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TBR News December 20, 2016

Dec 20 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. December 19, 2016:” No one knows precisely when the Cold War ended.  It could have been November 9th, 1989, when the Berlin Wall began to crumble.  Or a month later, on December 3rd, when President George Bush (41) and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev convened a summit in Malta aboard the Russian cruiser Maxim Gorky.

Exactly how this war was won is less known.  Truth is, the Operations Directorate of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), ran four strategies concurrently that harmonized better than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  So well, in fact, that the Soviet Union collapsed ten years ahead of what CIA’s Intelligence Directorate had forecast:

Strategy One:  In the mid-1970s CIA embarked on a program to “educate” a new generation of Soviet leaders.  Hope for ending the Cold War lay with the “boomers.”  The old fogies in the Kremlin seemed to understand this, too, which is why they passed leadership to sick, dying men.  Leonid Brezhnev could barely stand for the last eight years of his life, while the Soviet system stagnated.  His successor Yuri Andropov was already dying from liver disease when he took over.  And his replacement, Konstantin Chernenko, was practically a living corpse.

Finally, at the urging of Foreign Secretary Andrei Gromyko, a younger man was chosen:  Mikhail Gorbachev.

Gorby’s closest adviser was Alexandre Yakovlev, who had probably been working for CIA since 1959 when he studied at Columbia University.  The Soviets sent their brightest brains to the United States for higher education—and many were recruited.

How was that so easy?  Most Soviets who arrived in the USA to study were smart enough to realize, despite their Leninist indoctrination, that communism as practiced in their Motherland was a cruel fraud.  CIA’s biggest challenge was getting them to return to Moscow, to climb the professional ladder.

Slowly, a network of influence was constructed in every professional arena:  politics, banking, industry, scientific research, media, and, of course, the KGB.

Slowly, in their respective arenas, moles chewed away at communist rule.

Strategy Two:  Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) scared the Soviets stupid.  They were already spending most of their money on their military-industrial complex instead of ensuring that people got fed.  The U.S. essentially said, “Now you have to spend a whole lot more!”

The Soviets did not have a whole lot more, but were scraping to sustain what they had.  The arms race was over at that point.

And it was all based on a bluff.  The U.S. wasn’t spending anywhere near what the Soviets believed it was spending on “Star Wars.”  Through tactical disinformation, President Reagan made them believe he was capable of anything.  The CIA did not want the Soviets to give up the arms race; it wanted to bankrupt them out of existence.

After President Reagan’s “joke” into a live microphone—“We begin bombing in five minutes”–KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov convinced himself it was only a matter of time before our president would launch missiles, and Mr. Kryuchkov thus created Operation RYAN—a top priority secret mission to establish precisely when, not if, a U.S. sneak attack would occur.  Their operatives scurried around in circles trying to pinpoint something that did not exist.  It drove them nuts, while CIA proceeded with…

Strategy Three:  CIA wanted an Eastern-Bloc country that would pull off what Hungary had attempted in 1956 and Czechoslovakia twelve years later.  Soviet leaders had grown old and weary and sick, and their system had become stymied in apparatchik ineptitude.  And further quagmired in Afghanistan, a war they could never win, which depleted their military muscle and took their eye off the ball (Eastern Europe).  CIA studied the possibilities, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.  It settled on Poland, whose elements had synchronized:  A fiercely independent people devoted not to communism but Catholicism (92 percent); a dissatisfied intelligentsia; a labor force on the verge of rebellion.  All CIA had to do was stand back and watch—and be ready to jump when…

The volcano erupted in August 1980 at the shipyards in Gdansk and evolved into a Solidarity movement that paralyzed the country.  CIA saw to it that Poland’s intelligentsia jumped onto the bandwagon.  With that, the government capitulated.  But Solidarity tried to do too much too fast; a military crackdown was inevitable.  However, telecommunications had come a long way since the Prague Spring of 1968.  People the world over could see on live TV the harsh, oppressive reality of communism and martial law.

Solidarity went underground.  Through the Vatican, CIA channeled millions of dollars to the outlawed Solidarity movement, giving it technology to interrupt state TV news broadcasts with announcements like, “Don’t believe these liars!”

The Soviets, beleaguered by Afghan polo (which featured captured Russian officers as the puck), were horrified.  They knew they were looking at their own future.

Strategy Four:  CIA chipped away at the Soviet federal structure in all of the enslaved republics, from the Baltics to the Stans, firing up nationalist fervor, destabilizing the system for mass secession—an implosion.

The Soviets roundly deserved this.  Moscow had exploited all of these republics to the max, trading their natural resources for foreign currency banked in Moscow, with only a pittance trickling back to the republics.  Not only did the Kremlin not care about the people it governed, it did not care what happened to their environment.  The Aral Sea in Central Asia dried into a desert because of an ill-conceived Soviet policy to maximize Uzbekistan’s cotton crop.

The leaders of these republics did not need for CIA to point this out to them; they simply needed secret reassurance as they strove for self-determination.

Of much less help was the State Department, which wanted to deal with the republics through Moscow.  Not only was this easier for them then, say, creating new embassies and posting diplomats to Tashkent, Tbilisi, and Bishkek, etc, but it did not wish to embarrass the Kremlin.

Yet through CIA’s guidance, a new generation of leaders in the republics was poised to establish their independence.

And so the Cold War ended in late 1989.  Its demise created the erroneous impression—conveyed by Congress and the media—that the world had become safe for all Americans; time to spend less money on intelligence and security; time to become lazy and complacent—all through the 1990s.

James Joyce had a line for that:  “In moments of happiness, don’t despair, tragedy lurks around the next corner.”

Around the next corner came 9/11.

And a New Russia lorded over by a New Stalin.

And now it is the United States quagmired in Afghanistan.

President Rhetoric will presently commit 17,000 new troops to Afghanistan.  Is this the “change” his supporters envisioned?

Despite what the wisest generals tell you about this war, it can never be won.  The Russians and Chinese watch in amusement as we recklessly squander our resources—and the future of our grandchildren.”

Electoral college formally elects Donald Trump as president

Trump victory sealed despite demonstrations across the country, with Congress to formally endorse result in special session on 6 January

December 19, 2016

by Ben Jacobs

The Guardian

Washington, D.C.-The denouement of the 2016 election came on Monday, as electors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia formally elected Donald Trump as president of the United States.

In some state capitals, proceedings were met with protests. Activists had urged electors to back efforts led by celebrities and academics to cast their ballots at variance with election results and somehow keep Trump from reaching the necessary 270 electoral votes.

If all electors voted in accordance with the will of the voters, Trump was due to receive 306 electoral votes and Hillary Clinton 232. Texas put Trump over the 270-elector threshold, despite two electors in the state casting protest votes against the president-elect.

More than 200 demonstrators were on the steps of Pennsylvania’s capitol in Harrisburg on Monday morning, waving signs and chanting in chilly, 25F weather. They chanted “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!” and “No treason, no Trump!”

Several dozen protesters gathered outside South Carolina’s statehouse in Columbia, waving signs with messages imploring electors not to back the president-elect.

Vermont was the first state to report the results of its vote. As expected, all three electors voted for Clinton. Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia and South Carolina followed for Trump, and Delaware for Clinton as the totals started to mount.

By mid-afternoon, with the votes of Michigan and Florida, two of the states that were central to his victory, Trump had reached 215 votes.

Republican electors said they had been deluged with emails, phone calls and letters urging them not to support Trump. Many emails were part of coordinated campaigns.

“The letters are actually quite sad,” Lee Green, a Republican elector from North Carolina, told the Associated Press. “They are generally freaked out. They honestly believe the propaganda. They believe our nation is being taken over by a dark and malevolent force.”

The Guardian spoke to six so-called “faithless electors” who intended to change their vote, all but one of them Democrats. The sole Republican, Christopher Suprun of Texas, said: “Since I announced my intention to vote according to my conscience, I have received about half a dozen death threats against me and my family.

“More happily, a person I’ve known for years who traces his ancestry back to the American revolution told me he thinks his forebears would have been proud of what I’m doing, which made me feel pretty good.”

Wirt A Yerger Jr, a Republican elector in Mississippi, said: “I have gotten several thousand emails asking me not to vote for Trump. I threw them all away.”

A joint session of Congress is scheduled for 6 January to certify the results of the Electoral College vote, with Vice-President Joe Biden presiding as president of the Senate. Once the result is certified, the winner will be sworn in on 20 January.

“When the founders of our country created [the Electoral College] 200-plus years ago, they didn’t have confidence in the average white man who had property, because that’s who got to vote,” Shawn Terris, a Democratic elector from Ventura, California, told the AP.

“It just seems so undemocratic to me that people other than the voters get to choose who leads the country.”

In Minnesota, won by Clinton, a Democrat who did not intend to vote for Clinton was replaced. The elector in question was a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.

David Bright, a Democratic elector from Maine, said on his Facebook page he had voted for Sanders, because his vote would not have helped Clinton win the presidency.

“I cast my electoral college vote for Bernie Sanders today to let those new voters who were inspired by him know that some of us did hear them, did listen to them, do respect them and understand their disappointment,” he wrote.

His vote was however ruled improper, and switched to Clinton.

Night and Fog: A response to Muslim terrorists?

December 20, 2016

by Harry von Johnston, PhD.

The day the Germans struck at Russia in June of 1941, communist groups and individuals both inside and outside of Germany immediately began to attack Germans. Partisan groups in German-occupied territories began to kill and destroy their enemies with increasing vigor but of limited strategic value.

Finally, on December 7, 1941, an exasperated Hitler, who had once said that terror could only be broken by counter-terror, issued a decree called ‘Nacht und Nebel’, the Night and Fog Decree.

This decree replaced the unsuccessful German policy of taking hostages to undermine underground activities. Suspected underground agents and others would now suddenly vanish without a trace into the night and fog.

SS Reichsführer Himmler issued the following instructions to the Gestapo.

“After lengthy consideration, it is the will of the Führer that the measures taken against those who are guilty of offenses against the Reich or against the occupation forces in occupied areas should be altered. The Führer is of the opinion that in such cases penal servitude or even a hard labor sentence for life will be regarded as a sign of weakness. An effective and lasting deterrent can be achieved only by the death penalty or by taking measures which will leave the family and the population uncertain as to the fate of the offender. Deportation to Germany serves this purpose.”

Field Marshall Keitel issued a letter stating:

“Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminals do not know the fate of the criminal. The prisoners are, in future, to be transported to Germany secretly, and further treatment of the offenders will take place here; these measures will have a deterrent effect because –

  1. The prisoners will vanish without a trace.
  2. No information may be given as to their whereabouts or their fate.”

The terrorists dealt with were mostly from France, Belgium and Holland. They were usually arrested in the middle of the night and quickly taken to prisons hundreds of miles away for interrogation, eventually arriving at the concentration camps of Natzweiler or Gross-Rosen.

From its inception, the government agencies of the Third Reich had been dealing severely with political prisoners. Most of the early prisoners were of two sorts: they were either prisoners of belief/political prisoners whom the Germans deemed in need of “re-education” to the Third Reich’s thinking, or resistance leaders in occupied Western Europe. Up until the time of the “Night and Fog” decree, prisoners were handled by German soldiers in approximately the same way other countries did: according to national agreements and procedures such as the Geneva Convention.

Hitler and his upper level staff, however, made a firm decision not to have to conform to what they considered unnecessary rules. The Third Reich, after all, was not a party to the Geneva Convention, and so observed it only as needed to reduce tensions with other nations.

The reasons for Nacht und Nebel were many:

  • First, complaints by other governments or humanitarian organizations against the German government were made far more difficult because the exact cause of internment or death, indeed whether or not the event had even occurred, was obscured. It kept the Germans from being held accountable.
  • The decree and the concealed actions afforded the German government the ability to deal with terrorists, and suspected terrorists, withouteither domestic or foreign public reactions.
  • One cannot apply the terms of humane treatment in war if one cannot locate the victim or discern their fate.
  • Additionally, it lessened the moral qualms and confrontations of the German public as well as that of servicemen, in an agreed and/or ignorant silence.

The Night and Fog Decree was carried out in strict secrecy and had the effect of not only punishing terrorists but causing doubt and confusion in others at the vanishing of a comrade.

Directives for the prosecution of offences committed within the occupied territories against the German State or the occupying power:

December 7th, 1941.

Within the occupied territories, communistic elements and other circles hostile to Germany have increased their efforts against the German State and the occupying powers since the Russian campaign started. The amount and the danger of these machinations oblige us to take severe measures as a determent. First of all the following directives are to be applied:

  1. Within the occupied territories, the adequate punishment for offences committed against the German State or the occupying power which endanger their security or a state of readiness is on principle the death penalty.
  2. The offences listed in paragraph I as a rule are to be dealt with in the occupied countries only if it is probable that sentence of death will be passed upon the offender, at least the principal offender, and if the trial and the execution can be completed in a very short time. Otherwise the offenders, at least the principal offenders, are to be taken to Germany.

III. Prisoners taken to Germany are subjected to military procedure only if particular military interests require this. In case German or foreign authorities inquire about such prisoners, they are to be told that they were arrested, but that the proceedings do not allow any further information.

  1. The Commanders in the occupied territories and the Court authorities within the framework of their jurisdiction, are personally responsible for the observance of this decree.
  2. The Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces determines in which occupied territories this decree is to be applied. He is authorized to explain and to issue executive orders and supplements. The Reich Minister of Justice will issue executive orders within his own jurisdiction.

Reference: Domarus, M: Hitler: Reden und Proklamation, Band II, p. 1792, 1963

A Spy Coup in America?

As the Electoral College assembles, U.S. intelligence agencies are stepping up a campaign to delegitimize Donald Trump as a Russian stooge, raising concerns about a spy coup in America

December 18, 2016

by Robert Parry

consortium news

As Official Washington’s latest “group think” solidifies into certainty – that Russia used hacked Democratic emails to help elect Donald Trump – something entirely different may be afoot: a months-long effort by elements of the U.S. intelligence community to determine who becomes the next president.

I was told by a well-placed intelligence source some months ago that senior leaders of the Obama administration’s intelligence agencies – from the CIA to the FBI – were deeply concerned about either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump ascending to the presidency. And, it’s true that intelligence officials often come to see themselves as the stewards of America’s fundamental interests, sometimes needing to protect the country from dangerous passions of the public or from inept or corrupt political leaders

It was, after all, a senior FBI official, Mark Felt, who – as “Deep Throat” – guided The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their Watergate investigation into the criminality of President Richard Nixon. And, I was told by former U.S. intelligence officers that they wanted to block President Jimmy Carter’s reelection in 1980 because they viewed him as ineffectual and thus not protecting American global interests.

It’s also true that intelligence community sources frequently plant stories in major mainstream publications that serve propaganda or political goals, including stories that can be misleading or entirely false.

What’s Going On?

So, what to make of what we have seen over the past several months when there have been a series of leaks and investigations that have damaged both Clinton and Trump — with some major disclosures coming, overtly and covertly, from the U.S. intelligence community led by CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey?

Some sources of damaging disclosures remain mysterious. Clinton’s campaign was hobbled by leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee – showing it undercutting Clinton’s chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders – and from her campaign chairman John Podesta – exposing the content of her speeches to Wall Street banks that she had tried to hide from the voters and revealing the Clinton Foundation’s questionable contacts with foreign governments.

Clinton – already burdened with a reputation for secrecy and dishonesty – suffered from the drip, drip, drip of releases from WikiLeaks of the DNC and Podesta emails although it remains unclear who gave the emails to WikiLeaks. Still, the combination of the two email batches added to public suspicions about Clinton and reminded people why they didn’t trust her.

But the most crippling blow to Clinton came from FBI Director Comey in the last week of the campaign when he reopened and then re-closed the investigation into whether she broke the law with her sloppy handling of classified material in her State Department emails funneled through a home server.

Following Comey’s last-minute revival of the Clinton email controversy, her poll numbers fell far enough to enable Trump to grab three normally Democratic states – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – enough to give him a victory in the Electoral College.

Taking Down Trump

However, over the past few weeks, the U.S. intelligence community, led by CIA Director Brennan and seconded by FBI Director Comey, has tried to delegitimize Trump by using leaks to the mainstream U.S. news media to pin the release of the DNC and Podesta emails on Russia and claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally trying to put Trump into the White House.

This remarkable series of assessments from the CIA – now endorsed by the leadership of the FBI – come on the eve of the Electoral College members assembling to cast their formal votes to determine who becomes the new U.S. president. Although the Electoral College process is usually simply a formality, the Russian-hacking claims made by the U.S. intelligence community have raised the possibility that enough electors might withhold their votes from Trump to deny him the presidency.

If on Monday enough Trump electors decide to cast their votes for someone else – possibly another Republican – the presidential selection could go to the House of Representatives where, conceivably, the Republican-controlled chamber could choose someone other than Trump.

In other words, there is an arguable scenario in which the U.S. intelligence community first undercut Clinton and, secondly, Trump, seeking — however unlikely — to get someone installed in the White House considered more suitable to the CIA’s and the FBI’s views of what’s good for the country.

Who Did the Leaking?

At the center of this controversy is the question of who leaked or hacked the DNC and Podesta emails. The CIA has planted the story in The Washington Post, The New York Times and other mainstream outlets that it was Russia that hacked both the DNC and Podesta emails and slipped the material to WikiLeaks with the goal of assisting the Trump campaign. The suggestion is that Trump is Putin’s “puppet,” just as Hillary Clinton alleged during the third presidential debate.

But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has publicly denied that Russia was the source of the leaks and one of his associates, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, has suggested that the DNC leak came from a “disgruntled” Democrat upset with the DNC’s sandbagging of the Sanders campaign and that the Podesta leak came from the U.S. intelligence community.

Although Assange recently has sought to muzzle Murray’s public comments – out of apparent concern for protecting the identity of sources – Murray offered possibly his most expansive account of the sourcing during a podcast interview with Scott Horton on Dec. 13.

Murray, who became a whistleblower himself when he protested Britain’s tolerance of human rights abuses in Uzbekistan, explained that he consults with Assange and cooperates with WikiLeaks “without being a formal member of the structure.”

But he appears to have undertaken a mission for WikiLeaks to contact one of the sources (or a representative) during a Sept. 25 visit to Washington where he says he met with a person in a wooded area of American University. At the time, Murray was at American University participating in an awards ceremony for former CIA officer John Kiriakou who was being honored by a group of former Western intelligence officials, the Sam Adams Associates, named for the late Vietnam War-era CIA analyst and whistleblower Sam Adams.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a founder of the Sam Adams group, told me that Murray was “m-c-ing” the event but then slipped away, skipping a reception that followed the award ceremony.

Reading Between Lines

Though Murray has declined to say exactly what the meeting in the woods was about, he may have been passing along messages about ways to protect the source from possible retaliation, maybe even an extraction plan if the source was in some legal or physical danger.

Murray has disputed a report in London’s Daily Mail that he was receiving a batch of the leaked Democratic emails. “The material, I think, was already safely with WikiLeaks before I got there in September,” Murray said in the interview with Scott Horton. “I had a small role to play.”

Murray also suggested that the DNC leak and the Podesta leak came from two different sources, neither of them the Russian government.

“The Podesta emails and the DNC emails are, of course, two separate things and we shouldn’t conclude that they both have the same source,” Murray said. “In both cases we’re talking of a leak, not a hack, in that the person who was responsible for getting that information out had legal access to that information.”

Reading between the lines of the interview, one could interpret Murray’s comments as suggesting that the DNC leak came from a Democratic source and that the Podesta leak came from someone inside the U.S. intelligence community, which may have been monitoring John Podesta’s emails because the Podesta Group, which he founded with his brother Tony, served as a registered “foreign agent” for Saudi Arabia.

“John Podesta was a paid lobbyist for the Saudi government,” Murray noted. “If the American security services were not watching the communications of the Saudi government’s paid lobbyist in Washington, then the American security services would not be doing their job. … His communications are going to be of interest to a great number of other security services as well.”

Leak by Americans

Scott Horton then asked, “Is it fair to say that you’re saying that the Podesta leak came from inside the intelligence services, NSA [the electronic spying National Security Agency] or another agency?”

“I think what I said was certainly compatible with that kind of interpretation, yeah,” Murray responded. “In both cases they are leaks by Americans.”

In reference to the leak of the DNC emails, Murray noted that “Julian Assange took very close interest in the death of Seth Rich, the Democratic staff member” who had worked for the DNC on voter databases and was shot and killed on July 10 near his Washington, D.C., home.

Murray continued, “WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture of his killers. So, obviously there are suspicions there about what’s happening and things are somewhat murky. I’m not saying – don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that he was the source of the [DNC] leaks. What I’m saying is that it’s probably not an unfair indication to draw that WikiLeaks believes that he may have been killed by someone who thought he was the source of the leaks … whether correctly or incorrectly.”

Though acknowledging that such killings can become grist for conspiracy buffs, Murray added: “But people do die over this sort of stuff. There were billions of dollars – literally billions of dollars – behind Hillary Clinton’s election campaign and those people have lost their money.

“You have also to remember that there’s a big financial interest – particularly in the armaments industry – in a bad American relationship with Russia and the worse the relationship with Russia is the larger contracts the armaments industry can expect especially in the most high-tech high-profit side of fighter jets and missiles and that kind of thing.

“And Trump has actually already indicated he’s looking to make savings on the defense budget particularly in things like fighter [jet] projects. So, there are people standing to lose billions of dollars and anybody who thinks in that situation bad things don’t happen to people is very naïve.”

An Intelligence Coup?

There’s another possibility in play here: that the U.S. intelligence community is felling a number of birds with one stone. If indeed U.S. intelligence bigwigs deemed both Clinton and Trump unfit to serve as President – albeit for different reasons – they could have become involved in leaking at least the Podesta emails to weaken Clinton’s campaign, setting the candidate up for the more severe blow from FBI Director Comey in the last week of the campaign.

Then, by blaming the leaks on Russian President Putin, the U.S. intelligence leadership could set the stage for Trump’s defeat in the Electoral College, opening the door to the elevation of a more traditional Republican. However, even if that unlikely event – defeating Trump in the Electoral College – proves impossible, Trump would at least be weakened as he enters the White House and thus might not be able to move very aggressively toward a détente with Russia.

Further, the Russia-bashing that is all the rage in the mainstream U.S. media will surely encourage the Congress to escalate the New Cold War, regardless of Trump’s desires, and thus ensure plenty more money for both the intelligence agencies and the military contractors.

Official Washington’s “group think” holding Russia responsible for the Clinton leaks does draw some logical support from the near certainty that Russian intelligence has sought to penetrate information sources around both Clinton and Trump. But the gap between the likely Russian hacking efforts and the question of who gave the email information to WikiLeaks is where mainstream assumptions may fall down.

As ex-Ambassador Murray has said, U.S. intelligence was almost surely keeping tabs on Podesta’s communications because of his ties to Saudi Arabia and other foreign governments. So, the U.S. intelligence community represents another suspect in the case of who leaked those emails to WikiLeaks. It would be a smart play, reminiscent of the convoluted spy tales of John LeCarré, if U.S. intelligence officials sought to cover their own tracks by shifting suspicions onto the Russians.

But just the suspicion of the CIA joining the FBI and possibly other U.S. intelligence agencies to intervene in the American people’s choice of a president would cause President Harry Truman, who launched the CIA with prohibitions against it engaging in domestic activities, and Sen. Frank Church, who investigated the CIA’s abuses, to spin in their graves.

The Real Saboteurs of a Trump Foreign Policy

December 20, 2016

by Patrick J. Buchanan


The never-Trumpers are never going to surrender the myth that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee to defeat Clinton and elect Donald Trump.

Their investment in the myth is just too huge.

For Clinton and her campaign, it is the only way to explain how they booted away a presidential election even Trump thought he had lost in November. To the mainstream media, this is the smoking gun in their Acela Corridor conspiracy to delegitimize Trump’s presidency.

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sees Russian hacking as a way to put a cloud over the administration before it begins. But it is the uber-hawks hereabouts who are after the really big game.

They seek to demonize Putin as the saboteur of democracy – someone who corrupted an American presidential election to bring about victory for a “useful idiot” whom Clinton called Putin’s “puppet.”

If the War Party can convert this “fake story” into the real story of 2016, then they can scuttle any Trump effort to attain the rapprochement with Russia that Trump promised to try to achieve.

If they can stigmatize Trump as “Putin’s president” and Putin as America’s implacable enemy, then the Russophobes are back in business.

Nor is the War Party disguising its goal.

Over the weekend, Sen. John McCain called for a congressional select committee to investigate Russian hacking into the Clinton campaign. The purpose of the investigations, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, “is to put on President Trump’s desk crippling sanctions against Russia.”

“They need to pay a price,” Graham chortled on Twitter.

“Crippling sanctions” would abort any modus vivendi, any deal with Russia, before Trump could negotiate one. Trump would have to refuse to impose them – and face the firestorm to follow. The War Party is out to dynamite any detente with Russia before it begins.

Among the reasons Trump won is that he promised to end U.S. involvement in the costly, bloody and interminable wars in the Middle East the Bushites and President Barack Obama brought us – and the neocons relish – and to reach a new understanding with Russia and Putin.

But to some in Washington, beating up on Russia is a conditioned reflex dating to the Cold War. For others in the media and the front groups called think tanks, Russophobia is in their DNA.

Though Julian Assange says WikiLeaks did not get the emails from Russia, this has to be investigated. Did Russia hack the DNC’s email system and John Podesta’s email account? Did Putin direct that the emails be provided to WikiLeaks to disrupt democracy or defeat Clinton?

Clinton says Putin has had it in for her because he believes she was behind the anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow in 2011.

But if there is to be an investigation of clandestine interference in the politics and elections of foreign nations, let’s get it all out onto the table.

The CIA director and his deputies should be made to testify under oath, not only as to what they know about Russia’s role in the WikiLeaks email dumps but also about who inside the agency is behind the leaks to The Washington Post designed to put a cloud over the Trump presidency before it begins.

Agents and operatives of the CIA should be subjected to lie detector tests to learn who is leaking to the anti-Trump press.

Before any congressional investigation, President-elect Trump should call in his new director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, and tell him to run down and remove, for criminal misconduct, any CIA agents or operatives leaking secrets to discredit his election.

Putin, after all, is not an American. The CIA saboteurs of the Trump presidency are. Will the media investigate the leakers? Not likely, for they are the beneficiaries of the leaks and co-conspirators of the leakers.

The top officials of the CIA and Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, should be called to testify under oath. Were they behind anti-Putin demonstrations during the Russian elections of 2011?

Did the CIA or NED have a role in the “color-coded” revolutions to dump over pro-Russian governments in Moscow’s “near abroad”?

If Russia did intrude in our election, was it payback for our intrusions to bring about regime change in its neighborhood?

What role did the CIA, the NED and John McCain play in the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Ukraine in 2014? McCain was seen cheering on the crowds in Independence Square in Kiev.

Trump has promised a more hopeful foreign policy than that of the Republicans he denounced and is succeeding. No more wars where vital interests are not imperiled. No more U.S. troops arriving as first responders for freeloading allies.

The real saboteurs of his new foreign policy may not be inside the Ring Road in Moscow; rather, they may be inside the Beltway around D.C.

The real danger may be that a new Trump foreign policy could be hijacked or scuttled by anti-Trump Republicans, not only on Capitol Hill but inside the executive branch itself.

 Trump wins Electoral College vote; a few electors break ranks

December 20, 2016

by Eric M. Johnson and Jon Herskovitz


SEATTLE/AUSTIN, Texas-Republican Donald Trump prevailed in U.S. Electoral College voting on Monday to officially win election as the next president, easily dashing a long-shot push by a small movement of detractors to try to block him from gaining the White House.

Trump, who is set to take office on Jan. 20, garnered more than the 270 electoral votes required to win, even as at least half a dozen U.S. electors broke with tradition to vote against their own state’s directives, the largest number of “faithless electors” seen in more than a century.

The Electoral College vote is normally a formality but took on extra prominence this year after a group of Democratic activists sought to persuade Republicans to cross lines and vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. She won the nationwide popular vote even as she failed to win enough state-by-state votes in the acrimonious Nov. 8 election.

Protesters briefly disrupted Wisconsin’s Electoral College balloting. In Austin, Texas, about 100 people chanting: “Dump Trump” and waving signs reading: “The Eyes of Texas are Upon You” gathered at the state capitol trying to sway electors.

In the end, however, more Democrats than Republicans went rogue, underscoring deep divisions within their party. At least four Democratic electors voted for someone other than Clinton, while two Republicans turned their backs on Trump.

With nearly all votes counted, Trump had clinched 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227, according to an Associated Press tally of the voting by 538 electors across the country.

“I will work hard to unite our country and be the President of all Americans,” Trump said in a statement responding to the results.

The Electoral College assigns each state electors equal to its number of representatives and senators in Congress. The District of Columbia also has three electoral votes. The votes will be officially counted during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

When voters go to the polls to cast a ballot for president, they are actually choosing a presidential candidate’s preferred slate of electors for their state.


The “faithless electors” as they are known represent a rare break from the tradition of casting an Electoral College ballot as directed by the outcome of that state’s popular election.

The most recent instance of a “faithless elector” was in 2004, according to the Congressional Research Service. The practice has been very rare in modern times, with only eight such electors since 1900, each in a different election.

The two Republican breaks on Monday came from Texas, where the voting is by secret ballot. One Republican elector voted for Ron Paul, a favorite among Libertarians and former Republican congressman, and another for Ohio Governor John Kasich, who challenged Trump in the race for the Republican nomination.

Republican elector Christopher Suprun from Texas had said he would not vote for Trump, explaining in an op-ed in the New York Times that he had concerns about Trump’s foreign policy experience and business conflicts.

On the Democratic side, it appeared to be the largest number of electors not supporting their party’s nominee since 1872, when 63 Democratic electors did not vote for party nominee Horace Greeley, who had died after the election but before the Electoral College convened, according to Fairvote.org. Republican Ulysses S. Grant had won re-election in a landslide.

Four of the 12 Democratic electors in Washington state broke ranks, with three voting for Colin Powell, a former Republican secretary of state, and one for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American elder who has protested oil pipeline projects in the Dakotas.

Bret Chiafalo, 38, of Everett, Washington, was one of three votes for Powell. He said he knew Clinton would not win but believed Powell was better suited for the job than Trump.

The founding fathers “said the electoral college was not to elect a demagogue, was not to elect someone influenced by foreign powers, was not to elect someone who is unfit for office. Trump fails on all three counts, unlike any candidate we’ve ever seen in American history,” Chiafalo said in an interview.


Washington’s Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, said after the vote that the Electoral College system should be abolished. “This was a very difficult decision made this year. There is great angst abroad in the land,” Inslee said.

Twenty-four states have laws trying to prevent electors – most of whom have close ties to their parties – from breaking ranks.

In Maine, Democratic elector David Bright first cast his vote for Clinton’s rival for the party nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who carried the state in the party nominating contest. His vote was rejected, and he voted for Clinton on a second ballot.

In Hawaii, one of the state’s four Democratic electors cast a ballot for Sanders in defiance of state law binding electors to the state’s Election Day outcome, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times and Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspapers.

In Colorado, where a state law requires electors to cast their ballots for the winner of the state’s popular vote, elector Michael Baca tried to vote for Kasich – but was replaced with another elector.

In Minnesota, one of the state’s 10 electors would not cast his vote for Clinton as required under state law, prompting his dismissal and an alternate to be sworn in. All 10 of the state’s electoral votes were then cast for her.

(Additional reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del., Keith Coffman and Rick Wilking in Denver, and Roberta Rampton, David Morgan and Julia Harte in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

‘Islamic State’ claims responsibility for Berlin attack

The terror group has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack at a Berlin Christmas market on Monday. Officials have warned that the perpetrator could still be on the loose.

December 20, 2016


The so-called “Islamic State” (IS) militant organization on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the group’s news agency Amaq.

Earlier that day, German prosecutors announced the release of a 23-year-old Pakistani detained in connection with the truck attack carried out a day earlier, citing lack of evidence.

On Tuesday night, following the announcement that the suspect had been released, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told broadcaster ZDF that “it is true that one cannot rule out that the perpetrator is still at large.” He also warned that it was too early to draw political conclusions from the incident.

Authorities had arrested the asylum seeker on suspicion of driving the truck that plowed into a crowd of people at a Christmas market in central Berlin Monday evening, killing 12 and injuring 48.

‘Wrong man’ detained

Even before de Maiziere had made his statement, Berlin police had admitted that they may have apprehended the wrong suspect and warned the public to remain attentive and vigilant.

“As far as I know, it is in fact uncertain whether that really was the driver,” Berlin’s police chief Klaus Kandt said Tuesday at a press conference.

Germany’s Die Welt newspaper had also quoted security sources as saying the arrested man was not believed to be the perpetrator.

A Berlin police chief reportedly told the paper: “We have the wrong man, and therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.”

Speaking to German news agency DPA following the press conference, Kandt said investigators were continuing to inspect the truck used in the attack, searching for finger prints, blood and smudge marks. “I estimate that the current investigation will take somewhat longer,” he said, adding that it could take a few days before new evidence comes to light.

A Polish man, who was in the passenger seat of the crashed truck, was found shot dead at the scene.

‘An act of terrorism’

Germany’s two top prosecutors confirmed Tuesday that investigators are indeed treating Monday’s incident as an act of terrorism. Prosecutor Peter Frank said that, given the target and nature of the attack, the incident pointed towards Islamist extremist motives.

Frank said the attack was reminiscent of July’s terrorist attack in Nice, France, and of the “modus operandi” deployed by Islamist terror groups.

However, echoing Berlin’s police officials, Frank also acknowledged that the detained suspect “may not have been the perpetrator or belong to the group of perpetrators.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited the crime scene on Tuesday afternoon, also referred to the incident as a “terrorist act.” Speaking before the police made their admission about the detained suspect, Merkel acknowledged that the crime might have been comitted by an asylum seeker.

Risk remains high

The head of Germany’s Criminal Police Agency, Holger Münch, said he could not rule out if further suspects were still at large, and therefore warned of further attacks on the back of yesterday’s incident. In the aftermath of such an event, “there’s always a heightened risk of significant further attacks,” he said.

“We are “naturally on high alert and are investigating in all directions.” Münch added.

He also revealed that six of the 12 people killed have been identified as Germans. He could not, however, identify the nationalities of the other six.

Berlin New Year’s celebrations to go ahead amid heightened security

Also speaking Tuesday, Berlin interior minister Andreas Geisel confirmed that the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations will go ahead under an increased security presence. Every year, hundreds of thousands of revelers ring in the New Year in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

He said the city will review all of its security measures before the celebrations on December 31.

Federal agencies can spy on phones with 400 cell-site simulators

Report recommends national standard for Stingray cell phone tracker use

December 19, 2016

by Andrea Noble

Washington Times

The Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department have spent collectively more than $95 million on secret cellphone tracking technology and own more than 400 cell-site simulators that can be used to zero in covertly on the locations of cellphones, according to a congressional report.

A report released Monday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reveals a tally of how many cell-site simulators federal agencies own and recommends that lawmakers adopt a national standard to govern use of the devices by local and federal law enforcement agencies.

With 194 cell-site simulators, the FBI has the most of any of the agencies identified as owning the devices, which often are referred to by brand names including Stingray or Hailstorm.The U.S. Marshals Service has 70; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has 59; U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration each has 33; U.S. Secret Service has 32; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has 13; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations division has two; and the Treasury inspector general has one.

The report does not indicate the specific types of devices the agencies have but lists the costs of the individual devices purchased as $41,000 to $500,000.

Cell-site simulators mimic cell towers to trick cellphones to connect to them, enabling investigators to obtain identifying information about the phones and their locations. Law enforcement officers often deploy the suitcase-sized devices by hauling them in vehicles as they drive through neighborhoods looking for suspects’ phones, scooping up data on cellphones of passers-by in the process.

Homeland Security and Justice adopted policies in 2015 requiring law enforcement to obtain warrants in most cases before deploying cell-site simulators, but the report notes that there is no standard policy on the use of the devices by local authorities and recommends that federal lawmakers enact legislation to create a national framework for legal use.

“Congress should establish a legal framework that governs government agencies, commercial entities, and private citizens’ access to and use of geolocation data, including geolocation data obtained by the use of a cell-site simulator,” reads the report, written by Reps. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, and Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat.

In the meantime, the 36-page report suggests that Homeland Security and Justice require agencies seeking cell-site simulators to adhere to federal guidelines before approving the purchase and use of the devices. The FBI already requires agencies to sign nondisclosure agreements before approving their purchases.

The report also suggests that nondisclosure agreements — which have required prosecutors to abandon criminal charges rather than disclose local police use of cell-site simulators — should be eliminated altogether.

“Nondisclosure agreements should be replaced with agreements that require clarity and candor to the court whenever a cell-site simulator has been used by law enforcement in a criminal investigation,” the report states.

The report does not indicate how many local law enforcement agencies have cell-site simulators, but it states that the Homeland Security Department identified more than $1.8 million in grant money it provided to state and local law enforcement to purchase such technology.

The New Exterminatory Warfare

December 20, 2016

by Edward Hunt


During its final years in office, the Obama administration has devised a new form of warfare with major implications for how the U.S. government confronts its enemies. With the ability to quickly locate and eliminate potential adversaries with little to no risk to US forces, the Obama administration has begun to eradicate some of its main enemies in a new kind of exterminatory warfare.

So far, the Obama administration has applied its innovation to militant groups throughout the Middle East and the surrounding area. Its primary target has been the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), but it has expanded its campaign to include IS forces in Libya and al-Shabab in Somalia.

Remarkably, administration officials have made no secret of their intentions. Receiving significant cooperation from their allies and facing no serious opposition from the US public, administration officials have confirmed that they intend to eradicate their targets as quickly as possible. They have promised to maintain their operations through the end of their time in office, and they expect to see comparable operations maintained well into the future.

The Goal: Eradicate ISIS

The Obama administration first began to develop its new model of exterminatory warfare in the late summer of 2014 when it faced a significant new challenge from IS. As IS began to acquire control of large parts of Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration began working on a new military approach to confront the militant group and eventually wipe it out.

On September 10, 2014, the day before the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Obama introduced his administration’s plans in a speech to the nation. From the White House, Obama announced that he had initiated a new military program to “degrade,” “destroy,” and “eradicate” IS. The military campaign “will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist,” he specified. With his remarks, Obama introduced a new military program to completely eliminate IS, saying that he hoped to contribute to a broader trend in world history in which “those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.”

In the time since Obama announced the plans, additional officials have articulated similar goals. Although US officials do not typically announce that they are planning to vanquish certain forces from the Earth, a number of administration officials have left no doubt that they intend to completely eradicate IS.

This past June, State Department official Brett McGurk provided the most direct confirmation of the administration’s intentions. After presenting the White House press corps with a map that showed various areas that remained under the control of IS, McGurk stated that “we have to wipe them off this map.”

A few months later, Secretary of State John Kerry made a comparable point. As he worked to put together a new program for the US and Russian governments to work together to target militant groups in Syria, Kerry said that both the United States and Russia “have a mutual interest” in “terminating ISIL/Daesh, as fast as possible.”

Earlier this month, Colonel John Dorrian provided additional confirmation. Speaking to the Pentagon press corps, Dorrian announced that the US government is working to terminate IS forces in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where coalition forces are now battling the militant group. The IS forces “are really the worst people in the world, and they have to be eradicated from Mosul as efficiently and as quickly as possible,” Dorrian stated.

As part of the campaign, US forces have also devastated IS forces to the west of Mosul. ”We’ve conducted various strikes out there,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of coalition forces, acknowledged in a separate press briefing. “I don’t require a lot of justification for doing that,” he added. “There is ISIL out there that needs killing, so we’re killing them.”

Indeed, US officials are waging a major military campaign to eradicate IS. Arguing that that the militant group poses a special threat to the Middle East and the rest of the world, they have made it their goal to completely eliminate the organization. “We want to wipe ISIL entirely off this map,” McGurk confirmed once again this past week. In other words, US officials have decided to wage exterminatory warfare against IS.

Assassinating Leaders

To wage exterminatory warfare against the Islamic State, the Obama administration has employed a number of specific measures. Taking advantage of the extraordinary air power of the US military, the Obama administration has waged an unprecedented air campaign to kill its targets.

The Obama administration has been especially effective at killing IS’s senior leaders. Since its first began its military campaign against IS in August 2014, the Obama administration has killed hundreds of senior leaders, according to US officials. “It’s a short career as a leader in ISIL,” US Colonel Steve Warren acknowledged during a press briefing in March 2016. “You’re not going to last very long. You won’t make it to retirement.” The main reason, Warren specified, is that coalition forces are constantly killing IS leaders as well as their replacements. “We’ll kill them,” Warren stated. In some cases, “we’ve killed–we’ve gone three deep in a position.”

Moreover, US officials insist that they must continue with their assassination program. As new leaders rise to fill the ranks, US officials keep targeting them for elimination. “We must keep systematically eliminating every key leader we find, and we must deny them safe haven wherever they may seek it,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has insisted.

As they have grown increasingly effective at killing IS leaders, administration officials have also grown increasingly confident in their operations. For example, McGurk recently declared that the US government would soon succeed in killing the Islamic State’s “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “It’s a matter of time until we eliminate him,” McGurk stated. “His days are very much numbered.” After making his point, McGurk also confirmed that coalition forces would continue with the broader program of assassinating all IS leaders. “And those are things that–operations we don’t always talk about, but that is happening every single day, every single night,” McGurk stated. “When we see their leaders, we make sure that their leaders are eliminated.”

In short, US officials are waging a major assassination program in which they are killing hundreds of IS leaders. Not only have they made it their goal to assassinate all of the current leaders of IS, but they have continuously worked to kill anyone who steps in to replace them. “And as these leaders are replaced, we target and kill their replacements,” McGurk has confirmed.

Exterminating Combatants

As US officials have worked to systematically eliminate the Islamic State’s leaders, they have also conducted a far more extensive campaign against the militant organization. Over the past two years, US officials have worked with coalition forces to launch more than 15,000 airstrikes against IS as part of a comprehensive military campaign to systematically kill as many IS fighters as possible.

This past August, Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland described the extent of the campaign during a press briefing that was hosted by the Pentagon. In his statement, MacFarland explained that coalition forces have killed tens of thousands of IS fighters. “We estimate that over the past 11 months we’ve killed about 25,000 enemy fighters,” MacFarland stated. “When you add that to the 20,000 estimated killed prior to our arrival, that’s 45,000 enemy taken off the battlefield.” Moreover, MacFarland noted that it has become increasingly easy to kill IS militants. “We don’t see them operating nearly as effectively as they have in the past,” he noted. The trend “makes them even easier targets for us so as a result they’re attrition has accelerated here of late.”

Continuing with his remarks, MacFarland then shared some of the reasons why IS forces have become such easy targets. For starters, he noted that the group’s leaders have been forcing noncombatants to guard various locations. “They can grab a bunch of people minding their own business off the street, throw them in the back of a pickup truck, and drop them off at a checkpoint with some AKs and say, ‘defend this checkpoint,’” MacFarland explained. “And they’ve done that. We’ve seen them do that in places.” In addition, MacFarland noted that IS leaders have begun to replace fighters with administrative people, who typically have no combat training. “We know that they’ve taken a lot of their administrative folks and pushed them out to the front lines,” MacFarland stated. “They’re not really supposed to be there.” Consequently, MacFarland found that it had become much easier to kill IS targets. “And as soon as they demonstrate hostile intent, then we’ll take them out,” he said.

Through such efforts, US officials have waged a devastating war against the Islamic State. By continually assassinating IS leaders and targeting any IS operatives on the battlefield, including those people who may have been forced into working for the organization, US officials have killed tens of thousands of people and given very real meaning to their promise to eradicate IS.

Extending the Campaign

In fact, the Obama administration has recently begun to extend its campaign to eradicate the Islamic State. Viewing its program against IS in Iraq and Syria as a great success, the Obama administration has expanded its program to target the group’s other branches. This past November, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed the move when he noted that “in addition to destroying ISIL in Iraq and Syria, we’re also pursuing and destroying them everywhere else in the world.”

As part of its broader mission, the Obama administration has focused much of its effort on the IS branch in Libya. Since the branch has attracted thousands of IS fighters, the Obama administration has identified the branch as its next major target for elimination. Certainly, “they need to be taken out,” a senior State Department official said earlier this year. “There’s going to be, I think, a substantial effort required to extirpate them entirely.”

In June 2016, the Obama administration then began working to fulfill its objective, using the same model it was using to eradicate IS from Iraq and Syria. “They will eventually all be eliminated,” State Department official McGurk declared in late October 2016, referring to IS fighters in the Libyan city of Sirte. “That’s simply a military proposition and it is a matter of time.” Moreover, McGurk confirmed that coalition forces had already begun to achieve their objectives. “We are removing their leaders from the battlefield one by one and in a quite dramatic fashion,” he noted. In early November, McGurk then confirmed that coalition forces had largely succeeded in their efforts. Currently, “if you look at Sirte, Daesh has almost been entirely eliminated from Sirte,” McGurk observed.

More recently, US Special Envoy for Libya Jonathan M. Winer has also confirmed that coalition forces have largely eliminated their targets. There has been “rapid progress” in the effort “to eradicate ISIL from the city and surrounding areas,” Winer noted in a hearing before members of Congress.

Indeed, the Obama administration has made swift progress in its campaign to eradicate IS fighters in Libya. Although administration officials have not disclosed exactly how many IS fighters have been killed in the operations, they made it clear that coalition forces have quickly eliminated the great bulk of their targets. Ultimately, “it was important to eliminate them” and “we did that,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter acknowledged last week.

Applying the Model

Having devised a powerful new model of exterminatory warfare, the Obama administration has also experimented with additional applications. Rather than limiting its new approach to IS and its offshoots, the Obama administration has applied its model to other militant groups around the world.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration provided a powerful signal of its willingness to wage exterminatory warfare against other militant groups when it launched airstrikes against the militant group al-Shabab in Somalia, killing about 150 al-Shabab fighters in a single attack. It was “a very successful strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced at the time. Moreover, the strike was quite significant because of the people who were targeted. As The New York Times reported, the strike was “a sharp deviation from previous American strikes, which have concentrated on the group’s leaders, not on its foot soldiers.” In other words, the Obama administration launched the strike to eliminate al-Shabab members that could be seen as having hostile intent, just as it has been doing in Iraq and Syria.

More recently, administration officials have also confirmed that they harbor much greater ambitions for their mission in Somalia. No longer willing to tolerate the existence of al-Shabab in the country, they have concluded that they must eradicate the group. “We’ve got a major planned offensive to really sort of, I hope, terminate the al-Shabaab challenge in Somalia,” Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed this past September.

In fact, the offensive has already begun. As The New York Times has disclosed in a series of recent reports, coalition forces have been steadily escalating their ongoing military operations against al-Shabab over the past year, mainly by using the same tactics that have been used against IS and its offshoots. In other words, the Obama administration is now applying its new model of exterminatory warfare to al-Shabab, demonstrating its willingness to apply its approach to other militant groups around the world.

The Long-Term Outlook

As the Obama administration has devised and implemented its new model of exterminatory warfare, it has also made it clear that the US government is only just beginning to apply the new approach to US enemies. Although the Obama administration insists that its current targets will soon be eliminated, it expects that the US government will continue to wage similar kinds of warfare well into the future.

For the most part, administration officials have based their predictions on their expectations for their ongoing military campaign against the Islamic State. Concerned that certain elements of IS might survive the military assault and perhaps even regroup under a new name, administration officials have said that there will continue to be a need to eliminate new threats. President Obama made the point this past August when he announced that “even as we need to crush ISIL on the battlefield, their military defeat will not be enough.” Certain “networks will probably sustain themselves even after ISIL is defeated in Raqqa and Mosul.” In other words, Obama believed that new threats will emerge and will need to be eliminated. Moving forward, “we will dismantle these networks also,” Obama promised.

A few weeks later, US General Joseph L. Votel made a similar point during a press briefing at the Pentagon. In the years ahead, “we will continue to deal with the next evolution of ISIL,” Votel stated. In fact, people should not get “the impression that when we finish with Mosul or Raqqa that we’re done,” he added. “We’re not. We will continue to deal with them.”

More recently, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has made the same prediction. After noting in a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations that IS will probably “morph into something else or other similar extremist groups will be spawned,” Clapper argued that the US government would continue working to confront the new threats. “And I believe we’re going to be in the business of suppressing these extremist movements for a long time to come,” Clapper noted.

In short, officials in the Obama administration largely agree that the US government has only just begun applying the administration’s new form of exterminatory warfare to militant groups around the world. Administration officials may insist that they are going to eliminate IS and other militant groups, but they also expect that their operations will spawn new groups that will need to be confronted in similar ways.

The Final Factor

Of course, the architects of the new exterminatory warfare have also had to deal with one additional factor that they had not initially expected: the victory of Donald Trump in the recent presidential election. Currently, it is unclear how the incoming Trump administration will proceed with the ongoing wars of eradication.

Certainly, Trump has signaled that he intends to direct similar operations against US enemies. During the presidential campaign, Trump pledged in a radio commercial to “quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS.” Moreover, Trump has appeared more than willing to escalate military operations. In contrast to the Obama administration, which has primarily worked to eradicate the leaders and fighters of its targets, Trump has suggested that it will be necessary to eliminate the family members as well. “You have to take out their families,” Trump insisted.

Trump has since clarified his remarks, saying that he only intends to “go after” families and not kill them, but he has also made it clear that he maintains the same overall objective. When he delivered his major policy speech on terrorism this past August, Trump promised to wage major military campaigns to eradicate IS and other militant groups. “My Administration will aggressively pursue joint and coalition military operations to crush and destroy ISIS,” Trump stated. It will also “decimate Al Qaeda,” he added.

Indeed, Trump has indicated that he intends to perpetuate the new form of exterminatory warfare. Although it remains unclear whether Trump will escalate the operations to include families and other civilians, he has criticized Obama for not going far enough, signaling that he intends to implement more aggressive policies. Consequently, it remains likely that the officials in the Obama administration will see their innovation applied and extended under the Trump administration, with the United States waging exterminatory warfare well into the future.

Exxon Mobil Is Fighting to Keep Its Dangerous Chemicals in Children’s Toys

December 20 2016

by Sharon Lerner

The Intercept

Most of us know Exxon Mobil Corp. as an energy giant, which makes sense given that it is the world’s largest publicly held oil and gas company. Rex Tillerson, the company’s CEO, has spent his entire professional life prioritizing Exxon Mobil’s corporate interests over human rights, the environment, and the diplomatic interests of the U.S., all of which has prompted many journalists and commentators to point out that his appointment as secretary of state is not just a terrible idea but a joke seemingly ripped from the pages of a Marxist comic book.

What’s less well known is that Exxon Mobil is also one of the world’s biggest chemical companies, and that its chemical interests also sometimes run counter to those of people in the U.S. and beyond. Petrochemicals accounted for more than a quarter of Exxon Mobil’s $16 billion in net profits last year and wound up in wide range of consumer products such as plastics, tires, batteries, detergents, adhesives, synthetic fibers, and household detergents.

Among Exxon Mobil’s chemical products are phthalates, a family of chemicals widely used to make plastic pliable. Phthalates are in everything from food containers and plastic wrap to rattles, pacifiers, bottle nipples, and teething toys for babies. More than 75 percent of Americans have at least five of the chemicals in their body, according to a 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exxon Mobil insists its products pose no harm. In response to inquiries for this story, the company emailed a statement to The Intercept saying that “Exxon Mobil phthalates have been thoroughly tested, and evaluations by multiple government agencies in the U.S., EU, and Australia show they are safe in their current applications.” (The email also included a link to the company’s webpage on the health and environmental impacts of phthalates.) But numerous independent studies have linked the chemicals to health problems, including cancer, neurodevelopmental effects, endocrine disruption, and adverse harm to the male reproductive system.

Given the risks, Congress permanently banned several phthalates in 2008, temporarily banned a few others, and directed the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to study whether several other phthalates should also be removed from kids’ products. The law required the CPSC to act within 180 days of its final decision.

An expert committee appointed by the CPSC came out with its final report on phthalates in 2014. After years of meetings, public comments, and peer review, the panel of scientists decided that eight phthalates should be banned from use in children’s toys. The report cited studies showing that babies who were exposed to higher levels of some phthalates in utero tended to have smaller “anogenital distances” and other reproductive tract problems, effects that were also seen in animals exposed to phthalates.

Despite the clear directive of the scientific experts and the Congress-mandated timeframe, the CPSC has yet to finalize its ban. During the almost two years since the deadline passed, Exxon Mobil has been working hard to slow and reverse the commission’s decision, drafting at least one legislative rider designed to keep some of their phthalates on the market and submitting lengthy comments and objections to the ban.

“Exxon has been sending letters, having meetings, they’re just constantly in CPSC’s face in a way designed to suggest that, if you go the wrong way on this, we’re going to sue you,” said Eve Gartner, an attorney with Earthjustice. Gartner and a few other environmental advocates try to attend these meetings whenever possible, but they describe being outgunned by the big company’s lobbying efforts.

“I don’t have the time to attend all Exxon’s meetings, but they have the time to attend all of ours,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council. “There’s a lot more of them and they have a lot more resources.”

As a political force, kids are no match for one of the world’s biggest chemical companies, and they’ll suffer for the lack of clout. While the CPSC fails to finalize its own rule, more and more kids are exposed to phthalates. The inaction “speaks to the power of Exxon to frighten federal agencies away from doing their jobs,” as Earthjustice’s Gartner put it. And that was before the company’s CEO had a top government job.









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