TBR News August 24, 2017

Aug 24 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., August 24 2017:”Apparently a number of the WikiLeaks releases are being carefully ignored by the media and, having read through literally thousands of them, I can agree and clearly see why this studied indifference is taking place. The public has no interest in reading through reams of paperwork and so some very important material is missed. But most of the public has learned to text message, mostly about the trivia of their worthless lives and so all is not lost. Of course it should be but that is a message for another day.”


Table of Contents

  • California Sheriffs Use Bare-Knuckle Tactics Against “Sanctuary State” Proposal
  • ‘US doesn’t want Afghanistan war to end – it’s cash cow for Pentagon, contractors’
  • Exploring the Shadows of America’s Security State
  • Fact and Fiction: An Auschwitz Retrospective
  • First tanker crosses northern sea route without ice breaker



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2017, Issue No. 60

August 24, 2017


One of the innovations in the current executive order on national security classification, issued by President Obama in 2009, was to require agencies to perform a periodic review of all classification guidance to ensure that it is current, threat-based, and otherwise appropriate.

The second such Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) has recently been completed with modest but positive results, as reported to the Information Security Oversight Office.

The Department of the Navy, for example, said that it had “achieved a reduction in the number of SCGs [security classification guides] from 936 to 421 or 55%, as a result of the FCGR.”

DARPA cancelled 29 of the 189 classification guides it reviewed. The Army eliminated 77 out of 486 guides.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “[reduced] the number of restrictive NOFORN decisions from 95 to 15” and declassified the “fact of” a specific counterterrorism network platform.

The Central Intelligence Agency “determined that the existing CIA National Security Classification Guide (NSCG) required greater detail to assist derivative classifiers in identifying and protecting information appropriately.” (More detail should lead to narrower, more precise classification judgments.)

The Defense Intelligence Agency said it will reduce the number of “original classification authorities” in the Agency who are empowered to create new secrets from 147 down to 21.

By themselves, the reported revisions to classification guidance are not likely to yield new public disclosures. In most cases, the cancelled classification guides were eliminated not because their subject matter was declassified but because they pertained to programs that were terminated or to technologies that were no longer in use.

In other words, the secrecy review was essentially performed as a housekeeping measure, to eliminate obsolete guidance and to streamline operations. It does not imply a broader transformation of classification policy.

Yet the fact remains that the cancelled guides can no longer be used to justify classification. Moreover, the review process entailed a wholesome reconsideration of the basis for current classification instructions that may have broader repercussions.

Following the first Fundamental Review in 2012, the total numbers of new secrets (“original classification decisions”) created by agencies in the last three years (2014-2016) have been the lowest ever reported by the Information Security Oversight Office.

This apparent reduction in the scale of national security secrecy is at odds with the view that government secrecy inexorably expands, that Obama-era secrecy was as extensive or even broader than that of the Bush Administration, and that agencies have no real incentives to reduce secrecy. Evidently, they do have such incentives, including the avoidance of financial and operational costs, the need to facilitate information sharing, and the obligation to comply with bureaucratic requirements (such as the FCGR) that may be imposed by senior leadership.

(It is possible that the reduction is merely apparent and not real. A retired intelligence community classification official said that the data on annual classification activity reported by agencies and compiled by ISOO is hopelessly inaccurate and does not correspond to actual classification practice at all. Consequently, he said, it cannot serve as the basis for any analytic conclusion or policy response. Maybe so. But assuming that the flimsiness of the data is roughly constant from year to year, the fact that the reported totals have declined sharply may still be meaningful.)

A detailed analysis of the 2017 Fundamental Classification Guidance Review will be provided by ISOO director Mark Bradley in the forthcoming FY 2018 Annual Report to the President.

Decreasing IC Classification Activities

Last year, then-DNI James Clapper asked Intelligence Community agency heads to use the occasion of the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review “to take a leading role in reducing targeted classification activities” and to answer several specific questions that he posed in a March 23, 2016 memo.

Last month, DNI Dan Coats provided the IC agency answers to Clapper’s questions. He reported:

*   Most IC agencies believe they can reduce the number of IC officials who have original classification authority, thereby helping to constrain future classification activity.

*   Agencies are split on the feasibility of undertaking new discretionary declassification activities. Some said they were already doing what they can, and others said current resources would not support new declassification initiatives.

*   The Confidential classification level can and probably will be eliminated from IC classification guidance, simplifying and streamlining the system. However, while some currently Confidential material would be downgraded to Unclassified, other such information will be upgraded to Secret.

*   An IC-wide classification guide may be achievable but only for certain common functions including intelligence budgeting and counterintelligence.

IG Studies on Classification Policy

The FY 2018 Intelligence Authorization Act that is pending in the Senate would require intelligence agency inspectors general to perform three studies on classification policy (section 308) including:

*  a review of classification marking practices

*  a study analyzing intelligence agency compliance with declassification procedures

*  a study on processes for identifying intelligence topics of public or historical importance that should be prioritized for declassification review.


The House Armed Services Committee took a retrospective look at US special operations forces earlier this year, thirty years after the establishment of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

“SOCOM has a lot of missions it is responsible for, and has had several new ones added to it,” said Rep. Elise M. Stefanik (R-NY) at a hearing earlier this year. “Are there any of those missions that should go away or be reassigned?”

SOCOM Commander Gen. Raymond A. Thomas was ready with the answer: “There are no missions that should go away or be reassigned.”

See Three Decades Later: A Review and Assessment of our Special Operations Forces 30 Years After the Creation of U.S. Special Operations Command, House Armed Services Committee, May 2, 2017.

Some other notable congressional hearing volumes that have recently been published include:

Crafting an Information Warfare and Counter-propaganda Strategy for the Emerging Security Environment, House Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2017

Examining the Costs of Overclassification on Transparency and Security, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, December 7, 2016


California Sheriffs Use Bare-Knuckle Tactics Against “Sanctuary State” Proposal

August 23 2017

by Lee Fang and Ali Winston

The Intercept

Earlier this year, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones invited Immigrations and Custom Enforcement chief Thomas Homan to a community forum. The event was advertised to the public as an opportunity to clear up misinformation around the immigration debate.

In private, however, Jones confided over email to Homan and other ICE officials that he wanted to use the event help to derail Senate Bill 54, legislation proposed to create so-called “sanctuary state” protections in California.

In a follow-up email confirming the forum, Jones wrote to Timothy Robbins, the Los Angeles enforcement director for ICE: “I can’t thank you and the director enough for agreeing to do this. I’m sure there are more comfortable ways to spend a Tuesday evening, but I do believe this will turn the tide of SB54.”

President Donald Trump’s assault on so-called sanctuary cities — municipalities that, to varying degrees, refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities — has included threats to cut off federal funding streams. Among these grant programs are several that give financial support to local law enforcement agencies. While it’s not clear what effect cutting these programs would have on public safety, they have become a flashpoint in the debate over local and, in the case of California, statewide efforts to create sanctuaries for immigrants who are in the country without legal authorization.

The Trump administration has a relatively small political foothold in California; Democrats control all statewide elected offices and hold a supermajority in the state legislature. Yet the California State Sheriffs’ Association has spearheaded the effort to defeat SB 54.

All but one of California’s elected county sheriffs have mounted a robust lobbying effort, deploying considerable advocacy resources along with a media campaign closely coordinated with the Trump administration. The sheriffs’ bare-knuckle advocacy efforts are detailed in emails obtained by The Intercept through California Public Records Act requests.

The current head of the CSSA, William Brown, who also serves as the sheriff of Santa Barbara County, has taken a lead role in public as the voice of opposition to SB 54.

In an attempt to assuage concerns, legislators added amendments to the bill that allowed law enforcement agencies to refer those immigrants who are in the country illegally and also convicted of serious and violent felonies to immigration officials. But Brown was unmoved: He declared during an Assembly hearing earlier this year that, despite the amendments, the legislation still “provides sanctuary for criminals.”

Behind the scenes, Brown has moved aggressively to court opposition to SB 54.

Emails show that should the bill pass, law enforcement may ally with far-right forces to place a ballot initiative to roll back the protections. In February, Brown corresponded about such an initiative with Ted Hilton, an anti-immigration activist who has claimed in the past that giving unauthorized immigrants a legal path to citizenship would make the U.S. like a “Third World country.” Draft language of the ballot initiative would give ICE wide latitude in processing any undocumented individual arrested by local police.

“This is the best political climate to move forward on this type of measure with advocacy from the Trump administration,” Hilton said. His email was forwarded to Brown by an assistant, who confirmed over email that the two would hold an in-person meeting. Hilton also claimed that he had secured assurance from Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that the campaign to push a ballot initiative forward could make use of the congressman’s voter lists.

In addition to corresponding with anti-immigration activists, Brown coordinated closely with ICE to make the case against SB 54. In April, Brown expressed frustration in an email to an ICE official, noting that the agency could have done more to assist with his campaign against sanctuary policies. He noted that he had previously requested information on the “primary charges of previous inmates who were released to ICE in 2016.”

The California sheriffs lobbying against SB 54 have centered their campaign on claims that the bill will force the release of violent criminals. That information, Brown wrote to an ICE official, could have been “very valuable, and I suspect would have reflected very beneficially on ICE, in my numerous recent meetings with legislators, advocacy groups, and the media re: SB 54 and immigration issues generally.”

Along with other sheriffs, Brown raised the issue of the loss of federal funding, a threat that the Trump administration has made to any jurisdiction with sanctuary policies. In a letter to Assemblymember Monique Limón, whom political observers see as a swing Democrat on a variety of contentious issues, he stressed the danger of losing “vital federal funding” with passage of the bill.

Sacramento lobbying firm Warner, Pank, Salzillo & Sanchez, which helped the sheriffs mobilize for news conferences and approaching legislators, also maintains a close watch on the tactics of their opposition.

A note from John Robertson, the Napa County sheriff, alerted fellow sheriffs that the American Civil Liberties Union could be setting traps around SB 54. The message, shared by Cory Salzillo, a Warner lobbyist for the CSSA, suggested that the ACLU was using invitations to forums about the bill as a way to ambush sheriffs with hostile media.

“If this is a tactic that the ACLU is going to be using to promote their immigration agenda,” Robertson wrote, “I just thought you should be aware.”

The lobbying firm regularly forwards opportunities to work closely with the California Republican Party to undermine sanctuary protections. In February, Salzillo discussed the potential downsides of openly associating with Senate Republicans so early in the legislative process, as the state GOP was “ratcheting up their opposition to SB 54.” Donny Youngblood, the Kern County sheriff, agreed with limited public association, but noted, “Sheriff’s [sic] like me would be happy to stand with the Republicans.”

The lobby firm corresponded with the office of Republican Assemblymember Travis Allen on its sanctuary strategy. Allen, notably, is running for governor, and has cited opposition to sanctuary policies as a major issue in his campaign.

The sheriffs have also taken to conservative media to broadcast their message, appearing on talk radio and cable news to warn that SB 54 will lead to undocumented immigrants terrorizing communities.

In July, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens appeared on Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to declare that the bill “places Californians at risk of being impacted by these criminals who are getting released to the street.”

During her appearance, Hutchens and Carlson went through the usual litany of points against the bill, raising the specter of dangerous immigrants released from local jails and noting that if sheriffs can’t cooperate with ICE, immigration officials would raid local communities, potentially exacerbating tensions.

But Carlson raised an additional point: “If the state of California can say to the feds, ‘We are just ignoring your law,’ then why can’t Orange County say to the state of California, ‘We are ignoring your law?’”

Hutchens gave an eyebrow-raising response: Her office had already asked that question, she said, and they’ve reached out to their attorney to see if Orange County can simply violate state law. But, she added, “We would be subject to being prosecuted if we didn’t follow state law.”

The political dynamics appear to favor proponents of the sanctuary state bill; it has robust backing from nearly every high-profile Democrat in the state, buoyed by growing interest in opposing Trump’s deportation agenda.

But the California sheriffs have a long history of political victories. Last year, they successfully lobbied to defeat a state ballot initiative, Prop 62, to end the death penalty, while helping to pass a dueling initiative, Prop 66, that sped up the death penalty process. It was a stunning victory for law enforcement, despite being vastly outspent by death penalty opponents.

For the sanctuary state proposal, however, not all California sheriffs are completely united in the campaign. Jim Hart of Santa Cruz County is the only sheriff in the state to buck the sheriffs’ association and support SB 54. In a May 10 position letter sent to Senate Speaker Kevin de León, Hart wrote that “public safety is not enhanced when local law enforcement officers enforce immigration laws or act in a manner that causes suspicion within the diverse communities we serve.”

‘US doesn’t want Afghanistan war to end – it’s cash cow for Pentagon, contractors’

August 24, 2017


The US is alarmed Pakistan decided Russia has the best chance of being a stabilizing force for a peaceful outcome in Afghanistan: the US doesn’t want to end the war which is a cash cow, says Brian Becker from the anti-war ANSWER coalition.

During Donald Trump’s speech on Monday, where he presented the new Afghanistan strategy, the US leader criticized Pakistan by calling it a “haven” for terrorists.

Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target US service members and officials,” Trump said.

The US president threatened to change America’s stance on Pakistan if it’s “continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

Pakistan hit back at Donald Trump’s claim responding that the country is being singled out as a “scapegoat” for US failures.

“They should not make Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures in Afghanistan,” Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said on Tuesday in an interview with Geo TV, as cited by Reuters. He added that its “commitment to the war against terrorism is unmatched and unshaken.”

RT talked about Donald Trump’s strategy in Afghanistan and his accusations against Pakistan with Brian Becker from the anti-war ANSWER coalition.

In his view, the reason President Trump “announced animosity toward Pakistan… is that Pakistan has been reaching out to Russia in the last few months and drawing Russia in, and asking Russia to be the primary stabilizing force in a possible peaceful outcome in Afghanistan.”

“The US has become alarmed that Pakistan, even though Pakistan-Russian relations had been historically strained, has shifted. The Pakistanis have now decided it is Russia, not the US, that has the best hope as an international player bringing others to the table and possibly bringing together a government of national unity in Afghanistan, which of course will be the only way this war could end. The Pentagon doesn’t want to end the war. They are perfectly happy with the stalemate as it is. It is a cash cow for the Pentagon and for the US contractors,” Becker said.

Becker agrees the US is scapegoating Pakistan.

There is no question that there has been a porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. There is no question the Pakistani intelligence agencies have had a long-standing relationship with the Taliban who they considered to be a proxy among the many warlord factions fighting in Afghanistan,” he said.

What has changed, Becker added, “is the peace overture from Pakistan to Russia asking Russia to help create a regional and an internal – inside Afghanistan – possible…architecture for new peace negotiations.”

Washington doesn’t want “Russia meddling in Afghanistan,” Becker said, adding that it has already spent “a couple of trillion dollars” on the war and lost over 2,000 troops.

“It is a big cash cow; there are many Pentagon bases in Afghanistan. These are long term projects on the part of the Pentagon. They don’t want Russia to come in. They don’t want peace to break out in Afghanistan.”

In his speech on Afghanistan this week, Trump also ruled out “a hasty withdrawal” and said there are no limits on troop numbers.

As to whether President Trump has a chance of succeeding where his predecessors have failed, Becker referred to past experience.

“When Richard Nixon, for instance, became president in 1969, he and Henry Kissinger knew the Vietnam War cannot be won by the US but they didn’t want to take responsibility for having been defeated. So they kept dragging the war on and on. So, part of the definition of success here for Trump likewise is to not take responsibility for the exit of US forces from Afghanistan which would be conceding defeat,” he explained.

“The second motivation in terms of what success means is that this is very successful for the Pentagon because they have established permanent military bases in one sovereign country, in Afghanistan, and yes most of the bleeding is done by the Afghans, maybe 100,000 of them died even though most of them have never heard anything about the World Trade Center and had nothing to do with 9/11,” Becker concluded.


Exploring the Shadows of America’s Security State

Or How I Learned Not to Love Big Brother

by Alfred W. McCoy

Tom Dispatch

[This piece has been adapted and expanded from the introduction to Alfred W. McCoy’s new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power.]

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, Washington pursued its elusive enemies across the landscapes of Asia and Africa, thanks in part to a massive expansion of its intelligence infrastructure, particularly of the emerging technologies for digital surveillance, agile drones, and biometric identification. In 2010, almost a decade into this secret war with its voracious appetite for information, the Washington Post reported that the national security state had swelled into a “fourth branch” of the federal government — with 854,000 vetted officials, 263 security organizations, and over 3,000 intelligence units, issuing 50,000 special reports every year.

Though stunning, these statistics only skimmed the visible surface of what had become history’s largest and most lethal clandestine apparatus. According to classified documents that Edward Snowden leaked in 2013, the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies alone had 107,035 employees and a combined “black budget” of $52.6 billion, the equivalent of 10% percent of the vast defense budget.

By sweeping the skies and probing the worldwide web’s undersea cables, the National Security Agency (NSA) could surgically penetrate the confidential communications of just about any leader on the planet, while simultaneously sweeping up billions of ordinary messages. For its classified missions, the CIA had access to the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, with 69,000 elite troops (Rangers, SEALs, Air Commandos) and their agile arsenal. In addition to this formidable paramilitary capacity, the CIA operated 30 Predator and Reaper drones responsible for more than 3,000 deaths in Pakistan and Yemen.

While Americans practiced a collective form of duck and cover as the Department of Homeland Security’s colored alerts pulsed nervously from yellow to red, few paused to ask the hard question: Was all this security really directed solely at enemies beyond our borders? After half a century of domestic security abuses — from the “red scare” of the 1920s through the FBI’s illegal harassment of antiwar protesters in the 1960s and 1970s — could we really be confident that there wasn’t a hidden cost to all these secret measures right here at home? Maybe, just maybe, all this security wasn’t really so benign when it came to us.

From my own personal experience over the past half-century, and my family’s history over three generations, I’ve found out in the most personal way possible that there’s a real cost to entrusting our civil liberties to the discretion of secret agencies. Let me share just a few of my own “war” stories to explain how I’ve been forced to keep learning and relearning this uncomfortable lesson the hard way.

On the Heroin Trail

After finishing college in the late 1960s, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Japanese history and was pleasantly surprised when Yale Graduate School admitted me with a full fellowship. But the Ivy League in those days was no ivory tower. During my first year at Yale, the Justice Department indicted Black Panther leader Bobby Seale for a local murder and the May Day protests that filled the New Haven green also shut the campus for a week. Almost simultaneously, President Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia and student protests closed hundreds of campuses across America for the rest of the semester.

In the midst of all this tumult, the focus of my studies shifted from Japan to Southeast Asia, and from the past to the war in Vietnam. Yes, that war. So what did I do about the draft? During my first semester at Yale, on December 1, 1969, to be precise, the Selective Service cut up the calendar for a lottery. The first 100 birthdays picked were certain to be drafted, but any dates above 200 were likely exempt. My birthday, June 8th, was the very last date drawn, not number 365 but 366 (don’t forget leap year) — the only lottery I have ever won, except for a Sunbeam electric frying pan in a high school raffle. Through a convoluted moral calculus typical of the 1960s, I decided that my draft exemption, although acquired by sheer luck, demanded that I devote myself, above all else, to thinking about, writing about, and working to end the Vietnam War.

During those campus protests over Cambodia in the spring of 1970, our small group of graduate students in Southeast Asian history at Yale realized that the U.S. strategic predicament in Indochina would soon require an invasion of Laos to cut the flow of enemy supplies into South Vietnam. So, while protests over Cambodia swept campuses nationwide, we were huddled inside the library, preparing for the next invasion by editing a book of essays on Laos for the publisher Harper & Row. A few months after that book appeared, one of the company’s junior editors, Elizabeth Jakab, intrigued by an account we had included about that country’s opium crop, telephoned from New York to ask if I could research and write a “quickie” paperback about the history behind the heroin epidemic then infecting the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

I promptly started the research at my student carrel in the Gothic tower that is Yale’s Sterling Library, tracking old colonial reports about the Southeast Asian opium trade that ended suddenly in the 1950s, just as the story got interesting. So, quite tentatively at first, I stepped outside the library to do a few interviews and soon found myself following an investigative trail that circled the globe. First, I traveled across America for meetings with retired CIA operatives. Then I crossed the Pacific to Hong Kong to study drug syndicates, courtesy of that colony’s police drug squad. Next, I went south to Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam, to investigate the heroin traffic that was targeting the GIs, and on into the mountains of Laos to observe CIA alliances with opium warlords and the hill-tribe militias that grew the opium poppy. Finally, I flew from Singapore to Paris for interviews with retired French intelligence officers about their opium trafficking during the first Indochina War of the 1950s.

The drug traffic that supplied heroin for the U.S. troops fighting in South Vietnam was not, I discovered, exclusively the work of criminals. Once the opium left tribal poppy fields in Laos, the traffic required official complicity at every level. The helicopters of Air America, the airline the CIA then ran, carried raw opium out of the villages of its hill-tribe allies. The commander of the Royal Lao Army, a close American collaborator, operated the world’s largest heroin lab and was so oblivious to the implications of the traffic that he opened his opium ledgers for my inspection. Several of Saigon’s top generals were complicit in the drug’s distribution to U.S. soldiers. By 1971, this web of collusion ensured that heroin, according to a later White House survey of a thousand veterans, would be “commonly used” by 34% of American troops in South Vietnam.

None of this had been covered in my college history seminars. I had no models for researching an uncharted netherworld of crime and covert operations. After stepping off the plane in Saigon, body slammed by the tropical heat, I found myself in a sprawling foreign city of four million, lost in a swarm of snarling motorcycles and a maze of nameless streets, without contacts or a clue about how to probe these secrets. Every day on the heroin trail confronted me with new challenges — where to look, what to look for, and, above all, how to ask hard questions.

Reading all that history had, however, taught me something I didn’t know I knew. Instead of confronting my sources with questions about sensitive current events, I started with the French colonial past when the opium trade was still legal, gradually uncovering the underlying, unchanging logistics of drug production. As I followed this historical trail into the present, when the traffic became illegal and dangerously controversial, I began to use pieces from this past to assemble the present puzzle, until the names of contemporary dealers fell into place. In short, I had crafted a historical method that would prove, over the next 40 years of my career, surprisingly useful in analyzing a diverse array of foreign policy controversies — CIA alliances with drug lords, the agency’s propagation of psychological torture, and our spreading state surveillance.

The CIA Makes Its Entrance in My Life

Those months on the road, meeting gangsters and warlords in isolated places, offered only one bit of real danger. While hiking in the mountains of Laos, interviewing Hmong farmers about their opium shipments on CIA helicopters, I was descending a steep slope when a burst of bullets ripped the ground at my feet. I had walked into an ambush by agency mercenaries.

While the five Hmong militia escorts whom the local village headman had prudently provided laid down a covering fire, my Australian photographer John Everingham and I flattened ourselves in the elephant grass and crawled through the mud to safety. Without those armed escorts, my research would have been at an end and so would I. After that ambush failed, a CIA paramilitary officer summoned me to a mountaintop meeting where he threatened to murder my Lao interpreter unless I ended my research. After winning assurances from the U.S. embassy that my interpreter would not be harmed, I decided to ignore that warning and keep going.

Six months and 30,000 miles later, I returned to New Haven. My investigation of CIA alliances with drug lords had taught me more than I could have imagined about the covert aspects of U.S. global power. Settling into my attic apartment for an academic year of writing, I was confident that I knew more than enough for a book on this unconventional topic. But my education, it turned out, was just beginning.

Within weeks, a massive, middle-aged guy in a suit interrupted my scholarly isolation.  He appeared at my front door and identified himself as Tom Tripodi, senior agent for the Bureau of Narcotics, which later became the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). His agency, he confessed during a second visit, was worried about my writing and he had been sent to investigate. He needed something to tell his superiors. Tom was a guy you could trust. So I showed him a few draft pages of my book. He disappeared into the living room for a while and came back saying, “Pretty good stuff. You got your ducks in a row.” But there were some things, he added, that weren’t quite right, some things he could help me fix.

Tom was my first reader. Later, I would hand him whole chapters and he would sit in a rocking chair, shirt sleeves rolled up, revolver in his shoulder holster, sipping coffee, scribbling corrections in the margins, and telling fabulous stories — like the time Jersey Mafia boss “Bayonne Joe” Zicarelli tried to buy a thousand rifles from a local gun store to overthrow Fidel Castro. Or when some CIA covert warrior came home for a vacation and had to be escorted everywhere so he didn’t kill somebody in a supermarket aisle.

Best of all, there was the one about how the Bureau of Narcotics caught French intelligence protecting the Corsican syndicates smuggling heroin into New York City. Some of his stories, usually unacknowledged, would appear in my book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia. These conversations with an undercover operative, who had trained Cuban exiles for the CIA in Florida and later investigated Mafia heroin syndicates for the DEA in Sicily, were akin to an advanced seminar, a master class in covert operations.

In the summer of 1972, with the book at press, I went to Washington to testify before Congress. As I was making the rounds of congressional offices on Capitol Hill, my editor rang unexpectedly and summoned me to New York for a meeting with the president and vice president of Harper & Row, my book’s publisher. Ushered into a plush suite of offices overlooking the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I listened to those executives tell me that Cord Meyer, Jr., the CIA’s deputy director for covert operations, had called on their company’s president emeritus, Cass Canfield, Sr. The visit was no accident, for Canfield, according to an authoritative history, “enjoyed prolific links to the world of intelligence, both as a former psychological warfare officer and as a close personal friend of Allen Dulles,” the ex-head of the CIA. Meyer denounced my book as a threat to national security. He asked Canfield, also an old friend, to quietly suppress it.

I was in serious trouble. Not only was Meyer a senior CIA official but he also had impeccable social connections and covert assets in every corner of American intellectual life. After graduating from Yale in 1942, he served with the marines in the Pacific, writing eloquent war dispatches published in the Atlantic Monthly. He later worked with the U.S. delegation drafting the U.N. charter. Personally recruited by spymaster Allen Dulles, Meyer joined the CIA in 1951 and was soon running its International Organizations Division, which, in the words of that same history, “constituted the greatest single concentration of covert political and propaganda activities of the by now octopus-like CIA,” including “Operation Mockingbird” that planted disinformation in major U.S. newspapers meant to aid agency operations. Informed sources told me that the CIA still had assets inside every major New York publisher and it already had every page of my manuscript.

As the child of a wealthy New York family, Cord Meyer moved in elite social circles, meeting and marrying Mary Pinchot, the niece of Gifford Pinchot, founder of the U.S. Forestry Service and a former governor of Pennsylvania. Pinchot was a breathtaking beauty who later became President Kennedy’s mistress, making dozens of secret visits to the White House. When she was found shot dead along the banks of a canal in Washington in 1964, the head of CIA counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton, another Yale alumnus, broke into her home in an unsuccessful attempt to secure her diary. Mary’s sister Toni and her husband, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, later found the diary and gave it to Angleton for destruction by the agency. To this day, her unsolved murder remains a subject of mystery and controversy.

Cord Meyer was also in the Social Register of New York’s fine families along with my publisher, Cass Canfield, which added a dash of social cachet to the pressure to suppress my book. By the time he walked into Harper & Row’s office in that summer of 1972, two decades of CIA service had changed Meyer (according to that same authoritative history) from a liberal idealist into “a relentless, implacable advocate for his own ideas,” driven by “a paranoiac distrust of everyone who didn’t agree with him” and a manner that was “histrionic and even bellicose.” An unpublished 26-year-old graduate student versus the master of CIA media manipulation. It was hardly a fair fight. I began to fear my book would never appear.

To his credit, Canfield refused Meyer’s request to suppress the book. But he did allow the agency a chance to review the manuscript prior to publication. Instead of waiting quietly for the CIA’s critique, I contacted Seymour Hersh, then an investigative reporter for the New York Times. The same day the CIA courier arrived from Langley to collect my manuscript, Hersh swept through Harper & Row’s offices like a tropical storm, pelting hapless executives with incessant, unsettling questions. The next day, his exposé of the CIA’s attempt at censorship appeared on the paper’s front page. Other national media organizations followed his lead. Faced with a barrage of negative coverage, the CIA gave Harper & Row a critique full of unconvincing denials. The book was published unaltered.

My Life as an Open Book for the Agency

I had learned another important lesson: the Constitution’s protection of press freedom could check even the world’s most powerful espionage agency. Cord Meyer reportedly learned the same lesson. According to his obituary in the Washington Post, “It was assumed that Mr. Meyer would eventually advance” to head CIA covert operations, “but the public disclosure about the book deal… apparently dampened his prospects.” He was instead exiled to London and eased into early retirement.

Meyer and his colleagues were not, however, used to losing. Defeated in the public arena, the CIA retreated to the shadows and retaliated by tugging at every thread in the threadbare life of a graduate student. Over the next few months, federal officials from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare turned up at Yale to investigate my graduate fellowship. The Internal Revenue Service audited my poverty-level income. The FBI tapped my New Haven telephone (something I learned years later from a class-action lawsuit).

In August 1972, at the height of the controversy over the book, FBI agents told the bureau’s director that they had “conducted [an] investigation concerning McCoy,” searching the files they had compiled on me for the past two years and interviewing numerous “sources whose identities are concealed [who] have furnished reliable information in the past” — thereby producing an 11-page report detailing my birth, education, and campus antiwar activities.

A college classmate I hadn’t seen in four years, who served in military intelligence, magically appeared at my side in the book section of the Yale Co-op, seemingly eager to resume our relationship. The same week that a laudatory review of my book appeared on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, an extraordinary achievement for any historian, Yale’s History Department placed me on academic probation. Unless I could somehow do a year’s worth of overdue work in a single semester, I faced dismissal.

In those days, the ties between the CIA and Yale were wide and deep. The campus residential colleges screened students, including future CIA Director Porter Goss, for possible careers in espionage. Alumni like Cord Meyer and James Angleton held senior slots at the agency. Had I not had a faculty adviser visiting from Germany, the distinguished scholar Bernhard Dahm who was a stranger to this covert nexus, that probation would likely have become expulsion, ending my academic career and destroying my credibility.

During those difficult days, New York Congressman Ogden Reid, a ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, telephoned to say that he was sending staff investigators to Laos to look into the opium situation. Amid this controversy, a CIA helicopter landed near the village where I had escaped that ambush and flew the Hmong headman who had helped my research to an agency airstrip. There, a CIA interrogator made it clear that he had better deny what he had said to me about the opium. Fearing, as he later told my photographer, that “they will send a helicopter to arrest me, or… soldiers to shoot me,” the Hmong headman did just that.

At a personal level, I was discovering just how deep the country’s intelligence agencies could reach, even in a democracy, leaving no part of my life untouched: my publisher, my university, my sources, my taxes, my phone, and even my friends.

Although I had won the first battle of this war with a media blitz, the CIA was winning the longer bureaucratic struggle. By silencing my sources and denying any culpability, its officials convinced Congress that it was innocent of any direct complicity in the Indochina drug trade. During Senate hearings into CIA assassinations by the famed Church Committee three years later, Congress accepted the agency’s assurance that none of its operatives had been directly involved in heroin trafficking (an allegation I had never actually made). The committee’s report did confirm the core of my critique, however, finding that “the CIA is particularly vulnerable to criticism” over indigenous assets in Laos “of considerable importance to the Agency,” including “people who either were known to be, or were suspected of being, involved in narcotics trafficking.” But the senators did not press the CIA for any resolution or reform of what its own inspector general had called the “particular dilemma” posed by those alliances with drug lords — the key aspect, in my view, of its complicity in the traffic.

During the mid-1970s, as the flow of drugs into the United States slowed and the number of addicts declined, the heroin problem receded into the inner cities and the media moved on to new sensations. Unfortunately, Congress had forfeited an opportunity to check the CIA and correct its way of waging covert wars. In less than 10 years, the problem of the CIA’s tactical alliances with drug traffickers to support its far-flung covert wars was back with a vengeance.

During the 1980s, as the crack-cocaine epidemic swept America’s cities, the agency, as its own Inspector General later reported, allied itself with the largest drug smuggler in the Caribbean, using his port facilities to ship arms to the Contra guerrillas fighting in Nicaragua and protecting him from any prosecution for five years. Simultaneously on the other side of the planet in Afghanistan, mujahedeen guerrillas imposed an opium tax on farmers to fund their fight against the Soviet occupation and, with the CIA’s tacit consent, operated heroin labs along the Pakistani border to supply international markets. By the mid-1980s, Afghanistan’s opium harvest had grown 10-fold and was providing 60% of the heroin for America’s addicts and as much as 90% in New York City.

Almost by accident, I had launched my academic career by doing something a bit different. Embedded within that study of drug trafficking was an analytical approach that would take me, almost unwittingly, on a lifelong exploration of U.S. global hegemony in its many manifestations, including diplomatic alliances, CIA interventions, developing military technology, recourse to torture, and global surveillance. Step by step, topic by topic, decade after decade, I would slowly accumulate sufficient understanding of the parts to try to assemble the whole. In writing my new book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, I drew on this research to assess the overall character of U.S. global power and the forces that might contribute to its perpetuation or decline.

In the process, I slowly came to see a striking continuity and coherence in Washington’s century-long rise to global dominion. CIA torture techniques emerged at the start of the Cold War in the 1950s; much of its futuristic robotic aerospace technology had its first trial in the Vietnam War of the 1960s; and, above all, Washington’s reliance on surveillance first appeared in the colonial Philippines around 1900 and soon became an essential though essentially illegal tool for the FBI’s repression of domestic dissent that continued through the 1970s.

Surveillance Today

In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, I dusted off that historical method, and used it to explore the origins and character of domestic surveillance inside the United States.

After occupying the Philippines in 1898, the U.S. Army, facing a difficult pacification campaign in a restive land, discovered the power of systematic surveillance to crush the resistance of the country’s political elite. Then, during World War I, the Army’s “father of military intelligence,” the dour General Ralph Van Deman, who had learned his trade in the Philippines, drew upon his years pacifying those islands to mobilize a legion of 1,700 soldiers and 350,000 citizen-vigilantes for an intense surveillance program against suspected enemy spies among German-Americans, including my own grandfather. In studying Military Intelligence files at the National Archives, I found “suspicious” letters purloined from my grandfather’s army locker.  In fact, his mother had been writing him in her native German about such subversive subjects as knitting him socks for guard duty.

In the 1950s, Hoover’s FBI agents tapped thousands of phones without warrants and kept suspected subversives under close surveillance, including my mother’s cousin Gerard Piel, an anti-nuclear activist and the publisher of Scientific American magazine. During the Vietnam War, the bureau expanded its activities with an amazing array of spiteful, often illegal, intrigues in a bid to cripple the antiwar movement with pervasive surveillance of the sort seen in my own FBI file.

Memory of the FBI’s illegal surveillance programs was largely washed away after the Vietnam War thanks to Congressional reforms that required judicial warrants for all government wiretaps. The terror attacks of September 2001, however, gave the National Security Agency the leeway to launch renewed surveillance on a previously unimaginable scale. Writing for TomDispatch in 2009, I observed that coercive methods first tested in the Middle East were being repatriated and might lay the groundwork for “a domestic surveillance state.”  Sophisticated biometric and cyber techniques forged in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq had made a “digital surveillance state a reality” and so were fundamentally changing the character of American democracy.

Four years later, Edward Snowden’s leak of secret NSA documents revealed that, after a century-long gestation period, a U.S. digital surveillance state had finally arrived. In the age of the Internet, the NSA could monitor tens of millions of private lives worldwide, including American ones, via a few hundred computerized probes into the global grid of fiber-optic cables.

And then, as if to remind me in the most personal way possible of our new reality, four years ago, I found myself the target yet again of an IRS audit, of TSA body searches at national airports, and — as I discovered when the line went dead — a tap on my office telephone at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Why? Maybe it was my current writing on sensitive topics like CIA torture and NSA surveillance, or maybe my name popped up from some old database of suspected subversives left over from the 1970s. Whatever the explanation, it was a reasonable reminder that, if my own family’s experience across three generations is in any way representative, state surveillance has been an integral part of American political life far longer than we might imagine.

At the cost of personal privacy, Washington’s worldwide web of surveillance has now become a weapon of exceptional power in a bid to extend U.S. global hegemony deeper into the twenty-first century. Yet it’s worth remembering that sooner or later what we do overseas always seems to come home to haunt us, just as the CIA and crew have haunted me this last half-century.  When we learn to love Big Brother, the world becomes a more, not less, dangerous place.


Fact and Fiction: An Auschwitz Retrospective

August 24, 2017

by Christian Jürs

The question of the number of persons who died in Auschwitz has been addressed in a publication entitled Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp. A chapter by Franciszek Piper entitled “The Number of Victims” addresses the issues discussed here and sections of it deserve to be quoted and enlarged upon.

“In erasing traces of the crimes perpetrated in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazis destroyed documents that could serve as the basis for determining how many people died there. When the Soviet soldiers liberated the camp in January 1945, they found documents that confirmed only 100,000 deaths. Yet surviving prisoners maintained that millions had perished at Auchwitz.

Faced with this disparity, officials of the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission, the organization entrusted with investigating the crimes committed at Auschwitz, conducted an in-depth study. Based on witness testimonies regarding the capacity of the camp and the length of time that its machinery for mass murder was operative, (emphasis added) the commission concluded that no fewer than four million (emphasis added) persons were put to death at the camp…Four million…is the number recorded in Polish literature, as well as in publications of other countries.

In The Final Solution, one of the first books to deal with the Holocaust, published in 1953, the figure of four million was radically reevaluated. English historian Gerald Reitlinger estimated the number of victims at Auschwitz to be roughly 800,000 to 900,000, (emphasis added) based on an analysis of the losses of Jews reported by specific countries…

The destruction by the Nazis of most Auschwitz records is the most important cause of divergent estimates…researchers had to rely on discrepant and imprecise data from testimonies and depositions of witnesses, former prisoners and Nazi functionaries and on court decisions and fragmentary and incomplete records of camp registries, archives, (sic) and other institutions. (Emphasis added).”

The question of the destruction of Auschwitz records has been raised over the years to support the claims that large numbers of people died in the camp but were not recorded. If the SS camp administration did destroy or remove official records from Auschwitz before the complex was overrun by the Soviets in early 1945, they did not and could not touch the records that had been sent to the headquarters of the camp system outside of Berlin, or any other copies sent to different agencies. According to the author of the article, the Soviets did find records indicating 100,000 deaths.

Reliance on anything originating from Stalin’s agents is totally unrealistic. The Soviets had no problem continuously rewriting their own history and obviously would have had no problem rewriting the history of other nations. The concurrence of the Poles in Soviet findings has no validity whatsoever. Poland was under complete control of the Soviets at the time of their reports and any official commission would do precisely as it was told by its masters.

It was only after the implosion of the Soviet Empire that their state archives became available to outside researchers, at least on a limited basis. As has been noted before, it was the standard policy of the Soviet government to denigrate and attack the government of West Germany, not support it. The microfilms released by the Russian archives in the early 1990s were copies of documents found at the SS camp headquarters in 1945 and had these supported the theory of extensive extermination programs, they certainly would have been released years before.

There is another argument used to explain the lack of documentation supporting the thesis of a million or more dead at Auschwitz. This argument claims that endless transports of Jews were delivered to the camp, not recorded anywhere and immediately executed. This, it is claimed, explains why there is such a disparity between official German figures and those proposed by others.

This argument has some fleeting validity but the question arises that if these transports were unrecorded in German records, how could anyone use them as references other than by supposition and speculation? It is very difficult to have one’s cake and eat it too.

The question of transport also needs to be addressed. When the German Reichsbahn scheduled rail transportation to Auschwitz, it was listed officially as special trains (Sonderzug) which indicated that the transports were privately contracted…in this case by the SS. If these transports were of an official, State nature, they would be listed as regular traffic, paid for by the government. While in the beginning of the forced Jewish emigration prior to the war, the Jewish community in Germany and overseas was compelled to pay for the emigration out of their own pockets, such accommodations were not operational during the war except in rare cases. It should also be noted that transport from Auschwitz taking manufactured products to various points in Europe were also listed as Special Trains. Auschwitz was part of the SS economic empire and as such, was run by the SS and not the German government. The Armed SS (Waffen-SS) was not an official part of the Wehrmacht and its operating expenses, as were the operating expenses for the entire SS, had to be paid for by the SS itself.

This in itself would cast considerable doubt on the thesis that a vast extermination program had been ordered by Hitler officially as State policy. When the SS ran out of operating capital, the transports stopped running.

The use of prisoner labor was certainly addressed in the numerous trials held after the war.

Another thesis often expressed is that the victims at Auschwitz were nearly all Jewish. Reports from the camp break down the exact number of inmates by groups, to include Jews. At Auschwitz, by far the largest group were those held in protective custody or as political prisoners. As most of the inmates in this category were committed as a result of Gestapo action, the reason for Müller receiving regular camp reports is understandable.

With former Soviet archival material now available, a greater balance should be much easier to obtain. It was only their stubborn refusal to release these records that allowed inflated figures, supported only with anecdotal and unsupported material, to flourish and, like ivy, expand and cover every aspect of the building beneath.

This archival material has, in fact, been available on microfilm since 1989 but is rarely discussed. An article in the New York ‘Times’ of March 3, 1991 quotes the Soviet sources with considerable accuracy. Forty six camps are covered with a total death toll of more than 400,000. Auschwitz records contain approximately 70,000 death certificates and in addition the death totals of 130,000 among the forced laborers in all camps and 200,000 additional names of various classes of prisoners in all camps to include Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Gross Rosen. When queried about this article and the numbers reflected in it, Red Cross officials in Washington, DC agreed that they were indeed the figures contained in the microfilms they had received from Soviet sources but that “special secret lists” existed that boosted the death toll far higher. Further questioning elicited that no one had seen these “secret lists” but that they must certainly exist and that quoting from the official records was “misleading” and should not be done.

The records of the concentration camp system discovered by the Soviets at the system headquarters outside of Berlin in 1945 are complete. From a chronological point of view, there are no gaps. Many of the records found by the Soviets at Auschwitz are not complete but the headquarters files contain copies of all the Auschwitz records. Müller’s files, like the files found in Auschwitz, contain nearly all of the statistical data found in the headquarters files. The main office file is the complete file; the documents discovered in Auschwitz and the papers in Müller’s archives all match these files exactly.

The arrest, deportation and forced labor of a large number of people, including Jews, was repugnant and on a parallel with the British concentration camps (from whence the name came) instituted during the Boer War in which over 20,000 Boer women and children died in conditions of disease, filth and squalor, and is not possible to ignore or justify.

Aside from the records of the camp headquarters siezed by the Soviets in 1945 from Oranienburg, another source exists that deals with the monthly population reports made by the individual camps to headquarters. These consisted of radio reports sent in to Oranienburg on a monthly basis. From early 1942 through February of 1943, British intelligence was monitoring these reports and in their official history of the British intelligence system, stated that, “The returns from Auschwitz, the largest of the camps with 20,000 prisoners, mentioned illness as the main cause of death, but included references to shootings and hangings. There were no references in the decrypts to gassing.”

Given inaccurate demographics about the post-war Jewish population, there is still a considerable gap in the number of Jews, mostly Polish Jews, who were living in Poland in 1939 and unaccounted for in 1945. The assumption was made, and is still being made, that these differences were clearly explained by the extermination theory.

The former Soviet Union maintained a rigid control over its files until its collapse, and it has only been since this point in time that a much clearer picture of events has become evident. In 1995, Russian author Arkady Vaksberg, a Jewish writer, attorney, and investigative journalist, published a book entitled ‘Stalin Against The Jews, the basic theme of which is the persecution of Soviet Jews by Stalin after he had used them against his enemies. Vaksberg goes into some detail about the Polish Jews who, in September of 1939, fled the German advance into Poland and went into the Soviet Union. Vaksberg states that these Polish Jews were siezed by Stalin’s agencies and put into prison camps. The author states that exact figures of these prisoners are not presently available but speaks of “hundreds of thousands.” He also mentions that Soviet border police shot down many escaping Jews before they crossed the border into Communist territory. Survival in Soviet Gulags was very poor; of the 80,000 German prisoners of war captured at Stalingrad, only 6,000 were alive in 1955 to return to Germany. How many of these hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews survived the war is not known, but perhaps former Soviet archives hold the final answer to this issue, an issue that has persisted for half a century.

After the breakup of the Yugoslav state in the 1990s, the “ethnic cleansing” by the winsome Serbs of anyone they disliked, including Catholics and Jews, was greeted with a chorus of dismay from other nations…but nothing more.


First tanker crosses northern sea route without ice breaker

August 24, 2017

by Matt McGrath Environment correspondent

BBC News

A commercial LNG tanker has sailed across the colder, northern route from Europe to Asia without the protection of an ice-breaker for the first time.

The specially-built ship completed the crossing in just six-and-a-half days setting a new record, according to tanker’s Russian owners.

The 300-metre-long Sovcomflot ship, the Christophe de Margerie, was carrying gas from Norway to South Korea.

Rising Arctic temperatures are boosting commercial shipping across this route.

The Christophe de Margerie is the world’s first and, at present, only ice-breaking LNG carrier.

The ship, which features a lightweight steel reinforced hull, is the largest commercial ship to receive Arc7 certification, which means it is capable of travelling through ice up to 2.1m thick.

On this trip it was able to keep up an average speed of 14 knots despite sailing through ice that was over one-metre-thick in places.

On its maiden voyage earlier this year, the Christophe de Margerie docked in the Russian port of Sabetta. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the crew and energy company officials gathered on the ship’s bridge, saying: “This is a big event in the opening up of the Arctic.”

The Russian owners, Sovcomflot, will use this ice-breaking tanker to export gas from the Yamal peninsula to Asian markets later this year.

It will be the first of a planned fleet of 15 that will transport gas from these ice bound fields all year round.

“Previously there was only a window of navigation from our summer to autumn, but this ship will be able to sail westwards from Sabetta which is the Yamal energy port, all year round and eastwards from July to December,” said Sovcomflot spokesman Bill Spears.

“Before the northern sea route was only open for four months and you had to have ice-breakers – so it’s a significant development.”

In 2016, the northern sea route saw 19 full transits from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

High insurance and large fees for Russian ice-breakers are still discouraging some ship owners from the riskier northern route. But the economic benefits are attractive – the Christophe de Margerie took just 19 days for the entire voyage, around 30% faster than going by Suez.

There has been an overall decline in Arctic sea ice over the past 30 years, linked by scientists to rising global temperatures. This year, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), the annual maximum extent of Arctic sea ice hit a record low for the third year in a row.

This diminution of northern ice is something that the Russian ship owners believe will continue well into the future.

“If there was a material change in the ice thickness it would change the period of the year that the ship could move through the Northern Sea Route,” said Bill Spears from Sovcomflot.

“There is an assumption that the ice is not going to thicken dramatically for the economic life of these vessels, which could be over 30 years.”

Environmental campaigners, though, are worried that increased traffic in this inhospitable region could have potentially significant effects.

“We’re concerned that this is a commercial opportunity that has only opened up because of global warming, and we’re especially concerned that having taken advantage of the thinning of the ice, shipping operations are now expanding in that part of the world,” said John Maggs from Seas at Risk.

“It is not like sailing in open water, even if you have an ice classed ship, the risks are dramatically increased.”

As well as the risk of accident or spillage, there are worries that some of the ships that will sail along this route will be powering their engines with heavier, dirtier marine fuels. The black carbon that they produce could be very damaging to snow and ice in the region, increasing the melting.

“The environmental risks are enormous,” said John Maggs.

“You are taking industrial-sized installations and moving them through a pristine Arctic environment, so it’s going to have an impact – and what are we getting in return, slightly shorter journey times? A 30% gain is not much of gain to me.”





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