and his ability to speak clearly.  The ensuing years were filled with pain and debilitating health setbacks.  By early 2013, he was in hospice care, suffering excruciating abdominal pain, without his colon, and on a feeding tube and a pain pump. Gaunt, withered, exhausted, he continued to agitate against America’s never-ending war on terror from his bed, and finally wrote a “last letter” to former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, airing his grievances, which got significant media attention.

When I read it, I felt that he might have been me if I hadn’t lucked out in Mogadishu two decades earlier. Maybe that’s what made me reach out to him that April and tell him I wanted to learn more about what had happened to him in the years between Body of War and his last letter, about what it meant to go from being an antiwar agitator in a manual wheelchair to a bedridden quadriplegic on a feeding tube and under hospice care, planning to soon end his own life.

A Map of the Ravages of War

When I finally met Tomas, I realized how much he and I had in common: the same taste in music and books, the same urge to be a writer.  We were both quick with the smart-ass comment and never made to be model soldiers because we liked to question things. Each moment we spent together only connected us more deeply and brought me closer to the self that war had created in me, the self I had kept at such a distance all these years.  I began writing his story because I felt compelled to show other Americans someone no different from them who had had his life, his reality, upended by one of our military adventures abroad, by deployment to a country so distant that it’s an abstraction to most of us who, in these days of the All-Volunteer Army, don’t have a personal connection either to the U.S. military or to the wars it so regularly fights.

A historically low percentage of our population — less than half a percent — actually serves in the military.  Compare that to around 9% during the Vietnam War, and 12% during World War II.  Remarkably few of us ever see combat, ever even know anyone who was in combat, ever get to hear firsthand stories of what went on or witness what life is like for such a returning veteran.  Not surprisingly, America’s wars now largely go on without us.  There is no personal connection.  Here in “the homeland” — despite the overblown fears of “terrorism” — it remains “peacetime.”  As a consequence, few of us are engaged by veterans’ issues or the prospect — essentially, the guarantee — of more war in the American future.

Tomas understood the importance of sharing the brutal fullness of his story.  For him, there were to be no pulled punches.  When I told him I wanted others to learn of his harrowing tale, of his version of the human cost of war, that I wanted to help him to tell that story, he responded that he had indeed wanted to write his own book.  He’d scrapped the project because he could no longer write, and even Dragon voice-to-text software wouldn’t work because his speech had become so degraded after the embolism struck.

Instead, he shared everything.  Tomas and his wife, Claudia, opened their lives to me.  I slept in their basement.  During my periodic visits, he introduced me to an expansive mind in a shrunken world, a mind that wanted to range widely in a body mostly confined to a hospital bed, surrounded by books, magazines, and an array of tubing that delivered medications and removed bodily wastes in a darkened bedroom.

“I need to be fed,” he said to me one day. “Do you want to see what that’s like?”  Then, he lifted his shirt and showed me the maze of tubing and scars on his body.  It was a map of the ravages of war.

He was unflinchingly honest, sensing the importance of his story in a country where such experiences have become uncommon fare.  Like his comic book heroes Batman and the Punisher, he wanted to make sure that no one would have to endure what he’d gone through.

An All-Too-Real Life and Surreal Wars

Tomas Young’s war ended on the night before Veterans’ Day 2014 when he passed away quietly in his sleep. His pain finally came to an end.

The bullets that hit him in the streets of Baghdad in 2004 brought on more than a decade of agony and hardship, not only for him, but for his mother, his siblings, and his wife.  Their suffering has yet to end.

Stories of the reality of war and its impact on this country are more crucial now than ever as America’s wars seem only to multiply.  Among us are more than 2.5 million veterans of our recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We owe it to them to read their accounts — and an increasing number of them are out there — and do our best to understand what they’ve been through, and what they continue to go through.  Then perhaps we can use that knowledge not only to properly address their needs, but to properly debate and possibly — like Tomas Young — even protest America’s ongoing wars.

It would have been perfectly understandable for Tomas to have faced the pain, frustration, and failing health of his final years privately and in silence, but that wasn’t him. Instead, he made his story part of our American record.

Radical Chic and the US Military: Together At Last

In Syria, Western leftists ally with Washington’s regime changers

June 10, 2016

by Jason Raimondo


The first time as tragedy, the second as farce – that’s what Karl Marx had to say about the woof and warp of history as it repeats sheer folly in different forms. And that certainly describes the attraction of many American leftists to the cause of Kurdish nationalism: it’s the latest lefty fad. A recent article in the Village Voice – where else? – depicts the journey of two “anarcho-communists” as they travel to “Rojava,” the northernmost Syrian enclave where a curious blend of Murray Bookchin-style anarchism and the neo-Marxist blatherings of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the terrorist Kurdish Workers Party, holds sway.

Hristo and Guy – the former an academic, the latter a working class Irish dude – are in their twenties: their politics are “anarcho-communist,” that is they are living walking contradictions who, on the one hand, advocate the abolition of all government, and on the other hand uphold the economic theories of Karl Marx, who wanted to establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” This duo is traveling to “Rojava,” where the Kurdish Workers Party – in cooperation with the US government – has set up what many American leftists imagine to be a “workers” paradise.” Government is supposedly operative only at the local level, and all decisions are made by an assembly evenly divided between the sexes: private property is outlawed. It’s “Occupy Wall Street” transported to the Middle East.

The Village Voice journalist follows them on their hegira, which has all the earmarks of a cloak-and-dagger drama: they take elaborate security precautions, such as taking the SIM cards out of their phones so US government agents (who probably aren’t watching them) can’t turn their devices into microphones. Indeed, the US government is the least of their problems: Washington is sending millions of dollars in “aid” to the Kurdish commies, and US Marines – who are fighting alongside the Kurdish “peshmerga” – have been photographed wearing the red star patches of the “Kurdish Protection Units” (YPG), much to Turkey’s consternation.

Yet none of this bothers these “leftists,” who liken their adventure to that undertaken by the International Brigades, the pro-Communist militia of Western leftists who fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. The rationale for this ideological self-hypnotism is Ocalan’s sudden conversion to the doctrines of Bookchin, whose “ecological” variety of “anarcho-communism” enjoyed a brief vogue during the 1960s. The hippie movement took up Bookchin, enamored of his support for radical environmentalism, “sustainability,” and all the rest of the “green” malarkey that has today empowered the bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency and turned much of the western United States into federally occupied territory.

Bookchin was a former Stalinist who went through all the phases of disillusionment with “the god that failed.” As a CIO organizer during the 1930s, he was a Communist Party militant who eventually turned to Trotskyism, but unlike other leftists who later became neoconservatives he didn’t give up his egalitarian ideal: instead, he developed a theory that rejected the working class as the agent of human liberation, and along with it the Marxist emphasis on purely economic exploitation, and developed the idea that hierarchy in all its forms was the real enemy. He became an anarchist, or, rather an “anarcho-communist,” and gathered around him a small following that never amounted to much outside a certain sector of the counterculture.

However, one day Abdullah Ocalan, sitting in jail in Turkey – where he remains at this moment – got his hands on Bookchin’s works, and was (supposedly) converted to anarcho-communism. And he sent out word to his followers in the Kurdish Workers Party, which up until that time had been planting bombs in Turkish cities, killing civilians willy-nilly, and describing itself as a typical Marxist-Leninist sect with vaguely Maoist overtones. The word was this: abandon terrorism, abandon the Leninist model, and learn from Bookchin!

Now this was a very odd situation, because Ocalan was and still is a prisoner of the Turkish authorities, and yet here he was handing down edicts from his prison cell and directing a movement whose ostensible goal was to create an independent Kurdistan – including a very large part of Turkey.

Of course, the new turn in Ocalan’s thinking was and is a boon to the Turks, who had been trying to stamp out Kurdish nationalism with an iron fist, even banning the Kurdish language and arresting every Kurdish activist they could get their hands on. Now, suddenly, Ocalan was calling off the revolution, and telling them that their real enemy wasn’t the Turks, it was ‘hierarchy”!

In tandem with this change in course came US intervention in Syria, where Washington faced two obstacles to its plans for the Middle East: 1) ISIS, which had metastasized out of the Iraqi quagmire, and 2) The regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Ba’athist strongman who was fighting for his life against ISIS but also battling US-supported Islamists and their allies in the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. The Syrian Kurds, who inhabit the northern part of the country, taking their cues from Ocalan in his prison cell, rose up. Forget “liberating” the Kurds of Turkey – it was time to establish Kurdish independence in Syria.

At the same time, the Syrian civil war took a new turn. While Hillary Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus, then head of the CIA, wanted to fund and arm the Islamists, the Obama administration was wary: the links of Syria’s “opposition” to al-Qaeda and other radical jihadists was too obvious to ignore. And so they settled on the secular Kurds of “Rojava,” who had by this time carved out an enclave in Syria and set up “communes” vaguely emulating the Bookchinite model: women were given a prominent role in leadership positions, with their own armed force, all decisions were made “collectively,” Occupy Wall Street-style, private property was confiscated, and everybody wore red stars on their uniforms.

However, the touch-feely hippie-ish spirit of Bookchinism lost something in the Kurdish translation. Instead of the nonviolent egalitarianism that is the hallmark of this brand of “anarcho-communism,” the political arm of the Rojava movement, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), ruthlessly suppresses its Kurdish rivals: rival party offices are raided, their members kidnapped and arrested, while the YPG, the “protection units,” forcibly conscript Kurds as young as 16 years old so that they can better “serve the people.”

And the ideology of this movement, far from reflecting the pacific views of Bookchin, was and is necessarily militaristic: they are, after all, engaged in a life-and-death struggle with virtually every other faction in Syria. Not only that, but – like all Kurdish political formations, including those in power in Kurdistan proper – they are committed to the loony idea of creating a “Greater Kurdistan,” which, if you look at the maps, extends all the way north as far as Armenia, to the south including a big chunk of Iraq, to the west absorbing nearly half of Turkey, and to the east gobbling up a huge swathe of Iran.

Toward this goal, the Rojava-ists so beloved by American “anarcho-communists” have systematically uprooted native Syrian Arabs from their villages, leveling whole areas to the ground and driving off the longtime inhabitants, all in the interests of creating an ethnically pure Kurdish enclave. Bookchin must be rolling in his grave.

Looking at the broader picture, this is a very useful development as far as Washington is concerned: here, at last, is a “secular” movement in Syria that can be supported without indirectly aiding the jihadists. And it’s tailor-made for Brooklyn hipsters who might otherwise be harassing Hillary Clinton from the left as militant Bernie Bros. Instead, like Guy and Hristo, they’re shipping off to Syria to fight alongside Ocalan’s commie zombies – and US Special Forces – waging the “war on terrorism.”

Rojava chic has all the elements that make it a natural for the Brooklyn hipster crowd:

  • Feminism – the leadership and the YPG fighting force is supposedly half female, and to appeal to the Bernie Bros there are attractive women toting Kalashnikovs featured in their online propaganda.
  • “Anti-fascism” – they’re trying to overthrow Assad.
  • Radical egalitarianism and economic collectivism – no private property allowed, and they get to wear those cool red stars.
  • And last but not least they get to vaunt their rrrrr-revolutionary pretensions – all in the service of what is, after all, just another regime-change operation conceived in Washington.

If a public relations firm had come up with this scheme to recruit “leftists” into the interventionist coalition, alongside neoconservatives, they couldn’t have come up with a better formula. And, who knows, perhaps that’s precisely what happened.

The fact of the matter is that US intervention in Syria is a recipe for disaster, no matter which faction we’re supporting. Funding and arming the “moderate” Islamist rebels was bad enough, but canoodling with Kurdish ultra-nationalists and empowering them with funding and arms is rapidly creating the conditions for a war of all against all in the region. The reason for this is that there is no such thing as “moderate” Kurdish nationalism: all Kurdish nationalists are ultra-nationalists. It’s the nature of the beast for the simple reason that to achieve “Greater Kurdistan” would necessitate a war against Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Iraq, and all the minority nationalities in the area, including the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Yazidis, etc. etc. In short, it would have to mean a campaign of ethnic cleansing that would make previous examples of this phenomenon look like a Sunday school picnic.

As usual, Washington is placing its bets on short-term solutions to intractable problems, without regard for the mid-to- long-term consequences. The same thing happened in Afghanistan, when we armed and funded the mujahideen against the Soviets, and in Iraq when we supported Ahmed Chalabi and his gang of “heroes in error” against Saddam Hussein. The former led to the genesis of al-Qaeda, and the latter led to the current chaos in what used to be Iraq.

Washington has been meddling in Syria, overtly and covertly, since the Bush administration: the neoconservatives targeted it for regime change early on due to Assad’s support for the Palestinians. This is the real reason for Washington’s interest in getting rid of Assad. The Israelis have been training and funding the pershmergas for years, and ties between Tel Aviv and the Kurdistan regional government (in Iraq) are very close.

Syria is so far removed from a vital interest that the distance can only be measured in light-years. We have no business there, and no legitimate means of affecting the outcome of their vicious civil war. We surely should not be trying to topple the Ba’athist regime, which, for all its brutality, is the only obstacle to a jihadist takeover of most the country.

Let the Kurdish commies fight their own battles: why US Special Forces are helping to impose communism on Syria is a mystery the Obama administration should be forced to reveal. Let the Israelis fund and train the Kurds, with whom they seem to have a natural affinity: that’s their affair. The US should have no part of it. The only proper policy in regard to the whole sorry mess can be summed up in five words: Get out and stay out.

Trump’s corporate targets face tricky task in fending off his attacks

June 10, 2016

by Nick Carey and Emily Stephenson


As the White House race took off last summer, food giant Mondelez International found itself in an unusual position: Republican candidate Donald Trump began delivering broadsides against one of its iconic products, Oreo cookies.

“Nabisco is closing a factory in Chicago, and they’re moving to Mexico. No more Oreos. I don’t like Oreos anymore,” Trump told a crowd in New Hampshire on Aug. 14, reacting to reports that Mondelez was shutting down some production lines at its Nabisco subsidiary in Chicago while boosting output in Mexico.

Trump’s statement that Mondelez was closing a Chicago factory was erroneous, as the company quickly pointed out, but that didn’t stop him from repeating it.

It’s unusual for a top presidential candidate, especially a representative of the business-friendly Republican Party, to attack major U.S. corporations by name.

But over the course of his unconventional campaign, Trump has aimed his fire at a range of companies, mostly for shifting jobs abroad (Ford Motor Co, United Technologies Corp unit Carrier Corp) but also for building products in foreign markets (Apple) and for what he said were violations of antitrust laws (Amazon).

Trump has threatened the companies with boycotts, tariffs, taxes and other punishments. The Trump campaign declined to comment for this story.

Some of the companies saw their share prices dip in the wake of Trump’s criticism while others experienced a small boost.

But all of them were presented with a dilemma that’s familiar to the presumptive nominee’s many vanquished Republican rivals: Should they engage with a possible future president known for holding a grudge, possibly inviting more wrath, or should they lie low and risk allowing Trump to define them and to push policies they deem harmful?

Most have sought to stay out of the fray even as Trump has kept up the drumbeat of criticism.

“I am fighting hard to bring jobs back to the United States Many companies – like Ford, General Motors, Nabisco, Carrier – are moving production to Mexico,” Trump said this week. This was “bad for all Americans,” he said.

It was the first time Trump included GM in his roster of corporate wrongdoers, though the Trump campaign later removed GM from the statement and declined to say why. GM declined comment.


Mondelez, previously known as Kraft Foods, took a different tack.

After Trump vowed to boycott Oreos, Mondelez fielded numerous media inquiries and contacted reporters when the company deemed press coverage of his remarks off base, said Laurie Guzzinati, who oversees governmental affairs in North America for Mondelez.

The company didn’t engage in any Trump-bashing, though Guzzinati said Trump’s comments were “grounded in inaccuracies.”

She said she told reporters that Mondelez would continue to make Oreos in three locations in the United States, countering the impression Trump may have left that Oreos would no longer be made in the United States.

Mondelez’s response tracks closely what crisis management experts recommend for Trump-targeted companies.

Hilary Rosen, a managing director for Washington, D.C., communications firm SKD Knickerbocker, said her firm was representing corporate clients who have been singled out by Trump, though she declined to name them.

Rosen’s advice to clients, she said, is “don’t depend on educating Donald Trump on the truth. People have tried and failed.”

Rosen, a Democrat, recommends instead that companies make their case to the journalists who cover Trump, so “Donald Trump does not define you.”

None of the companies targeted by Trump acknowledged hiring outside consultants to deal with his criticism. Many declined to comment for this story.


“You’re not going to win in a one-on-one confrontation with Donald Trump. You’re just going to get mired in the mud,” said Juda Engelmayer, senior vice president for crisis management at 5W Public Relations in New York.

Those who have been willing to engage, including Ford Chairman Bill Ford, have avoided getting too personal.

Trump has railed against Ford for manufacturing vehicles in Mexico, threatening a tariff of up to 40 percent on “every car, bumper and part” entering the United States from Mexico.

Ford, the great-grandson of the automaker’s founder Henry Ford, called Trump’s critique “distorted” and said the company instead should be “held up as a real success story.”

“We didn’t take the (government) bailout,” during the 2007-2009 recession, Ford told reporters at a conference in Detroit on May 23, contrasting his company with GM and Chrysler. “We paid back our debts. We pulled ourselves up by our boot straps. We are investing in America.”

Crisis management experts said companies targeted by Trump need to be thinking more about the policy implications of his presidency. That means, for example, shoring up support in the U.S. Congress for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has said he wants to renegotiate.

A trade lobbyist who asked not to be named because he has worked with one of the companies Trump has called out said Trump’s attacks do not particularly hurt companies’ reputations in Washington, because policymakers understand presidential campaigns are the “political silly season.”

But, he said, they can impact broader efforts on trade and other policies. “I think what this suggests,” he said, “is that there needs to be a concentrated effort by the business community to talk about the benefits of trade.”

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Jessica Toonkel in New York and Joseph White in Detroit; editing by Eric Effron and Ross Colvin)

The kids are alright: US teens drop sex, drugs and smoking new reports shows

June 10, 2016


Sex, drugs and cigarettes aren’t in high demand among US teenagers these days, as fewer young people choose to engage in “risky behavior” compared to youth a decade or two ago, a government survey reveals.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) polled 16,000 American students aged 12 and older at 125 schools across the country as a part of the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) that the agency has conducted every two years since 1991.

It appears that nowadays, teenagers are smoking less, not as many use illegal drugs or drink alcohol and fewer have sexual relations.

According to the survey, 32 percent of polled high school students never tried cigarette smoking. However, more of them – 45 percent – have caught on a newer nicotine trend – vapor.

In general, cigarette use has decreased significantly, from 28 percent in 1991 to 11 percent in 2015.

The number of teenagers drinking alcohol has also been decreasing steadily, currently standing at nearly 33 percent, compared to 50.8 percent in 1991.

These days, not as many teenagers dare to try alcohol as in times past. Of those polled, 63.2 percent admitted to having “ever” tried an alcoholic drink. In 1991, it was 81.6 percent of students who did.

There are also fewer children who had alcohol before they turned 13 years old. That number plunged from 32.7 percent two decades ago to 17.2 percent in 2015.

Even though the CDC has marked a decrease in drug use among teenagers, more of them smoke marijuana in 2015 than in 1991, when 14.7 admitted to it, compared to last year’s 21.7 percent. Yet, that number is significantly down from the highest of 26.7 percent, registered in 1999.

The situation is similar when it comes to cocaine, which was “ever” used by 5.2 percent of teenagers, down by nearly half as many who had used the drug at least once in 1999, 9.5 percent.

The survey also shows that in 2015, the percentage of high school students who had currently been having sexual relations decreased to 30 percent from 34 percent two years prior.

The survey found that 41 percent said they had “ever” had sex, after it had been about 47 percent in 2007.

The recent study has also marked an all-time low in children under 13 having sex. In 1991, 10.2 percent of pre-teens were sexual at the time, but in 2015, that number dropped more than half to 3.9 percent.

“Current cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, which is great news. However, it’s troubling to see that students are engaging in new risk behaviors, such as using e-cigarettes,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.

Yet, the survey has revealed a worrying trend of teenagers engaged in sexual relations using condoms less often. Over the past decade, nearly 10 percent fewer students used that kind of contraception. In 2003, 63 percent said they used a condom, while in 2015, there were 56.9 percent, over 2 percent less than two years previously.

“While overall trends for the 2015 report are positive, the results highlight the continued need for improvements in reducing risks among teens,” said Laura Kann, Ph.D., chief of CDC’s School-Based

Hillary Clinton Used Leadership PAC as “Slush Fund” in 2008-09

June 10 2016

by Emily Kopp

The Intercept

The Bernie Sanders campaign in April accused Hillary Clinton of “looting” her joint fundraising committee to fund her presidential campaign, effectively circumventing rules that cap donations at $5,400 per person.

Clinton’s joint committee, called the Hillary Victory Fund, can raise $358,500 per person because it’s supposed to share money with the Democratic National Committee and state parties.

The Sanders campaign pointed to news reports that the fund has been covering expenses for the Clinton campaign instead of spending on down-ballot races.

The Clinton campaign called the charges irresponsible.

But if the Sanders campaign is right, it wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened.

Previously unreported details from campaign filings dating to Clinton’s first presidential bid show that, between 2008 and 2009, a similarly-intentioned “leadership PAC” called Hill PAC directly enriched her own campaign and campaign staffers considerably more than it did those of other candidates.

Hill PAC dates back to 2001, but was dormant while Clinton ran for president. She relaunched Hill PAC after suspending her campaign in June 2008 and tossing her support to Barack Obama.

In an October 2008 article headlined “Democrats Have Reason to Celebrate: Hill PAC is Back,” the Washington Post cast it as a big win for down-ballot races.

“We’re throwing everything we’ve got into making sure [Obama] stands before the nation as a president with the political strength to break the gridlock, get things done, and start progress going in America again,” Clinton wrote to supporters in October. “And with a filibuster-proof Senate, we’ll be able to bring the change this country so desperately needs.”

A Hill PAC email sent the day before the election read: “I hope you will take action by joining us in this final push,” just above a button to contribute.

But only 11 percent of the relaunched Hill PAC’s spending ultimately went to candidates, filings show. Between June 2008, when Clinton dropped out of the presidential race, and the PAC’s termination the next summer, Hill PAC raised about $3.9 million but contributed just $421,500 to candidates.

Most top leadership PACs dedicate close to half of what they raise to other candidates in competitive races, according to In the years after its founding in 2001, Hill PAC spent a larger proportion of its expenditures on contributions to other candidates — but still considerably less than the average leadership PAC. It spent 27 percent on others in 2002, 17 percent in 2004 and 16 percent in 2006, according to FEC filings.

The relaunched Hill PAC spent twice what it gave in contributions to other campaigns on salaries to its own staffers, almost all of whom had worked for Clinton’s campaign or her Senate office. For instance, Clinton campaign treasurer Shelly Moskwa was paid about $11,000 more by Hill PAC in 2009 than the treasurer of Hill PAC itself, Allison Wright. Hill PAC also paid nearly $400,000 in consulting fees to firms founded or closely associated with campaign staffers. The campaign and Hill PAC even shared an Arlington office.

Neither Wright, now executive director at the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, nor former Hill PAC director Capricia Marshall, now ambassador in residence at the Atlantic Council, replied to several emails and calls for comment.

But Clinton press aide Nick Merrill told The Intercept that looking at direct donations alone “is not an accurate reflection of the efforts and the efficacy of the PAC.”

“The 11 percent number is misleading,” he wrote in an email. “HillPAC determined that one of the fastest and most productive ways of using the list to benefit candidates was to email supporters — in many instances urging them to make contributions directly to candidates.”

For instance, Merrill said Hill PAC facilitated $750,000 in direct grassroots donations in the months before November 2008 — twice as much as the PAC gave directly to candidates. Such donations would not have run through PAC coffers, however, and are therefore not verifiable via FEC records.

The Intercept examined over a dozen emails sent by Hill PAC from July to November 2008, each soliciting contributions through hyperlinks that took donors to the PAC’s website. A cached version of the PAC’s site shows both “candidates” pages that link to ActBlue, a clearinghouse for small donations to Democratic candidates, and a “contribute” page that appears to solicit contributions to the PAC.

Merrill also credited Hill PAC with “recruiting thousands of volunteers in a HillPAC grassroots field organizing program called ‘Hillary Sent Me’” who went “door-to-door campaigning across the country in seven targeted states,” and for paying Clinton’s travel costs “as she traveled cross country in support of the Obama ticket, including 70 events for that ticket alone.”

Merrill said she “campaigned and fundraised for over 80 other candidates in nearly 30 states, including 16 Senate and 60 House candidates, and, in the process, raising millions of dollars for Democrats.” Clinton headlined events where “over $10 million dollars was raised for the Obama-Biden ticket,” he said.

But the event schedule he cited to support that figure pointed to fundraisers hosted by the White House Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee unaffiliated with Hill PAC. And at one of the events cited by Merrill, Obama asked donors to contribute to Clinton’s campaign on pledge cards located under their seats, according to a CNN report. “Senator Clinton still has some debt,” Obama told the audience.

What FEC records show is that Hill PAC’s single largest payment went to Clinton’s campaign, which was about $25 million in debt, including $13 million Clinton lent it herself, when Clinton dropped out in June. While Hill PAC couldn’t legally donate more than $5,000 to Clinton’s campaign account, it was allowed to pay for goods or services from the campaign.

Hill PAC paid $822,492 to the Clinton campaign to rent its list of supporters and their contact information. That alone was nearly twice the amount Hill PAC contributed to down-ballot candidates.

The campaign told the Wall Street Journal in 2009 that Hill PAC paid to use the list for the November election. But filings show Hill PAC didn’t actually pay for the list until January 19, 2009.

Two days after Hill PAC’s payment to her cash-strapped campaign, Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Hill PAC did not contribute to any candidates after that, and dissolved in July.

“The evidence does suggest Hill PAC was used primarily as a slush fund to subsidize Clinton’s presidential campaign, using money raised outside of the limits that apply to the campaign itself, rather than as a fund to support other candidates,” said Brendan Fischer, a campaign finance expert at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that supports campaign finance reform.

Fischer said that, in regards to the list payment, “if there was a functioning FEC,” it “could have followed up and asked for the contract between the Clinton campaign and Hill PAC or any of these other groups to determine whether the delayed payments were pursuant to an agreement. But of course we don’t have a functioning FEC.” (The Federal Election is in a near-perpetual 3-3 deadlock, with Republican commissioners refusing to enforce the laws.)

Merrill insisted that Hill PAC “was always operated with the highest of ethical standards, and implications to the contrary from those with partisan motives is wholly without merit.”

He said the list rental price, at approximately $600 per 1,000 names, represented the “fair market value” for a multiple-use rental. He said “pricing validation from commercial vendors was used, along with the most recent past presidential campaign at the time, which was Kerry ‘04.”

Around the same time, the Clinton Foundation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DNC Federal Fund, the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the American Democracy Institute paid $274,297, which Merrill said was the rate for a one-time rental. Other groups paid less.

The only client that paid the Clinton campaign more for its list of supporters was Friends of Hillary, Clinton’s Senate campaign committee. That transaction, for over $2.5 million, was listed as a “sale of assets” and “purchase of assets” on FEC reports filed by the campaign and Hill PAC, respectively, rather than a list rental.

But records show the campaign accepted payments for its list for years after the sale to Friends of Hillary — earning it millions more. Obama’s reelection campaign, for instance, paid $62,782 to use the Clinton list. The campaign earned $25,000 in “list rental income” as recently as January 2013 — four years after the sale.

Merrill said the campaign had different lists and that the one it sold Friends of Hillary included “its direct mail list and other names.” He wrote: “By selling other portions of its lists to [Friends of Hillary], that allowed [Hillary Clinton for President] to continue to rent its email list.” The Wall Street Journal story, however, indicated they were the same list.

Hill PAC spent about $1.2 million on salaries in 2008 and 2009. A majority of Hill PAC staffers had also been campaign staffers. Longtime aides Huma Abedin, Philippe Reines, Bryan Pagliano and Peter Daou all received Hill PAC paychecks after Clinton’s exit from the presidential race. The Linkedin pages of some staffers indicate that they worked for Hill PAC and the campaign at the same time.

Hill PAC also paid over $350,000 in consulting fees to firms with close associations to campaign staffers. For example, $13,000 went to Eiring Consulting, founded by Clinton fundraiser Nancy Eiring; and $16,700 went to Hudson Media Partners, which served as an offshoot of the consulting firm where, according to the New York Times, campaign communications director Howard Wolfson worked. Mayfield Strategy Group, founded by Josh Ross, a senior digital adviser to the campaign, earned $219,356 in consulting fees.

Fischer, the campaign finance expert, said this kind of commingling isn’t uncommon. “Unfortunately this isn’t an entirely unique way of using a leadership PAC,” he said.

As a leadership PAC, Hill PAC could accept donations of up to $5,000 per year — over and above anything donors had already given directly to the Clinton campaign – on the assumption that the money would be spread around to down-ballot campaigns.

Similarly, in this election cycle, the Hillary Victory Fund calls on donors to “support Hillary Clinton and Democrats up and down the ticket.”

But because the Supreme Court eliminated overall donation limits in the 2014 McCutcheon v. FEC decision, the $5,000 limit in 2008 now looks like petty cash. The Hillary Victory Fund, by promising to spread the money to the DNC and state party committees, can accept almost $400,000 per person per election.

In the post-2008 period, Hill PAC received several letters from the FEC asking it to clarify certain expenses apparently made in error. The PAC contributed to some candidates after their races had already been won or lost. For instance, Hill PAC contributed to Tracey Brooks, a candidate for the House representing New York and a former Clinton regional director, nearly two months after she lost her primary race.

Hill PAC was also asked repeatedly by the FEC to clarify whether photography, printing, catering and consulting expenses were to the benefit of a candidate and might constitute an in-kind contribution.

Hill PAC formally terminated in July 2009, but starting in January some PAC staffers transitioned to a nonprofit organization called, according to press reports at the time. operated out of the same Arlington office that had housed Hill PAC and earlier served as campaign headquarters.

As a 501(c)(3), could not legally engage in any political activity, instead functioning as a nonpartisan organization that posted blog posts about a range of policy issues. Its mission was “inspired by Secretary Clinton’s leadership,” according to a cached version of its website, and links to the site passed through, Politico reported. The group received its revenue from undisclosed individuals and corporations, according to another Politico report. was run by Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to the 2008 campaign and a longtime ally of the Clintons, and Sarah Nolan, former New Hampshire political director, both of whom had received Hill PAC paychecks.

And in 2009, it paid the campaign — which remained $6 million underwater then — $455,000 to rent its email list.

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TBR News June 9, 2016

Jun 09 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 9, 2016: “”We are seeing an escalating situation in which law enforcement is practicing an undeclared war on the citizenry, shooting people dead for no reason, tormenting blacks, stealing valuables from suspects, killing persons in custody, breaking into their homes and stealing property, listening to telephone conversations, breaking into private computers and more illegal acts of theft and violence. The government, who is supposed to protect the populace, does nothing and eventually there will be public resistance. Police will be ambushed, police homes burnt down and other acts of revenge will happen. When this wave of reaction sets in, the reporting of various incidents will encourage others and we will have the beginnings of a national revolt emerging.” Continue Reading »

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TBR News June 8, 2016

Jun 08 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 8, 2016: “Given all the concocted pap being shoveled out by the American media, such as: “Hillary surges ahead!” “Trump microwaves kittens,” “Obama cures cancer,” “US-led coalition destroys IS garbage can.” we never see real stories published that could actually impact on voters. One of these has been circulating around influential circles for some time and is concerned with a California State Police report about Hillary. Fresh out of Yale law school, Hillary Rodham went to work for Oakland, California-based left-wing labor lawyer , Robert Treuhaft. She worked with the Black Panthers whom Treuhaft represented. During a Panther adventure in Sacramento, the Panthers and their supporters were raided by the State Police and Hillary was discovered, naked, in bed with a black woman. This incident was written up in the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. Some employee of the State Police absconded with the entire file and gave it to a friend. Copies of it have been circulating in Washington for several years. Also with the file are reports that Hillary is Jewish, that her family came originally from Lodz in Poland, that her sibling marriages have all be to other Jews. This explains HIllary’s basic hostility towards men and her worshipful attitudes towards the right-wing movements in Israel. All of this information can be checked but the media prefers to see Hillary constantly surging ahead and ignores less palatable fact.” Continue Reading »

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TBR News June 7, 2016

Jun 07 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 7, 2016: “There are a number of important subjects that are not discussed in the media. That is because the bureaucracy is totally incapable of dealing with them. These subjects are: the rapidly rising sea levels along the east coast of the United States. Sooner, rather than later, a huge number of Americans will become displaced and have to move. They not unreasonably would expect some kind of governmental relieve. They won’t get it because the government is spending most of its tax-payers income funds for futile military operations. The second subject is the enormous unemployment situation. It is never truthfully discussed and papered over and ignored because, again, the government cannot do anything about it. And the third subject is the fact that about 75 million Amerians have MERS on their mortgage which means they can never find out, nor can anyone else, who actually owns their title. This means they cannot sell their property. Again, the government cannot do anything about it. The solution to these problems? At the present time, none. The public would have to become aware of them, realize that the government to whom they pay taxes cannot, and will not, address these issues, and then do what they must.” Continue Reading »

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TBR News June 6, 2016

Jun 06 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 6, 2016:” Some kind soul just gave me an interesting list of organizations either created by the CIA or “very friendly” to their needs.

Here it is: Continue Reading »

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TBR News June 5, 2016

Jun 05 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. June 5, 2016:” “One of the most important social issue today in the United States is the growing number of unemployed. Because of the national economic drop caused by the manipulated housing and mortgage issues, followed by the off-shoring of many major American production companies which laid off hundreds of thousands, the actual unemployment numbers have risen to the point where no one is permitted to discuss them. To this problem is added the predatory policies of for-profit schools who load their students up with ever-increasing student loans. And thanks to Bill Clinton, these loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. This means that when hundreds of thousand of graduates leave college or university, they are told constantly by their schools that they will immediately be hired at large salaries. This does not happen and the schools are well aware of it. The loans, however, must be repaid and if they are not, predatory collection agencies are turned loose on the victims of scholastic greed. The government will not address this because they will not interfere in policies that make money for their supporters. And the situation only grows worse as many more thousands of graduating students join the ranks of the unemployed.” Continue Reading »

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TBR News June 4, 2016

Jun 04 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. June 4, 2016:” The following interesting historical documents recently surfaced and were offered for sale:
prq Inet Box 1206 SE 11479 Stockholm Sweden

Extensive file (1,205 pages) of reports on Operation PHOENIX. Final paper dated January, 1971, first document dated  October, 1967. Covers the setting up of Regional Interrogation Centers, staffing, torture techniques including electric shock, beatings, chemical injections. CIA agents involved and includes a listing of U.S. military units to include Military Police, CIC and Special Forces groups involved. After-action reports from various military units to include 9th Infantry, showing the deliberate killing of all unarmed civilians located in areas suspected of harboring or supplying Viet Cong units.

Medium file (223 pages)  concerning the fomenting of civil disobedience in Chile as the result of the Allende election in 1970. Included are pay vouchers for CIA bribery efforts with Chilean labor organization and student activist groups, U.S. military units involved in the final revolt, letter from  T. Karamessines, CIA Operations Director to Chile CIA Station Chief Paul Wimert, passing along a specific order from Nixon via Kissinger to kill Allende when the coup was successful. Communications to Pinochet with Nixon instructions to root out by force any remaining left wing leaders.

Medium file (187 pages) of reports of CIA assets containing photographs of Soviet missile sites, airfields and other strategic sites taken from commercial aircraft. Detailed descriptions of targets attached to each picture or pictures.

Large file (1560 pages) of CIA reports on Canadian radio intelligence intercepts from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa (1958) and a list of suspected and identified Soviet agents or sympathizers in Canada, to include members of the Canadian Parliament and military.
Medium file (219 pages) of members of the German Bundeswehr in the employ of the CIA. The report covers the Innere Führung group plus members of the signals intelligence service. Another report, attached, covers CIA assets in German Foreign Office positions, in Germany and in diplomatic missions abroad.

Long file (1,287 pages) of events leading up to the killing of Josef Stalin in 1953 to include reports on contacts with L.P. Beria who planned to kill Stalin, believing himself to be the target for removal. Names of cut outs, CIA personnel in Finland and Denmark are noted as are original communications from Beria and agreements as to his standing down in the DDR and a list of MVD/KGB files on American informants from 1933 to present. A report on a blood-thinning agent to be made available to Beria to put into Stalin’s food plus twenty two reports from Soviet doctors on Stalin’s health, high blood pressure etc. A report on areas of cooperation between Beria’s people and CIA controllers in the event of a successful coup.

Short list (125 pages) of CIA contacts with members of the American media to include press and television and book publishers. Names of contacts with bios are included as are a list of payments made and specific leaked material supplied. Also appended is a shorter list of foreign publications. Under date of August, 1989 with updates to 1992. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, Bradlee of the same paper, Ted Koppel, Sam Donaldson and others are included.

A file of eighteen reports (total of 899 pages) documenting illegal activities on the part of members of the U.S. Congress. First report dated July 29, 1950 and final one September 15, 1992. Of especial note is a long file on Senator McCarthy dealing with homosexuality and alcoholism. Also an attached note concerning the Truman Administration’s use of McCarthy to remove targeted Communists. These reports contain copies of FBI surveillance reports, to include photographs and reference to tape recordings, dealing with sexual events with male and female prostitutes, drug use, bribery, and other matters.

A long multiple file (1,564 pages) dealing with the CIA part (Kermit Roosevelt) in overthrowing the populist Persian prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. Report from Dulles (John Foster) concerning a replacement, by force if necessary and to include a full copy of AJAX operation. Letters from AIOC on million dollar bribe paid directly to J.Angleton, head of SOG. Support of Shah requires exclusive contracts with specified western oil companies. Reports dated from May 1951 through August, 1953.

Medium file (419 pages) of telephone intercepts made by order of J.J. Angleton of the telephone conversations between RFK and one G.N. Bolshakov. Phone calls between 1962-1963 inclusive. Also copies of intercepted and inspected mail from RFK containing classified U.S. documents and sent to a cut-out identified as one used by Bolshakov, a Russian press (TASS) employee. Report on Bolshakov’s GRU connections.

Large file (988 pages) on 1961 Korean revolt of Kwangju revolt led by General Park Chung-hee and General Kin-Jong-pil. Reports on contacts maintained by CIA station in Japan to include payments made to both men, plans for the coup, lists of “undesirables” to be liquidated. Additional material on CIA connections with KCIA personnel and an agreement with them  to assassinate South Korean chief of state, Park, in 1979.
Small file (12 pages) of homosexual activities between FBI Director Hoover and his aide, Tolson. Surveillance pictures taken in San Francisco hotel and report by CIA agents involved. Report analyzed in 1962.

Long file (1,699 pages) on General Edward Lansdale. First report a study signed by DCI Dulles in September of 1954 concerning a growing situation in former French Indo-China. There are reports by and about Lansdale starting with his attachment to the OPC in 1949-50 where he and Frank Wisner coordinated policy in neutralizing Communist influence in the Philippines.. Landsale was then sent to Saigon under diplomatic cover and many copies of his period reports are copied here. Very interesting background material including strong connections with the Catholic Church concerning Catholic Vietnamese and exchanges of intelligence information between the two entities.

Short file (78 pages) concerning a Dr. Frank Olson. Olson was at the U.S. Army chemical warfare base at Ft. Detrick in Maryland and was involved with a Dr. Gottleib. Gottleib was working on a plan to introduce psychotic-inducing drugs into the water supply of the Soviet Embassy. Apparently he tested the drugs on CIA personnel first. Reports of psychotic behavior by Olson and more police and official reports on his defenstration by Gottleib’s associates. A cover-up was instituted and a number of in-house CIA memoranda attest to this. Also a discussion by Gottleib on various poisons and drugs he was experimenting with and another report of people who had died as a result of Gottleib’s various experiments and CIA efforts to neutralize any public knowledge of these.

Medium file (457 pages) on CIA connections with the Columbian-based Medellín drug ring. Eight CIA internal reports, three DoS reports, one FBI report on CIA operative Milan Rodríguez and his connections with this drug ring. Receipts for CIA payments to Rodríguez of over $3 million in CIA funds, showing the routings of the money, cut-outs and payments. CIA reports on sabotaging DEA investigations. A three-part study of the Nicaraguan Contras, also a CIA-organized and paid for organization.

A small file (159 pages) containing lists of known Nazi intelligence and scientific people recruited in Germany from 1946 onwards, initially by the U.S. Army and later by the CIA. A detailed list of the original names and positions of the persons involved plus their relocation information. Has three U.S. Army and one FBI report on the subject.

A small list (54 pages) of American business entities with “significant” connections to the CIA. Each business is listed along with relevant information on its owners/operators, previous and on going contacts with the CIA’s Robert Crowley, also a list of national advertising agencies with similar information. Much information about suppressed news stories and planted stories.

A large file (875 pages) concerning Operation PBFORTUNE, the overthrow of Guatemalan president Arbenz at the urgent request of top officials of the United Fruit Company (Levy and Zentner-UFCO) A file under date of January 26,  1952 in which plans were made to kill 58 Guatemalan leaders by CIA-trained assassins. This had the full approval of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. Payments to Lt. Carlos C. Armas. German WWII weapons bought by INTERARMCO from the Communist Polish authorities and shipped to Honduras for use in the coup. The disposal of Arbenz Guzman and later, the CIA assassination of Armas (who was following through on the expropriation of UFCO property.) Payments by UFCO to Dulles and the Eisenhower people via his Library listed (total $500,000)

A large file (543 pages) concerning the assassination of the British Lord Louis Mountbatten on August 27, 1979. His sailing yacht, the Shadow IV, was blown up with a 50 pound nitroglycerine bomb detonated from a position on the nearby cliffs. The attack was the responsibility of the Provisional wing of the IRA. One of the perpetrators was captured but the others escaped and were never found. The documents include lengthy British official police and forensic reports, a four page report showing that the IRA attack was instigated by a Paul Nolan, the pseudonym of a Canadian-Irish CIA officer, then serving in Dublin, as revenge for Mountbatten’s failed Dieppe commando raid that resulted in 6,000 Canadian casualties. Also are files on Mountbatten’s family background and a lengthy paper on the CIA support of the IRA conditional upon their leaving American business targets in Northern Ireland alone. Specifically mentioned is a large oil refinery in Belfast.

A medium file (220 pages) about the CIA recruitment and use of SS officer Otto Skorzeny in Ireland as liasion with the provo wing of the IRA. The purpose was the supplying of weaponry, untraceable to the United States, of weapons and explosives for the use of the IRA on the condition that American business interests in Northern Ireland, and elsewhere in Ireland, were not targeted by the IRA. Continue Reading »

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TBR News April 3, 2016

Jun 03 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. June 3, 2016: “It is entertaining to read the print media, and its Internet counterparts, and watch the headlines about Donald Trump. We see such thrilling topics as” “Trump put Kittens in Microwave.” “Trump beats wives,” “Hillary surges ahead of Trump for the tenth time this day” and on and on. The media is under the mistaken opinion that people actually read them and, more important, are guided by their utterances. Some years ago, Frank Wisner of the CIA boasted that he controlled the news input for both the New York Times and the Washington Post but now that these papers have lost the great part of their subscribers, their websites read like a script for the Dubuque, Iowa National Farm and Home hour. The pubic, insofar as it leave off text messaging long enough to read anything of interest, gets its news from the Internet, not the print media. I don’t think anyone has informed the papers of this fact so we see in the New York Times the above-the-fold story about a new pizza restaurant in the Bronx or that Irmgard Wigglehouser who invented kitty litter passed away at the age of 104. Between trashing Trump and Putin, the print media is as useless as tits on a boar pig.” Continue Reading »

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TBR News June 2, 2016

Jun 02 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 2, 2016: “It is interesting to note that as much as Muslim militants hate both the United States and Israel, there have been no acts of terrorism in those countries. (/11 was indeed a Saudi operation but it was done with the connivance of top Republicans to attempt to guarantee a firm lock on the population. IS is funded by Saudi Arabia to facilitate their construction of a Sunni religious empire so perhaps therein lies an answer. The United States is Saudi Arabia’s best oil customer and Israel has strong political ties with the United States.” Continue Reading »

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TBR News June 1, 2016

Jun 01 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 1, 2016: “The Turks, well-known for their savage behavior, are furious that the German legislators are about to pass a resolution using the word ‘genocide’ when referring to the Turkish slaughter of over a million Armenians during the First World War. That the figures are correct is an historical fact and outside of Turkey, commonly accepted. The Turks are now beginning to harass their restive Kurds who represent 25% of Turkey’s current population. There is a high-level Beltway rumor that the Russians are supplying Kurdish separatist groups with weapons and it is certain that the Kurds are using them against the repressive actions of Turkey. It is interesting to note that when the Sunni Turks moved against their Christian Armenian populations, the Kurds were then a willing ally in the slaughter.”


The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Thursday, 20 April 1950

Today is the Führer’s birthday and a few of us will celebrate it tonight but very quietly at home. Also, (Louis, ed.) Budnez, former communist leader here, has identified Lattimore. Of course he has no proof but so what, as they say here. Important communist sources were never members of the communist party and very often kept far away from the gibbering and very visible radicals. Just because a man did not carry a card in his wallet or give money for party dues does not absolve him from guilt.

Communism was so popular with the feeble-minded intellectuals here that it would surprise me if more professors and government bureaucrats didn’t turn up with each turn of the spade. Now, many of them are living in increasing fear…fear of exposure, arrest or loss of their jobs…because of what was once considered socially acceptable…. at least in their circles.

Lattimore was in a position to influence policy. Some dockworker in New York was not.

(Sen. Millard, ed.) Tydings is going to open the “Amerasia” case again and that ought to make a lot of these State Department types very angry. After all, a number of their most sensitive documents ended up in a communist magazine’s office. Roosevelt had this shut up but now it is the Republican’s chance to dig up more dirt.

That brutal (Colonel James A. ed.) Killian lost his lawsuit over a book discussing his sadistic behavior at an American training camp in England during the war. Truman hates him and once told me that he considered K. as a “real Gestapo” type that I found amusing because I would never have had such a repulsive brute on my rolls. And the Army has tried to paint him white for years.

Am proceeding now with plans for my dinner for Truman. He has accepted in principle but we have to find a date when it is convenient for him. So far, I have worked up a menu, laid in the wine and had the servants unpack and prepare the plates and dinnerware.

I think we can give the President a very pleasant intimate dinner and after it is over, perhaps I can make a few points.

I am told that he likes bourbon whiskey and I was at my wine dealers recently and asked him what the best bourbon was. He looked at me rather unhappily because he (and I) are basically wine drinkers. He mentioned a superior brand that comes from some place in Tennessee where they only make a few dozen crates a year. Extremely expensive but I am told very good. I bought a case (at a hundred dollars a bottle!) just in case.

If Truman doesn’t come, we can sell it to McCarthy (who would no doubt drink boot polish if it were strong enough in alcoholic content).

And there will be music. I will have a Bechstein and a Steinway in the music room and Bunny and I can entertain him. We have been going over the scores and I am very partial to two Bach pieces. Truman prefers more romantic music but I loathe Chopin so if we keep it relatively short, I think the Bach will do.

Aunt, of course, wants to come…and shall. Even though she is a staunch Republican, the thought of dining with the President is enough to warm her cold Republican heart.

Wednesday, 26 April 1950

Truman has launched another barb at McCarthy. Gave a speech to a group of lawyers on Friday and spoke about his methods of fighting communism. The slow, steady method is recommended and he struck at M. by using the word “hysteria” with reference to the recent press reports.

Yes, of course, Truman is correct from his point of view. He cannot permit a great movement of hysterical people to purge out all the communists because it would wreck his administration and do terrible damage to the fabric of American society.

He knows perfectly well that McCarthy is a tool and who is using him. It is, as I said earlier, he can easily deny what is happening and attack M. while looking like a reasonable man. At the same time, we will go on our happy way, sensitizing the Americans to the (at least) former menaces. This will help us to root out the real spies and so terrify the left wing that they will crawl back under the wet logs for a decade or so.

They were getting extremely pervasive and arrogant during the Roosevelt era, and what is actually worse, fettering American businesses in such a way as to eventually destroy them. Had the war not broken out and business not had many controls temporarily lifted by the Roosevelt people to increase wartime production, who knows if we would not now be enjoying Henry Wallace’s version of the corporate state? Poor Henry. He almost was President but now is a discredited man, talking to himself in the wilderness from which he will soon vanish entirely

And poor Irmgard. She now lusts after Heini’s brother but cannot get at him. He will be coming to Washington (as my guest, of course) in a week so Irmgard can get her battery recharged. I will put both of them up at a hotel so we won’t have to bother with their mating rituals.

And good news! Truman will come!

Now all we have to do is fix the date, buy the meat and vegetables, polish the armor and hire some temporary servants.

I want to be careful not to appear too rich or the President might get jealous but a good show might impress him. I have stressed to him my own humble origins, as compared with the Dulles brothers, and I know it hits a point with him.

I think we will sit ten to table. There might be one more but I like even numbers and I am told Truman is somewhat superstitious and doesn’t want thirteen. I do not want to invite Clifford. He does not like me after the wig business and he would monopolize every conversation throughout the evening. Hoover would be out. He would no doubt want tomato ketchup at the table with paper napkins and grape juice.

Enough of this.

I am expecting another shipment of drawings tomorrow and I want to get up early enough to walk Maxl and be here just as they arrive. I alone get to open the boxes and only safely upstairs.

This place is beginning to look like Hearst owned it! Still, better to have too much than not enough!

Thursday, 4 May 1950

Every so often, one plants a seed and then forgets about it. Actually, doesn’t forget about it but it gets pushed to the bottom of the pile. A little earlier, I had the acute pleasure in seeing one of my small acorns suddenly sprout into a massive oak tree! It started early in the morning when Angleton called me in some agitation and said he simply had to see me at once. As he knows full well who I am and where I live, I told him finally to come over. He said he would walk, not being that far from here, but from the look on his face, I would rather thought he had run over.

He had not yet been inside the house and he was greatly impressed with the nice things I have on the first floor. Such a nervous, pale and very obviously distraught man he was. Then I took him into my library with all the Catherine the Great items (from her palace) about and asked him to sit down. I turned on the recording device by the simple expedient of opening a desk drawer and asked him what I could do for him.

Although badly frightened, he managed to maintain his sly demeanor…at least up to a point. He asked me if I had ever heard of a Brontös Karlsefni! The oak had grown at last! I said that I certainly recognized the name. What did my honored guest want to know about this man?

What could I tell him about this man?

What did he himself know?

Brontös Karlsefni, according to our subsequent conversation, was an Icelander from an old Norse family. He had lived in various countries and had done intelligence work for a number of these countries, including Germany. Yes, I cautiously acknowledged, I had used this man’s services in the past.

Angleton then went straight to the point, that is how badly rattled he was. Normally, he would wander around making sly, oblique remarks that would mask his ignorance and give him the impression of knowing everything. In this case, it was I who knew everything but he didn’t know that.

It comes down to the fact that Angleton, and others at the CIA, have heard that this man, who might be working for the NKVD, had amassed considerable information on many OSS people and, of course, of many CIA people. Angleton heard that Karlsefni might be trying to sell his papers here in the United States but he did not know to whom. Since I had known K. “in my previous life” (as if I were the victim of reincarnation) A. wanted to know if I had heard from K. If I had not, did I know how to contact him?

I would have absolutely no problem whatsoever in getting into contact with the elusive Karlsefni because I am Karlsefni! I invented this man many years ago as a cat’s-paw or a straw man upon whom I can blame many things. I at once told A. that if he would wait a moment, I would get a file.

I didn’t even have to go to the wine cellar and within five minutes, I was back again, just in time to catch Angleton attempting to get into my desk. He pretended he was looking at my silver-framed picture of Bunny (whom he knows socially) and we all went on with the theater.

He looked at the file and went as white as my handkerchief. “Oh, my God, we are all finished!” he kept saying.

Wonderful performance on my part as I managed to look both concerned and conspiratorial at the same time. Angleton at once told me that he wanted to find out where K. was now so he could have him killed!

As I know, A. has had quite a few people he did not like killed. Some by Pash and some by others. I should let him use Arno’s services but then I would tell Arno to finish off Angleton and throw him in the Potomac down by the canal.

“Yes,” he said, “this man must die as soon as possible before he makes more trouble for all of us.” He tried to include me in this, to enlist my support of course, by saying that K. would expose me too and I would have to stand trial.

I think not, James.

I told him that K. had been in Japan with Meisinger and then ended up in Chiang’s China and at this point, I thought he was in Taiwan acting as an intelligence source.

Angleton said: “We have friends there. Try to get an address and I’ll have him killed at once.”

Of course I said I would try and then invited him to stay for breakfast. They all like free food and he is no exception.

He kept looking at some of my treasures and I finally told him what he already knows, namely that I have been selling stolen loot for the CIA since 1948.

He knows (James Speyer, ed) Kronthal, their station chief in Bern very well and went on about his art dealings. Angleton is jealous so to draw him further into the web, I gave him two small paintings and a nice gold necklace for Cicely (his wife, ed.). Knowing that they were in all probability stolen in Paris from Jewish collectors, Angleton had no problem taking them home. The rumor is that he is part Jewish on his mother’s side but I am certain his greed overcame his racial unhappiness.

I intend to enlarge on the K. issue and produce some highly incriminating material on Angleton and several other potential troublemakers. I will do this in a spirit of friendly assistance on the face of it but beneath the mask, a warning: I have this now so be very careful where you walk or indeed, you will swing from a rope sometime.

Push the man into a corner but always allow him the ability to make a graceful exit…on your terms only.

James Jesus Angleton was the gray eminence at the CIA. A Yale graduate and well known at that institution as a poet, Angleton went into the OSS and operated in Italy during the war. His father had a business there before the war.

Angleton spied on everyone, including the CIA, bugged everyone’s offices and telephones and made recordings of all kinds of highly compromising conversations that he gleefully played for the voyeuristic enjoyment of Allen Dulles.

When Angleton became head of counterintelligence for the CIA, he continued his unsavory activities, to which he added assassinations. Anyone whom Angleton felt to be a danger to him or his agency was subject to being terminated “with extreme prejudice,” a term invented for CIA murders.

It was a term used extensively during his reign

In 1961, Angleton and several of his associates developed a dislike of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary General of the United Nations. Angleton felt that Hammarskjöld, who was attempting to interfere in the CIA-instigated upheaval in the mineral-rich Belgian Congo, was not properly oriented to the CIA’s goals and the former Swedish foreign minister’s aircraft was sabotaged near Ndola in Zambia. The Secretary General died in the crash.

In 1963, furious that President Kennedy was secretly planning to establish a rapprochement with Fidel Castro and also because of his firing of Allen Dulles as head of the CIA, Angleton became involved in a successful plot to assassinate the president.

A considerable body of documentation exists, one is told, on these subjects and as distant felonies become nothing more than interesting history, perhaps much of this will surface in one forum or another. Dean Swift’s description of the proceedings of the Academy of Laputa, while bitter satire, are very close to the mark indeed.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 47

May 31, 2016


The size of the U.S. nuclear stockpile as of September 30, 2015 — 4,571 weapons — and the number of U.S. nuclear weapons that were dismantled in FY 2015 — 109 of them — were declassified and disclosed last week.

The latest figures came as a disappointment to arms control and disarmament advocates who favor sharp reductions in global nuclear inventories.

The new numbers “show that the Obama administration has reduced the U.S. stockpile less than any other post-Cold War administration, and that the number of warheads dismantled in 2015 was lowest since President Obama took office,” wrote Hans M. Kristensen in the FAS Strategic Security blog.

But precisely because the new disclosure casts an unflattering light on the Obama Administration, it also represents a triumph of transparency. Since it is at odds with the Administration’s own declared agenda, the release enables the press and the public to exact a measure of accountability.

“The new figures […] underscored the striking gap between Mr. Obama’s soaring vision of a world without nuclear arms, which he laid out during the first months of his presidency, and the tough geopolitical and bureaucratic realities of actually getting rid of those weapons,” wrote William J. Broad in the New York Times on May 26.

“Obama calls for end to nuclear weapons, but U.S. disarmament is slowest since 1980,” as a Washington Post headline put it on May 27.

News stories credited the Department of Defense for the “annual public release” of the stockpile information. But it is a bit more complicated than that.

The nuclear stockpile size was classified as “Formerly Restricted Data” (FRD) under the Atomic Energy Act. As such, it had to be cooperatively declassified by both the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. And the declassification of FRD does not occur regularly or spontaneously.

“It is not the policy of the DoD/DOE to release such numbers automatically,” said Andrew Weston-Dawkes, the director of the DOE Office of Classification. Instead, consideration is given to declassification of specific information as it is requested. In this case, release of the 2015 stockpile figures was requested by the Federation of American Scientists in an October 2015 petition.

“The declassification of stockpile numbers was a direct result of your request for the information,” Dr. Weston-Dawkes wrote in an email. “Your request was reviewed by the DoD-FRD working group and in turn approved by the DoD and the DOE.”

Until the Obama Administration declassified it for the first time in 2010, the current size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal had never been officially made public. (Historical stockpile numbers up to 1961 were released in the 1990s.)

Columnists and commentators are in the habit of mocking President Obama’s promise that his would be the most transparent Administration in history. But when it comes to nuclear stockpile information, that promise has been fulfilled.


The Central Intelligence Agency said that it will disclose four previously unacknowledged Cold War covert actions. The four have not yet been publicly identified, but they will be addressed in forthcoming editions of the U.S. State Department’s official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

“In 2015 [CIA] agreed to acknowledge four covert actions that will be documented in future volumes (of FRUS),” according to a new annual report from the State Department Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation for calendar year 2015.

CIA spokesperson Ryan Trapani declined to say what those four covert actions are.

“CA [covert action] programs are not officially declassified until done so by FRUS, so you have to wait for its formal announcement,” Mr. Trapani said by email.

The FRUS series has been a significant driver of the national security declassification program, particularly since a 1991 statute required that FRUS must present a “thorough, accurate, and reliable” documentary history of U.S. foreign relations — which necessarily includes information that was classified at the time — within 30 years of the events in question.

The State Department has never yet complied with that 30 year deadline, but the new Advisory Committee report indicates the situation is improving. “It is likely that HO [the State Department Office of the Historian] will finally meet its statutory thirty-year timeline as it publishes more volumes in the Reagan administration series over the next few years.”

The Committee report was complimentary towards the CIA, citing “the very positive relationship HO has developed with CIA over the past several years [which] has paid dividends. CIA consistently reviews both specific documents and compiled volumes in a timely manner….”

“Nevertheless, the frequent reliance on covert actions in the Reagan and subsequent administrations will doubtless require lengthy declassification processes that will inevitably delay publication of a significant number of volumes beyond the 30-year target,” the report said.

One specific area of disappointment is the failure to release the long-deferred FRUS volume on the 1953 coup in Iran.

“Owing to the currently volatile relationship between the United States and Iran…, the State Department continues to withhold its approval for publishing the eagerly anticipated retrospective volume on Iran 1953,” the Committee report noted.

The status of the Iran volume is expected to be on the agenda of the upcoming meeting of the State Department Advisory Committee on June 6.


Most public controversy concerning the Congressional Research Service revolves around the question of whether Congress should authorize CRS to make its reports publicly available, or whether unauthorized access to CRS reports is a satisfactory alternative.

But a more urgent question is whether CRS itself will survive as a center of intellectual and analytical vitality. Already many of its most deeply knowledgeable and experienced specialists have been lost to retirement or attrition. And recurring budget shortfalls are taking a toll, say congressional supporters.

“According to CRS, recent funding levels have led to a loss of 13 percent of its purchasing power since 2010. The $1 million increase [proposed in the House version of the FY2017 Legislative Appropriations Act] will not even cover mandatory pay for CRS’ current staff,” wrote Reps. Nita Lowey and Debbie Wasserman Schultz in dissenting views attached to the House Appropriations Committee report on the FY 2017 bill.

“CRS’s [FY2017] budget request sought to rebuild the agency. They asked for two defense policy staff, five health policy staff, three education policy staff, two budget/appropriations staff, four technology policy staff, and two data management and analysis staff. None of those staff would be funded under the current bill, depriving Congress of a non-biased analysis of these critical policy areas,” Reps. Lowey and Wasserman Schultz wrote.

New and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service last week included the following.

OSHA Rule Makes Workplace Injury and Illness Data Publicly Available, CRS Legal Sidebar, May 25, 2016

Status of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa: Overview and Issues for Congress, May 25, 2016

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 25, 2016

Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 26, 2016

Fact Sheet: FY2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) DOD Reform Proposals, May 25, 2016

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress, updated May 25, 2016

Taliban Leadership Succession, CRS Insight, May 26, 2016

Who is a “Veteran”? — Basic Eligibility for Veterans’ Benefits, updated May 25, 2016

Military Funeral Honors for Veterans, May 25, 2016

Appeals Court Delivers Devastating Blow to Cellphone-Privacy Advocates

May 31 2016

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Intercept

Courts across the country are grappling with a key question for the information age: When law enforcement asks a company for cellphone records to track location data in an investigation, is that a search under the Fourth Amendment?

By a 12-3 vote, appellate court judges in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday ruled that it is not — and therefore does not require a warrant.The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld what is known as the third-party doctrine: a legal theory suggesting that consumers who knowingly and willingly surrender information to third parties therefore have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” in that information — regardless of how much information there is, or how revealing it is.

Research clearly shows that cell-site location data collected over time can reveal a tremendous amount of personal information — like where you live, where you work, when you travel, who you meet with, and who you sleep with. And it’s impossible to make a call without giving up your location to the cellphone company.

“Supreme Court precedent mandates this conclusion,” Judge Diana Motz wrote in the majority opinion. “For the Court has long held that an individual enjoys no Fourth Amendment protection ‘in information he voluntarily turns over to [a] third part[y].’” The quote was from the 1979 Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland.

The 5th, 6th, and 11th circuits have reached the same conclusion.

However, there’s been a lot of disagreement within the lower courts and among privacy advocates that the third-party doctrine is consistent with the way people live their lives in the digital age — primarily on their cellphones.

A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit in fact first ruled last August that getting cell-site records in bulk did constitute a search, triggering a warrant requirement. In the case, United States v. Graham, the government obtained 221 days’ worth of records belonging to a robbery suspect in Baltimore.

The panel’s opinion relied heavily on a separate legal theory, called mosaic theory, to come to that conclusion: the argument that even if one instance of evidence gathering doesn’t count as a search, asking for a large number of data points can eventually amount to one.

For a while, it looked like there might be a split in the lower courts that would require the Supreme Court to reconsider the third-party doctrine.

But now that the 4th Circuit has ruled, that seems less likely.

The three judges in the minority wrote a strongly worded dissent.

“Only time will tell whether our society will prove capable of preserving age-old privacy protections in this increasingly networked era. But one thing is sure: this Court’s decision today will do nothing to advance that effort. I dissent,” Judge James Wynn wrote, joined by Henry Floyd and Stephanie Thacker.

“This is a sign that lower courts are still following the third-party doctrine,” Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “I think the 4th Circuit correctly applied Supreme Court law. But that doesn’t tell us what the Supreme Court might do.”

While this case “removes the circuit split,” he wrote, a Supreme Court consideration of third-party doctrine issues “will probably happen eventually.”

Nate Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said he remains hopeful.

“In virtually every one of these cases, there have been very strong dissents. That in itself is a very strong message to the Supreme Court,” he said.

He also pointed out that many judges in the majority on these cases have signaled that it may be time for the Supreme Court to revisit the issue. And in several of the appellate cases, judges have called on Congress to do something about it.

Congress is poised to consider the privacy implications of searching stored emails, Wessler said, pointing to popular reform in Congress of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which passed the House unanimously, requiring law enforcement to get a warrant to search old emails.

“Hopefully they can muster the same for location information,” he said.

18 women allegedly sexually assaulted at Germany music festival, 3 refugees arrested

May 31, 2016


Eighteen women in Germany have filed complaints to police saying they were sexually assaulted at a musical festival in Darmstadt. Police arrested three refugees from Pakistan at the scene after three of the women immediately reported their attacks.

The sexual assaults are reported to have taken place at the Schlossgrabenfest music festival in the city of Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, on Saturday night.  Three of the women immediately alerted police at the festival that they had been assaulted. They said they had been surrounded and then sexually harassed by a group of men who were of South Asian appearance.

“Unfortunately several women were sexually harassed on Saturday, when the dance floor area was completely packed,” the police said in a statement, as cited by Die Welt.

However, due to the quick intervention by the law enforcement officers, they were able to apprehend three suspects, who are asylum seekers from Pakistan and aged between 28 and 31. Police say that there could be more who took part in the attacks that are still at large.

Since the arrests were made, a further 15 women have come forward since Tuesday, to say they were sexually assaulted at the festival.

The women added that the pattern of the attacks was similar, as they were surrounded by a group of men, who proceeded to assault them sexually.

The festival in Darmstadt took place over four days and attracted some 400,000 revelers.

These attacks come just over two weeks after two female teenagers, 17- and 18-years-old, were sexually harassed by a group of 10 men during a street festival in Berlin.

The men allegedly pressed against the teens and groped them, blocking their attempts to escape.

Police arrested three teenagers aged between 14 and 17 at the scene, while they tweeted that the three suspects were known to the police from prior incidents, adding that “two are of Turkish descent and the third is [of] unknown [origin].”

These attacks in May were reminiscent of numerous allegations of sexual assaults being reported in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. Some 1,049 people said they were victims of attacks allegedly committed by men of North African and the Middle Eastern descent, while about 821 complaints were filed with the police.

German police were heavily criticized for their perceived lack of activity during the New Year’s Eve celebrations in the city as well as for their poor investigations into the crimes. Cologne Police Chief Wolfgang Albers resigned a week after the incident.

Germany has taken steps to try and assimilate asylum seekers into German culture, with one education center even holding classes to explain to refugees how they should interact with women in Germany.

The German government will allocate nearly €94 billion (US$105 billion) for incoming refugees over the next five years. The money will be used for housing, integration, German language courses and social welfare benefits, as well as dealing with the underlying causes of the refugee influx.

The Federal Finance Ministry expects around 600,000 refugees to enter Germany in 2016, some 400,000 in 2017 and about 300,000 each consecutive year. In 2015, an estimated 1.1 million arrived in Germany seeking asylum.

However, not everyone is taking kindly to the mass arrivals of asylum seekers, mainly from the Middle East and North Africa, with German police recording 45 cases of arson at refugee centers since the start of the year, while there have been calls for Chancellor Angela Merkel to cap the number of refugees entering Germany.

“The majority don’t have a clue how to approach the opposite sex in this country,” said sex therapist Christian Zech, who works with the Pro-Familia center, specializing in sexuality, partnership and family planning.


Jets bomb Syrian rebel group Ahrar al Sham’s main camp, large numbers killed: monitor

May 31, 2016

by Suleiman Al-Khalidi


Unidentified jets bombed a major camp of the powerful Islamist Ahrar al Sham insurgent group in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, leaving a large number of dead and wounded, a monitor reported on Tuesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said top trainers from among Ahrar al Sham’s leaders were normally at the camp located in the Sheikh Bahar area of rural Idlib.

The insurgent group could not be reached comment. Syrian warplanes over the past 24 hours have intensified raids in the province, which is mainly in the hands of Ahrar al Sham and the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda offshoot.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

German MPs receive threatening emails over plans to recognize Armenian genocide

June 1, 2016


Thousands of emails have been reportedly sent out by the Turkish community to German MPs, threatening the politicians and calling them names in connection with Berlin’s latest attempts to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Berlin is looking to adopt a resolution, titled “Remembrance and commemoration of the genocide of Armenians and other Christian minorities in the years 1915 and 1916” this Thursday.

The legislation, which has strained German-Turkish relations, is largely being supported by the opposition Greens in Germany, Merkel’s conservative bloc and Social Democrats.

The document has the word “genocide” in its headline and the text that reads “the fate of the Armenians is exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way.”

The document also mentions the “inglorious” role of the German Empire, which was the Ottomans’ ally in World War I and did nothing to stop the atrocities.

Over 500 different Turkish organizations in Germany have sent out emails to their local MPs and journalists covering the subject, Germany’s Spiegel Online reported. Turkish citizens have also reached out privately via social media.

Some emails crossed a line, intimidating politicians and threatening the lives of journalists.

Chairman of the German Greens, Cem Ozdemir, who is of Turkish origin, was one of the MPs who received abusive messages via email, Twitter and Facebook.

“It’s always the same terms: ‘Traitor,’ ‘Armenia’s pig’, ‘son of a bitch’, ‘Armenian Terrorist’ and even ‘Nazi’,” he told ARD.

The most common letter sent out stated: “More than 90 percent of the Turkish population rightly rejects the genocide accusation and interprets it as slander.” It then warns that if the resolution is passed, it will “poison the peaceful coexistence between Germans and Turks in this country, and also in Turkey,” Spiegel reported.

Journalists covering Germany’s attempts to recognize the Armenian genocide also received threats such as: “You will be eliminated,” or “Your end will be like that of Hrant Dink [the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was shot in January 2007 by right-wing extremists in Istanbul].”

Armenians also sent out letters supporting the resolution. “Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is important to prevent other genocides in the future,” the spokesman of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Tigran Balayan, told AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the conversation on Tuesday, warning Germany that if it proceeds with its Armenian genocide resolution, it would hurt the bilateral ties between the two nations.

“If Germany is to be deceived by this, then bilateral diplomatic, economic, trade, political, and military ties – we are both NATO countries – will be damaged,” Erdogan told reporters.

The parliamentary vote was originally scheduled to take place a year ago to mark the 100th anniversary of the genocide, but due to concerns over the fallout with Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s allies postponed the move.

The mass killings began on April 24, 1915, when 250 Armenian intellectuals were detained by Ottoman authorities and later executed in their capital, Constantinople, which is now present-day Istanbul.

Most of the Ottoman Empire’s Armenians were subsequently displaced, deported or placed in concentration camps, ostensibly for rebelling against the Ottomans and siding with the Russians during World War I. This affected up to 1.5 million Armenians.

Earlier this year, thousands of people around the globe took to the streets to commemorate the 1915 massacre.

Turkey – the successor of the Ottoman Empire – agrees that many Armenians were mistreated at the time, but maintains that the number of victims has been grossly exaggerated and that there was no “genocide.”

Turkey’s Erdogan warns Germany ahead of Armenian genocide vote

Turkish President Erdogan has warned Germany of consequences if it passes an Armenian genocide resolution. Berlin and Ankara’s deep cultural, economic, political and military ties could sour at a critical time.

May 31, 2016


Turkey’s Erdogan warns Germany ahead of Armenian genocide vote

Turkish President Erdogan has warned Germany of consequences if it passes an Armenian genocide resolution. Berlin and Ankara’s deep cultural, economic, political and military ties could sour at a critical time.

Türkei Ankara Präsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Germany on Tuesday against labeling the mass death of Armenians during World War I as “genocide,” a sensitive move that could damage relations at a critical juncture.

German lawmakers are expected to pass the resolution on Thursday, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their coalition partner, the Social Democrats, as well as the Greens backing the measure.

Before heading on a trip to Africa on Tuesday, Erdogan told reporters the resolution’s passage would “naturally damage future diplomatic, economic, business, political and military relations between the two countries – and we are both also NATO countries.”

Erdogan also initiated a call with Merkel on Tuesday, Turkish state-run Anatolia Agency reported.

As the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey officially denies that the events that started in 1915 amounted to genocide and has lashed out at countries that have officially recognized the term.

When France formally called the displacements and killings genocide in 2011, Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassador; it did the same thing to Austria last year. It has threatened the US with the closure of critical NATO bases if the US Congress passes a resolution.

The German resolution comes at a time when Merkel is relying on Turkey to implement a migrant deal with the EU. The controversial deal has already faced difficulty over Turkish demands for visa-free travel to the bloc. Erdogan’s allies have threatened to unleash a wave of migrants on Europe if the country’s demands are not met.

It also comes amid mounting concern over human rights in Turkey, Erdogan’s authoritarian bent and spillover from the war in Syria. Domestically, the resolution could stir emotions among Germany’s 3 million-strong Turkish minority.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Tuesday he didn’t believe passing the resolution would cause problems with Germany’s Turkish community. However, he did voice popular concern that passing the resolution would trigger an unproductive response from Turkey and hamper efforts at reconciliation with Armenia.

Backing away from passing the resolution could renew criticism that Merkel is appeasing Erdogan. She has already come under criticism for allowing an investigation into a German comedian who insulted the Turkish president in a poem.

Militating against a sharp and sustained Turkish response against a genocide resolution is Germany’s position as Ankara’s top trading partner.

The resolution and German culpability

The resolution up for vote on Thursday uses the world “genocide” in both the headline and the text.

“The fate of the Armenians is exemplary in the history of mass exterminations, ethnic cleansing, deportations and yes, genocide, which marked the 20th century in such a terrible way,” it reads.

It also notes that Germany, as an ally of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, “bears partial responsibility for the events.”

Last April 24, on the 100th anniversary of what Armenians call the Great Crime, the Bundestag postponed voting on a similar resolution to classify the mass killings as genocide. Yet German President Joachim Gauck used the term, drawing criticism from Turkey.

At the time, the governing coalition opted not to vote on the resolution, but the Greens led by Cem Ozdemir, an ethnic Turk, forced a vote this year.

Turkey officially refers to what happened as the “Events of 1915” and denies that the massacres and deportations amounted to genocide. The official line is that ethnic Armenians represented a fifth column backed by Russia during World War I, and that the mass deportation and accompanying Armenian deaths were not premeditated or intentional – a key requirement in the legal definition of genocide.

Officials in Turkey put the number of Armenians who died at around 500,000, while Armenia puts the number at about 1.5 million out of a prewar population of some 2 million. Turkish officials also point out that hundreds of thousands of Muslims died from combat, starvation, cold and disease in eastern Anatolia during the war. Armenians have documented systematic mass murder, organized banditry, raping of women, pillaging of property and other atrocities.

Nearly 30 countries have formally recognized the massacres as genocide. Keen to avoid irking a key ally, the United States has avoided using the term, although more than 40 US state legislatures have passed genocide resolutions.

Russia overtakes Saudi Arabian crude output

May 31, 2016


Russian oil production in March outpaced Saudi Arabia, according to the data from the Russian Federal Statistics Service Rosstat published Monday. Russian producers extracted almost 10.92 million barrels a day compared to 10.12 produced by Saudi Arabia.

OPEC members produced over 32 million barrels a day throughout the first three months of this year.

In February, Saudi Arabia led production with a similar quantity, with Russia close behind pumping 10.03 million barrels per day.

Russia sold oil worth more than $10 billion through March this year, according to the data. Crude sales made up 23 percent of Russian exports compared to 25.2 percent in the same period of 2015.

Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak doesn’t expect the global oil market to recover until the end of 2017. “I think we will see the end of the respective cycle and the recovery of the market by the end of 2017,” he said at the Vestifinance forum, Sunday.

The share of oil in the global economy will go down from 32 to 26 percent by 2040, while the share of gas as a more environmentally friendly energy source is expected to rise, according the minister.

As global crude production outpaced global demand, oil prices in January plunged to $28 per barrel from $110 per barrel in June 2014. Since then prices have stabilized near $50 per barrel.

US issues summer travel alert for Europe warning of ‘greater targets for terrorists’

US state department alert said France’s state of emergency covers Euro 2016 and Tour de France in aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels

May 31, 2016

by Ciara McCarthy

The Guardian

The US state department has issued a travel alert for Europe, cautioning Americans that the influx of summer tourists and a series of high-profile events “will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations”.

“We are alerting US citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation,” department officials wrote.

The alert came just hours after the French president, François Hollande, said that terrorism remained the biggest threat to the Uefa Euro 2016 football championship, which is scheduled in June and July.

Announcing the alert, the state department said: “Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists, as do other large-scale sporting events and public gathering places throughout Europe.”

The alert noted that France has extended its state of emergency through 26 July to cover the championship and the Tour de France.

The State Department also mentioned the Catholic church’s World Youth Day, which begins 26 July in Krakow, which it said is expected to draw 2.5 million visitors.

The travel alert follows terrorist attacks in November in Paris and in March in Brussels, which killed 130 and 32 people respectively. The US previously issued a global travel alert following the attacks in Paris, and issued a travel alert for Europe specially after the attacks in Brussels. In March, the State Department encouraged citizens to “exercise vigilance when in public places or using mass transportation”.

Unlike travel warnings, travel alerts are issued for a defined period of time around short-term events, according to the state department’s website. Travel warnings are issued when the state department wants “you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all”.

The travel alert for Europe is scheduled to expire on 31 August.

Congress Boosts Rehab but Gives Opioid Pushers a Pass

May 31 2016

by Lee Fang

The Intercept

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are proudly touting recently passed measures to address the nation’s growing heroin and opioid crisis, but the legislation may have handed the drug companies at the center of the epidemic a major victory.

The legislation focuses on treating addiction and does nothing to limit the role of pharmaceutical companies in fueling the opioid crisis. In fact, it instructs the federal government to review and potentially undo sweeping new guidelines that recommend less prescribing of highly addictive opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin.

The review panel would be made up of a range of stakeholders including pain management groups, many of which are financially tied to the drug industry.

Four out of five people addicted to heroin began using it after trying prescription opioid painkillers, which provide a similar high. Investigations have found that drug companies orchestrated much of the epidemic by promoting claims that opioids are not addictive and by financing third-party groups that promote opioid painkillers for minor pains, such as toothaches.

Now the boldest effort to curb the flow of legal opioids may face a setback.

The Centers for Disease Control issued new guidelines in March to encourage doctors to prescribe opioids with low dosages, and only after other pain relief treatments, such as ibuprofen, have been tried. Since the voluntary guidelines were first leaked online last year, the drug industry has reacted furiously, even convening regularly in Washington to discuss how to derail the proposal. A legal group funded by the makers of OxyContin threatened the CDC with a lawsuit.

The legislation, which passed the House and Senate and is currently in conference committee, calls for the prescribing guidelines to be reviewed and potentially changed by a new panel made up of representatives from a range of stakeholders, and for the revisions to incorporate “pain management” expertise from the “private sector.” The legislation calls for the task force to be convened by the end of 2018, and for it to issue a report within 270 days.

“We must make sure that these guidelines are updated and reviewed regularly,” said Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., who co-sponsored one of the House bills now being merged with the Senate version, which contains similar language instructing a new panel to review the guidelines.

The demand for pain advocacy and pain specialists to review the CDC guidelines comes as recent reports show that the leading societies for pain management have been funded and controlled by painkiller companies for years.

One leading pain advocacy group, the Pain Care Forum, is funded and largely controlled by Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin. According to a report from the Associated Press, the Pain Care Forum organized a lobbying campaign last year to defeat the CDC guidelines.

A complaint filed by the city of Chicago found that Burt Rosen, the chief in-house lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, has used pain advocacy groups like the Pain Care Forum to advance his company’s agenda. The complaint alleges that Rosen instructs the Pain Care Forum on “what to do and how we do it.”

The American Pain Foundation, another leading pain advocacy organization, shut down after a ProPublica investigation found that the group received 90 percent of its funding from the drug and medical device industry, and had regularly advocated on behalf of painkiller companies.

The push for a panel to review and modify the CDC guidelines can also be traced to the drug industry.

Endo Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Percocet, retained registered lobbyists who have worked to influence Brooks’s legislation, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., according to disclosures.

Advocacy groups backed by the drug industry have also pushed against CDC guidelines.

“Rep. Susan Brooks’s bill would create a more transparent and inclusive process for the development of best practices in pain management and prescribing pain medications than the CDC used in formulating its opioid prescribing guidelines,” says Michael Barnes, the executive director of the Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence (CLAAD). Barnes is also the managing attorney at a D.C. law firm that specializes in helping drug companies with “legislative and regulatory strategies.”

Earlier this month, Barnes gave a presentation to state legislators in which he decried the CDC guidelines as “affiliated with anti-opioid activists” and praised Brooks’s legislation to create a new process. Barnes’s CLAAD has received funds from Purdue Pharma and Endo.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, dismissed the arguments from CLAAD, calling it a “front group for pharma.” Kolodny said that industry-funded groups like CLAAD “argue that efforts for more cautious prescribing, such as the CDC guideline, are bad for patients with pain” but that “their real agenda is to continue reaping profits from aggressive prescribing.”

As the CDC has reported, 78 Americans die every day from opioid abuse, and the U.S. has become the center of the world opioid market. Despite the U.S. accounting for only about 5 percent of the global population, Americans consume almost all of hydrocodone products, such as Vicodin, and nearly 81 percent of global supply of oxycodone products, such as Percocet.

UK opinion polls indicate shift towards a vote for Brexit in June referendum

New opinion polls in the UK have indicated a move towards voting to leave the European Union in the upcoming referendum. The value of the UK currency fell on the news.

May 31, 2016


One online and one telephone poll for the Guardian newspaper showed the “Out” campaign three points ahead of the “In” supporters.

The polls were conducted over three days to Sunday and followed official figures announced the previous Thursday that British net migration had hit the second highest level on record in 2015.

Polling agency ICM said the polls published on Tuesday gave the “Out” campaign its first lead in one of its telephone surveys. To date, telephone polls have tended to give the “In” campaign a comfortable lead.

Surprise in the City

The result came as a surprise to traders in London’s financial district and the UK currency fell to a one-week low against the US dollar. “Widespread selling for sterling and an immediate flight to safety signifies the fact that markets have been caught napping with an overconfidence that every poll would come out in favor of the ‘remain’ campaign,” said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG. Within minutes of the poll announcement, the UK pound fell by a cent to $1.45.

ICM’s latest weekly online poll showed voters favoring Britain leave the EU up to 47 percent against 44 percent wanting to stay. In the telephone poll 13 per cent said they did not know, while in the online poll 9 per cent were undecided.

“Our poll rather unhinges a few accepted orthodoxies,” ICM’s director Martin Boon said. “It is only one poll, but in a rather unexpected reverse of polling assumptions so far, both our phone poll and our online poll are consistent on both vote intentions and on the EU referendum.” A high turnout is also indicated..

An opinion poll published on Monday for the Daily Telegraph newspaper showed support for the “Out” campaign rising but still trailing the “In” vote.

British bookmakers still think a “remain” vote is the more likely outcome to the vote on June 23.

 Milestones (Or What Passes for Them in Washington)

A Multi-Trillion-Dollar Bridge to Nowhere in the Greater Middle East

by Andrew J. Bacevich


We have it on highest authority: the recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan marks “an important milestone.” So the president of the United States has declared, with that claim duly echoed and implicitly endorsed by media commentary — the New York Times reporting, for example, that Mansour’s death leaves the Taliban leadership “shocked” and “shaken.”

But a question remains: A milestone toward what exactly?

Toward victory? Peace? Reconciliation? At the very least, toward the prospect of the violence abating? Merely posing the question is to imply that U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world serve some larger purpose.

Yet for years now that has not been the case. The assassination of Mansour instead joins a long list of previous milestones, turning points, and landmarks briefly heralded as significant achievements only to prove much less than advertised.

One imagines that Obama himself understands this perfectly well. Just shy of five years ago, he was urging Americans to “take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.” In Iraq and Afghanistan, the president insisted, “the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.”

“These long wars,” he promised, were finally coming to a “responsible end.” We were, that is, finding a way out of Washington’s dead-end conflicts in the Greater Middle East.

Who can doubt Obama’s sincerity, or question his oft-expressed wish to turn away from war and focus instead on unattended needs here at home? But wishing is the easy part. Reality has remained defiant. Even today, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that George W. Bush bequeathed to Obama show no sign of ending.

Like Bush, Obama will bequeath to his successor wars he failed to finish. Less remarked upon, he will also pass along to President Clinton or President Trump new wars that are his own handiwork. In Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and several other violence-wracked African nations, the Obama legacy is one of ever-deepening U.S. military involvement.  The almost certain prospect of a further accumulation of briefly celebrated and quickly forgotten “milestones” beckons.

During the Obama era, the tide of war has not receded. Instead, Washington finds itself drawn ever deeper into conflicts that, once begun, become interminable — wars for which the vaunted U.S. military has yet to devise a plausible solution.

The Oldest (Also Latest) Solution: Bombs Away

Once upon a time, during the brief, if heady, interval between the end of the Cold War and 9/11 when the United States ostensibly reigned supreme as the world’s “sole superpower,” Pentagon field manuals credited U.S. forces with the ability to achieve “quick, decisive victory — on and off the battlefield — anywhere in the world and under virtually any conditions.” Bold indeed (if not utterly delusional) would be the staff officer willing to pen such words today.

To be sure, the United States military routinely demonstrates astonishing technical prowess — putting a pair of Hellfire missiles through the roof of the taxi in which Mansour was riding, for example. Yet if winning — that is, ending wars on conditions favorable to our side — offers the measure of merit by which to judge a nation’s military forces, then when put to the test ours have been found wanting.

Not for lack of trying, of course. In their quest for a formula that might actually accomplish the mission, those charged with directing U.S. military efforts in the Greater Middle East have demonstrated notable flexibility. They have employed overwhelming force and “shock-and awe.” They have tried regime change (bumping off Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, for example) and “decapitation” (assassinating Mansour and a host of other militant leaders, including Osama Bin Laden). They have invaded and occupied countries, even giving military-style nation-building a whirl. They have experimented with counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, peacekeeping and humanitarian intervention, retaliatory strikes and preventive war. They have operated overtly, covertly, and through proxies. They have equipped, trained, and advised — and when the beneficiaries of these exertions have folded in the face of the enemy, they have equipped, trained, and advised some more. They have converted American reservists into quasi-regulars, subject to repeated combat tours. In imitation of the corporate world, they have outsourced as well, handing over to profit-oriented “private security” firms functions traditionally performed by soldiers. In short, they have labored doggedly to translate American military power into desired political outcomes.

In this one respect at least, an endless parade of three- and four-star generals exercising command in various theaters over the past several decades have earned high marks. In terms of effort, they deserve an A.

As measured by outcomes, however, they fall well short of a passing grade. However commendable their willingness to cast about for some method that might actually work, they have ended up waging a war of attrition. Strip away the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel reassurances regularly heard at Pentagon press briefings or in testimony presented on Capitol Hill and America’s War for the Greater Middle East proceeds on this unspoken assumption: if we kill enough people for a long enough period of time, the other side will eventually give in.

On that score, the prevailing Washington gripe directed at Commander-in-Chief Obama is that he has not been willing to kill enough. Take, for example, a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed penned by that literary odd couple, retired General David Petraeus and Brookings Institution analyst Michael O’Hanlon, that appeared under the pugnacious headline “Take the Gloves Off Against the Taliban.” To turn around the longest war in American history, Petraeus and O’Hanlon argue, the United States just needs to drop more bombs.

The rules of engagement currently governing air operations in Afghanistan are, in their view, needlessly restrictive. Air power “represents an asymmetric Western advantage, relatively safe to apply, and very effective.” (The piece omits any mention of incidents such as the October 2015 destruction of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the Afghan provincial capital of Kunduz by a U.S. Air Force gunship.) More ordnance will surely produce “some version of victory.” The path ahead is clear. “Simply waging the Afghanistan air-power campaign with the vigor we are employing in Iraq and Syria,” the authors write with easy assurance, should do the trick.

When armchair generals cite the ongoing U.S. campaign in Iraq and Syria as a model of effectiveness, you know that things must be getting desperate.

Granted, Petraeus and O’Hanlon are on solid ground in noting that as the number of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan has decreased, so, too, has the number of air strikes targeting the Taliban. Back when more allied boots were on the ground, more allied planes were, of course, overhead. And yet the 100,000 close-air-support sorties flown between 2011 and 2015 — that’s more than one sortie per Taliban fighter — did not, alas, yield “some version of victory.” In short, we’ve already tried the Petraeus-O’Hanlon take-the-gloves-off approach to defeating the Taliban. It didn’t work. With the Afghanistan War’s 15th anniversary now just around the corner, to suggest that we can bomb our way to victory there is towering nonsense.

In Washington, Big Thinking and Small

Petraeus and O’Hanlon characterize Afghanistan as “the eastern bulwark in our broader Middle East fight.” Eastern sinkhole might be a more apt description. Note, by the way, that they have nothing useful to say about the “broader fight” to which they allude. Yet that broader fight — undertaken out of the conviction, still firmly in place today, that American military assertiveness can somehow repair the Greater Middle East — is far more deserving of attention than how to employ very expensive airplanes against insurgents armed with inexpensive Kalashnikovs.

To be fair, in silently passing over the broader fight, Petraeus and O’Hanlon are hardly alone. On this subject no one has much to say — not other stalwarts of the onward-to-victory school, nor officials presently charged with formulating U.S. national security policy, nor members of the Washington commentariat eager to pontificate about almost anything. Worst of all, the subject is one on which each of the prospective candidates for the presidency is mum.

From Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford on down to the lowliest blogger, opinions about how best to wage a particular campaign in that broader fight are readily available. Need a plan for rolling back the Islamic State? Glad you asked. Concerned about that new ISIS franchise in Libya? Got you covered. Boko Haram? Here’s what you need to know. Losing sleep over Al-Shabab? Take heart — big thinkers are on the case.

As to the broader fight itself, however, no one has a clue. Indeed, it seems fair to say that merely defining our aims in that broader fight, much less specifying the means to achieve them, heads the list of issues that people in Washington studiously avoid. Instead, they prattle endlessly about the Taliban and ISIS and Boko Haram and al-Shabab.

Here’s the one thing you need to know about the broader fight: there is no strategy. None. Zilch. We’re on a multi-trillion-dollar bridge to nowhere, with members of the national security establishment more or less content to see where it leads.

May I suggest that we find ourselves today in what might be called a Khe Sanh moment? Older readers will recall that back in late 1967 and early 1968 in the midst of the Vietnam War, one particular question gripped the national security establishment and those paid to attend to its doings: Can Khe Sanh hold?

Now almost totally forgotten, Khe Sanh was then a battlefield as well known to Americans as Fallujah was to become in our own day. Located in the northern part of South Vietnam, it was the site of a besieged and outnumbered Marine garrison, surrounded by two full enemy divisions. In the eyes of some observers, the outcome of the Vietnam War appeared to hinge on the ability of the Marines there to hold out — to avoid the fate that had befallen the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu slightly more than a decade earlier. For France, the fall of Dien Bien Phu had indeed spelled final defeat in Indochina.

Was history about to repeat itself at Khe Sanh? As it turned out, no… and yes.

The Marines did hold — a milestone! — and the United States lost the war anyway.

In retrospect, it seems pretty clear that those responsible for formulating U.S. policy back then fundamentally misconstrued the problem at hand. Rather than worrying about the fate of Khe Sanh, they ought to have been asking questions like these: Is the Vietnam War winnable? Does it even make sense? If not, why are we there? And above all, does no alternative exist to simply pressing on with a policy that shows no signs of success?

Today the United States finds itself in a comparable situation. What to do about the Taliban or ISIS is not a trivial question. Much the same can be said regarding the various other militant organizations with which U.S. forces are engaged in a variety of countries — many now failing states — across the Greater Middle East.

But the question of how to take out organization X or put country Y back together pales in comparison with the other questions that should by now have come to the fore but haven’t. Among the most salient are these: Does waging war across a large swath of the Islamic world make sense? When will this broader fight end? What will it cost? Short of reducing large parts of the Middle East to rubble, is that fight winnable in any meaningful sense? Above all, does the world’s most powerful nation have no other choice but to persist in pursuing a manifestly futile endeavor?

Try this thought experiment. Imagine the opposing candidates in a presidential campaign each refusing to accept war as the new normal. Imagine them actually taking stock of the broader fight that’s been ongoing for decades now. Imagine them offering alternatives to armed conflicts that just drag on and on. Now that would be a milestone.

Phony Kurds in Syria

May 27, 2016

by Paul Pillar

National Interest

Creeping escalation characterizes U.S. military involvement in Syria. What had been fifty American troops on the ground expanded to three hundred beginning last month. Official descriptions of this contingent as not being directly involved in combat become increasingly difficult to swallow as piecemeal reports of the Americans’ activity become available.

The latest detail, which is disturbing on multiple grounds, is that some of the U.S. troops have been wearing on their uniforms the insignia of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit, or YPG, while fighting against ISIS in northern Syria. A Pentagon spokesman told reporters that “special-operations forces, when they operate in certain areas, do what they can to blend in with the community to enhance their own protection, their own security.” An officer speaking for the U.S. Special Forces Command Middle East had a somewhat different explanation, saying that “U.S. Special Operations Forces and their counterparts typically swap unit patches as a method to build trust … This is a tactical decision and not a reflection of U.S. Government policy.” A day later a Baghdad-based spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve walked the matter back farther, saying, “Wearing those YPG patches was unauthorized and inappropriate, and corrective action has been taken.”

The Turkish government, unsurprisingly, was irate about the wearing of the patches. Ankara always has opposed any assistance to the YPG, which is the armed wing of a Syrian Kurdish group that Turkey considers to be in effect part of the PKK, the Kurdish group that has long fought an armed campaign against Turkey. Wearing YPG insignia takes things a step further. It says in effect not only that the United States finds the YPG useful in fighting against ISIS in Syria but that it identifies with YPG goals generally. The Turkish foreign minister angrily and sarcastically replied to the Pentagon’s explanation about force protection, “In that case, we would recommend they use the patches of Daesh [ISIS], al-Nusra and al-Qaida when they go to other parts of Syria and of Boko Haram when they go to Africa.”

The broader symbolism of U.S. troops identifying with a local militia goes well beyond upsetting the Turks. The symbolism gets to the broader problem of the United States in effect subordinating itself to the goals and interests of some of the parties to local conflicts. That problem has become more difficult to avoid the more deeply the United States wades into the complicated and messy Syrian civil war. This episode brings to mind, despite the differences, the use by Russia in Ukraine of “little green men”—Russian troops wearing uniforms without any markings indicating that’s who they were. Both instances involve a manipulation of insignia, although in the U.S. case there is no official attempt to deny the presence of U.S. soldiers in Syria. The false-front aspects of wearing someone else’s insignia, as with wearing no insignia at all, tend to feed suspicions of what undeclared shenanigans the United States is up to. Russian propagandists are probably thinking of ways to exploit the episode.

Uniforms and the patches on them may seem of trivial importance compared to many other things in warfare, but they aren’t. They are, among other things, important aspects of the law of war, in distinguishing each belligerent’s combatants from civilians and from other side’s combatants. The U.S. troops sent to Syria have a very difficult job, given the confusion about objectives and priorities that have plagued the U.S. involvement in this multi-sided conflict. A move that can look like hiding behind the skirts of a Kurdish resistance group is one reflection of that confusion.

Official Domestic Control

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

In April 1984, President Reagan signed Presidential Directorate Number 54 that allowed FEMA to engage in a secret national “readiness exercise” under the code name of REX 84. The exercise was to test FEMA’s readiness to assume military authority in the event of a “State of Domestic National Emergency” concurrent with the launching of a direct United States military operation in Central America. The plan called for the deputation of U.S. military and National Guard units so that they could legally be used for domestic law enforcement. These units would be assigned to conduct sweeps and take into custody an estimated 400,000 undocumented Central American immigrants in the United States. The immigrants would be interned at 10 detention centers to be set up at military bases throughout the country. REX 84 was so highly guarded that special metal security doors were placed on the fifth floor of the FEMA building in Washington, D.C. Even long-standing employees of the Civil Defense of the Federal Executive Department possessing the highest possible security clearances were not being allowed through the newly installed metal security doors. Only personnel wearing a special red Christian cross or crucifix lapel pin were allowed into the premises. Lt. Col. North was responsible for drawing up the emergency plan, which U.S. Attorney General William French Smith opposed vehemently.

The plan called for the suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the government over to FEMA, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and the declaration of Martial Law. The Presidential Executive Orders to support such a plan were already in place. The plan also advocated the rounding up and transfer to “assembly centers or relocation camps” of a least 21 million American Negroes in the event of massive rioting or disorder, not unlike the rounding up of the Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

The second known time that FEMA stood by was in 1990 when Desert Storm was enacted. Prior to President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, FEMA began to draft new legislation to increase its already formidable powers. One of the elements incorporated into the plan was to set up operations within any state or locality without the prior permission of local or state authorities. Such prior permission has always been required in the past. Much of the mechanism being set into place was in anticipation of the economic collapse of the Western World. The war with Iraq may have been conceived as a ploy to boost the bankrupt economy, but it only pushed the West into deeper recession.

Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, was a classified “scenario and drill” developed by the United States federal government to suspend the United States Constitution, declare martial law, place military commanders in charge of state and local governments, and detain large numbers of American citizens who are deemed to be “national security threats”, in the event that the President declares a “State of National Emergency”. The plan states, events causing such a declaration would be widespread U.S. opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad, such as if the United States were to directly invade Central America. To combat what the government perceived as “subversive activities”, the plan also authorized the military to direct ordered movements of civilian populations at state and regional levels.

Rex 84 was written by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who was both National Security Council White House Aide, and NSC liaison to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and John Brinkerhoff, the deputy director of “national preparedness” programs for the FEMA. They patterned the plan on a 1970 report written by FEMA chief Louis Giuffrida, at the Army War College, which proposed the detention of up to 21 million “American Negroes”, if there were a black militant uprising in the United States. Existence of a master military contingency plan (of which REX-84 was a part), “Garden Plot” and a similar earlier exercise, “Lantern Spike”, were originally revealed by journalist Ron Ridenhour, who summarized his findings in an article in CounterSpy.

Operation Cable Splicer and Garden Plot are the two sub programs which will be implemented once the Rex 84 program is initiated for its proper purpose. Garden Plot is the program to control the population. Cable Splicer is the program for an orderly takeover of the state and local governments by the federal government. FEMA is the executive arm of the coming police state and thus will head up all operations. The Presidential Executive Orders already listed on the Federal Register also are part of the legal framework for this operation.

The camps all have railroad facilities as well as roads leading to and from the detention facilities. Many also have an airport nearby. The majority of the camps can house a population of 20,000 prisoners. Currently, the largest of these facilities is just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Alaskan facility is a massive mental health facility and can hold approximately 2 million people.

Executive Orders associated with FEMA that would suspend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These Executive Orders have been on record for nearly 30 years and could be enacted by the stroke of a Presidential pen:

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10990 allows the government to take over all modes of transportation and control of highways and seaports.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10995 allows the government to seize and control the communication media.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10997 allows the government to take over all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels and minerals.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10998 allows the government to seize all means of transportation, including personal cars, trucks or vehicles of any kind and total control over all highways, seaports, and waterways.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 10999 allows the government to take over all food resources and farms.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11000 allows the government to mobilize civilians into work brigades under government supervision.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11001 allows the government to take over all health, education and welfare functions.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11002 designates the Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all persons.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11003 allows the government to take over all airports and aircraft, including commercial aircraft.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11004 allows the Housing and Finance Authority to relocate communities, build new housing with public funds, designate areas to be abandoned, and establish new locations for populations.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11005 allows the government to take over railroads, inland waterways and public storage facilities. EXECUTIVE ORDER 11051 specifies the responsibility of the Office of Emergency Planning and gives authorization to put all Executive Orders into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11310 grants authority to the Department of Justice to enforce the plans set out in Executive Orders, to institute industrial support, to establish judicial and legislative liaison, to control all aliens, to operate penal and correctional institutions, and to advise and assist the President.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11049 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period.

EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has broad powers in every aspect of the nation. General Frank Salzedo, chief of FEMA’s Civil Security Division stated in a 1983 conference that he saw FEMA’s role as a “new frontier in the protection of individual and governmental leaders from assassination, and of civil and military installations from sabotage and/or attack, as well as prevention of dissident groups from gaining access to U.S. opinion, or a global audience in times of crisis.” FEMA’s powers were consolidated by President Carter to incorporate the…

National Security Act of 1947 allows for the strategic relocation of industries, services, government and other essential economic activities, and to rationalize the requirements for manpower, resources and production facilities.

1950 Defense Production Act gives the President sweeping powers over all aspects of the economy.

Act of August 29, 1916 authorizes the Secretary of the Army, in time of war, to take possession of any transportation system for transporting troops, material, or any other purpose related to the emergency.

International Emergency Economic Powers Act enables the President to seize the property of a foreign country or national. These powers were transferred to FEMA in a sweeping consolidation in 1979.


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