TBR News July 28, 2016

Jul 28 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. July 28, 2016: “Some time ago, a senior FBI official whom I knew became very angry with me. He had asked my opinion on a matter and when I gave it to him, shouted that I was negative, opinionated and anti-social. I asked him why he bothered to ask my opinion if he had such views and he replied that I was always right.

There is no question that the murderous activities of Arab religious fanatics against the populations of Europe will result in truly terrible counter-actions by those peoples if they see that their political leaders are apparently incapable of defending them.

Their responses against the large Muslim populations of their countries will be terrible to behold.

The politicians will weep and wring their hands, just before the mob wrings their necks.”

In Secret Battle, Surveillance Court Reined in FBI Use of Information Obtained from Phone Calls

July 27, 2016

by Jenna McLaughlin

The Intercept

Beginning over a decade ago, the country’s surveillance court intervened to limit the FBI’s ability to act on some sensitive information that it collected while monitoring phone calls.

The wrangling between the FBI and the secret court are contained in previously undisclosed documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy information Center, or EPIC, in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and were shared with The Intercept.

The documents reveal that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) told the FBI several times between 2005 and 2007 that using some incidental information it collected while monitoring communications in an investigation — specifically, numbers people punch into their phones after they’ve placed a call — would require an explicit authorization from the court, even in an emergency.

“The newly obtained summaries are significant because they show the power that the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] has to limit expansive FBI surveillance practices,” Alan Butler, an attorney for EPIC, wrote in an email to The Intercept.

Additionally, The Intercept independently obtained sections of the FBI’s 2011 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide describing how the FBI currently deals with information it obtains after getting a court order for what’s called a “pen register,” or “trap and trace” on a target — a capability built into the phone lines which records incoming and outgoing phone numbers for a particular phone. The 2011 guide is currently public, but heavily redacted.

The Operations Guide, in addition to shedding light on how the FBI uses pen registers, reveals that the surveillance court’s pushback more than a decade ago has become internal FBI policy.

During an investigation, the FBI is often interested in who a target is talking to — what calls they make and receive, and where those calls physically originate from.

By simply telling a judge the information is “relevant,” the FBI can demand that a phone company, or email or other online provider, immediately hand over any and all “telephone numbers, email addresses, and other dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information.” That information can sometimes include locational data. They don’t need to notify the target or demonstrate probable cause that he or she committed a crime to get it.

But the FBI’s monitoring can end up getting more information than just phone numbers, though pen-register and trap-and-trace orders are not intended to get any “content” that would provide insight into the substance or subject of a communication.

For example, the numbers people punch into the phone after making a call can reveal financial or personal information — like a credit card number, a social security number, a PIN, a prescription number, or any other type of response via automated telephone prompts. The “term of art” for this information is “post-cut through dialed digits.”

The FBI in the 2011 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide has described the digits dialed after someone makes a call as “content.”

Following the release of documents by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, many have described the secretive court as a “rubber stamp” because it rarely rejects a surveillance request. But there’s nuance in what the judges have challenged or modified in response to requests over the years.

Between July and December in 2005, the surveillance court approved pen registers and trap-and-trace devices to target “at least 138” people.

However, one judge started asking the FBI more probing questions about what exactly it did with post-cut through dialing digits it “incidentally” obtained with those orders — launching what Butler describes as an “open secret” fight between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and FBI over the information. The judge’s request for a “memorandum of law” appears in the July 2006 Department of Justice report to Congress on its use of FISA pen registers, obtained by EPIC. Some of that pushback was documented by Wired in 2008.

The government in May 2006 told the court that it had the authority to collect that sensitive information, and would “in some cases … specifically seek authority for secondary orders requiring a service provider to provide all dialing, routing, addressing or signaling information transmitted by a target telephone, which, in light of technological constraints, may include content and non-content digits alike,” the report continues. (According to the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, the FBI agent requesting the pen register has to specifically ask for any additional dialing information following the first nine or 10 digits — it isn’t automatic.)

The government also insisted it wouldn’t actually use that information in an investigation — unless there’s an emergency, that is, to prevent death, serious physical injury or “harm to national security,” though it’s never made explicit what exactly that means.

Between January and June in 2006, the surveillance court modified some of the FBI’s applications to stop it from using that information without additional permission, no matter the urgency.

The court “had made modifications to the government’s proposed pen register orders,” reads the biannual report to Congress obtained by EPIC. “Although the [FISA Court] has authorized the government to record and decode all post-cut-through digits dialed by the targeted telephone, it has struck the language specifically authorizing the government to make affirmative investigative use of possible content” unless permission is specifically granted by the court.

The surveillance court wasn’t the only judicial body rejecting the FBI’s requests to hold onto the additional dialing information. In July 2006, a magistrate judge in Texas denied an application for a pen register because filtering technology would not eliminate the additional content information. That led then-chief judge of the surveillance court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, to ask the government to respond to the Texas court, and explain how it might impact decisions in foreign intelligence investigations.

The government said the court should basically ignore the decision — and take note of new revisions to the USA Patriot Act, which said the government could obtain “noncontent” dialing information. (Because there isn’t technology that can reliably separate out content from noncontent when it comes to this type of dialing information, the law basically allows for all of it, the government argued.)

In 2006, the court had not yet written a formal decision on whether or not the government could keep getting this information — let alone use it in an investigation.

But “most” of the judges continued to strike the “emergency” language from the FBI’s requests, despite the government continuing to insist that “the proposed exception is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment” because its use is so rare.

By August 2006, the court asked the FBI to produce an entire report on how the dialing information obtained through pen registers is stored and kept in its databases. By 2007, the court reported that it modified 18 different government requests out of 98 within six months.

The secret court continued to delete language that would allow the government to use of the post-cut-through-dialed-digits in an emergency — and added a time limit on when it could come back to ask to use that content.

By 2011, the court’s resistance appeared to enter into formal policy, according to the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide section obtained by The Intercept. The FBI, the guide states, can never in these cases use information like credit card numbers or social security numbers obtained after dialing a phone number, “even in cases of emergency.”

However, that exception still applies in criminal cases, according to the 2011 Operations Guide. “In an emergency,” information obtained from the numbers people dial “may be used as necessary in criminal investigations to prevent immediate danger of death, serious physical injury, or harm to national security,” reads the section on post-cut through dialing digits. And if the target is calling a bank, for example — the FBI cannot get the account number from the call, but they can use the call as a lead, and subpoena the bank for that information instead.

Butler points out that despite the FBI and the secret court’s fight over the information, it is basically impossible to tell whether that information triggered investigative leads agents wouldn’t have otherwise had without the pen register.

The FBI declined to comment on the previously redacted portions of the 2011 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide obtained by The Intercept as well as the FOIA documents obtained by EPIC.

“The Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide establishes the FBI’s internal rules and procedures, and describes the FBI’s authority to use specific investigative tools as determined through the Constitution, U.S. statutes, executive orders, and the AG Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations,” Chris Allen, FBI spokesperson, wrote in an email. “These rules are audited and enforced through a rigorous compliance mechanism designed to ensure that FBI assessments and investigations are subject to responsible review and approval.”

‘Nothing is being done’: French outraged after police missed attackers that killed priest

July 27, 2016


“We don’t recognize this country anymore,” locals told RT after attackers killed a priest by slitting his throat in the French town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray. President Hollande has acknowledged France’s “war” against ISIS, but has failed to toughen laws.

Residents are frightened to leave their homes because they fear becoming the next victim of a brutal attack.

“It scares me that this happened here, in my hometown. I am shocked. When I go out, I will feel scared for my safety,” a young woman told RT’s Anastasia Churkina.

“Their tactics are vile. To attack a church, a priest, in the way they did is inhumane,” a local man said.

French President Francois Hollande has met with the country’s religious leaders, in an attempt to ease tensions following the latest attack. The leaders have asked him for extra security.

Experts believe that Western governments have yet to recognize that extremists are targeting Christians.

“You look at extreme, brutal methods that ISIS has used against Christians, and it was evident that they [would] start doing the same things in Europe. I think it’s extremely alarming, and even more alarming that our political leaders are in denial, they don’t want to acknowledge that there is religious[ly]-motivated violence. It’s not only a political, but a spiritual battle,” Iben Thranholm, one of Denmark’s most read political columnists, told RT.

Adding to the horror is the fact that the end of the battle is nowhere in sight.

In February, Europol officials warned of some 5,000 so-called ”foreign fighters” who had served in the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) military in Syria and Iraq. Thirty percent of them are now back in the EU, and hundreds could be potential terrorists, officials said in the report.

This is exactly what locals are fearing – that terrorists are walking the streets of France, in every corner of the country.

”I think the Islamist groups are everywhere,” a local resident told RT.

Along with the fear comes outrage over the government’s actions – or lack of actions.

“They [politicians] know who the radicals are. They have their names. And nothing is being done about it,” a resident said.

Another local girl, seemingly nervous, told RT that the radical Islamists known to the authorities “should be detained.”

“People like that shouldn’t be roaming free, that’s not possible,” she said.

In the latest attack, both terrorists were killed by police after running out of the church. One of the terrorists’ identities was confirmed as 19-year-old local Adel Kermiche, who had wanted to go to Syria in 2015 but was seized in Turkey and deported back to France.

Kermiche was arrested in May 2015 and spent almost a year in prison, before being released in March 2016. He was forced to wear an electronic bracelet following his release, but was otherwise free. He then returned to stay with his parents at their home, according to reports.

Officials, both secular and religious, and locals have been wondering how the 19-year-old terrorist was able to walk free, especially considering what authorities already knew about him.

“It should not be possible for someone awaiting trial on charges of having links to terrorism to be released” on house arrest, the deputy chief of France’s police union, Frederic Lagache, told AFP.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Karabila, who leads the regional council of Muslim worship, said: “How could a person wearing an electronic bracelet carry out an attack? Where are the police?”

President Hollande has acknowledged that France is at war.

“We are facing the Islamic State which has declared war. We must fight this war, using all means,” he said on Tuesday, adding in a separate statement that “this war will be long.”

At the same time, the president has rejected calls from the opposition to toughen the country’s legislation in the battle against terrorism. Former French president and current opposition head Nicolas Sarkozy urged the government to “thoroughly change the strategy of our counter-attack.”

“Our enemy has no taboos, no limits, no morals, no borders,” Sarkozy said on Tuesday.

The opposition’s main demand in terms of reform is that anyone who is suspected of being radicalized should be put in detention. They also want to make sure that convicted terrorists aren’t freed from prison after having served time, if they are still viewed as dangerous.

However, Hollande has denied that the government should change its strategy of dealing with the deadly – and now almost daily – attacks.

“Restricting our freedoms will not make the fight against terrorism more effective,” he said.

‘European leaders in denial over religiously motivated violence’

July 27, 2016


The biggest problem in Europe is the de-Christianization. We have this loss of faith and we have not been able to identify that this is a spiritual problem, says journalist Iben Thranholm. Political commentator, Mo Ansar, shares a differing point of view.

Europe seems to be waking to the new reality that acts of terrorism can be expected at any time with the tactics used by the terrorists evolving.

Yesterday, a church in Normandy, France was attacked by two jihadists; one of them was on the terror watch list and was wearing a surveillance tag; 19-year-old Adel Kermiche was known to police for twice trying to join the terror group in Syria.

RT: Acts of terror have become tragically commonplace in Europe. But do you think this assault on a church has crossed a new line?

Iben Thranholm: Let me start by saying as a practicing Catholic, I am very concerned about the situation and I am really deeply affected by this. I knew this would come to Europe sooner or later because when you look at the extreme brutal methods that ISIS has used against Christians where they are controlling the caliphate in Syria and Iraq it was evident that they would start doing the same thing in Europe. And now it is here.

I think it is extremely alarming and I think it is even more alarming that our political leaders are in a kind of denial. They do not want to acknowledge that there is this religiously motivated violence going on, and I think that is really the problem. And we heard President Hollande says this is not a religious war, this is what they want us to believe or to start even. And I think that is a huge problem that neither the church nor political leaders in Europe want to identify this evil as a spiritual battle because it is not only a political battle. It is also spiritual battle.  And nobody here wants to talk about that. And that is even more alarming. If we can’t identify the enemy, we cannot fight it either.

RT: One of the Rouen killers, Adele Kermiche, was twice arrested while trying to cross into Syria, to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). Why was he not in jail? Who should be blame for that?

IT: I think there is a problem that we are far too naïve in Europe. We think if we just continue a sort of dialogue and we try to help Muslims getting a job and education, everything will be alright. It comes back to what I said before, we have not been able to identify that this is a spiritual problem. I think the biggest problem here in Europe is the de-Christianization. We have this loss of faith because it means that we don’t even understand that people today are spiritual beings and they can be motivated by their faith. Every time that there is a terror attack which is happening here in Europe, you hear commentators and politicians try and explain that this was a kind of psychologically disturbed person or it was a criminal, but none of them suggest this person was driven by his belief in God that tells him to go and kill other people, infidels like we saw.

The West does not want to acknowledge this because for some reason, they don’t want to face a religious war, but it is a religious war. And the sooner the better we acknowledge that we will be able to fight it more effectively. And that is the problem. France is a secular country, and they really state this. And the problem is that they have lost even faith in their own values. This is a war of values. And nobody wants to talk about it. If you listen to the news shows in Europe, nobody is addressing this, and I think it is really a deep problem because without that we will see much more of these attacks.

‘This isn’t just about religion’

RT: In the past we’ve seen attacks targeting bars, restaurants, theaters, a lot of social gathering areas. This time it was particularly religious. Do you think this is going to hit the public in a different way?

Mo Ansar, political commentator: All key world leaders have condemned this attack as a heinous and horrific barbaric attack. As do I and as do many other people. I think the most important thing that we see now is that communities are trying to find a way forward. The Archbishop of Rouen, who I think is in Krakow at a summit for Catholic leaders, had asked for people and young people in particular not to give up hope, to be apostles for love and a civilization of love, which I think is important. I think that the nature of the attack, the barbarity, the fact that they attacked an 84-year-old man who had been serving his community peacefully for a common good, for faithfulness for over 60 years is a key sign of the level of barbarity and inhumanity that these people show. I think this will have a profound effect. I think the important thing it should unite communities, not divide them.

After the Nice attacks, Francois Hollande came out very clearly and said: “All of France is under attack from Islamic terrorism.” He didn’t say extremism. At least, Marine Le Pen said Islamist extremism… People are not making a distinction between extremists who are not following Islam, radical threats, and Islam generally. And so people who align themselves with PEGIDA, the EDL, Pamela Geller, Robert Spenser, the far-right across Europe and then attack Islam generally, we know that people are using this as an agenda to attack Muslims, migration, Islam and multiculturalism. This isn’t just about religion. This is about a wider civilizational issue.

Police raid Hildesheim mosque, arrest Ludwigsburg suspect

Overnight in the northern German city of Hildesheim, police raided a mosque and flats belonging to people close to it. To the south, investigators want to know where a 15-year-old procured multiple weapons.

July 28, 2016


Police in the northern German state of Lower Saxony mobilized overnight to Thursday, searching a mosque in Hildesheim run by city’s German-speaking Muslim community organization (DIK Hildesheim). Police also raided eight apartments belonging to board members of the DIK Hildesheim.

“The DIK in Hildesheim is a national hot-spot for the radical Salafist scene,” Lower Saxony’s state interior minister, Boris Pistorius, said in a statement. “After months of preparation, with these raids today, we have taken an important step towards banning the group.”

Ludwigsburg – youngster ‘in contact’ with Munich attacker arrested

In the south-west, investigators have arrested a 15-year-old who they believed to have been planning a mass-shooting similar to the July 22 attack in Munich.

The suspect had been in contact online with the Munich shooter, a German-Iranian citizen who committed suicide during his attack on Friday. Police found “a large number of small-caliber weapons, several knives and daggers” in the Ludwigsburg suspect’s possession. Police had said they suspected him of planning a shooting spree at his school, but on Thursday, they rowed back from this somewhat.

“The shooting spree issue is ruled out,” a police spokesman said. “Now we’re concentrating on finding out more details.”

Reportedly, the suspect distanced himself from any shooting plans some time ago, and yet police were careful not to dismiss the theory entirely. “One must still presume a serious threatening situation,” the police spokesman said.

Salafist mosque sending fighters to Middle East

Back to the north in Hildesheim, state minister Pistorius said that security services had indications that members of the group were being radicalized and that some were being motivated to travel to warzones to fight jihadi causes. Multiple visitors to the mosque had traveled on to Iraq or Syria, some of them to fight for the so-called “Islamic State” (IS), according to the investigators’ findings.

Pistorius also said that speakers at the mosque would incite “hate against unbelievers

“We will not accept Salafist groups and their backers ignoring our rules, even putting our constitutional order in question, while wanting to convince young people to join the self-proclaimed IS. We will fight that with all the legal means at our disposal,” Pistorius said.

The raids were concluded late on Wednesday night, according to a police spokesman. The operation was led by Göttingen’s police precinct to the south of Hildesheim.

Raids follow chaotic week in Germany

The mosque and the organization running it had been on investigators’ radars for some time. The head of the state’s criminal investigative police (the Landeskriminalamt), Uwe Kolmey, discussed suspicions about the DIK Hildesheim with local broadcaster MDR1 in June.

“Hildesheim is certainly a Salafist hub in Lower Saxony,” he said. “We repeatedly note that there exists a danger of radicalization – particularly in mosque groups in which Salafist preachers operate. One such place is surely the DIK Hildesheim.”

Germany has been on high alert in recent days, after a string of attacks and shootings involving people of Muslim backgrounds in several Bavarian cities and Berlin. Some appear not to have been Islamist in motivation at the early stages of investigation, while two of the perpetrators appear to have had links to IS, if not perhaps direct contact with the group.

Hildesheim is located to the south of Hanover in central Germany. It’s home to almost 100,000 people.

ISIS recruiting British men for lone wolf attacks on London landmarks

July 28, 2016


Islamic State is recruiting British men to carry out terrorist attacks on major London attractions such as Big Ben, it has emerged.

A jihadist recruiter reportedly coached an undercover Sun newspaper journalist to plan an attack on a busy area of London, sending the reporter encrypted messages through the instant messaging app Telegram over the course of two months.

The reporter was allegedly first ordered by Abu Muslim Khurasani, who has claimed to have been active in jihadist operations in the UK and the US, to target a major tourist area such as Big Ben or London Bridge, eventually settling on an unnamed major shopping center in the capital.

“If u [sic] succeed in doing those places it will be huge. And damaging for them,” the recruiter told the journalist in a message.

“Learn from Nice. Get a car you can park somewhere busy with many people – and a gun you can use at the same time,” he wrote, referencing the massacre in the south of France that left 84 people dead on Bastille Day earlier this month.

The messages were said to have been sent on the orders of Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) top recruiter, according to the paper.

Khurasani also sent the journalist a bomb-making guide, instructing him to obtain readily available materials, including gas canisters and fireworks, in order to construct a car bomb, the paper reports.

The reporter was ordered to launch his attack on Monday.

The Sun has said that evidence gathered during the investigation has been passed on to anti-terrorism police and MI5, who have asked the paper not to reveal the location of the shopping center. Scotland Yard confirmed that evidence about an alleged terrorist plot has been passed on.

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “While the UK threat level from international terrorism remains severe, we would like to reassure the public that we constantly review our security plans, taking into account specific intelligence and the wider threat.”

Second Normandy attacker was on security register

Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean was put on the security register less than a month before the attack for attempting to travel to Syria

July 28, 2016

by Kim Willsher

The Guardian

Paris-French police have named the second Normandy hostage-taker who appeared in an Islamic State video released after the murder of a Catholic priest as Abdel Malik Nabil Petitjean.

The 19-year-old from Aix-les-Bains in the Savoie region of eastern France was put on the Fiche S (S List) security register less than a month ago for attempting to travel to Syria, but had no criminal record.

About 10,000 people in France are on the S List, most of them alleged religious extremists.

Malik was identified as the subject of a mysterious tip-off from abroad last week that a “person already on French soil” was planning an attack. The alert and a photograph of the unknown suspect was circulated to police and security forces across the country, but without any name or details.

On Tuesday, Petitjean and Abed Kermiche, 19, took six people hostage at the church in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen in Normandy, where they slit the throat of 86-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, and stabbed a parishioner. The teenage attackers were shot by police as they left the church.

Petitjean’s identity card was found in Kermiche’s home. Telephone records suggest the pair only met recently, implying the attack was carried out on external orders. Apparently, three days before the incident, French intelligence received information “from abroad”, with a photo of an unnamed man said to be planning an attack on French soil.

The photo was circulated to all police and security forces, but with no details there was a little time to act. It took a while after the Normandy attack for police to definitively put the faceless attacker, the photo and the identity card together.

Despite Petitjean’s identity being confirmed by DNA tests, his mother Yamina refused believe her son was involved.

“No, no, no. It’s impossible. I know my son, he’s kind. I haven’t created a devil,” she told BFMTV. “He never talked about Islamic State … we are positive people, we talk about good things … he’s my baby.”

She insisted her son was staying in Nancy with a cousin, but admitted she had not heard from him since Monday evening.

Three of Petitjean’s relatives were being questioned by police and the family home has been searched. Investigators insisted there was no evidence the three were in any way connected to the attack.

Petitjean was picked up in Turkey on 10 June, but the French authorities said they were only informed about it 15 days later, and blamed the Turkish authorities for allowing him to slip through the net. The security services put him on the S List on 29 June and alerted French border authorities to pick him up when he returned to France. But by this time, the teenager was already back in the country.

In Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, the prefect planned a silent march to honour Father Hamel.

Smartphone Addiction: The Slot Machine in Your Pocket

Smartphone apps are addictive — by design. They take advantage of human weaknesses to ensure your constant attention. But there is another way.

July 27, 2016

by Tristan Harris


When we get sucked into our smartphones or distracted, we think it’s just an accident and our responsibility. But it’s not. It’s also because smartphones and apps hijack our innate psychological biases and vulnerabilities.

I learned about our minds’ vulnerabilities when I was a magician. Magicians start by looking for blind spots, vulnerabilities and biases of people’s minds, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano. And this is exactly what technology does to your mind. App designers play your psychological vulnerabilities in the race to grab your attention.

I want to show you how they do it, and offer hope that we have an opportunity to demand a different future from technology companies.

If you’re an app, how do you keep people hooked? Turn yourself into a slot machine.

The average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Why do we do this? Are we making 150 conscious choices? One major reason why is the number one psychological ingredient in slot machines: intermittent variable rewards.

If you want to maximize addictiveness, all tech designers need to do is link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward. You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.

Does this effect really work on people? Yes. Slot machines make more money in the United States than baseball, movies, and theme parks combined. Relative to other kinds of gambling, people get “problematically involved” with slot machines three to four times faster according to New York University professor Natasha Dow Schüll, author of “Addiction by Design.”

A Sense of Belonging

But here’s the unfortunate truth: Several billion people have a slot machine in their pocket.

When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we have received. When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next. When we “Pull to Refresh” our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what email we got. When we swipe faces on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.

Sometimes this is intentional: Apps and websites sprinkle intermittent variable rewards all over their products because it’s good for business. Other times, for example with email or smartphones, it’s an accident.

Another way technology hijacks our minds is by inducing the 1 percent chance we could be missing something important. But Apps also exploit our need for social approval. When we see the notification “Your friend Marc tagged you in a photo” we instantly feel our social approval and sense of belonging on the line. But it’s all in the hands of tech companies.

Facebook, Instagram or SnapChat can manipulate how often people get tagged in photos by automatically suggesting all the faces we should tag. So when my friend tags me, he’s actually responding to Facebook’s suggestion, not making an independent choice. But through design choices like this, Facebook controls the multiplier for how often millions of people experience their social approval.

The same happens when we change our main profile photo. Facebook knows that’s a moment when we’re vulnerable to social approval: “What do my friends think of my new pic?” Facebook can rank this higher in the news feed, so it sticks around for longer and more friends will like or comment on it. Each time they like or comment on it, we get pulled right back in.

Everyone innately responds to social approval, but some demographics, in particular teenagers, are more vulnerable to it than others. That’s why it’s so important to recognize how powerful designers are when they exploit this vulnerability.

The Empire

LinkedIn is another offender. LinkedIn wants as many people creating social obligations for each other as possible, because each time they reciprocate (by accepting a connection, responding to a message, or endorsing someone back for a skill) they have to come back to linkedin.com where they can get people to spend more time.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn exploits an asymmetry in perception. When you receive an invitation from someone to connect, you imagine that person making a conscious choice to invite you, when in reality, they likely unconsciously responded to LinkedIn’s list of suggested contacts. In other words, LinkedIn turns your unconscious impulses into new social obligations that millions of people feel obligated to repay. All while they profit from the time people spend doing it.

Welcome to the empire of social media.

Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, while we ignore how our choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t choose in the first place.

This is exactly what magicians do. They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose.

When people are given a menu of choices, they rarely ask: “What’s not on the menu?” Or: “Why am I being given these options and not others?” “Do I know the menu provider’s goals?” “Is this menu empowering for my original need, or are these choices a distraction?”

For example, imagine you’re out with friends on a Tuesday night and want to keep the conversation going. You open Yelp to find nearby recommendations and see a list of bars. The group turns into a huddle of faces staring down at their phones comparing bars. They scrutinize the photos of each, comparing cocktail drinks. Is this menu still relevant to the original desire of the group?

Even When We’re Not Hungry

It’s not that bars aren’t a good choice, it’s that Yelp substituted the group’s original question (“where can we go to keep talking?”) with a different question (“what’s a bar with good photos of cocktails?”). Moreover, the group falls for the illusion that Yelp’s menu represents a complete set of choices for where to go.

The more choices technology gives us in nearly every domain of our lives (information, events, places to go, friends, dating, jobs), the more we assume that our phone is always the most empowering and useful menu to pick from. But is it? “Who’s single to go on a date?” becomes a menu of faces to swipe on Tinder (instead of local events with friends, or urban adventures nearby). “Who’s free tonight to hang out?” becomes a menu of most recent people who texted us. “What’s happening in the world?” becomes a menu of news feed stories.

Companies maximizing “time spent” design apps to keep people consuming things, even when they aren’t hungry anymore. How? Easy. Take an experience that was bounded and finite, and turn it into a bottomless flow that keeps going.

Cornell professor Brian Wansink demonstrated this in his study showing you can trick people into keep eating soup by giving them a bottomless bowl that automatically refills as they eat. With bottomless bowls, people eat 73 percent more calories than those with normal bowls.

Tech companies exploit the same principle. News feeds are purposely designed to auto-refill with reasons to keep you scrolling, and purposely eliminate any reason for you to pause, reconsider or leave.

It’s also why video and social media sites like Netflix, YouTube or Facebook autoplay the next video after a countdown instead of waiting for you to make a conscious choice.

Tragedy of the Commons

Tech companies often claim that they’re just making it easier for users to see the video they want to watch, when they are actually serving their business interests. And you can’t blame them, because increasing “time spent” is the currency they compete for.

Companies also know that interruption is good for business. Given the choice, WhatsApp, Snapchat or Facebook Messenger would prefer to design their messaging system to interrupt recipients immediately instead of helping users respect each other’s attention, because they are more likely to respond if it’s immediate. It’s in their interest to heighten the feeling of urgency. For example, Facebook automatically tells the sender when you “saw” their message, instead of letting you avoid disclosing whether you read it. As a consequence, you feel more obligated to respond.

The problem is: Maximizing interruptions in the name of business creates a tragedy of the commons, ruining global attention spans and causing billions of unnecessary interruptions each day.

Are you upset that technology hijacks your agency? I am too. I’ve listed a few techniques but there are literally thousands. Imagine bookshelves, seminars, workshops and trainings that teach aspiring tech entrepreneurs techniques like these. Imagine rooms of engineers whose job every day is to invent new ways to keep you hooked.

I didn’t write this to depress you, or make you think that our only choice is to unplug completely. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing choice. Do we want a world where we either use smartphones and constantly get hijacked, or we can’t use them at all?

It’s inevitable that billions of people will have phones in their pockets, but they can be designed to serve a different role than deliver hijacks for our mind.

We have an opportunity to demand a different future from the tech industry. Just like the Organic food movement let us demand a different future from industrial agriculture that includes health and sustainability. I call it “Time Well Spent.”

The ‘Time Well Spent’ Internet

Instead of maximizing “time spent” (in the name of advertising), imagine if apps offered alternative, hybrid/paid versions of services that maximized “time well spent” and were ranked that way in search and app stores. Imagine if, instead of just releasing shiny phones each year, Apple and Google designed phones to protect minds from getting hijacked and empower people to make the conscious choices. Imagine if there was a digital “bill of rights” outlining design standards for apps and websites — for example, design standards that forced apps to give people a direct way to navigate to what they want (look up a Facebook event), separately from what the apps want (without getting sucked into the news feed). Imagine if companies had a responsibility to reduce slot machine effects by converting intermittent variable rewards into less addictive, more predictable ones with better design. For example, they could empower people to set predictable times during the day or week for when they want to check “slot machine” apps, and correspondingly adjust when new messages are delivered.

Imagine if tech companies helped us proactively tune our relationships with friends and businesses in terms of what we define as “time well spent” for our lives, instead of in terms of what we might miss. Imagine an independent organization that represented the public’s interests — an industry consortium of diverse experts or an FDA for tech — that helped define those standards and monitored when technology companies abused these biases.

Imagine if web browsers and smartphones, the gateways through which people make their choices, were truly watching out for people and helped them forecast the consequences of clicks. When you put the “true cost” of a click in front of people, you’re treating your users or audience with dignity and respect. In a “time well spent” Internet, choices could be framed in terms of projected cost and benefit, so people were empowered to make informed choices by default, not by doing extra work.

The ultimate freedom is a free mind, and we need technology that’s on our team to help us live, feel, think and act freely.

We need our smartphones to be exoskeletons for our minds and interpersonal relationships that put our values, not our impulses, first. Let’s protect our minds with the same rigor as privacy and other digital rights.

Did Russian Intelligence Hack the DNC Servers?

July 26, 2016

by Peter Van Buren

Short answer: nobody knows, but the media is treating it as a fact based primarily on a single technical source employed by the Democratic National Committee. I read the source’s publicly available explanation. Here’s what I found.

A Quick Taste of Media Conclusions

Despite a line in paragraph five saying “Proving the source of a cyberattack is notoriously difficult,” the New York Times offers the following statements.

  • “researchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies;”
  • “Though a hacker claimed responsibility for giving the emails to WikiLeaks, the same agencies are the prime suspects;”
  • “Whether the thefts were ordered by Mr. Putin, or just carried out by apparatchiks who thought they might please him, is anyone’s guess.”
  • “It is unclear how WikiLeaks obtained the email trove. But the presumption is that the intelligence agencies turned it over, either directly or through an intermediary. Moreover, the timing of the release, between the end of the Republican convention and the beginning of the Democratic one, seems too well planned to be coincidental.”

There’s more, but you get the picture. The article also quotes Clinton staffers citing unnamed experts and researchers.

Who Are These Experts?

The only experts cited work for a company hired by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the hack. There is no indication of any neutral third party investigation. The company, Crowdstrike, issued a publicly available report on what they found.

The report title makes clear the company’s conclusion: Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee.

What Does the Report Say?

The report has some technical explanations, but focuses on conclusions that seem to be at best presumptions, despite the media treating them as fact.

  • The key presumptive conclusion seems to be that the sophistication of the hacks points to a nation-state actor. “Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities.”
  • The hackers, two separate entities Crowdstrike says worked independently, used techniques known to be used by Russians. Better yet, with no evidence at all presented, Crowdstrike concludes, “Both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.” Also, for one of the alleged hackers, “Extensive targeting of defense ministries and other military victims has been observed, the profile of which closely mirrors the strategic interests of the Russian government.”
  • By the end of the report Crowdstrike is just plain out called the hackers “Russian espionage groups.”

FYI: Fidelis, another cybersecurity company, was hired by Crowdstrike to review the findings. Fidelis worked exclusively and only with data provided by Crowdstrike (as did several other companies.) Fidelis They concluded the same two hackers, COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR APT, committed the intrusion, but made no comments on whether those two were linked to the Russian government.

Um, Valid Conclusions?

Despite the citing with certainty of experts and researchers by the media and the Clinton campaign, the only such expert who has made any findings public has basically thrown out little more than a bunch of presumptions and unsubstantiated conclusions.

Left undiscussed are:

  • the commonality of hackers using “false flags,” say where an Israeli hackers will purposely leave behind false clues to make it seem that a Hungarian did the work. As one commentator put it sarcastically “The malware was written in Russian? It was a Russian who attacked you.

Chinese characters in the code? You’ve been hacked by the Peoples Liberation Army.”

  • the question of if the hackers were “Russians,” can anyone tie them to the Russian government? Joe Black Hat breaking into some system in Ireland may indeed be an American person, but it is quite a jump to claim he thus works for the American government.
  • there is also a significant question of motive. For Putin to be the bad guy here, we have to believe that Putin wants Trump in power, bad enough to risk near-war with the U.S. if caught in the hack, and bad enough to really p.o. Clinton who will be nominated this week anyway, and hoping of course that evidence of dirty tricks by the DNC released in July will be enough to defeat her in November. That’s a real s-t-r-e-t-c-h, Sparky.
  • other than those private persons who hack for their own entertainment or personal political beliefs, most work for money. They steal something and sell it. Information from the DNC system would find an easy buyer.
  • Who might be interested in buying these emails? Along the range of actors who would benefit from exposing these emails, why would the Russians come out on top? Perhaps the Republicans? China? Pretty much any of the many enemies the Clintons have amassed over the years? Hell, even Bernie Sanders, whose complaints about the DNC were validated by the email release. The suspects based on motive alone make up a very long list.

Learning More

For some intelligent analysis suspicious that the DNC hack was a Russian intelligence job, try this.

For some more technical information on one of the alleged DNC infiltrators, here you go.

WikiLeaks releases hacked Democratic National Committee audio files

July 28, 2016


WikiLeaks released files on Wednesday of what it said were audio recordings pulled from the emails of the Democratic National Committee that were obtained by hacking its servers.

The latest release, which came in the middle of the Democratic National Convention where Hillary Clinton was officially named the party’s presidential nominee, is the second batch in a series that has deeply rattled the party and prompted the organization’s chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to step down.

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson and Dustin Volz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

 Erdogan Shuts Huge Swathe of Gulenist Institutions

July 25, 2016

by Patrick Cockburn


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan started to use his powers under the newly-declared state of emergency today to close 15 universities and over one thousand schools alleged to have links to the Gulen movement, which is accused of having staged the failed military coup on 15 July.

The extent of the closures underlines the sizable nature of the network of influential educational establishments, charitable institutions and other associations built up by followers of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen in the last thirty years. Those now being shut include 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions.

Mr Erdogan has brought forward a meeting of the Supreme Military Council to 28 July, at which he will discuss with military chiefs his plans for purging and restructuring Turkey’s 600,000-strong armed forces – with the aim of bringing them under tighter government control. At least 124 generals and admirals out of a of 358, or over a third of the total, have been detained as it becomes clear that the conspiracy to subvert the armed forces was far larger than the small clique that the government originally alleged had taken part. Mr Erdogan has also used the powers granted by the state of emergency to extend the period in which some suspects can be detained – from four days up to a maximum of 30 days.

The attempted coup has provoked a serious row between Turkey and the US over the extradition of Mr Gulen, amid Turkish accusations that the US knew about the coup. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a dossier requesting the extradition of Mr Gulen, and providing evidence of his guilt, will be ready in a week to ten days. The 75-year-old cleric has vigorously denied involvement, but non-governmental experts on his movement in Istanbul say that they have no doubt that Gulenist officers organised and conducted the coup attempt.

Mr Gulen’s nephew, Muhammed Sait Gulen, was detained in the northeastern Turkish city of Erzurum and will be brought to the capital Ankara for questioning, the Anadolu state news agency claimed on Saturday. Among possible charges that could be brought against him is membership of a terrorist organisation, the agency said.

There is a widespread popular conviction at all levels in Turkey that US government and its intelligence agencies were complicit in the coup. The Daily Sabah newspaper is asking its readers to vote on the question: “which institution of the US provided largest support for the Gulenist terrorist group?” They are asked to mark the appropriate box for the CIA, FBI, Department of State and the White House. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called for the US to extradite Mr Gulen and to “stop standing up for savages who run over citizens with tanks, who strafe people from land and the air.”

President Obama has firmly denied Turkish allegations and demanded evidence of Mr Gulen’s involvement in the attempted putsch, but this is unlikely to dispel Turkish suspicions. Accusers say that the Gulenist movement is tightly run from the top, as in other religious cults, and is wholly under the control of its charismatic leader who is seen by some as having semi-divine powers. US security services were once interested in cultivating supposedly moderate Islamic movements such as the Gulenists as an alternative to salafi-jihadi extremists and this may explain their cosy relationship with Mr Gulen.

This war of words is unlikely to die away and Turkish leaders are angered by what they see as a tepid display of solidarity by Western leaders during the coup – followed by patronising admonitions not to over-react in purging those who tried to overthrow the government. Mr Erdogan complained about this on Saturday in an interview with France 24 television saying he could not understand why Turkey’s Western allies did not see that he had to impose stringent security measures after a coup that had killed 250 people. He said that “I’m under the impression that they [Western leaders] will only see that once all the political leaders of Turkey are killed, and then they’ll start to dance for joy.”

It is becoming clear that – leaving aside government paranoia – a large number of units from the Turkish armedforces took part in the coup on 15/16 July and that it nearly succeeded. The latest to be detained are 283 members of the presidential guard, which numbers 2,500 men. The hard core of the plotters were in the gendarmerie and air force and had allocated an elite unit to detain Mr Erdogan at his hotel in Marmaris on the Aegean coast at 3am on 16 July. But he had already left by the time they attacked because the plotters in operational charge of the event, fearing the imminent discovery of the coup, had brought forward its timing by six hours and were unable to tell this to the soldiers targeting Mr Erdogan who escaped shortly before they arrived.

Conspiracy theories flourish after Turkey’s failed coup

July 27, 2016

by Michael Georgy and Mert Ozkan


ISTANBUL/ANKARA-Turkey’s failed coup was financed by the CIA and directed by a retired U.S. army general using a cell in Afghanistan, said one Turkish pro-government newspaper. CIA agents used an island hotel off Istanbul as a nerve center for the plot, said another.

Turks are churning out conspiracy theories about who helped orchestrate the abortive military coup that nearly toppled President Tayyip Erdogan, with the United States – a close NATO ally but a traditional object of suspicion – top of the list.

“The coup was directed by this man,” said a front-page headline in the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper, alongside a photo of retired U.S. Army General John F. Campbell, the last commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan and before that the 34th vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

It said the failed coup had been financed by the CIA via Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa (UBA.LG), and that two Afghan-based Turkish generals detained in Dubai on Tuesday were part of Campbell’s cell of plotters.

UBA on Wednesday denied involvement and said the accusations were “clearly false”. Campbell told the Wall Street Journal that the allegations were “absolutely ridiculous” and Washington has dismissed claims of U.S. involvement as absurd.

Erdogan has blamed U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen for masterminding the attempted coup, which killed more than 240 people as rogue soldiers commandeered fighter jets, helicopters and tanks, and has called on Washington to extradite him.

Erdogan accuses Gulen of building a “parallel structure” in the judiciary, education system, media and military in a bid to overthrow him, a charge the 75-year-old cleric denies. A poll on Tuesday showed two thirds of Turks believe Gulen was behind the coup plot, though only 3.8 percent blamed the United States.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has said any country that stands by the cleric would be considered at war with Turkey. Labour Minister Suleyman Soylu said a day after the coup bid that it was clear “America is behind it”, though Erdogan’s spokesman later said he had spoken “in the heat of the moment”.

Washington has said it will only extradite Gulen if Turkey provides evidence of wrongdoing.

For Erdogan’s fervent supporters, such apparent reluctance is further evidence of U.S. complicity.

“I know that the United States has a finger in this. I know that this is a play put on by the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom,” said Ahmet Demirci, among the dozens of people to have gathered in solidarity outside Erdogan’s palace night after night since the July 15 coup attempt.

“That dishonest man, Fethullah Gulen is their pawn.”

Older Turks recall past coups. Many see evidence that the United States backed a 1980 coup, at the height of the Cold War, citing reports that the CIA station chief in Ankara cabled Washington to say “our boys did it”.

Mystery still shrouds modern Turkey’s first coup in 1960 which overthrew a pro-American prime minister but was led by a U.S.-trained officer.

One newspaper published a photograph of a hotel it identified as a nerve center for CIA agents it said helped hatch the coup plot this month.

“The CIA was at work in this hotel that night,” the headline in the pro-government Sabah newspaper said, above a photo of the Splendid Hotel on Buyukada, the largest of a group of islands in the Marmara sea just off Istanbul.

The paper said a group of 17 people, mostly foreigners, checked in at the hotel on the day of the coup attempt. It said the hotel was used as a headquarters for the British army during its occupation of Istanbul in 1919.


A successful overthrow of Erdogan, who has run the country of about 80 million people since 2003, could have sent Turkey spiraling into conflict. The intrigue in the aftermath is helping justify a wide crackdown, analysts say, with more than 60,000 soldiers, police, civil servants and other officials detained, suspended or under investigation.

“This has helped him strengthen his position,” said Andrew Finkel, a journalist and political analyst based in Turkey since 1989. “He is doing what he does best, consolidating power.”

Conspiracy theories have spiced up Turkish crises for decades amid the struggle between Islamists and secularists to shape the country, with superpower America often accused of fuelling the fire. Erdogan blamed foreign powers for stirring up nationwide anti-government protests three years ago.

Sometimes the perceived enemy is less formidable.

During contentious local elections in 2014, seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s rule, power cuts disrupted the count. Turkey’s energy minister blamed a cat, saying it had walked into a transformer unit, drawing ridicule from social media users who portrayed a “cat lobby” threatening the government.

In 2013, authorities detained a bird on suspicion it was spying for Israel, but freed it after X-rays showed it was not embedded with surveillance equipment, local newspapers said.

Nevertheless, Turks take their conspiracies seriously and the latest tensions are providing fresh material.

Gulen lives in a secluded compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. But Erdogan has good reason to worry about the reclusive cleric’s reach inside Turkey.

In 2013, his followers in the police and judiciary opened a corruption probe into business associates of Erdogan, then prime minister, who denounced the investigations as a foreign plot.

“Why don’t they hand him over? Why do they keep making insinuations? He (Gulen) lives there. Don’t you think this is an apparent indicator? This is the impression people have,” said Erdogan supporter Ayhan Onkibar outside the presidential palace.

“Why does he live in the United States? These are details we notice.”

(Additional reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley, Melih Aslan and David Dolan; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Anna Willard)

Iraq violence: Did IS use new type of bomb for deadliest attack?

July 28, 2016

by Lyse Doucet

BBC News

On a Baghdad street once throbbing with life, there is a soft recitation of prayers, a silent lighting of candles, and quiet sobbing at the edges of charred ruins.

Sweepers start to clear away debris, and drills buzz in the shells of gutted shops.

But the scene of the deadliest ever attack carried out by so-called Islamic State (IS) anywhere in the world is still a makeshift shrine. On 3 July, 292 Iraqis lost their lives here.

This week, the haunting strains of a cello wafted through the cavernous black hulks where two popular centres once drew in Iraqis for shopping and socialising.

“If terrorists are trying to turn every element of life into a battlefield, I will turn it into a field of beauty and civilisation,” declares Karim Wasifi, composer and conductor with Iraq’s National Symphony Orchestra.

He has played his cello at other major bomb sites in Baghdad as an affirmation of Iraqis’ determination to fight back.

Hardly a day goes by without an attack somewhere in a city laced with security checkpoints and armed guards.

But the explosion in Baghdad’s Karrada neighbourhood was no ordinary bomb. From its design to its destination, this attack underlines that IS has found a new way to inflict harm and cause terror.

“Daesh used, for the first time, a new tactic which helped it to move undetected through checkpoints,” a Western security source in Baghdad tells me, using the name for IS more commonly used in the region.

“We’ve never seen it before, and it’s very worrying.”

‘Unique’ chemical mix

Precise details of the attack, which is under Iraqi investigation, are still being pieced together.

The tactic known as a VBIED – vehicle-borne improvised explosive device – is now widely used in suicide bombings.

But this one is said to differ in the way the explosives were placed in the van, and how the chemicals were put together.

“It’s really difficult to make,” an explosives expert who has knowledge of the investigation explained, saying the device may have been developed in the Iraqi city of Falluja when it was under IS control.

“Daesh has given a lot of thought to how to move through checkpoints.”

The bomb-makers are believed to have taken a formula “available on the internet”, and then adjusted the quantities to reduce its risk of detection, and increase its impact.

Several Iraqi experts also described the mix of chemicals as “unique”.

“We are used to big fires but the chemicals in this bomb were used for the first time in Iraq,” says Brigadier General Kadhim Bashir Saleh of the Civil Defense Force.

“It was unique, strange, and terrible.”

Another Iraqi security expert, Hisham al-Hashimi, told me he believes a similar mix of explosives may have been used, only once, in an attack by al-Qaeda in 2004.

But he describes this new tactic deployed by IS as “very serious and dangerous”.

The van exploded on the narrow street just after midnight shortly before Eid Festival when shops were packed with families, football fans were glued to big screens, and the billiard hall was doing brisk business.

Several say the heat created by the first blast was “as hot as the surface of the sun”.

The explosion left no gaping crater, and its impact did not wreck the nearest buildings.

But it set off secondary fires which turned out to be the most deadly of all.

No fire escapes

Their devastating impact was then multiplied by a series of safety failures.”There were no fire escapes,” laments Sadiq Maroof, a shopkeeper who was one of a small number of people who escaped alive.

He takes me through the skeletal remains of the Laith Centre, from the blackened basement where he once ran two popular clothing shops, to the second floor room where he fled for his life.

“The stairs behind me were on fire so we pulled a window out of its frame and jumped.”

“There had been two escapes,” he says, still visibly angry and upset. This tragedy took the lives of nine people from his own family and many close friends.

“The first floor exit had been turned into a shop and the second floor escape became a storage room.”

Several experts estimated the initial bomb would have killed 20-30 people. The ensuing inferno then trapped many inside.

“The absence of fire escapes and safety regulations caused the highest number of casualties,” says retired Brigadier General Khalaf Abdul Karim who was at the scene that night.

“We could hear people trapped inside desperately calling their family and friends for help. In those minutes some could have been saved.”

The fire tore through shops with cheap styrofoam walls and bad wiring, with perfumes and other goods fuelling the flames.

Each time we went to the street, grieving relatives approached us with harsh words for their emergency services, accusing them of arriving too late, and of not doing enough.

When I ask Chief Sergeant Habib Dewan about the accusations, he immediately bursts into tears.

We normally reach the scene in 4-5 minutes but we reached it in 8- 10 minutes,” the fireman says.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says of the blazing orange fireball which engulfed the entire street.

“We were ready to jump into the fire to save people. We did everything we could but this was an over-whelming attack.”

There are many Iraqi stories about how a van was able to enter a street only used for pedestrian traffic.

Some versions speak of a driver carrying official badges, others of the complicity of the security guards at the nearest checkpoints.

But this biggest single attack on civilians since the Iraq war of 2003 has finally focused official attention on the widespread use of detector “wands” which were proven long ago to be fake.

In the wake of this bombing, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi finally ordered their removal from checkpoints.

“Well – trained sniffer dogs are what’s needed to stop these devices ” says one explosives expert in Baghdad.

Security experts say even IS may not have expected to inflict such a high number of casualties in their Karrada bombing. “They got lucky,” is how one put it.

But life was pulled out of a Baghdad neighbourhood which still mourns its great loss.

Major attacks in Iraq since 2003

◾ 3 July 2016: Islamic State bombing in Baghdad kills 292

◾ August 2014: IS kill hundreds of minority Yazidi men and boys in Nineveh province, north-west of Baghdad

◾ 12 June 2014: Up to 1,700 military recruits are killed by IS at a former US base, an incident known as the Camp Speicher massacre

◾ 19 August 2009: Two car bombs near the Green Zone in Baghdad kill at least 155 people

◾ 14 August 2007: Multiple suicide bombings targeting the Yazidi community in northern Iraq kill more than 500 people

◾ 23 November 2006: More than 200 people killed as six car bombs detonate in the Sadr City neighbourhood of Baghdad









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