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TBR News May 21, 2019

May 21 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. May 21, 2019: “Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for May 21:”I think it would be obvious to anyone with an IQ bigger than his hat size, that Trump is fighting a losing battle to prevent anyone from looking at his financial transactions. Why? Well, for an example, the Deutsche Bank was controlled by the CIA and helped Russian intelligence to launder money. The bank got in a healthy cash deposit from a Russian cover and promptly “loaned” it to Trump. Interestingly enough, the bank never got a dime in repayment nor ever pushed Trump to pay on his “loan.” This fake loan was payment by the Russians and for this reason, Trump is frantic to keep American investigators from poking into the sordid business. Was he bribed? Is the Pope Catholic? Bet on it.”

The Table of Contents

  • Do Iranian ‘Threats’ Signal Organized U.S.-Israel Subterfuge?
  • As ex-White House counsel defies subpoena, U.S. House Democrats weigh response
  • Fire the Nutcases Leading Us to War
  • Trump appeals ruling allowing Congress to see his financial records
  • US president tweets World War 3
  • Facial recognition will soon be everywhere. Are we prepared?
  • San Francisco’s facial recognition ban is just the beginning of a national battle over the technology
  • “Pre-Crime” Surveillance Cameras
  • Thanks to Facebook, Your Cellphone Company Is Watching You More Closely Than Ever
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations


Do Iranian ‘Threats’ Signal Organized U.S.-Israel Subterfuge?

The intel they’ve provided is thin, the origins murky and suspect—haven’t we heard this story before?

May 21, 2019

by Gareth Porter

The American Conservative

President Donald Trump’s national security team has been leaking “intelligence” about Iranian threats for a week now in an attempt to justify escalating tensions, including moving American air attack assets to the Persian Gulf. But a closer look suggests that National Security Advisor John Bolton and other senior officials are trying to pull off an intelligence deception comparable to the fraudulent pretense for war in Iraq.

There’s also credible evidence that Israel could be playing a key role in this subterfuge.

This deception has served to defend not only a U.S. military buildup in the region, but an expansion of the possible contingencies that could be used to justify military confrontation. In Bolton’s White House statement on May 5, he said the deployment of assets to the Gulf would “send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

But public claims by the White House about Iran don’t reflect “intelligence” in any technical sense of the word. No one has cited a single piece of hard evidence that justifies these claims of threats, let alone any that are “new,” as press leaks have suggested. All of them appear to be deliberate and gross distortions of actual facts. Thus do they parallel the infamous aluminum tubes of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, which were presented as proof of an incipient Iraqi nuclear weapons program, despite the fact that technical analysis had shown that they couldn’t have been used for that purpose.

The Washington Post reported on May 15 that Pentagon and intelligence officials had cited three “Iranian actions” that had supposedly “triggered alarms”:

  • “Information suggesting an Iranian threat against U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Irbil.”
  • “U.S. concerns that Iran may be preparing to mount rocket or missile launchers on small ships in the Persian Gulf.”
  • “A directive from [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and regular Iranian military units that some U.S. officials have interpreted as a potential threat to U.S. military and diplomatic personnel.”

None of those three claims describes actual evidence of a threatening Iranian “action”; all merely refer to an official U.S. “concern” about a possible Iranian threat.

The notion of missile launchers on small Iranian boats threatening American ships has been the subject of extensive leaks to the media. But a closer examination of that story shows that it’s an entirely artificial construct.

Multiple news outlets have reported that the concerns over missiles launchers are based on aerial photographs showing Iranian missiles in small fishing boats, or dhows, that are “believed” to be under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. An ABC News story claims that these photos were “taken by U.S. intelligence” above the Iranian port of Chabahar. This is said to have stoked fears that the IRGC would use them against U.S. naval ships.

This, however, makes no strategic sense. In the first place, as Fabian Hinz, an independent specialist on missile proliferation, has observed, the IRGC would need to have a method of launching them from boats, which would require extensive testing. None of that has been observed up to now, and such a development seems extremely unlikely.

The IRGC also has no reason to consider using small fishing vessels to target U.S. ships, because Iran already has an impressive arsenal of land-based, anti-ship cruise missiles with all the range it needs. And those missiles are much less vulnerable than jury-rigged weapons, as they’re hidden in underground bases and disguised in trucks.

Hinz writes that the Iranians in the photos were most likely transporting the weapons to one of Iran’s islands in the Gulf, which are already known to have such anti-ship missiles.

The fishing dhow story isn’t the only one to suffer from a serious lack of credibility. The other two, suggesting a threat to U.S. military personnel and diplomatic facilities in Iraq from Iranian-supported militias, were discredited during an official Pentagon-sponsored press briefing by Major General Christopher Ghika, British Deputy Commander of Operation Inherent Resolve for strategy and information. Ghika declared explicitly that there is “no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,” and repeated it when challenged by a shocked Barbara Starr on CNN.

So where did the idea of Iran using fishing dhows to target U.S. ships in the Gulf come from? Not a single media report has suggested that either CIA Director Gina Haspel or Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats provided such information. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan would not specify the source when he told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 8 that senior administration officials had “received indications and this very, very credible intelligence” on Friday afternoon, May 3. That was when officials met with Bolton at the Pentagon, according to the transcript of the meeting provided to TAC  by Shanahan’s press office.

The New York Times revealed the answer to the mystery on May 16: “In meetings in Washington and Tel Aviv in the past few weeks,” the paper’s Jerusalem correspondent wrote, “Israeli intelligence warned” U.S. officials that “Iran or its proxies were planning to strike American targets in Iraq.” The report cited a “senior Middle Eastern intelligence official”—the term traditionally used to describe an Israeli intelligence official–as the source.

Newsweek unearthed another clue as to the provenance of the claims. The magazine said that it learned from one Pentagon official that the satellite imagery of loading missiles into fishing dhows was not produced by U.S. intelligence but rather had been provided by Israel.

Reporting by the leading Israeli diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid, now of Channel 13 but also filing for Axios, provides more detailed evidence that Israel was the original source of all three alleged Iranian threats. Ravid’s story reports that an Israeli delegation, led by national advisor Meir Ben Shabbat, met with Bolton and other U.S. national security officials in the White House on April 15 and passed on to them “information about possible Iranian plots against the U.S. or its allies in the Gulf,” according to “senior Israeli officials.”

Bolton confirmed the meeting with Ben Shabbat in a tweet after it happened, but revealed nothing about what was discussed.

Ravid’s Israeli sources acknowledged that it wasn’t hard intelligence or even an intelligence assessment based on evidence. Instead, as one Israeli official acknowledged, Mossad “drew several scenarios for what Iran might be planning.” Ravid’s sources ultimately admitted that Israel’s Mossad doesn’t really know “what the Iranians are trying to do.”

This is the obvious explanation for why U.S. officials were so unwilling to reveal the provenance of what has loosely been called “intelligence.” It also tallies with one Pentagon official’s revelation to Newsweek that the satellite imagery cited as evidence of missiles in fishing boats had been “provided to U.S. officials by Israel….”

That April 15 meeting was only the most recent one between top U.S. and Israeli national security officials over the past year, according to Ravid. These meetings were conducted under a still-secret U.S.-Israeli agreement on a joint plan of action against Iran reached after two days of unannounced meetings at the White House between Ben Shabbat and then-national security advisor H.R. McMaster on December 12, 2017. Ravid reported the details of that agreement in late December based on information from a “senior U.S. official” and confirmation from senior Israeli officials.

Ravid’s story provided details on the four working groups that were formed under the agreement, including one on “Joint U.S.-Israeli preparation for different escalation scenarios in the region, concerning Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.” The Mossad “scenarios” apparently provided the central ideas with which to justify the Trump administration’s subsequent escalatory moves against Iran, including ostentatiously moving an aircraft carrier and a B-52 bomber group into the region.

Ravid asked the NSC for comment last summer about several meetings of the joint working group and was told, “we don’t confirm or provide details of internal deliberations.”

When reached by TAC on Monday, the NSC press office declined to respond to Ravid’s reporting or other reports indicating that Israel was the source of the “very credible intelligence” about Iranian threats.

Bolton’s May 5 statement warning of “unrelenting force” against Iran in response to any attack by either Iranian or “proxy” forces added a very significant new element to America’s retaliatory threats. It referred to an attack “on United States interests or on those of our allies.” That broadening of the range of scenarios that could be cited to justify a U.S. strike against Iran, which has so far been studiously ignored by major news media, represents a major concession to the Israelis and Saudi Arabia.

It also creates a new incentive for the Israelis and Saudis to provoke military responses by Hamas in Gaza or the Houthis in Yemen. And it poses the problem of incidents that could be blamed on Iran or a “proxy” but for which actual responsibility is ambiguous, such as the apparent “limpet mine” attack on oil tankers on May 12—or the rocket fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone within a mile of the U.S. embassy there Sunday night.

These deceptions are part of a dangerous game being run by Bolton in which Israel is apparently playing a crucial role. That should prompt some serious questioning as to Bolton’s claims and the role of the alleged secret U.S.-Israeli understandings.

There are already signs of resistance within the Pentagon in response to this move towards war with Iran, as reported by Newsweek late last week. “Be on the lookout for Iraq 2.0 justifications,” said one military official. “Think about the intel indicators prior to the Iraq invasion. Compare. Then get really uneasy.”


As ex-White House counsel defies subpoena, U.S. House Democrats weigh response

May 21, 2018

by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former White House Counsel Don McGahn ignored a subpoena to testify on Tuesday to a U.S. House of Representatives committee, fuelling talk among Democratic lawmakers of possible legal action against him and potential impeachment of President Donald Trump.

As part of a White House stonewalling campaign against numerous congressional investigations of the Republican president and his administration, McGahn did not appear before the House Judiciary Committee as scheduled, drawing a threat from its Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler.

“Let me be clear: this committee will hear Mr. McGahn’s testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it,” Nadler said during a roughly 30-minute hearing, with the committee’s witness chair remaining empty for the second time this month.

Attorney General William Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official and a Trump appointee, on May 2 also snubbed the committee, which later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for not handing over a full, unredacted copy of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference.

At the hearing skipped by Barr, an empty chair figured prominently and a Democratic committee member placed a ceramic chicken on the table in front of it for the cameras. The ceramic chicken did not make a repeat appearance on Tuesday.

Republicans derided Tuesday’s session as a political stunt and an abuse of the hearing process. “This is becoming a regular event. It’s called the circus of Judiciary,” the panel’s top Republican, Representative Doug Collins, said after the hearing.

Trump, seeking re-election in 2020, is refusing to cooperate with many probes into his administration, his family and his business interests. The White House on Monday told McGahn, who left his post in October, to disregard the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena.

In response, Nadler said at the hearing, “When this committee issues a subpoena, even to a senior presidential adviser, the witness must show up. Our subpoenas are not optional.”

Nadler added, “Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce this subpoena against him.”

It was not immediately clear when Democrats might pursue a contempt citation against McGahn. The rules require 48-hour notice, but many House members will be flying out of town on Thursday for the Memorial Day holiday, a logistical challenge that means any contempt vote would be unlikely before June.

Nadler called McGahn’s failure to appear part of Trump’s “broader efforts to cover up his misconduct.” Democrats have accused Trump of launching an assault on the powers given to Congress under the U.S. Constitution.

In the Mueller report, McGahn was a key witness regarding possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Career prosecutors who are not involved in the case have said the report contained strong evidence that Trump committed a crime when he pressured McGahn to fire Mueller and later urged him to lie about it.


Trump and most of his fellow Republicans in Congress dismiss the committee inquiries as political harassment ahead of the 2020 elections. But House Republican Justin Amash, a frequent Trump critic and outspoken Michigan conservative, said over the weekend that the president “has engaged in impeachable conduct.” In response, Trump called Amash “a loser.”

Any impeachment effort would begin in the House, led by the Judiciary Committee, before action in the Republican-led Senate on whether to remove Trump from office. No U.S. president has ever been removed from office through impeachment, a process spelled out in the Constitution.

Democrats have debated for months whether to initiate the process, with some lawmakers clamoring for it, but their senior leadership has counseled caution for fear of a voter backlash that could benefit Trump politically.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN on Tuesday that the case for launching the impeachment process, which would give Democrats more leverage to compel testimony and obtain documents, “gets stronger the more they stonewall the Congress.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, told MSNBC on Tuesday that Amash’s proclamation does not mean there is more pressure on the House to begin impeachment.

In a win for Democrats who favor step-by-step court action to secure testimony and documents over a risky impeachment attempt, a U.S. judge on Monday ruled against Trump in a case involving another House panel. The House Oversight Committee has subpoenaed Trump’s financial records from his long-time accounting firm Mazars LLP.

In an unusual move, lawyers for Trump and the Trump Organization, his company, last month sued to try to block the subpoena. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington ruled against Trump and denied his request for a stay pending appeal.

Early on Tuesday, Trump appealed the judge’s ruling.

The redacted, 448-page Mueller report, 22 months in the making, showed how Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor and detailed Trump’s attempts to impede Mueller’s probe.

The report found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that a criminal conspiracy between Moscow and the Trump campaign had taken place. It made no recommendation on whether Trump obstructed justice, leaving that question up to Congress.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Susan Cornwell, David Morgan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Will Dunham


Fire the Nutcases Leading Us to War

May 18, 2019

by Eric Margolis

Unz Review

President Donald Trump claimed this week that he does not want war with Iran. If he really believes this, the president ought to look into what his subordinates are doing.

Among their bellicose actions are deployment of the ‘Abraham Lincoln CVN-72’ carrier task force to the coast of Iran, massing a strike package of B-52 heavy bombers in Qatar, just across the Gulf from Iran, positioning more US warplanes around Iran, readying a massive cyber attack against Iran, and trying to stop the export of Iranian oil, upon which its economy depends.

Plus repeated attempts to overthrow the government in Tehran – something the US already did very skillfully in 1953.

If all this is not war, according to Trump, then what is? It’s war by another name. Just what the US did to Cuba, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, Nicaragua, Syria, and, since 1979, Iran. Like a shark, the US warfare state has to keep moving. So it finds threats popping up all over.

The latest alleged grave ‘threat’ to America’s security was an ancient wooden dhow. Spotted by US satellites, this decrepit old sail-powered tub was claimed by Washington war promoters, led by the enragé John Bolton, to be carrying Iranian missiles. What unbelievable rubbish.

Many moons ago, I used to oversee dhows based in Dubai smuggling expensive Western luxury goods and small gold ‘ten tola’ bars into India and Iran. They would dodge Indian and Pakistani patrol boats; if caught, ‘baksheesh’ (bribes) were paid. Some of the smuggled goods even found their way into the Soviet Union, via caravans through Afghanistan.

All this was worthy of Sinbad the Sailor and the Arabian Nights. Great fun and profitable, but hardly of any strategic consequence. But now, Washington’s war-mongers claim the dhows will threaten ‘US interests’ in the Gulf region. ‘US interests’ are, of course, whatever and wherever Washington says they are.

This is yet another charade that will be amplified by the tame US media, and gobbled up by the credulous public unsure if the Gulf is off Texas or Iran. It joins the huge lies about World War I – ‘Belgian babies spitted to German bayonets’ – Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, anthrax attacks, and Saddam’s ‘drones of death.’ Some cynics would add 9/11 and Osama bin Laden to the cast of manufactured villains.

We now know that all the reasons cited for attacking Iraq in 2003 where false. Pure lies. War propaganda. President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair led us into a war by a campaign of lies that fed off one another. Media that supported the war with false news was equally guilty.

Yet we still see, for example, the Murdoch-owned media, New York Times and Washington shamelessly promoting more war in the Mideast. US media has made little progress since the yellow journalism era of William Randolph Hearst. As the great Mark Twain said, ‘if you don’t read the daily newspapers you are uninformed. If you do read them, you are misinformed.’

Which leads us to ask the question: given all these lies, is it not time for us to begin questioning the official narrative about World War II?

Trump is playing with fire by making threats against Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Libya, Cuba, North Korea and China. He appears well on the way to a major war by either plan or accident. He is provoking and trifling with two major, nuclear-armed world military powers, Russia and China. Instead of capable diplomats, Trump keeps consorting with men of low character and even lower knowledge. It’s like the hostess who will never invite to her party another woman who is younger and more attractive.


Trump appeals ruling allowing Congress to see his financial records

May 21, 2019


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday appealed a federal judge’s ruling against his attempt to block a House of Representatives committee from seeking his financial records, according to a court filing.

Lawyers for Trump and his company filed the appeal in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia one day after a U.S. district judge backed the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena for Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm Mazars LLP.

The lower court’s decision on Monday handed an early setback for the Republican president in his legal battle with congressional Democrats as lawmakers investigate various aspects of his administration.

The House Oversight Committee has said it needs Trump’s financial records to examine whether he has conflicts of interest or broke the law by not disentangling himself from his business holdings, as previous presidents did.

Trump’s lawyers argue the panel’s demand exceeded Congress’s constitutional limits. Mazars has said it will comply with its legal obligations but has taken no sides as the case plays out in court.

A real estate developer and former reality television star, Trump still owns the Trump Organization but has said he would leave its day-to-day operations to his eldest two sons while in office. Unlike previous modern U.S. presidential candidates, he did not disclose his tax returns during his run for the White House.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis


US president tweets World War 3

May 20, 2019

by George Galloway


The global arrogance displayed by the President of the US Donald Trump was not just unbecoming of a great country like the USA, it displayed hubris on an astounding scale.

Amid an ongoing war of words between Washington and Tehran, Trump threatened that if actual fighting breaks out between the two countries, Iran will be destroyed.

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” he warned on Twitter on Sunday. “Never threaten the United States again!”

Donald J. Trump

✔  @realDonaldTrump

If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!


4:25 PM – May 19, 2019

To tweet such a threat of implied nuclear annihilation at a significant Islamic country can only increase instability in an already rocking global environment where “first use” has never been eschewed by the US which is in the process of withdrawing from the limited treaty obligations of the INF with Russia and which earlier unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

The threat to wipe Iran off the face of the earth makes no sense either.

Though he may not know it, nuclear fall-out knows no boundaries and his closest friends in the Persian Gulf would be as equally affected as would Iran’s neighbors elsewhere, making this threat one capable of unleashing uncontrollable world war.

It is an open invitation for Iran to get its retaliation in first, on the oilfields of its closest neighbors and in the Straits of Hormuz through which most of the world’s oil flows, acts which would make the US president’s threat a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It constitutes a clear and present danger to the safety of Trump’s closest international partner, Israel, surely well within the range of current Iranian military technology.

“Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in response to Trump’s threats. “Economic terrorism and genocidal taunts will not ‘end Iran’,” he added.

When one sees the panic induced by Saddam’s ancient scarcely guided Scud missiles thirty years ago, and the entirely unguided firework displays from Palestinian factions behind the fence in the Gaza Ghetto one can only imagine the results of Iranian missiles raining down on Tel Aviv.

And it underestimates too the zealotry of the Iranian leadership and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for whom death whilst fighting the “Great Satan” would be a ticket to Paradise no less.

In short, it may have been the most alarming Tweet in history – and certainly fell way out of the rules of Twitter.

It must also constitute a considerable escalation of the risks of a “false-flag” attack on the US or her friends, either perpetrated by the US themselves – like the Gulf of Tonkin which turned Vietnam into a conflagration consuming millions of lives – or by other state actors seeking to provoke the United States in to war with Iran, or indeed by non-state actors with same goal in mind. Or even by hardline factions within the Iranian state themselves.

Never forget that Hitler, using the fake news media of the day, actually claimed Poland had invaded Germany.

It is long past time for President Trump to wind his neck in and disable his Twitter account before it becomes a weapon of mass destruction.

George Galloway was a member of the British Parliament for nearly 30 years. He presents TV and radio shows (including on RT). He is a film-maker, writer and a renowned orator


Facial recognition will soon be everywhere. Are we prepared?

Some companies are already testing this new technology, but it raises questions about how surveillance can be abused

May 21, 2019

by Dylan Curran

The Guardian

Imagine this: you walk into work and the camera above the doors scans your face, opening them seamlessly without you lifting a finger. You sit down at your computer and it instantly unlocks. Oh, but you need to run to the pharmacist at lunch. You walk up to a camera, and your prescription is deposited in front of you. You go home from work, a camera blinks, and your door unlocks as your hand touches the handle. You look at your face in the mirror, and it tells you to moisturize. It’s going to be a hot day tomorrow, so it recommends you wear sun-cream. It’ll even order it for you (next-day delivery from Amazon of course). Sounds pretty good right?

Now imagine this: you walk down the street and a pair of policemen stare at you. Their body cameras flash red and they instantly pull their guns and tell you to drop to the ground, you’re under arrest. You comply and after several days in jail, they let you know you were misidentified as a violent criminal on the loose due to the 1.3% margin of error. Regardless of your innocence, you’re in the system. Now wherever you go, cameras that capture you will automatically increase the “danger score” of the area and alert police to watch out for you. Even worse, as you enter stores, the facial recognition system lets the staff know a recently arrested individual has entered the building. They stare suspiciously at you now. Doesn’t sound so good? Facial recognition already has these problems with people of color.

As fantastical as either of those scenarios might seem, it’s quite possible that this will be the future we’re headed towards. Companies have a neverending appetite to use powerful new software to make their customer’s life easier and governments persistently feel the need to misuse emerging technologies for the greater good.

The “benefits” of the technology are already being implemented by airlines, as seen by JetBlue Airways. Rather than scanning a boarding pass or handing over a passport, you simply stare into a camera and you’re verified. The Department of Homeland Security kindly provides their database of citizens’ faces to JetBlue. There’s no opt-in, your face is just handed over. This does save time and optimize processes, but it raises the question: do you have the right to your own face? Who is responsible for the protection of this information? Can I even remove my face from this database and just go the old-fashioned way? We have no idea, and it’s already in airports and being tested in law enforcement.

The downsides of the technology, however, are on full display in China. A reported 200m surveillance cameras around the country are doing everything from tracking shoppers in stores to preventing violent crime to catching jaywalkers. Virtually every citizen of China is in this massive facial database, and your whereabouts are tracked at every junction. Even more troubling, a new Chinese startup can identify citizens anywhere in mere seconds. We all know how little China respects privacy, but can we trust western countries to act any differently? As we’ve seen with the mass surveillance programs run by the NSA and the United Kingdom’s GCHQ, evidently not. In the UK, a man was even recently fined for covering his face while walking past one of these facial cameras.

We humans have the incessant need to make things smoother, better and faster. This desire has helped drive the remarkable progress we have achieved as a society. However, we’ve reached the stage where our technological leaps and bounds no longer save us hours, or even minutes – they shave only seconds from our day-to-day tasks. The costs to our privacy are no longer so clearly outweighed by the benefits this technology can provide.

It’s time to take a step back and ask some necessary questions. We need to discuss whether we actually need widespread facial recognition technology, what sensible legislation looks like and how to ensure law enforcement doesn’t abuse this technology.

If we act now, I believe we can succeed in preventing technology companies from infiltrating every aspect of our lives. If we don’t, though, I fear the worst. Will we live in a future where our location is logged in some unknown database wherever we go? Or a world where political dissidents in a dictatorship have zero chance of maintaining their anonymity. Will citizens walking the streets all around the planet glance at cameras, and nervously wonder if someone, somewhere, just watched their name flash up on a screen?

I hope not. But if we do, we will only have our own inaction and complacency to blame.


San Francisco’s facial recognition ban is just the beginning of a national battle over the technology

“Our traditional secrecy and lack of transparency has probably come back to haunt us,” the president of the National Police Foundation said.

May 20, 2019,

by Jon Schuppe

NBC News

Police say facial recognition is “essential” and “imperative” — a groundbreaking tool that allows them to track down criminals who would otherwise escape justice.

Opponents say the technology is “nefarious” and “dangerous” — an omen of repressive government surveillance.

The two sides are engaged in an escalating battle over public opinion that will reach a turning point this week, when San Francisco is expected to become the first city in the country to adopt a ban on government use of facial recognition.

Other cities in the Bay Area, including Oakland and Berkeley, along with Somerville, Massachusetts, could follow later this year. State lawmakers in Massachusetts will soon begin debating whether to enact a statewide moratorium on the technology. A bill in New York proposes a temporary stop to facial recognition in public schools, which some see as a first step toward a wider prohibition. Same with a California bill that aims to prohibit facial recognition from being linked to police body cameras.

The proposed bans have injected new momentum into a campaign by civil rights advocates, defense lawyers and artificial intelligence researchers to expose the flaws of facial recognition to lawmakers and the public. Linking the fight with a broader public backlash against the government and tech firms’ use of private data, the opponents have documented how algorithms that drive the systems are prone to misidentifying people with dark skin. Last week, researchers at Georgetown Law School released reports outlining police abuses of facial recognition and the ability of some big-city departments to use surveillance camera networks to identify people in public spaces in real time. On Wednesday, Amazon shareholders will consider proposals, pushed by activist investors, aimed at curtailing the company’s selling of its facial recognition to the government.

But law enforcement officials and the companies that develop facial recognition systems say the opponents are misinforming the public by emphasizing the technology’s shortcomings and overlooking its benefits. They are trying to counteract the critics with a stronger effort to explain why the technology can boost safety.

Hundreds of American police agencies already have access to facial recognition, with many using it to help identify suspects in routine crimes, from shootings to thefts. But very few of them talk about it openly. That has arguably allowed stories of misuse to dominate the debate.

“This is an area where our traditional secrecy and lack of transparency has probably come back to haunt us,” said Jim Burch, president of the National Police Foundation, which helps police departments adopt new technology, including facial recognition.

“The solution,” he added, “would be to better inform people and make them aware of why it should be done and how to do it in the safest and smartest ways.”

That effort is underway, said Benji Hutchinson, vice president of federal operations at NEC Corporation of America, one of the largest suppliers of facial recognition systems to law enforcement. The company has sent representatives to talk to federal lawmakers to explain how the technology works.

“There’s going to be an interesting discussion that we’re going to see play out in the next six, 12, 18 months as this technology is used in more places around the country,” Hutchinson said.Opponents of facial recognition believe they have built a model to fight the technology. It is rooted in a movement that began six years ago in Oakland, California, in response to discovery of the city’s plans to create a massive surveillance network of video cameras, gunshot detectors and license plate readers. The plan was scrapped amid a public backlash, and led to the creation of a privacy commission that backed the passage of a local law requiring the city to submit for public scrutiny any purchase of surveillance equipment. Oakland now has a pending amendment to that law that would ban the city government from using facial recognition.

The American Civil Liberties Union has since launched a campaign to pass versions of the Oakland transparency bill elsewhere. Eleven local governments, including cities in California, Ohio and Massachusetts, have done so. Many included language written by the ACLU in their measures. More than a dozen other cities are considering doing the same, the group says.

There are no pending bills in Congress to regulate the government’s use of facial recognition.


“Pre-Crime” Surveillance Cameras

Also aiding and abetting police in their efforts to track our every movement in real time is Trapwire, which allows for quick analysis of live feeds from CCTV surveillance cameras. Some of Trapwire’s confirmed users are the DC police, and police and casinos in Las Vegas. Police in New York, Los Angeles, Canada, and London are also thought to be using Trapwire.

Using Trapwire in conjunction with NGI, police and other government agents will be able to pinpoint anyone by checking the personal characteristics stored in the database against images on social media websites, feeds from the thousands of CCTV surveillance cameras installed throughout American cities (there are 3,700 CCTV cameras tracking the public in the New York subway system alone), as well as data being beamed down from the more than 30,000 surveillance drones taking to the skies within the next eight years. Given that the drones’ powerful facial recognition cameras will be capable of capturing minute details, including every mundane action performed by every person in an entire city simultaneously, soon there really will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, short of living in a cave, far removed from technology.

NGI will not only increase sharing between federal agencies, opening up the floodgates between the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Defense, but states can also get in on the action. The system was rolled out in Michigan in February 2012, with Hawaii, Maryland, South Carolina, Ohio, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Missouri on the shortlist for implementation, followed by Washington, North Carolina, and Florida in the near future.

Going far beyond the scope of those with criminal backgrounds, the NGI data includes criminals and non-criminals alike – in other words, innocent American citizens. The information is being amassed through a variety of routine procedures, with the police leading the way as prime collectors of biometrics for something as non-threatening as a simple moving violation. For example, the New York Police Department began photographing irises of suspects and arrestees in 2010, routinely telling suspects that the scans were mandatory, despite there being no law requiring defendants to have their irises scanned. Police departments across the country are now being equipped with the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, a physical iPhone add-on that allows officers patrolling the streets to scan the irises and faces of individuals and match them against government databases.

To start with, there’s the government’s integration of facial recognition software and other biometric markers into its identification data programs.

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is a $1 billion project that is aimed at dramatically expanding the government’s current ID database from a fingerprint system to a facial recognition system. NGI will use a variety of biometric data, cross-referenced against the nation’s growing network of surveillance cameras to not only track your every move but create a permanent “recognition” file on you within the government’s massive databases. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab are developing software that can read the feelings behind facial expressions. In some cases, the computers outperform people. The software could lead to empathetic devices and is being used to evaluate and develop better advertisements.

By the time it’s fully operational in 2018, NGI will serve as a vast data storehouse of “iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.” One component of NGI, the Universal Face Workstation, already contains some 13 million facial images, gleaned from “criminal mug shot photos” taken during the booking process. However, with major search engines having “accumulated face image databases that in their size dwarf the earth’s population,” the government taps into the trove of images stored on social media and photo sharing websites such as Facebook.A company known as BRS Labs has developed “pre-crime” surveillance cameras that can supposedly determine if you are a terrorist or a criminal even before you commit a crime and a Finnish firm has perfected a device that a person can carry on the street and in busineses that will “completely negate” the facial recognition surveillance methodolory. Also, the same firm has produced a device for shutting off all transmissions within a fairly large radius. Cell phones, telephone taps, “bugs” of all kinds are silenced and this also applies to the GPS surveillance in motor vehicles. When turned on, the device shuts off any and all transmissions so someone tracking a vehicle will suddenly discover that the target has entered a cone of silence. Of course such devices are not permitted to be sold or used in the United States but this does not stop their importation or use by outraged citizens.


Thanks to Facebook, Your Cellphone Company Is Watching You More Closely Than Ever

May 20, 2019

by Sam Biddle

The Intercept

Among the mega-corporations that surveil you, your cellphone carrier has always been one of the keenest monitors, in constant contact with the one small device you keep on you at almost every moment. A confidential Facebook document reviewed by The Intercept shows that the social network courts carriers, along with phone makers — some 100 different companies in 50 countries — by offering the use of even more surveillance data, pulled straight from your smartphone by Facebook itself.

Offered to select Facebook partners, the data includes not just technical information about Facebook members’ devices and use of Wi-Fi and cellular networks, but also their past locations, interests, and even their social groups. This data is sourced not just from the company’s main iOS and Android apps, but from Instagram and Messenger as well. The data has been used by Facebook partners to assess their standing against competitors, including customers lost to and won from them, but also for more controversial uses like racially targeted ads.

Some experts are particularly alarmed that Facebook has marketed the use of the information — and appears to have helped directly facilitate its use, along with other Facebook data — for the purpose of screening customers on the basis of likely creditworthiness. Such use could potentially run afoul of federal law, which tightly governs credit assessments.

Facebook said it does not provide creditworthiness services and that the data it provides to cellphone carriers and makers does not go beyond what it was already collecting for other uses.

Facebook’s cellphone partnerships are particularly worrisome because of the extensive surveillance powers already enjoyed by carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile: Just as your internet service provider is capable of watching the data that bounces between your home and the wider world, telecommunications companies have a privileged vantage point from which they can glean a great deal of information about how, when, and where you’re using your phone. AT&T, for example, states plainly in its privacy policy that it collects and stores information “about the websites you visit and the mobile applications you use on our networks.” Paired with carriers’ calling and texting oversight, that accounts for just about everything you’d do on your smartphone.

An Inside Look at “Actionable Insights”

You’d think that degree of continuous monitoring would be more than sufficient for a communications mammoth to operate its business — and perhaps for a while it was. But Facebook’s “Actionable Insights,” a corporate data-sharing program, suggests that even the incredible visibility telecoms have into your daily life isn’t enough — and Zuckerberg et al. can do them one better. Actionable Insights was announced last year in an innocuous, easy-to-miss post on Facebook’s engineering blog. The article, titled “Announcing tools to help partners improve connectivity,” strongly suggested that the program was primarily aimed at solving weak cellular data connections around the world. “To address this problem,” the post began, “we are building a diverse set of technologies, products, and partnerships designed to expand the boundaries of existing connectivity quality and performance, catalyze new market segments, and bring better access to the unconnected.” What sort of monster would stand against better access for the unconnected?

The blog post makes only a brief mention of Actionable Insights’ second, less altruistic purpose: “enabling better business decisions” through “analytics tools.” According to materials reviewed by The Intercept and a source directly familiar with the program, the real boon of Actionable Insights lies not in its ability to fix spotty connections, but to help chosen corporations use your personal data to buy more tightly targeted advertising.

The source, who discussed Actionable Insights on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak to the press, explained that Facebook has offered the service to carriers and phone makers ostensibly of free charge, with access to Actionable Insights granted as a sweetener for advertising relationships. According to the source, the underlying value of granting such gratis access to Actionable Insights in these cases isn’t simply to help better service cell customers with weak signals, but also to ensure that telecoms and phone makers keep buying  more and more carefully targeted Facebook ads. It’s exactly this sort of quasi-transactional data access that’s become a hallmark of Facebook’s business, allowing the company to plausibly deny that it ever sells your data while still leveraging it for revenue. Facebook may not be “selling” data through Actionable Insights in the most baldly literal sense of the word — there’s no briefcase filled with hard drives being swapped for one containing cash — but the relationship based on spending and monetization certainly fits the spirit of a sale. A Facebook spokesperson declined to answer whether the company charges for Actionable Insights access.

The confidential Facebook document provides an overview of Actionable Insights and espouses its benefits to potential corporate users. It shows how the program, ostensibly created to help improve underserved cellular customers, is pulling in far more data than how many bars you’re getting. According to one portion of the presentation, the Facebook mobile app harvests and packages eight different categories of information for use by over 100 different telecom companies in over 50 different countries around the world, including usage data from the phones of children as young as 13. These categories include use of video, demographics, location, use of Wi-Fi and cellular networks, personal interests, device information, and friend homophily, an academic term of art. A 2017 article on social media friendship from the Journal of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology defined “homophily” in this context as “the tendency of nodes to form relations with those who are similar to themselves.” In other words, Facebook is using your phone to not only provide behavioral data about you to cellphone carriers, but about your friends as well.

From these eight categories alone, a third party could learn an extraordinary amount about patterns of users’ daily life, and although the document claims that the data collected through the program is “aggregated and anonymized,” academic studies have found time and again that so-called anonymized user data can be easily de-anonymized. Today, such claims of anonymization and aggregation are essentially boilerplate from companies who wager you’ll be comfortable with them possessing a mammoth trove of personal observations and behavioral predictions about your past and future if the underlying data is sufficiently neutered and grouped with your neighbor’s.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept that Actionable Insights doesn’t collect any data from user devices that wasn’t already being collected anyway. Rather, this spokesperson said Actionable Insights repackages the data in novel ways useful to third-party advertisers in the telecom and smartphone industries.

Material reviewed by The Intercept show demographic information presented in a dashboard-style view, with maps showing customer locations at the county and city level. A Facebook spokesperson said they “didn’t think it goes more specific than zip code.” But armed with location data beamed straight from your phone, Facebook could technically provide customer location accurate to a range of several meters, indoors or out.

Targeting By Race and Likely Creditworthiness

Despite Facebook’s repeated assurances that user information is completely anonymized and aggregated, the Actionable Insights materials undermine this claim. One Actionable Insights case study from the overview document promotes how an unnamed North American cellular carrier had previously used its Actionable Insights access to target a specific, unnamed racial group. Facebook’s targeting of “multicultural affinity groups,” as the company formerly referred to race, was discontinued in 2017 after the targeting practice was widely criticized as potentially discriminatory.

Another case study described how Actionable Insights can be used to single out individual customers on the basis of creditworthiness. In this example, Facebook explained how one of its advertising clients, based outside the U.S., wanted to exclude individuals from future promotional offers on the basis of their credit. Using data provided through Actionable Insights, a Data Science Strategist, a role for which Facebook continues to hire, was able to generate profiles of customers with desirable and undesirable credit standings. The advertising client then used these profiles to target or exclude Facebook users who resembled these profiles.

The use of so-called lookalike audiences is common in digital advertising, allowing marketers to take a list of existing customers and let Facebook match them to users that resemble the original list based on factors like demographics and stated interests. As Facebook puts it in an online guide for advertisers, “a Lookalike Audience is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to your best existing customers.”

But these lookalike audiences aren’t just potential new customers — they can also be used to exclude unwanted customers in the future, creating a sort of ad targeting demographic blacklist.

By promoting this technique in its confidential document Facebook markets to future corporate clients, and appears to have worked with the advertising client to enable, the targeting of credit-eligible individuals based at least in part on behavioral data pulled from their phones — in other words, to allow advertisers to decide who deserves to view an ad based only on some invisible and entirely inscrutable mechanism.

There’s no indication of how exactly Facebook’s data could be used by a third party to determine who is creditworthy, nor has there ever been any indication from the company that how you use its products influences whether you’ll be singled out and excluded from certain offers in the future. Perhaps it’s as simple as Facebook enabling companies to say People with bad credit look and act like this on social networks, a case of correlational profiling quite different from our commonsense notions of good personal finance hygiene required to keep our credit scores polished. How consumers would be expected to navigate this invisible, unofficial credit-scoring process, given that they’re never informed of its existence, remains an open question.

This mechanism is also reminiscent of so-called redlining, the historical (and now illegal) practice of denying mortgages and other loans to marginalized groups on the basis of their demographics, according to Ashkan Sultani, a privacy researcher and former chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission.

The thought of seeing fewer ads from Facebook might strike some as an unalloyed good — it certainly seems to beat the alternative. But credit reporting, profoundly dull as it might sound, is an enormously sensitive practice with profound economic consequences, determining who can and can’t, say, own or rent a home, or get easy financial access to a new cellphone. Facebook here seems to be allowing companies to reach you on the basis of a sort of unofficial credit score, a gray market determination of whether you’re a good consumer based on how much you and your habits resemble a vast pool of strangers.

In an initial conversation with a Facebook spokesperson, they stated that the company does “not provide creditworthiness services, nor is that a feature of Actionable Insights.” When asked if Actionable Insights facilitates the targeting of ads on the basis of creditworthiness, the spokesperson replied, “No, there isn’t an instance where this is used.” It’s difficult to reconcile this claim with the fact that Facebook’s own promotional materials tout how Actionable Insights can enable a company to do exactly this. Asked about this apparent inconsistency between what Facebook tells advertising partners and what it told The Intercept, the company declined to discuss the matter on the record, but provided the following statement: “We do not, nor have we ever, rated people’s credit worthiness for Actionable Insights or across ads, and Facebook does not use people’s credit information in how we show ads.” Crucially, this statement doesn’t contradict the practice of Facebook enabling others to do this kind of credit-based targeting using the data it provides. The fact that Facebook promoted this use of its data as a marketing success story certainly undermines the idea that it does not serve ads targeted on the basis of credit information.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to answer whether the company condones or endorses advertising partners using Facebook user data for this purpose, or whether it audits how Actionable Insights is used by third parties, but noted its partners are only permitted to use Actionable Insights for “internal” purposes and agree not to share the data further. The spokesperson did not answer whether the company believes that this application of Actionable Insights data is compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

According to Joel Reidenberg, a professor and director of Fordham’s Center on Law and Information Policy, Facebook’s credit-screening business seems to inhabit a fuzzy nether zone with regards to the FCRA, neither matching the legal definition of a credit agency nor falling outside the activities the law was meant to regulate. “It sure smells like the prescreening provisions of the FCRA,” Reidenberg told The Intercept. “From a functional point of view, what they’re doing is filtering Facebook users on creditworthiness criteria and potentially escaping the application of the FCRA.” Reidenberg questioned the potential for Facebook to invisibly incorporate data on race, gender, or marital status in its screening process, exactly the sort of practice that made legislation like the FCRA necessary in the first place. Reidenberg explained that there are “all sorts of discrimination laws in terms of granting credit,” and that Facebook “may also be in a gray area with respect to those laws because they’re not offering credit, they’re offering an advertising space,” a distinction he described as “a very slippery slope.” An academic study published in April found that Facebook’s ad display algorithms were inherently biased with regards to gender and race.

Reidenberg also doubted whether Facebook would be exempt from regulatory scrutiny if it’s providing data to a third party that’s later indirectly used to exclude people based on their credit, rather than doing the credit score crunching itself, à la Equifax or Experian. “If Facebook is providing a consumer’s data to be used for the purposes of credit screening by the third party, Facebook would be a credit reporting agency,” Reidenberg explained. “The [FCRA] statute applies when the data ‘is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer’s eligibility for … credit.’” If Facebook is providing data about you and your friends that eventually ends up in a corporate credit screening operation, “It’s no different from Equifax providing the data to Chase to determine whether or not to issue a credit card to the consumer,” according to Reidenberg.

An FTC spokesperson declined to comment.

Chris Hoofnagle, a privacy scholar at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, told The Intercept that this sort of consumer rating scheme has worrying implications for matters far wider than whether T-Mobile et al. will sell you a discounted phone. For those concerned with their credit score, the path to virtue has always been a matter of commonsense personal finance savvy. The jump from conventional wisdom like “pay your bills on time” to completely inscrutable calculations based on Facebook’s observation of your smartphone usage and “friend homophily” isn’t exactly intuitive. “We’re going to move to a world where you won’t know how to act,” said Hoofnagle. “If we think about the world as rational consumers engaged in utility maximalization in the world, what we’re up against is this, this shadow system. How do you compete?”


Encyclopedia of American Loons

 Luke Rudkowski

Chuck Rudd is very silly, but too minor even for us to be bothered with. Luke Rudkowski, on the other hand, has at least made a bit of a splash among paranoid wingnut groups. Rudkowski is a wingnut “investigative journalist” and activist, conspiracy theorist and founder of “We Are Change”, a media organization consisting of various individuals and groups working to “expose worldwide corruption and hold authoritative figures to account for their actions and crimes in which their involvement has been covered up or hidden from public knowledge;” a worthy goal, and some of Rudkowski’s work is actually not without merit, were it not overwhelmed by the inane conspiracy theories that characterize most of his stuff. What Rudkowski really has done is, as the SPLC describes it, to harness “the energy of 9/11 ‘truthers’ to form an army of activists seeking to expose ‘the lies of the government and corporate elite who remain suspect in this crime’.” The group has, admittedly, achieved a certain level of notoriety.

Rudkowski’s message is usually conveyed through interviews with random people where he tests their knowledge of the New World Order, Federal Reserve, and 9/11 conspiracies, to ridicule them when they are unaware of his misrepresentations and imaginary connections. He has also confronted a number of more powerful figures, including Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller, about their alleged plans to bring about a “one world socialist government” and depopulation. When his targets avoid him, Rudkowksi promptly and predictably takes it as evidence that his conspiracy theories are correct and that his targets are involved. So it goes.

We Are Change primarily promotes right-libertarian values along with their New World Order and 9/11 conspiracy theories, and ridiculing of the sheeple, but the organization also seeks “to uncover the truth behind the private banking cartel of the military industrial complex” that wants to “eliminate national sovereignty,” such as the Trilateral Commission. Rudkowski himself interrupted a lecture by former Trilateral Commission director Zbigniew Brzezinski in 2007 to accuse the organization of co-orchestrating the 9/11 attacks to initiate a new world order. Rudkowski and We Are Change also travel every year to protest at the annual “Illuminati meetings” of the Bohemian Grove and Bilderberg Group, and it was We Are Change member Matthew Mills who interrupted the MVP interview held at the 2014 NFL SuperBowl to urge the crowd to “investigate 9/11”, claiming that the attacks were perpetrated by the US government. The group was influential in promoting Ron Paul in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

Rudkowski himself is of course also a climate change denier, believing that the idea of anthropogenic global warming is a ploy used to promote a one-world government (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/One_world_government) and eugenics.

Rudkowski was also one of the conspiracy theorists prominently featured in the documentary New World Order.

Diagnosis: Zealous and paranoid, and unlike most of the people sharing his delusions, Rudkowski actually wields some influence, tapping as he does into a rich vein of American paranoia, anger and critical-thinking-skill shortcomings.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

May 21, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.


Conversation No. 49

Date: Thursday, November 28, 1996

Commenced: 8:45 AM CST

Concluded: 9:22 AM CST


RTC: How are you today, Gregory?

GD: Been up since six working on the next Mueller book. Working on the concentration camp business.

RTC: A sensitive and profitable subject. For the same people. My God, what a money-maker that one is!

GD: Tell me about it. An established writer like Irving could never approach it. If he did, the Jews would go for his throat. Or his back more like it. Did you have many dealings with them?

RTC: As individuals or as professional agents?

GD: Either.

RTC: I have to tell you, Gregory, that I do not like Jews very much and I do not trust any of them. I know a few as individuals and some as agents. Jim loved them and spent half his time sucking up to the Mossad creeps. It bothered me because they were using him, but Jim loved flattery and ate it up. I don’t and I’m an Irish Catholic boy from Chicago. Jim was part Mexican and maybe that was part of it. Anyway, with Jews, it’s take, take and never give. You can’t trust any of them to the corner for a pound of soft soap.

GD: I don’t get involved but I have had bad experiences with them. Always watch your back around them has been my experience.

RTC: I have a report for you made for the UN in ’48 listing all their crimes against the Palestinian. The abused child becomes the abusing parent. My God, those filthy Polacks did terrible, vicious things to the Arabs. Murdered them, poisoned their farm wells, killed their animals and finally slaughtered whole villages of them, women and children. The Jews claim they own the Holy Land but these are Polack Jews and had nothing to do with Palestine. The Russian Jews are the same breed and Stalin, who really hated Jews, used them to butcher Russian Christians whom they hated. And then Josef planned to kill off all the Jews in Moscow.

GD: What about that?

RTC: Round them all up, put them in boxcars and ship them off to Siberia in mid-winter. He planned to slaughter all of them. And after all the filthy work they did for him, too! An ungrateful but realistic man.

GD: Why was this turn-about? He loved Jews, didn’t he?

RTC: No, he did not. Josef was far-sighted and knew, and said, that Jews had no loyalty to anyone except themselves. They hate all other people and feel that anything they do to them is justified. They claim centuries of persecution as their excuse.

GD: Yes, isn’t it odd that over thousands of years, everyone has persecuted the poor Jews. One wonders why.

RTC: Why? They burrow into the machinery of the state and the banking system and eventually take it over. And then, always, the locals get after them and either set them on fire or drive them out of their area or country. This has been going on for many centuries. One could say that the Jews of the world have been very unlucky or people know what they’re doing when they pile up wood for the burning pyres or set up camps.

GD: The stories about gassed millions is hysterically funny. Puts me in mind of the stories about the Easter Bunny or the Second Coming. Useful lies for children on one hand and a means to get money out of the suckers who actually believe the silliness about the Rapture, the Battle of Armageddon and other idiotic legends. Barnum was right.

RTC: Yes, he was. And I once looked into the camp story just because I could. There is much on this issue at the National Archives but most people can’t see it.

GD: Why not?

RTC: The Jews don’t want you see this. It would destroy the myth of vast gas chambers and soap factories. My God, Gregory, the Jews make vast sums of money off these made-up stories. I can just hear some raddled Jewess moaning in a furniture store about how her whole family was gassed and can she get 50% off on that chair? Oh yes, I know all about such creatures. And now, the Mossad wants us to hunt down people they don’t like, or send them confidential files on people they want to blackmail. They robbed and murdered the Arabs, so they have to hate them to justify their filthy behavior. The Arabs outnumber them 20 to 1 but the Israelis have us behind them so they literally can get away with murder. And how do they have our support? By working their way into the system, by owning most of the media, by bribery and blackmail, by political pressure. I could go on for days but I just ate breakfast and I don’t want to vomit onto my lap.

GD: I knew the Polish Jews in Munich after the war. Jesus H. Christ, Robert, I have never seen such really terrible people in my life. They were all up on the Muehl Strasse and going there to buy cheap butter for my friends was quite an experience. It was like tiptoeing into a den of circling hyenas. I was always neutral as far as Jews were concerned, but my experiences there radically altered my views. They were DPs. Displaced Persons. Couldn’t go back to Poland where the locals would have shoved them into barns and set them on fire. The Germans got blamed for much of that, but it was the local Poles who snuffed all the Jews in the neighborhood once their central government fell apart in ’39. A friend of mine was a Major in the thirty seventh infantry and he said the Poles would round up all the Jews and barbecue them. Said some of the villages smelt like a badly-vented crematorium. And of course they got the blame for it. Well, they lost so they can expect this. I once bought a German steel helmet at a flea market in Germany and I was carrying it down the street under my arm and some old hag came up behind me, screeching like a wet pea hen. There was no one around so I bashed her on the head with the pot until she shut up. Had to wash the helmet off later. It looked like pink oatmeal on part of it.

RTC: Bravo. I suppose she was dead, Gregory?

GD: I didn’t stop to examine her but she had certainly shut up.

RTC: I suppose she was a Jew.

GD: I didn’t care who she was. She could have been anyone and I would have shut her up regardless.

RTC: You are certainly not a nice person at times.

GD: Oh, I love that, Robert. If I were in your house for dinner, I assure you my manners would be impeccable. But we digress. Can we find out more about that business you people had with the French getting us into Vietnam?

ERTC: I wrote on that, Gregory. I ought to send you my manuscript some day. I can’t publish it because I signed a pledge to never publish without permission and I am sure it would never be given. I know all about that slaughterhouse, believe me. A nation steeped in blood. Terrible business. Wars for nothing and when Kennedy tried to get out, that was one of the reasons he got killed. Too much money to be made in a war. It ruined Johnson. No chance of getting reelected. McNamara thought he could apply business norms to a military business and he went as well. Probably be made the head of a think tank. My God, what a misnomer. ‘Think tank’ my ass. Bunch of loud-mouthed idiots running around babbling as if anyone cared what they thought about unimportant things. “I think…” is one of the worst openings for any kind of a conversation. Run into these congenital assholes at any Beltway social function and especially in the CIA circles. I say, who gives a damn what you think?

GD: I’ve been to Beltway functions, Robert. My God, if we could somehow trap all the hot air these methane monsters create, we could heat New York for ten years. Don’t light any matches and breathe very shortly but the gas is tremendous. “I think…?” I doubt it. Most of these self-important cow anuses should join hands and jump off the Key Bridge in the middle of winter. Right through the ice and then blessed silence. Downriver, however, all the marine life dies a terrible death.

RTC: (Laughter) Ah, well, it won’t happen. One day a Jew will sit in the Oval Office and on that day, we will drop atom bombs on anyone Tel Aviv doesn’t like.

GD: Where is Genghis Kahn now that we need him?

RTC: Lee Harvey Oswald would be more to the point.


(Concluded at 9:22 Am CST)




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