TBR News December 26, 2016

Dec 26 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. December 26, 2016:” “One notes, with some humor, that Israel is furious with everyone because of the recent UN vote condemning its forcible eviction of Palestinians from their property so as to build new apartments for Israelis. Bombastic Bibi has threatened to take action against those UN members who dared to vote against the wishes of Sacred Israel. He is too stupid to realize that Israel is not an important country and has survived, relatively intact, thanks solely to American military and financial support. If this support is ever withdrawn, believe that a huge mass of infuriated and long-suffering Arabs will descend on Israel like the wolf on the fold and a major irritant in the Mid East will fall silent.”

Netanyahu seeks to rally Israelis around him in anti-Obama assault

December 26, 2016

by Jeffrey Heller


JERUSALEM-Benjamin Netanyahu has been unrelenting in his criticism of the Obama administration over what he condemned as its “shameful” decision not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a halt to Israeli settlement-building.

But with the clock ticking down on Barack Obama’s presidency, a possibly more amenable Republican Donald Trump waiting in the wings and a $38 billion U.S. military aid package to Israel a done deal, it’s all a calculated risk for the four-term, right-wing Israeli prime minister.

Netanyahu, after what critics are calling a stinging defeat on the international stage, is already maneuvering to mine deep-seated feelings among many Israelis that their country and its policies toward the Palestinians are overly criticized in a world where deadlier conflicts rage.

He has tried to rally Israelis around him by attempting to portray the anti-settlement resolution as a challenge to Israel’s claimed sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

That was hammered home with an unscheduled Hanukkah holiday visit to the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, which is located in Jerusalem’s Old City in the eastern sector captured along with the West Bank in a 1967 war.

That all of Jerusalem is their country’s capital is a consensus view among Israelis, including those who otherwise have doubts about the wisdom of Netanyahu’s support for settlements on the West Bank.

Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem as their capital, and Washington has in the past accepted an international view that the city’s status must be determined at future peace talks. But Trump has promised to reverse decades of U.S. policy by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

“I did not plan to be here this evening but in light of the U.N. resolution I thought that there was no better place to light the second Hanukkah candle than the Western Wall,” Netanyahu said during the event.

“I ask those same countries that wish us a Happy Hanukkah how they could vote for a U.N. resolution which says that this place, in which we are now celebrating Hanukkah, is occupied territory?”

Some 570,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as part of a future state.

At the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu brushed aside a White House denial and again accused the Obama administration of colluding with the Palestinians in the U.N. move against the settlements, which are considered illegal by most countries and described as illegitimate by Washington.

Disputing this, Israel cites biblical, historical and political links to the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as security concerns.

The diplomatic drama unfolded over the Christmas holiday, with twists and turns unusual even for the serpentine path followed by Netanyahu’s relationship with a Democratic president who opposes settlement building.

On Thursday, Netanyahu successfully lobbied Egypt, which proposed the draft resolution, to withdraw it – enlisting the help of President-elect Trump to persuade Cairo to drop the bid.

But the Israeli leader was ultimately outmaneuvered at the United Nations, where New Zealand, Venezuela, Senegal and Malaysia, resubmitted the proposal a day later.

It passed 14-0, with an abstention from the United States, withholding Washington’s traditional use of its veto to protect Israel at the world body in what was widely seen as a parting shot by Obama against Netanyahu and his settlement policy.


A U.S. official said key to Washington’s decision was concern that Israel would continue to accelerate settlement construction in occupied territory and put a two-state solution of the conflict with the Palestinians at risk.

The resolution adopted on Friday at the U.N. changes nothing on the ground between Israel and the Palestinians and likely will be all but ignored by the incoming Trump administration.

However, Israeli officials fear it could spur further Palestinian moves against Israel in international forums.

“The Obama administration made a shameful, underhanded move,” Netanyahu said after the vote. It was some of the sharpest criticism he has voiced against Obama, who got off on the wrong foot with Israelis when he skipped their country during a Middle East visit after first taking office in 2009.

In a further display of anger, Netanyahu summoned the U.S. ambassador to meet him during a day of reprimands delivered at the Foreign Ministry to envoys of the 10 countries with embassies in Israel among the 14 that backed the resolution.

Netanyahu, who is vying with the ultranationalist Jewish Home Party in his governing coalition for right-wing voters, also took aim at what has become a favorite target – an Israeli media he has been painting as left-wing and unpatriotic.

“Leftist political parties and TV commentators have been rubbing their hands in glee over the anti-Israeli decision at the United Nations, almost like the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page.

But more trouble for the Israeli leader could be ahead at a planned 70-nation, French-hosted conference on Middle East peace due to convene in Paris on Jan. 15, five days before Obama hands over to Trump.

“(Netanyahu) fears there is a U.S.-French move brewing before January 20th, possibly a declarative step at the French peace convention,” said an Israeli official who attended an Israeli security cabinet session on Sunday.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

Israeli High-Level Spying in America

December 26, 2016

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

The FBI investigation into Israeli espionage agents in the Pentagon is part of a major struggle between prominent Likudists in the Pentagon and the US security apparatus. Ever since the late Bush regime came to power there has been a fierce political and organizational war between the Pentagon Likudists and their militant American collaborators, on the one hand, and the professional military and intelligence apparatus, on the other. This conflict has manifested itself in a series of major issues including the war in the Middle East, the rational for war, the relationship between Israel and the US, the strategy for empire, as well as tactical issues like the size of military force needed for colonial wars and the nature of colonial occupation. From 9/11/2001 to the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon Likudists and the civilian Neocons had the upper hand: they marginalized the CIA and established their own intelligence services to “cook the data”, they pushed through the doctrine of sequential wars, beginning with Afghanistan and Iraq and projecting wars with Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. The Pentagon Zionists increased Israel’s power in the Middle East and promoted its expansionist colonization of Palestine, at the expense of US soldiers, budget busting expenditures and CIA objections.

The US military and security apparatus has retaliated. First by debunking Zionist lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, then by exposing the role of Zionist client Ahmed Chalabi as a double agent for Iran, followed by a two-year investigation of Pentagon Likudists passing documents to Israeli military intelligence and the secret police, the Mossad.

Israel has for decades subverted US foreign policy to serve its interests through the organized power of major Jewish organizations in the US. What is new in the current Pentagon spy case is that rather than pressuring from the outside to secure favorable policies for Israel, the Israel loyalists are in top positions within the government making strategic decisions about US global policy and providing their Israeli handlers with secret documents pertaining to top level discussions in the White House on questions of war and peace. Today the politics of Pentagon and AIPAC espionage is especially dangerous – because what is at stake is a new US and/or Israeli war on Iran which will ignite the entire Middle East.

Given the high level of structural collaboration and integration of US Pentagon Likudist agents and US Jewish organizations with the Israeli state, the boundaries of what are United States policies and interests and what are Israeli prerogatives and interests are blurred. From the perspective of the Pentagon Zionists and their organized Jewish supporters, it is “natural” that the US spends billions to finance Israeli military power and territorial expansion. It is “natural” to transfer strategic documents from the Pentagon to the Israeli State. As Haaretz states, “Why would Israel have to steal documents when they can find out whatever they want through official meetings?” The routinization of espionage via official consultations between Israeli and US Zionist officials became public knowledge throughout the executive branch. Only it wasn’t called espionage, it was referred to as ‘exchanging intelligence’, only the Israelis sent ‘disinformation’ to the Pentagon Zionists to serve their interests while the latter passed on the real policies, positions and strategies of the US government.

The history of the key Zionists in the Pentagon reveals a pattern of disloyalty to the US and covert assistance to Israel. Harold Rhode and William Luti, both identified  Pentagon Likudists under Feith , Wolfowitz and I. Lewis Libby, have been under investigation by the FBI for passing documents to Israel. Rhode had his security clearance suspended. CIA operatives in Baghdad reported he was constantly on his cell phone to Israel reporting on US plans, military deployments, political projects, Iraqi assets and a host of other confidential information. Michael Ledeen, another influential Zionist policy maker who worked in the Pentagon lost his security clearance after he was accused of passing classified material to a ‘foreign country (Israel). In 2001 Feith hired Ledeen to work for the Office of Special Plans which handled top secret documents. Feith himself was fired in March 1983 from the National Security Council for providing Israel with classified data. The FBI investigated Wolfowitz for having provided documents to Israel on a proposed sale of US weapons to an Arab country.

It is clear that Israeli agents, not simply Zionists ideologues, infest the top echelon of the Pentagon. The question is not merely a question of taking this or that policy position in favor of Israel but of working systematically on a whole range of issues to further Israeli power over and against US imperial interests.

The Israeli officials claim that Mossad and military intelligence solemnly pledged to stop spying on the US after the Jonathan Pollard case. “We have never spied on the US since…”, they claim. In fact over 800 Israeli spies posing as ‘art’ students and tourists were expelled after 9/11 and several Mossad agents posing as movers in New Jersey and Tennessee were expelled.

The arrogance of Israeli power in then US, which Sharon publicly boasted about, is largely based on the simple principle embraced by all Zionist zealots whether they are Ivy League academics or neo-fascist felons (like Elliot Abrams) is “What’s good for Israel is good for the US”. “Good for Israel” today means bloody US wars against Israel’s adversaries, unconditional support for Israeli expansion and pillage of Palestine and now spying on the US for the good of Israel. Guided by this slogan it is easy to see how everything in the US that might be of use to Israeli intelligence whether it be documents, directives or strategic debates about big wartime issues taking place in the White House are fair game for transmission to Israeli intelligence.

In 2001, the FBI discovered new, “massive” Israeli spying operations in the East Coast, including New York and New Jersey, said one former senior U.S. government official. ‘

It was the uncovering of these spy rings that led the FBI to put Naor Gilon, the chief of political affairs at the Israeli embassy in Washington, under videotape surveillance. They were “floored” when Larry Franklin walked in and sat down and began offering Gilon a confidential document. Franklin was one of two Iran desk officers for the Near East and South Asia bureau at the Pentagon.

Franklin reported to Bill Luti, who in turn reported to Douglas Feith, the number three man at the Department of Defense. Feith is a long-time activist in the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, which mobilized throughout the 1990s to destroy the Oslo peace process and ensure continued Israeli land grabs in the West Bank. Karen Kwiatkowski reported that a phalanx of Israeli generals marched into Feith’s office before the Iraq war, without signing in as regulations required. Feith organized the “Office of Special Plans,” also staffed largely with JINSA and other rightwing Zionist activists, which cherry-picked intelligence so as to make a (false) case for the Iraq war.

Sale reports more on what exactly suspected Pentagon spy Lawrence Franklin was passing to the Israeli embassy concerning US plans for Iran:

Larry Franklin, a Pentagon analyst in the Near East and South Asia office who worked for the Defense Department’s Office of Special Plans confessed last August to federal agents he had held meetings with a contact from the Israeli government during which he passed a highly classified document on U.S. policy toward Iran, these sources said. The document advocated support for Iranian dissidents, covert actions to destabilize the Iranian government, arming opponents of the Islamic regime, propaganda broadcasts into Iran, and other programs, these sources said. The FBI was also interested in finding out if Franklin was involved or could name any Pentagon colleagues who were involved in passing to Israel certain data about National Security Agency intercepts, these sources said. ‘

The FBI looked hard at a number of high-ranking officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a high-powered coordinator of donations to congressional races by pro-Israel lobbies. AIPAC is so successful that virtually no speeches critical of Israeli policy are ever given Congress, even though such speeches are given in most democratic parliaments in the world, and representatives and congressmen are afraid to sign letters in support of the Palestinians or even of a genuine peace process.

In fact, AIPAC can arrange for representatives and senators to sign the most outrageous and one-sided letters to the president demanding support for virtually all Israeli military and foreign policy goals. That is how a boycott of Syria, a country that had been extremely valuable to the US in the war on terror, was passed. The congress was induced to give up Syrian help and expertise in fighting radical Muslim terrorists for the sake of a minor gesture to make Israel’s ruling Likud Party happy. This level of the control of congress by what is essentially the agent of a foreign government has deeply distorted US foreign policy and made the US a dishonest broker. US knee-jerk support of Israel’s crackdown on Palestinians was cited by Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, the top al-Qaeda planner of 9/11, as his prime motivation for hitting the United States.

Sale summarizes recent actions in the case, which involve the FBI looking very hard at some top AIPAC officials:

On Dec. 1, FBI agents visited the AIPAC offices in Washington and seized the hard drives and files of Steven Rosen, director of research, and Keith Weissman, deputy director of foreign policy issues. The FBI also served subpoenas on AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr, Managing Director Richard Fishman, Communications Director Renee Rothstein, and Research Director Raphael Danziger. All are suspected of having acted as “cut outs” or intermediaries who passed highly sensitive U.S. data from high-level Pentagon and administration officials to Israel, said one former federal law enforcement official. One current FBI consultant said Rosen’s name had first been given to the FBI in 1986, along with 70 possible incidents of Israeli espionage against the United States. No action was taken against him, this source said. Rosen’s attorney did not return phone calls. ‘

Just a day after Defense Department official Larry Franklin was arrested on charges of passing classified information in the service of Israel, America’s Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte was the guest at a pro-Israel event, where he praised Israel as an American ally.

Such is the degree of America’s blindness to Israel’s espionage activities in the United States.

Had this occurred in the USSR during the Cold War, diplomats would have been declared persona non grata. Even when long-term American ally France was caught in commercial espionage, the public repercussions were greater.

The silence about this case of Israeli espionage was so deafening that even The Jerusalem Post noted: “The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) seems to be breathing a sigh of relief and is expecting Washington to go about business as usual.”

And, in fact, that is what has happened. AIPAC, the Israeli lobbying organization alleged to have taken the documents from Franklin, is holding a conference on 22-24 May 2005 and politicians of every political stripe will be speaking to assure the Israelis that they remain solidly behind them.

This is the same old story: Israel commits an act of espionage against the US, a little rumble is heard, and then all factions of the American political spectrum fall in step behind Israel.

They may disagree on economic policy, defense policy, foreign policy and education, but they all agree on giving full support to Israel.

Ironically, one of the conference subjects – How would the world change if Iran had a nuclear bomb? – should be an embarrassment to American politicians since the top secret information allegedly given by Franklin to AIPAC dealt with Iran’s nuclear programmed and American responses to it, according to most accounts. Most politicians would be expected to want to stay away from the conference and AIPAC’s scandal about its espionage activities in America.

Open secret

The first, and in the long term the most damaging, infiltration of America was the Israeli campaign to steal American nuclear secrets. Even before Israel was established, Jewish nuclear scientists working on the Manhattan Project were sending nuclear secrets to the fledgling Israeli nuclear weapons project.

Even American neutron bomb designer Sam Cohen, a Jew himself, noted that it was an open secret that many nuclear scientists were giving nuclear secrets to the Israelis without fear of being punished.

Unfortunately, for America, that was not the end of Israeli espionage against American targets. In many cases, Israeli intelligence operations have intentionally taken actions that have hurt America.

One event, which has never been revealed before, was an Israeli intelligence operation against Hughes Aircraft in the late 1980s.

Bully mentality 

During a Paris Air Show, Hughes Aircraft had been photographing a Soviet MiG aircraft with a secret infrared detector when it flamed out and crashed.

When Israeli intelligence heard of the infrared data, they quietly approached Hughes Aircraft and asked for a copy of it.

Hughes Aircraft officials refused, saying that they were going to give it to the US government, so the air force could find out the weaknesses of the front-line Soviet fighter.

Rather than find out about the fighter’s weaknesses through its official Defense Department contacts, Israeli intelligence broke into Hughes Aircraft’s offices and stole the original data tape.

Another Israeli activity that damaged America and yet received little attention was the Israeli connection with the assassination of Orlando Letelier, a former minister in the Marxist Chilean government.

While the CIA was accused, it was actually part of a deal between Chile and Israel, which allowed the Israelis to gain access to the French Exocet missile. Israel was concerned that Arab countries would buy them and they were anxious to find a way to counter them.

France had embargoed sales to Israel and they were not willing to give the Israelis the data so they could counter them.

However, Chile had Exocets and was willing to deal with Israel, because Israel had experience in assassinating opponents throughout the world. Although Israeli agents were not used, Mossad technology was critical to the bombing.

Information for cash

Israel’s growing cooperation with China is a potentially troubling fact that can cause instability in Asia. Israeli contacts with China began in the 1970s as both countries were concerned about the Soviet threat.

However, the relationship has continued long after the Cold War ended, in part because China had money and needed American high technology, and Israel had access to American technology and needed money.

There is no better example of how Israel was willing to sell anything for hard currency than its sale of Patriot technology to the Chinese so they could find ways to counter this anti-missile system.

In 1992, the American intelligence community was aghast to learn that Israel had sold Patriot technology to China in return for cash and information about missiles China was trying to sell to Syria, Pakistan and Iran.

The information had been gathered from the Patriot missiles sent to Israel to protect them during the 1991 war against Iraq and technology sent to Israel so it could develop its own ABM, the Arrow Missile.

Although the US made little of the incident, defense officials were concerned. With the technology and software of the Patriot missile, China learned how the US intercepted incoming missiles and separated decoys from real warheads.

If the US decides to intervene in any future conflict over Taiwan, the same Chinese missiles could attack US ships or even threaten American cities. With this record of blatantly compromising American national interests, why does the US ignore Israeli activities?

Immune agents

The fact is that both the US and Israel are to blame. Israel has developed an attitude that it is beyond reproach – any action that could be seen as protecting Israel in the short run is acceptable.

This is compounded by an intelligence community that is out of control. Mossad agents do not answer to anyone outside the intelligence community. Consequently, as long as the actions meet the needs of the intelligence community, no one is called to account.

As for AIPAC, it cannot hide any more behind its initial claims that “AIPAC employees have always acted legally, properly, and appropriately”. If this is so, why then fire the two individuals implicated in the FBI spy investigation?

Despite the impression AIPAC would like to convey during its annual convention that it is business as usual, showcasing its political muscle by parading what Ralph Nader labelled “Israeli puppets in the White House and the Congress”, there are growing voices calling on AIPAC to register as a foreign agent and lose its tax exempt status.

AIPAC may continue to wish to ride on its reputation as a formidable political machine in Washington on behalf of Israel, but it must come to terms with the ever-increasing signs reflected in public opinion polls such as that of Zogby International, indicating that 61% of participants agreed that AIPAC should register as a foreign agent.

It agitated to start the first Gulf War, killed a Kuwaiti political cartoonist and made it look like Iraq did it, and has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire mideast, at Dimona/Machon-2.

Palestinian leadership praises passing of UN resolution

December 24, 2016

by Adam Rasgon

Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian leadership collectively welcomed on Saturday the UN Security Council’s decision to adopt a resolution critical of settlement construction.

“The UN Security Council Resolution is a major blow to Israeli policy, a unanimous international condemnation of settlements, and strong support for the two-state solution,” said Nabil Abu Rudeinah, the PA Presidency spokesman.

The resolution condemned settlement building, describing it as “a violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions.”

Riyad Mansour, Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, praised the resolution, emphasizing that it can salvage the peace process.

“After years of allowing the law to be trampled and the situation to spiral downward, today’s resolution may rightly be seen as a last attempt to preserve the two-State solution and revive the path for peace,” Mansour said.

The Israeli and Palestinian leaderships have not met for peace talks since the collapse of US sponsored negotiations in May 2014.

Riyad al-Maliki, the PA foreign minister, stated that the resolution is a “victory for the Palestinian people, adding that “it confirms the illegitimacy of settlements which form a clear violation of international law and obstacle to achieving a two-state solution.”

The resolution called for the establishment of two states living side by side in peace and security.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum hailed the resolution, which he said “rejected the hostile Israeli settlements policy.”

“We welcome this important transformation and development in international positions supporting Palestinian rights in international forums…as we call for more of these positions backing the justice of the Palestinian issue,” Barhoum said in a statement on Hamas’s official website.

Hamas has said it supports the Palestinian leadership’s international strategy to achieve statehood, but simultaneously advocated for an armed strategy.

Islamic Jihad Spokesman Daoud Shahab called the decision a a clear denunciation of “the occupation’s policies.”

“There is a international public opinion against Israel and its policies and it has become possible to isolate, boycott, and pursue Israel in international forums for the crimes and aggression it commits,” Shahab said, clarifying that “we know the decision itself will not deter Israel.

“There are two factors that will deter Israel, which are the continuation of our resistance and the pursuit and boycott of Israel.”

Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Shalah released a ten-point plan in October, wherein he entertained the idea of challenging Israel in some international forums.

This successful UN resolution comes after the Palestinian leadership made two abortive attempts to pass Security Council resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Russian military report mass graves of civilians in Syria’s Aleppo

Russia’s military has found a mass grave of Syrians, allegedly killed by rebel groups ahead of last week’s evacuation. An independent monitoring group could not confirm how they died.

December 26, 2016


Russia’s military reported finding the tortured bodies of civilians in mass graves in Syria’s Aleppo on Monday, allegedly left there by rebel groups.

Troops found dozens of bodies, many shot in the head and showing signs of abuse and mutilation, Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov said.

“Mass graves containing dozens of Syrians who were summarily executed and subjected to savage torture have been discovered,” Konashenkov was quoted as saying by Russian agencies.

He said further inquiries would force backers of the Syrian opposition in the West to “recognize their responsibility for the cruelty” of the rebels.

Russian media agency SANA reported 21 civilian bodies, including those of five women and five children, were found in eastern areas of the city previously held by rebels.

“The bodies were found in prisons run by the terrorist groups in Sukkari and al-Kalasseh, and they were found to have been executed by gunshot at very close range,” SANA quoted the head of Aleppo’s forensic unit Zaher Hajjo as saying.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said bodies had been found in east Aleppo’s streets but the UK-based monitoring group could not specify how they had died.

Credible reports of pro-Government killings

Last week 35,000 opposition fighters and civilians left the city as part of a ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey, following a massive siege by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces backed by the Russian Air Force. Russian military police have entered the city since.

The United Nations previously said it had credible reports that at least 82 civilians, including 11 women and 13 children, were executed by pro-government forces in Aleppo.

Traps and mines

Spokesperson Konashenkov also accused rebels of setting booby traps and mines throughout the city before evacuating, endangering the civilian population.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday that at least 63 Syrian soldiers and militiamen had been killed by such traps since government forces took control.

On Sunday, al-Assad visited a Christian orphanage near the capital Damascus to mark Christmas Day and in Aleppo Christians publicly celebrated the day for the first time in five years.

Outside of the city rebel groups still held at least 40 percent of Aleppo province, firing sporadic shells into the city as Russia resumed its bombing campaign on the rural areas.

Neo-Nazi website calls for march with ‘high-powered rifles’ against Montana Jews

December 26, 2016


A neo-Nazi website has called for an armed march against a Montana Jewish community, using a graphic which shows the entrance to the notorious Auschwitz death camp and a yellow Star of David with the word ‘Jude’ printed on it.

The graphic was released last week by the Daily Stormer website, which is run by white supremacist Andrew Anglin.

“We are planning an armed protest in Whitefish. Montana has extremely liberal open carry laws, so my lawyer is telling me we can easily march through the center of the town carrying high-powered rifles. I myself am planning on being there to lead the protest, which has been dubbed ‘March on Whitefish’,” Anglin wrote, adding that skinheads will be bused in from the San Francisco area.

The website is also calling for followers to “take action” against Jews in Whitefish by writing and calling them with anti-Semitic messages. The website claims that Jewish residents were “threatening” a business run by the mother of fellow white supremacist Richard Spencer.

The site has published the names, phone numbers, and addresses of members of Whitefish residents, along with the Twitter handle and photo of a child. It also included photos of Jewish residents of Whitefish emblazoned with yellow stars.

It goes on to warn readers against using “violence or threats of violence or anything close to that” because it “just gives them [Jews] power.”

Last week, a local rabbi encouraged people to send notes of sympathy to victims of Jewish harassment in Whitefish, and asked people to put a menorah in their window to show solidarity with the Jewish community, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said on Friday.

In response, Anglin told his followers to put Nazi flags in their windows, as well as swastikas on their cars, homes and businesses. He also called on them to send hateful messages to two anti-hate organizations, according to the ADL.

“Not only is Anglin harassing the Jewish community of Whitefish, he is at the same time exploiting the situation there to promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish power and control. He alleges that Jews have targeted white supremacists and anti-Semites, but now he is somehow turning the tables on them,” the ADL said, adding that it has been in regular contact with Whitefish Jews and local law enforcement.

Meanwhile, the like-minded Spencer, president of the white supremacist think-tank National Policy Institute, has been making waves of his own, shouting “Hail Trump!” at an event in Washington, DC, last month, where he was greeted with Nazi salutes.

The local government of Whitefish, a town of just 6,000 people, has rejected Spencer’s ideas.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump – neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?

April 15, 2016

by George Monbiot

The Guardian

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it. Neoliberalism: do you know what it is?

Its anonymity is both a symptom and cause of its power. It has played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has – or had – a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages – such as education, inheritance and class – that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

Among the results, as Paul Verhaeghe documents in his book What About Me? are epidemics of self-harm, eating disorders, depression, loneliness, performance anxiety and social phobia. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Britain, in which neoliberal ideology has been most rigorously applied, is the loneliness capital of Europe. We are all neoliberals now.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In ‘The Road to Serfdom’, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book ‘Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom’ was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism – the Mont Pelerin Society – it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in ‘Masters of the Universe’ as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way – among American apostles such as Milton Friedman – to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

Something else happened during this transition: the movement lost its name. In 1951, Friedman was happy to describe himself as a neoliberal. But soon after that, the term began to disappear. Stranger still, even as the ideology became crisper and the movement more coherent, the lost name was not replaced by any common alternative.

At first, despite its lavish funding, neoliberalism remained at the margins. The postwar consensus was almost universal: John Maynard Keynes’s economic prescriptions were widely applied, full employment and the relief of poverty were common goals in the US and much of western Europe, top rates of tax were high and governments sought social outcomes without embarrassment, developing new public services and safety nets.

But in the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”. With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed – often without democratic consent – on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.”

It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative”. But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile – one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied – “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”. The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” in New Orleans.

Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating “investor-state dispute settlement”: offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections. When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes, protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.

Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers. The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.

Those who own and run the UK’s privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world’s richest man.

Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, has had a similar impact. “Like rent,” he argues, “interest is … unearned income that accrues without any effort”. As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money. Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich. As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.

Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.

Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.

Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.

Chris Hedges remarks that “fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment”. When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power. The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to “cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them”.

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

The invisible doctrine of the invisible hand is promoted by invisible backers. Slowly, very slowly, we have begun to discover the names of a few of them. We find that the Institute of Economic Affairs, which has argued forcefully in the media against the further regulation of the tobacco industry, has been secretly funded by British American Tobacco since 1963. We discover that Charles and David Koch, two of the richest men in the world, founded the institute that set up the Tea Party movement. We find that Charles Koch, in establishing one of his thinktanks, noted that “in order to avoid undesirable criticism, how the organisation is controlled and directed should not be widely advertised”.

The words used by neoliberalism often conceal more than they elucidate. “The market” sounds like a natural system that might bear upon us equally, like gravity or atmospheric pressure. But it is fraught with power relations. What “the market wants” tends to mean what corporations and their bosses want. “Investment”, as Sayer notes, means two quite different things. One is the funding of productive and socially useful activities, the other is the purchase of existing assets to milk them for rent, interest, dividends and capital gains. Using the same word for different activities “camouflages the sources of wealth”, leading us to confuse wealth extraction with wealth creation.

A century ago, the nouveau riche were disparaged by those who had inherited their money. Entrepreneurs sought social acceptance by passing themselves off as rentiers. Today, the relationship has been reversed: the rentiers and inheritors style themselves entre preneurs. They claim to have earned their unearned income.

These anonymities and confusions mesh with the namelessness and placelessness of modern capitalism: the franchise model which ensures that workers do not know for whom they toil; the companies registered through a network of offshore secrecy regimes so complex that even the police cannot discover the beneficial owners; the tax arrangements that bamboozle governments; the financial products no one understands.

The anonymity of neoliberalism is fiercely guarded. Those who are influenced by Hayek, Mises and Friedman tend to reject the term, maintaining – with some justice – that it is used today only pejoratively. But they offer us no substitute. Some describe themselves as classical liberals or libertarians, but these descriptions are both misleading and curiously self-effacing, as they suggest that there is nothing novel about The Road to Serfdom, Bureaucracy or Friedman’s classic work, Capitalism and Freedom.

For all that, there is something admirable about the neoliberal project, at least in its early stages. It was a distinctive, innovative philosophy promoted by a coherent network of thinkers and activists with a clear plan of action. It was patient and persistent. The Road to Serfdom became the path to power.

Neoliberalism’s triumph also reflects the failure of the left. When laissez-faire economics led to catastrophe in 1929, Keynes devised a comprehensive economic theory to replace it. When Keynesian demand management hit the buffers in the 70s, there was an alternative ready. But when neoliberalism fell apart in 2008 there was … nothing. This is why the zombie walks. The left and centre have produced no new general framework of economic thought for 80 years.

Every invocation of Lord Keynes is an admission of failure. To propose Keynesian solutions to the crises of the 21st century is to ignore three obvious problems. It is hard to mobilise people around old ideas; the flaws exposed in the 70s have not gone away; and, most importantly, they have nothing to say about our gravest predicament: the environmental crisis. Keynesianism works by stimulating consumer demand to promote economic growth. Consumer demand and economic growth are the motors of environmental destruction.

What the history of both Keynesianism and neoliberalism show is that it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed. For Labour, the Democrats and the wider left, the central task should be to develop an economic Apollo programme, a conscious attempt to design a new system, tailored to the demands of the 21st century.

The man who studies the spread of ignorance

How do people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge? Georgina Kenyon finds there is a term which defines this phenomenon.

January 6, 2016

by Georgina Kenyon

BBC News

In 1979, a secret memo from the tobacco industry was revealed to the public. Called the Smoking and Health Proposal, and written a decade earlier by the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, it revealed many of the tactics employed by big tobacco to counter “anti-cigarette forces”.

In one of the paper’s most revealing sections, it looks at how to market cigarettes to the mass public: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

This revelation piqued the interest of Robert Proctor, a science historian from Stanford University, who started delving into the practices of tobacco firms and how they had spread confusion about whether smoking caused cancer.

Proctor had found that the cigarette industry did not want consumers to know the harms of its product, and it spent billions obscuring the facts of the health effects of smoking. This search led him to create a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology.

It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or ‘not knowing’, and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

“I was exploring how powerful industries could promote ignorance to sell their wares. Ignorance is power… and agnotology is about the deliberate creation of ignorance.

“In looking into agnotology, I discovered the secret world of classified science, and thought historians should be giving this more attention.”

The 1969 memo and the tactics used by the tobacco industry became the perfect example of agnotology, Proctor says. “Ignorance is not just the not-yet-known, it’s also a political ploy, a deliberate creation by powerful agents who want you ‘not to know’.”

To help him in his search, Proctor enlisted the help of UC Berkeley linguist Iain Boal, and together they came up with the term – the neologism was coined in 1995, although much of Proctor’s analysis of the phenomenon had occurred in the previous decades.

Balancing act

Agnotology is as important today as it was back when Proctor studied the tobacco industry’s obfuscation of facts about cancer and smoking. For example, politically motivated doubt was sown over US President Barack Obama’s nationality for many months by opponents until he revealed his birth certificate in 2011. In another case, some political commentators in Australia attempted to stoke panic by likening the country’s credit rating to that of Greece, despite readily available public information from ratings agencies showing the two economies are very different.

Proctor explains that ignorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. This was behind how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless, and is used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence.

“This ‘balance routine’ has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that ‘experts disagree’ – creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.”

For example, says Proctor, many of the studies linking carcinogens in tobacco were conducted in mice initially, and the tobacco industry responded by saying that studies into mice did not mean that people were at risk, despite adverse health outcomes in many smokers.

A new era of ignorance

“We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise,” says Proctor. Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed, he warns.

“Although for most things this is trivial – like, for example, the boiling point of mercury – but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.”

Proctor found that ignorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue. In the case of ignorance about tobacco and climate change, a scientifically illiterate society will probably be more susceptible to the tactics used by those wishing to confuse and cloud the truth.

Consider climate change as an example. “The fight is not just over the existence of climate change, it’s over whether God has created the Earth for us to exploit, whether government has the right to regulate industry, whether environmentalists should be empowered, and so on. It’s not just about the facts, it’s about what is imagined to flow from and into such facts,” says Proctor.

Making up our own minds

Another academic studying ignorance is David Dunning, from Cornell University. Dunning warns that the internet is helping propagate ignorance – it is a place where everyone has a chance to be their own expert, he says, which makes them prey for powerful interests wishing to deliberately spread ignorance.

“While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors,” warns Dunning.

Foreigners must provide social media accounts to enter U.S.

December 23, 2016

by Teresa Welsh


Foreign travelers will now be asked to provide links to their social media accounts before they enter the U.S. after the government implemented a new policy designed to identify “potential threats” on Tuesday.

The request to provide links to accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn is optional. But privacy advocates and some technology companies oppose the move on the grounds it violates civil liberties and freedom of expression.

The new policy, which was originally proposed this summer, was adopted Dec. 19 for people arriving via the visa waiver program. That program allows travelers from 38 countries to enter in the country without a visa. They apply through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which now asks about social media accounts in its online form.

“Enter information associated with your online presence, including the types of online platforms, applications and websites that you use to collaborate, share information and interact with others as well as username(s) associated with those accounts,” the form asks, noting that providing the information is “OPTIONAL.”

The government hopes the program will give officials more information about people who want to enter the U.S. and that examining their electronic life could provide clues to potential terrorist or extremist threats. Following the terrorist attack in San Bernardino last December, critics derided national security officials for failing to

catch extremist postings from one of the attackers who had arrived in the country on a marriage visa.

“Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide [the Department of Homeland Security] greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case,” the administration wrote announcing the proposed changes in the Federal Register in June.

But privacy advocates say the new measure violates privacy and there is no clear indication of how the information gathered will be used or stored.

“It is clear that an open-ended inquiry into ‘online presence’ would give DHS a window into applicants’ private lives,” a coalition of 28 civil rights and technology groups wrote in a letter in August in opposition to the proposal. “Scrutiny of their sensitive or controversial online profiles would lead many visa-waiver applicants to self-censor or delete their accounts, with consequences for personal, business, and travel-related activity.”

The group, which included the American Civil Liberties Union, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Center for Democracy and Technology, said certain groups would face discrimination under the policy.

“The risk of discrimination based on analysis of social media content and connections is great and will fall hardest on Arab and Muslim communities, whose usernames, posts, contacts, and social networks will be exposed to intense scrutiny,” the letter said. “It also poses significant risks to journalists, whose profession requires confidentiality and whose social media networks may convey a profile that, taken out of context, could be misconstrued.”

The government said it will not deny applications of those who decline to provide their social media accounts.

Come 2018, driver licenses from nine states won’t be accepted as IDs at the airport

December 23, 2016

by Greg Hadley


Signs have already begun to pop up at airports across the country: If you live in nine particular states and are counting on your driver license to get you through security, you’ll soon be left grounded.

Thanks to a federal law passed in 2005, residents of Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington will need another form of identification to present to the Transportation Security Administration at airports effective Jan. 22, 2018.

The REAL ID act, which was passed with bipartisan support, requires certain security measures to be taken, including a broadened measure of basic information included on ID cards, a “common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements” and anti-fraud measures for the people issuing IDs.

While the law does not compel states to change their process or standards for ID cards, it does require that federal organizations reject any IDs from non-compliant states, which would include domestic air travel.

At the moment, just 24 states, as well as Washington D.C., have made their licenses compliant with the law. However, 15 others have received extensions through 2018, leaving nine with residents who will soon need either a passport or a permanent residence card, depending on their legal status.

As Sunset reports, these states could act before 2018 to make their IDs compliant with the federal standards, and indeed, legislation has already been produced in Missouri and Kentucky that would do that. However, there are several obstacles facing such potential laws.

For one, the REAL ID act has several fierce critics. Rep. Ryan Zinke from Montana introduced legislation in Congress that would repeal the act, though most political experts do not expect the bill to pass. On the Department of Homeland Security’s website, the agency has to deny that it will use the act to build a federal database with people’s personal information, a belief pushed by some privacy advocates.

That belief has resonated with many local lawmakers. In Washington, the legislature has failed to pass any bills regarding the state’s IDs, per the Seattle Times. Pennsylvania has actually passed a law prohibiting the state from participating in the act, according to PennLive, as has South Carolina, per The Post and Courier.

In addition to air travel, people from non-compliant states will feel other effects even sooner. Starting Jan. 30, 2017, those people cannot use their state-issued IDs to enter military bases or federal buildings.

Declassify the Evidence of Russian Hacking!

The debate over possible intervention in the election should be based on publicly disclosed evidence, not unverifiable, anonymous leaks.

December 21, 2016

The Nation

The revelations of a CIA assessment charging that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in order to help Donald Trump, and Trump’s contemptuous dismissal of the charge as “ridiculous,” have set off another round of ugly, divisive commentary regarding both the legitimacy of the election and Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

Yet the charges of Russian responsibility for the e-mail hacks of the Democratic National Committee and of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta have been repeated so often and so emphatically that it’s become easy to forget that they have yet to be conclusively proved.

While the CIA asserts that Russia interfered with the election in order to assist Trump, it is by no means clear that the nation’s other intelligence agencies agree on all of the details. What is clear is that WikiLeaks managed to obtain a trove of often embarrassing and self-serving e-mails written by DNC officials, Clinton campaign operatives, and media elites. But exactly how did it obtain them? Were they leaked, as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claims, or were they deliberately stolen by Russian hackers? We still don’t know for sure. What we do know is that Podesta fell victim to a common (and obvious) spear-phishing ploy, and that the DNC’s system was penetrated by what is widely believed to be a group of Russian-speaking hackers associated with the Russian government. Yet the nature of that association is far from clear.

Even so, we find it troubling that these charges of Russian interference are serving to distract from the very real domestic challenges that threaten our democracy: growing voter suppression, the influence of corporate and dark-money PACs, gerrymandering, and an anachronistic Electoral College that, twice in the past 16 years, has undermined the preferences of American voters.

It is also troubling that the finger-pointing over the leaked e-mails has provided Clinton campaign operatives and surrogates with an excuse for deflecting criticism of the kind of campaign they ran. There’s a striking cognitive dissonance at work here: Liberals who have traditionally been wary of the national-security state and justifiably suspicious of its claims seem to have become its most vociferous supporters, at the very same time that former intelligence officials are urging caution. A former chief of Russian analysis at the CIA, writing in The National Interest, noted that while some of the facts “indeed support the judgment that the Russian government was behind the operations, each is also consistent with alternative explanations.” Another former CIA counterterrorism official told Newsweek, “My main concern is that we will rush to judgment. The analysis needs to be cohesive and done the right way.”

Yet even if it’s proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Russian government did try to interfere in the election, are we really to believe that the blue-collar workers who voted for Trump by the thousands in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (all states that President Obama won in 2008 and 2012) did so only because they were swayed by the contents of the DNC and Podesta e-mails? The Obama White House doesn’t seem to think so. Recall that following the election, it released a statement saying, “We stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

Nevertheless, the current debate, such as it is, has been plagued by a disturbing trend—and it’s one that we’ve seen before: If you express doubts about whether the Russian government hacked the election, or question whether the hacking rose to the level of undermining our electoral system, or simply demand evidence for this tremendously significant allegation (some people making it allege “warfare” by a nuclear-armed country), you are labeled a Trump apologist, a Putin puppet, or both.

This isn’t so surprising, given that one of the motives behind the push to delegitimize Trump’s election is the perhaps well-grounded fear on the part of the foreign-policy establishment that he will seek to find common ground with Russia. As Robert Hunter, the former US ambassador to NATO, recently observed: “Allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election campaign become a tool to limit, if not cripple, President Trump’s attempts to change the downward course of U.S. and Western relations with Russia.”

Yet McCarthyite allegations and smears only serve to prevent an urgently needed reevaluation of this country’s Russia policy. At a very minimum, we ought to seek evidence and proof before indulging in character assassination. Skepticism isn’t treason; instead, it’s essential to establishing the truth. Keep in mind that the CIA’s assessment hinges on whether the Republican National Committee was also hacked. As of this writing, this is still in dispute. Right now, all the evidence we have amounts to faith-based attribution. We need more.

At his year-end press conference, President Obama told journalists, “I want the report [on the alleged hacking] out, so that everybody can review it.” We welcome this step and call on the president to declassify the evidence against Russia as quickly as possible. The current debate over possible foreign intervention in a US presidential election should be based on publicly disclosed evidence, not on competing and unverifiable anonymous leaks from the intelligence community.

Further, we call on the president to convene an independent commission, composed of experienced Americans, to investigate the allegations of Russian hacking. Such a commission should review the classified intelligence that the CIA used to make its assessment and then formulate recommendations on how to strengthen our cyberdefenses to prevent future disruptions.

Let’s have some proof—and then let’s get on with the hard but necessary work of de-escalating the new Cold War, bearing in mind that it is neither pro-Trump nor pro-Putin, but simply sober realism, to argue that we need to partner with Russia on a host of issues, ranging from combating terrorism to promoting and enforcing nuclear nonproliferation. The need for cooperation, as we have seen, is particularly acute in the area of cybersecurity, where the United States and Russia have failed to sign a binding agreement. This is the moment to press for a global accord banning state-sponsored cyberattacks, whether on power grids or electoral systems.

The allegations of foreign intervention in the presidential election cut right to the heart of American democracy. But in addition to apportioning blame, we ought to see this as an opportune time to recall our own country’s long, often sordid history of doing to other nations what we have, thus far without evidence, accused the Russian government of doing to us. Not only have we interfered in foreign elections; in many countries around the world, we have fomented rebellions and coups, some of them resulting in dictatorships that have cost, by a very conservative estimate, hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. As Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean writer who survived the 1973 US-supported coup and resulting 17-year brutal military dictatorship in his own country, wrote in a New York Times op-ed: “If ever there was a time for America to look at itself in the mirror, if ever there was a time of reckoning and accountability, it is now

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