TBR News March 27, 2018

Mar 27 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. March 27, 2018:”The enormous number of people who joined the social network Facebook are beginning to realize that while the organization purports to be only a system to facilitate friendships, in reality is is nothing more than a gatherer of personal information that is sold to the highest bidder.

People like Zuckerberg are not humanitarians but businessmen and the more money they make, the more they begin to believe they are above everyone and that their wishes and beliefs are paramount.

Zuckerberg has repeatedly said that with Facebook behind him, he was going to become President of the United States. If the recent scandal had not erupted into public view, this might well have happened.

After all, using Facebook, Donald Trump bought his way into the Oval Office for five million dollars.”


Table of Contents

  • No, Putin Isn’t Bluffing on Nukes
  • Is Trump Assembling a War Cabinet?
  • Whistleblower says Canadian company worked on software to find Republican voters
  • Facebook’s Zuckerberg will not answer UK lawmakers’ questions over data scandal
  • What role did Cambridge Analytica play in the Brexit vote?
  • The one way to control Facebook — delete your account
  • Facebook logs SMS texts and calls, users find as they delete accounts
  • Deutsche Bank seeking to replace CEO John Cryan, suggests report
  • Russian gas pipeline gets green light from Germany as US tries to kill project
  • Trump to the International Community: Drop Dead
  • Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia
  • Secrecy News


No, Putin Isn’t Bluffing on Nukes

Trump says no one wants an arms race, but the Russians are already out of the gate.

March 22, 2018

by Scott Ritter

The American Conservative

Earlier this month in his State of the Nation address to the Russian legislature, President Vladimir Putin unveiled several new strategic weapons designed to nullify any missile defense shield the United States has deployed, is currently deploying, or will seek to deploy in the next 10 to 15 years.

Putin said these new Russian weapons were necessitated by former president George W. Bush’s 2002 decision to unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, thereby beginning a process that has led to the deployment of ballistic missile defenses on American territory, in Europe, and in Asia. He proclaimed that “Russia’s growing military power is a solid guarantee of global peace as this power preserves and will preserve strategic parity and the balance of forces in the world, which, as is known, have been and remain a key factor of international security after WWII and up to the present day.”

Putin—who just won re-election in Russia, securing another six-year term—went on to note:

Those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia, have introduced restrictions and sanctions that are illegal from the standpoint of international law aiming to restrain our nation’s development, including in the military area, I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia. Now we have to be aware of this reality and be sure that everything I have said today is not a bluff—and it is not a bluff, believe me—and to give it a thought and dismiss those who live in the past and are unable to look into the future.

In the aftermath of Putin’s address, the world was left wondering what to make of his brash declarations.

In remarks directly citing Putin’s speech, President Trump noted the dangers of an arms race, and then went on to a little boasting himself, saying America “was spending $700 billion a year” to make ensure that the United States remained “stronger than any other nation in the world by far.”

So was Putin’s own foray into post-Cold War superpower gamesmanship merely a bluff? The New York Times certainly thought so. A front-page article co-authored by two of the Gray Lady’s preeminent national security correspondents, Neil MacFarquhar and David Sanger, emphasized what they called “bluff theory” when citing expert opinion on Putin’s speech. One such “independent” analyst, Alexander Golts (notable for his anti-Putin commentary), noted that Putin, in his speech, was describing a totally new generation of weapons. “The question is,” Golts asks, “is this true?”

MacFarquhar and Sanger mined social media, pulling up the Facebook commentary of another expert, Douglas Barrie, a senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, whose analysis on Russian military capabilities runs heavy on skepticism. Barrie noted that the weapons Putin described “could alter the balance of power.” However, MacFarquhar and Sanger noted, Barrie questioned whether Russia was even close to deploying such systems: “Does reality mean you have an item in the budget saying, ‘Develop nuclear propulsion for a missile’? Or does it mean, ‘We’re going to have one ready to use soon’? I’d certainly want to see more evidence to believe that.”

The doubting Thomases quoted in the New York Times were matched in their nonchalance by the senior-most advisors to President Donald Trump on matters of national defense and security, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Calling Putin’s announced weapons programs “an arms race with themselves,” Mattis declared that Russia “can sink all of that money in,” noting that “it does not change my strategic calculation.” Pompeo told Fox News that “We are following and tracking all of this closely,” and that “Americans should rest assured that we have a very good understanding of the Russian program and how to make sure that Americans continue to be kept safe from threats from Vladimir Putin.”

The intellectual stasis displayed by both Mattis and Pompeo is disturbing. These are not so-called “experts” drummed up by the New York Times to further the anti-Putin narrative that has become the centerpiece of the Times’s coverage over the years, but rather serious professionals who hold the security of the United States in their hands. Putin’s pronouncements during his State of the Nation address weren’t a spur-of-the-moment articulation of fantasy, but rather, as he made quite clear, the byproduct of more than a decade of focused intent to counter the threat posed to Russian national security by America’s ballistic missile defense programs. Not only had Russia not masked its intentions in this regard, it had gone out of its way to make sure that the United States was aware of what it was doing and why. In 2007, Russia purposely leaked details about the RS-28 “Sarmat” heavy missile that featured prominently in Putin’s 2018 State of the Nation address to the CIA in a futile effort to get the United States to seriously engage in arms control negotiations.

The RS-28 is a direct descendant of the R-36 heavy ballistic missile, better known by its NATO reporting name, the SS-18 “Satan,” which over the course of its nearly 45 years in service has been an acknowledged game changer in terms of American-Russian strategic balance. The R-36’s large throw-weight (almost 20,000 pounds) allowed it to carry either a single extremely large warhead of 20 megatons or 10 independently targetable warheads of 500 to 750 kilotons each (by way of comparison, the American atomic bombs used to destroy the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War possessed yields of 21 and 15 kilotons, respectively). When the R-36 became operational, it gave the Soviets a genuine first-strike capability, able to eliminate over 60 percent of American missile launch control facilities and missile silos while retaining the capability to launch another 1,000 warheads as a second strike, should the United States choose to retaliate.

From its inception, the United States considered the R-36 the single most destabilizing strategic weapon in the Soviet arsenal and eliminating and/or limiting it became a focal point of American arms control efforts. The START I Treaty saw the number of R-36 missiles deployed reduced from 308 to 154, and the entire R-36 arsenal was scheduled to be eliminated under the terms of the START II Treaty. The decision by the United States to withdraw from the ABM Treaty in 2002, however, resulted in Russia withdrawing from the START II Treaty in response, and as such maintaining its fleet of R-36 missiles. Russia had planned on allowing the R-36 missile to be retired through obsolescence with no intended replacement; this was the intent behind its START II negotiating position.

According to the Russian narrative, the unilateral American withdrawal from the ABM Treaty changed this calculus, prompting Russia to embark on an expensive service life extension program to keep the R-36 operationally viable through 2020. Russia, according to Putin, had hoped to re-engage with the United States on meaningful arms control negotiations, but the refusal on the part of the Americans to scale back their plans for ballistic missile defense made such efforts stillborn. The Russian defense industry began researching new ballistic missile technologies that could overcome American missile defenses in 2004; this decision was made in public, Putin claims, in the hope that the United States would recognize the inherent dangers posed by such a system and re-engage on meaningful arms control. One of the new missile technologies that was being explored was a follow-on to the aging R-36, known as the RS-28 “Sarmat.”

The RS-28 is far more than a follow-on to the aging R-36 missile—it is, fundamentally, an entirely new weapon the likes of which the United States has never before seen. The “Sarmat” retains its impressive throw-weight while reducing its overall weight by nearly 50 percent by using advanced composite materials for the missile airframe and employing a new type of liquid-fuel propulsion system—the PDY-99 “pulse detonation” engine—that hyper-accelerates the RS-28 into orbit, reducing the infrared signature of the launch as well as the time available to American early-warning satellites to detect such a launch. The RS-28 is designed to either be armed with 10 750-kiloton independently targeted maneuvering warheads, each of which can destroy an American ICBM silo or launch control facility, or between 16 and 24 new hypersonic glide vehicles, each tipped with a 150-kiloton nuclear warhead, and likewise capable of taking out any hardened site on American soil. Either configuration provides Russia with the means to avoid launch detection, evade all missile defense systems, and destroy America’s land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nuclear force. In short, with the RS-28, Russia possesses a genuine first-strike capability that nullifies one third of America’s nuclear triad.

Contrary to Secretary Mattis’s dismissive commentary, the RS-28 does, in fact, fundamentally alter the strategic balance between Russia and the United States. Moreover, Mike Pompeo knows full well that the Russians are not bluffing. Both Mattis and Pompeo had been laboring under the false impression that Russia could not afford to field a follow-on to the R-36 missile, especially considering that that missile had been built in the Ukraine during Soviet times, and as such those capabilities were lost to Russian defense industry. The RS-28, however, is a reality—the Russians simply reconfigured their own indigenous missile production capability and will have at least 50 of the new missiles operational by 2020. It’s a reality that America’s leadership might want to factor into any future policy toward Moscow.


Is Trump Assembling a War Cabinet?

March 27, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan


The last man standing between the U.S. and war with Iran may be a four-star general affectionately known to his Marines as “Mad Dog.”

Gen. James Mattis, the secretary of defense, appears to be the last man in the Situation Room who believes the Iran nuclear deal may be worth preserving and that war with Iran is a dreadful idea.

Yet, other than Mattis, President Donald Trump seems to be creating a war cabinet.

Trump himself has pledged to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal – “the worst deal ever” – and reimpose sanctions in May.

His new national security adviser John Bolton, who wrote an op-ed titled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” has called for preemptive strikes and “regime change.”

Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo calls Iran “a thuggish police state,” a “despotic theocracy,” and “the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East.”

Trump’s favorite Arab ruler, 32-year-old Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, calls Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei “the Hitler of the Middle East.”

Bibi Netanyahu is monomaniacal on Iran, calling the nuclear deal a threat to Israel’s survival and Iran “the greatest threat to our world.”

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley echoes them all.

Yet Iran appears not to want a war. U.N. inspectors routinely confirm that Iran is strictly abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal.

While U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf often encountered Iranian “fast attack” boats and drones between January 2016 and August 2017, that has stopped. Vessels of both nations have operated virtually without incident.

What would be the result of Trump’s trashing of the nuclear deal?

First would be the isolation of the United States.

China and Russia would not abrogate the deal but would welcome Iran into their camp. England, France and Germany would have to choose between the deal and the U.S. And if Airbus were obligated to spurn Iran’s orders for hundreds of new planes, how would that sit with the Europeans?

How would North Korea react if the U.S. trashed a deal where Iran, after accepting severe restrictions on its nuclear program and allowing intrusive inspections, were cheated of the benefits the Americans promised?

Why would Pyongyang, having seen us attack Iraq, which had no WMD, and Libya, which had given up its WMD to mollify us, ever consider given up its nuclear weapons – especially after seeing the leaders of both nations executed?

And, should the five other signatories to the Iran deal continue with it despite us, and Iran agree to abide by its terms, what do we do then?

Find a casus belli to go to war? Why? How does Iran threaten us?

A war, which would involve U.S. warships against swarms of Iranian torpedo boats could shut down the Persian Gulf to oil traffic and produce a crisis in the global economy. Anti-American Shiite jihadists in Beirut, Baghdad and Bahrain could attack U.S. civilian and military personnel.

As the Army and Marine Corps do not have the troops to invade and occupy Iran, would we have to reinstate the draft?

And if we decided to blockade and bomb Iran, we would have to take out all its anti-ship missiles, submarines, navy, air force, ballistic missiles and air defense system.

And would not a pre-emptive strike on Iran unite its people in hatred of us, just as Japan’s pre-emptive strike on Pearl Harbor united us in a determination to annihilate her empire?

What would the Dow Jones average look like after an attack on Iran?

Trump was nominated because he promised to keep us out of stupid wars like those into which folks like John Bolton and the Bush Republicans plunged us.

After 17 years, we are still mired in Afghanistan, trying to keep the Taliban we overthrew in 2001 from returning to Kabul. Following our 2003 invasion, Iraq, once a bulwark against Iran, became a Shiite ally of Iran.

The rebels we supported in Syria have been routed. And Bashar Assad – thanks to backing from Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shiite militias from the Middle East and Central Asia – has secured his throne.

The Kurds who trusted us have been hammered by our NATO ally Turkey in Syria, and by the Iraqi Army we trained in Iraq.

What is Trump, who assured us there would be no more stupid wars, thinking? Truman and LBJ got us into wars they could not end, and both lost their presidencies. Eisenhower and Nixon ended those wars and were rewarded with landslides.

After his smashing victory in Desert Storm, Bush I was denied a second term. After invading Iraq, Bush II lost both houses of Congress in 2006, and his party lost the presidency in 2008 to the antiwar Barack Obama.

Once Trump seemed to understand this history.


Whistleblower says Canadian company worked on software to find Republican voters

March 27, 2018


LONDON (Reuters) – A Cambridge Analytica whistleblower said on Tuesday that Canadian company AggregateIQ worked on software called Ripon which was used to identify Republican voters ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

AggregateIQ did not immediately respond to request for comment on the remarks by Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower formerly of British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Wylie has previously disclosed how users’ data from Facebook was used by Cambridge Analytica to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ripon, the town in which the Republican Party was founded in 1854, was the name given to a tool that let a campaign manage its voter database, target specific voters, conduct canvassing, manage fundraising and carry out surveys.

“There’s now tangible proof in the public domain that AIQ actually built Ripon, which is the software that utilised the algorithms from the Facebook data,” Wylie told the British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

AggregateIQ told Reuters on March 24 that it had never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica nor ever entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica.

It said it works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements and had never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity.

Cambridge Analytica said on Tuesday that it had not shared any of the Facebook profile data procured by a Cambridge academic with AggregateIQ. It said it had not had any communication with AggregateIQ since December 2015.

Reporting by Alistair Smout, Andy Bruce and Eric Auchard, editing by Guy Faulconbridge


Facebook’s Zuckerberg will not answer UK lawmakers’ questions over data scandal

March 27, 2018


LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg will not answer questions from British lawmakers over how millions of users’ data got into the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica as the company faces further pressure on both sides of the Atlantic.

Zuckerberg will instead send his Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer or Chief Product Officer Chris Cox to appear before parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.

In response, its chairman said on Tuesday that lawmakers still wanted to speak to Zuckerberg and would see whether they could set up a session in person or via video link.

Zuckerberg apologized last week for the mistakes Facebook had made and promised tougher steps to restrict developers’ access to such information, which saw the company’s share price fall and prompt new questions from politicians and regulators.

In response to a request by British lawmakers to appear before them, the firm’s Head of UK Public Policy told lawmakers that Schroepfer or Cox were better placed to answer questions.

“Facebook fully recognizes the level of public and Parliamentary interest in these issues and support your belief that these issues must be addressed at the most senior levels of the company by those in an authoritative position,” wrote Rebecca Stimson.

“As such Mr Zuckerberg has personally asked one of his deputies to make themselves available to give evidence in person to the Committee.”

Reporting by Eric Auchard and Costas Pitas; editing by Guy Faulconbridge


What role did Cambridge Analytica play in the Brexit vote?

The whistleblower at the heart of the Facebook scandal believes the UK wouldn’t have voted for Brexit without Cambridge Analytica’s intervention. DW looks at the ties between the Brexit campaign and consulting company.

March 27, 2018

by David Martin


Whistleblower Christopher Wylie told UK lawmakers during a committee hearing on Tuesday that a firm linked to Cambridge Analytica helped the official Vote Leave campaign circumvent campaign financing laws during the Brexit referendum.

Leaked documents published this week show that the Vote Leave campaign, the official pro-Brexit group headed by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, paid an additional 625,000 pounds (€711,000, $882,000)  to a little-known Canadian data firm through a far smaller pro-Brexit group.

The Vote Leave campaign has claimed that the payment to the smaller group, known as BeLeave, was a donation and that each group worked independently from one another.

However, douments leaked last weekend by whistelblower Shahmir Sanni, showed that the Vote Leave and BeLeave were effectively the same entity, with the latter even located inside the former’s offices.

Wylie said on Tuesday that BeLeave, which was founded by 22-year-old fashion student Darren Grimes, was effectively used as a money laundering vehicle.

Campaign finance records showed that BeLeave spent the 625,000-pound donation on services from Canadian data firm AggregateIQ (AIQ) just days before the referendum vote.

Wylie said that the official campaign’s “cheating” may well have swayed the EU referendum result given the effectiveness of AIQ’s online campaign.

Overall, various pro-Brexit group spent 3.4 million pounds for AIQ’s services during the EU referendum campaign. Some 2.7 million pounds of that money was spent by Vote Leave, making up 40 percent of the group’s campaign budget.

IQ and Cambridge Analytica

Officials from AIQ and Cambridge Analytica have denied the two companies coordinated during the Brexit referendum.

However, Wylie told the UK parliamentary committee that AIQ, which he says he helped create on behalf of SLC, the parent company of what would eventually become Cambridge Analytica, frequently shared data with one another.

“You can’t have targeting software that doesn’t access the database. Cambridge Analytica would have a database and AIQ would access that database, otherwise the software wouldn’t work,” Wylie said.

Wylie also said that AIQ, when it was set up, inherited Cambridge Analytica’s total disregard of the law.

“This is a company that has worked with hacked material, this is a company that will send out videos of people being murdered to intimidate voters, this is a company that goes out and tries to illicitly acquire live internet browsing data of everyone in an entire country,” Wylie said.

“I think a lot of questions should be asked about the role of AIQ in this election and whether they were indeed compliant with the law here.”

Wylie also said he was “absolutely convinced” there was a reason why the pro-Brexit groups sought out a little-known data firm based in British Colombia, given their desire to work with Cambridge Analytica.

Mark Zuckerberg refuses to testify before UK Cambridge Analytica enquiry

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday said he would not appear before the British parliamentary committee to explain how the profiles of some 50 million users were harvested by Cambridge Analytica.

The Facebook CEO instead offered to send chief technology office Mike Schroepfer or chief product officer Chris Cox to answer lawmakers’ questions in London next month.

Committee chairman Damian Collins urged Zuckerberg to reconsider, given the seriousness of the allegations.

“We’d be very happy to invite Mr Cox to give evidence. However we would still like to hear from Mr Zuckerberg as well,” Collins said at the start of Wylie’s committee hearing.

Facebook insists it didn’t know that Cambridge Analytica had harvested data from millions of users through an app, which was subsequently leveraged by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team.

More to come…


The one way to control Facebook — delete your account

Tougher security settings on Facebook just won’t cut it, says DW’s Zulfikar Abbany. In his opinion, you shouldn’t be using Facebook in the first place — and users have themselves to blame in part for data breaches.

March 21, 2018

by Zulfikar Abbany


Imagine you’re an alien, snooping around from space, and you happen to catch some American cable network coverage of Facebook’s (current) data scandal, as I just did in a Hamburg hotel this week. You might think the tech giant’s only issue was tumbling stock.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who famously took his first cynical steps towards creating the society-smashing social network in a university dorm, has seen his company take a financial hammering. Or so the story goes.

At one point on Monday, Facebook was down $50 billion (€40.7 billion) in market value. That’s one thousand dollars for every one of the 50 million Facebook users who apparently had his or her data misappropriated — read, stolen and misused for some psychological warfare tool — by the UK-based data mining firm, Cambridge Analytica. And Zuckerberg reportedly took a personal hit of $6 billion the day after the data abuse was revealed. Pooey.

Do I care? Come off it.

Complicit Facebook users

I don’t even care about the fact that Facebook has deployed surveillance tactics, the envy of any spy agency, to increase its advertising power since it started. Or the fact that more than 2 billion monthly active Facebook users social-striptease their lives. Why? Because all users are complicit. Just like a drug addict can’t only blame her dealer, Facebook users cannot only blame Facebook. Every data breach starts the moment you log online — even if you use a virtual private network (VPN).

Yes, I am being rather conceited and taking the moral high ground here. But I can afford to because I don’t use Facebook. I have an account purely to access the network when I need to verify user-generated content for work. But otherwise I have never understood Facebook’s appeal — right from the early days when colleagues would forget it was time to head behind the mic to read the news because they were too busy updating their status.

There is one caveat, though: even as a non-user, Facebook’s reach into my life is significant, simply through the pervasiveness and persuasiveness of crowd (un)intelligence that it and other social media … create (for want of a less positive-sounding word).

Brought it upon ourselves

But ultimately, the Cambridge Analytica breach is not the crux of the matter. You don’t need big data analytics, algorithms and artificial intelligence to construct terrifyingly true profiles of people anywhere in the world. All you need is a set of eyeballs and a smattering of human intelligence.

And this is the very point. We have willingly thrown almost all human intelligence into some random dustbin of history and handed over the keys to our hearts and minds to a top tier of incredibly clever tricksters and fraudsters — for what they do is largely within the law (albeit their law). Yet at the same time we expect toothless governments to control a market that refuses to be regulated. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s even in a government’s interest to regulate the tech industry (see Ireland’s pushback on Apple back taxes).

Forget government and find the delete button

To their credit, UK parliamentarians have summoned Zuckerberg to answer questions about whether Facebook previously provided “misleading” evidence on the risk to user data. Power play? Yeah, well, let’s say Zuckerberg graces London with his presence. But what’s to stop him for providing yet more misleading evidence? After all, misleading the public is built into social media by design. Try finding the “delete account” button on Facebook — or many other apps, for that matter — and you’ll see what I mean. Plus there is precedence: Look back at the tech tax scandal. Did any government intervention ever fix that? Hardly.

So, if you want to reign in Facebook’s control over your life and personal data, there is but one way and that is to find that hidden “delete account” button. The Verge has posted a handy article on this and advises you to first download a copy of your Facebook data. The option is in “Settings,” and you’ll need to click “Start My Archive.” When you’re done, try this link to delete your account for good. Whatever you do, don’t login again, or your account may be reactivated. Instead, sit back, and reconnect with your old analog self.


Facebook logs SMS texts and calls, users find as they delete accounts

Leaving the social network after Cambridge Analytica scandal, users discover extent of data held

March 26, 2018

by Alex Hern

The Guardian

As users continue to delete their Facebook accounts in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a number are discovering that the social network holds far more data about them than they expected, including complete logs of incoming and outgoing calls and SMS messages.

The #deletefacebook movement took off after the revelations that Facebook had shared with a Cambridge psychologist the personal information of 50 million users, without their explicit consent, which later ended up in the hands of the election consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook makes it hard for users to delete their accounts, instead pushing them towards “deactivation”, which leaves all personal data on the company’s servers. When users ask to permanently delete their accounts, the company suggests: “You may want to download a copy of your info from Facebook.” It is this data dump that reveals the extent of Facebook’s data harvesting – surprising even for a company known to gather huge quantities of personal information.

One user, Dylan McKay, reported that for the period October 2016 to July 2017 his logs contained “the metadata of every cellular call I’ve ever made, including time and duration” and “metadata about every text message I’ve ever received or sent”.

Many other users reported unease at the data they had discovered being logged, including the contacts in their address books, their calendars, and their friends’ birthdays.

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson explained why contacts were uploaded. “The most important part of apps and services that help you make connections is to make it easy to find the people you want to connect with. So, the first time you sign in on your phone to a messaging or social app, it’s a widely used practice to begin by uploading your phone contacts,” it said

“Contact uploading is optional. People are expressly asked if they want to give permission to upload their contacts from their phone – it’s explained right there in the apps when you get started. People can delete previously uploaded information at any time and can find all the information available to them in their account and activity log from our Download Your Information tool.”

Facebook asks users for permission to upload this sort of personal data for a number of reasons: address books, for instance, are uploaded with the understanding that it will help users find friends on the social network and help the app’s algorithms work out how to prioritise different content. Messenger for Android asks for permissions to read call and SMS logs for a similar purpose.

The company notes that users can stop continuously uploading contacts and delete all their previously uploaded contacts by turning off the continuous uploading setting in the Messenger app.

Permanently deleting a Facebook account will also result in contacts no longer being uploaded and all previously uploaded contacts being deleted.


Deutsche Bank seeking to replace CEO John Cryan, suggests report

Germany’s biggest lender is looking to eject its CEO amid intensified boardroom tension due to the inability of the scandal-hit institution to put an end to its long list of troubles, the Times newspaper reports.

March 27, 2018


Deutsche Bank is seeking to replace its chief executive John Cryan as a result of an escalating row between the CEO and the bank’s supervisory board chairman, Paul Achleitner, over the current situation and future direction of the troubled lender, the Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The bank has approached Richard Gnodde, a senior executive of Goldman Sachs, to take on Cryan’s role, the paper said. But Gnodde is reported to have turned down the offer.

Other possible replacements considered are Jean Pierre Mustier, chief executive of the Italian banking group UniCredit and Bill Winter, chief executive of Standard Chartered, according to the Times.

Deutsche Bank was not immediately available for comment on the London newspaper’s report

Cryan and Achleitner are said to have disagreed over their approach to HNA Group, the Chinese conglomerate which became the German bank’s largest shareholder.

‘A broken relationship’

Cryan and Deutsche Bank’s chief financial officer, James von Moltke, were involved in a bitter board dispute over the bank’s future, arguing for a more radical restructuring that included a complete overhaul of its investment banking division, the Times said, citing a source.

“It is quite clear the relationship is broken between the chief executive and the chairman,” the source is quoted as saying.

Cryan has launched a massive restructuring of Deutsche Bank while trying to clear up the legacy of its massive global expansion in the years before the financial crisis, which has cost the bank billions in fines and compensation. But investors have grown impatient, with shares in the Frankfurt-based lender losing almost a third of their value since the start of the year.

According to his contract, though, Cryan is slated to stay on until May 2020.

Earlier this month, Deutsche Bank warned on costs for 2018, citing delays in some business disposals, even as the lender said it expects revenues to rise for the full year.

It also said its bonus pool would be above €2 billion ($2.49 billion) as the loss-making bank seeks to retain staff during a major overhaul.

Deutsche Bank is in the process of cutting 9,000 jobs group-wide from 2015 levels, or around one in 10 staff, with 4,000 jobs expected to go in Germany. It plans to save €3.8 billion ($4.7 billion) in gross costs from 2018. At its 2017 full-year results presentation, the bank also admitted it would not make this year’s cost targets.


Russian gas pipeline gets green light from Germany as US tries to kill project

March 27, 2018


Germany has issued a permit for the construction and operation of an offshore section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Germany in the Baltic Sea.

The BSH [Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany] issued the permit for this approximately 30-kilometres-long route section in accordance with the Federal Mining Act,” the company in charge of the project, Nord Stream 2 AG, said on its website.

According to the company, all necessary permits have been obtained. In January, the Stralsund Mining Authority approved the construction and operation in German territorial waters and the landfall area.

“We are pleased that all necessary permits are now in place for the German route section, which has an overall length of 85 kilometers,” Permitting Manager Germany at Nord Stream 2 AG Jens Lange said.

Authorization from regulators in Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, through territories of which the pipeline is set to run as well, are due to be obtained in the coming month, according to the operator. Scheduled construction works will reportedly be carried out this year as planned.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is projected to run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. It will double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year. According to the operator, the pipeline is the most efficient way, both economically and ecologically, to transport gas from the world’s largest reserves to European consumers.

The project has been strongly opposed by several members of the European Union, including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Hungary, as well as Ukraine. The latter vigorously opposes Nord Stream 2, as the future pipeline will bypass the country and deprive Ukraine’s budget of transit fees.

At the same time, the US has threatened to sanction companies that cooperate with Russia to implement the project. Earlier, the US announced plans to become a major energy exporter and has begun liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries to Europe.


Trump to the International Community: Drop Dead

Washington Takes on the World

by John Feffer

Tom Dispatch

Donald Trump has a plan to solve America’s drug crisis: kill the drug dealers.

“We have pushers and drugs dealers, they are killing hundreds and hundreds of people,” Trump said at a recent White House summit on opioid abuse. “Some countries have a very, very tough penalty — the ultimate penalty — and by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do.”

Trump claims he got the idea for killing drug dealers from his pal, Chinese president for life, Xi Jinping. That’s a first: an American president openly borrowing a criminal justice program from an autocrat (and a Communist one, to boot).  To be fair, Trump clearly also had in mind the experience of a democratic country. In the last two years, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has encouraged a spree of extrajudicial police executions aimed at the drug trade that, according to Human Rights Watch, has left more than 12,000 Filipinos dead. Although the International Criminal Court has launched an inquiry into Duterte’s “crimes against humanity,” Trump has praised him for doing an “incredible job” with his anti-drug program.

The president’s embrace of the death penalty for drug dealers is but one example of his across-the-board scorn for human rights as he buddies up with the world’s most notorious autocrats and directs the Pentagon to ensure that ongoing human rights catastrophes around the world grow even worse. Meanwhile, he’s proposed slashing State Department programs promoting democracy and human rights, while trying to roll back movements for rights and freedoms in the United States.

Think of him as a driver who’s been licensed to operate the world’s largest vehicle despite his utter contempt for the rules of the road. Not surprisingly, the traffic forecast is bleak: with hardliner Mike Pompeo about to take over as secretary of state, his department will prove even less of a speed bump in the president’s dangerous game of chicken with the global community.

Two Cheers for Hypocrisy

U.S. foreign policy used to be reliably two-faced. Washington would regularly call out its adversaries on human rights abuses while largely ignoring the egregious violations of its closest friends. During the Cold War, for instance, the U.S. routinely lambasted the Soviet Union for its appalling record on human rights but handed out free passes to Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, the Shah of Iran, and others of their ilk.

Sure, the State Department has been issuing an exhaustive annual report on human rights violators that, for half a century, provided grim details on repressive governments like those of the Saudis and Egyptians.  But that didn’t stop successive administrations from supplying those same autocracies with virtually all the weapons and military aid they claimed they needed, even as Washington maintained an arms embargo on China instituted after Beijing cracked down on the Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989. And when the United States does lift such embargoes, as with Vietnam in 2016, it has everything to do with geopolitics (containing China) and nothing to do with human rights.

Now along comes Donald Trump, a thoroughgoing hypocrite on practically every subject — except human rights. There, he has extended the blind eye of American policy to just about everyone. With a few exceptions that prove the rule, he could care less about such abuses, even when they involve his own administration — including wife-beaters, Nazi sympathizers, and the incorrigibly corrupt, not to mention U.S. military personnel abroad (or ICE employees in this country).

Consider these telling changes in the Trumpian era. When the State Department released last year’s human rights report, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson didn’t even bother to hold the traditional press conference or present the findings himself, though he was in Washington at the time.  This year’s report, unreleased and overdue, will reportedly give shorter shrift to women’s rights and discrimination of various kinds, prompting an outcry from more than 170 human-rights organizations. “This sends a clear signal that women’s reproductive rights are not a priority for this administration, and that it’s not even a rights violation we must or should report on,” an unnamed State Department official typically told Politico.

The writing has been on the wall in big block letters from the earliest moments of the Trump era. In May 2017, in his first town hall meeting with State Department staff, Tillerson warned that human rights should not become an obstacle in the U.S. pursuit of national interests, a shot across the department’s bow that contributed to a wave of subsequent resignations. Similarly, the administration’s first National Security Strategy barely mentioned human rights.

The diminished impact of the State Department reflects the diminished state of the department itself. Expect Pompeo to be even more aggressive than Tillerson at de-staffing it through unfilled ambassadorial positions (including South Korea and the European Union), the purging of staff for political reasons, cash buyouts for early retirements, and major reductions at embassies like the new one in Cuba. Among the many top positions that remain unfilled, there aren’t even nominees for undersecretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights or assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor (or, for that matter, special envoy on North Korean human rights).  The Trump team proposed slashing the State Department budget by 25% from $53 billion to $39 billion. Congress, however, rebelled and reduced the shrinkage to just 6% in the final budget bill signed by the president last week.  As part of these ostensible austerity measures, Trump wanted to effectively eliminate the bulk of “democracy promotion” by gutting the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its associated institutions.

Critics of the NED — and there are many of them with telling points to make — will rejoice. But let’s not kid ourselves: the alternative world Trump is creating will be even grimmer.

Bullets, Not Ballots

Trump’s assault on diplomacy does not represent any across-the-board reduction in America’s engagement with the world. After all, Pentagon spending is slated to rise by $80 billion a year or nearly twice the (reduced) budget of the shrunken State Department. And keep in mind that the Pentagon is actively involved in human rights abuses globally.

It is, for instance, giving Saudi Arabia billions of dollars in weapons (including cluster bombs) to bomb Yemen back to the Stone Age, while air-refueling American-produced F-16s that the Saudis are deploying and providing further logistical support for this devastating air war. The result has been a catastrophe, including more than 5,000 dead civilians, a devastating famine, and a health crisis that, in 2017, already led to more than 2,000 casualties from a cholera epidemic and 50,000 children dead from malnutrition and other diseases.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to “bomb the shit” out of the Islamic State and he’s been as good as his word. The Trump administration upped the number of aerial attacks against that group without regard for civilian casualties in 2017. Up to 20,000 bombs were, for instance, dropped on ISIS’s “capital,” the Syrian city of Raqqa. In one particularly gruesome case, the U.N. has accused the U.S.-led coalition of violating international law by bombing a school building near that city in March 2017, killing 150 people among the displaced families sheltered there. Such acts have only been compounded by the Trump administration’s indifference to war crimes committed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally.

In Afghanistan, Trump has similarly given the U.S. military free rein to attack the Taliban. From August to the end of last year, Washington conducted almost as many air strikes there as it had in 2015 and 2016 combined. Who then could be surprised that Afghanistan experienced more civilian deaths in 2017 than during any other comparable period in the 16-year war?

Occasionally, the White House still talks about defending human rights, as in an executive order issued as 2017 ended that targeted “serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.” That order, however, focused on only 13 individuals, including the former president of Gambia, an arms dealer in the Balkans, a Guatemalan politician, and the son of Russia’s prosecutor general.

In Trump’s universe, in other words, human rights abuses are committed only by a handful of “bad hombres.” The world’s greatest human rights abusers aren’t on that list — because many of them are among the president’s BFFs.

Despots Galore

President Trump has made a point of establishing close working relationships with some of the worst autocrats on the planet. His first official trip overseas in May 2017 was typical.  It wasn’t the usual inaugural jaunt to Canada, Mexico, or Europe. Instead, he made a beeline for Saudi Arabia, a country that lacks democracy, subordinates women, has never allowed freedom of speech or assembly, and imposes severe restrictions on its Shiite minority. Just Trump’s kind of place! He gave a speech in Riyadh condemning terrorism without once mentioning Saudi contributions to Sunni extremism around the world and capped things off by promising $110 billion in weaponry for the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has been a friend of the United States since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Trump, however, wants to bind Washington and Riyadh even more closely in an anti-Iranian front (an impulse the appointment of Mike Pompeo, a well-known Iranophobe, can only strengthen).  And the Saudi royals were just one entry on a crowded Trumpian list of despots that includes Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (“I’ve always had a good instinct about Putin.”) Also on the list is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom Trump praised (“We have a great friendship”) even as the Turkish leader was throwing journalists in prison and conducting a military campaign against the country’s Kurdish minority. As for his chum Xi, Trump recently eulogized the Chinese president for making himself ruler for life, wistfully regretting that an unnamed American president couldn’t do the same.

Then there’s Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who seized power in a violent coup in 2013, killing hundreds, jailing tens of thousands, and torturing his opponents. For Trump, these were merely signs of a stiff spine. “I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President Sisi; he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation,” he said on welcoming the Egyptian leader to the White House in April 2017.

Such “friendships” are actually green lights for bad behavior. Soon after Trump shook the hands of the leaders of various Arab states in Saudi Arabia in May 2017, for instance, Bahrain cracked down on its free press and extrajudicial killings rose dramatically in Egypt. Saudi Arabia launched a blockade against Qatar, in part because of its support for democracy movements during the Arab Spring and the relative freedom of its state-supported media outlet Al-Jazeera. Although Qatar has been a close military ally of Washington — the largest American military base in the region is located there — Trump immediately tweeted his support for the blockade.

Perhaps his closest overseas soul mate, however, has been Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister has taken full advantage of that relationship to ratchet up pressure on the Palestinian community through extrajudicial executions, expanded settlements, police crackdowns, and the ever-punishing blockade of Gaza. In return, Trump has given Netanyahu whatever he wants, including an American embassy in Jerusalem and recognition of that city as Israel’s capital.

Trump has raised the issue of human rights abuses only in the case of four countries: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.  And after spending his first year in office trading insults with Kim Jong-un, he’s recently made a dramatic pivot, offering to sit down and negotiate with the North Korean leader, reducing his “axis of evil” to three.

Except for those outliers, his position has been that sovereign states should be allowed to do whatever they like within their own borders, as he himself moved with visible enthusiasm to suppress human rights at home. Like his friend Viktor Orban in Hungary, Trump took aim at immigrants; like Putin in Russia, he targeted LGBT advances; like Erdogan in Turkey, he accused the mainstream press of being the enemy; and like his alt-right buddies in Europe, he navigated close to neo-Nazis. No wonder Amnesty International has labeled Trump a “threat” to human rights.

Smashing the International Community

The Trump administration has continued to wage America’s ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East and Africa. At various moments, the president himself has also threatened to attack both North Korea and Venezuela. And with Pompeo heading for the State Department and the even more Iranophobic and bloodthirsty John Bolton becoming national security advisor, a military conflict with Iran may well be in the offing.

So far, however, the only new “war” President Trump has launched is a metaphoric one against the international community — with all-too-real consequences.

He promptly withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and then the Paris climate accord, while regularly threatening to deep-six a multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran signed by the Obama administration — all acts reflecting his disgust for anything that smacks of internationalism (or Obama himself).

His assault on the global human rights order has been even more dramatic. One of his first gestures was to re-impose a “global gag rule” restricting U.S. funding for organizations worldwide that provide family-planning assistance. Over the summer, his administration quietly prepared to close the State Department office that investigates genocide and war crimes. In October, it announced its future withdrawal from the U.N. cultural organization UNESCO (because of alleged anti-Israel bias).

Soon after, the administration pulled out of a global migration pact that Obama had enthusiastically endorsed the year before. A month later, it cut funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which helps Palestinian refugees, and is now preparing to reduce cooperation with the International Criminal Court. Its biggest target so far, however, has been the U.N. Human Rights Council. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley presented that council with an ultimatum: “If it fails to change, then we must pursue the advancement of human rights outside of the council.” Although the Council has yet to bend to U.S. demands, Trump and company are undoubtedly uninterested in its “reform.”  (Washington hasn’t even bothered to replace its special representative on the Council.)

No international initiative has proven too small for his administration to target, even the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global standard implemented by 52 countries whose task is to reduce corruption in the energy and mining sector. As Adam Davidson commented in the New Yorker, “[T]he Trump Administration is actively implementing, in real policy, its avowed distrust — even contempt — for international compacts designed to improve the lives of people around the world.  Abandoning EITI is not for show; it is a move toward dismantling the architecture of global governance.”

At a gut level, Donald Trump just hates “globalism,” which represents the antithesis of his America First doctrine. If he gets his way, the United States will not simply withhold its support for global initiatives, it will undermine any kind of global planning or cooperation that has a peaceable bent to it. Just as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believed only in individuals, not “society,” Trump dismisses the U.N. and believes only in powerful actors. As his then-loyal adjutants, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn, put it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in May 2017, “The world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors, and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” Thanks to the Trump team, the international community is quickly devolving into World Wrestling Entertainment.

At first, the new president’s global belligerence had a certain unifying effect. Even as the United States withdrew from the Paris climate accord, for instance, the last two holdouts (Syria and Nicaragua) signed on and the rest of the world’s nations recommitted themselves to achieving the agreement’s goals without U.S. participation. In the face of a possible U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the other signatories (Europe, Russia, China, and Iran) redoubled their efforts to preserve it.

But bullies have a pernicious influence on social norms, which means that a single powerful rule-breaker can do much to undermine global institutions. As such, the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the climate deal has largely deflated that global effort.  The Europeans have reluctantly agreed to form a working group with the U.S. on altering the Iran nuclear deal, while the Iranians recently indicated that they might withdraw from it if the Europeans can’t keep Washington on board. Having broken the international rules of the road, Trump is now rewriting them to reflect his extreme version of American exceptionalism.

After the genocidal bloodletting of World War II, the U.N. and its foundational documents on human rights represented a different, more humane trajectory for the world. Donald Trump is attempting to rewind world history to an earlier era of blood and soil, of a nationalism red in tooth and claw, and of unfettered capitalism. He has brokered an informal alliance of autocrats and financiers worldwide against the U.N. and human rights more generally.

In this reincarnated version of an older order, the rich and the strong will prosper — at least for a while. Trump and friends will make out like bandits — at least for a while. And until citizens unite across borders to rescue the human rights order from this onslaught, the weak and the outnumbered will have ever fewer places to turn on an increasingly heartless planet.


Barbarossa: Hitler’s Invasion of Russia

March 27, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Stripped of prolix discussions of troop strengths and various German military plans for operations against Soviet Russia ,Operation “Barbarossa” comes down to whether or not it was a manifestation of growing megalomania on Hitler’s part or a legitimate preventive attack on a nation preparing to invade him. The initial military planning was considered to be a study of the nature of a war with the Soviet Union should such an event prove necessary.

The first studies were instituted in July 1940 after the defeat of France and the expulsion of the British military from continental Europe. Parallel with the purely military studies was Hitler’s own political analysis of the relationship between Germany and Russia.

There is no question that Stalin was exerting pressure along his western borders and increasing the number of military units in these areas. In August of 1940, Stalin had a total of 151 infantry divisions, 32 cavalry divisions and 38 mechanized brigades available to him. Of these, 96 infantry divisions, 23 cavalry divisions and 28 mechanized brigades were available for use against Germany.

By June 1941, as a result of an extensive mobilization of his military, Stalin had 118 infantry divisions, 20 cavalry divisions and 40 mechanized brigades in position on the Russo-German border with an additional 27 infantry divisions, 5 1/2 cavalry divisions and 1 mechanized brigade in reserve in European Russia. The bulk of these units was in place to the north of the Pripyat marshes and the remainder to the south of this large natural barrier of swampy forest.

Although German military intelligence initially had difficulties in obtaining exact figures of the Soviet buildup, there could be no question that such a massive increase in military forces was in progress. German Luftwaffe reconnaissance overflights, foreign diplomatic reports and increased Soviet military radio traffic all pointed to the heavy concentration of Russian forces.

The question is whether the Soviet troop concentrations were defensive or offensive in nature. Historians have argued that no proof of Soviet intentions to invade Germany have ever surfaced and a balanced view of the troop movements could well indicate that either purpose could be valid.

There is the question of the placement of Soviet artillery units along the border. The Soviets used their artillery en masse as a preliminary to a major attack and the positioning of this artillery close to the German lines would tend to support the thesis that it was to be used to open an attack, not defend against one.

The positioning of armored and mechanized infantry units behind the artillery would be reasonable if these forces were intended to spearhead an attack. A defensive posture would have the artillery toward the rear areas of the Soviet forward units to bombard an advancing enemy. A defensive posture would also prohibit the massing of armored units so close to the front lines. They would be held much further back to strike at an enemy penetration with more freedom of movement.

These are merely comments, not meant to be taken as proof of anything but a more important opinion is one given by General Franz Halder, Chief of Staff of the German Army at the inception of “Barbarossa.” Halder was a bitter enemy of Hitler, who eventually fired him, and in his postwar writings disparaged the Führer as a military commander.

In his book, Hitler as Military Leader published as Hitler als Feldherr in Munich, 1949 and subsequently translated as Hitler as War Lord and published in England in 1950, Halder devotes considerable space to the “Barbarossa” operation and deserves to be quoted at some length.

“…the horizon in the East grew steadily darker. Russia was moving with ever-growing strength into the Baltic States, which had been conceded as her sphere of interest; on the Russo-German demarcation line there stood over a million Russian soldiers in full battle order with tanks and aircraft opposite a few German security formations sparsely stretched over wide sectors of the line; in the South-East, Russia had occupied Rumanian territory in Bessarabia and Bukovina. Moreover, she was showing herself unresponsive to Hitler’s political maneuvers. The last attempt to gain her as a partner in the division of the world according to Hitler’s plans had foundered at a two-day meeting with Molotov in the middle of November 1940. Hitler the Politician has come to the end of his devices.

In December 1940, he issued his order to the three services – the “Barbarossa” Order – to make military preparations for an attack on Russia against the possibility of Russo-German relations undergoing a fundamental change. It was a prepatory measure, no decision had then been taken. One must admit the politician’s right to delay taking the final decision until the last moment. Precisely when Hitler did take it, can probably no longer be established. Statements, speeches and orders with which he prepared the machine, both materially and psychologically, in case it should be required, cannot be regarded as meaning anything with this master of duplicity. It can be assumed, however, that it was not taken until after the quick successes of the Balkan campaign, in the course of which Russia’s hostility towards Hitler had been unmistakably revealed.

The decision for the attack on Russia came anything but easily to Hitler. His mind was occupied with the warnings of his military advisers; the shadow of Napoleon, with whom he liked to hear himself compared, lay across the mysterious spaces of that country. On the other hand, he had a firm and not unfounded conviction that Russia was arming for an attack on Germany. Today we know from good sources that he was right. Russia would naturally choose a moment for the attack when Germany was in a position least favorable to herself…in other words when the West was once again ready for action. The war on two fronts, which the army general staff memorandum had forecast as long ago as 1938, would then be a fact.”

Halder certainly was in a position to know the facts, many of which were found by German units after the invasion and the rout of Soviet forces, but as a severe critic of Hitler, Halder’s comments which reflect on the necessity for military action on Hitler’s part are far more valid than some apology written by one of Hitler’s supporters.

Subsequently, in the former Soviet archives have been found many documents, many signed by Stalin, that stated very clearly that he expected the Western capitialist states to engage in trench warfare in the west and when the Germans were so involved, he planned to attack from the east.

The lightening war in France threw him off balance and he then began to be as friendly with Germany as he could, hoping to stall and deceive them and give him time to build up his forces for an attack.

From the Swedish Embassy in Moscow, a military officer gained inside and highly detailed information from a Russian military individual about the Russian designs for a military attack on Germany and he passed this to German intelligence.

Hitler, therefore, was not trying to emulate Napoleon but was faced with the choice of awaiting a Russian attack or pre-empting it.


Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 20

March 26, 2018


All non-confidential reports of the Congressional Research Service must be made publicly available online through a Government Publishing Office website within 90 to 270 days under a provision of the 2018 omnibus appropriations act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President last week.

The move is the culmination of more than two decades of efforts to encourage, cajole or coerce Congress into making the reports broadly available to the public. (See “Liberating the Congressional Research Service,” Secrecy & Government Bulletin, March 1997.)

“Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports are the gold standard when it comes to even-handed, non-partisan analysis of the important issues before Congress,” said Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress, who led the most recent campaign for online public access. “For too long, they’ve only been primarily available to the well-connected and the well-heeled. At long last, Congress will make the non-confidential reports available to every American for free,” he said. See “Long-Proprietary Congressional Research Reports Will Now Be Made Public” by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, March 23, 2018.

In fact, however, the large majority of CRS reports have already been posted online and are easily available to the public, though not through government websites. So the net increase in “transparency” resulting from the new legislation is less than it would have been years ago.

After President Trump claimed on Friday that the omnibus appropriations law will provide the largest military pay increase in over a decade, a New York Times fact-checking column cited a CRS report to demonstrate that the claim was “imprecise” and “slightly exaggerated.” See “Trump’s Objections Require Some Corrections” by Linda Qiu, March 23.

The Times article provided a link to an online copy of the January 2018 CRS report on military pay.


Threats to the U.S. electric power grid in recent years, including actual attacks on transmission substations, have prompted utilities and regulators to adopt various steps to enhance grid security. A new report from the Congressional Research Service reviews the observable changes in security practices to date and discusses the current threat environment. See NERC Standards for Bulk Power Physical Security: Is the Grid More Secure?, March 19, 2018.

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

Bankruptcy Basics: A Primer, March 22, 2018

ATF’s Ability to Regulate “Bump Stocks”, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 22, 2018

Eight Mechanisms to Enact Procedural Change in the U.S. Senate, CRS Insight, March 20, 2018

Net Neutrality: Will the FTC Have Authority Over Broadband Service Providers?, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 20, 2018

Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: Potential Economic Implications, CRS Insight, March 19, 2018

Unauthorized Childhood Arrivals: Legislative Activity in the 115th Congress, March 22, 2018

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, updated March 23, 2018

Iran’s Foreign and Defense Policies, updated March 20, 2018

It Belongs in a Museum: Sovereign Immunity Shields Iranian Antiquities Even When It Does Not Protect Iran, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 22, 2018








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