TBR News April 26, 2016

Apr 26 2016

The Voice of the White House


Washington, D.C. April 26, 2016: “The proliferation of conspiracy theories has so clogged the Internet, that truth, whatever that might be, has been virtually obliterated. It is a favorite governmental game to create a flood of weird and often conflicting theories to cover up their daily multitude of unacceptable activities such as the CIA’s murders of many international leaders and personalities they personally deem unacceptable. If an historical author compiled a list of CIA assassinations, character poisonings, revolts, slaughters, tortures and other events, the printings would rival the Encyclopedia Britannica in size. Here, for instance, is an accurate, but unacceptable, analysis of a religious figure whose popularity has been steadily waning over the last few decades. Could articles like this be the reason or are the Brilliant Millennials too busy text-messaging or searching the markets for Gluten-free shoe polish to bother with truth?”


Jesus as Essene and homosexual

by Harry von Johnston PhD

The Gospel of John makes references to the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 20.

It has traditionally been assumed that the disciple whom Jesus loved is a self-reference by the author of the Gospel, traditionally regarded as John (Jacob) the Apostle,and according to the Dead Sea scroll, also Jesus’ lover.

In the Gospel of John, the disciple John frequently refers to himself in the third person as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.

One might argue that Jesus loved all of his followers in a non-sexual way, but to specifically discuss Jesus’ love for John has strongly indicates the probability of a sexual relationship.

The actual author(s) of the Gospel of John, written long after the event, describe how the “beloved” disciple laid himself on Jesus’ inner tunic — his undergarment at the Last Supper. See John 13:25 and 21:20. noted that Jesus and the beloved disciple: “… eat together, side by side.” This is very obviously a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man.

The Gospel references to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” use the word “agape.”

In the Book of John this Greek  word (the original Gospels were written in Greek) is used eight times with the specific implication of sexual intimacy. Five times it is used with reference to Jesus’ relationship with John. Once it is used to define Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus.

Mark 7:14-16 shows that Jesus approved of homosexual acts. The critical phrase reads:  “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him…” It would appear obvious that Jesus gave great emphasis to this teaching, directing it to everyone.

Mark 14:51-52 describes the incident when Jesus was arrested by the religious police. It describes how one of Jesus’ followers was scantily dressed. The King James Version says he had a linen cloth cast on his naked body; (the size and location of the cloth is not defined. From the text, this could well have been the equivalent of a modern thong) The New International Version says that he was “wearing nothing but a linen garment.”  When the police tried to seize him, they were able to grab only this piece of cloth; the young man then ran away naked.

Matthew 8:5-13: and Luke 7:2: One day a Roman Centurion asked him to heal his dying servant. Scholars of both scripture and history tell us that Roman Centurions, who were not permitted to marry while in service, regularly chose a favorite male slave to be their personal assistant and sexual servant. Such liaisons were common in the Greco-Roman world and it was not unusual for them to deepen into loving partnerships. Jesus offered to go to the servant, but the centurion asked him simply to speak a word of healing, since he would not welcome this itinerant Jewish teacher into his quarters. Jesus responded by healing the servant at a distance and proclaiming that he had never found faith like this in his powers before.          “The disciple whom he loved”, as the evidence for a censored relationship between Jesus and him is quite similar. (John 19: 26-27), (John 13:23-25), (John 21:20).

Some commentators argue from silence. They note that there is no passage in the New Testament that directly describes anything about Jesus’ sexuality. However, there are many direct and indirect references to Jesus’ sexual orientation. He was accused of being a “drunkard and a glutton” and of partying with “prostitutes and sinners.” He apparently enjoyed a tender foot massage from a woman. Yet, neither Jesus’ sexuality nor his celibacy is mentioned. However, sexual activates are referred to elsewhere in the Bible, quite often.

One might argue that the books in the New Testament might have once described Jesus’ sexual relationships, but that these passages have been heavily censored by the later church officials because they were unacceptable.



Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.           After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversations with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.


Conversation No. 118

Date: Friday, December 19, 1997

Commenced: 11:09 AM CST

Concluded: 11:24 AM CST

GD: Well, another damned Christmas season is upon all of us. The gap-jawed ninnies waddling around the malls, the latest electronic noise-makers clutched in sweaty hands while the owners jabber endlessly to their equally moronic friends on the other end. Jesus H. Christ, you ought to listen to them, Robert, Babble, chatter, simper and squeal. Well, this electronic new age is upon us and I have it from a friend at NASDAC that a new and major con is about to be born. Are you interested?

RTC: Of course I am. Don’t forget that I was the man with the business connections for the Company.

GD: You ought to write a book on it.

RTC: Don’t tempt me.

GD: Well, they could augment your pension, believe me. Anyway, a circle of crooked stock brokers, who ought to be in Congress, have concocted a scheme based on the public’s fascination with the flashing lights and novelty of the electronic age. What they are going to do is this. They get some computer specialist, fresh out of MIT, to set up a company called, let’s say, ‘Batdung,.com’ which postulates that they raise bats and collect their crap for sale to people raising Venus Fly Catchers. Or another system called ‘Pelco.com’ that delivers goose livers to blind orphans. Anyway, they get this front to set up a legit corporation, say in Delaware, and then they get it up onto the board. The NYSE I mean.

RTC: Understood. And then?

GD: And then, they ring up a dozen or so of their rich clients and tell them that they want them to buy ‘Batdung.com’ at ten and they will sell out at twenty. And when huge purchases are recorded on the Board, why the gap-jawed twits rush out to buy ‘Batdung.com’ or ‘Pelco.com’ and the stock shoots up into the heavens. Meanwhile, the new teen-aged wonder who owns the name and an empty office, buys five new cars, a huge slate-topped desk and some huge and ugly new house with round windows somewhere. The stock goes up and up, slows down and then when it is obvious that there is nothing behind it, takes a dive. What do the crooks care? They took their fees from the rich enablers who got in and got out. Say they sold out at twenty and the stock went up to two hundred. One day at two hundred, the next at one ninety and the following day at fifty cents. Ah well, the wise ones have gotten out and gotten out, more or less like the early arrivals at a Reno brothel. Someone else has to take sloppy seconds and at the end, they all have the clap and the gleet. But the whorehouse owner makes all the money and the stockbrokers and their rich friends do very well. The patsy ends up losing his cars, his desk and his home and has to go back living with mother in a basement apartment he shares with the rats and cockroaches.

RTC: Serious?

GD: Oh, yes, very. This will take some time to ripen but it will take place and no one will be able to do anything about it. You know, the Republicans are waiting for Clinton to finish his term and they will do everything in their power to take the White House. Who will run? Probably Gore but who knows who else? The Republican right is yammering and yearning to get into power after the liberal Clinton and if they get in, look for some attempt to establish a permanent majority. I know a number of these people and they love to rub their hands and talk about the coming Days of Wrath and Mourning for the left wing Jews and fellow travelers on both coasts. The religious freaks will crawl out from under the dead cows or up out of the cesspits all across this land and add their squawkings to the cacophony. I think this country is heading into an abyss, Robert. We will eventually see a reprise of 1929 if the Republicans get into power or get both Houses. They will screw up the stock markets, the banks and the money markets and then down all will crash and these scumbags will crawl out of the rubble, clutching bags of money and headed for Aruba or Tel Aviv. Yes, and there are now tens of thousands of young kids that get out of high school with no prospect of a job because the blue collar jobs are all going to slave labor camps in Southeast Asia. Of course this kind of poverty and denial of what we all see as the American Dream can lead to all kinds of domestic problems.

RTC: Oh, you’re right on there, my boy. Reagan set up a virtual concentration camp system and special Army units so that if he had any problems domestically like Johnson had during the Vietnam war, they could sweep up all the protestors, their mothers and wives and jam them all into the new Dachaus.

GD: Do you have chapter and verse on this, Robert?

RTC: Could get it but why bother with it? If you put that in every newspaper in America, no one would believe you. Sure, I’ll look it up. Oh yes, they have plans waiting for another Vietnam rebellion, believe me. Reagan said, like the Jews, never again and if the public get their tit in the wringer, off they go with no problem and they can see their family through the barbed wire.

GD: Oh my, and then we can take a leaf from the holocaust nutties and start talking about mythic gas chambers and lampshades.

RTC: Oh God, let’s do not go there. I am so tired of hearing about that shit.

GD: Americans are far crueler than the Germans or Russians so I imagine that future historians, not like the decayed creeps you people use, historians will write about the neo fascism riding the GOP elephant. And over the cliff. Couple this with economic meddling and I will really think about permanently moving away.

RTC: There are many who would love to see you go, Gregory.

GD: And I would love to see them take long walks on short piers, Robert, and carrying heavy weights. Feed the sharks, why not?

RTC: Do sharks eat crap?

GD: No, but the bottom feeders like the crabs would stuff themselves. No, you can see this coming.  Maybe not right away but all the bits and pieces are there, Robert. Maybe not in your time but in mine…that is unless Wolfe comes up behind me and slugs me with his purse.

RTC: (Laughter) Do you also foresee pogroms?

GD: Of course. If the economy is artificially inflated and collapses, why scapegoats have to be found. The Mexicans, the Jews and…no, the fewer the better. I would say the blacks but there are too many of them. Probably the illegals. Yes. Mass imprisonment and deportations. Who will cut our lawns then?

RTC: Reagan foresaw closing the universities as hotbeds of anti government actions there.

GD: Why not? The students can’t learn anything because the intellectual levels of our professors would shame a baboon. My God, I have encountered a few in my life and I swear my dogs are smarter. They say a little learning is a dangerous thing, don’t they?

RTC: So I’ve heard.

GD: Well then, let’s let our young and unemployed live dangerously. They can go to school and then to the camps.

RTC: Does this blessed season of giving always motivate you to be so bloody negative?

GD: Oh yes, the mythic Jesus is about to be born in the cow barn and save us all. I love these preachers who get up in front of the TV cameras and squeal about the fictional Jesus. Why not the Celestial Easter Bunny?

(Concluded at 11:24 AM CST)



Over 5 million American children have a parent in jail – report

April 26, 2016


A new report examining the devastating toll of incarcerated parents on children, families and their community has found that over five million children have a parent in jail, leading to poor education outcomes, economic strife and psychological problems.

“The saying is all too familiar: Do the crime, do the time. But in America’s age of mass incarceration, millions of children are suffering the consequences of their parents’ sentences and our nation’s tough-on-crime practices,” stated the report, A Shared Sentencereleased on Monday by The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Over a period of four decades, the report found that the number of children with a father in prison or jail at some point in their childhood rose by 500 percent. The sharp increase came along with the emergence of laws and policies mandating long sentences for drug possession as well as three-strikes laws and incarcerations for low-level crimes.

For the children, most younger than 10, these circumstances created great instability. When fathers are incarcerated, family income can drop by an average of 22 percent, the report found. Many of the families already relying on public programs such as food stamps struggled with the loss of income and became more dependent.

“Mothers…report being unable to pay for necessities such as food, utilities, rent and medical care for their children,” stated the report.

A recent survey found that 65 percent of families with a member in jail could not meet basic needs, and “thousands of dollars in court-related fines and fees, along with costly visits to maintain contact with loved ones, landed nearly one in debt,” the report said.

The findings also noticed that children with an incarcerated parent moved more frequently than their peers, and African-American children in particular were at greater risks of homelessness.

“Housing instability disrupts connections with family, friends, schools and other support networks,” stated the report.

The report found the percentage of children with incarcerated parents varied between states from a low of 3 percent in New Jersey to a high of 13 percent in Kentucky. Of the 5 million children with an incarcerated parent, 503,000 were in California, 477,000 in Texas, 312,000 in Florida.

Researchers found that about 45 percent of men aged 24 or younger in federal and state prisons were fathers. For the same age group, about 48 percent of women in federal prison and 55 percent in state facilities were mothers.

There are 2.2 million people incarcerated in the US, and 91 percent of them are adults, according to The Sentencing Project. Of those, 60 percent are minority men, 858,000 black and 464,000 Latino. They are mostly under 40 and poorly educated.

Another consideration is the staggering costs of annual corrections borne by taxpayers and the state to the detriment of other public programs. The Cap Times estimated annual corrections in Wisconsin costs $1.5 billion.

“There is no question that our country’s practice of mass incarceration is flawed, costly and in need of change. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have pushed for better solutions, and several states have overhauled their correction systems,” stated the report. “[But] the policy debates about incarceration rarely focus on the burden borne by children and their families.”

Among the foundation’s recommendations is to address the traumatic effects on children of having an incarcerated parent and making mental health and counseling programs available to caregivers and children. Another proposal is preserving the relationship between the child and the imprisoned parent shown to reduce a child’s anxiety, and to lower recidivism rates in offenders. A third recommendation is to direct judges to consider the impact on a child when sentencing a parent.

The report also advocates that schools offer programs to focus on children’s mental and emotional well-being and for states to give caregivers access to financial support, child care, legal assistance, and health and housing assistance. Furthermore, the report urges incarcerated parents be given access to vocational training, so they can acquire a job on release. Lastly, it supports repealing limits on offenders’ access to public assistance such as food stamps and lifting restrictions on people with criminal records when it comes to applying for jobs.


Far right gains in Austrian presidential race – ‘Turning point in country’s politics’

April 25, 2016


The far-right triumph in the first round of the Austrian presidential election is a new page in the country’s history as it marks the end of the domination by socialists and conservatives, says Alexander Markovics of the right-wing Generation Identity movement

Norbert Hofer of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) came first with 36 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections. That’s not enough to avoid a run-off on May 22.

RT: The presidential post is largely ceremonial is Austria, so is it really likely the Freedom Party’s first-round success will have any wider impact on Austrian politics?

Alexander Markovics: I think these elections are somehow a turning point in Austrian politics since it marks the end of the… domination of the socialists and the conservatives.

RT: The Freedom party’s former leader notoriously praised the Nazi SS. The current candidate Norbert Hofer brandished a gun on the campaign trail. Is that really the 21st century image Austria wants for itself?

AM: I don’t think that this is the image of politics in the 21st century, especially since Norbert Hofer … [distances himself] from fascism and National Socialism… Today, in the 21st century, [FPO] is nothing more than an ordinary picture of a patriotic party in Europe, which tries to tackle the influences of globalization, the EU, and mass migration

RT: Hofer says he’ll stick to his anti-immigrant agenda and toughen security. How significant is that point, do you think, given the votes that the candidate got over the weekend for the Freedom Party? Do you think that it was his stance on immigration that won him so many votes?

AM: Yes, absolutely, because we are now facing a huge crisis in Austria regarding immigration since last summer. The governing parties didn’t do anything to control this situation. Since the FPO is on the rise they are trying to take over some measures proposed by the FPO to gain some voters back, but they are not gaining back any voters. They are actually losing even more and more, because they are viewed as incompetent on security questions and also the immigration question in Austria.

RT: Isn’t it disingenuous to say this is all about immigration? Shouldn’t Europe be trying to find a solution, where it can accommodate at least some?

AM: Actually they are trying to find a solution and they only want to give the real refugees shelter as Austria did in the last decades. What we are now facing is huge economic immigration. The security situation deteriorated terribly in Austria. Just two days ago an Austrian girl was raped by three Afghan migrants at Praterstern, one of the main train stations in Austria.

I think there is no possibility of taking any more immigrants, but to stop immigration and then to call for remigration of those who entered our country illegally since the security situation is totally out of hand.

RT: The candidate who came second is Alexander van der Bellen who’s backed by the Greens and who’s very much pro-refugee. A huge amount of voters support him. Does it suggest that Austrians are divided over the refugee crisis?

AM: Absolutely. We’re also witnessing division of Austrian society. But the advantage of Norbert Hofer is that there is no majority at the extreme left in Austria. So I think he will win the elections and I hope so, since the immigration policies of Alexander van der Bellen are totally insane and he is also calling for [creating] a United States of Europe. So he is really a dangerous man.

RT: However, many people say that they are afraid of the far right, because they know the history of the far right in Europe, don’t they?

AM: I can totally understand, when you’re afraid of the far right in Europe, but Norbert Hofer is actually not a part of the far right, but he is more like an ordinary patriot. It’s just the political climate in Europe, which has shifted that much to the extreme left or to extreme liberal center… so that every patriot looks like a far-right politician. But in fact he is not a far-right politician, but an ordinary patriot, who wants to restore order in the current migration chaos, which affects the whole continent


Classified Pages From 9/11 Report Could Be Released by Summer

April 25, 2016

by Eric Schmitt

New York Times

The top intelligence official in the United States said on Monday that a review to declassify 28 pages of material in a Sept. 11 report, which families of victims and some lawmakers are demanding be made public, could be completed by June.

The official, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, suggested the timing of the release of the pages to reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington.

Amid speculation about a possible Saudi role, several members of the House and Senate have joined the victims’ families in pressing for declassification of the pages, which are part of government documents compiled on the Sept. 11 attacks.

Some officials say the material could reveal that Saudi Arabia backed the men who hijacked airplanes, flying two into the World Trade Center in New York and another into the Pentagon.


Driven up the wall by Trump, Mexico looks to recast image in U.S.

by Dave Graham


MEXICO CITY-At first, Mexico’s government did its best to ignore Donald Trump. Then it likened him to Adolf Hitler. Now it has appointed a new ambassador to come up with a better plan.

Fed up with the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination labeling Mexico as a cradle of drug-runners, job poachers and rapists, the government is sending in respected diplomat Carlos Sada to lead a fightback.

Mexico’s new ambassador in Washington, Sada acknowledges his country has neglected its image across the border and aims to fix that with PR and media campaigns, and by lobbying prominent U.S. companies, lawmakers and civic leaders.

“We need to do a more thorough job so that people understand what (Mexico) contributes,” he said after he was sworn in at Mexico’s Senate on Thursday.

Sada’s strategy includes underscoring Mexico’s importance to the U.S. economy, although it centers on defending the rights of Mexican citizens in the United States and promoting Mexican culture.

That focus has fed doubts over whether the government is trying hard enough to win over its most important audience: American voters.

“It’s vital to improve Mexico’s image and protect our people, but that’s not enough to change the hateful trend that Trump and other xenophobes before him have stirred up,” said Gabriela Cuevas, an opposition lawmaker who chairs the Senate’s foreign relations committee.

“They don’t understand the extent of the damage Trump has done,” she said, urging the government to be more aggressive in mobilizing powerful U.S. interests against Trump’s attacks.

Claiming Mexico is “killing” the United States on trade, Trump has threatened to disrupt bilateral commerce worth some $500 billion a year, and promises to deport millions of undocumented migrants from Mexico and Central America.

To finance a border wall to keep migrants out, he has controversially proposed blocking billions of dollars in remittances sent home by Mexicans in the United States.

The measures would pose a serious threat to Mexico’s economy, but for months Mexico’s government disregarded Trump, hoping his candidacy would fizzle out.

“It’s the ostrich policy: head in the sand,” said Agustin Barrios Gomez, the head of Fundacion Imagen Mexico, a group dedicated to promoting Mexico’s image abroad.

Mexican officials say U.S. politicians and officials urged it to keep a low profile to avoid aggravating tensions, and played down the real estate magnate’s chances.

“The Republicans told us, ‘We’ll deal with Trump’,” one senior Mexican government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

When Mexico eventually did respond, President Enrique Pena Nieto compared the brash billionaire’ s campaign to the rise of Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

Mexican officials wince with embarrassment when reminded of the comment, arguing it was tactless and went too far.


As Trump railed against Mexico, the government should have made a concerted effort to remind key players in the United States that the two nations’ economic interests are closely intertwined, diplomats and business leaders say.

But over a dozen serving and former senior Mexican officials and lawmakers consulted by Reuters said it did not.

“They haven’t so far, but I do see the intention to do it again,” said Jaime Serra, a former trade minister who headed Mexico’s negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada in the early 1990s.

Trump has not been the only one to criticize Mexico.

His Republican rival Ted Cruz also supports a border wall, and backs mass deportations of illegal immigrants.

Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders has, like Trump, taken a protectionist line on jobs and says NAFTA was a mistake.

Mexico’s cause was not helped by Pena Nieto leaving his diplomatic mission in Washington without an ambassador for six months just as Trump was warming up.

And his eventual choice surprised many: Miguel Basanez, an old friend who had never worked in the diplomatic service.”It was a bad decision from the start,” said a senior lawmaker inside Pena Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. “They didn’t grasp the size of the problem.”

Basanez was cast aside this month, just seven months into the job.

For Basanez and now Sada, the task of promoting Mexico in the United States is complicated by problems at home.

Mexico’s reputation has been hurt by relentless drugs violence, conflict-of-interest scandals in government and the apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by a drug cartel working with local police.

“To change the image, you have to change the reality,” said Andres Rozental, a former deputy foreign minister responsible for North America. “Unfortunately, Mexico’s internal reality at this point in time has a lot of negatives.”

(Additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by Kieran Murray)


Ammon Bundy’s lawyers take his anti-government land use claim to court

Oregon standoff leaders’ lawyers used argument in court that federal officials lack authority to prosecute anti-government protesters under US constitution

April 25, 2016

by Sam Levin

The Guardian

San Francisco-Lawyers for Oregon standoff leader Ammon Bundy have argued that federal officials lack authority to prosecute the anti-government protesters in a new court motion that offers a glimpse of the constitutional debate activists hope to bring to a high-profile trial.

Bundy, who led an armed occupation of the Malheur national wildlife refuge, has long claimed that the federal government has no right regulating public lands in the west, and now his legal team is bringing that argument directly to US prosecutors, who have filed a slew of serious felony charges against the activist.

The new motion, which lays the groundwork for a request to dismiss the criminal case against Bundy, presents an argument that legal experts have rejected as an inaccurate interpretation of the US constitution – that the federal government has unlawfully claimed ownership over the wildlife refuge and other public lands.

“The purposes intended for the federal government, were, among other things, defense, trade, and to settle disputes between States,” wrote Lissa Casey, one of Bundy’s lawyers. “Defendant will argue that the Constitution only intended to give broad federal power of property in Territories, as the Founders contemplated the expansion westward.”

The “land that is now the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was not always ‘federal land’. The federal government relinquished that land when it was previously deeded and homesteaded”, Casey’s filing continued.

This argument has gained significant traction in recent years within a growing anti-government land-use movement in the west, spearheaded by Ammon’s father Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who long refused to pay grazing fees to allow his cattle to use public lands and led an infamous 2014 standoff at his property.

The Bundys and their supporters have repeatedly claimed that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the constitution restricts federal ownership of land in such a way that national parks, monuments and federally protected wildlife and wilderness areas are unconstitutional. Constitutional experts say they are misreading a narrow clause and that it is well established that the federal government has broad authority to manage public lands.

Ammon, 40, led the Oregon occupation in January to protest the government’s treatment of local ranchers in a standoff that dragged on for 41 days and resulted in the arrest and charging of more than two dozen activists.

The protesters are accused of using “force, intimidation and threats” to conspire against the government along with a number of firearm charges that could lead some of them to spend decades behind bars if they are convicted and sentenced with maximum punishments.

After his arrest, Ammon told supporters that they planned to bring the constitutional fight against federal land control from the refuge to the courts – and his attorneys say the new motion is a key step in advancing the cause.

“These protesters are in it for the long haul,” Mike Arnold, another attorney for Ammon, said in an interview Monday. “Phase one was the protest. Phase two is taking the case to the courts. They are running to this fight, not away from it.”

Arnold said that Ammon “respects the authority of the federal government”, but argued that he has a right to challenge past constitutional interpretations and case law that have confirmed federal authority of lands.

“You can disagree with their methods and tactics and interpretation. But you cannot deny that they brought attention to the actual words of the constitution,” Arnold added.

Arnold argued that the Oregon protest was an act of “civil disobedience” and that even if the motion to dismiss based on lack of federal jurisdiction fails, he expects Ammon to be found not guilty at trial, which is scheduled to begin in September.

Prosecutors have argued that Ammon and his followers led a coordinated and violent takeover of government buildings and have cited social media posts as evidence.

The US district attorney’s office has not yet responded to the defense’s new motion, and a spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment.


Conspiracy Files: Who shot down MH17?

April 25, 2016

by Mike Rudin

BBC News

Conspiracy theories swirl around many accidents, terror attacks or disasters. It’s not surprising, then, that a host of different claims surround the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. There are theories about fighter jets and different types of missiles. So what really happened?

The story starts on the bleak steppes of eastern Ukraine. A bitter cold wind blew as I walked up to a simple memorial commemorating the tragic death of 298 people in the worst air disaster for two decades. Around the memorial lay a collection of teddies and soft toys – a cruel reminder that 80 children lost their lives here.

On 17 July 2014, the Boeing 777 had left Amsterdam, bound for the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. But it suddenly broke up in mid-air, killing everyone on board. The air disaster came just four months after the mysterious disappearance of another Malaysian airliner.

At the time, the Ukrainian government and the Russian-backed rebel militia were locked in a bitter civil war. After 15 months of deliberation the official technical report by the Dutch Safety Board concluded that a single, powerful, Russian-made Buk ground-to-air missile hit the plane. It’s widely assumed that Russian soldiers or pro-Russian rebels fired it, mistakenly thinking they were targeting a Ukrainian Air Force jet.

But right from the start Russia and the rebels fiercely contested the Western explanation.

Four days after the crash, two of Russia’s most senior generals accused the Ukrainian government of deliberately pushing MH17 off its flight path into the war zone. They highlighted a momentary blip on Russian radar, arguing that this showed a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet, armed with missiles guaranteed to hit targets within a range of three miles.

Fighter jet theory I

As the theory that MH17 was shot down by a plane not a ground-to-air missile swept across the internet, Billy Six, a freelance journalist from Berlin, joined the hunt for clues.

He spent four months in Ukraine and interviewed more than 100 people in the rebel-controlled area around the crash site. Seven people told him they saw a fighter jet on the day MH17 crashed, and one said he saw a missile being launched from a plane. Billy himself thinks two fighter jets shot down MH17 – one firing its cannon, the other firing a missile.

The first photographer on the scene, Oleg Vitulkin, a member of the pro-Russian militia, rejects the Western account. “There’s no way that we would have launched this missile as everyone would have seen it,” he says.

Vitulkin didn’t see another plane that day, but Natasha Voronina believes she did. She was sitting right underneath the point at which MH17 disintegrated. It was harvest time and she was having a break when she heard a loud bang. She looked up at the sky and saw black smoke and what she describes as “two aeroplanes, little ones like silver toys” fly in different directions.

But Western defence analysts deride the Russian defence ministry’s claim that a Ukrainian Su-25 shot down MH17. Nick de Larrinaga, European editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, says the idea is “absolute nonsense”. The Su-25 is a close air-support aircraft, designed to operate just above ground level, attacking tanks and other vehicles, he says. It’s “effectively a flying tank”, which doesn’t have a pressurised cockpit. As such, it is not designed to operate at high altitude and shoot down aircraft – which is a major problem for the Russian theory, given that we know MH17 was flying at 33,000ft (10,000m) when it was hit.

This has not stopped the Russian media from continuing to explore the theory. The slogan of the Moscow-based, international news network, Russia Today – “Question More” – neatly encapsulates the Kremlin approach.

Yana Erlashova, one of Russia Today’s star reporters, found many witnesses who said they had seen jet fighters.

“I don’t push any scenarios or theories, I just report what people say,” she told me.

With the help of the Russian Air Force, she staged an extraordinary experiment and demonstrated that the Su-25 is capable of reaching 33,000ft.

But it turns out that this heavily armoured fighter jet can reach that altitude only by discarding its weapons. And firing a weapon at 33,000ft would cause it to stall. What’s more Nick de Larrinaga points out the Su-25 is actually slower than a Boeing 777, so it couldn’t even have caught up with MH17. Oh, and it uses small, short-range, heat-seeking missiles, which aren’t designed to shoot down distant aircraft.

If that wasn’t enough, the Dutch Safety Board found that around 800 pieces of shrapnel had ripped through MH17, clear evidence of the deadly power only a ground-to-air missile could deliver. The Buk missile has a 70kg (154lb) warhead, which is far more powerful than the warheads on the air-to-air missiles fired from fighter jets.

But what about the witnesses who described seeing other planes right next to MH17 before it crashed? I spoke to other witnesses who had clear views of MH17 breaking up and are just as adamant they didn’t see any other planes that day. What’s more, we know MH17 broke up into a number of large pieces, which then travelled in different directions and from the ground could well have looked like fighter jets.

Also, what about the Russian military’s claim that another plane was briefly visible on its radar? David Gleave, a former air accident investigator, explains that when an aircraft breaks up in mid-air, sometimes it continues to transmit radar data on the way down. It may even change direction if it loses its tail.

Fighter jet theory II

Undaunted, Russian TV claimed before very long, to have the smoking gun.

Four months after the crash, Russia’s most popular TV station, Channel One, broadcast an incredible satellite photograph showing a different, supersonic and deadly effective, fighter jet – supposedly a Mig-29 – at the exact moment it fired a missile at MH17.

But shortly after the images hit the internet, they were debunked. Leading the charge was Eliot Higgins, a former office worker turned blogger, who set up an online investigation website called Bellingcat just three days before MH17 crashed.

Higgins and his volunteer investigators, sensed the photos were fakes made up of composite images from different websites. The fighter jet actually looked more like an Su-27 fighter (made by Sukhoi, the same company as the Su-25) than a Mig-29, and the Boeing 777 was pasted on the satellite photo in the wrong position. The scale was completely wrong.

“It would be about four miles long based on the perspective between the camera and the ground,” says Higgins, “or it would be a normal-sized aircraft that was 300m away from the satellite.”

Fighter jet theory I (continued)

Soon afterwards, another version of the theory that a plane shot down flight MH17 surfaced. Five months after the crash, a “secret witness” walked into the office of Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper claiming to have worked in the Ukrainian Air Force. He said a Su-25 had shot down MH17 and named the pilot as Capt Vladislav Voloshin. Nikolai Varsegov, special correspondent for the paper, said the witness claimed he had loaded air-to-air missiles on to Voloshin’s plane on 17 July and that when the plane returned to base the missiles were gone. The witness added that the captain was agitated on his return and allegedly said, “The wrong plane was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

So we set out to find the pilot and tracked him to a heavily guarded airbase in southern Ukraine. Standing next to his Su-25, Capt Voloshin explained that he was deeply offended to be accused of murdering 298 people. He said that other than the fact that the witness had worked at the airbase, everything else was a lie. Capt Voloshin had flown a mission that had ended with air-to-ground missiles being fired. Two of his colleagues had been shot down and he had been understandably upset. But this happened six days after MH17 was shot down. On that day – 17 July – he said the Ukrainian Air Force hadn’t flown over the rebel-controlled area.

The no-Buk theory

Much of the Russian media still doubts that a Buk missile was involved. Russia Today’s Yana Erlashova says she tried hard to find evidence of the huge 18ft (5.5m), 1,500lb (700kg) missile being launched but found nothing at all. Just as the local photographer, Oleg Vitulkin, had insisted.

At the time, however, a series of photos, videos and social media posts were published which point to a missile launcher, heading east on the day MH17 crashed, from the rebel capital of Donetsk deep into rebel-held territory.

The route ends in the corner of a large field, about 15 miles (25km) south-east of where MH17 was hit and about a mile east of the village of Red October – a field right in the middle of the area identified by the Dutch report as the likely launch location. The pro-Russian rebels controlled this whole area. What’s more, launching a Buk missile generates searing temperatures and one photograph taken in the same field a few days after the crash, shows a small patch of burnt grass.

But could someone fire a massive missile without anyone taking a picture of it? It turns out that three hours after the crash two photographs were posted on social media. They’re claimed to show the distant plume of smoke from the missile that brought down MH17.

It’s alleged the photos were taken by a man from a classic Soviet-style housing estate, seven miles north-west of the likely launch site.

But some, including Dutch blogger Max van der Werff who spent time in the area investigating the photographs, think they are fakes. Russia Today’s Yana Erlashova, for one, claims the wires in one of the photos prove it couldn’t have been taken from the photographer’s balcony. She also insists that his ninth-floor balcony didn’t have a view of the launch location.

But Higgins insists the cables are in exactly the right position to be caught on camera. Other bloggers, such as Marcel van den Berg who has analysed all the information carefully, argue that the photos are genuine.

So, to the bemusement of the local stray dogs, we flew a small drone up over the block of flats, and we discovered that you can see the wires, an unusual, conically shaped hill, and in the distance the alleged launch location near Red October.

I also went looking for someone who had witnessed the Buk missile. Finally, I drove down a bumpy track into the small village of Red October, just a mile west of the alleged launch location. Today the brightly painted wooden houses are eerily quiet. Back in July 2014, this rebel-held area was close to the front line, as evidenced by a large shell I saw embedded in the grassy verge.

On the day MH17 crashed, Valentina Kovolenko was digging potatoes with her daughter. Standing in the same spot she told me a large noise had made her look up. At first she thought it was a plane crashing, but she realised it was, in fact, a missile being launched, the like of which she had never seen before and has never seen since.

“We saw what turned out to be a missile but it went behind the clouds. And a few minutes later we heard what sounded like an explosion,” she said. From her house Valentina has a commanding view, barring any clouds, and she said she didn’t see any other planes that day.

The US Government says it has secret spy imagery of a Buk missile being launched, but it has refused to publish it for fear, apparently, of revealing its technical capabilities. Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, is not convinced, though. He argues the US has led an effusive propaganda effort “to paint Putin in the blackest of colours” to bolster support for sanctions.

The Ukrainian Buk theory

Whether these revealing US spy images exist or not, the Russians have released a series of satellite photographs. They claim to show a Ukrainian army Buk missile launcher, first at a military base, and then – on the day of the crash – at a front-line Ukrainian army position near the village of Zaroshenskoye. So this is a second Russian theory – an alternative to the fighter jet theory – that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian Buk missile.

But the online investigator, Eliot Higgins, insists the Russian satellite images – allegedly taken on 17 July – are fakes. They claim to show the Ukrainian missile launcher absent from the military base on the day of the crash. However, a satellite image from American imaging firm Digital Globe that we know was taken on that day clearly shows the missile launcher still there.

Also, not a single witness has come forward to say a Buk missile was fired from the second site near Zaroshenskoye. What’s more, it seems that the location was not even held by the Ukrainian Army.

The Russian Ministry of Defence also claims a video showing a Buk launcher with one missile missing, reveals a Ukrainian Army Buk on Ukrainian territory. But once again the Russian claims quickly fall apart.

In fact it looks like exactly the same Buk missile launcher that travelled from the rebel capital of Donetsk to Red October on the day of the attack. And the video appears to have been filmed as it headed towards Russia the day after the attack.

The journalist Billy Six – who, remember, believes MH17 was shot down by Ukrainian jet fighters, and who spent several months in the area – concluded it must have been filmed in rebel-held territory.

Soon a new Russian voice added its voice to the Ukrainian Buk theory. Surprisingly it came from the Russian manufacturer of the Buk missile, Almaz-Antey.

The company argues that the holes in the wreckage prove it was an old version of the missile, no longer used by the Russian army, though still in use in the Ukrainian army. Soon after it made this claim though, a photograph from 2013 was discovered with President Vladimir Putin standing in front of exactly this type of missile. And in 2015 those same missiles were proudly displayed at a May Day parade in Siberia.

Not to be put off, the manufacturer responded with some dramatic experiments. It analysed the damage to the fuselage and the likely angle the missile hit the plane. It then showed off a complex mass of calculations from what it called a “special supercomputer device”. This time it said the missile was even older and one that was definitely not in Russian service.

Once again, the experts I spoke to in the West were damning. Igor Sutyagin, a former Soviet air defence officer and now a defence analyst at the Royal United Services Institute in London, complained that it is “not scientific”. He said the idea was to “kill the truth, providing excessive details to create a smoke screen”.

In the town of Snezhnoye just a few miles south of the crash site, I visited an apartment block where a huge gaping hole and scattered rubble is still testament to an Ukrainian air strike just two days before MH17 crashed. Eleven civilians were killed. By the summer of 2014 the pro-Russian rebels were under siege from the ground and from the air. And this may be why a large convoy from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade headed from Kursk in western Russia towards the Ukrainian border, just a month before the MH17 crash.

The progress of this convoy was once again tracked by the online investigators at Bellingcat, purely by looking at the social media posts of passing drivers and the Russian soldiers themselves. They spotted among the convoy the same missile launcher that had been seen on the day of the crash in eastern Ukraine. Blotches of paintwork and other marks look identical.

As the rebels had no air force, the Ukrainian Army had no need for air defence. In contrast the rebels had to rely on increasingly powerful ground-to-air missiles to defend themselves. Many Ukrainian planes were hit. Just three days before MH17 was downed, the rebels shot down an Antonov-26 transport plane flying at 21,000ft.

Far from the front line, I was shown inside a Ukrainian Army Buk missile launcher. The mass of switches and indicators clearly needs to be operated by highly trained military personnel. As defence analyst Igor Sutyagin points out, that expertise is present in the Russian Army, it is not likely to be present among the rebel militia.

Perhaps this played a role in the MH17 disaster? A series of phone conversations were intercepted by the Ukrainian security service. One features a rebel soldier apparently reporting to a Russian intelligence officer that the rebels had shot down what they thought was a Ukrainian plane.

The propaganda war

So what’s going on? Why have so many conspiracy theories been produced about MH17? And why is it that, unlike most conspiracy theories – for example, those about 9/11 – they have actually been state-sanctioned?

One British author who worked in Russia for several years as a TV producer, has traced how the Kremlin has adapted the doctrine of maskirovka, or military deception, for the digital age. Peter Pomerantsev, author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: the Surreal Heart of the New Russia, claims President Putin has complete control over the Russian media and it now works like a cult, with non-stop conspiracy theories, designed to confuse and bamboozle Russians so that “critical thinking breaks down”.

Steven Pifer, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, agrees. He argues the major TV networks, such as Russia Today, “are operating as an arm of the Kremlin and designed to put out a Russian propaganda line”. He says the goal “is to put out lots of different theories to raise smoke, to raise dust and to raise confusion and hopefully persuade people that there is no truth here”.

Neither the Russian foreign ministry nor the manufacturer of the missile would talk to the BBC. The Russian government rejects any responsibility for the MH17 crash. It insists the official Dutch report is flawed and says it will conduct its own inquiry.

There is just one point on which the Russian government agrees with the Dutch investigators – the responsibility borne by the Ukrainian government for failing to close the airspace over the war zone to civilian aircraft, when its own planes had been shot down at a height well beyond the reach of conventional shoulder-mounted missiles.

Beyond that, Russia seems to have its own distinct version – or versions – of the truth, and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, gave me his explanation why.

“Russians supplied a surface-to-air missile system to Russian-led terrorists and they committed this crime. They know who committed this crime and they are scared of being brought to justice.”


Turkey demands Geneva remove photo attacking Erdogan

The Turkish consulate is demanding the City of Geneva remove a photo from an exhibition directly blaming President Erdogan for the death of a teenage protester. Erdogan’s thin skin is stretching across national borders.

April 25, 2016


The exhibition is being staged by Geneva-based photographer Demir Sonmez in the Place des Nations, a prominent square in front of the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva.

One of Sonmez’s large photographs is of a protest banner with the portrait of a teenager who died after a 2013 anti-government protest in Istanbul.

The photo is one of 58 large format photographs on display in the Place des Nations until May 1.

“My name is Berkin Elvan. Police killed me on orders of the Turkish prime minister,” the text on the banner reads.

The Turkish consulate protested to the City of Geneva Monday via a letter to the head of the Urban Environment and Security Department, Guillaume Barazzone, asking for the photograph to be removed.

Berkin Elvan: wrong place, wrong time

Berkin Elvan was a 15-year-old Turkish boy who was hit on the head by a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer in Istanbul while out to buy bread for his family during the June 2013 Taksim anti-government protests in Turkey.

He died on March 11, 2014, following a 269-day coma. Widespread demonstrations erupted following his death. Erdogan, who was then prime minister, said the young man had been a member of a terrorist organization.

Geneva’s reaction

The Administrative Council will deliberate on the matter Tuesday, Esther Alder, a spokesman for the mayor, said.

The Geneva-based photographer of Kurdish and Armenian origin can reportedly count on the support of several politicians in Switzerland, including the Socialist Party councilor Carlo Sommaruga, who said: “interference of a third State in the internal affairs of the City of Geneva is demanding us to limit freedom of expression.”

A City of Geneva spokesperson Remy Pagani said it would be “absurd” to “censor” photography. “Freedom of expression is freedom of expression,” he told the “Courrier” newspaper.

In 2010, a political group in Geneva made posters depicting Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi with the tagline “He Wants to Destroy Switzerland” and the case was dropped a year later when Gaddafi was overthrown.

The media is the message

The Turkish government is attacking critics and political rivals at home and abroad. These include German comedian Jan Böhmermann, who faces criminal proceedings in his home country after insulting Erdogan in a televised skit.

The decision to start a German prosecution is based on 1871 legislation banning the defamation of foreign leaders. It has drawn protests that the right of free speech has been undermined in Germany.

Turkey has also been stepping up moves against foreign journalists in the country, denying entry to a number of reporters, including a correspondent from German public broadcaster ARD last week.

Same story at home

Meanwhile, a Turkish journalist was fined 28,650 liras ($10,000, 8,875 euros) for insulting Erdogan, the journalist’s lawyer said Monday. Can Dundar from the leftist “Cumhuriyet” newspaper was accused of insulting the president, his son Bilal Erdogan and others.

His lawyer Blent Utku told DPA that the case was connected with articles Dundar wrote about a corruption scandal that hit the government in late 2013.

“As a journalist he just did his job. He didn’t use an insulting word,” Utku said. “Of course we are going to appeal. This decision is not in line with the law.”

Dundar and his colleague Erdem Gul are also facing life in prison if found guilty of trying to overthrow the government. Their trial, which is taking place behind closed doors, is set to resume May 6.

Erdogan said recently that Dundar and Gul will pay a “heavy price” for reporting on alleged weapons shipment from Turkey to Syrian rebel groups. Turkey is a staunch backer of the Syrian opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

There are 1,845 people facing prosecution in Turkey for insulting the president.


The Al-Qaeda Leader Who Wasn’t

The Shameful Ordeal of Abu Zubaydah

by Rebecca Gordon


The allegations against the man were serious indeed.

* Donald Rumsfeld said he was “if not the number two, very close to the number two person” in al-Qaeda.

* The Central Intelligence Agency informed Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that he “served as Usama Bin Laden’s senior lieutenant. In that capacity, he has managed a network of training camps… He also acted as al-Qaeda’s coordinator of external contacts and foreign communications.”

* CIA Director Michael Hayden would tell the press in 2008 that 25% of all the information his agency had gathered about al-Qaeda from human sources “originated” with one other detainee and him.

* George W. Bush would use his case to justify the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation program,” claiming that “he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained” and that “he helped smuggle al-Qaeda leaders out of Afghanistan” so they would not be captured by U.S. military forces.

None of it was true.

And even if it had been true, what the CIA did to Abu Zubaydah — with the knowledge and approval of the highest government officials — is a prime example of the kind of still-unpunished crimes that officials like Dick Cheney, George Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld committed in the so-called Global War on Terror.

So who was this infamous figure, and where is he now? His name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, but he is better known by his Arabic nickname, Abu Zubaydah. And as far as we know, he is still in solitary detention in Guantánamo.

A Saudi national, in the 1980s Zubaydah helped run the Khaldan camp, a mujahedeen training facility set up in Afghanistan with CIA help during the Soviet occupation of that country. In other words, Zubaydah was then an American ally in the fight against the Soviets, one of President Ronald Reagan’s “freedom fighters.”  (But then again, so in effect was Osama bin Laden.)

Zubaydah’s later fate in the hands of the CIA was of a far grimmer nature.  He had the dubious luck to be the subject of a number of CIA “firsts”: the first post-9/11 prisoner to be waterboarded; the first to be experimented on by psychologists working as CIA contractors; one of the first of the Agency’s “ghost prisoners” (detainees hidden from the world, including the International Committee of the Red Cross which, under the Geneva Conventions, must be allowed access to every prisoner of war); and one of the first prisoners to be cited in a memo written by Jay Bybee for the Bush administration on what the CIA could “legally” do to a detainee without supposedly violating U.S. federal laws against torture.

Zubaydah’s story is — or at least should be — the iconic tale of the illegal extremes to which the Bush administration and the CIA went in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. And yet former officials, from CIA head Michael Hayden to Vice President Dick Cheney to George W. Bush himself, have presented it as a glowing example of the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to extract desperately needed information from the “evildoers” of that time.

Zubaydah was an early experiment in post-9/11 CIA practices and here’s the remarkable thing (though it has yet to become part of the mainstream media accounts of his case): it was all a big lie. Zubaydah wasn’t involved with al-Qaeda; he was the ringleader of nothing; he never took part in planning for the 9/11 attacks. He was brutally mistreated and, in another kind of world, would be exhibit one in the war crimes trials of America’s top leaders and its major intelligence agency.

Yet notorious as he once was, he’s been forgotten by all but his lawyers and a few tenacious reporters.  He shouldn’t have been.  He was the test case for the kind of torture that Donald Trump now wants the U.S. government to bring back, presumably because it “worked” so well the first time. With Republican presidential hopefuls promising future war crimes, it’s worth reconsidering his case and thinking about how to prevent it from happening again. After all, it’s only because no one has been held to account for the years of Bush administration torture practices that Trump and others feel free to promise even more and “yuger” war crimes in the future.

Experiments in Torture

In August 2002, a group of FBI agents, CIA agents, and Pakistani forces captured Zubaydah (along with about 50 other men) in Faisalabad, Pakistan. In the process, he was severely injured — shot in the thigh, testicle, and stomach. He might well have died, had the CIA not flown in an American surgeon to patch him up. The Agency’s interest in his health was, however, anything but humanitarian. Its officials wanted to interrogate him and, even after he had recovered sufficiently to be questioned, his captors occasionally withheld pain medication as a means of torture.

When he “lost” his left eye under mysterious circumstances while in CIA custody, the agency’s concern again was not for his health. The December 2014 torture report produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (despite CIA opposition that included hacking into the committee’s computers) described the situation this way: with his left eye gone, “[i]n October 2002, DETENTION SITE GREEN [now known to be Thailand] recommended that the vision in his right eye be tested, noting that ‘[w]e have a lot riding upon his ability to see, read, and write.’ DETENTION SITE GREEN stressed that ‘this request is driven by our intelligence needs [not] humanitarian concern for AZ.’”

The CIA then set to work interrogating Zubaydah with the help of two contractors, the psychologists Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell. Zubaydah would be the first human subject on whom those two, who were former instructors at the Air Force’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training center, could test their theories about using torture to induce what they called “learned helplessness,” meant to reduce a suspect’s resistance to interrogation. Their price? Only $81 million.

CIA records show that, using a plan drawn up by Jessen and Mitchell, Abu Zubaydah’s interrogators would waterboard him an almost unimaginable 83 times in the course of a single month; that is, they would strap him to a wooden board, place a cloth over his entire face, and gradually pour water through the cloth until he began to drown. At one point during this endlessly repeated ordeal, the Senate committee reported that Zubaydah became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

Each of those 83 uses of what was called “the watering cycle” consisted of four steps:

“1) demands for information interspersed with the application of the water just short of blocking his airway 2) escalation of the amount of water applied until it blocked his airway and he started to have involuntary spasms 3) raising the water-board to clear subject’s airway 4) lowering of the water-board and return to demands for information.”

The CIA videotaped Zubaydah undergoing each of these “cycles,” only to destroy those tapes in 2005 when news of their existence surfaced and the embarrassment (and possible future culpability) of the Agency seemed increasingly to be at stake. CIA Director Michael Hayden would later assure CNN that the tapes had been destroyed only because “they no longer had ‘intelligence value’ and they posed a security risk.” Whose “security” was at risk if the tapes became public? Most likely, that of the Agency’s operatives and contractors who were breaking multiple national and international laws against torture, along with the high CIA and Bush administration officials who had directly approved their actions.

In addition to the waterboarding, the Senate torture report indicates that Zubaydah endured excruciating stress positions (which cause terrible pain without leaving a mark); sleep deprivation (for up to 180 hours, which generally induces hallucinations or psychosis); unrelenting exposure to loud noises (another psychosis-inducer); “walling” (the Agency’s term for repeatedly slamming the shoulder blades into a “flexible, false wall,” though Zubaydah told the International Committee of the Red Cross that when this was first done to him, “he was slammed directly against a hard concrete wall”); and confinement for hours in a box so cramped that he could not stand up inside it. All of these methods of torture had been given explicit approval in a memo written to the CIA’s head lawyer, John Rizzo, by Jay Bybee, who was then serving in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. In that memo Bybee approved the use of 10 different “techniques” on Zubaydah.

It seems likely that, while the CIA was torturing Zubaydah at Jessen’s and Mitchell’s direction for whatever information he might have, it was also using him to test the “effectiveness” of waterboarding as a torture technique. If so, the agency and its contractors violated not only international law, but the U.S. War Crimes Act, which expressly forbids experimenting on prisoners.

What might lead us to think that Zubaydah’s treatment was, in part, an experiment? In a May 30, 2005, memo sent to Rizzo, Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, discussed the CIA’s record keeping. There was, Bradbury commented, method to the CIA’s brutality. “Careful records are kept of each interrogation,” he wrote. This procedure, he continued, “allows for ongoing evaluation of the efficacy of each technique and its potential for any unintended or inappropriate results.” In other words, with the support of the Bush Justice Department, the CIA was keeping careful records of an experimental procedure designed to evaluate how well waterboarding worked.

This was Abu Zubaydah’s impression as well. “I was told during this period that I was one of the first to receive these interrogation techniques,” Zubaydah would later tell the International Committee of the Red Cross, “so no rules applied. It felt like they were experimenting and trying out techniques to be used later on other people.”

In addition to the videotaping, the CIA’s Office of Medical Services required a meticulous written record of every waterboarding session.  The details to be recorded were spelled out clearly:

“In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was achieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was the break between applications, and how the subject looked between each treatment.”

Again, these were clearly meant to be the records of an experimental procedure, focusing as they did on how much water was effective; whether a “seal” was achieved (so no air could enter the victim’s lungs); whether the naso- or oropharynx (that is, the nose and throat) were so full of water the victim could not breathe; and just how much the “subject” vomited up.

It was with Zubaydah that the CIA also began its post-9/11 practice of hiding detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross by transferring them to its “black sites,” the secret prisons it was setting up in countries with complacent or complicit regimes around the world. Such unacknowledged detainees came to be known as “ghost prisoners,” because they had no official existence. As the Senate torture report noted, “In part to avoid declaring Abu Zubaydah to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which would be required if he were detained at a U.S. military base, the CIA decided to seek authorization to clandestinely detain Abu Zubaydah at a facility in Country _______ [now known to have been Thailand].”

Tortured and Circular Reasoning

As British investigative journalist Andy Worthington reported in 2009, the Bush administration used Abu Zubaydah’s “interrogation” results to help justify the greatest crime of that administration, the unprovoked, illegal invasion of Iraq. Officials leaked to the media that he had confessed to knowing about a secret agreement involving Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (who later led al-Qaeda in Iraq), and Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein to work together “to destabilize the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.” Of course, it was all lies. Zubaydah couldn’t have known about such an arrangement, first because it was, as Worthington says, “absurd,” and second, because Zubaydah was not a member of al-Qaeda at all.

In fact, the evidence that Zubaydah had anything to do with al-Qaeda was beyond circumstantial — it was entirely circular. The administration’s reasoning went something like this: Zubaydah, a “senior al-Qaeda lieutenant,” ran the Khaldan camp in Afghanistan; therefore, Khaldan was an al-Qaeda camp; if Khaldan was an al Qaeda camp, then Zubaydah must have been a senior al Qaeda official.

They then used their “enhanced techniques” to drag what they wanted to hear out of a man whose life bore no relation to the tortured lies he evidently finally told his captors. Not surprisingly, no aspect of the administration’s formula proved accurate.  It was true that, for several years, the Bush administration routinely referred to Khaldan as an al-Qaeda training camp, but the CIA was well aware that this wasn’t so.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, for instance, made this crystal clear, quoting an August 16, 2006, CIA Intelligence Assessment, “Countering Misconceptions About Training Camps in Afghanistan, 1990-2001” this way:

“Khaldan Not Affiliated With Al-Qa’ida. A common misperception in outside articles is that Khaldan camp was run by al-Qa’ida. Pre-11 September 2001 reporting miscast Abu Zubaydah as a ‘senior al-Qa’ida lieutenant,’ which led to the inference that the Khaldan camp he was administering was tied to Usama bin Laden.”

Not only was Zubaydah not a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant, he had, according to the report, been turned down for membership in al-Qaeda as early as 1993 and the CIA knew it by at least 2006, if not far sooner. Nevertheless, the month after it privately clarified the nature of the Khaldan camp and Zubaydah’s lack of al-Qaeda connections, President Bush used the story of Zubaydah’s capture and interrogation in a speech to the nation justifying the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program. He then claimed that Zubaydah had “helped smuggle Al Qaida leaders out of Afghanistan.”

In the same speech, Bush told the nation, “Our intelligence community believes [Zubaydah] had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained” (a reference presumably to Khaldan). Perhaps the CIA should have been looking instead at some of the people who actually trained the hijackers — the operators of flight schools in the United States, where, according to a September 23, 2001 Washington Post story, the FBI already knew “terrorists” were learning to fly 747s.

In June 2007, the Bush administration doubled down on its claim that Zubaydah was involved with 9/11. At a hearing before the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger, discussing why the Guantánamo prison needed to remain open, explained that it “serves a very important purpose, to hold and detain individuals who are extremely dangerous… [like] Abu Zubaydah, people who have been planners of 9/11.”

Charges Withdrawn

In September 2009, the U.S. government quietly withdrew its many allegations against Abu Zubaydah. His attorneys had filed a habeas corpus petition on his behalf; that is, a petition to excercise the constitutional right of anyone in government custody to know on what charges they are being held. In that context, they were asking the government to supply certain documents to help substantiate their claim that his continued detention in Guantánamo was illegal. The new Obama administration replied with a 109-page brief filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, which is legally designated to hear the habeas cases of Guantánamo detainees.

The bulk of that brief came down to a government argument that was curious indeed, given the years of bragging about Zubaydah’s central role in al-Qaeda’s activities.  It claimed that there was no reason to turn over any “exculpatory” documents demonstrating that he was not a member of al-Qaeda, or that he had no involvement in 9/11 or any other terrorist activity — because the government was no longer claiming that any of those things were true.

The government’s lawyers went on to claim, bizarrely enough, that the Bush administration had never “contended that [Zubaydah] had any personal involvement in planning or executing… the attacks of September 11, 2001.” They added that “the Government also has not contended in this proceeding that, at the time of his capture, [Zubaydah] had knowledge of any specific impending terrorist operations” — an especially curious claim, since the prevention of such future attacks was how the CIA justified its torture of Zubaydah in the first place. Far from believing that he was “if not the number two, very close to the number two person in” al-Qaeda, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had once claimed, “the Government has not contended in this proceeding that [Zubaydah] was a member of al-Qaida or otherwise formally identified with al-Qaida.”

And so, the case against the man who was waterboarded 83 times and contributed supposedly crucial information to the CIA on al-Qaeda plotting was oh-so-quietly withdrawn without either fuss or media attention.  Exhibit one was now exhibit none.

Seven years after the initial filing of Zubaydah’s habeas petition, the DC District Court has yet to rule on it. Given the court’s average 751-day turnaround time on such petitions, this is an extraordinary length of time. Here, justice delayed is truly justice denied.

Perhaps we should not be surprised, however. According to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, CIA headquarters assured those who were interrogating Zubaydah that he would “never be placed in a situation where he has any significant contact with others and/or has the opportunity to be released.” In fact, “all major players are in concurrence,” stated the agency, that he “should remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.” And so far, that’s exactly what’s happened.

The capture, torture, and propaganda use of Abu Zubaydah is the perfect example of the U.S. government’s unique combination of willful law-breaking, ass-covering memo-writing, and what some Salvadorans I once worked with called “strategic incompetence.” The fact that no one — not George Bush or Dick Cheney, not Jessen or Mitchell, nor multiple directors of the CIA — has been held accountable means that, unless we are very lucky, we will see more of the same in the future.


No responses yet

Leave a Reply