TBR News January 25, 2018

Jan 25 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. January 25, 2018:” Israel is not a friend to the United States. This is because Israel runs one of the most aggressive and damaging espionage networks targeting the US. The fact of Israeli penetration into the country is not a subject that is ever discussed in the media or in the circles of governance, due to the extreme sensitivity of the US-Israel relationship coupled with the burden of the Israel lobby, which punishes legislators who dare to criticize the Jewish state.

According to a 2018 CIA report, the Israelis, while targeting political secrets, also devote “a considerable portion of their covert operations to obtaining scientific and technical intelligence.” These operations involved, among other machinations, “attempts to penetrate certain classified defense projects in the United States.” The penetrations, according to the CIA report, were effected using “deep cover enterprises,” which the report described as “firms and organizations, some specifically created for, or adaptable to, a specific objective.”

The agency, called the Office of Special Plans (OSP), was set up by the then Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to second-guess CIA information and operted under the patronage of hard-line conservatives in the highest levels of the Bush Administrtion, the Pentagon and in the White House itself, led in that areas by then Vice-President Cheney.”

Table of Contents

  • The Great Rice Disease Plot
  • Chinese labs use mail to send opioid fentanyl into US, Senate report finds
  • Chinese Arming American Right-Wing resistance groups
  • Donald Trump warns Turkey over Syria incursion: White House
  • Manbij Becomes Key as US Looks to Rein in Turkey’s Syrian Offensive
  • Syria war: Germany suspends upgrade to Turkey tanks
  • The secrets of Israel’s assassination operations
  • Government Will Protect Us From Bad Speech? That’s the Fakest News of All.
  • DOJ warns release of House Intel memo on FBI, Clinton campaign could ‘harm national security’
  • Trump Administration Weighs Whether to Extend Protections for Thousands of Syrians


The Great Rice Disease Plot

January 25, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Ever since the times of the great Malthus, it has been well recognized that since all species must eat to continue living, the existence of food sources is vital to the survival of any species, be it homo sapiens or others.

Food may, in short, be seen as a weapon as effective as a bullet or a bomb in an attack on a perceived enemy.

We therefore now consider the production of food stuffs as a weapon in a war, formal or informal.

I speak now of a growing struggle between the PRC (China) and the United States in which the PRC can clearly be seen as a challenger to the United States both in the military and economic spheres.

For example, the PRC has purchased very large financial holdings of the United States such as official U.S. Treasury bills and then also as holders of billions of American dollars worth of other financial holdings and long term investments.

These acquisitions are not intended for financial gain to the PRC but to be used as an economic and political lever when, and as, needed.

The PRC has also purchased from the U.S. Treasury, billions of dollars worth of gold belonging to foreign entities.

German holdings alone totaled 53 billion dollars and other nation’s deposits greatly increased this amount.

The sale generated capital used to pay down an enormous American national debt, mostly stemming from military development and deployment worldwide.

Also, the PRC has been known to be conducting a form of economic warfare against the United States by the production of counterfeit gold items, such as coinage and, most dangerously, as faked copies of American official U.S. Treasury gold bars. This has the dual purpose of enriching the PRC with badly-needed items such as oil and raw material it cannot, by itself, possess.

It is evident that the United States intelligence organs are entirely aware of these dangerous PRC activities and have been assiduously working both to blunt the economic warfare and then to counter with other methods.

The most important of these latter methods deals with the issue of food.

It is not certainly a secret that China has a number of growing, and potentially fatal, problems with her population and the care and feeding of it.

China’s basic supply of fresh water comes from the glaciers of the Himalayan mountains but these glaciers are not only melting rapidly but renewal of them does not occur due to obvious and growing planetary climate changes. The shrinking of glacial waters also strongly effects the hydroelectric programs of China.

Another of the PRC’s growing problems is the unchecked increase in population; the shrinkage of arable food (i.e. rice) production areas, a domestic and foreign economic “bubble” that is obvious will probably cause a disastrous implosion.

This brief study of the problems of the PRC then moves on to the methodology by which the United States, the PRC’s main global economic rival, can either neutralize or destroy the capacity of the PRC to wage economic warfare and to neutralize her future endeavors.

Let us now consider the basic Achilles Heel of the PRC; food.

The United States is capable of feeding its own people, though with problems of organized production and distribution but the PRC, and most of Asia, is dependent very heavily on a single crop: rice.

Rice is the seed of the monocot plant Oryza sativa. As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after corn.

Today, the majority of all rice produced comes from China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Philippines, and Japan. These Asian farmers account for 92-percent of the world’s total rice production

The peoples of the PRC, we then are fully aware, have rice, both domestic and imported, as a basic food staple. Should this stable become seriously interdicted by, let us say, some kind of a disease that would impact not only on the PRC but other Asian areas as well, growing starvation and the attendant civil dissoloution can well be postulated.

Major rice diseases include Rice ragged stunt, Sheath Blight and tungro. Rice blast, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe grisea, is the most significant disease affecting rice cultivation. There is also an ascomycete fungus, Cochliobolus miyabeanus, that causes brown spot disease in rice.

A most serious threat to rice crops would be Rust disease, xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae

  Xanthomonas oryzae is a species of proteobacteria. The major host of the bacteria is rice

The species contains two pathovars which are non-European: Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae and Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzicola.Host resistance gene, Xa21,from Oryza longistaminata is integrated into the genome of Oryza sativa for the board range resistance of rice blight disease caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae

In the America of today, unpleasant tasks, the revelation of which might redound against the government, are generally made the province of the  United States Department of Defense, the United States Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Intelligence Community, including the National Security Agency, as well as other U.S. Government civil agencies.

These agencies, in turn, look to the civil, business sector for special development and preparation of weaponry, both conventional and bio-weaponry

One of the main institutions for this development is SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), which has been headquartered in Tysons Corner in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, near McLean, since September of 2009.

Their Board of Directors has included many well- known ex-government personnel including Melvin Laird, Secretary of Defense in the Nixon administration; William Perry, Secretary of Defense for Bill Clinton; John M. Deutch, President Clinton’s CIA Director; Admiral Bobby Ray Inman who served in various capacities in the NSA and CIA for the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations

Here we can mention, in furtherance of this study, that In January of 1999, a SAIC consultant, one Steven Hatfill and his collaborator, SAIC vice president Joseph Soukup, commissioned William C. Patrick, who was a retired and leading figure in the previous official U.S. bio-weapons program to prepare a report on the possibilities of terrorist anthrax postal mailings in the United States. This also referred to a number of false anthrax mailings in the two years previous. Although this report was later purported to be a CIA contract, it was actually an internal memo. In actual fact, this was a report prepared specifically for the CIA’s bio-weapons division.  Mr. Patrick eventually  produced a 28-page report in February of 1999. This was considered by the professional community as a clear blueprint for the subsequent 2001 postal anthranx “attack.”

The report suggested the maximum amount of anthrax powder—2.5 grams—that could be put in an envelope without producing a suspicious bulge. This was just a little more than the actual amounts—2 grams each—in the letters sent to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy. But the report also suggested that a terrorist might produce a spore concentration of 50 billion spores per gram. This was only one-twentieth of the actual concentration—1 trillion spores per gram—in the letters sent to the senators

The “anthrax letters” were clearly used by the Bush Administration as part of their plan to put the American people under tighter observation and control.

Here, also, it should be noted that SAIC operates NCI-Frederick, a National “Cancer Institute” research facility located at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland, which is located in conjunction with the U.S. Army’s bio-weapons research center.

This entity, we must say, has nothing to do with “cancer research” and everything to do with bio-weapons development. About half of the 3,000 employees of NCI-Frederick are hired through the SAIC-Frederick subsidiary, paid out of a competitive $320-million contract.

The initial development of the bio-warfare organization designed to develop a so-called super “rust” agent for designed for a specific attack on the Asian rice crops came from a Presidential Directive signed on February 10, 2004 by then-President George Bush. The power was given to the American Central Intelligence Agency which then contracted with SAIC.

A special, well-hidden laboratory was established in Vancouver, Canada with the express purpose to hide from possible domestic scrutiny in the United States. The sub-agency was, and is, called NOICOM which is under SAIC International Subsidiaries.

NOICOM is under the nominal direction of one Dr. Binymin I. Zeloc, an Israeli citizen employed by the American Central Intelligence Agency and many of the staff are also CIA members or associates.

There are also direct and specific connections with SAIC development centers in Noida and Bangalore, India. Scicom Technologies Noida was acquired by SAIC in September 2007.

A particularly strong strain of  xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae has now been developed that has the ability to spread throughout the rice crops of Asia with, as the report says, ‘lightening speed’ and it is estimated that in the course of one year and interacting with the rice growth pattern, to “fully infect” most, if not all, of the Asian rice crop. Also, the developed strain of xanthomonas compesteris pv.oryzae is such that re-infestation of a following crop is almost certain.

But I must also note that rice is now also grown in all parts of India, Northern and Central Pakistan and that with a certainty, this new disease would certainly spread to these areas.

There was, as we remember, the great Bengal famine of 1942 in which over three millions of Indians perished through starvation

The Bengal Famine may be placed in the context of previous famines in Mughal and British India. Deccan Famine of 1630-32 killed 2,000,000. One of the foundations of the CIA program is based on a corresponding famine in northwestern China, eventually causing the Ming dynasty to collapse in 1644.

The official famine inquiry commission reporting on the Bengal Famine of 1943 put its death toll at about 1.5 million Indians. Estimates made by Prof.P.C. Mahalanobis, of the Indian Statistical Institute said, at least 5 million died directly and another 4-5 million died subsequently in famine related diseases.

In 1974, W.R. Aykroyd, who was a member of the Famine inquiry commission and was primarily responsible for the estimation, conceded that the figures were an underestimate.

It has become very evident to me, in reviewing both the laboratory results and some of the control papers connected with the bio-weapons project (called ‘Evening Storm’), that the disease is planned to be introduced by CIA agents working out of India, into Burmese rice fields. Burma has been chosen as the start point because of extensive, on-going PRC infiltration of that country, the extensive borders with the PRC and the flow of trade between the two countries.

However, the project has not taken into account that this disease will certainly spread to other countries, notably India, with terrible consequences but nowhere can this ‘Collateral Damage’ be found in any paper or study.

My experience, over the past five years, is that the American CIA and, in fact, other American agencies, have no interest in ‘Collateral Damage’  nor consider the consequences to innocent entities and, in this case, friendly states.


Chinese labs use mail to send opioid fentanyl into US, Senate report finds

Year-long investigation logs 500 deals with $766m street value

US Postal Service has failed to widely deploy electronic data system

January 24, 2018


Illegal shipments of the powerful and addictive opioid fentanyl are pouring into the United States by mail from China and the US Postal Service must step up the use of hi-tech detection methods to fight the problem, according to a congressional report unveiled on Wednesday.

A year-long investigation by a Senate homeland security and government affairs investigations subcommittee found there is easy access for buyers in the United States to purchase fentanyl, often in relatively large quantities, through the internet.

The drugs are mailed by “labs” in China to individuals who consume them or to middlemen who dilute them for resale.

Investigators refused to divulge the names of the labs. According to the report, the US Postal Service has failed to widely deploy a system to capture “advanced electronic data” about packages destined for American ports, which would help identify suspicious mail to be turned over to US Customs and Border Protection agents.

Staff of the permanent investigations subcommittee said they focused on six “very responsive” providers in China, out of hundreds of pages of websites offering fentanyl for sale.

The result was the identification of 500 online transactions involving fentanyl, mainly in powder form, with a street value of about $766m.

US fatalities linked to opioids including fentanyl have been rising dramatically and totaled more than 42,000 in 2016, according to government data.

Online sales from China tracked by the Senate investigators were linked to seven confirmed synthetic opioid-related deaths in the US, they said.

The investigation was overseen by Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio and the subcommittee chairman, and Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the panel’s senior Democrat.

Investigators said the Chinese sellers were eager to ship the fentanyl using Express Mail Service, which operates worldwide through each country’s postal operations, including the US Postal Service.

Surcharges are applied, the investigators said, for customers demanding shipment through private delivery services, such as FedEx, DHL and United Parcel Service, because of the greater likelihood the goods would be seized.

The Senate investigation concluded that the US Postal Service received advanced electronic data on 36% of all international packages, meaning about 318m parcels last year were not monitored.

“We now know the depth to which drug traffickers exploit our mail system to ship fentanyl and other synthetic drugs into the United States,” Portman said in a statement.


Chinese Arming American Right-Wing resistance groups

January 25, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Activist neo-nazi groups in the United States are being supplied with weapons smuggled into the US. These weapons originate with the Chinese firm, NORENCO, The China North Industries Corporation. This is a Chinese company, located at the Xicheng District, Beijing, China that manufactures civil and military firearms and ammunition.

The specific weapons involved in the arming of neo-nazi groups are the following:

  • Type 54, copy of TT-33 Pistol Model
  • Type 64, pistol
  • Type 77, pistol
  • NP50, copy of Smith & Wesson model 64
  • NP-216, 9x19mm revolver
  • QSZ-92 (Type 92), pistol NP-42, civilian export version of QSZ-92
  • NZ-75, copy of CZ 75 pistol NZ-85B, clone of CZ 85 pistol
  • NP-40, copy of CZ 85 pistol in .40S&W
  • NP-22 (rename by importer NP226 or NC226) a SIG Sauer P226 pistol first version copy NP-34 (rename by importer NP228 or NC228), copy of SIG Sauer P228 pistol
  • NP-56 45ACP, SIG Sauer P220 Rail pistol Copy in .45ACP
  • M-1911A1C, Combat Commander style pistol
  • NP-28, Colt M1911A1 copy in 9x19mm Parabellum with double-column magazine (10 rounds)
  • NP-44, Colt M1911A1 copy in .45 ACP with double-column magazine (14 rounds)
  • CQ, copy of M16A1 variant of M16 rifle
  • NR-08, sub machine gun(SMG), copy of Heckler & Koch MP5.
  • Type 56 Carbine, copy of Russian SKS semi-automatic rifle
  • Type 56 assault rifle, copy of AK-47 MAK-90, a civilian, semi-automatic version of the AK-47
  • NHM-90, 1994–2004 gun ban model, w/1.5mm stamped receiver, thumbhole stock, no bayonet lug, non-flashhider
  • Type 86S bullpup assault rifle
  • Type 87 (also known as QLZ87) 35 mm automatic grenade launcher (AGL)
  • QBU-88 (Type 88), sniper rifle
  • QBZ-95 (Type 95), an assault rifle
  • Norinco-designed QBZ-95 rifle.QBB 95, a squad automatic weapon version of the QBZ-95
  • QBZ-97 (Type 97), a rifle,export version of QBZ-95 that uses 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition
  • QBZ-03 (Type 03), an assault rifle
  • NDM-86, a version of the Dragunov Sniper Rifle that fires .308 Win. ammo or traditional 7.62×54mmR depending on model
  • JW-25a, or TU-G33/40, patterned after G33/40.

Because of strict port security in Vancouver, the weapons are off-loaded in the Pacific, off the west coast of Vancouver Island, from a Chinese-flag container ship headed for the port city of Vancouver. The weapons are loaded onto commercial fishing vessels, very common in the area, who subsequently take them south to the Washington port of Tacoma. From there, they are driven by commercial trucks to the Boeing Field airport and placed on private aircraft for distribution to other American destinations.

It is to be noted that there is a strong Chinese presence in the Vancouver-Seattle area. In Vancouver, the Chinese population is over 400,000 and in Seattle they represent 4% of the population. All the smuggled weapons are handled by Chinese personnel until they are loaded onto the aircraft.


Donald Trump warns Turkey over Syria incursion: White House

The US president has told his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to rein in attacks on Syria’s Kurdish enclave of Afrin, the White House says. Concerns that the NATO allies may come into conflict are rising.

January 25, 2018


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again been urged to “de-escalate” his military assault on Afrin, a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria.

Following similar calls from other world leaders, US President Donald Trump spoke by phone to his counterpart on Wednesday and called on Tutkey’s government to “limit its military action and avoid civilian casualties,” according to a White House statement.

Trump also warned Erdogan about “the destructive and false” anti-American rhetoric he said was emanating from Turkey as the NATO allies find themselves at odds over territory close to Turkey’s border that is controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.

Washington relies on the YPG, the major force within the alliance of Syrian Democratic Forces, to fight the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group in Syria.

Erdogan meanwhile accuses the YPG of being allied with a three-decade Kurdish insurgency in southern Turkey.

Together with aligned Syrian rebel fighters, Turkey began an air and ground operation in the Afrin district on Saturday to root out what Ankara calls Kurdish “terrorists” who are threatening security in the country.

The offensive has opened a new front in Syria’s multisided seven-year war and complicated US efforts in Syria.

Amid rising tensions, Trump urged Turkey to “exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces.”

Erdogan urged Trump to halt Washington’s weapons support to the Kurdish militia, according to the White House.

Erdogan presses on

In separate comments, Turkey’s president vowed to extend the military operation to Manbij, a separate Kurdish-held enclave about 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Afrin, where some US forces are positioned alongside the SDF.

Kurdish leaders meanwhile have demanded that Washington rein in Turkey, and vowed to resist its cross-border operation.

Shervan Derwish, a spokesman for the Manbij Military Council, said his forces are on “full alert” in case Turkey moves on the city.


Manbij Becomes Key as US Looks to Rein in Turkey’s Syrian Offensive

January 24, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

The US is trying to prevent the fighting in Afrin between Turkish forces and Syrian Kurds spreading east into the main Kurdish enclave in Syria where US troops are based. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to drive the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters not just from Afrin, but from Manbij, a strategic town west of the Euphrates.

“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “If the US does not stop this, we will stop it.”

Some 6,000 Turkish troops backed by 10,000 Free Syrian Army fighters controlled by Turkey are seeking to fight their way into the isolated Kurdish canton of Afrin in northern Syria. Their progress has so far been slow, with thick cloud hindering air strikes in the hilly terrain. The YPG and Turkish-led forces have been fighting for the Bursaya Hill, with the summit, which overlooks the eastern side of Afrin town, changing hands several times.

The US has so far given muted support to its Kurdish allies in Syria, who provided the ground troops for the successful campaign against Isis. The US has supported the YPG during the war against Isis with massive air power, military equipment and some 2,000 specialised US troops.

The US is hoping to keep the present fighting confined to Afrin, which is separate from the bulk of Kurdish territory. There have never been any US military forces in this enclave, though there were Russian observers that have now been withdrawn. But if Turkey attacks Manbij then the US will have to decide if it is going to be seen as betraying its Kurdish ally or risk a military confrontation with its Nato partner Turkey.

The Kurdish authorities in north-east Syria are calling for a mass mobilisation in defence of Afrin. But they already have large numbers of experienced combat troops previously fighting Isis that they can deploy if they wish. “The Turkish state has been trying to enter north Syria for days, but it will not be able to,” said Siyamund Walat, a YPG general. “We have forces in Afrin, thousands… they are protecting the border and the people. If necessary all the soldiers will go to Afrin.”

It may be in the interests of the Syrian Kurds to prolong the fighting in Afrin so international diplomatic pressure increases on Turkey to end Operation Olive Branch, as it calls its campaign. On the other hand, Afrin is cut off from the rest of the Kurdish-held area and the one supply road to the south is held by the Syrian Army. Syrian soldiers have been refusing to allow refugees from Afrin through their checkpoints to reach Kurdish areas in Aleppo city 25 miles away.

The Turkish campaign only became possible when Russia agreed not to oppose it and, above all, allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. This is under Russian control west of the Euphrates. The long-contemplated Turkish assault was finally provoked by the US announcement last week that its forces would be staying in Syrian Kurdish territory for the foreseeable future. This de facto guarantee of the Kurdish statelet, directed against the Syrian government and Iran by the US, radically changed the strategic balance in Syria. The US had assured the Turks since the end of 2014 that its military cooperation with the YPG was purely tactical, directed against Isis and would end when Isis was defeated.

Mr Erdogan is taking advantage of a wave of patriotic support in Turkey for the Afrin operation to arrest dozens of politicians, journalists and activists who are accused of criticising the offensive. Many of those arrested, often for critical media posts, belong to the pro-Kurdish HDP party. “Journalists are having their doors rammed down without anybody knocking,” said HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen. “People are [becoming] afraid of keyboards, pens, words and writing.”


Syria war: Germany suspends upgrade to Turkey tanks

January 25, 2018

BBC News

The German government has put plans on hold to upgrade German-made tanks used by Turkey amid a public outcry over a Turkish offensive in northern Syria.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said the decision would be taken once a new coalition government had been formed.

Pictures have been circulating in the German media of Leopard tanks being used by Turkish forces in their campaign against Kurdish forces.

Turkish-led forces began their assault in Syria’s north-west on Saturday.

Air strikes pummelled the Afrin enclave before ground forces moved in against the Kurdish YPG militia.

Forty-eight Turkish-backed rebels and 42 YPG fighters have been killed in the fighting since Saturday, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group.

Germany was set to approve the upgrade – what happened?

Yes, last week Berlin seemed ready to approve Turkey’s request for German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall to make its 1990s-era Leopard 2 tanks less vulnerable to explosives.

But then pictures emerged suggesting the tanks were not only being used in campaigns against the Islamic State (IS) group but also in Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” against the YPG.

Politicians not only from the German left but also Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own CDU party have condemned the upgrade. Norbert Röttgen, the conservative chair of the parliamentary foreign policy committee, told the BBC the Turkish attack was a violation of international law.

There is deep unease about the Turkish incursion into Syrian territory – and the impact of its campaign on civilians.

The Observatory reports 28 civilians killed by Turkish air and artillery strikes on Afrin and another two by YPG fire inside Syria. Thousands of people have been displaced.

What’s the back story here?

Conflicting alliances and interests among regional and global powers.

Turkey accuses the YPG of having links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group within its own borders.

The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK – an assertion backed by the US, which has provided the militia and allied Arab fighters with weapons and air support to help them battle IS jihadists in Syria.

The US-Turkish tensions are illustrated by reports of a confrontational phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

While the White House says Mr Trump “urged Turkey to de-escalate” its Afrin operation, the Turkish foreign minister says Mr Erdogan demanded US troops withdraw from northern Syria’s Manbij region, which is also controlled by Kurdish forces.

Mr Erdogan has reportedly said the Turkish operation will be extended to Manbij – potentially bringing the Nato allies into direct conflict.

However, so far the Turkish-backed forces seem to have made slow progress.

How has Turkey reacted to the news?

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters the suspension did not amount to a complete block on defence co-operation between Turkey and Germany, one of the biggest arms exporters in the world.

“While we fight with terrorists, we expect support and solidarity from Germany,” Mr Cavusoglu told reporters. “We expect them to not support terrorists, but I know they are also under pressure.”

German media say the caretaker government was close to agreeing the modernisation deal with Turkey and was back-footed by the public outcry.

But the government now says it is unanimous that the decision should be taken when a new coalition government has been formed.

It is a setback for German-Turkish ties when a rapprochement had appeared to be on the horizon following a meeting between Mr Sigmar and Mr Cavusoglu earlier this month.

Relations hit rock bottom in the fallout of Turkey’s crackdown in response to an attempted coup in July 2016. There has been particular anger over Ankara’s detention of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in February 2017.


The secrets of Israel’s assassination operations

January 25, 2018

by Ethan Bronner


Poisoned toothpaste that takes a month to end its target’s life. Armed drones. Exploding cell phones. Spare tires with remote-control bombs. Assassinating enemy scientists and discovering the secret lovers of Islamic holy men. A new book chronicles these techniques and asserts that Israel has carried out at least 2,700 assassination operations in its 70 years of existence. While many failed, they add up to far more than any other Western country, the book says.

Ronen Bergman, the intelligence correspondent for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, persuaded many agents of Mossad, Shin Bet and the military to tell their stories, some using their real names. The result is the first comprehensive look at Israel’s use of state-sponsored killings.

Based on 1,000 interviews and thousands of documents, and running more than 600 pages, Rise and Kill First makes the case that Israel has used assassination in the place of war, killing half a dozen Iranian nuclear scientists, for instance, rather than launching a military attack. It also strongly suggests that Israel used radiation poisoning to kill Yasser Arafat, the longtime Palestinian leader, an act its officials have consistently denied.

Bergman writes that Arafat’s death in 2004 fits a pattern and had advocates. But he steps back from flatly asserting what happened, saying that Israeli military censorship prevents him from revealing what – or if – he knows.

The book’s title, Rise and Kill First, comes from the ancient Jewish Talmud admonition, “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” Bergman says a huge percentage of the people he interviewed cited that passage as justification for their work. So does an opinion by the military’s lawyer declaring such operations to be legitimate acts of war.

Despite the many interviews, including with former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, Bergman, the author of several books, says the Israeli secret services sought to interfere with his work, holding a meeting in 2010 on how to disrupt his research and warning former Mossad employees not to speak with him.

He says that while the U.S. has tighter constraints on its agents than does Israel, President George W. Bush adopted many Israeli techniques after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and President Barack Obama launched several hundred targeted killings.

“The command-and-control systems, the war rooms, the methods of information gathering and the technology of the pilotless aircraft, or drones, that now serve the Americans and their allies were all in large part developed in Israel,” Bergman writes.

The book gives a textured history of the personalities and tactics of the various secret services. In the 1970s, a new head of operations for Mossad opened hundreds of commercial companies overseas with the idea that they might be useful one day. For example, Mossad created a Middle Eastern shipping business that, years later, came in handy in providing cover for a team in the waters off Yemen.

There have been plenty of failures. After a Palestinian armed group killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Israel sent agents to kill the perpetrators – and shot more than one misidentified man. There were also successful operations that did more harm than good to Israel’s policy goals, Bergman notes.

Bergman raises moral and legal concerns provoked by state-sponsored killing, including the existence of separate legal systems for secret agents and the rest of Israel. But he presents the operations, for the most part, as achieving their aims. While many credit the barrier Israel built along and inside the West Bank with stopping assaults on Israeli citizens in the early 2000s, he argues that what made the difference was “a massive number of targeted killings of [enemy] operatives.”

One of Bergman’s most important sources was Meir Dagan, a recent head of Mossad for eight years who died in early 2016. Toward the end of his career, Dagan fell out with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu partly over launching a military attack on Iran. Netanyahu said intelligence techniques such as selling the country faulty parts for its reactors – which Israel and the U.S. were doing – weren’t enough.

Dagan argued that these techniques, especially assassinations, would do the job. As Bergman quotes him saying, “In a car, there are 25,000 parts on average. Imagine if 100 of them are missing. It would be very hard to make it go. On the other hand, sometimes it’s most effective to kill the driver, and that’s that.”


Government Will Protect Us From Bad Speech? That’s the Fakest News of All.

When government officials suppress critics, they do so only to help themselves.

January 23, 2018

by J.D. Tuccille


The folks from the government are here to protect us from extremism, fake news, and hate speech, and they’ve strong-armed some media company friends to help.

“Twitter is sending out messages to people telling them that, for their own good, they are documenting that the user has either followed, cited or re-tweeted an account Twitter decided is linked to Russia & its propaganda efforts,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted over the weekend. “That’s not creepy at all.”

The thread to which Greenwald linked featured an example of such an email, which is connected to Twitter’s promise last fall to the U.S. Congress to cooperate “with congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” The company was caught up in the frenzy in Washington, D.C. to pin the country’s political turmoil not on angry Americans, but rather on Russia’s clumsy, low-rent news-spinning through social media.

“As previously announced,” Twitter notes on its blog, “we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization… Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period.”

Ummm… Thanks for that, Twitter. I’d hate to think that I’m paying attention to the “wrong” people.

But maybe I’m also not paying attention to the right people—as decided by the powers-that-be.

“We work with respected organizations… to empower credible non-governmental voices against violent extremism,” Twitter’s Carlos Monje Jr., director of public policy and philanthropy in the U.S. and Canada, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation last week.

“Over the past three years, we have commissioned research on what types of counterspeech are the most effective at combating hate and violent extremism,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, assured senators at the same hearing. “We have therefore partnered with non-governmental organizations and community groups around the world to empower positive and moderate voices.”

YouTube’s Juniper Downs, Director Public Policy and Government Relations, also promised lawmakers that her company was quarantining what she termed “borderline content” to achieve “a substantial reduction in watch time of those videos.” YouTube is also actively producing “counterspeech,” Downs testified. “We are expanding our counter-extremism work to present counternarratives and elevate the voices that are most credible in speaking out against terrorism, hate, and violence.”

To be sure, working against violent extremism sounds, on its face, like a good thing. But let’s be clear that these are executives of media companies going before government officials to promise to suppress officially disapproved speech and to promote ideas and messages that the government supports. Historically, the sort of “hate speech” government officials tend to dislike most is that directed at them, and their definitions of “positive and moderate voices” most commonly apply to anything that strokes their egos.

Need an example? Let’s peek at our friends across the Atlantic. Unhampered by strong protections for free speech, they’re openly most concerned when the targets are themselves.

“In recent years, the intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, and others in public life, has become a threat to the diversity, integrity, and vibrancy of representative democracy in the UK,” fretted the UK government’s Committee on Standards in Public Life in a report published last month. “Intimidatory behaviour is already affecting the way in which MPs are relating to their constituents, has put off candidates who want to serve their communities from standing for public offices, and threatens to damage the vibrancy and diversity of our public life.”

Aspiring politicians may refrain from running for office because people could say not-nice things about them. Shocking. And journalists who report on politics are such meanies too!

“The freedom of the press is essential and must be protected. Nevertheless, journalists, broadcasters and editors should consider how the content they create might incite intimidation through delegitimising someone’s engagement in the political process… While continuing their important scrutiny of those in public office, they must also be careful they are not unduly or unfairly undermining trust in the political system.”

Well, we can’t have that. What should be done?

“We propose legislative changes that the government should bring forward on social media companies’ liability for illegal content online, and an electoral offence of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners.”

So, the committee wants to prosecute people for criticizing politicians? I kind of thought that’s where we were going. That should work out well.

Unsurprisingly, France’s President Emmanuel Macron is also concerned about “fake news” that targets the powerful and the prominent.

“Thousands of propaganda accounts on social networks are spreading all over the world, in all languages, lies invented to tarnish political officials, personalities, public figures, journalists,” Macron complained earlier this month.

Macron also has Russkies on the mind. He bitterly complained during his successful presidential campaign last year that Moscow had targeted him with “fake news” that did nothing to prevent his victory, but left him very annoyed indeed.

Or maybe blaming “les Russes” is just a handy way of pushing through laws that would, among other things, empower judges to suppress any content these government officials deemed to be “fake” during election periods. Government regulators would also gain more power to “fight any destabilization attempt” via television content.

“The first question is: What is fake news? Who will define it?” asked Daniel Schneidermann, a media columnist for the French newspaper Libération, in just the sort of destabilizing comment tending to tarnish political officials that gets Macron’s goat.

Germans could answer that question, based on the laws they already have on the books. Government officials will define it, of course, and they won’t be shy about doing so.

When Beatrix von Storch, a lawmaker from the Alliance for Germany party, greeted the new year with a dyspeptic anti-Muslim tweet, Twitter promptly suspended her account, followed by Facebook, after she reposted her comments there. The social media companies acted under threat of 50 million euro fines under the country’s new censorship law, which requires media companies to delete “hate speech” without defining the term.

Next to be suppressed was Titanic, a satire magazine which poked fun at von Storch.

“Why are [North-Rhine-Westphalia] police using Arabic numbers for their emergency hotline?” the magazine asked, in a tweet purporting to be from the lawmaker.

Of course Titanic was suspended. They tweaked a legislator in a country that bans hate speech, and it’s clear from the examples of Britain and France that the speech politicians hate most is that directed at them.

Yeah, it’s “creepy” when media companies mold and twist the news we see to please their political masters. Worse, it’s chilling when governments take the logical next step to promote speech they favor and punish speakers who anger them.

Because when politicians tell us that they’re trying to make the world a better place with censorship, that’s the fakest news of all. But here’s a bit of real news: when government officials suppress critics, they do so only to help themselves.


DOJ warns release of House Intel memo on FBI, Clinton campaign could ‘harm national security’

January 25, 2018


The Justice Department has called on the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to let the FBI view before release a secret memo alleging to show political bias within the department.

With the House Intelligence Committee saying it is in the preparation stages of releasing a 4-page memo, which purports to show collusion between the Obama administration, the FBI, and the Clinton campaign against Trump and his team, the DOJ has said releasing the memo would be “extraordinarily reckless.”

“We believe it would be extraordinarily reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the Department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum and to advise the [committee] of the risk of harm to national security and to ongoing investigations that could come from the public release,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote in a letter to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). “Indeed, we do not understand why the Committee would possibly seek to disclose classified and law enforcement sensitive information without first consulting with the relevant members of the Intelligence Community.”

Others issues thought to be contained in the memo, which thus far has only been viewed by House members, involve the so-called ‘Steele dossier,’ a controversial document prepared by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele that made a series of unverified claims against Donald Trump. One of the more shocking allegations put forward in the dossier was that Trump had paid prostitutes urinate on a bed at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow where former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michele had once stayed.

The memo will also likely focus on the email correspondences between two FBI staff members, Peter Strzok and his mistress, lawyer Linda Page, both of whom expressed strong reservations for Trump.

Strzok, who served as Chief of the Counterespionage Section during the FBI’s investigation into Clinton’s use of her personal email server, at one point referred to Trump as a “douche” and an “utter idiot.”

Strzok was abruptly removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe earlier this year after the DOJ began investigating his seemingly biased messages.

The Strzok-Page story lay dormant until this month when new revelations showed that at least five months’ worth of electronic text messages between Strzok and Page had disappeared.

This week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) commented on the lost texts, saying: “The omission of text messages between December 2016 and May 2017, a critical gap encompassing the FBI’s Russia investigation, is equally concerning. Rather than clearing up prior FBI and DOJ actions, these recently produced documents cause us to further question the credibility and objectivity of certain officials at the FBI.”

Fox News’ Sean Hannity, citing DOJ sources, reported Wednesday on his news program ‘Hannity’ that the Justice Department has started recovering some of the missing texts between the FBI officials.

Meanwhile, as the rhetoric over the secret memo heats up, the Democrats appear determined to steal the Republicans’ thunder, saying they too are in the process of putting together a secret memo.

Regrettably, it has been necessary for Committee Democrats to draft our own memorandum, setting out the relevant facts and exposing the misleading character of the Republicans’ document,”said the panel’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff, “so that members of the House are not left with an erroneous impression of the dedicated professionals at the FBI and DOJ.”

Finally, Trump, when asked if he would agree to being interviewed by Mueller in the ongoing ‘Russiagate’ investigation, said he is “looking forward” to the opportunity, and willing to do it “under oath.”


Trump Administration Weighs Whether to Extend Protections for Thousands of Syrians

January 25 2018

by Maryam Saleh

The Intercept

The Department of Homeland Security has until Wednesday to decide the futures of thousands of Syrians living in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows citizens of countries impacted by natural disaster or armed conflict to live and work in the U.S.

The TPS designation for Syria, which dates back to 2012, will expire on March 31. The Trump administration must announce whether it will offer an extension or re-designation at least 60 days before then — January 31.

TPS offers temporary legal status for migrants fleeing unsafe conditions. The looming Syria deadline comes amid DHS cancellations of TPS protections for citizens of Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan that had been in place for years — and, in the case of Nicaragua, almost two decades. “No decision has been made regarding TPS for Syria,” said DHS spokesperson Katie Waldman, who declined to answer any other questions about the deliberations. More than 430,000 people are currently living in the U.S. with TPS protections, according to the Congressional Research Service.

“A lot of the people we hear from are very desperate and frantic about their situation, and they can’t understand — and this is not just Syrians — how the United States can consider deporting a person back to Syria, which is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world,” said Nadeen Aljijakli, an Ohio-based immigration attorney. “They’re trying to see if they have other options and trying to make plan B’s for themselves, but sometimes those options aren’t available, so they’re really stuck and waiting to see what’ll happen.”

All Syrians who were physically present in the United States prior to the cutoff date were eligible to apply for TPS, meaning they did not necessarily fear persecution upon returning to Syria, as refugees do. Still, those who sought refuge in the United States — a country with a spoken policy that Bashar al-Assad must step down, even if its actions do not necessarily align with that goal — would likely not be greeted with a marching upon their return.

Quite the opposite: The very act of leaving Syria, particularly in the early years of the uprising, was highly politicized and sometimes seen as treasonous. Although Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem called on refugees to return to Syria after President Donald Trump signed the first travel ban last year, Assad a few days later said that some refugees are “definitely” terrorists, the same description he gave to anti-government protesters in 2011. The regime has continued to round up political prisoners over the last year, including people arrested “because [of] their relatives’ involvement with armed opposition factions or because of their involvement in providing humanitarian aid,” according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

There are about 7,000 Syrian TPS beneficiaries in the United States, and many of them have laid down roots. Take, for example, Maysaa Alsous. Her family has lived in Fairfax, Virginia, since 2012, when they came to visit her brother-in-law’s family for the summer — they expected the war would be over in a couple of months, and they would be able to return home. But Syria continued to descend deeper and deeper into war, and Alsous’s family realized there was no going back just yet. They rented a house, enrolled her two daughters in school, and eventually applied for TPS.

Now able to live and work in the U.S., Alsous and her family began to settle in. Her husband joined his brother as a business partner at a local pizzeria, and Alsous, who had studied education and ran a business in Damascus devoted to teaching children mental math, launched a teaching business. She now runs a weekend school in which she teaches Arabic and mental math; she also teaches in after-school programs at local schools and offers private tutoring lessons. She is, by all measures, a success story.

“My biggest concern is about my daughter,” Alsous said. “If TPS is not renewed, she’ll be starting college next year as an international student.”Whether she can finish college would remain an open question. If TPS is revoked, DHS may allow a grace period of a year or a year and a half for those losing the status to make arrangements or apply for protection in other ways, but there are few options. “Because the conflict has been going on for so long, there are many Syrians that have been able to find alternative options to remain in the country,” Aljijakli said. “Sometimes it’s through employment, sometimes it could be family-based. So those options are always there, but they’re very limited. It’s extremely hard to find the qualifying employer, and whether someone gets married or not is also an open question. So those are very limited options.”

Some may choose to apply for asylum, although being from Syria is not on its own enough to meet the criteria. Asylum-seekers must be able to show an individualized fear of persecution based on one of five protected classes, including religion and political opinion. (People seeking asylum must apply within one year of entering the United States, but that bar can be overcome when there is a change in circumstances, such as the loss of another form of legal status, like TPS.)

“A lot of people think that just because someone comes from a country that’s going through a horrendous time, that’s very dangerous, that they should automatically qualify for asylum,” Aljijakli added. “But the United States doesn’t have a system of humanitarian asylum, like many other countries do.”

The secretary of homeland security can designate a foreign country for TPS when conditions there make it difficult for foreign nationals to return safely or if the country is unable to adequately handle the return of its people. According to federal regulations, the designation can be made in the case of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster or epidemic, or “other extraordinary and temporary conditions.” In eliminating TPS, the Trump administration has argued that the conditions that brought about the initial designation — Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, for example — had lapsed, while ignoring ongoing conditions — such as Haiti’s cholera epidemic and high levels of violence in El Salvador — that make a return all but impossible.

In the case of Syria, however, the armed conflict — and the resulting humanitarian crisis — that spurred the 2012 designation is very much ongoing and shows no sign of abating. For immigration lawyers and advocates, that makes a renewal of the program a no-brainer.

“If we were looking purely at the regulations and the way TPS is applied, it seems like it should be a straightforward matter. Is there still a humanitarian crisis and armed conflict in Syria? Yes,” Aljijakli said. “So you would think that the decision would be to extend it, which is the expectation for so many. But things are different now under this administration, so it’s taken out of the normal analysis that would take place and thrown into the political realm that we’re in right now, which is whether the Trump administration wants to allow close to 7,000 Syrians to remain in the United States right now or not.”

The State Department said in a January 10 travel warning that “no part of Syria is safe from violence,” a conclusion a number of advocacy groups reminded the government about in a letter to DHS and the State Department.

After the initial 2012 designation, DHS both extended and re-designated TPS for Syria in 2013, 2015, and 2016, meaning the agency allowed existing program beneficiaries to renew their status and also allowed Syrians who had either not previously applied or had recently entered the U.S. to apply for protections as well.

While DHS could choose to eliminate the program in its entirety, it also has the option of extending TPS but not re-designating it. Doing so would, in fact, be in line with the agency’s actions regarding TPS for countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua, which saw repeated extensions but no re-designations.

Bill Frelick, refugee program director at Human Right Watch, said a decision to terminate TPS for Syria would go against the advice of the U.N. refugee agency. “With mounting pressure on Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey to return, the U.S. government’s termination of temporary protected status for Syrians would send a particularly dangerous signal that could impact far larger numbers of Syrians at serious risk of forced return,” he added.

Over the past few weeks, conditions in Syria have been particularly dire in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib — both “de-escalation” zones under assault by the Syrian regime and Russia, and the latter the site of government-rebel fighting — and Afrin, a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria that Turkey invaded over the weekend.

Regardless of what the Trump administration ultimately decides, its handling of the issue presents a radical departure from the Obama administration’s approach, according to a group that has been petitioning for Syria’s TPS designation for years.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee petitioned the Obama administration for a TPS designation in 2012, said the group’s National Legal and Policy Director Abed Ayoub. They requested an extension and re-designation prior to the program’s expiration in 2013, 2014, and 2016, and met with senior DHS and State Department officials each time. ADC sent a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on January 11 making a similar request. In the letter, obtained by The Intercept, ADC pointed to Syria’s humanitarian and refugee crisis, as well as the escalation of the armed conflict, as reasons to extend the program. “Extension and re-designation will pose little burden on the U.S.,” the letter reads. “Relatively few Syrians are able to obtain the documentation and travel arrangements necessary to come to the United States.”

The agencies acknowledged receipt but did not respond to requests for a meeting, Ayoub said. (Waldman, the DHS spokesperson, said she could not comment on meetings with stakeholders under the current and former administrations.)

ADC’s pro bono legal department has helped hundreds of Syrians with TPS applications in recent years, Ayoub said, adding that the cancellation of the program would have a devastating impact on the lives of their clients.

“A lot of these individuals that have been here, they’ve carried on, and they’re law-abiding,” Ayoub said. “Some of them want to go back — but they want to go back when it’s safe, when there’s not a humanitarian crisis, when there’s not bombs dropping on them, when they’re not in danger of losing their lives.”



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