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TBR News August 17, 2016

Aug 17 2016


The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. August 17, 2016: “As we have mentioned previously, a number of government agencies are personally enriching their membership by seizing money from people under the pretext that is it “terrorist” money or from legal pot growing. The CIA makes huge money from shipping raw opium from Afghanistan to Columbia for processing into heroin so why shouldn’t other agencies enrich themselves? Eventually, sooner if not later, the general public will become fed up with giggling police shooting three year old black kids who point pacifiers at them in a menacing and life-threatening manner and will overreact. And then the thieves will punish them by shooting down more of them in peaceful assemblages.”

California Assembly Passes Bill to Curb “Policing for Profit” via Asset Forfeiture; Close Federal Loophole

August 15, 2016

The Tenth Amendment Center

SACRAMENTO, Ca. (Aug. 15, 2016) – Today, the California Assembly voted 66-8 to pass a bill that not only bolsters restrictions on state officials from seizing property without due process, but throws a wrench into federal efforts to do the same.

Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) introduced Senate Bill 443 (SB443) last year. The legislation sets additional restrictions on the state to prevent abuses from civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that observers such as the Institute for Justice (IJ) have called “legal plunder.”

SB443 passed in the state Senate last summer by a resounding 38-1 vote. But the Assembly failed to pass the bill. It failed 44-24. Assemblyperson Chris Holden made a motion to reconsider that passed. SB443 was then placed in the inactive file and finally brought up for a vote in the full Assembly today.


California previously had some of the strongest state-level restrictions on the practice, but law enforcement around the state would often bypass the restrictions by partnering with a federal asset forfeiture program known as “equitable sharing.”

Under these arrangements, state officials hand over forfeiture prosecutions to the federal government and then receive up to 80 percent of the proceeds—even when state law bans or limits the profit incentive. Equitable sharing payments to states nearly doubled from 2000 to 2008, from a little more than $200 million to $400 million.

SB443 contains provisions to prevent prosecutors from bypassing the more stringent state asset forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the federal government under its Equitable Sharing forfeiture program. The following language shuts the loophole in most situations:

State or local law enforcement authorities shall not refer or otherwise transfer property seized under state law to a federal agency seeking the adoption by the federal agency of the seized property.

SB443 makes it clear that state and local law enforcement agencies won’t receive federal equitable sharing money related to the seizure of assets unless it is expressely permitted under state law or if the seizure is over $40,000:

A state or local law enforcement agency participating in a joint investigation with a federal agency shall not receive an equitable share from the federal agency of all or a portion of the forfeited property…unless a defendant is convicted in an underlying or related criminal action of an offense for which the property is subject to forfeiture…

Boats, vehicles, and homes will still require a conviction regardless of value.

These provisions make this bill a substantial step forward because this lucrative practice is encouraged and promoted by the federal government in many ways.

Mitchell said the compromise was necessary to move the bill. Police were concerned that a blanket requirement for a criminal conviction for seizure of high cash amounts would hinder their ability to go after large criminal syndicates. With the changes, law enforcement lobbies dropped their opposition to the measure. Mitchell told the LA Times the bill still protects the average person.

“It’s those private citizens who could not be convicted of a crime whose assets that we need to protect,” he said.

As an additional protection, under the law notices would be required giving specific instructions to forfeiture victims about their right to receive a fair hearing to reclaim their lost property. It would also change the burden of proof that a state or local law enforcement agency must meet to succeed in a forfeiture action with regards to cash or negotiable instruments of a value not less than $40,000, from a clear and convincing standard to beyond a reasonable doubt.


California prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have regularly utilized this loophole to get around strict state-level restrictions on forfeiture. According to a report by the Institute for Justice, Policing for Profit, California ranked dead last of all states in the country between 2000 and 2013 as the worst offender.

The U.S. DOJ paid local and state agencies in California more than $696 million in equitable-sharing proceeds.

As the Tenth Amendment Center previously reported the federal government has inserted itself into the California’s asset forfeiture debate. The feds clearly want the policy to continue.


We can only guess. But perhaps the feds recognize paying state and local police agencies directly in cash for handling their enforcement would reveal their weakness. After all, the federal government would find it nearly impossible to prosecute its unconstitutional “War on Drugs” without state and local assistance. Asset forfeiture “equitable sharing” provides a pipeline the feds use to incentivize state and local police to serve as de facto arms of the federal government by funneling billions of dollars into their budgets.

Asset forfeiture laws incentivize “policing for profit” on one hand, and dubious state-federal partnerships on the other.


SB443 now moves back to the Senate for a concurrence vote. If it passes there, it will go to the Governor’s desk.

America’s Criminal Injustice System

The Annals of a Private Eye

by Judith Coburn


Once upon a time, I was a journalist, covering war in Indochina, Central America, and the Middle East. I made it my job to write about the victims of war, the “civilian casualties.” To me, they were hardly “collateral damage,” that bloodless term the military persuaded journalists to adopt. To me, they were the center of war. Now, I work at home and I’m a private eye — or P.I. to you.  I work mostly on homicide cases for defense lawyers on the mean streets of Oakland, California, one of America’s murder capitals.

Some days, Oakland feels like Saigon, Tegucigalpa, or Gaza. There’s the deception of daily life and the silent routine of dread punctured by out-of-the blue mayhem. Oakland’s poor neighborhoods are a war zone whose violence can even explode onto streets made rich overnight by the tech boom. Any quiet day, you can drive down San Pablo Avenue past St. Columba Catholic Church, where a thicket of white crosses, one for every Oaklander killed by gun violence, year by year, fills its front yard.

Whenever I tell people I’m a private eye, they ask: Do you get innocent people off death row? Or: Can you follow my ex around? Or: What kind of gun do you carry?

I always disappoint them. Yes, I do defend people against the death penalty, but so far all my defendants have probably been guilty — of something. (Often, I can only guess what.) While keeping them off death row may absolve me of being an accessory after the fact to murder, it also regularly condemns my defendants to life in prison until they die there.

And I find spying on people their ex-spouses fantasize about killing much sleazier than actual murder. Finally, I’m a good shot, but I don’t carry a gun because that’s the best way to get shot.

I work on the low-profile cases: poor people charged with murder, burglary, or robbery, who don’t have the money for a lawyer or their own P.I. (I’m paid, if you can call it that, by the state.)

Then people invariably want to know: How can you help defend a murderer? The law school answer is: the constitution guarantees everyone a fair trial.

For me, however, if it’s a death penalty case, it’s simple: I’m against the death penalty no matter what the accused did (or didn’t do). But in this age of stop and frisk, racial profiling, mandatory sentencing, the death penalty, and life without parole, not to mention execution-by-cop, the real answer is: I can’t. Defend anybody, that is. Not really.

I’m just a tiny cog in America’s vast Criminal Injustice System. One of the lawyers I work for sometimes calls himself “just a potted plant.” My defendants may be guilty — but seldom of what they are charged with. They are rarely convicted of what they actually did and are never sentenced fairly.

“He Snapped”

One day recently, I was getting ready to hit the Oakland streets in search of a witness to a murder when I found in my email Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent in the Supreme Court Case of Utah v. Strieff.  It had been forwarded to me by a psychologist with whom I once worked on a death penalty case.

Anyone lulled into thinking the new coalition of liberals and conservatives who hope to reform the criminal justice system will actually get somewhere should read Strieff. The facts are the following: a Salt Lake City cop was watching a home rumored to house methamphetamine dealers. When Edward Joseph Strieff left the house, the cop stopped him, questioned him, and checked his record. When the cop found a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket, he searched Strieff, found meth in his pockets, and arrested him for possession of drugs.  In Strieff and other cases leading up to it, the Supreme Court has now decreed that evidence gathered in an illegal search isn’t “the fruit of the poisoned tree” as Justice Felix Frankfurter put it in 1939, and so no longer must be suppressed. Even though gathered illegally, evidence can be used at trial against a defendant.

In short, stop-and-frisk policing and racial profiling, key targets of the new civil rights movement, just got a stamp of approval from the highest court in the land.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan also dissented. But it was Sotomayor who sounded the alarm in an opinion evoking nothing less than James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time and adding quotations from W.E.B. Du Bois, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Michelle Alexander for good measure.

She wrote:

“The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: this case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic war­rants — even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arrest­ing you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent.”

And she concluded:

“This case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be catalogued.

“We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are ‘isolated.’ They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.”

Sotomayor’s dissent describes daily existence for my defendants. Too poor to buy car insurance, fix broken tail lights, pay parking tickets, or get green cards, they are always on high alert for the police. (Alice Goffman’s brilliant study, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, describes just how it works in one of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods). My defendants have been sentenced to life in a war zone even before they find themselves charged in court. They have been sentenced to a life without parole or sometimes to death, caught as they are in a crossfire between cops and warring neighborhood gangstas.

A warrant for, say, unpaid parking tickets discovered in a Strieff-approved stop gets you a search of yourself and your car by police and maybe a bust for weed, the intoxicant of choice for many of the poor. If you object or run or the arresting officer is having a bad day, it may get you dead. (Refusing to pay protection money to your neighborhood punks or standing on the wrong corner at the wrong time may do the same.)

Once you’re arrested, if you say you want a lawyer, you get a public defender with so many cases she or he may not even be able to meet you or read the complaint against you before you appear in court. You may serve weeks or months in jail, even if you’re innocent, before your case is heard, and years before you are tried.

A district attorney (DA) has a whole police department to use to investigate a crime (although the Oakland Police Department, which I’m often up against, solves only 27% of its murder cases, and so is not exactly the most formidable of foes). A recent investigation by the East Bay Express reveals that many Oakland cops are too busy hooking up with underage prostitutes on Facebook and screwing them in police cars to solve murders. But if a DA needs to find a witness, the OPD’s army of street cops can often locate him through their CIs (confidential informants), or they can pull him in on a warrant for those unpaid parking tickets, threaten a drug bust or revocation of his parole or probation, or hold him as a material witness if he resists cooperating.

At best, a defendant gets just me — and most of the accused don’t get an investigator at all. The landmark 1963 Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright may have given poor defendants the right to an attorney, but there is no legal right to an investigator (except in death penalty cases). And unlike a DA, no one has to talk to me or face trouble with the law. I have no muscle. But I have been known to find a witness who doesn’t want to be found and nag him or her into submission.

In the last 10 years, in cases mostly in Northern California, among scores of people I’ve helped defend, only three have been white — and they were as destitute as the poor blacks and Latinos who jam American jails and prisons.

Defense teams I’ve been on start off by guessing if and why the accused might have done what he’s charged with. It’s human nature to do so. But if the accused is pleading not guilty, it’s better not to know.

“I don’t know what happened, I wasn’t there,” one death penalty lawyer I work with regularly says to shut off such speculation. As for the why, the shrinks often can’t help, even if you call on them to testify. Decades of research into the criminal mind often comes down to: “he snapped.” That’s not a good line for a jury, but it’s the kicker to many a defense meeting.

“It Ain’t Just, But That’s How They Do”

In a real trial, the truth of what actually happened doesn’t matter anyway. Only the truth of the evidence counts.

Are poverty, racism, and a desperate childhood a defense? Prosecutors love to face this argument. They get on their high horses and trot out the American dream and all the poor people who suck up their rage and despair and don’t murder someone.

All the folks who don’t snap.

But in California, what might have caused someone to snap isn’t admissible at trial anyway, except in death penalty cases. A “diminished capacity” defense was abolished in 1981 after ex-San Francisco Supervisor Dan White used one to beat a murder rap for killing Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The jury bought his lawyer’s argument — which came to be known as the “Twinkie defense” — that White was addled by junk food when he killed the two of them. It ignored evidence that White intended and planned the murder, taking his gun to City Hall, climbing through a window to avoid metal detectors, and reloading it after first shooting Moscone.

These days, only in the penalty phase of a death penalty case — when the jury decides whether the defendant they’ve just found guilty will face capital punishment or life in prison without parole — can defense lawyers present evidence of the tragic facts of the defendant’s life. The jury may then hear of his years in foster care, his Mom the crack addict, his Dad absent in prison, and the older brother who initiated him into street life. Only then will the jury be asked to see the accused as a person with a life beyond the crime with which he is charged. The defense will finally replace a prosecutor’s blown-up mug shot of the defendant and Facebook screen shots of him showing off a gun with family photos of him at his sixth birthday party decked out in a silly hat and others of his toddler and baby mama.

Most jurors don’t much like this defense.  They assume it’s just an excuse.  But it’s not.  It’s an explanation.

Take Larry. He’s an OG (original gangsta, or old guy), a 50-year-old African-American man who grew up in dire poverty in Deep East, Oakland’s most murderous neighborhood. Larry has symptoms of schizophrenia but has never been able to get real mental health care. He’s been living, on and off, with his mother who is also schizophrenic in Acorn (“The ‘Corn”), one of the toughest housing projects in West Oakland. His mother is too afraid of its gangbangers to leave her apartment. Larry recently told a counselor at a walk-in clinic for the poor that he thought he had PTSD from all the shooting and killing he’s witnessed.

Like many poor Oaklanders, he makes his meager living in the underground economy, dealing small amounts of weed to regular customers who phone him on his cell. While cell phones have made it possible to sell drugs without the turf battles of the past, The ‘Corn is ruled by a gang of young punks called The Acorn Mob and their rivals, The Gashouse Team. The Mob doesn’t just support itself moving guns or drugs. It also makes money ripping off small-time dealers like Larry, demanding protection money from neighborhood people, and robbing the elderly when they cash their social security checks.

Like many poor people living on such mean streets, Larry is always looking over his shoulder. A simple walk down the block might mean being rolled by The Mob, accosted by police, or caught in the crossfire of someone else’s feud.

In early 2012, Larry’s life dropped off a cliff. His brother died of cancer; his daughter died in a freak case of emergency room malpractice; he witnessed a friend gunned down in a gang battle; and he was robbed at gunpoint on a street near The ‘Corn. Meanwhile, the Acorn Mob was stepping up pressure on OGs like Larry to pay them protection money.

As Larry tells it, one morning that August, two of the most vicious Mob gangbangers dogged him on the streets around The ‘Corn, demanding to know when he’d take up a collection from his OG buddies to pay them off. He took shelter along with his crew in a friend’s apartment in one of the project’s towers. When he told his friends about the latest threats, the group debated what to do, damping their fears by smoking weed and drinking mai tais.

Later, near dark, Larry and his friend Arthur wandered over to the local liquor store to buy the cigarillos they filled with weed to make blunts.  On the way, the same two Acorn Mob punks who had accosted them earlier that day threatened to kill Larry if he didn’t come up with some money fast. Larry and Arthur sought refuge in the store, but one of the young thugs followed them inside. The other waited outside the door.

Larry had had enough. He snapped. He grabbed an old handgun Arthur carried for protection and ran out of the store. He says he fired once, hoping to scare off the two of them. That started a volley of wild shots. When Arthur’s gun jammed, Larry ran back inside the liquor store. As soon as the shooting stopped, Larry and Arthur split the neighborhood. Somehow in the melee, one of the Acorn mobsters was shot and later died at the county hospital.

Larry and Arthur were arrested some months later. Larry was charged with murder and Arthur with being a felon with a gun and an accessory with knowledge of a crime. Word on the street was that the victim had been killed accidently by his own cousin, the gangsta who had followed Larry into the liquor store. Even the victim’s stepfather told me he believed that. But no witness — and there were many standing outside the liquor store during the melee, including several of Larry’s buddies — would come forward. They all had records, were doing drugs, and were afraid of the police.

Six cartridges from one gun and a single cartridge from another were found in the street near the body. Neither gun was ever found. The victim had suffered a “through and through” wound, which meant there were no bullet fragments to match to a particular gun anyway.

California’s self-defense and provocation laws — unlike Florida’s “stand your ground law,” which figured in George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin — are very strict. Larry’s lawyer worried that a judge would rule self-defense couldn’t be justified because Larry had fired the first shot (even if it was, as he claimed, in the air). His possible PTSD, the recent dire tragedies in his personal life, the pressures of Oakland’s mean streets, the fact that his mind was addled by weed and mai tais — all would be irrelevant in a California trial.

So Larry didn’t have the luxury of a Twinkie defense. He feared a jury. No poor person gets a jury of his or her peers. Few poor people are called for jury duty because the lists of potential jurors are made up from voter and drivers’ license records; few poor people living the fugitive life vote and many don’t have a driver’s license. Coming to court might mean being stopped and frisked by the police. (I’ve had a defense witness arrested on a warrant while waiting to testify outside court and others who have been followed home by the police after they showed up to support a family member on trial.) No prosecutor would permit anyone on a jury who’s led the kind of life Larry has — someone with a drug record (even if 20 years old), or who understood life and death in Oakland’s war zones firsthand.

Larry feared mandatory sentencing, which severely restricts a judge’s ability to vary a sentence by taking into consideration mitigating facts in a particular person’s life like Larry’s clean record for the last 20 years, his possible PTSD, or the daily grind of violence in The ‘Corn. That meant he was facing 25 years to life if convicted of murder. For defending himself. For firing one shot when it wasn’t even clear who had killed the victim.

Larry took a plea to a killing he may not have done. Voluntary manslaughter with a mandatory sentence of 12 years in prison.

The Acorn Mob youngster who threatened Larry in the liquor store that August night and probably fired the fatal round was soon arrested for many armed robberies and sent to prison for 15 years.

I saw Larry right before he left the county jail for prison. I apologized for not being able to defend him. He thanked me for trying and added, “It ain’t just, but that’s how they do.”

Christ the Essene

by Harry von Johnston. PhD


The Essenes

After his move to Judea, Jesus became an Essene, and Christianity as we know today evolved directly from this sect of Judaism, with which it shared a majority of ideas and symbols

The Essenes were a religious sect of Judaism that existed from the 2nd century BCE to the the 1st Century CE, in Qumran, a plateau in the Judean desert along the Dead Sea.

The origin of the name Essene is debated. Some credible possibilities are either a version of the Greek word for “holy,” or an Aramaic dialect term for “pious.” In their writings, they refer to themselves as the “Sons of Light”.

The Essenes are discussed in detail by Josephus and Philo. Scholars very clearly believe that the community at Qumran, that produced the Dead Sea scrolls, were Essenes, that Jesus was an Essene, and Christianity as we know it today evolved from this sect of Judaism.

The Essenes were, in any case, an agricultural community that had a communistic approach to their life style. There was a common purse and shared wealth and much, if not most, of the first expressed Christian dogma came directly from the Essenes.

Unfortunately for religious acceptance reasons, like the Spartans and Zulus who were essentially a military community cult, the agricultural Essenes were male-oriented and firmly homosexual in nature.

The Essenes were finally outlawed by the Romans following their participation in on-going revolts, and many members were subsequently crucified in a general crackdown under Titus, not because of their sexual practices but because of their political opposition to Roman rule.

The small remnants of the Essenes either retreated to their Dead Sea area and eventually died out or chnged their names and joined other more acceptable Jewish religious groups.

Before the discovery and publication of a number of the Dead Sea scrolls, little was popularly known about the Essenes other than from the writings of a few select contemporary authors.  These authors included; the Jewish priest and Galilean commander, Flavius Josephus, in his “Jewish Wars” written about 73-75 CE (Jewish Wars 2:119-161) and Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews” written about twenty years later. (Antiquities 18:11, 18-22); Josephus, claiming first hand knowledge, called the Essenes, the Essenoi.

The earliest mention of the Essenes is by the Jewish philosopher. Philo (20 BCE – c. 50 CE) of Alexandria Philo wrote that there were more than 4,000 Essenes (Essaioi) living in villages throughout  the Palestinian- Syrian area. Among their neighbours they were noted for their love of God and their concerns with piety, honesty, morality, philanthropy, holiness, equality, and freedom.

The deeply religious Essenes did not marry and lived a celibate life, and practiced communal residence, money, property, food and clothing.

They cherished freedom, possessed no slaves, and rejected the use of weapons or participation in commerce.

Philo did not mention any names or places, nor any background to the origins of this group.

The next reference to the Essenes is by the Roman writer Pliny the Elder (died 79 CE) in his Natural History (N’H,V,XV). Pliny relates in a few lines that the Essenes did not marry, possessed no money, and had existed for “thousands of generations.”

Unlike Philo, who did not mention any particular geographical location of the Essenes other than the whole land of Israel, Pliny, also a geographer and explorer, , located them in the desert near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the year 1947 by Muhammed edh-Dhib and Ahmed Mohammed, two Bedouin shepherds of the Ta’amireh tribe.

At this point we find this passage, which contains the only description of local people in this section of Pliny’s work:

“From [or towards] the west onward,Essenes flee the banks [or shores] that harm;  a group set apart [or isolated] and in the entire world beyond all others extraordinary [or unique] — without any women, stifling every urge, without money [or possessions], consort of palms.”

The nature of the organization clearly indicates that it was an outspoken communism. They lived in common dwellings, 4000 strong in the time of Josephus, in various villages and rural cities of Judea.

“They live there together,” Philo says of them, “organized by corporations and clubs for friendship and dining (kata thasous, hetairias kai syssitia poioumenoi), and regularly occupied in labors for the community.

“None of them desires to have property of his own, neither a house nor a slave nor a piece of land nor herds nor whatever else constitutes wealth. But they put everything together indiscriminately, and all of them use it in common.

“The money they earn by their labor in various ways they hand over to an elected administrator. Out of it he buys what is needed, and gives them ample food and whatever else is needed for life.”

It might be inferred from this that each man produced for himself or worked for wages.

Somewhat later, Josephus gave a detailed account of the Essenes in The Jewish War (75 CE) with a shorter description in Antiquities of the Jews (94 CE) and The Life of Flavius Josephus (97 CE). Claiming first hand knowledge, he lists the Essenoi as one of the three sects of Jewish philosophy to include the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

He relates the same information Philo did on the Essenes concerning piety, celibacy, the absence of personal property and of money, the belief in communality, alienation from associating with women, and commitment to a strict observance of the Sabbath.     According to Josephus, they had customs and observances such as collective ownership, the sharing of a common purse, the electing of a leader to attend to the interests of them all whose orders they obeyed, were forbidden from swearing oaths and sacrificing animals controlled their temper and served as channels of peace, carried weapons only as protection against robbers, had no slaves but served each other and, as a result of communal ownership, did not engage in trading. He further adds that the Essenes ritually immersed in water every morning, ate together after prayer, devoted themselves to charity and benevolence, forbade the expression of anger, studied the books of the elders, preserved secrets, and were an all-male society, enjoying their own company in preference to that of women.

Also, there was the observation that the Essenes were an all-male cult, using women to produce male children. Women who produced female children were expelled from the Essene community along with their female child. Like the Spartans, and to a lesser degree, the Greeks, women were used exclusively for breeding purposes.

Both Josephus and Philo have lengthy accounts of their communal meetings, meals and religious celebrations.

Their theology included belief in the immortality of the soul and that they would receive their souls back after death. Part of their activities included purification by water rituals, which was supported by rainwater catchment and storage.

Josephus describes their life as follows:

“After this [the morning prayer] they are dismissed by their chiefs and each goes to the work he has learned, and when they have diligently labored until the fifth hour [counting from sunrise, about eleven o’clock] they come together at a stated place, gird themselves with white cloths and wash their bodies in cold water. After this purification they go into the refectory, into which no one has entry who is not a member of their sect. When they have sat down in silence, the baker puts bread before each man and the cook sets a dish before each with one kind of food. Then a priest blesses the food; and it is not permitted to taste anything before prayer. At the end of the midday meal they give thanks again, and thus before and after eating they praise God, the giver of all food. Then they put off their mantles like sacred clothing and go to work again until evening. Supper is taken in the same way as dinner, and when guests come [members of the order from elsewhere, since strangers were not allowed in the refectory.], they too sit at table with them. Neither outcries nor disorder sully the house, and when they converse, one speaks after the other, not all at once, so that people who are not of their order feel the quiet in the house as mysteriously impressive. The cause of their quiet life is their constant moderation, for they eat and drink no more than is required for maintaining their life.

“In general they do no work except on the instructions of their chiefs, with the exception that they may be free in showing sympathy and helpfulness. Whenever an emergency requires it, any one of them may assist those who need and deserve help, or bring food to the poor. But they may not contribute anything to their friends or relatives without the consent of their chief.”

Their communism was carried to an extreme. It extended to their clothing. Philo says:

“Not only food, but clothing as well is in common with them. For there are heavy cloaks prepared for the winter, and light outer garments for summer, so that every man may make use of them as he will. For what one has counts as the property of all, and what all of them have counts as everyman’s.”

They rejected slavery. Farming was their chief occupation, but they also engaged in crafts. Only the manufacture of luxury articles and weapons of war was forbidden, along with trade.

The basis of their whole communistic system was community of consumption, not social production. There is some talk of the latter too, but it is only a question of work that brings in money for individuals either for wages or for goods sold, in either case the work is done outside the social organization.

All the members of the order however have their lodging and meals in common. That is what held them together, above all. It was the communism of common housekeeping. This requires giving up separate housekeeping, separate families and separate marriages.

From the Essenes down through all the early Christian communistic-type sects we can see that all of them are very firmly against marriage.

The Essenes, iin fact, rejected all social contact with women.

Josephus says this in the eighth chapter of the second book of his history of the Jewish War, from which these quotations on the Essenes have been taken. But in the eighteenth book of his Jewish Antiquities, chapter one, he says on the same question :

“They do not take wives and hold no slaves. They hold that the latter is unjust, and the first would give rise to disputes.”

“They reject marriage, but adopt strange children while they are still young and teachable, consider them as their own children and instruct them in their ways and customs. It is not that they would do away with or forbid marriage or the reproduction of the species. But they say that the unchastity of women must be guarded against, since none of them is satisfied with one man alone.”

In both places it is only practical considerations, not asceticism, that is the basis of opposition to marriage. Josephus knew the Essenes from his own observations. He had been successively with the Sadducees. Essenes and Pharisees until he stayed finally with the latter.

Thus Josephus is in an excellent position to tell us the basis of the Essenes’ hostility to marriage with women.

Not all the Essenes took the first way. Josephus reports in the previously cited eighth chapter of the second book on the Jewish War:

“There is still another sort of Essenes, who are in thorough accord with the previous ones in their way of living, their manners and rules, but differ from them in the matter of marriage. For they say, that those who refrain from marital relations would deprive life of its most important function (meros), reproduction would constantly decrease and the human race would soon die out, if everyone thought as they did. These people have the custom of trying (dokimazontes) wives for three years. If they have shown after three purifications that they are fit to bear children, they marry them. As soon as one is pregnant, her husband no longer sleeps with her. That is to show that they enter into marriage not for the sake of sensual pleasure, but only for the sake of producing children.”

The passage is not quite clear; but it says at least that these marriages of the Essenes were very different from the customary ones. The “trying” of wives does not seem conceivable except on the presumption of a sort of community of wives kept solely for breeding purposes.

Josephus uses the name Essenes in his two main accounts[as well as in some other contexts (“an account of the Essenes”; “the gate of the Essenes”; “Judas of the Essene race”  but some manuscripts read here Essaion; “holding the Essenes in honour”;”a certain Essene named Manaemus”; “to hold all Essenes in honour”; “the Essenes”;. In several places, however, Josephus has Essaios, which is usually assumed to mean Essene (“Judas of the Essaios race”; “Simon of the Essaios race”;”John the Essaios”; “those who are called by us Essaioi”; “Simon a man of the Essaios race”).

Philo’s usage is Essaioi, although he admits this Greek form of the original name that according to his etymology signifies “holiness” to be inexact. Pliny’s Latin text has Esseni. Josephus identified the Essenes as one of the three major Jewish sects of that period.

It was proposed, before the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, that the name came into several Greek spellings from a Hebrew self-designation later found in some Dead Sea scrolls, ‘osey hatorah, “observers of torah.” Though dozens of etymology suggestions have been published, this is the only etymology published before 1947 that was confirmed by Qumran text self-designation references, and it is gaining acceptance among scholars. It’s recognized as the etymology of the form Ossaioi (and note that Philo also offered an O spelling) and Essaioi and Esseni spelling variations have been discussed by VanderKam, Goranson and others. In medieval Hebrew (e.g. Sefer Yosippon) Hassidim (“the pious ones”) replaces “Essenes”. While this Hebrew name is not the etymology of Essaioi/Esseni, the Aramaic equivalent Hesi’im known from Eastern Aramaic texts has been suggested

If one identifies the community at Qumran with the Essenes (and that the community at Qumran are the authors of the Dead Sea scrolls), then according to the Dead Sea scrolls, the Essenes’ community school was called “Yahad” (meaning “unity”) in order to differentiate themselves from the rest of the Jews who are repeatedly labeled “The Breakers of the Covenant

The Essenes were the followers of a group of priests who had essentially rejected the Second Temple. They argued that the Essene community was itself the new Temple, although they did not reject the notion of the Temple outright. Eventually, they believed, they would be triumphant, gaining control of the Temple and remaking it according to their own ideals.

Accordingly, the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE was for them a symbol of imminent victory. With this Roman victory over the rebellious Jews came the end of the Sadducees and the end of the house of Shammai.

The Essenes also believed strongly in the end-times and wrote an entire scroll on that subject. The “Rule of War” detailed the battle plans for the “final” battle. When the Romans overran Jerusalem in 68-70 CE they believed that it was time for them to fight the last battle.

They had been ready and prepared for it and therefore threw their entire beings and everything they had into it. They may have thought they were strong, but they were not strong enough to withstand the Romans. They, and other Jewish groups, were mercilessly and almost totally annihilated.

The last few remaining Essenes in Judea were no longer able to maintain their identity, and some merged with the Hillelite Pharisees, out of which was born the tradition of Rabbinical Judaism.

Traditional theological writings and, through them, sociatal attitudes, depict Christianity as the creation of a single man, Jesus the Christ. This view persists even today amongst traditional Christian scholars.. At present, it is acknowledged by many scholars and historians that Jesus is no longer considered a deity, but he still held to have been an extraordinary personality, who came to the fore with the intention of founding a new religion, and did so, with tremendous, if delayed, success.

The British  historian, Gibbon, in his definitive Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (written between 1774 and 1788), has clearly pointed out how striking it is that none of Jesus’ contemporary Jewish and Roman historians mentions him, although he is said, in the New Testament, to have accomplished such remarkable feats.

“But how shall we excuse the supine inattention of the Pagan and philosophic world to these evidences which were presented by the hand of Omnipotence, not to their reason, but to their senses? During the age of Christ, of his apostles, and of their first disciples, the doctrine which they preached was confirmed by innumerable prodigies. The lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, daemons were expelled, and the laws of Nature were frequently suspended for the benefit of the church. But the sages of Greece and Rome turned aside from the awful spectacle, and, pursuing the ordinary occupations of life and study, appeared unconscious of any alterations in the moral or physical government of the world.”

At Jesus’ death, according to Christian tradition, the whole earth, or at least all of Palestine, was in darkness for three hours. This took place in the days of the elder Pliny, who devoted a special chapter of his Natural History to eclipses; but of this eclipse and the darkness he says nothing. (Gibbon, Chapter 15).

The first mention of Jesus by a non-Christian is apparently found in the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus. The third chapter of book 18 deals with the procurator Pontius Pilate, and says among other things:

“About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if he can be called human, for he worked miracles and was a teacher of men, who received the truth gladly; and he found many followers among Jews and Greeks. This was the Christ. Although later Pilate sentenced him to the cross on the complaint of the nobles of our people, those who had loved him remained true to him. For he appeared again to them on the third day, risen to new life, as the prophets of God had prophesied this and thousands of other wonderful things about him. From his comes the name of the Christians, whose sect (phylon) has continued to exist ever since.”

Josephus speaks of Christ again in the 20th book, chapter 9,1, where the high priest Ananus is said in the time of the procurator Albinus to have brought it about that:

“James. The brother of Jesus, said to be the Christ (tou legomenou christou), together with some others, was brought to court, accused as a breaker of the law and delivered over to be stoned to death.”

These pieces of evidence have always been highly prized by Christians; for they come from a non-Christian, a Jew and Pharisee, born in the year 37 CE and living in Jerusalem, and so very well able to have authentic facts about Jesus. And his testimony was the more valuable in that as a Jew he had no reason to falsify on behalf of the Christians.

But it was the promotion and exaltation of Jesus on the part of a pious Jew that made the first passage highly suspect and early-on. The authenticity of these passages was disputed as early as the sixteenth century, and today it is completely agreed by almost all Biblical scholars that it is forgery and does not stem from Josephus. It was inserted in the third century by a Christian copyist, who obviously took offense at the fact that Josephus, who repeats the most trivial gossip from Palestine, says nothing at all about the person of Jesus. The dedicated Christian felt, with understandable justice, that the absence of any such mention in Josephus weighed against the existence or at least the significance of his Savior. Now the discovery of this forgery became strong testimony against Jesus.

But the passage concerning James is also in doubt. It is true that Origen (185 to 254 CE) mentions testimony by Josephus concerning James; this occurs in his commentary on Matthew. He remarks that it is surprising that nonetheless Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ. In his polemic against Celsius, Origen cites this statement of Josephus about James and again notes Josephus’ unbelief. These statements by Origen constitute one of the proofs that the striking passage about Jesus in which Josephus recognizes him as the Messiah, the Christ, could not have been in the original text of Josephus. In point of fact, original period copies of the Josephus writings do not include the passages on Jesus or James.

The passage about James that Origen found in Josephus was also an early Christian forgery. In it the destruction of Jerusalem is said to be a punishment for the execution of James; but this fabrication is not found in the other manuscripts of Josephus. The passage as it occurs in the manuscripts of Josephus that have come down to us is not cited by Origen, while he mentions the other version three times on other occasions. And yet he carefully assembled all the testimony that could be got from Josephus that had value for the Christian faith. It would seem likely that the passage of Josephus about James that has come down to us is also fraudulent, and was first inserted by a pious Christian, to the greater glory of God some time after Origen, but before Eusebius, who cites the passage.

Like the mention of Jesus and James, the reference to John the Baptist in Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, 5,2) is also highly suspect as another early Christian creation. And if John did exist, there is a body of thought that he might have been Jesus’ older brother, lover and mentor.

But even if the statement about James was genuine, it would prove at most that there was a Jesus, whom people called the Christ, that is, the Messiah. It could not prove anything more.

The next mention of Jesus by a non-Christian writer is found in the Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus, composed around the year 100 CE. In the fifteenth book the conflagration of Rome under Nero is described, and chapter 44 says:

“In order to counteract the rumor (that blamed Nero for the fire} he brought forward as the guilty ones, men hated for their crimes and called Christians by the people; and punished them with the most exquisite torments. The founder of their name, Christ, was executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; the superstition was thereby suppressed for the moment, but broke out again, not only in Judea, the land in which this evil originated, but in Rome itself, to which everything horrible or shameful streams from all sides and finds increase. First a few were taken, who made confessions; then on their indications an enormous throng, who were not accused directly of the crime of arson, but of hatred of humanity. There execution became a pastime; they were covered with the skins of wild beasts and then torn to pieces by dogs, or they were crucified, or prepared for burning and set on fire as soon as it was dark, prepared for burning and set on fire as soon as it was dark. Nero lent his gardens for this spectacle and arranged the circus games, in which he mingled among the crowd in the clothing of a charioteer or drove a chariot himself. Although these were criminals who deserved the severest punishment, sympathy arose for them as being sacrificed not so much for the general good but to satisfy the rage of an individual.”

However, its authenticity too is disputed, since Dio Cassius had known nothing of a persecution of Christians under Nero, although he lived a hundred years later than Tacitus. Suetonius, writing shortly after Tacitus, also speaks, in his biography of Nero, of a persecution of Christians, “men who had given themselves over to a new and evil superstition” (chapter 16).

But Suetonius tells us absolutely nothing at all about Jesus and Tacitus does not ever mention his name.

Christ, the Greek work for “the anointed,” is merely the Greek translation of the Hebrew work “Messiah.” As to Christ’s work and the contents of his doctrine, Tacitus says nothing.

(to be continued)

 Diary of an Ex-Neocon

Ex-Neocon: Dispatches From the Post 9/11 Ideological Wars, Scott McConnell, Algora Publishing, 264 pages

August 15, 2016

by Justin Raimondo

The American Conservative

I am an inveterate reader of ex-communist memoirs—from Benjamin Gitlow’s The Whole of Their Lives to the more well-known Witness by Whittaker Chambers—for reasons that are uncomfortably akin to voyeurism. The prospect of entering a subterranean world known only to its inhabitants, with its obscure rituals and secret handshakes, is inherently thrilling to those of us with a taste for ideological hegiras told in the first person. And so I approached Scott McConnell’s Ex-Neocon anticipating a juicy morsel indeed. After all, the neocons, unlike the communists, have left an indelible imprint on our contemporary world, as even a casual glance at the smoking ruins of the Middle East will confirm. And yet I found something quite different—and far more satisfying.

Not that there isn’t any inside gossip on the Secret Life of Neocons: we are told of a privately circulated purge letter by Irwin Stelzer, the Bronx-born economist and Weekly Standard contributing editor, who is described as “the ideological gendarme for Rupert Murdoch’s American media properties.” In 1995, offended by National Review’s failure to toe the neocon open-borders America-is-an-idea immigration policy, Stelzer announced he was canceling his subscription. The magazine, under then-editor John O’Sullivan, was engaging in “a not-very-subtle form of anti-Semitism”—because wanting to have borders that don’t resemble walls made of Swiss cheese is apparently the equivalent of promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Bill Buckley, initially refusing to be bullied, eventually succumbed to this hectoring campaign, and by the late ’90s, O’Sullivan was out, Rich Lowry was in, and the neocon Central Committee was appeased. Next on the firing line—Scott McConnell himself.

As editorial page editor of the New York Post—the neocons’ mass-circulation Pravda—McConnell was all too familiar with the the ideological nuances of that infamous sect, and the irritability of its leaders. But even he didn’t anticipate being sacked in 1997 for an editorial opposing statehood for Puerto Rico. Who knew that subsidizing a free-spending welfare state was a neocon article of faith? But his deviationism wasn’t limited to this: his unnamed boss pointed to a piece by soft-core immigration restrictionist Mark Krikorian and complained “You keep putting things in the paper like that.”

For all the neocons’ ostensible devotion to the canons of political correctness, however, it seems that in private it’s quite a different story: “It may not prove much of anything,” McConnell confides, “but a dinner with [paleoconservative-cum-white nationalist] Sam Francis (or virtually any other ‘paleocon’) is less tinged with snickers and winks about the behavior of people of color than a dinner in the New York neocon world.” Well, it does indeed prove that they’re hypocrites of the first order, but then again this comports perfectly with their Straussian esotericism.

McConnell’s wit, especially sharp when cutting up his former comrades, had me laughing out loud. Describing Fred Barnes’s Rebel in Chief, a hagiography of George W. Bush, he writes: “For readers who might wonder what it is like to be a North Korean and required to read formulaic biographies of great helmsman Kim Il Sung and his son, an afternoon spent with Rebel in Chief should provide a proximate answer.”

If the New York Post is their Pravda, then The Weekly Standard is the neocons’ Iskra, where the ideological twists and turns of the Party Line are explicated at some length, and not without some elegance, as McConnell notes. The weekly’s key role in diverting the Bush administration into Iraq after the 9/11 attacks is here laid out in all its Machiavellian sinuosity. And the distinctly Soviet air of the Kristolian style is illustrated quite nicely by McConnell’s description of the magazine’s covers, a typical one being “George W. Bush, gesticulating before an audience of troops, arm extended in a Caesarian pose. ‘The Liberator,’ the Standard headline proclaimed. Flatter the leader who will do your bidding.”

Yet there is a bit more to the literature of the courtier than appears on the surface. Flatter the king, get close enough to whisper in his ear—and then, if necessary, bury the knife deep in his back. Barnes depicts Bush as the bold leader who defied “the crabbed views of experts. And lest we forget, it is Bush alone who has done this, not his advisors. The cynical might suspect that this last is a form of neoconservative special pleading, designed to spirit the war party intellectuals away from the scene when the Bush policy goes down in flames.” Which is precisely what happened, as McConnell chronicles in detail.

The damage this political cult has done to the American polity, and to the Middle East, cannot even be calculated: how much, after all, is a human life worth? What about hundreds of thousands of lives? Yet they never seem to be finally defeated: as McConnell puts it, “if disrespecting the neoconservatives is emerging as a minor national sport, it should be enjoyed and tempered with realism.” Sure, “the last few years have been difficult for the faction,” but “they have other options.” As they stream back into the Democratic Party after being steamrollered by Donald Trump—Robert Kagan and Max Boot are shilling for Hillary, with more of their comrades soon to follow—the former Scoop Jackson Democrats have come full circle, their survival skills fully intact.

They “certainly won’t disappear in the way that American communism or segregation have,” says McConnell, and one big reason is because “Perhaps most importantly neoconservatism still commands more salaries—able people who can pursue ideological politics as fulltime work in think tanks and periodicals—than its rivals.” Which means “the reports of the movement’s demise”—and I’ve authored a few of those—“are thus very much exaggerated.”

Well, yes, that’s unfortunately true. We’ve heard of the neocons’ demise so many times that the prospect has now become somewhat hopeless: they just keep reincarnating themselves in another form. But that shouldn’t stop us from hoping against hope.

In spite of this book’s title, there is much more to it than the storied history of the neocons as seen from inside the tent. There are sections on Israel, the run up to the Iraq war, President Obama, reflections on history, Russia and NATO, racial politics, and more. McConnell is at his best when he writes in the first person: a trip through Syria and Palestine, detailed in “Divided and Conquered,” reveals a perception honed to the finest detail, and a sensitivity and compassion that invariably breaks through a reserved WASP-y persona. McConnell isn’t just an observer, with a keen eye for detail: he projects himself into these geopolitical conundrums, imbued with the sort of empathy that connects both himself and the reader to real human suffering, a quality that makes him a trenchant critic of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

That critique is laid out in a long essay, “The Special Relationship With Israel: Is It Worth the Cost?” in which the history and consequences of our protracted and expensive patronage of the Jewish state is analyzed and detailed in ways you haven’t seen or read before. McConnell likes the Israelis, supports their right to nationhood, and yet insists that we treat them as a normal country, not a pampered child who throws tantrums to get what it wants. He is measured, rational, compassionate, and, most of all, very well informed. We find out many things along the way, such as the real nature of the “good deal” that Yasser Arafat rejected, and rightly so.

At the end of a long “Open Letter to David Horowitz on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” in which the author takes apart the irascible pro-Israel fanatic’s argument that the Palestinians aren’t really a people and should just get lost, he writes; “David, I hope you know this letter is written in a spirit of friendly, even comradely, disagreement and that it comes from someone who has plenty of appreciation for everything you have done since you came out as a ‘Lefty for Reagan’ seventeen years ago, and who was an avid Ramparts reader a dozen years before that.”

For my part, he gives Horowitz far too much credit, but that’s an essential part of the author of Ex-Neocon: a gentleness that allows him to appreciate the talent and achievements of his ideological opposite numbers, even as he tears their arguments to shreds. His personality comes through in a way that is understated and yet strong. Here he is in Virginia Beach, canvassing for Obama during the 2012 election, riding around with a bunch of female volunteers, two black and one white:

It was a curiously moving experience. … I have led most of my life not caring very much whether the poor voted, and indeed have sometimes been aware my interests aligned with them not voting at all. But that has changed. And so one knocks on one door after another in tiny houses and apartments in Chesapeake and Newport News, some of them nicely kept and clearly striving to make the best of a modest lot, others as close to the developing world as one gets in America. And at moments one feels a kind of calling—and then laughs at the Alinskian presumption of it all. Yes, we are all connected.

So what was this ex-neocon, former campaign manager for Pat Buchanan’s last presidential run, and former editor of The American Conservative doing canvassing for Barack Obama? You really have to read this book to find out.

The Life and hard Times of the Bitch Goddess from Hell

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

In a life marked largely by a mixture of  political caution and cold calculation, one negative and potentially damaging entry on former Senator Clinton’s resume stands out; her clerkship in 1971 at one of America’s most radical, far-left law firms, Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein.

Hillary’s supporters always claim she did nothing but work on child support cases but this is not true. She worked very closely with the notorious Black Panthers.

One partner at the firm, Doris Walker, was a Communist Party member at the time.

Another partner, Robert Treuhaft, and his wife, Jessica Mitford, joined the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) in 1943 and remained members until 1958.

Both Treuhaft and his wife left the party in 1958, several years after being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and labeled as one of America’s most “dangerously subversive” lawyers. The Oakland, California-based firm was renowned for taking clients others rejected as too controversial, including Communists, draft resisters, and members of the African-American militant group known as the Black Panthers.

After the 1968 incidents when armed Panthers invaded the California State Legislators in Sacramento to protest strict gun laws being considered, the State Police took a very active interest in closely watching the Panthers and their activities and so it was that a police raid on a Panther-inhabited Oakland apartment house in 1971 found a number of illegal weapons and also the Rodham young lady in what was called a “compromising situation” with a black female member of the Panthers         No charges were filed at the time but the incident found its way into the files of the California State police with a snide mention of it in the column of San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen.

Ms Rodham eventually married political hopeful William J. Clinton and he in time became President of the United States and then, federal agents went to the offices of the California State Police in search of the damning report but it had been removed from the files several weeks earlier and could not be found.

No doubt it will duly surface, before the elections in November.

Russia uses Iran to strike Syria militants again, rejects U.S. censure

August 17, 2016

by Alexander Winning and Denis Pinchuk


Russia used an Iranian air base to launch air strikes in Syria for a second day running on Wednesday, rejecting U.S. suggestions its co-operation with Tehran might violate a U.N. resolution.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said that SU-34 fighter bombers flying from Iran’s Hamadan air base had struck Islamic State targets in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province, destroying two command posts and killing more than 150 militants.

Moscow first used Iran as a base from which to launch air strikes in Syria on Tuesday, deepening its involvement in the five-year-old Syrian civil war and angering the United States.

Washington called the move “unfortunate” and said on Tuesday it was looking into whether Russia’s move had violated U.N. Security Council resolution 2231, which prohibits the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday there were no grounds to suggest Russia had violated the resolution, saying it was not supplying Iran with ircraft.

“These aircraft are being used by Russia’s air force with Iran’s agreement as a part of an anti-terrorist operation at the request of Syria’s leadership,” Lavrov told a Moscow news conference, after holding talks with Murray McCully, New Zealand’s foreign minister.

Russia’s use of the Iranian air base comes amid intense fighting for the Syrian city of Aleppo, where rebels are battling Syrian government forces backed by the Russian military, and as Moscow and Washington are working towards a deal on Syria that could see them cooperate more closely.

Russia backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States believes the Syrian leader must step down and is supporting some rebel groups which are fighting to unseat him.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Report: German officials say Erdogan supports militants

Members of Germany’s government have accused Turkey’s regime of supporting militant groups in the Middle East, public media report. ARD cited a classified document sent from the Interior Ministry to the Left party.

August 16, 2016


Citing a classified document from the Interior Ministry to representatives of the Left party on Tuesday the German public broadcaster ARD reported, that members of the government consider Turkey’s regime a supporter of militant groups in the Middle East.

German officials appear to have publicly acknowledged, if in a classified document, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s weapons support for militants fighting the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, which Turkish journalists have reported in the past. “Especially since the year 2011 as a result of its incrementally Islamized internal and foreign policy, Turkey has become a central platform for action for Islamist groups in the Middle East,” the German officials said, according to ARD.

German security officials also said Erdogan had an “ideological affinity” with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, ARD reported. Suppressed under Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship, the movement went on to produce Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi.

Despite the “affinity,” Erdogan has been publicly at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood in the past though he has since also criticized current Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who overthrew Morsi in a 2013 coup. Neither the United States nor the EU considers the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization.

The German officials also said Erdogan supported Hamas, the democratically elected governing party in the Gaza Strip. Turkey’s president has said as much in the past, having told the US news host Charlie Rose, that “I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization.” Though the United States and EU do list Hamas as a prohibited group, nations such as Norway, Switzerland and Brazil do not.

“It is a resistance movement trying to protect its country under occupation,” Erdogan added in the 2011 interview, referring to the Israeli state, with which Turkey also enjoys diplomatic ties.





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