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TBR News August 7, 2016

Aug 07 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. August 7, 2016:” With the savage Israeli bombing and artillery attack on the civilian population of Gaza under the specious excuse of “anti-terrorist” actions, there are very few people, outside of Israel, who actually understand the underlying reasons for this decades-long and very bloody struggle between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. Many historians are, in fact, well aware of the underlying  factors but few, if any, would dare to discuss them in light of the savage retaliation that would immediately be visited upon them by pro-Israeli entities.

Forced out of Roman-controlled Judea by the Romans following a long and bloody series of revolts, internal massacres and destructive activities, the Jews were eventually expelled from Judea and went to reside in various places such as Alexandria, Egypt.

These deportees are today known as Sephardic Jews and are the descendants of the original Semitic inhabitants of Judea.

Another, larger, group of Jews are called Ashkenazi and are the direct descendents of the Khazar tribes of Central Asia. Originally nomadic peoples, the Khazars were located on the west bank of the Caspian Sea, noted for their savage behavior and in about 700 AD, were converted by their king to Judaism.

Defeated by the Russians, the Khazars spread to Russia, what is now Poland and other eastern European areas. They are not Semitic by background and today, 95% of the citizens of Israel are descended from these nomads, which were composed of Mongols, the occasional Swedish rus or Viking and other diverse ethnic groups.

The oft-repeated claim by Israel that they were the original inhabitants of Judea or Palestine is, from a historical point of view, entirely false.

Modern Zionism was the creation of Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) a Hungarian Jewish writer who advocated a Jewish state in Palestine. That the area was occupied, as it had been for thousands of years, by Arabs, themselves of Semitic origins, did not seem to bother the modern Zionists at all.

Following the end of the Second World War when huge masses of Eastern European Jews had been displaced from their countries in Poland, the Baltic states, Hungry, Romania, Greece, Germany, Austria and other European countries, they decided to move to Palestine and form their own state.

From 1944 through 1948, the entire area was subject to a literal reign of terror as large groups of DPs (Displaced Persons) descended on Palestine, wreaking havoc on the area. Murders, kidnappings, bombings, counterfeiting, bank robberies, blowing up hotels full of people and drive-by shootings were commonplace.

Eventually, the disruptions proved to be too much for the British, who occupied Palestine after the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which once controlled it, withdrew and in 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed.

A detailed chronicle of these events was prepared by the United Nations in 1948 and covers the period from November 6, 1944 through September 17, 1948 and is a concise and very detailed coverage of the events in Palestine. It is far too long to post but can be found, in its entirely, at:http://www.tbrnews.org/Archives/a1973.htm#002

To anyone not conversant with this detailed background, who wonders why the Palestinians, and later the entire Arab Middle East world hates Israel, a study of the UN report immediately puts the motivating factors behind the long-ongoing bloodshed in accurate perspective.

What is past is certainly prologue.”

The Reluctant Enemy

August 4, 2016

by Israel Shamir


The DNC 2016 reminded me The Triumph of the Will, the paradigmatic film of Leni Riefenstahl. The fiery oration of “four-star general of the Marine Corps” General (retired) Allen, ready to kick ass of the Russkies, flag-waving, hysterical rhythmical shouts Uoo-eS-Ay, runaway aggressiveness, military pomp and above all exceptionalism of “America is great because America is good”; the United States as an “indispensable, transformational power in the world,” the poisonous mix of Uber Alles and Manifest Destiny fits like a glove to the matrix established at the 1934 Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, Germany.

There similarity ends: the Demo version is all for the bankers and against the workers, while the Nazis called themselves “the workers party” and spoke against financial capital. The Nazis said they were for the family and the majority, the Dems say they do not care for workers’ votes, as they have enough votes from feminists and queers.

And the Jews are now for, rather than against. The Jewish news agency JTA described General (ret) Allen fire-breathing delivery as “the Jewish moment at DNC … to further reassure the security hawks in the Jewish community” as he promised that “our armed forces will be stronger”. Bill Clinton came with a button saying Hillary in Hebrew, mobilising the Jewish community for Clinton and war. The devoted Zionist Rupert Murdoch published in his New York Post naked pics of Mrs Trump.

An American Israeli writer Bradley Burston wrote in the Haaretz newspaper a piece called This is the war, and Trump is the enemy. We knew that US elections are not for vegetarians. Mark Twain’s witty Running for Governor is an evidence they were and are a no-rules-and-no-prisoners-taken fight. Still, such pieces as that of Burston will easily turn the elections into a shooting, not shouting match.

If your only objection to Nazis was that they were beastly to Jews, you’ll have no objection to American militarism.

The presidential candidates announced their choice of the enemy. Carl Schmitt, a great political philosopher of the last century, said the choice of an enemy is the most important political choice, more important than the choice of a friend: this choice was sealed at the DNC. While the Enemy according to Trump is unemployment, outsourcing, immigration, wars abroad, neocons and free-wheeling allies, the Clintonites chose, or rather confirmed, the Russians as the Enemy.

In words of Jeffrey Sachs, “Hillary is the candidate of Wall Street. Even more dangerous, though, is that she is the candidate of the military-industrial complex supporting every war demanded by the US deep security state run by the military and the CIA.” And now she and her party set their sights on Russia.

The Russians have no say in this decision: they were formally appointed to the high post of The Enemy of the Empire, and this appointment requires no agreement of the victim.

Why were the Russians chosen? Who else fits the bill? The US war machine needs an enemy, and the world is not that large. Europe is subdued and occupied. China is too big, India is too soft, the Arabs are too small. Japan was fitted for an enemy in early Nineties, but surrendered. Putin perfectly understood the US war machine’s search for an enemy when he proposed to Americans at the UN they fight the Islamic State together with Russia. This nefarious Islamic State remains a possibility that will have to do, meanwhile, but for a greater and more serious enemy, able to attract nice budgets, Russia suits best.

Russia has an additional charm: it is a successor state to the USSR, that was the designated enemy for the West for a long time, until 1991. Thus it is a traditional enemy. Hillary as a Goldwater Girl supported the most warlike Russia-hating candidate, and apparently she still remembers the thrill. It is true that Russia’s enemy status had been explained by the satanic nature of godless communism, and this explanation is as dead as a dodo, but explanations are not reasons, they are secondary rhetorical devices. The reason is the need for an enemy so the war budget will grow nicely and keep generals and weapon manufacturers in the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

Liberal-interventionists are wonderfully good at explaining away why fighting an enemy chosen by the war machine is necessary and good for mankind. They are too good at it: they succeed in demonizing the enemy to such an extent that peace become impossible. For them, every adversary who did not duck fast enough is a new Hitler. Now it is Russia and Putin.

Russians often wonder what can be done to avoid American wrath. The answer is nothing. This is not Crimea, as before Crimea there were other explanations, notably the lack of gay adoration, a refusal to let Russian children be exported abroad for same sex “families”. Before that, there was Putin the dictator. Even earlier, there was corruption, Russian mafia and unfair ownership of abundant resources that should belong to mankind meaning to the US corporations, as per Madeleine Albright. It makes no sense to fight explanations, for the Russians can’t change the reason: the real need of the US war machine is to have an enemy.

Americans should decide whether they want to keep fighting new Hitlers and enrich generals, bankers and mass-media owners. If they want this, Clinton will do nicely. Listening to these guys brings America to war with fearsome regularity. But if they do not, they have a choice.

Donald Trump is not a “lesser evil” – he is a fearless man who intends to change the US paradigm from war to peaceful tending of its own garden. I am amazed by Trump’s fortitude in the affair of the dead Muslim officer and his family. The story is clear: this man died for the US war machine in a war of aggression that killed (and continues to kill) millions of Muslims and Christians in the Middle East. He died, in effect if not in intention, to bring the Islamic State to power. His father disgustingly used his son’s death to promote his son’s ultimate killer. Trump said something quite soft along these lines, and he was assaulted by his enemies in the Party and outside. I would cringe and collapse in face of such attack, but Trump did not give in an inch.

Notably, the most warlike Republican Senator John McCain condemned Trump for speaking against the fallen soldier and his family. This is the same McCain who betrayed his fellow soldiers in the captivity of Vietnam. Ron Unz convincingly proved that McCain was the man whose mendacious testimony doomed the POW and MIA American soldiers to remain forever and die in the foreign land. This horrible crime notwithstanding, he became a Senator and a spokesman for the war machine. He blessed the Islamic State, he arranged a photo-op with the head-chopping monsters in Syria and Iraq, he called for delivery of weapons to the Ukraine. One of the first deeply satisfying acts by Donald Trump was his refusal to endorse the old criminal for re-election due this month. Hopefully good people of Arizona will send him to hell where he belongs.

An enemy can be used in many ways. Clinton used Russia as a means of changing the subject. While Wikileaks published the hacked DNC correspondence showing that followers of Clinton committed massive fraud by discounting millions of votes for Sanders, and her position trembled, they accused the Russians of the hack, Wikileaks of being the Russian tool and Trump of being Putin’s stooge.

Our colleague in Counterpunch was astonished by “the howls of indignation at Russian hacking of U.S. citizens’ communications. Have whistle-blowers not made it known to us that the NSA maintains records on the phone calls and internet activity of virtually everybody, everywhere? That they routinely monitor the communications of Angela Merkel, the pope, the UN Secretary General etc. without any sense of shame?” We know from Snowden files, that the US surveillance of Russian communications is near total. The State Department is proud of its interfering in elections in other states, including Russia.

So even if true, such a hack would be a case of what goes around comes around. I would welcome the Kremlin helping those forces in the United States that stand for peace with Russia and for democracy in America. But it is not the case. The Russians aren’t involved in the DNC hack. The Intercept said that NSA would know that, and the NSA did not confirm the hack.

So-called “pointers” of Russian involvement could be easily planted or manufactured. There are many Russian programmers outside Russia, in Israel and the US. “If hackers wanted to make it seem as if they were coming from Russia, they would put strings of Russian in their code and then compromise a machine somewhere in Russia and use it to launch the attack”, said USA Today, definitely not a Russian fan. I closely read all the reports: they are full of weasel words “likely”, “one can’t exclude”, “it stands to reason”. The headlines are bold and decisive: “The Russians did it”, but small script is far from conclusive.

Julian Assange said: “There is no proof of [Russian involvement] whatsoever. We have not disclosed our source, and of course, this is a diversion that’s being pushed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. That’s a meta-story. The real story is what these emails contain and they show collusion. The very head of the Democratic party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is now being forced to resign.”

There is no doubt that the publication of emails has been beneficial for the public. Julian Assange did a great thing disclosing the plot against the American people when he published the DNC emails. A long time ago, when I first met him, he told me: we shall uncover the plots of the elite against the people—and he was true to his promise.

Russians are nowhere in this story. I’d hail their participation, if they would unmask the DNC fraud, but they try to keep at arm’s length from Western dissidents, such as Assange and Snowden.

If Julian Assange were as close to Russians as they insinuate, he would be now in Moscow, not in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Actually the Russians were quite suspicious of Wikileaks, and for a long time they suspected it was a covert operation of the US secret services. In the same time others suspected it was a Mossad operation partly because Israel Shamir was there, and partly because no dirt on Israel was published. So Wikileaks was at once attacked as a Russian, American and Israeli spy outlet, and this is a perfect proof that it was none of those.

The Russians did not want to take Snowden, as well, and Snowden did not want to come to Russia. He was on a connecting transit flight from Hong Kong to Moscow, where he was supposed just to change planes and continue to Venezuela via Havana. It did not work out, as his US passport was cancelled by Obama. Snowden spent over a month in very uncomfortable conditions in Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport, until the Russians agreed to give him temporary asylum.

In short, Russians were and are unwilling enemies. They prefer to be friends, or at least partners with the US and European states. They do not want to quarrel, let alone fight a war. Now they are busy organising their life. They had spent a fortune doing a complete facelift of Moscow, turning this rather grim and rundown city into shining and comfortable European megalopolis with bicycle paths, new trees planted in tens of thousands, houses painted and roads brought to mint condition.

They seriously fight corruption: provincial governors, ministers, generals on the take have found their new home in Lefortovo Prison. Greedy personal friends of Putin like the head of Russian Customs lost their jobs. Godfathers of mafia families go to jail, too, beginning with the biggest of them. It appears that Putin decided to undertake the fifth labour of Hercules: he is cleaning the Augean stables of Russia, undoing the criminal webs formed in the days of President Yeltsin.

For this reason I believe that Donald Trump has a chance to change the ways of the world. He can stop the war machine, and put the money to work for the benefit of the ordinary Americans. Instead of spending a cool trillion on new nuclear weapons he can repair the infrastructure, bring industries back home and make the US great again. He will be able to do it because the person Clinton wants to have as the enemy, namely Vladimir Putin prefers friendship and partnership.


Military Success in Syria Gives Putin Upper Hand in U.S. Proxy War

August 6, 2016

by Mark Mazzetti, Anne Barnard and Eric Schmitt

New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Syrian military was foundering last year, with thousands of rebel fighters pushing into areas of the country long considered to be government strongholds. The rebel offensive was aided by powerful tank-destroying missiles supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia.

Intelligence assessments circulated in Washington that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, was losing his grip on power.

But then the Russians arrived, bludgeoning C.I.A.-backed rebel forces with an air campaign that has sent them into retreat. And now rebel commanders, clinging to besieged neighborhoods in the divided city of Aleppo, say their shipments of C.I.A.-provided antitank missiles are drying up.

For the first time since Afghanistan in the 1980s, the Russian military for the past year has been in direct combat with rebel forces trained and supplied by the C.I.A. The American-supplied Afghan fighters prevailed during that Cold War conflict. But this time the outcome — thus far — has been different.

“Russia has won the proxy war, at least for now,” said Michael Kofman, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

Russia’s battlefield successes in Syria have given Moscow, isolated by the West after its annexation of Crimea and other incursions into Ukraine, new leverage in decisions about the future of the Middle East.

The Obama administration is now talking with President Vladimir V. Putin’s government about a plan to share intelligence and coordinate airstrikes against the Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria, and Mr. Putin has thus far met his goals in Syria without becoming caught in a quagmire that some — including President Obama — had predicted he would.

But even Mr. Obama has expressed wariness about an enduring deal with Moscow. “I’m not confident that we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference on Thursday. “Whenever you are trying to broker any kind of deal with an individual like that or a country like that, you have got to go in there with some skepticism.”

At the same time, some military experts point out that Mr. Putin has saddled Russia with the burden of propping up a Syrian military that has had difficulty vanquishing the rebels on its own.

The Russian campaign began in September, after a monthslong offensive by C.I.A.-backed rebel groups won new territory in Idlib, Hama and Latakia Provinces in northern Syria. One problem for Washington: Those groups sometimes fought alongside soldiers of the Nusra Front, which until recently was officially affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The offensive took Syrian troops by surprise, prompting concerns in Moscow and Damascus that Mr. Assad’s government, long supported by the Russians, might be in trouble.

Some of the rebel groups boasted at the time that powerful TOW antitank missiles provided by American and Saudi intelligence operatives were a key to their success. For several years, the C.I.A. has joined with the spy services of several Arab nations to arm and train the rebels at bases in Jordan and Qatar, with the Saudis bankrolling much of the operation.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment about any American assistance to Syrian rebels.

But Lt. Col. Fares al-Bayyoush, a former aviation engineer who heads the rebel group Fursan al-Haq, said during an interview in May 2015 that his group would receive new shipments of the antitank weapons as soon as the missiles were used.

“We ask for ammunition and missiles, and we get more than we ask for,” he said.

Yet the advance also created problems for the fractious assortment of rebel groups, as it allowed the Nusra Front to gain control over more areas of northern Syria. The Obama administration has officially forbidden any Nusra fighters to receive weapons or training. But the group has at times shown greater prowess against the Syrian government forces than the C.I.A.’s proxies.

Moreover, they have shown that they can and will destroy or sideline C.I.A.-backed rebels who do not agree to battlefield alliances. Moscow cited the battlefield successes of the Nusra Front to justify its military incursion into Syria as a campaign to fight terrorism — even if its primary goal was to shore up Mr. Assad’s military against all insurgent groups, including the C.I.A.-backed rebels.

The Russians began a rapid military buildup in September, and launched an air campaign that targeted the Syrian rebel groups that posed the most direct threat to Mr. Assad’s government, including some of the C.I.A.-trained groups. By mid-October, Russia had escalated its airstrikes to nearly 90 on some days.

About 600 Russian marines landed in Syria with the mission of protecting the main air base in Latakia; that ground force has grown to about 4,000 throughout Syria, including several hundred Special Forces members.

It took some time for the Russian intervention to have a significant impact on the Syrian battlefield, prompting Mr. Obama to predict that Moscow might become bogged down in its own Middle East conflict.

“An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire, and it won’t work,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference in October. “And they will be there for a while if they don’t take a different course.”

The C.I.A. moved to counter the Russian intervention, funneling several hundred additional TOW missiles to its proxies. One rebel commander, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of threats from more radical groups within the rebel coalition, said in October that his group could at that time get as many missiles as it wanted.

“It’s like a carte blanche,” he said. “Just fill in the numbers.”

But Russian firepower eventually overwhelmed the rebel groups in the north. By early this year, attacks by Russian long-range bombers, fighter jets, attack helicopters and cruise missiles allowed the Syrian Army to reverse many of the rebel gains — and seize areas near the Turkish border that many thought the government could never reclaim.

The flow of C.I.A. arms continued, but the weapons proved too little in the face of the Russian offensive.

Jeffrey White, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer who now studies Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the Russians had built a capable intelligence network in Syria, giving them a better understanding of the terrain and location of rebel forces. That has allowed Russian troops to call in precision airstrikes, making them more effective against the rebels.

The mismatch has been most acute in the last several months, with Syrian government forces, with Russian help, laying siege to the rebel-held parts of Aleppo. Losing their foothold in Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, would be a big blow to the rebels.

Syrian and Russian jets have carried out an indiscriminate pounding of Aleppo, including attacks on six hospitals in and around the city over the past week, according to a statement by Physicians for Human Rights.

“Since June, we’ve seen increasing reports of attacks on civilians in Aleppo and strikes on the region’s remaining medical infrastructure,” said Widney Brown, the group’s director of programs. “Each of these assaults constitutes a war crime.”

Rebel groups in recent days have made surprising gains in a new offensive to try to break through Syrian military lines encircling Aleppo, but if it fails, rebels inside the city will face a choice between enduring the siege or surrendering.

In recent interviews, rebel commanders said the flow of foreign weapons needed to break the siege had slowed.

“We are using most of our weapons in the battle for Aleppo,” said Mustafa al-Hussein, a member of Suqour al-Jabal, one of the C.I.A.-backed groups. He said the flow of weapons to the group had diminished in the past three to four months.

“Now we fire them only when it is necessary and urgent,” he said.

Another commander, Maj. Mousa al-Khalad of Division 13, a C.I.A.-backed rebel group operating in Idlib and Aleppo, said his group had received no missiles for two weeks.

“We filed a request to get TOW missiles for the Aleppo front,” he said, but the reply was that there were none in the warehouses.

Rebel leaders and military experts say that perhaps the most pressing danger is that supply routes from Turkey, which are essential to the C.I.A.-backed rebels, could be severed.

“The U.S. is doing just enough to placate its allies and partners and says it is doing something, but does not seek to do what it takes to change conditions on the battlefield,” said Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and an Assad critic.

Mr. Putin has achieved many of his larger goals — to prop up Mr. Assad’s government, retain access to the longtime Russian naval base on the Mediterranean Sea and use Syria as a proving ground for the most advanced Russian military technology.

Some military experts remain surprised that Mr. Putin took the risky step of fighting American-trained and equipped forces head on, but they also assess that his Syria gamble appears to be paying off.

It is the type of Cold War-era battle that Mr. Obama, in October, insisted he did not want to enter.

“We’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia,” he said. “This is not some superpower chessboard contest.”

Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt reported from Washington, and Anne Barnard from Beirut, Lebanon. Karam Shoumali contributed reporting from Istanbul, Maher Samaan from Beirut, and Steven Lee Myers from Washington.

 Austrian, German party leaders compare Turkey’s post-coup crackdown to Hitler power grab

August 7, 2016


The leaders of Germany’s liberal Free Democrats and Austria’s far-right Freedom parties have both drawn parallels between the Turkish president’s post-coup crackdown and the abuse of power which allowed Adolf Hitler to exert Nazi rule. A failed military coup attempt to oust and potentially kill elected Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan resulted in a hardline response, with the Turkish parliament approving a national state of emergency. Since July 15 a number of institutions, including media outlets, schools and hospitals, have been forced to close. Some 60,000 public officials have been sacked and thousands of Turkish passports canceled, as authorities persecute those who supported the coup which was allegedly plotted by an outside force.

In an interview with Bild am Sonntag, FDP leader Christian Lindner said he sees parallels between the Turkey coup attempt and the Reichstag fire in February 1933 which was used by the Nazi Party as a proof of alleged communist plot against the government.

“We are experiencing a coup d’etat from above like in 1933 after the Reichstag fire. He is building an authoritarian regime tailored solely to himself,” Lindner said. “Because the rights and freedoms of the individual no longer play a role, he cannot be a partner for Europe.”

Earlier, Austria’s Freedom Party politician Heinz-Christian Strache also compared the situation to 1930s Germany, where the then-chancellor Adolf Hitler sprung upon the incident to round up members of the communist party and other opposition.

In an interview with Die Presse, Strache suggested the Turkish coup was “guided” by the government with the eventual aim of “making a presidential dictatorship by Erdogan possible.”

“Dramatically, we have experienced such mechanisms elsewhere before, such as with the Reichstag fire, in the wake of which total power was seized,” Strache added.

It comes as a midweek war of words erupted between Turkish and Austrian officials, sparked by Chancellor Christian Kern’s assertion that talk of Turkey to entering the EU is “fiction.” Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu later branded Austria “the capital of radical racism” on live television.

White House Finally Releases Its “Playbook” For Killing and Capturing Terror Suspects

August 6 2016

by Cora Currier

The Intercept

The Obama administration has released its internal guidelines for how it decides to kill or capture alleged terrorists around the globe, three years after they came into effect. They provide a look at the drone war bureaucracy behind hundreds of strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere, a system President Obama will hand off to his successor.

The guidelines show the process is concentrated at the White House, specifically in the National Security Council. They also describe the process for approving so-called signature strikes, where the target of the strike is not a known “high value terrorist,” but rather some other “terrorist target,” which could be a group of people exhibiting suspect behavior, or a vehicle, building or other infrastructure.

Amid all these procedural details, however,  the presidential policy guidance, or “playbook,” as it has been called, does not provide new insight into when, where, and under what authorities someone can be killed, or what kind of intelligence is necessary to make that decision.

Much of the document, which is dated May 22, 2013, echoes public statements by administration officials over the past several years and previously-released material. The general standards for killing terrorist targets away from active battlefields were made public that May, when the president gave a speech and issued an abbreviated version of the guidance, promising that the United States would only undertake lethal action against a terrorist if they posed a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons, and if capture was not feasible.

It took a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to get the full 18-page version of the guidance declassified, with some redactions.

“This document doesn’t tell us anything new about the substantive standards that they use to determine if someone can be targeted,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU. “We’d hope that they’d fill out what they mean by ‘continuing’ and ‘imminent,’ or ‘feasible’ or ‘unfeasible.’”

In a statement, the ACLU also questioned how the document’s “relatively stringent standards can be reconciled with the accounts of eye witnesses, journalists, and human rights researches who have documented large numbers of bystander casualties” from drone strikes.

The People Who Approve “Direct Actions”

According to the guidance, each operating agency – the CIA or the Defense Department – prepares “operational plans for taking direct actions,” whether strikes or captures, in different situations. Those plans undergo a legal review by the agencies’ general counsels and a legal adviser to the National Security Council, and then are considered by a circle of advisers at the White House known as the Principals and Principals’ Deputies Committees, made up of the heads or deputy heads of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, as well as the CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Counterterrorism Center.

The plans must include legal, tactical and policy rationale for undertaking the strike, what kind of “strike and surveillance assets” would be used, and how long the authority to take action would remain in place. Once the committee arrives at its decision on the plan, it is communicated to the president for his final approval.

The guidance indicates that the president does not have to sign off on individual names of high-value targets to be killed, unless there is disagreement within the National Security Council. If the individual is a U.S. person, the Justice Department needs to weigh in.

If an agency wants to nominate an individual to be killed, they make a profile of them based on intelligence reporting, which is reviewed by an interagency panel led by the White House counterterrorism adviser, currently Lisa Monaco. Again, the profile passes through lawyers at the agency and at the National Security Council before going to the Deputies Committee and ultimately the Principals Committee for a final decision.

Although the process indicates a high degree of control in the White House, generally speaking, the actual operation is still carried out under the command of the military or CIA.

A similar process is followed for approving plans for strikes against “terrorist targets other than high-value terrorists.” The section seems to address “signature strikes,” in which the United States has attacked people without knowing their identity. The examples given in the policy guidance include vehicles carrying improvised explosive devices, or “infrastructure, including explosives storage facilities.” For an actual strike, it appears from the guidance that the Principals Committee and the president get involved only when there is disagreement about the operation.

If the suspect is to be captured, a rare occurrence under Obama, the president also approves the plan. Among the various considerations going into a decision to capture someone, such as how and where they would be detained and interrogated, and if they could be tried in civilian court or military commission, one thing is spelled out clearly: “In no event will detainees be brought to the detention facilities at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.”

The process laid out in the guidance is more detailed but does not differ substantially from the one described in a 2013 Defense Department Power Point presentation published by The Intercept last fall, although that document included additional information on how the military carried out its strikes in Yemen and Somalia at the time. For instance, the presentation included the detail that once a target was approved by the White House, the military had a 60-day window to pursue the operation.

“Associated Forces” and Other Limits

The newly-issued guidance does not specify how long authorities for given operations last, although it mentions that the case against individuals on the list for lethal strikes must be reviewed each year. It also notes that if “a capture option” becomes possible at any point, there should be an expedited reevaluation of the authority to kill them.

The Defense Department also released two heavily redacted documents describing its implementation of the policy guidance, along with a letter to the Senate from 2014, stating that the Pentagon considers the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other groups fighting alongside them against U.S. forces in Afghanistan to be “associated forces” of Al Qaeda, along with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in Yemen. Some portions of the list of associated forces and all the groups considered “affiliates” of Al Qaeda are blacked out.

Associated forces would fall under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which became law just a week after 9/11, and which the administration has used to justify 15 years of lethal operations in many countries. Yet the White House process, the Pentagon document notes, involves a “target-by-target analysis” of legal authorities, and groups not currently identified as associated forces could still be targeted if a new situation arose. The guidance also includes a large waiver for the president to disregard it in cases of “national self-defense,” “fleeting opportunities,” or even to authorize a strike against someone who posed a threat “to another country’s persons.”

The guidance does not apply to operations in “areas of active hostilities,” which the administration currently defines as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. A White House spokesman, Ned Price, pushed back on reports that strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, along the border, are not covered by the guidance, but would not clarify whether in some instances strikes in the border region might fall into the administration’s definition of active hostilities.

The guidance is one more exhibit in the Obama administration’s institutionalization of counterterrorism strikes, by drones and other means, far from conventional battlefields. Last month, the White House released casualty figures for such strikes during Obama’s presidency, stating that as many as 2,600 people had been killed in 473 strikes in 7 years. The administration believed that between 64 and 116 of them were civilians – a number disputed by outside observers, who put the total number of civilians harmed between 200 and 1000.

Even as the frequency of drone strikes, especially by the CIA, has declined markedly in the last years of Obama’s presidency, the practice has not ended. The U.S. military hit a Taliban leader in a strike in Pakistan in May, also killing a taxi driver. Strikes in Yemen have been more frequent, and there were two massive attacks in Yemen and Somalia in March killed dozens of alleged fighters.

Expert Analysis Finds Hillary Clinton’s Recent Seizures a Sign of Brain Damage

August 6, 2016

by Jim Hoft

The Gateway

Recent videos call Hillary Clinton’s physical and mental stability is in question.

This is the result of an obvious seizure clearly shown on national television.

Although this incident has clearly been totally ignored by the liberal media, Hillary Clinton appeared to have suffered a seizure after her DNC Convention speech in Philadelphia–

Mike Cernovich at Danger and Play reported:

“Hillary Clinton recently had a breakdown on TV. The media is of course covering this up rather than having an expert medical panel on to discuss her health. Yet what happened to Hillary was obviously a sign of a head injury and stroke.

When a protester appears, Hillary freezes. In psychology you learn that the flight-or-fight response is a myth. A stressful situation trigger a fight, flight, or freeze response.

“Freeze” is what we mean by saying someone has a “deer in the head lights look.” A prey animal freezes when it senses danger it cannot overcome and thus does not risk running away from. By freezing the deer hopes to not be seen.

Yet freezing is an instinctual response, as anyone who has driven a car through deer land knows. When you drive, your headlights hit a deer, it stops. Your choice is to keep driving or to swerve away, risking your own life.

Hillary’s health problems are well-known among the Secret Service.

While still frozen, Hillary was rescued by a male Secret Service agent, who reassured her, “You’ll be OK.”…

Hillary has suffered a brain injury during a fall. She either had a stroke, causing her to fall, or the fall caused her stroke. Doctors were unsure whether the fall was the cause or effect of the stroke.

Hillary still suffers seizures. The media is, of course, covering this up rather than having an expert medical panel on to discuss her health. Yet what happened to Hillary was obviously a sign of a head injury and stroke.

When a protester appeard, Hillary froze. In psychology you learn that the flight-or-fight response is a myth. A stressful situation triggers a fight, flight, or freeze response.

“Freeze” is what we mean by saying someone has a “deer in the head lights look.” A prey animal freezes when it senses danger it cannot overcome and thus does not risk running away from. By freezing the deer hopes to not be seen.

Yet freezing is an instinctual response, as anyone who has driven a car through deer land knows. When you drive, your headlights hit a deer, it stops. Your choice is to keep driving or to swerve away, risking your own life.

Imagine if Trump had so much as a runny nose. CNN would impanel a group of medical experts to analyze his used tissues.

Yet when Hillary has a complete breakdown in public and suffers a seizure when talking to reporters, the press is silent.

Think what you will of Trump. This isn’t about Trump. This is about a media cover-up.

Turkey’s ruling AKP orders purge of members linked to ‘Gulenist terror group

August 5, 2016


Turkey’s ruling AK Party on Friday ordered a internal purge of members with links to Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric whom the government holds responsible for last month’s failed coup.

An internal AKP memorandum seen by Reuters called for a rapid purge of those with links to the “Gulenist terror group” and those who supported the July 15 putsch attempt.

(Reporting by Ercan Gurses; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall)

Democrats fear ‘October surprise’ as White House ponders hack response

Security experts from both parties want to see strong action if the U.S. concludes Russia is meddling in the election.

August 6, 2016

by Eric Geller and Cory Bennett


As Hillary Clinton supporters fret about a WikiLeaks “October surprise,” dozens of defense and security experts from both parties are urging the Obama administration to take tough action if it concludes that Russia orchestrated a series of cyberattacks on the Democratic Party.

But based on past U.S. handling of foreign-sponsored cyberassaults, it could take months or even years to mount such a response — action that could encompass anything from public shaming or economic sanctions to indictments or retaliatory hacking. Even the most optimistic timeline, according to interviews with former security and law enforcement officials, could delay a forceful U.S. reprisal until just weeks before the very presidential election that the hackers may be trying to influence.

I’m sure they’re cognizant of [the] timeline,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, who served as director for cybersecurity policy at the White House National Security Council until last October. “That doesn’t mean that they’re going to take action sooner or later.”

The administration insists it has improved its ability to respond quickly to cyberattacks, and officials increasingly say they support publicly calling out foreign nations that hack the United States. One administration official noted that it took just five weeks for President Barack Obama to impose economic sanctions against North Korea in response to the destructive late-2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

Yet current and former officials acknowledge that constructing a public response isn’t an instant task. Merely preparing a declassified explanation of who perpetrated an attack or readying economic sanctions takes weeks. Bringing criminal charges — as the Justice Department has done with state-backed hacking suspects in Iran and China — can require years.

And the U.S. has never leveled any official public reprisal for hacking by Russia, despite years of evidence that hackers linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime have carried out intrusions of the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

Obama himself preached caution at a news conference this week. Imposing penalties, he said, “requires us to really be able to pin down and know what we’re talking about.”

The prospect of a lengthy wait is unnerving for Clinton supporters, who see potential repeats of last month’s mass release of Democratic National Committee emails as one of a handful of unpredictable curveballs that could still toss the White House to Donald Trump. Democrats have charged that the website WikiLeaks dumped the emails as part of a Russian effort to aid Trump, who has praised Putin and expressed doubts about U.S. commitments to allies in Eastern Europe.

Russia has denied having anything to do with the DNC hacks or a separate breach aimed at donors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But if the U.S. concludes that Putin’s regime is to blame, a growing chorus of security hawks says the White House must make it clear that such meddling in the U.S. political system cannot stand.

“If in fact you could definitively or strongly develop a case for attribution against Russia, that in fact the Russians should be confronted with it and we should confront them publicly with it,” former Obama administration National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said Thursday during a POLITICO Playbook breakfast.

“I don’t think countries are paying a price for this kind of activities,” Stephen Hadley, who held the same post under George W. Bush, said at the same event.

Calls for action have also come from several congressional Democrats and Republicans who serve on defense, law enforcement or intelligence committees, as well as a bipartisan group of 31 security and counterterrorism experts who urged Obama to “take prompt actions” that would “deter foreign actors from pursuing such tactics in the future.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” wrote the experts from the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, who included Bush Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former CIA directors Michael Hayden and William Webster. They added: “Our president should be chosen by American citizens, not by foreign adversaries or interests.”

But Clinton supporters worry that Russian-backed hackers may indeed have free rein to try to influence the November election, depending on what information they’ve stolen and when they plan to release it. (The Aspen group also warned that the hackers may “salt the files they release with plausible forgeries” to worsen the fallout.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose site released the DNC emails July 22, has refused to confirm or deny their origins but has told CNN that he might release “a lot more material,” noting that “they are having so much political impact in the United States.”

Democrats like veteran political strategist Craig Varoga can easily see the worst-case scenario. “In all likelihood, Russia and Assange are already planning an October surprise to influence our election and otherwise destabilize the Western alliance,” he said in an interview.

“We may be headed into uncharted waters, and this has the potential to spiral out of control,” said longtime Democratic operative Jim Manley, a former spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

No Democrats interviewed would speculate about what material could come out in future leaks, although known cyberattacks have already successfully infiltrated the DNC, DCCC and a data analytics program used by Clinton’s campaign. Trump also publicly urged Russia to obtain the 33,000 emails deleted from Clinton’s old personal server, although he later claimed he was being “sarcastic.”

WikiLeaks’ release of the first cache of nearly 20,000 DNC emails was well-timed to cause turmoil on the eve of the Democrats’ July convention, forcing the resignation of Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and stoking accusations that party insiders had conspired to undermine Bernie Sanders’ upstart presidential campaign. The fallout continued this week, when interim DNC chair Donna Brazile ousted three top officials, including CEO Amy Dacey, communications director Luis Miranda and chief financial officer Brad Marshall.

Private-sector cybersecurity experts have said the DNC emails appear to have been pilfered by hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies, and intelligence officials have privately reached similar conclusions. Cyber experts have identified ties between Russia and an alleged hacker nicknamed “Guccifer 2.0,” who has taken credit for the intrusions and claims to have stolen documents from the computer that Clinton used as secretary of state.

“The prospect of something hanging out there is obviously unnerving, to say the least,” a former DNC official told POLITICO.

Lawmakers urging a public White House response include the top Democrats on both Intelligence panels, Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, as well as Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), top Judiciary Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). They’ve said that at the very least, the administration should publicize the results of its probe into the hacks.

Some Democrats have said Putin could have ample reason to want to see Trump in the White House, noting that the New York real estate magnate has praised him as a “strong leader” and has expressed doubts about whether the U.S. would defend NATO nations that come under Russian attack. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also has ties to Putin’s allies, having served as a longtime adviser to Moscow-backed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

An official U.S. government rebuke of Russian hackers for targeting the DNC would call even more attention to those ties. But it could also backfire, allowing the Trump campaign to accuse Obama of intervening to salvage Clinton’s presidential hopes.

“Is the Democratic administration going to take a particular action … or is this something that can be dealt with, and maybe is better dealt with, after November?” asked Ed McAndrew, a former cybercrime prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware.

Still, the White House would have some political cover given the cries from both Democrats and Republicans for action.

Many cyber policy experts have pressed for indictments of the DNC hackers, an approach the administration has employed only twice before for government-backed cyberattacks. In 2014, it charged five members of the Chinese military with hacking U.S. companies. And earlier this year, the DOJ brought indictments against seven Iranian-backed hackers accused of infiltrating a range of financial companies and a dam in upstate New York.

Both cases stretched out for years.

“In the cyber arena, when you’re talking about a federal indictment, you’re talking about months or years, not days or weeks,” said one former National Security Council official, who also handled cyber matters at the DOJ.

In addition to the highly technical process of tracing each intrusion to a specific computer, prosecutors then try to prove that a particular person executed the attack at that computer, or show that the “digital fingerprints” are unique to that individual, said Peter Toren, a cybercrime attorney and former DOJ cyber prosecutor.

Presenting this evidence in court could also expose valuable secret surveillance footholds in Russian intelligence agencies.

Raj De, a former National Security Agency general counsel, said spy agencies are typically “very reticent to burn sources and methods for any activity.” Revealing such tactics could even open up the NSA to lawsuits over its surveillance operations.

Together, these factors mean that getting such an indictment before November “would be an impossibility,” according to one former DOJ National Security Division prosecutor.

Sanctions could serve as a more expedient option. That was the case the November 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, which led the White House to hit Pyongyang with economic penalties in early January 2015. Since then, Obama has issued an executive order empowering the Treasury Department to go after foreign individuals or organizations engaged in “malicious cyber-enabled activities” that target government and private sector computer networks.

“It’s easier to level sanctions than to prosecute someone without jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods,” said Michael Vatis, a cybercrime attorney with Steptoe & Johnson and former national security-focused DOJ official, via email.

Still, it may be hard to match the quick turnaround on the Sony incident, several current and former officials warned.

Preparing sanctions is “not a quick process,” said Gleicher, the NSC’s former head of cyber policy. And with the DNC hack, he added, “there’s just more factors to analyze and consider,” given America’s delicate relationship with Russia and the sophistication of the attacks on the Democrats.

Treasury declined to say whether officials were discussing DNC hack-related sanctions.

Despite the public silence, it’s possible that the U.S. may already be hitting back with some kind of secret cyber campaign. Hadley advocated that approach during Thursday’s POLITICO event, saying the U.S. should send the message to foreign hackers that “if you intrude in our systems, we are going to take away your capacity to do it in the future.”

“Quietly, out of the public mind, tit for tat,” Hadley said. “You do that enough, and people start doing the cost-benefit analysis.”

But current and former officials say the White House is gradually favoring a public outing of foreign hackers.

“Post-Sony, I think people are … increasingly appreciating the value of [public] attribution,” said De, the former NSA general counsel, who now leads the cybersecurity and data privacy practice at law firm Mayer Brown.

A senior Justice Department official told POLITICO that recent realignments within the DOJ and FBI were helping the administration accelerate breach investigations. Previously, the official said, the DOJ National Security Division wasn’t necessarily talking to FBI digital investigators. In the past few years, the teams have become more integrated.

“We weren’t set up like his before,” the official said. “Hopefully, [the new alignment] will inform conversations about how to handle Russia.”

But one congressional Republican source warned, “The genie is out of the bottle — you can’t put it back in.”

“Even some kind of response to Russia is not going to change the fact there’s information out there,” the person said. “There will be information put out, I would expect every month.”

Martin Matishak, Darren Samuelsohn contributed

You came, you studied, you borrowed, Now what?

Crippling student debt is an increasing burden for many. Is there a quicker or smarter way to pay it down?

August 7, 2016

by Kate Ashford

BBC News

It used to be that the US took the spotlight when it came to the burden of student loans. But in recent years, other countries have made changes to their university loan systems — or methods of repayment — and now people all over the world face the post-uni debt dilemma.

In the UK, starting in 2012, universities were allowed to charge up to £9,000 ($11,987) per year for tuition fees, so some students are now graduating with tens of thousands in debt. In Australia, the government recently passed legislation requiring expats to make payments toward their student debt — the first time that’s been obligatory since 1989. In New Zealand, the government has started arresting people who haven’t paid their student loans. And in the US, students are now graduating with an average of $37,172 in student loan debt, up 6% from a year prior.

Student loan debt is a big issue in the UK,” says Helen Saxon, chief product analyst at UK site MoneySavingExpert.com. “Recent figures showed that English graduates on the new student loan system have the largest average debt in the world at £44,500 ($59,269).” There are large differences in other parts of the UK, however — Welsh graduates owe an average of £19,000 ($25,306), and Scottish grads face an

How you tackle your student loan debt will depend on where you’re located. For instance, in some countries it makes sense to try to pay debt down early, while in others that’s not the case. Here are some strategies for handling that large educational debt balance you’ve amassed.

What it’s going to take: You’re going to need patience, fortitude and the stomach to wade through forms and fine print. Depending on where you live, there are different repayment options, tax requirements and rules. So you’ll need to stay on your proverbial toes and be prepared to take a hard and close look at your best options.

How long to prepare: You’ve got your university career to get ready for the student loans that will follow it, because in most cases you’re not required to start repayments until you graduate, and in some cases reach a certain income threshold. If you’re still in this phase of your life, take note: Try to borrow as little as possible.

“Working during holidays or in the evenings is a drag, but taking the YOLO (you only live once) approach to debt can make repayment really painful and get in the way of other priorities you have after uni, such as thinking about the property ladder,” says Holly Mackay, founder and managing director of UK site BoringMoney.com.

Do it now: Research your choices. In the US, there are a variety of ways to adjust your student loans, from income-based repayment to consolidation to refinancing — but you have to be your own advocate.

“Most of my clients aren’t right out of college, I have a lot of 30-somethings who don’t even look at what they have,” says Mark Struthers, a financial planner in Minnesota in the US. “They just blindly throw money at their loans, and if they’d addressed it, they might have more cash flow or be able to pay it off more quickly with some of the options out there.”

Income-based repayment options make it possible for you to lower your monthly payments if you’re not making much money — helpful if you’re just scraping by. There are also options to have portions of your loans forgiven if you work in teaching or public service jobs. The Federal Student Aid office has good information, as well as IBRInfo.org.

Consider staying local. In New Zealand, student loans are interest free if you stay in the country after graduation. Leave, however, and your debt will incur interest (currently 4.8%). And if you don’t pay or contact the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) to make arrangements, you run the risk of being arrested when you try to return, says Rod Mudgway, a financial advisor with Brackenridge Financial Solutions in Auckland, New Zealand. “This has been happening.”

Be patient. In the UK, once you make enough money to start paying back your student loans — enough deemed to be £21,000 ($27,970) a year in England and Wales — the government will start taking 9% out of the income you make over that amount through the UK tax system. (If you make £30,000, for instance, you’ll be paying 9% of £9,000, which is the excess over £21,000.) “So it’s repaid almost like a tax,” says Saxon.

Consequently, however, at this low payment rate and with high student loan balances, you might never pay your loans off. But, after 30 years, the UK forgives the unpaid balance.

“With the old system, where tuition fees were lower, many people did move to pay it off early, as they knew they would pay it off at some point, and it might as well be sooner to cut down on interest,” Saxon says. “But with the higher fees brought on in 2012, most people know they’ll never pay it all off, so overpaying is money down the drain.”

But consider paying early. Some loans in the US may carry an interest rate as high as 6.8% — or higher if you have a private loan. In Australia, the average interest rate for a university loan is 8%. If you’re not able to consolidate, refinance or otherwise lower the rate you’re paying on your debt, paying extra toward the balance will save you money over time.

Think about refinancing. One of the newer options in the US is the ability to refinance your student loans — meaning combining them all into one loan with one monthly payment, often with a lower interest rate. A word of caution: If you have federal student loans, refinancing means you lose the flexibility that accompanies those loans.

“You might lower your interest rates, but you give up any of those income-based repayment options,” says Wes Brown, a financial planner in Tennessee in the US. “That’s not always the best move. It’s really important to look at your options carefully before you do that, because it can’t be undone.”

Private loans don’t come with the same flexibility, so refinancing those isn’t as risky. You’ll need a good credit score to make refinancing happen. Consolidation is also an option, depending on your situation.

Pay attention. If you’re travelling the world and not paying much mind to your student loan balances, you could miss changes to your payment requirements — as evidenced by Australia’s recent legislation. “We’ve been recommending clients prepare for the introduction of the new laws next year by working out a rough calculation of what their student debt repayment may be,” says Brett Evans, managing director of Atlas Wealth Management in Southport, Australia. “By doing this, they have 12 months to put aside funds so that when the bill arrives next year, they have the cash ready and available.”

Do it later: Look at the big picture. Having a student loan hanging over your head can feel claustrophobic. But that doesn’t mean you should tackle it aggressively if there are other financial eggs in your basket.

“Make sure that you look at all the debt you might have and pay off the most expensive debt first,” Mackay says. “There’s no stigma to having a student loan, and if you have higher interest rates on anything else, get rid of that first.”



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