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TBR News December 19, 2016

Dec 19 2016

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. December 19, 2016:”When the national Establishment sought to justify their defeat in the recent presidential election, they made a terrible tactical error when their poodle, the Washington Post, set up a fake “protest” site, packed it with deliberate lies and then attacked the alternative Internet news sites as being in the pocket of the Russians. That they are not ought to be obvious to even a three year old victim of autism but so arrogant and ignorant are the media poodles that they never considered that the alternative Internet news sites would return fire. They have been doing so and the Establishment propaganda machine cannot cope with them. The hitherto all-powerful groups who have controlled the United States should consider the old saying that certainty is illusion.”

Moscow Attacks!

December 18, 2016

by Eric Margolis

The Unz Review

A senior CIA source tells me ‘with a high level of certainty that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was responsibly for Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq. This miscreant was also behind 9/11 and ring around the collar.

Not since Dr Fu Manchu have we seen such a wicked genius bent on wrecking the West. Vlad the Bad is so nefarious that he’s managed to rig America’s voting machines and probably the Super Bowl.

Watching the mounting Red Hysteria in the US is bizarre and amusing. But most amusing is the media furor claiming that the Kremlin has ‘meddled’ in US elections. Or even threw the vote to Manchurian Candidate, Donald Trump. If there was any foreign meddling, it came from a Mideast ally, not Russia.

All very childish.

My answer: even if true (and I don’t believe it), so what? Is great power meddling something new? That’s what great powers do.

The US is hardly in a position to play the outraged virgin. Starting in 1946, the US and the Vatican financed Italy’s right-wing Christian Democratic Party, helping it win three national elections against the Left even though it was heavy with former fascists and Sicilian bandits.

Washington organized the overthrow of Syria’s government in 1949. In 1953, the US and Britain colluded to overthrow Iran’s popular democratic government. In 1954, the US overthrew the government of Guatemala. There followed intervention in Lebanon in 1958. Three years later came the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion and over fifty attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1965, the US invaded the Dominican Republic and overthrew its regime. 1973 brought the US-backed coup against Chile’s Marxist government. Nicaragua’s leftists were next on Washington’s hit list. There was masked intervention in Haiti, then a bombing and sabotage campaign in Baghdad, Iraq. A failed attempt to overthrow Iran’s elected government and more machinations in Syria and Libya, followed by outright invasions.

There are many more to mention: Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Russia under Yeltsin, Ukraine’s ‘Orange’ Revolution, Georgia, and the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian government. And now, of course, Syria.

Regime change has become as American as apple pie.

The US may even have tried to overthrow France’s president, Charles de Gaulle. Lately, the US helped put Egypt’s bloody dictator in power, overthrowing the democratic government in the process and tapped the phone of close ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the past, Soviet intelligence was very good at intrigue, professional spycraft and occasional ‘wet affairs.’ But the Soviets never measured up in sheer volume of meddling and regime change to the mighty US – and still don’t.

I was the first western journalist admitted to KGB headquarters in Moscow – the dreaded Lubyanka – to interview its senior leaders. I also was closeted in the remarkable KGB museum with its curator for a review of intelligence operations since the 1917 civil war. I learned much about covert operations, but less than I wanted about the Soviet agents of influence who surrounded President Franklin Roosevelt.

As a seasoned intelligence watcher for the past three decades, I think claims by US Democrats that they lost the election due to Russian machinations are absolute bunk. One suspects all the noise and fake fury over Clinton’s loss may foretoken an attempt to oust the Trump government by underhanded legal means (‘lawfare’) and popular demos. Why not? We run them all the time in the Mideast and Russia.

The Dems lost because they ran a horrible, corrupt woman who was hated, and mistrusted by many. They tried to hide the shameful fact that the Democratic Party rigged the nomination to exclude an honest candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. This was the scandal, not baloney about voting machine voodoo and red scares.

Claims by senior US intelligence officials that Moscow rigged the US elections show two things: first, if true, they were asleep on guard duty; second, that they have become shockingly politicized. Their job was to inform the White House, not manufacture conspiracy theories.

Some of them were shown to be frighteningly extreme, crazily anti-Russian, and likely agents of our deep government.

We need calm, seasoned professionals to run our intelligence, not wild-eyed ideologues bent on war against Russia. America was headed that way under Obama and Hillary Clinton. If Russia came to this conclusion, it was logical for them to try to sway the outcome of the election – if they really did.

The canard that Hillary Clinton was defeated by the godless Red spymasters are as believable as ‘the dog ate my homework.’ And here I though my fellow Americans were a bit more grown up than this.

The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than in Flint

A Reuters examination of lead testing results across the country found almost 3,000 areas with poisoning rates far higher than in the tainted Michigan city. Yet many of these lead hotspots are receiving little attention or funding

December 19, 2016

by M.B. Pell and Joshua Schneyer


  1. JOSEPH, Missouri – On a sunny November afternoon in this historic city, birthplace of the Pony Express and death spot of Jesse James, Lauranda Mignery watched her son Kadin, 2, dig in their front yard. As he played, she scolded him for putting his fingers in his mouth.

In explanation, she pointed to the peeling paint on her old house. Kadin, she said, has been diagnosed with lead poisoning.

He has lots of company: Within 15 blocks of his house, at least 120 small children have been poisoned since 2010, making the neighborhood among the most toxic in Missouri, Reuters found as part of an analysis of childhood lead testing results across the country. In St. Joseph, even a local pediatrician’s children were poisoned.

Last year, the city of Flint, Michigan, burst into the world spotlight after its children were exposed to lead in drinking water and some were poisoned. In the year after Flint switched to corrosive river water that leached lead from old pipes, 5 percent of the children screened there had high blood lead levels.

Flint is no aberration. In fact, it doesn’t even rank among the most dangerous lead hotspots in America.

In all, Reuters found nearly 3,000 areas with recently recorded lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint during the peak of that city’s contamination crisis. And more than 1,100 of these communities had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher.

The poisoned places on this map stretch from Warren, Pennsylvania, a town on the Allegheny River where 36 percent of children tested had high lead levels, to a zip code on Goat Island, Texas, where a quarter of tests showed poisoning. In some pockets of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where lead poisoning has spanned generations, the rate of elevated tests over the last decade was 40 to 50 percent.

Like Flint, many of these localities are plagued by legacy lead: crumbling paint, plumbing, or industrial waste left behind. Unlike Flint, many have received little attention or funding to combat poisoning.

To identify these locations, Reuters examined neighborhood-level blood testing results, most of which have not been previously disclosed. The data, obtained from state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tracks poisoning rates among children tested in each location.

The resulting portrait provides a granular look at places where decades-long U.S. efforts to stamp out lead poisoning have fallen short.

“The disparities you’ve found between different areas have stark implications,” said Dr. Helen Egger, chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Child Study Center. “Where lead poisoning remains common, many children will have developmental delays and start out behind all the rest.”

In children up to age 6, the CDC threshold for an elevated blood lead level is 5 micrograms per deciliter. Any child who tests high warrants a public health response, the agency says; even a slight elevation can reduce IQ and stunt development.

Nationwide, the CDC estimates that 2.5 percent of small children have elevated levels. In the communities identified by this analysis, a far higher rate of children who got tested had lead poisoning. In most cases, the local data covers a 5- or 10-year period through 2015.

Reporters visited several of the trouble spots: a neighborhood with many rundown homes in South Bend, Indiana; a rural mining town in Missouri’s Lead Belt; the economically depressed North Side of Milwaukee. In each location, it was easy to find people whose lives have been impacted by lead exposure. While poverty remains a potent predictor of lead poisoning, the victims span the American spectrum – poor and rich, rural and urban, black and white.


Most U.S. states disclose data on the percentage of child blood tests that show elevated levels of lead. Yet this data, often for statewide or county-wide populations, is too broad to identify neighborhoods where children face the greatest risk.

Instead, Reuters sought testing data at the neighborhood level, in census tracts or zip code areas, submitting records requests to all 50 states.

U.S. census tracts are small county subdivisions that average about 4,000 residents apiece. Zip codes have average populations of 7,500. In each area, a relatively small number of children are screened for lead poisoning each year.

Reuters found 2,606 census tracts, and another 278 zip code areas, with a prevalence of lead poisoning at least twice Flint’s rate.

The test results allow for local analysis, pinpointing neighborhoods whose lead poisoning problems may be obscured in broader surveys.

For example: Across Maryland, 2 percent of childhood lead tests were high in recent years, just a small fraction of the rate in the worst-affected Baltimore tracts. In Flint, while 5 percent of children citywide recently tested with high blood lead levels, the highest rate has been in the downtown zip code, where about 11 percent tested high from 2005 to 2015.

“I hope this data spurs questions from the public to community leaders who can make changes,” said epidemiologist Robert Walker, co-chair of the CDC’s Lead Content Work Group, which analyzes lead poisoning nationwide. “I would think that it would turn some heads.”

The findings, Walker said, will help inform the public about risks in their own neighborhoods and allow health officials to seek lead abatement grants in the most dangerous spots.

There isn’t much federal help available. Congress recently directed $170 million in aid to Flint. That’s 10 times the CDC’s budget for assisting states with lead poisoning this year.

Tripwires on the Way to the Inauguration

Trump faces a minefield of manufactured “crises”

December 19, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


While President-elect Donald Trump confronts a coordinated assault by the “intelligence community,” the media, and the Democratic party that seeks to delegitimize him before he even takes the oath of office, it’s on the foreign front that the greatest danger looms.

The conspiracy theory that has been pushed by the CIA, embraced by the media, and reluctantly endorsed by the FBI – a Russian “cyber-attack” liberated emails from the DNC server and John Podesta’s gmail account, and WikiLeaks obligingly published them on Putin’s orders – is never questioned in the mainstream media. Except, of course, by President-elect Trump, whose campaign disdained this narrative by remarking : “These are the same people who said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”


Trump has correctly pointed to the difficulty of attributing cyber-assaults to specific actors, but politics has naturally overwhelmed reality in this matter. Determined to destroy Trump at any cost, the media are ignoring all evidence to the contrary, including denials by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and evidence presented by an eyewitness. This put enormous pressure on the White House to make some sort of statement, and Obama has obliged, vowing to retaliate against “Russian aggression” that never happened:

“Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you. But it is also important to us to do that in a thoughtful, methodical way. Some of it, we will do publicly. Some of it we will do in a way that they know, but not everybody will.”

The criminal stupidity of this statement should be readily apparent: even if Obama doesn’t take any action, in the event of a major cyber-attack on Russia’s vital facilities it will simply be assumed that the US is behind it – with consequences that could escalate into a nightmare scenario.

Yes, something quite disturbing may indeed happen on Trump’s way to the White House – namely, World War III.

Yet there are other, equally dangerous tripwires that he could stumble on.  Here they are, not necessarily in order of importance or probability:

Ukraine – The Ukrainains hate Trump because he’s openly said he doesn’t consider the region to be a vital American national interest, and aid to Ukraine is likely to be cut under a Trump administration. They played a role in ambushing Paul Manafort and ginning up the “Russian plot” scenario that has now taken center stage. With the country sliding into an economic abyss, and the rebellious eastern provinces continuing their defiance of Kiev, the Ukrainian coup leaders are increasingly desperate for attention from their Western sponsors. The result is that they’ve ratcheted up their provocations aimed at Moscow in hopes of sparking a major crisis. Who knows what they could accomplish with a little help from the CIA?

In the meantime, the top US commander in Europe, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, paid a visit to Ukraine to review the US “training” mission, while Vice President Joe Biden got on the phone with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The Russians have yet to release a recording of the call, although we’re hopeful.

Europe – Yes, the Swedish government has instructed local officials to prepare for war with Russia:

“Government officials in Sweden have advised towns to make preparations for potential attacks by Russia.

“The Civil Contingency Agency informed local authorities last week that they should maintain operations in underground bunkers and ensure emergency systems are working properly.

“’In a state of war, civil defense for municipalities is no different from any of the other services they should provide,’ the agency said in a letter, which instructed local governments to ‘ensure their ability to maintain their functions during disturbed situations, and at the most extreme, in a war scenario.’

“The unusual move is a return to similar defenses the country maintained during the Cold War, known as the ‘Total Defense Strategy.’

“’This strategy is not new. We used it during the Cold War and we are going to now strengthen coordination regarding civil defense,’ Magnus Dyberg-Ek, who is leading the civil defence operation for MSB, told Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet newspaper.”

Well, yes, there’s nothing much new here, but the cold war has been over since 1989. Yet apparently Sweden’s government has decided that, as a Christmas present to the populace, they are going to revive the prospect of World War III. Now isn’t that thoughtful of them?

This has taken place in the context of a revival of an old saw in the region: sightings of alleged Russian submarines spying on Swedish defenses. It started during the cold war era, but most of these were later identified as NATO subs possibly engaged in deception, i.e. false flag excursions designed to heighten tensions. More recent sightings turned out to be a boat belonging to a Swedish civilian and a 2011 sighting that was actually a raft frozen in mobile ice.

Meanwhile, Russian ambassador to Sweden Viktor Tatarintsey laughed it all off:

“We respect the integrity of Sweden, and we have no plans whatsoever to invade Sweden, so the Swedish population can sleep easy.”

However, he may be laughing out of the other side of his mouth if NATO gets busy and stages yet another covert action designed to blame Russia for a nonexistent incursion. Then get ready for the Washington Post and the New York Times – whose editorial offices are the journalistic wing of the War Party – to demand that President Trump “stand up to Putin.”

And it’s not just Sweden: the Baltic nations, all NATO members, are awfully nervous about Trump’s ascension to office, and they have been itching for a confrontation with the Russians for quite some time. With Russia reinforcing its defenses in Kaliningrad as NATO builds up its offensive forces in Poland and Romania – which Gen. Scaparrotti ominously describes as “ready to deploy on the other side of the holidays” – anything is possible.

China – This is the most dangerous flashpoint, in part due to Trump’s own belligerent rhetoric directed at Beijing. The danger was underscored by the most recent incident involving the Chinese: their seizure of an unmanned drone submarine launched from a Navy ship that was in international waters. But where, exactly, was the drone itself seized? And which US government agency is in charge of the drone program? Wouldn’t that be the CIA?

Upon pledging to return the drone, the Chinese accused Washington of “hyping up” the incident, an accusation that seems indisputable. Normally, US officials would want to keep evidence of their spying hush-hush. Which leads us to wonder why the Obama administration would hype the incident if this whole thing wasn’t staged for domestic political purposes.

However, Trump didn’t fall for the bait, tweeting:

“We should tell China that we don’t want the drone they stole back – let them keep it!”

While the usual suspects were livid about this hilarious response, not to mention the venue in which he chose to express himself, the fact of the matter is that this remarkably laid back attitude toward what was clearly meant as a provocation shows that Trump isn’t about to start World War III with China. His response, while unorthodox, reflected the fact that a captured drone is practically useless, since there’s no way to recover whatever data it transmitted, and their design is quite simple.

There’s no doubt that the alligators in the swamp the President-elect has vowed to drain are getting mighty restless. That something might happen to overshadow Trump’s presidency before he even takes office is a distinct possibility – which is why we here at Antiwar.com are keeping our eyes peeled, watching intently as we roll on toward January 20.

Clinton’s Defeat and the ‘Fake News’ Conspiracy

December 19, 2016

by Jonathan Cook


There is an astounding double standard being applied to the US presidential election result.

A few weeks ago the corporate media were appalled that Donald Trump demurred on whether he would accept the vote if it went against him. It was proof of his anti-democratic, authoritarian instincts.

But now he has won, the same media outlets are cheerleading the establishment’s full-frontal assault on the legitimacy of a Trump presidency. That campaign is being headed by the failed candidate, Hillary Clinton, after a lengthy softening-up operation by US intelligence agencies, led by the CIA.

According to the prevailing claim, Russian president Vladimir Putin stole the election on behalf of Trump (apparently by resorting to the US playbook on psy-ops). Trump is not truly a US president, it seems. He’s Russia’s placeman in the White House – a Moscovian candidate.

An assessment of the losing side’s claims should be considered separately from the issue of who won the popular mandate. It is irrelevant that Clinton gained more votes than Trump. For good or bad, the US has operated an inherently unrepresentative electoral college since the 18th century. That has provided plenty of time to demand electoral reform. Concern about the electoral college now, only because it elected Trump, is simply ugly partisan politics, not political principle.

Launching last week what looked like a potential comeback, Clinton stepped up the establishment’s attack on the result. She argued that Putin had personally directed the hacking operation that lost her the presidency. He had sought to foil the wishes of the US electorate in revenge for her claims in 2011, when Secretary of State, that Russia’s parliamentary elections had been rigged.

“Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people, and that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election,” Clinton told campaign donors at meeting in New York.

CIA’s evidence-free claims

Clinton’s allegations, of course, did not arrive in a vacuum. For weeks the CIA and other intelligence agencies have been making evidence-free claims that Russia was behind the release of embarrassing emails from the Democratic party leadership. The last holdout against this campaign, James Comey, the head of the FBI, was reported late last week to have caved in and joined the anti-Putin camp.

The Washington Post quoted CIA director John Brennan saying: “Earlier this week, I met separately with [the FBI’s] James Comey and [director of national intelligence] Jim Clapper, and there is strong consensus among us on the scope, nature, and intent of Russian interference in our presidential election.”

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador turned whistleblower on British government collusion in torture, has said he personally received the leaked emails on behalf of WikiLeaks. The data came, he said, not from Russian security agencies, or even from freelance Russian hackers, but from a disillusioned Democratic Party insider. Russia experts in the US have similarly discounted the anti-Putin claims, as have former US intelligence agents.

But either way, what is being overlooked in the furor is that none of the information that has come to light about the Democratic Party was false. (Though the US intelligence services did indeed try to make that claim initially). The emails are real and provide an accurate account of the Democratic Party’s anti-democratic machinations, including efforts to undermine the campaign of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s challenger.

If Russia did indeed seek to influence the election by releasing truthful information that made Clinton and her allies look bad that would be far more legitimate interference than the US has engaged in against countless countries around the globe. For decades the US has been actively involved in using its military might to overthrow regimes in Latin America and the Middle East. It has also compromised the sovereignty of innumerable states, by sending killer-drones into their airspace, manipulating their media and funding color revolutions.

The NSA is not archiving every bit of digital information it can lay its hands on for no reason. The US seeks global dominance, whether the rest of the globe wants it or not.

The ‘fake news’ threat

The corporate media have been lapping up the CIA’s evidence-free allegations as hungrily as an underfed kitten. Not only have they been credulously regurgitating the dubious claims of the same US intelligence agencies that knowingly spread lies about Iraq’s WMD, but they have added their own dangerous spin to them.

The media have suddenly woken up to the supposed threat to western democracies posed by “fake news”. The implication is that it was “fake news” that swept Trump to power. A properly informed electorate, on this view, would never have made such a patently ridiculous choice as Trump. Instead, Clinton would have been rightfully crowned president.

“Fake news”, of course, does not concern the systematic deceptions promoted by the corporate media. It does not include the demonstrable lies – like those Iraqi WMDs – spread by western governments and intelligence agencies through the corporate media. It does not even refer to the press corps’ habitual reports – demonstrating a seemingly gargantuan gullibility – that take at face value the endless state propaganda against Official Enemies, whether Cuba, Venezuela, Libya or Syria. Or Russia and now Trump.

No, “fake news” is produced only by bloggers and independent websites, and is promoted on social media. Those peddling “fake news” are writers, journalists and activists whose pay packets do not depend on continuing employment by western state-run media like the BBC, billionaire proprietors like Rupert Murdoch, or global corporations like Times-Warner.

It is worth noting that the leaked Democratic emails, whether the leaking was done by Russia or not, were certainly not “fake news”. They were documented truth. But the leaks are being actively conflated with “fake news”.

Shutting down dissent

There have always been patently ridiculous stories in marginal, and not so marginal, mainstream media, whether it was reports of Elvis coming back from the dead or the millennium computer bug that was going to bring civilization to an end when we entered the year 2000. That problem has not substantially changed, it has simply moved on to new platforms like social media.

Much more significantly, the systematic deceptions perpetrated by corporate media for many decades have left swaths of western publics distrustful and cynical. Social media has only added to widespread alienation because it has made it easier to expose to readers these mainstream deceptions. Trump, like Brexit, is a symptom of the growing disorientation and estrangement felt by western electorates.

But the claim of “fake news” does usefully offer western security agencies, establishment politicians and the corporate media a powerful weapon to silence their critics. After all, these critics have no platform other than independent websites and social media. Shut down the sites and you shut up your opponents.

The campaign against a Trump presidency will exploit claims of foreign, hostile interference in the US election as a pretext to crack down on homegrown dissent. Putin is not waging a war on US democracy. Rather, US democracy is proving itself increasingly inconvenient to those who expect to dictate electoral outcomes.

Reports: Russian ambassador to Ankara dies after gun attack

Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov has been shot dead in the Turkish capital, Ankara. Local news reports indicate the situation might be still unfolding.

December 19, 2016


According to Russian news agency RIA, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey has died after suffering fatal gunshot wounds during an attack. A gunman had reportedly fired several shots at Ambassador Andrey Karlov while he was attending a public event at an art gallery in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed the attack without commenting on reports of the ambassador’s death.

“Today, during a public event, an unknown person opened fire chaotically,” Zakharova was cited as saying.

“As a result, Andrey Karlov, the ambassador to Turkey, received a gunshot wound.”

Zakharova added that medics had triedto treat the envoy at the scene but that shooting continued, retracting an earlier report that he was taken to hospital. Karlov has served as Russia’s representative to Turkey since 2013.

Ongoing assault

The government-run Anadolu Agency said that police had “neutralized” the gunman who had shot Karlov. It was unknown, however, where there were further assailants involved or still at large, or whether the situation was still unfolding. Turkish news outlets reported that three other people had also sustained wounds during the exchange of fire.

It remains unclear who is behind the attack; Turkey has undergone more than a dozen major terrorist attacks in the past 18 months claimed either by the co-called “Islamic State” (IS) or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency in the country for more than 30 years.

Anger at Russia

The Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency reported that the attacker shouted the word “revenge” and “Aleppo” before shooting the ambassador. The incident occurred following several days of rallies across Turkey, with protestors holding Moscow responsible for human rights violations and mass killings in Aleppo in neighboring Syria. Turkey has the highest number of Syrians refugees, with migrants from Syria increasingly turning into a political bargaining tool.

Turkey has been a vocal opponent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – while Russia has deployed troops and its air force in support of the Syrian leader. Turkey and Russia underwent a major diplomatic crises after Turkey shot down a Russian fighterjet along the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015.

Russian ambassador in Turkey killed in gun attack at Ankara photo exhibit

December 19, 2016

by Brian Murphy

The Washington Post

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was killed Monday after gunfire erupted at a photo exhibit in the Turkish capital where he was one of the speakers, Russian officials said. One gunman also was killed in the apparent targeted attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. But video posted on social media purported to show a Turkish-speaking decrying violence in Syria, where Russia is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Ambassador Andrei Karlov died after being hit in the back by gunfire at the event in Ankara. Earlier, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Karlov has been hit by one gunshot, but efforts to treat him were delayed by further gunfire.

Several other people were wounded in the gallery attack, but their identities were not immediately made public. Officials in Moscow confirmed that one gunman was killed. It was not known if there were other attackers.

Russia and Turkey, a foe of Assad, recently joined to broker a deal to evacuate civilians and rebel fighters from the last opposition enclaves in Aleppo, a major Syrian city that has been under relentless attacks from Syrian forces and their allies.

“Allah Akbar! Do not forget Aleppo!” said the gunman, according to the widely circulated video. “Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! As long as our lands are not safe, you will not be safe!

The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed.

CNN Turk television reported that shooting continued after the attack targeting the ambassador.

The Associated Press published a photo showing a man lying on the ground with an armed assailant dressed in a suit standing nearby.

Karlov started his diplomatic career during the Soviet era in 1976 and had previously served at Russian embassies in Seoul and Pyongyang, North Korea. He took the post in Ankara in July 2013, according to the embassy’s website.

Turkey has been hit by a serious of attacks in recent years blamed on groups including the Islamic State and Kurdish separatists, who have battled the government for decades for greater autonomy in Turkey’s southeastern regions.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby condemned Monday’s attack.

Gunman who shot Russian ambassador was off-duty police officer: security sources

December 19, 2016

by Orhan Coskun and Nevzat Devranoglu;


The gunman who shot the Russian ambassador to Turkey in an attack at an art gallery on Monday was an off-duty police officer who worked in the Turkish capital, two security sources told Reuters.

Russia’s foreign ministry earlier confirmed that the ambassador, Andrey Karlov, had died in the attack. Turkish state media earlier reported that the gunman had been “neutralised” following the attack.

(Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Nevzat Devranoglu; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler)


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 102

December 19, 2016


Earlier this month the Director of National Intelligence asked intelligence community historians to recommend topics in the history of intelligence which, if declassified and disclosed, “would help the public better understand the work of the IC and contribute to a public dialogue surrounding significant historical events.”

DNI James R. Clapper directed that historical topics shall be provided to the DNI for proposed declassification review “on a semi-annual basis.” IC historians are to “collaborate with other public historians or private subject-matter experts to solicit input for such topics,” he wrote in a December 9 memorandum.

In itself, this DNI directive is not a very significant step. It does not make any specific commitments, it is not enforceable, and it does not allocate any new resources. Above all, it does not set forth new criteria for declassification of historical materials. This is a serious omission, since records which qualify for declassification under existing criteria are supposed to be declassified anyway, without the need for a new procedure.

Nevertheless, the latest memorandum adds at least a dash of momentum to a series of steps that have been taken by DNI Clapper to advance intelligence-related transparency, and that cumulatively may help to keep it alive as a topic of policy deliberation. Those other steps include the creation of IC on the Record (where the new memorandum first appeared), the issuance of IC “Transparency Principles,” the creation of an IC Transparency Council, and especially the DNI’s active embrace of the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review process, which should pay dividends in the months and years to come. Meanwhile, “over-classification” has recently been flagged by the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board as an issue requiring the attention of the next Administration.

*These days, intelligence history is not just for historians. One historical topic that is timely and that might be fitting for comprehensive treatment by declassifiers concerns the role of intelligence agencies in tampering with foreign elections.

“The United States cannot in good faith decry what has been done to its decent citizens until it is ready to face what it did so often to the equally decent citizens of other nations,” wrote Ariel Dorfman, referring to the CIA intervention in Chile’s elections in the 1970s (“Now, America, You Know How Chileans Felt,” New York Times, December 16).

“The C.I.A. got its start trying to influence the outcome of Italy’s elections in 1948, as the author Tim Weiner documented in his book ‘Legacy of Ashes,’ in an effort to keep Communists from taking power,” wrote David Sanger, also in the Times. The US went on to interfere in elections in Iran, Guatemala, and Japan, he noted.

In Indonesia, the CIA reportedly made a pornographic film in 1957 featuring an actor disguised as the disfavored leader Sukarno that was intended to embarrass him, according to the 1976 book Portrait of a Cold Warrior by former CIA officer Joseph Burkholder Smith.

*The current classification system “is broken,” wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the Washington Post. It is too complicated, too expensive, and rewards overclassification.

“We… must do what we can to change incentives to further encourage government personnel to classify at the lowest appropriate levels and for the shortest durations,” she wrote. See “How to rethink what’s ‘top secret’ for the Internet age,” December 16.

While official attention to classification policy is most welcome, the fact that a senior legislator like Sen. Feinstein would resort to writing an op-ed on the subject might be understood as a tacit signal that a legislative solution is currently out of reach.

But that is not necessarily true. I suggested some (comparatively) easy incremental steps that Congress could take to begin to combat overclassification in a statement presented at a hearing of the House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee on December 7.


Nearly half of all federal research and development dollars go to the Department of Defense, a new report from the Congressional Research Service observes. The Pentagon research budget is more than twice that of the next largest recipient, the Department of Health and Human Services.

The structure of the DoD research budget, which has “its own unique taxonomy,” is described in the new CRS report. See Department of Defense Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E): Appropriations Structure, December 13, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Military Construction: Process and Outcomes, December 14, 2016

Women in Combat: Issues for Congress, updated December 13, 2016

Agency Final Rules Submitted on or After June 13, 2016, May Be Subject to Disapproval by the 115th Congress, CRS Insight, updated December 15, 2016

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs, updated December 14, 2016

Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Compliance, CRS Insight, December 14, 2016

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief, updated December 14, 2016

NASA: FY2017 Budget and Appropriations, updated December 13, 2016

Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Public Assistance: Policy Overview, updated December 12, 2016

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the House Floor, updated December 13, 2016

The First Day of a New Congress: A Guide to Proceedings on the Senate Floor, updated December 13, 2016

Department of Education’s Withdrawal of Its Recognition of ACICS as an Accrediting Agency, CRS Insight, December 14, 2016

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive, updated December 15, 2016

Latin America: Terrorism Issues, updated December 15, 2016

U.S. International Broadcasting: Background and Issues for Reform, updated December 15, 2016

Arctic ice melt ‘already affecting weather patterns where you live right now

Soaring Arctic temperatures ‘strongly linked’ to recent extreme weather events, say scientists at cutting edge of climate change research

by Damian Carrington

December 19, 2016

The Guardian

The dramatic melting of Arctic ice is already driving extreme weather that affects hundreds of millions of people across North America, Europe and Asia, leading climate scientists have told the Guardian.

Severe “snowmageddon” winters are now strongly linked to soaring polar temperatures, say researchers, with deadly summer heatwaves and torrential floods also probably linked. The scientists now fear the Arctic meltdown has kickstarted abrupt changes in the planet’s swirling atmosphere, bringing extreme weather in heavily populated areas to the boil.

The northern ice cap has been shrinking since the 1970s, with global warming driving the loss of about three-quarters of its volume so far. But the recent heat in the Arctic has shocked scientists, with temperatures 33C above average in parts of the Russian Arctic and 20C higher in some other places.

In November, ice levels hit a record low, and we are now in “uncharted territory”, said Prof Jennifer Francis, an Arctic climate expert at Rutgers University in the US, who first became interested in the region when she sailed through it on a round-the-world trip in the 1980s.

“These rapid changes in the Arctic are affecting weather patterns where you live right now,” she said. “In the past you have had natural variations like El Niño, but they have never happened before in combination with this very warm Arctic, so it is a whole new ball game.

“It is inconceivable that this ridiculously warm Arctic would not have an impact on weather patterns in the middle latitudes further south, where so many people live.

“It’s safe to say [the hot Arctic] is going to have a big impact, but it’s hard to say exactly how big right now. But we are going to have a lot of very interesting weather – we’re not going to get around that one.”

The chain of events that links the melting Arctic with weather to the south begins with rising global temperatures causing more sea ice to melt. Unlike on the Antarctic continent, melting ice here exposes dark ocean beneath, which absorbs more sunlight than ice and warms further. This feedback loop is why the Arctic is heating up much faster than the rest of the planet.

This in turn narrows the temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes, which is crucial because it is the temperature gradient between them that drives the jet stream wind, which streaks around the pole at up to 250mph and about 8km above the surface.

The jet stream forms a boundary between the cold north and the warmer south, but the lower temperature difference means the winds are now weaker. This means the jet stream meanders more, with big loops bringing warm air to the frozen north and cold air into warmer southern climes.

Furthermore, researchers say, the changes mean the loops can remain stuck over regions for weeks, rather than being blown westwards as in the past. This “blocking” effect means extreme events can unfold.

“There have been recent studies showing very plausible physical mechanisms of how rapid warming in the Arctic can influence weather in the mid latitudes, both in summer and winter,” said Dim Coumou at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Coumou is a former offshore industry geophysicist who has studied the link between extreme weather events and global warming since 2010.

“A couple of years ago this was the main criticism on any such links, that the physics was not well understood,” he said. “But the big question [now] is, how important are these mechanisms?”

The other main influence on the jet stream is sea surface temperature in the tropics, which waxes and wanes with El Niño, while solar cycles and even volcanic eruptions have smaller effects.

The clearest connection so far between the melting Arctic and weather is for extreme winter conditions, such as the intense winters that hit parts of North America and northern Europe in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2013-14, causing record snowfalls and billions of dollars of damage.

In those years, the jet stream deviated deeply southwards over those regions, pulling down savagely cold air. Prof Adam Scaife, a climate modelling expert at the UK’s Met Office, said the evidence for a link to shrinking Arctic ice was now good: “The consensus points towards that being a real effect.”

While downswings of the jet stream can bring freezing winters, the accompanying upswings have been linked to worsening the drought in California. “These northward jet stream swings are of course the reason California is having such a terrible drought,” said Francis. This effect was in fact predicted back in 2004, with those researchers now saying: “Reality is moving faster than we thought or hoped it would.”

But the winter extremes can also swing the other way and bring mild but torrential weather, as seen in the past two winters in the UK, leading to severe flooding, said Prof Edward Hanna, at the University of Sheffield in the UK.

He pointed to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NOA), a cyclic variation in air pressure that may be affected by the fast melting of Arctic ice. The variability of the NOA has doubled in the last century, he said: “Within the last decade, there have been wild swings in the NAO values in December.”

The connection between the vanishing Arctic ice and extreme summer weather in the northern hemisphere is probable, according to scientists, but not yet as certain as the winter link.

Blocking patterns caused by slow-moving meanders of the jet stream have been firmly linked to some devastating events, including the 2010 summer floods in Pakistan, which killed 2,000 people and affected 20 million, and also the searing heatwave in Russia in the same year, which killed 50,000 people and wiped out $15bn (£12bn) of crops.

“We also see such summer events more often in recent years,” said Coumou.

Blocking events have also been linked to summer deluges in the UK, leading to disastrous flooding in 2007 and 2012 which caused billions of pounds in damage.

The year 2012 was also an extreme year for Greenland, with record melting across its entire surface flushing water into the ocean and accelerating sea level rise. The hot loop of air that sat on Greenland that year may also be linked to one of the biggest weather disasters of recent years: Hurricane Sandy, which killed 233 people and cost $75bn in damages.

Scientists suspect that the blocking event over Greenland, potentially linked to the record low Arctic ice that summer, prevented the hurricane veering north-east out into the Atlantic like most storms. Instead, blocked by the high pressure, Sandy swung left over the most populated area of the east coast of the US.

Another consequence of the fast melting Arctic raises the possibility that there may be even worse extreme weather to come, according to a few scientists: titanic Atlantic superstorms and hurricanes barreling across Europe.

The melting of Greenland ice is pouring about 250bn tonnes a year of fresh water, which is less dense than salty sea water, into the ocean. As a result, the water mass sinks less and the current that drags warm water up the Atlantic is weakened – scientists have already found that the current is at its weakest for a millennium.

This means a region of the north Atlantic is becoming relatively cool and this exaggerates the contrast with tropical waters to the south, which is the driver for storms. In the worst case scenario, said the renowned climate scientist Prof James Hansen, this “will drive superstorms, stronger than any in modern times – all hell will break loose in the north Atlantic and neighbouring lands”.

Hansen– who was one of the first scientists to alert the world to the dangers of climate change in 1988 and has been arrested more than once outside the White House while protesting against fossil fuel developments – pointed to the historical record as a precedent: 118,000 years ago a superstorm tossed 1,000-tonne mega boulders on to the shores of the Bahamas.

I would certainly not call such [superstorm] scenarios ridiculous,” said Coumou. “But it is speculative – we don’t have the hard evidence.”

But even with what is known so far, there is cause for concern that the complex interactions are turning the slow burn of global temperature rise into sudden weather disasters.

“The worrying aspect is that such dynamical changes can occur more abruptly than simple background warming of the climate,” said Coumou. “Dynamical changes can change more rapidly and can therefore lead to surprises and I think there are many such possibilities in the system.”

Amid the gloomy prospects, there is some cause for hope however.

“A large fraction of the US public still doesn’t believe that it is humans that are affecting the climate system,” said Francis. “But one of the silver linings of this pretty dark cloud is that the Arctic is such an obvious and conspicuous change, that anybody can see them happening. There is no ambiguity whatsoever.”

But this changing of minds needs to happen quickly, said Hansen: “If we wait for the natural world to reveal itself clearly, it may be too late.”

Commandos Without Borders

America’s Elite Troops Partner with African Forces But Pursue U.S. Aims

December 19, 2016

by Nick Turse

Tom Dispatch

Al-Qaeda doesn’t care about borders. Neither does the Islamic State or Boko Haram. Brigadier General Donald Bolduc thinks the same way

“[T]errorists, criminals, and non-state actors aren’t bound by arbitrary borders,” the commander of Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) told an interviewer early this fall.  “That said, everything we do is not organized around recognizing traditional borders. In fact, our whole command philosophy is about enabling cross-border solutions, implementing multi-national, collective actions and empowering African partner nations to work across borders to solve problems using a regional approach.”

A SOCAFRICA planning document obtained by TomDispatch offers a window onto the scope of these “multi-national, collective actions” carried out by America’s most elite troops in Africa. The declassified but heavily redacted secret report, covering the years 2012-2017 and acquired via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), details nearly 20 programs and activities — from training exercises to security cooperation engagements — utilized by SOCAFRICA across the continent. This wide array of low-profile missions, in addition to named operations and quasi-wars, attests to the growing influence and sprawling nature of U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) in Africa.

How U.S. military engagement will proceed under the Trump administration remains to be seen.  The president-elect has said or tweeted little about Africa in recent years (aside from long trading in baseless claims that the current president was born there).  Given his choice for national security adviser, Michael Flynn — a former director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command who believes that the United States is in a “world war” with Islamic militants — there is good reason to believe that Special Operations Command Africa will continue its border-busting missions across that continent.  That, in turn, means that Africa is likely to remain crucial to America’s nameless global war on terror.

Publicly, the command claims that it conducts its operations to “promote regional stability and prosperity,” while Bolduc emphasizes that its missions are geared toward serving the needs of African allies.  The FOIA files make clear, however, that U.S. interests are the command’s principal and primary concern — a policy in keeping with the America First mindset and mandate of incoming commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump — and that support to “partner nations” is prioritized to suit American, not African, needs and policy goals.

Shades of Gray

Bolduc is fond of saying that his troops — Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, among others — operate in the “gray zone,” or what he calls “the spectrum of conflict between war and peace.”  Another of his favored stock phrases is: “In Africa, we are not the kinetic solution” — that is, not pulling triggers and dropping bombs.  He also regularly takes pains to say that “we are not at war in Africa — but our African partners certainly are.”

That is not entirely true.

Earlier this month, in fact, a White House report made it clear, for instance, that “the United States is currently using military force” in Somalia.  At about the same moment, the New York Times revealed an imminent Obama administration plan to deem al-Shabab “to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials,” strengthening President-elect Donald Trump’s authority to carry out missions there in 2017 and beyond.

As part of its long-fought shadow war against al-Shabab militants, the U.S. has carried out commando raids and drone assassinations there (with the latter markedly increasing in 2015-2016). On December 5th, President Obama issued his latest biannual “war powers” letter to Congress which noted that the military had not only “conducted strikes in defense of U.S. forces” there, but also in defense of local allied troops.  The president also acknowledged that U.S. personnel “occasionally accompany regional forces, including Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, during counterterrorism operations.”

Obama’s war powers letter also mentioned American deployments in Cameroon, Djibouti, and Niger, efforts aimed at countering Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa, a long-running mission by military observers in Egypt, and a continuing deployment of forces supporting “the security of U.S. citizens and property” in rapidly deteriorating South Sudan.

The president offered only two sentences on U.S. military activities in Libya, although a long-running special ops and drone campaign there has been joined by a full-scale American air war, dubbed Operation Odyssey Lightning, against Islamic State militants, especially those in the city of Sirte.  Since August 1st, in fact, the United States has carried out nearly 500 air strikes in Libya, according to figures supplied by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Odyssey Lightning is, in fact, no outlier.  While the “primary named operations” involving America’s elite forces in Africa have been redacted from the declassified secret files in TomDispatch’s possession, a November 2015 briefing by Bolduc, obtained via a separate FOIA request, reveals that his command was then involved in seven such operations on the continent.  These likely included at least some of the following: Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa, Octave Shield, and/or Juniper Garret, all aimed at East Africa; New Normal, an effort to secure U.S. embassies and assets around the continent; Juniper Micron, a U.S.-backed French and African mission to stabilize Mali (following a 2012 coup there by a U.S.-trained officer and the chaos that followed); Observant Compass, the long-running effort to decimate the Lord’s Resistance Army (which recently retired AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez derided as expensive and strategically unimportant); and Juniper Shield, a wide-ranging effort (formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara) aimed at Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal.  A 2015 briefing document by SOCAFRICA’s parent unit, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), also lists an ongoing “gray zone” conflict in Uganda.

On any given day, between 1,500 and 1,700 American special operators and support personnel are deployed somewhere on the continent.  Over the course of a year they conduct missions in more than 20 countries.  According to Bolduc’s November 2015 briefing, Special Operations Command Africa carries out 78 separate “mission sets.”  These include activities that range from enhancing “partner capability and capacity” to the sharing of intelligence.

Mission Creep

Most of what Bolduc’s troops do involves working alongside and mentoring local allies.  SOCAFRICA’s showcase effort, for instance, is Flintlock, an annual training exercise in Northwest Africa involving elite American, European, and African forces, which provides the command with a plethora of publicity.  More than 1,700 military personnel from 30-plus nations took part in Flintlock 2016.  Next year, according to Bolduc, the exercise is expected “to grow to include SOF from more countries, [as well as] more interagency partners.”

While the information has been redacted, the SOCAFRICA strategic planning document — produced in 2012 and scheduled to be fully declassified in 2037 — indicates the existence of one or more other training exercises.  Bolduc recently mentioned two: Silent Warrior and Epic Guardian.  In the past, the command has also taken part in exercises like Silver Eagle 10 and Eastern Piper 12.  (U.S. Africa Command did not respond to requests for comment on these exercises or other questions related to this article.)

Such exercises are, however, just a small part of the SOCAFRICA story.  Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) missions are a larger one.  Officially authorized to enable U.S. special operators to “practice skills needed to conduct a variety of missions, including foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, and counterterrorism,” JCETs actually serve as a backdoor method of expanding U.S. military influence and contacts in Africa, since they allow for “incidental-training benefits” to “accrue to the foreign friendly forces at no cost.”  As a result, JCETs play an important role in forging and sustaining military relationships across the continent.  Just how many of these missions the U.S. conducts in Africa is apparently unknown — even to the military commands involved.  As TomDispatch reported earlier this year, according to SOCOM, the U.S. conducted 19 JCETs in 2012, 20 in 2013, and 20, again, in 2014.  AFRICOM, however, claims that there were nine JCETs in 2012, 18 in 2013, and 26 in 2014.

Whatever the true number, JCETs are a crucial cog in the SOCAFRICA machine.  “During a JCET, exercise or training event, a special forces unit might train a partner force in a particular tactical skill and can quickly ascertain if the training audience has adopted the capability,” explained Brigadier General Bolduc. “Trainers can objectively measure competency, then exercise… that particular skill until it becomes a routine.” In addition, SOCAFRICA also utilizes a confusing tangle of State Department and Pentagon programs and activities, aimed at local allies that operate under a crazy quilt of funding schemes, monikers, and acronyms.  These include deployments of Mobile Training Teams, Joint Planning Advisory Teams, Joint Military Education Teams, Civil Military Support Elements, as well as Military Information Support Teams that engage in what once was called psychological operations, or psyops — that is, programs designed to “inform and influence foreign target audiences as appropriately authorized.”

Special Operations Command Africa also utilizes an almost mind-numbing  panoply of “security cooperation programs” and other training activities including Section 1207(n) (also known as the Transitional Authorities for East Africa and Yemen, which provides equipment, training, and other aid to the militaries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen “to conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda affiliates, and al-Shabab” and “enhance the capacity of national military forces participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia”); the Global Security Contingency Fund (designed to enhance the “capabilities of a country’s national military forces, and other national security forces that conduct border and maritime security, internal defense, and counterterrorism operations”); the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (or PREACT, designed to build counterterror capacities and foster military and law enforcement efforts in East African countries, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda); and, among others, the Trans-Sahel Counterterrorism Partnership, the Global Peace Operations Initiative, the Special Operations to Combat Terrorism, the Combatting Terrorism Fellowship, and another known as Counter-Narcotic Terrorism.

Like Africa’s terror groups and Bolduc’s special ops troops, the almost 20 initiatives utilized by SOCAFRICA — a sprawling mass of programs that overlie and intersect with each other — have a border-busting quality to them.  What they don’t have is clear records of success.  A 2013 RAND Corporation analysis called such capacity-building programs “a tangled web, with holes, overlaps, and confusions.” A 2014 RAND study analyzing U.S. security cooperation (SC) found that there “was no statistically significant correlation between SC and change in countries’ fragility in Africa or the Middle East.”  A 2016 RAND report on “defense institution building” in Africa noted a “poor understanding of partner interests” by the U.S. military.

“We’re supporting African military professionalization and capability-building efforts, we’re supporting development and governance via civil affairs and military information support operations teams,” Bolduc insisted publicly. “[A]ll programs must be useful to the partner nation (not the foreign agenda) and necessary to advance the partner nations’ capabilities. If they don’t pass this simple test… we need to focus on programs that do meet the African partner nation’s needs.”

The 2012 SOCAFRICA strategic planning document obtained by TomDispatch reveals, however, that Special Operations Command Africa’s primary aim is not fostering African development, governance, or military professionalization.  “SOCAFRICA’s foremost objective is the prevention of an attack against America or American interests,” according to the declassified secret report.  In other words, a “foreign agenda,” not the needs of African partner nations, is what’s driving the elite force’s border-busting missions.

American Aims vs. African Needs

Special Operations Command spokesman Ken McGraw cautioned that because SOCAFRICA and AFRICOM have both changed commanders since the 2012 document was issued, it was likely out of date.  “I recommend you contact SOCAFRICA,” he advised.  That command failed to respond to multiple requests for information or comment.  There are, however, no indications that it has actually altered its “foremost objective,” while Bolduc’s public comments suggest that the U.S. military’s engagement in the region is going strong.

“Our partners and [forward deployed U.S. personnel] recognize the arbitrary nature of borders and understand the only way to combat modern-day threats like ISIS, AQIM [al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], Boko Haram, and myriad others is to leverage the capabilities of SOF professionals working in concert,” said Bolduc.  “Borders may be notional and don’t protect a country from the spread of violent extremism… but neither do oceans, mountains… or distance.”

In reality, however, oceans and distance have kept most Americans safe from terrorist organizations like AQIM and Boko Haram.  The same cannot be said for those who live in the nations menaced by these groups.  In Africa, terrorist organizations and attacks have spiked alongside the increase in U.S. Special Operations missions there.  In 2006, the percentage of forward-stationed special operators on the continent hovered at 1% of total globally deployed SOF forces.  By 2014, that number had hit 10% — a jump of 900% in less than a decade.  During that same span, according to information from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, terror incidents in Africa increased precipitously — from just over 100 per year to nearly 2,400 annually.  During the same period, the number of transnational terrorist organizations and illicit groups operating on the continent jumped from one to, according to Bolduc’s reckoning, nearly 50.

Correlation may not equal causation, but SOCAFRICA’s efforts have coincided with significantly worsening terrorist violence and the growth and spread of terror groups.  And it shouldn’t be a surprise.  While Bolduc publicly talks up the needs of African nations, his border-busting commandos operate under a distinctive America-first mandate and a mindset firmly in keeping with that of the incoming commander-in-chief.  “My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first,” Donald Trump said earlier this year in a major foreign policy speech.  Kicking off his victory tour earlier this month, the president-elect echoed this theme.  “From now on, it’s going to be America first. Okay? America first. We’re going to put ourselves first,” he told a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In Africa, the most elite troops soon to be under his command have, in fact, been operating this way for years.  “[W]e will prioritize and focus our operational efforts in those areas where the threat[s] to United States interests are most grave,” says the formerly secret SOCAFRICA document.  “Protecting America, Americans, and American interests is our overarching objective and must be reflected in everything we do.”





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