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TBR News August 12, 2016

Aug 12 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. August 12, 2016 :” There are rumors voiced inside the Beltway that the DEA’s attacks on state-legalized pot growers and marketers is not an accident. The states legalized this activity and it flourished. A good deal of money, cash especially, was involved. Then the DEA decided to sieze this cash and claim that pot growing, while legalized by the states was not legal in the eyes of the Federal government, hence the seizure of millions of dollars. Where does this money go? Where does the raw opium payments to the CIA for transport to Columbia go? To the taxpayers? Of course not, it goes into deep pockets. Small amounts actually might go to the agencies for operating expenses but the rest goes for trips to Europe, first class, sailing boats, clothes, new cars and other important areas. In short, the American government is redolent of some third world corrupt country where it is expected that officials loot, pillage and shoot citizens for target practice.”

5 times when the Clintons escaped federal charges

August 12, 2016


Reports the DoJ rejected the FBI’s request to investigate the Clinton Foundation have created a stir this week. While it is not the first time investigators have gotten close to the Clintons, the couple seem immune to cases and charges.

A new batch of Hillary Clinton’s emails has shed more light on the State Department’s close ties with Bill Clinton’s foundation in the times when it was supervised by the former First Lady. Nearly 300 pages of back-and-forth emails exposed senior officials at the foundation seeking favor and special connection on behalf of wealthy donors.

It has just recently appeared that the FBI has long been interested in the Foundation and even requested the Department of Justice (DoJ) to probe the former president’s non-profit earlier this year, but was denied.

According to CNN, the DoJ said it did not have enough evidence to bring up a corruption probe.

Should the report turn out to be true, it would add to the list of situations when the Clintons fell under federal scrutiny that stopped just short of official probes.

1.Whitewater case, 1992

It is now known as the Whitewater controversy, a case that dates back to 1978 and involves both the former President and his wife Hillary Clinton, currently the Democratic presidential nominee herself.

The case, once dubbed by NPR the “granddaddy of Clintons’ scandals,”centered on real-estate investment Bill and Hillary Clinton into a real estate entity known as Whitewater Development Corporation. At the time, he was serving as Arkansas governor in the late 1970s.

However, it did not surface until Bill Clinton’s bid for the presidency in 1992, when the New York Times shared details in its March 8 article.

The Justice Department eventually launched an investigation into the legality of the Whitewater transactions in 1994, but no evidence of wrongdoing has ever been found. At the time, they were suspected in participating in illegal activities related to Whitewater Development Company as “potential beneficiaries.”

Even though the case stretched into Clinton’s presidency, neither he nor Hillary were ever charged. Their partners in the real estate investment, Jim McDougal and his then-wife Susan, were convicted of fraud charges.

2.Travelgate, 1993

A year after Whitewater, Bill Clinton fell under the FBI’s scrutiny in the case that was later dubbed Travelgate. Soon after Clinton moved into the White House, seven workers from the Travel Office were fired under the pretext of “financial” problems. However, critics suspected that, in fact, the Clintons wanted to make room for cronies. The reasons for the firings were probed by the DoJ, a congressional panel and special prosecutors, but no basis was found to bring charges against either Bill or Hillary.

3. Benghazi deadly attack, 2012

Nearly 10 years after the 1990s controversies, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came under fire after extremists attacked the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

In October 2015, Clinton testified in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi during an 11-hour hearing. One of the longest and costliest partisan congressional investigations in US history ended with no charges. The final 800-page report, issued this past June, said lawmakers found no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing in the 2012 attacks.

Just as more of Clinton’s emails were released, parents of two Americans killed in Benghazi filed lawsuits against the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee. The families accused the then-secretary of state of mishandling government secrets.

4. Clinton’s homebrewed server

Along with Benghazi probe, Cliton also was a part of a separate investigation. Both the FBI and Justice Department have been looking into whether Clinton’s private email server compromised government secrets during her tenure at the State Department.

According to the federal investigation, Clinton used “several different servers and numerous mobile devices” to send and read emails on her personal domain from 2009 to 2013.

Of the 30,000 emails turned over to the State Department, the FBI found that 110 messages in 52 chains contained information that was classified at the time, of which eight were Top Secret, 36 were Secret and eight were Confidential.

However, on July 5, FBI Director James Comey recommended no charges against Hillary Clinton over her handling of classified information on a private email server, still calling it “extremely careless.”

Testifying before the Congress, Comey admitted that Clinton lied when she said that she did not send or received any classified in her emails.

5.The Clinton Foundation donations

As the private server case proceeded, more cases grew around Clinton and her team. In January 2011, Fox News reported that the FBI expanded its probe to investigating the possible intersection of Clinton Foundation donations, the dispensation of State Department contracts and whether regular processes were followed.

A court ordered the former secretary of state to release some 55,000 pages of emails, following a Freedom of Information Act request from Vice News reporter Jason Leopold.

At the end of June, a federal judge ordered the State Department to hand over records detailing Hillary Clinton’s schedules during 14 overseas trips. It has been exposed, that then-secretary of state kept meetings with dozens of donors to her family’s foundations off her official calendar.

AP filed a lawsuit that also turned up evidence that Clinton’s official calendars omitted dozens of donor meetings.

U.S. aims to restore water, return fish to diverted California river

August 12, 2016

by Sharon Bernstein


Fresno, California-California’s San Joaquin River flows out of the mountains above Yosemite, clear and bubbling until it abruptly stops just north of Fresno, its water diverted to irrigate farms.

Environmentalists have cheered a plan to reconnect the river this fall. But it is over budget, overdue and vehemently opposed by local farmers and some Republican lawmakers. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, once joked about eating its protected fish with crackers.

“For somebody who doesn’t really understand about the issue it seems very simple – just reconnect the river and water will flow,” said Cannon Michael, a sixth-generation farmer whose family settled in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1800s. “But the river was disconnected for a reason.”

Initially diverted to provide water for agriculture and encourage family farms, the San Joaquin River has become the latest battleground of California’s century-old water wars. Its dams, hydro-electric plants and diverted flow illustrate the benefits as well as the costs of 20th century efforts to tame the state’s natural resources.

Damming the river in 1942 was an engineering feat that made the San Joaquin a keystone of a complex water system that ultimately allowed a semi-arid state to provide water for 40 million residents and grow more fruits and vegetables than any other U.S. state, on land watered almost entirely by irrigation.

But construction of Friant Dam near Fresno also eliminated the Pacific Coast’s southernmost runs of Chinook salmon. The river is dry most years along two stretches for a total of 60 miles. It was recently named the second-most endangered U.S. river by the group American Rivers.

“Old-timers tell stories of the water being so thick with salmon that you could practically walk across it,” said Doug Obegi, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

In 1988, that environmental group sued the federal government, saying diverting the river broke state law protecting fish. After 18 years of court battles, environmentalists, the federal government and water users finally agreed to restore the river to again support salmon.

Since that 2006 settlement, efforts to restore the river have been slowed by engineering challenges, tense negotiations with farmers and other delays. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Friant Dam, is now set to release enough water to reconnect the river this fall, said program manager Alicia Forsythe.

But improvements targeted for completion by 2013, including levees to prevent flooding and screens to keep threatened fish out of irrigation canals, have yet to start.

Environmentalists, government officials and farmers are still arguing over the path the river should take because agricultural land has encroached on its traditional route.

And farmers who rely on water diverted at Friant Dam will get less under the plan. Their allocations will drop by about 18 percent as more water is allowed to flow downstream.

Near Mendota, where levee construction is planned to begin next year, a road runs across the dry riverbed. Abandoned furniture sits in the dirt, and a target with bullet holes hangs from a tree.

Costs have ballooned, rising from an estimated $250 million to $800 million in 2006 to $1.5 billion today, said Bureau of Reclamation spokesman Shane Hunt.

The latest projected completion date is 2029.

“It’s a giant waste of time and money,” said Greg Pearl, who farms 800 acres near the river.

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican who represents part of the area, said the cost of restoring the river is too high, and the benefits too few. He backs a plan to build a reservoir upstream of Friant Dam so farms and communities can have access to more water from the San Joaquin, not less.

Republicans in the U.S. Congress have attached proposals to do that to numerous bills, some getting as far as the Senate before stalling there. A compromise brokered two years ago by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein also stalled.

Among conservationists, however, excitement about re-connecting the river is palpable.

Former NRDC scientist Monty Schmitt predicted dramatic results even from this fall’s planned releases of modest amounts of water, designed not to flood riverbanks before levees are built.

“In the span of five minutes you can go from a dry channel to a river that is 30 feet wide,” he said.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein, Editing by Ben Klayman and David Gregorio)

Millions of cars at risk as keyless entry systems can be hacked, report says

Cars that use Volkswagen’s remote keyless entry system are vulnerable to theft using equipment costing £30, researchers claim

August 12, 2016

by Elena Cresci and agencies

The Guardian

Tens of millions of cars are made vulnerable to theft by their keyless entry systems, according to a report by computer security experts.

The paper claims many of the 100m Volkswagen vehicles sold over the past 20 years are vulnerable and can be hacked using cheap tools. Audi, Seat and Skoda models sold since 1995 are also said to be affected as they share Volkswagen’s remote keyless entry system. Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, and Peugeot models are also at risk from a similar exploit, the researchers claim.

The three researchers from the University of Birmingham in England and a fourth from security company Kasper and Oswald GmbH in Germany, found models as recent as this year’s Audi Q3 were vulnerable. They said it is conceivable that all VW Group cars, with the exception of some Audis, are thus vulnerable to attacks because they rely on a ‘constant-key’ scheme.

The attack works by “eavesdropping” on the signal sent when a driver presses their key fob to unlock their car. With equipment costing as little as £30 the signal and be cloned and the hacker can then access the car in future. To clone the key’s signal the attack does need to be within 100m of the vehicle.

The report co-author Flavio Garcia said they believe some of the hackable cars are still on the market. He told Reuters: “There are still some VW car models being sold that are not on the latest platform and which remain vulnerable to attack.”

The researchers said the only exceptions were cars built on VW’s latest MQB production platform, which is used in its top selling model, the Golf VII, which the researchers found does not have the flaw.

The VW spokesman Peter Weisheit said that its current Golf, Tiguan, Touran and Passat models are not at risk from the attack, adding: “This current vehicle generation is not afflicted by the problems described.”

The Wolfsburg-based car maker confirmed it has had a constructive exchange with the researchers and that the authors had agreed to withhold details in their report that criminals could use to break into cars.

In 2013, VW obtained a restraining order against a group of researchers that included Garcia to prevent publication of a paper detailing how certain anti-theft car immobilisers were vulnerable to hackers. That research was published in 2015 after the authors agreed with VW to remove a detail that would have allowed thieves to figure out how to carry out an attack.

The authors also describe a second attack that could be used against Hitag2 (HT2) remote keyless entry systems used in older models of other car makers, running on circuits produced by Dutch-American chipmaker NXP.

An NXP spokesman said HT2 chips first introduced in 1998 have been gradually replaced by automakers since 2006 and that the chipmaker has advised them to replace HT2 chips in new cars since security weaknesses were reported in 2009 and 2012.

The reports’ authors said they had focused on mass-market models and did not analyse in detail VW’s luxury brands including Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

The paper is set to be presented at the Usenix security conference in Austin, Texas, in the US on Friday.

Turkey indicts Kurdish political leaders

Turkish prosecutors have indicted leading figures in the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). They stand accused of spreading “terrorist group propaganda” as deadly violence in the Kurdish southeast continues.

August 12, 2016


Prosecutors in Istanbul indicted HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas and filmmaker and Istanbul MP Sirri Sureyya Onder on Friday, for crimes that carry up to five-year prison terms.

The indictments come a day after a police raid on an HDP branch office that authorities said targeted sympathizers of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The indictment specifically accuses Demirtas and Onder of praising the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan in speeches they made in 2013. The addresses were made when a peace process between the PKK’s leader and Turkey was underway.

The 30-month ceasefire subsequently collapsed with daily casualties resuming in some of the worst urban fighting in years with entire city blocks razed by the Turkish military and thousands of civilians left for weeks without electricity, water and medical care.

President Tayyip Erdogan accuses the HDP of being the political wing of the outlawed PKK and successfully pushed for parliament to lift the immunity of many opposition MPs in May.

The HDP has denied links to the PKK but admits that its political base draws upon sympathizers with the Kurdish guerilla movement. Demirtas told his parliamentary group this week that the HDP is the only opposition party that dares challenge President Erdogan and his dominant Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“We are Turkey’s only opposition party,” Demirtas said Tuesday, the Iraqi Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported. “The people have only one hope.”

Erdogan’s popularity soars in post-coup environment

A recent survey of more than 1,200 people conducted two weeks ago found Erdogan’s approval rating had risen to nearly 68 percent – a jump of 21 percentage points over last year, the Ankara-based Metropoll research company said.

A government-sponsored pro-democracy rally last Sunday that attracted more than a million people excluded the HDP, the country’s third largest political party.

Demirtas has accused the AKP of exploiting people’s passions following the failed July 15 coup attempt for political purposes and failing to use the national unity to restart the stalled Kurdish peace initiative.

“On the one hand, our doors are open to reconciliation and peace. On the other hand, we will not remain silent against injustice and persecution,” Dermirtas said, according to Rudaw. “This is not a personal matter. The country is waiting for reconciliation and a political solution.”

Scorched earth policies continue

The PKK has fought a decades-long insurgency in the southeast seeking political autonomy and cultural and linguistic rights for Turkey’s Kurdish minority. More than 40,000 people have been killed since 1984.

Accused Turkish coup plotter Gulen defiant

The US-based Islamic cleric accused by Ankara of masterminding last month’s failed coup has challenged Turkey to produce evidence of his supposed guilt. The conflict is damaging US-Turkey relations.

August 12, 2016


Fethullah Gulen wrote in an article published on Friday in the French daily Le Monde that it was incumbent on Turkey to produce evidence of his guilt before his extradition from his home in the United States.

“If a tenth of the accusations against me are established, I pledge to return to Turkey and serve the heaviest sentence,” Gulen wrote in an opinion piece.

Turkey is pressing the US to extradite the 75-year-old cleric and has purged tens of thousands of his suspected followers from the armed forces, other state institutions, the media and academia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Friday that Washington might be coming around.

“We have started to receive some positive signals on the calls we have made” for Gulen’s extradition, Cavusoglu said, adding that additional evidence was being drawn up to add to the dossier already sent to Washington.

An Islamic cleric with a Green Card

Since 1999, Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in a rural compound in the US state of Pennsylvania. He is a legal permanent resident of the US.

Turkey has yet to file a formal extradition request. Washington said the US Department of Justice, and then ultimately a court, would weigh the merits of the case once a formal request was made through the appropriate channels.

Turkey’s justice minister dismissed the legal procedure as a mere process and said it was a matter of political will in Washington.

“In the end, the decision of the US government will be a political decision,” Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said in televised remarks. “In a case like this, not to extradite him, of course, would mean to prefer Fethullah Gulen’s friendship over Turkey’s friendship.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden expressed their intention to come to Turkey, but they have so far not confirmed a statement from Ankara that the pair would visit on August 24.

Marked for Life

U.S. Government Using Gang Databases to Deport Undocumented Immigrants

August 11, 2016

by Ali Winston

The Intercept

The “M” and the “S” Carlos had etched in his arms with a homemade tattoo gun when he was a teenager in Guatemala City were part of a different life. During his adolescence in the mid-1990s, Carlos, who asked that his real name not be used, hung out with deportees from Los Angeles who had been subsumed into Southern California’s gang culture and brought 18th Street and Mara Salvatrucha from Los Angeles to Central America. Carlos and his brother joined the Normandie Locos clique of Mara Salvatrucha, also known in the United States as MS-13, and got tattoos marking their membership in the gang. They joined because it made them popular with girls, Carlos said, and most of his childhood friends were part of the clique as well.

Guatemalan law enforcement took a hard-edged approach in the late 1990s, and Carlos was shot in three separate incidents by police officers in Guatemala City. His brother was killed by police in September 2000, according to a sworn declaration Carlos later submitted to the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.

After his brother’s death, Carlos said, he was tortured by Guatemalan police. “The police put ‘the hood’ on me, which meant that they put a tire tube over my face until I was about to pass out,” he wrote in the declaration. “They tied my hands and feet together and beat me.”

According to Carlos’s account, after his release, he decided to flee to the United States. He spent a month traveling across Mexico and arrived in California in March 2001, with no visa. For two years, he worked as a day laborer, living on the streets, in shelters, and in parks in the Westlake area of Los Angeles, where Guatemalans and Salvadorans have flocked since the 1980s.

During his first few years there, Carlos said he had no contact with the Los Angeles Police Department, an assertion supported by law enforcement records. That changed on April 30, 2004, when he was stopped by officers from the Wilshire station narcotics unit. Police took notice of the tattoos on his arms and asked him if he was a gang member. Carlos said he told the officers that he had been involved with MS-13 in Guatemala but had nothing to do with them in Los Angeles.

“Admitted membership to MS-Normandie for nine months with a moniker of Moreno,” reads the corresponding entry in Carlos’s file in CalGang, a statewide database of suspected gang members. Officers took photos of his face and tattoos and served him with a copy of the gang injunction, a highly controversial “nuisance abatement” program common in California and other states that restricts an individual’s ability to be in certain areas or associate with certain people deemed to be gang-involved.

Later that same night, Carlos was spotted on the street after 10 p.m. by two police officers, at least one of whom was among the officers who had stopped him earlier. They arrested him for violating a curfew provision of the MS-13 injunction. Over the next year and a half, Carlos was arrested two more times for violating the gang injunction by being around other documented gang members, although he claims the men he was accused of associating with had been detained separately and were completely unknown to him.

“They swept my client up, round-up style, and accused him of associating with the other men they had detained,” said Erika Pinheiro, an attorney, now with the Central American Resource Center, who represented Carlos during his immigration hearings. “It was common practice back in 2004 — to round up all the brown people in the park and figure out who’s on the gang injunction.”

The third time he was arrested, in August 2005, Carlos pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor, spent 30 days in jail, and was placed on probation. After his release, he returned to work and completed his probation. However, the gang unit continued to stop Carlos, searching him roughly 20 times, according to his declaration. He was never re-arrested.

In March 2011, Carlos was on his way to the gym when he was stopped by two LAPD gang officers. “They told me, ‘These men want to talk to you,’” recalled Carlos, who said the officers were accompanied by two men in plainclothes. The new faces, agents with the Homeland Security Investigations office within Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, were conducting a joint gang enforcement operation with the LAPD. “They asked me if I had any legal status, and I said I did not want to answer without a lawyer,” Carlos claimed in his declaration.

When ICE agents interviewed Carlos, they repeatedly asked him when and why he joined MS-13. “I explained again that I was no longer a gang member and had never been one in the United States,” Carlos stated in his declaration.

After the interview, Carlos was transferred to the now-shuttered Mira Loma Detention Center. At this point, he was facing deportation back to Guatemala, which he had fled a decade earlier.

Carlos’s history is no exception. Over a decade of gang enforcement operations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement has resulted in more than 40,000 “gang-related” arrests and 8,000 firearms seized, according to the agency. By lumping hangers-on, friends, family members, and other people who know documented gang members as “associates” — a lesser category of classification that signifies some contact or knowledge of gang activity — ICE inflates the number of gang-related individuals in its arrests.

Sean Garcia-Leys, a law student at UC Irvine Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, has represented undocumented immigrants charged with immigration violations at the Adelanto Detention Facility near San Bernardino, California. “The vast majority of people at bond hearings are people representing themselves, who have no idea that the Constitution’s confrontation clause means, ‘You can’t say that about me,’” Garcia-Leys said. “That’s not something that’s going to come out of someone who’s representing themselves at immigration court.”

Law enforcement and immigration officials in the U.S. maintain that transnational gangs like Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street are serious threats to American communities. Spawned in 1980s Los Angeles, the gangs, largely made up of Central American immigrants, were rounded up and deported in droves by American law enforcement in the 1990s. The gang databases now used by immigration officials and state law enforcement grew out of California’s effort in the 1990s to digitize police reports, field identification cards, and other evidence noting gang involvement.

Federal law enforcement relies heavily on local and state agencies for intelligence on gang members, according to Claude Arnold, a former deputy assistant director of operations for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division.

As a young immigration officer fresh out of college in Phoenix during the 1990s, Arnold witnessed firsthand how the Phoenix Police Department maintained an electronic repository of gang information complete with nicknames and photographs optimized for facial recognition. “The keys to gang policing are debriefing the gang members in the street, debriefing them after arrests, and gathering intelligence to determine the complexity of criminal involvement,” Arnold said. “In order to be effective, you have to do bottom-up enforcement. You’re nowhere if you’re not collecting raw intelligence from gang members on the street, and local gang officers do that more than anyone.”

In the late 1990s, law enforcement noticed a migration of gang members and activity from Chicago and Los Angeles, traditional gang areas, to other regions in the Midwest. “When LA cracked down and California passed a three-strikes law, we started seeing LA gangbangers pop up in Phoenix,” Arnold said. Using the example of Nebraska, Arnold described how “hardcore 18th Street” gang members from Los Angeles were turning up in Omaha.

During his time with ICE, Arnold designed Operation Community Shield, a gang enforcement program launched in 2005. Undocumented gang members could be deported even if they had no criminal history, and if they returned to the U.S., they would be charged with a felony. “You have to apply the scorched earth methodology to gang enforcement — really zero tolerance,” Arnold said.

As part of Operation Community Shield, ICE adopted one of the anti-gang strategies pioneered in California and implemented a nationwide gang database. Known as ICEGangs, the immigration database contains information on an unknown number of “suspected and/or confirmed gang members.”

Immigration lawyers and advocates contend that being classified as a gang member in immigration proceedings directly impacts a defendant’s ability to plead his or her case. Homeland Security attorneys often characterize gang members as threats to public safety, placing their I-213 forms — the equivalent of a charging document in immigration court — in color-coded folders to connote the risk, and ask judges to withhold bond. Gang involvement is also one of the criteria used to deny appeals for stay of deportation through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal process that allows undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.

The consequences do not stop at the border: Carlos’s lawyer, Pinheiro, says ICE shares information on gang-affiliated deportees with authorities in Central America or Mexico. There, deportees “face an alarming likelihood of extra-judicial murder in their home country” from law enforcement or feuding gangs, according to a report by UC Irvine’s School of Law.

In California, the state’s gang database has come under fire in recent years over claims of inaccuracies, disproportionately documenting young men of color as gang-involved, and not providing any way for most to verify or challenge gang classification. In 2013, the state legislature passed a law that provided juveniles with the right to be notified of and challenge their inclusion in CalGang. A similar effort for adults is currently making its way through the state capitol in Sacramento.

Documents from the company now known as CSRA, which makes the GangNet software platform for ICEGangs and CalGang, reveal that law enforcement records an individual’s nationality in the electronic gang file. Immigration agents with access to the agency’s gang database can create, search, and share individual files on gang-involved individuals.

Under rules laid out by the Obama administration, which are intended to allow some undocumented residents to remain in the U.S., individuals listed as gang members are a high priority for deportation. Gang classification from either the ICEGangs or CalGang database is used by government attorneys during hearings to request the undocumented detainees not be granted bond, since they present threats to public safety. At bond hearings in immigration court, detainees appear before a magistrate judge and do not have the right to appointed counsel.

Garcia-Leys, of the UC Irvine Immigrant Rights Clinic, experienced this firsthand. “I was representing one individual in his hearing who had been on a gang injunction and had already had a bond hearing and was denied bond, partly on the basis of his gang membership,” he said.

His client, who was from Oxnard, California, had been included in the Colonia Chiques/Southside Chiques gang injunction. Garcia-Leys then got a copy of his client’s I-213, which is filled out by immigration officials when an alien is detained. “So I took a look at it, and in capital letters, it said that my client was a gang member,” he said.

Garcia-Leys and two UC Irvine law professors researched the use of gang classification in immigration hearings and discovered that without supporting evidence, the information on his client’s I-213 form was largely disregarded by the court because his client couldn’t review and challenge the facts supporting that classification. Garcia-Leys successfully won bond for his client. (The bond didn’t ultimately guarantee protection; when the client couldn’t raise bond, he was deported.) But Garcia-Leys and his colleagues wanted to find out how the gang classification got to court in the first place. “Obviously the DHS attorney had done no research, she just had this printout that said this client was a gang member. So how did that happen?”

Garcia-Leys says his client, much like Carlos, was no longer a gang member. “No one had any idea how or why DHS was alleging he was a gang member,” he said.

Immigration lawyers saw this situation play out during innumerable other cases.

ICE did not respond to specific questions or Freedom of Information Act requests for the number of people documented in ICEGangs. However, ICE press releases show the agency obfuscates the number of genuine gang members arrested in its raids by lumping together gang members and “associates.” (ICE says that 2,802 individuals deported in 2014 were classified as suspected or confirmed gang members; in 2015, that number was 1,040.)

During Project Shadowfire, a five-week gang sweep that ended in March 2016 and resulted in 1,133 arrests across the United States, “more than 900 transnational criminal gang members and others associated with transnational criminal activity” were arrested, according to ICE. During another gang sweep that ended in March 2015, called Project Wildfire, 976 “gang members and associates” were arrested by ICE agents out of 1,207 total arrests.

For those representing undocumented immigrants, like Sean Garcia-Leys, these numbers reflect an overreach. In mid-2016, Garcia-Leys and his fellow students summed up their findings in a 30-page policy report that includes the stories of four Latinos who were represented by the UC Irvine Immigrant Rights Clinic while they grappled with deportation or applying for deferred action amid gang allegations. The report recommended the creation of notification and independent appeals processes for gang documentation.

“We realized at this point, this is probably happening all the time to people who don’t have attorneys,” Garcia-Leys said.

While in immigration detention, Carlos was confronted with evidence that he and his attorney claim was inaccurate; they argued it portrayed him as a greater threat to public safety than his criminal history reflected. ICE accused Carlos of being a gang leader for MS-13 — of which there is no documentation in Carlos’s criminal records or CalGang file, which he shared with The Intercept. He was assigned to the high-security section of the Mira Loma Detention Center, where he served four months.

Pinheiro believes Carlos’s case is a prime example of what happens when unverified, unchallengeable gang classifications by local law enforcement are shared with immigration authorities. “Once that street terrorism code is on the arrest, it triggers attention by ICE,” Pinheiro said.

She has had clients with nothing but a juvenile vandalism arrest for graffiti — but with gang allegations on their record — picked up and placed in deportation proceedings years after the fact.

Carlos argued he feared grievous harm or death if he returned to Guatemala, where he said two of his cousins, along with his brother, had been killed by police. While in immigration custody at Mira Loma, Carlos said an officer told him that if he didn’t cooperate as a jailhouse informant, he would be deported and killed by police in Guatemala, like another recent deportee. The immigration agent, Carlos claimed in his declaration, “said he would do the same with me, and that I ‘would not survive’ if I returned to Guatemala.”

Pinheiro was only able to get Carlos’s criminal history through the Los Angeles Alternate Public Defender’s office. She described the lack of discovery proceedings in immigration court as macabre.

ICE relies “on the fact that most of these people won’t ever have access to counsel” and therefore includes inaccurate or overstated evidence, Pinheiro said.

Pinheiro was able to prove inconsistencies between Carlos’s criminal and immigration records (local police listed his moniker as “Moreno,” while ICE had recorded yet a different alias) and demonstrate he had reason to fear for his life in Guatemala. Carlos was awarded relief on his removal case under the convention against torture.

“The fact that they never found anything to charge him with speaks to the fact that he isn’t a gang member,” Pinheiro said.

Ukraine’s ‘October Surprise’

– may be coming in September

August 12, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


When a Russian FSB agent and a Russian soldier were killed by a team of Ukrainian saboteurs, and one of the captured Ukrainians was shown on Russian media in handcuffs, US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted

“US government has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russians allegations of a ‘Crimea incursion’ & Ukraine has strongly refuted them.”

Apparently two dead Russians don’t count for much in Pyatt’s book: perhaps Putin personally killed them, and the whole thing is a set up.

And how has Ukraine “strongly refuted” this accusation? According to the Ukrainian authorities, the captured would-be saboteur, one Yevgeny Panov, was “kidnapped” from his home town in Zaporizhia – a distance of some 200 miles – by the Russians and transported to Crimea. The Ukrainian police have solemnly announced that “We are taking all necessary measures to promptly, fully and impartially investigate all circumstances of this crime.” One has to admire the ability of the Ukrainian authorities to utter the most portentous absurdities with the perfect aplomb of a used car dealer, but of course their skills don’t even begin to approach Pyatt’s. The ambassador followed up his tweet with another that stated:

“Russia has a record of frequently levying false accusations at Ukraine to deflect attention from its own illegal actions.”

Speaking of deflection, the lobbying group for NATO, the Atlantic Council, has a long account of the incident here, notable for its obscurantism. However, after going on about various confusing “narratives” – including speculation that the saboteurs may be Russian deserters, or even that they “may not exist at all” – the pretense of objectivity forces the Atlanticists to admit, after several paragraphs of blowing smoke, that, yes,

“Because of the arrest of Panov, it has become clear that the Armyansk incident was not invented by the FSB, as many have claimed online, though details provided are difficult to verify.”

Well, that’s progress, at any rate: acknowledging reality. And of course the details are difficult to verify, since Western “news” accounts are heavily colored, like this NPR piece which doesn’t mention that the Russians captured several of the saboteurs, and doesn’t mention Panov, but wonders why the Russians “waited three days” to report the incident. This Bloomberg account has not one detail about the incident: instead, we are treated to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s denials that anything at all took place, “analysis” by an “expert” that “no one trusts” anybody else, calculations on the sinking of the Ukrainian currency, and warnings about how Putin supposedly has a habit of launching military operations in the midst of the Olympic games. This Associated Press dispatch, published in the New York Times, is similarly bereft of details, and gets the number of Russian casualties wrong: they claim only one Russian died. The rest is “analysis” by various “experts,” claiming that the whole thing is a diversion – oddly, the same line peddled by Ambassador Pyatt – to which are added the author’s own description of Putin’s reaction as “menacing.” The BBC helpfully adds that, while Panov may have been a “volunteer” fighter, he was “more recently” associated with “a charitable organization.”

Since when do members of “charitable” organizations wear camouflage while sneaking over heavily-guarded borders in the dead of night?

So there’s an effective embargo on reliable news from this dark corner of the battlefield between East and West. Yet it’s possible, if we glean facts from disparate sources, to outline how the incident unfolded. CNN, after shilly-shallying for four or five paragraphs – reporting Poroshenko’s denials and Ukrainian military measures to counteract a long-touted and entirely mythical Russian “invasion” – finally coughs up some facts, citing Tass:

“The report said Russian forces spotted the ‘saboteurs’ and while attempting to detain them, found ‘20 improvised explosive devices containing more than 40 kilograms of TNT equivalent, ammunition, fuses, antipersonnel and magnetic bombs, grenades and the Ukrainian armed forces’ standard special weapons.’ It said two Russian servicemen were killed in ensuing clashes.”

According to the Russian daily Kommersant, the Ukrainian incursion occurred on August 7, when Russian intelligence detected the entry of a group of seven armed men in an inflatable boat who passed through the Gulf of Perekop from Ukraine, entering Crimean territory near the town of Armyansk. The men were wearing “Soviet-style” camouflage uniforms, apparently trying to give the impression that they were Russian troops. They were intercepted and a shootout followed, in which several on both sides were wounded and one Russian FSB agent was killed. A second confrontation occurred when, the next day, Russian forces identified one of the saboteurs and followed him into an ambush: Ukrainian military positioned on the border opened fire and a second group crossed the border as the FSB personnel pursued their quarry. One Russian soldier was killed in the ensuing exchange.

At least two of the infiltrators were killed, and of those in the first group five were captured: a total of ten people have been detained, including Panov. Some had Russian passports and the majority are residents of Crimea. Kommersant also said those captured admitted they were engaged in sabotage, acting under orders from Ukrainian intelligence; their objective was to plant bombs at tourist sites and incite panic, effectively destroying Crimea’s lucrative tourist industry, although they denied wanting to kill anyone.

Oh, of course not!

Tass is reporting that Panov has not only confessed that the operation was carried out under the direction of the Ukrainian secret service, but he has identified some of them by name. His taped statement was broadcast over the Rossiya’24 news channel.

Now we have Newsweek “reporting” the preposterous Ukrainian “spin” on this botched incursion: it was really a “shootout involving Russian federal security agents (FSB) and Russian armed forces on the Crimean regional border”! Yes, the Russians were shooting at themselves. Ukrainian propaganda usually borders on the fantastic, but this marks a new level of crudity even for them.

So why should we care about this showdown at the Ukrainian corral, anyway?

It’s important because the Ukrainians – like the rest of the world – have been watching the US presidential campaign, and they don’t like what they see. Donald Trump, while disdaining to get involved in Ukraine’s feud with the Kremlin, is asking “Wouldn’t it be good if we could get along with Russia?” This has provoked the Ukrainians into paroxysms of spittle-flecked hysteria. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is openly accusing Donald Trump of being a Russian agent: former CIA chief Mike Morrell, in the process of endorsing her, said Trump is an “unwitting agent” of the FSB. And the “mainstream” media, which is brazenly campaigning on Clinton’s behalf, has been playing the Trump-is-a-Russian-stooge card for all it’s worth.

In short, the leaders of Ukraine hate Trump, have continually denounced him, and are openly rooting for a Clinton victory in November: by launching a terrorist attack on Crimea, and before that trying to assassinate the President of the rebellious Luhansk Republic in eastern Ukraine – they put a bomb under his car, seriously injuring him – they hope to provoke Putin into taking military action. And voila!, we have an “October surprise” – with Hillary taking a hard-line anti-Russian stance, and Trump put in the position of seeming to defend Russian “aggression.”

It’s a perfect set up, for both the Ukrainians – who have been chafing at President Obama’s refusal to provide them with deadly arms – and for Hillary, whose McCarthyite campaign against Trump has taken on all the trappings of a cold war fear-fest of the sort we haven’t seen since the 1950s.

This is the price we pay as a global empire, with our noses stuck in the internal affairs of practically every nation on earth: our clients continually plot and scheme to insert themselves into our internal affairs, including our elections. Intervention is a two-way street.

Russia has lost two servicemen: Putin isn’t going to let this go. And neither are the Ukrainian coup leaders, who came to power by overthrowing the elected President and have a very tenuous hold on power. They need perpetual war scares to keep the populace diverted from their pathetic economic plight and the growing repression exercised by the regime. And certainly Hillary Clinton is ready, willing, and able to use a looming Ukrainian “crisis” to claw her way to the White House – even if she has to risk a nuclear showdown with the Russians. After all, what’s the mere prospect of World War III compared to the supreme importance of installing the First Woman President in the Oval Office?

Russia: Killing of our servicemen in Crimea will have consequences

by Alexander Winning

August 11, 2016


Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the death of Russian servicemen in armed clashes on the border between Crimea and Ukraine over the weekend would have consequences.

The ministry said in a statement that attempts to destabilize the situation in Crimea would fail and urged other countries to put pressure on Ukraine to refrain from any dangerous steps.

Russia has previously said that one soldier and one FSB security service employee were killed in the clashes. Ukraine has denied they took place.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

 Russia deploys advanced S-400 air missile system to Crimea: agencies

August 12, 2016


Russia has deployed its advanced S-400 air defense missile system to annexed Crimea, Russian news agencies reported on Friday, citing a statement from the Russian Defence Ministry.

The announcement comes two days after President Vladimir Putin promised to take counter-measures after what he said were clashes between Russian forces and Ukrainian saboteurs in northern Crimea.

Ukraine denies the clashes took place. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; Writing by Maria Tsvetkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Overseas travel warnings about USA mount

August 11, 2016

by Angela Waters

USA Today

BERLIN — Government travel advisories are common for war-torn, disease-ravaged nations, but a growing number of countries are warning their citizens about taking trips to the United States.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany are among those urging caution to U.S.-bound travelers. The concerns include mass shootings, police violence, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes and the Zika virus.

While it is too soon to determine if the warnings are hurting U.S. tourism, the warnings tarnish the image the U.S. promotes abroad of a country that prides itself on being a welcoming society and bastion of democracy.

“People understand that there is a range of things to do and iconic things to see in the (United) States,” said Tom Buncle, managing director of the Yellow Railroad, an international tourism consultancy in Scotland. “But all of the warnings that come from specific instances add up and can potentially erode the positive image of the U.S.”

Tourism consultant Buncle said the warnings about gays and Muslims may deter some from taking U.S. vacations. “If you are in any of those groups, … you might feel threatened because of the color of your skin or sexual orientation,” he said.

Another big turnoff is gun violence. “America has surprised a lot of the world, especially the Europeans, because of all the mass shootings and the attitudes on gun control, or lack of it,” Buncle said.

Foreign tourism to the U.S. is lucrative. An estimated 77 million foreigners visited the United States last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. They contributed $218 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the State Department.

Countries such as the U.K. have added the U.S. — the state of Florida in particular — to the list of countries where travelers face a “moderate risk” of catching the Zika virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a warning this month about an outbreak of the virus in a Florida county north of Miami from local mosquitoes. In Texas, the first Zika-related death of a baby was reported Tuesday.

European governments have warned about a spate of gun violence in the U.S., including June’s mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub that left 49 dead, and the murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge in July.

The French government’s travel advice website informs citizens that it is legal for many Americans to carry firearms. Germany warns: “It is relatively easy to obtain a firearm in the U.S. If you find yourself the victim of a gun attack, do not try to resist!”

Xenophobia is another worry. The UAE released a travel advisory in July urging men not to wear traditional clothing after a citizen was tackled to the ground and injured by police in Ohio. Officers had been alerted by hotel staff who feared the businessman’s robe and headscarf indicated terrorist intentions.

In August, a Muslim couple was removed from a Delta Airlines flight from Paris to Cincinnati after a flight crew member complained to the pilot that she was uncomfortable with the couple. The woman, who called the ordeal “humiliating,” was wearing a head scarf and using a phone, and the man was sweating, the crew member told the pilot.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s repeated calls for a temporary travel ban on foreign Muslims and people from countries where terrorist groups operate has added to the woes of would-be visitors.

In other countries, police shootings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota last month sparked serious concern.

“In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate,” said a travel warning issued July 8 by the Bahamas Foreign Ministry.

The UAE and its Middle East neighbor, Bahrain, issued advisories after the fatal shooting of five police officers in Dallas on July 9.

“For your own safety … please stay away from any ongoing or planned demonstrations and protests in cities around the United States,” the UAE embassy in Washington said. “Please be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid crowded places when possible.”

Britain’s Foreign Office earlier this year issued specific advice to LGBT travelers heading to the U.S. It references laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi aimed at prohibiting transgender people from using public bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

“The U.S. is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards LGBT people differ hugely across the country,” adds the website, which also includes a link where British citizens can change the gender listed on their passports.

Despite statistics showing a minuscule chance of dying in a mass shooting, gun violence worries would-be travelers.

“They need to get rid of their guns,” said Tina Müller, 54, of Berlin, who said she had no plans to visit the U.S. soon. “It would solve a lot of their problems. We have racism and prejudice in Europe, but we don’t have mass shootings and violence on that level.”

Despite the travel advisories, “the United States remains a first-rate tourist destination,” said Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department. “We value the enormous economic benefit that foreign tourists bring to the United States each year.”

How the Government Is Waging Crypto War 2.0

August 10, 2016

by Daniel Oberhaus


On December 2, 2015, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik entered the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California and opened fire on the attendees of a holiday party underway inside. After four minutes of shooting, the married couple fled the scene and left 19 dead in their wake. At the time, it was the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States since 9/11.

Farook and Malik were both killed in a shootout with authorities later that day, and in the weeks that followed the tragedy, it became apparent that this act of terrorism was an inciting incident in the renewal of another war which began over 20 years ago. This war, however, is only tangentially related to religiously motivated terrorism. Rather, its frontline combatants are programmers and hackers, the battlefield is cyberspace and the munitions are lines of code.

It is Crypto War 2.0, and its outcome will affect every internet user on Earth, for better or worse.


What you are about to see was considered to be a highly dangerous and easily accessible weapon in the early 1990s. It was classed as a munition by the US government, and its traffic across borders was regulated in the same manner as hand grenades and tanks.

It may not look like much, but putting these three lines of code on the internet without a permit technically made you an illicit arms dealer under the International Traffic of Arms Regulations (but in a bizarre twist, putting it on a t-shirt or in a book was totally chill). The script is an RSA signature coded in the PERL programming language and was used early on in the development of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), a method of digitally encrypting messages.

Although the first crypto war is rooted in export regulations established at the height of the Cold War with the development of the Data Encryption Standard for use by commercial and military entities, the effects of these crypto regulations didn’t become apparent until 1991. This was the year that the software engineer Phil Zimmerman wrote his PGP program and began disseminating it on the internet, making public key encryption widely available for the first time.

As the US News reported in 1995, the feds came after Zimmerman for violating regulations relating to export of munitions because his software had been exported out of the country on the internet. The first crypto war had begun.

“The government’s fear was that if we didn’t regulate this [RSA implementation], it would allow the bad guys to have perfect security,” said Nate Cardozo, a senior attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, during a presentation at DEF CON last weekend.

Around the same time that the feds were trying to prosecute Zimmerman, two other major battles of the first crypto war were being fought.

The first was being waged by Netscape Communications, the company responsible for the first widely used web browser, Netscape Navigator. The company was working on developing its SSL encryption protocol to ensure security on its networks, which would eventually lead to the HTTPS web encryption standard used today. But Netscape had a problem: It was in the business of supplying access to the global internet, but the United States’ ITAR regulations meant that it couldn’t export its full, 128-bit SSL encryption protocol outside the US and Canada. So they created a significantly less secure 40-bit encryption protocol that was legal to provide to non-US citizens.

“The government is not stupid. They know there is no way of keeping strong crypto out of the hands of people who are determined to get it.”

Yet as Cardozo pointed out, Netscape’s dual standard did little beside highlight the absurdity of the US government’s attempt to regulate encryption. In 1995 there was no way to block Netscape users based on the geographical location of their IP address, which meant that when you logged on to Netscape Navigator, you were presented with a choice between the US/Canada 128-bit SSL version of Netscape or the International 40-bit version. The choice was made by clicking a radio button for either version.

There was no way to verify whether or not you were actually in the US when you selected the 128-bit protocol—it was just as accessible to someone in the Kremlin as it was to someone in Kansas. In other words, Netscape was in the business of exporting munitions around the globe.

The same year as the US News report on Zimmerman’s trial, a 24-year-old Daniel Bernstein contacted the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He wanted to sue the US Department of State for a right to write about his cryptographic algorithm, Snuffle. In April of 1996, the case was settled in favor of Bernstein, who is now a computer scientist at Eindhoven University of Technology, in a landmark ruling that classed code as a form of speech, which meant it was subject to First Amendment protections. That same year, President Bill Clinton signed executive order 13026 which removed encryption as a munition regulated by ITAR, and feds dropped their investigation of Zimmerman.

The crypto wars appeared to be over, with encryption and its infosec champions emerging as the victors. But the celebrations would be short lived.


Fast forward 20 years from the Bernstein ruling to the aftermath of the San Bernardino attacks. In the weeks that followed the shooting, federal investigators were faced with a problem: the iPhone 5C used by Farook was encrypted and the investigators were unable to access the data stored on the phone. This prompted FBI officials to contact Apple with requests to help them unlock the phone by creating a version of iOS with a backdoor that would allow the government access to the data on the phone. Apple denied their requests on the grounds that it would never compromise the security of its projects and so the FBI applied for a court order which would force Apple to create the requested software.

The legal dispute was settled on March 28 when prosecutors dropped the case after the FBI managed to gain access to the phone without the tech giant’s help. While this is a small victory insofar as Apple wasn’t forced to compromise its security on this one particular phone, the truly troubling aspect of the case lies in its parallels with the events in first crypto war. As Cardozo observed during his DEF CON presentation, “now we’re back to exactly where we started—everything that was old is new again.”

The FBI’s call for technology companies to be forced to include backdoor access into their encrypted devices is highly reminiscent of the NSA’s development of the Clipper chip in 1993, which was used to encrypt phone communications while providing a backdoor for government intelligence agencies. This was justified through the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) which required telecom operators to support wiretap capabilities in their products.

Even though a number of security researchers came together to demonstrate the profound insecurities in Clipper chips (much the same as security researchers have done for the FBI’s current demands for a backdoor), Cardozo still thinks there is a “decent possibility” that we might see an internet equivalent to CALEA emerge in the coming months.

This past year has seen full-disk encryption come standard on iOS 8 and Android M phones, as well as end-to-end encryption implemented on the two most popular messaging apps in the world, WhatsApp and iMessenger.

Cardozo thinks the three letter agencies (CIA, FBI and NSA) are going to try to get rid of these features as defaults on the product, rather than trying to outlaw encryption outright like they did in the 1990s. Indeed, nearly identical lawsuits in California and New York earlier this year have already tried to make this happen.

“The government is not stupid,” said Cardozo. “They know there is no way of keeping strong crypto out of the hands of people who are determined to get it. But there is a way to keep strong crypto out of the hands of everyone who just walks into the store to buy an iPhone. They know they’re not going to get terrorists, organized crime or pedophiles. They’re going to get normal Americans.”

Another tactic is simply to put pressure on companies in an extralegal fashion—Cardozo said he has worked with companies who have received visits from the FBI during which the agents asked them to start providing backdoor capabilities. When the companies refuse, the agents would tell the company they were going to have “blood on their hands” and show them photos of terrorists using their products.

Even with the new wave of encryption ready software and hardware, as well as the not-so-bad resolution of the Apple-FBI dispute, the future of encryption in the US looks increasingly precarious. In October, the Obama administration said it will not—“for now”—require companies to decrypt messages for law enforcement.

Yet the following month, a memo from the National Security Council, and leaked to Bloomberg, outlined the administration’s plans to seriously focus on developing encryption workarounds (something which Snowden revealed the NSA had already been doing for years with its Project Bullrun). Then in March, the government made moves on WhatsApp for circumventing wiretap orders and since then the proceedings have been shrouded in secrecy.

Nevertheless, the US is still doing a lot better than many other countries simply because it hasn’t totally outlawed any forms of encryption yet, as is the case with Australia, China, India, and soon the UK, if the House of Lords passes the Investigatory Powers Bill (which is looking increasingly likely).

Despite the dire state of the second Crypto War, Cardozo remained optimistic that encryption will win out against its federal adversaries in the end.

“It’s not going to work any better this time than it did the last,” he said. “Information doesn’t give a crap about your orders. These [technologies] aren’t centrifuges, missiles or nerve gas. You can’t stop code at the border. We live in a world of strong cryptography and there’s nothing the United States government or any other government can possibly do to change that fact.

Air Force relationships with Turkey a concern in wake of coup attempt

August 11, 2016

by Orlana Pawlyk

Air Force Times

The U.S. Air Force will continue to fly missions out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, despite ongoing turmoil following a failed coup there last month, Air Force officials said Wednesday.

U.S. military leaders hope to restore or create new relationships with their Turkish counterparts, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters at a State of the Air Force briefing with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

“Of course, it’s concerning because with so many members of the [Turkish] leadership gone, it’s going to take them time to grow new leaders and replace, so it remains to be seen what happens next,” James said.

“They obviously are our ally. We stand with them, they’re an effective air force, and Incirlik is an important location for our joint fight,” she said, referencing the ongoing air war against the Islamic State, in which Incirlik plays a strategic role. The U.S. has manned and unmanned aircraft at Incirlik, which is about 100 miles from the border with Syria.

Turkey closed the airspace at Incirlik and cut power to to the base in July when a faction within the Turkish armed forces attempted to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey re-opened the airspace and turned the lights back on about a week later.

The relationship between Turkey and the U.S. has frayed in the aftermath of the attempted takeover. Turkey’s government says Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally now living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, masterminded the attempted coup and has demanded his extradition. Washington has asked for evidence of the cleric’s involvement.

Erdogan also accused Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, of “siding with coup plotters,” a charge Votel denied.

“We certainly condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the attempted coup,” James said. “We’re beyond that now. Many thousands of people have been arrested and we, of course, defer to the government of Turkey as to who needs to be arrested, who needs to be punished for this action. Incirlik is a key location, Turkey overall is a very important ally.”

There is another reason that Incirlik is so crucial.

Reports suggest the air base houses roughly 50 B61 hydrogen bombs, said Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. The missile-borne tactical weapons are capable of destroying battlefield formation units at a much faster rate of speed than conventional weapons.

“They work just fine,” Kristensen told Air Force Times on July 21. “But the overall weapon needs an overhaul from time to time. That cycle is coming up. The versions in Europe were produced in the 1980s,” he said in an email.

“The first B61-12 will come off the production line in 2020 and probably go to Europe a couple of years later.”

Out of 200 B61s in use by the United States, 25 percent remain in Turkey, where they first appeared during the Cold War era as a means to deter Russia.

“Geostrategically and geopolitically, [Incirlik is] an extremely important base and location, and not just now — that goes all the way back to the Cold War … and being a long-term NATO ally,” retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Ralph Jodice, former commander of NATO Allied Air Command in Izmir, Turkey, told Air Force Times last month.

A strong military-to-military relationship allows the U.S. not only to conduct airstrikes against ISIS, and Incirlik remains “a key hub for airlift operations,” Jodice said.

On the cusp of the Mediterranean Sea and roughly 850 miles away from Russia, Incirlik’s location is vital as a deterrent to the former Soviet Union and its ambitions in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.



















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