TBR News October 13, 2017

Oct 13 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., October 13, 2017:” “Following the collapse of hundreds of telecommunications-related .com scams, millions of computer users discovered that they could get on the Internet through their connections and therefore did not need that second, or third, telephone line they had leased.

When many millions of such customers bailed out, the losses to certain telephone companies was astronomical but instead of padding their books with the connivance of crooked auditing companies, they found a much easier solution: they tripled the long distance rates of their customers.

It didn’t matter if the customer used another company for their long distance service, the rapacious ones merely tripled or quadrupled the fees normally charged by the long distance carrier, and certainly without its permission. This has resulted in tens of thousands of swindled subscribers changing their local carriers to reputable firms such as AT&T.

With the loss of so many more customers, what will the telebandits do next? No doubt add more fake“Federal Access Taxes” or “Special Handicapped Access Fees” to their already-bloated bills.

This works the same way the insurance rip-offs make up for more outgoing money than they budgeted for: they pass their losses on to everyone else.”

Table of Contents

  • Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics
  • Mass hysteria may explain ‘sonic attacks’ in Cuba, say top neurologists
  • ‘We Need to Develop Political Heroism’
  • What is the Shroud of Turin?


Leaked ICE Guide Offers Unprecedented View of Agency’s Asset Forfeiture Tactics

October 13 2017

by Ryan Devereaux and Spencer Woodman

The Intercept

An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.

HSI’s 71-page “Asset Forfeiture Handbook,” dated June 30, 2010, underscores the role seizures play in “helping to fund future law enforcement actions” and covering costs “that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.” It thus offers an unprecedented window into ICE’s wide-ranging asset forfeiture operations and the premium the agency places on seizing valuable property. Forfeiture proceeds can bolster ICE’s partnerships with local police departments, which are now the subject of heightened debate given the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.

ICE confirmed to The Intercept that the handbook reflects the agency’s most up-to-date guidance on asset forfeiture. Agents under its instruction are asked to weigh the competing priorities of law enforcement versus financial profit and to “not waste instigative time and resources” on assets it calls “liabilities” — which include properties that are not profitable enough for the federal government to justify seizing. “As a general rule, if total liabilities and costs incurred in seizing a real property or business exceed the value of the property, the property should not be seized,” the document states.

The handbook also instructs ICE agents on the various ways laws can be used to justify the seizure of a property, and devotes a significant portion of its pages to the seizure of real estate. The manual instructs agents seeking to seize a property to work with confidential informants, scour tax records, and even obtain an interception warrant to determine whether “a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity” in order to justify seizing the property.

The handbook acknowledges that civil forfeiture can be used to take property from a person even when there’s not enough evidence for a criminal indictment. There “may be third party interest that would prevail in a criminal case, but would not survive in a civil proceeding, making the civil proceeding essential to forfeiture,” the handbook states, referencing a property owner not officially implicated in a crime. “Those situations generally occur when a property owner is not convicted of a crime but is also not an innocent owner. Under criminal forfeiture, that property owner would be entitled to the return of the property. Under civil forfeiture, however, the owner would lose his or her interest to the Government.”

Noting that ICE is not alone among federal agencies in relying on asset forfeiture, ICE spokesperson Danielle Bennett told The Intercept in a statement, “Asset forfeiture is an essential element of comprehensive and effective law enforcement as it deprives transnational criminal organizations of their illicitly obtained assets. The forfeiture of assets can be and is utilized as a sanction in criminal, civil, and administrative investigative activities.”

The Department of Homeland Security has seized billions of dollars in assets over the last decade, with the bulk of the revenue coming from investigations overseen by ICE. While the agency is best known for its role in immigration enforcement — carried out chiefly by officers in its Enforcement and Removal Operations division — its lesser-known HSI component has a much broader mandate, enforcing more than 400 criminal statutes with a nexus between cross-border crime and transnational criminal organizations, including human trafficking and smuggling, child pornography, terrorism, counterfeit goods, and drug smuggling. With more than 6,000 agents working in 185 field offices across the country and 63 locations overseas, HSI has the second-largest number of federal agents on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces and has played a key role in numerous high-stakes investigations over the years. To fulfill its missions, which often involve undercover infiltrations, multi-year probes, and occasionally multimillion-dollar seizures, HSI agents have access to powerful intelligence and data systems that link federal law enforcement to the CIA and the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

Despite its size and the sweeping scope of its work, HSI has managed to maintain a low profile in comparison to some of its federal counterparts. With the Trump White House turning virtually every undocumented immigrant in the country into a target for deportation, ICE’s role in law enforcement has become a topic of intense public debate and increasingly pulled HSI out of the shadows. The handbook obtained by The Intercept now offers a unique window into a key component of the agency’s quiet investigations.

Every year, DHS seizes millions of dollars in assets through the course of investigations — everything from cash and houses, to boats and cars. Those assets are directed into a forfeiture fund maintained by the Treasury Department. The revenue from the assets is then used to cover a range of costs related to forfeiture investigations, from storing actual seized items to paying informants. Under a program known as equitable sharing, the revenue is also used to award and reimburse state and local law enforcement agencies that participate in federal seizure-related investigations, which those agencies then use to purchase equipment, weapons, and other law enforcement technology.

Though multiple DHS agencies contribute to the Treasury forfeiture fund — such as Customs and Border Protection and the Secret Service — ICE leads the way both in seizures feeding into the fund and in payments doled out to state and local law enforcement. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, from 2003 to 2013, DHS poured roughly $3.6 billion into the Treasury’s forfeiture fund. From 2007 on, the report found, ICE was “consistently” responsible for “approximately 50 percent or more of total forfeiture revenues by DHS components.” Over the 2003 to 2013 period, the GAO noted, “equitable sharing payments constituted the largest” obligation in the Treasury’s forfeiture fund, with approximately $1.2 billion paid out to “a range of state and local law enforcement agencies across the country — as well as other federal agencies and foreign entities — that participated in law enforcement efforts resulting in forfeitures.”

“Among the three DHS components making equitable sharing payments, ICE made up over 90 percent of total DHS obligations for equitable sharing payments,” the report added. “State and local agencies accounted for the majority of sharing recipients, and accounted for an average of 96 percent of total obligations for equitable sharing payments from fiscal years 2010 through 2012.” State and local law enforcement officials who spoke to the government accountability researchers said the arrangement had “improved the relationship between federal agencies and their offices,” with officials adding that the “funds are needed by their agencies and have allowed them to purchase equipment such as bulletproof vests, weapons, mobile computers, and police station security cameras.”

Robert Don Gifford, who spent more than a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney at the Justice Department before leaving for private practice last December, told The Intercept that the handbook’s discussion of using civil forfeiture when a criminal indictment isn’t possible appears to nod to a problematic practice of seizing assets largely for the sake of financial gain, although he said he did not see this practice occur on the part of any federal agency he has worked with. A notable portion of HSI cases that Gifford saw targeted small-scale sellers of counterfeit goods. Agents hoped these busts would lead them to larger counterfeiting operations — “not exactly the stuff of Al Capone,” Gifford said.

“I had one case where they wanted to do all these forfeitures, and I said absolutely not,” Gifford recalled. “I said I’d support it as long as it was not a retired mom and pop running a little flea market table on the weekend,” Gifford said. “But that was exactly who they were going after.”

In recent years, asset forfeiture practices have come under increasing scrutiny for allegedly introducing the profit motive into the calculations of which laws to enforce and against whom.

The handbook describes a carefully cultivated network of asset forfeiture specialists within ICE, who are placed in each of HSI’s field offices across the country. These specialists are known as Asset Identification and Removal Group members and are tasked with identifying and appraising assets to seize during HSI investigations.

Stipulating that each AIRG agent must have at least three years of investigative experience, the handbook describes AIRGs as “separate, specialized groups, dedicated solely to asset forfeiture responsibilities, and not commingled with other groups or burdened with excessive collateral duties.” ICE trains its AIRG specialists to meticulously input data about assets that ICE has either seized or is considering for seizure into an interoffice asset forfeiture database, known as the Seized Assets and Case Tracking System, or SEACATS. The asset forfeiture agents also plug their forfeiture numbers into a sprawling DHS database called TECS, which allows the agency to evaluate the performance of asset officers and assign scores for their cases.

“Individual AIRGs are evaluated by the quantity and the quality of their cases. TECS quantifies the number of investigations opened by each individual AIRG via the unique project codes,” the handbook states. “This is important because it allows all case participants to retrieve statistical credit for the overall results of their cases. SEACATS quantifies the number of seizures made by the AIRGs, as well as their values.”

Much of the handbook is devoted to describing the process of seizing real estate — homes, farms, and businesses — and it is in these pages that the dual priorities of financial gain and law enforcement objectives become most apparent. While the handbook contains little discussion on how to utilize asset forfeiture to maximize crime-fighting outcomes, there is extensive discussion of how agents should painstakingly determine whether a property is valuable enough to make seizure worthwhile.

In listing the six essential considerations for seizure of real estate, ICE instructs agents to focus on assessing the property’s value. “Determining whether or not to take a real property requires information from various sources,” reads the handbook. “Factors that AIRG [special agents] should consider from the outset are: (1) the assessed value, (2) known liens, (3) the probable equity, (4) possible environmental problems, (5) the existence of sufficient probable cause for seizure, and (6) the ability to overcome possible defenses to the forfeiture.”

In a subsequent passage, the handbook notes that, in certain situations, law enforcement considerations can in fact supersede the motive of financial gain. “If there is not enough net equity to justify seizure and forfeiture, is there an overriding law enforcement reason to justify the seizure (e.g., a vehicle with a smuggling compartment, a firearm in the possession of a felon)?” the document asks. “In these cases, the value of the item may be of secondary importance.”

More than a dozen pages of the document describe an important — if perhaps surprising — role of AIRG agents: as real estate appraisers. Using the example of “houses used to store narcotics or harbor illegal aliens,” the manual walks agents through a comprehensive process of assessing homes and landed properties to determine the financial appeal to ICE of acquiring such real estate.

The manual instructs agents to perform drive-by viewings of property, as well as “post-and-walk” viewings — a measure ICE calls “potentially one of the most important steps in the seizure/forfeiture process.” In the case of post-and-walk viewings, ICE agents obtain a warrant allowing them to search a property’s premises, and are instructed to bring along a private real estate expert to help appraise the property’s value and record “all items that may be of concern or may deter the Government from pursuing forfeiture of the property.” In certain circumstances, ICE agents are instructed to order an environmental examination by the Environmental Protection Agency to check for potential liabilities related to contaminants.

The handbook also instructs agents to use publicly available commercial databases to research the sales history and local market conditions, as well as any liens against the property, the values of which agents are asked to confirm by pulling government records. The manual stresses that once a property is seized, AIRG agents should shepherd seized homes through the process to ensure the highest financial returns for the federal government. “The deteriorating value of any item seized, commensurate with its associated storage and disposal fees, should be a primary concern of all parties involved,” the document states. “The quicker and more efficient the forfeiture process, the less money the seizure will cost the Government.”

From July 2005 to April 2015, Eric Hampl served as director of the Treasury’s Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture, overseeing the billions of dollars in law enforcement funding generated though seizures by ICE and other DHS agencies. During that time, Hampl said, DHS seizures generally subscribed to an “80/20 rule,” meaning “80 percent of the transactions bring in 20 percent of the revenue and 20 percent of the transactions bring in 80 percent of the revenue.” In other words, a handful of major HSI-led joint investigations — such as a 2013 investigation by HSI’s El Dorado Task Force, which targeted HSBC’s role in drug-cartel money laundering and netted an $881 million seizure — contribute significantly to the fund’s overall total each year.

When it comes to equitable sharing and the distribution of seizure revenue to state and local law enforcement, Hampl told The Intercept, the results can be unpredictable, often having less to do with the size and resources of a given HSI office than the competency of the local investigators assigned to the case. “You could easily have an investigation that forfeits a million dollars that two guys worked on,” he explained. Hampl acknowledged that there is a real problem in law enforcement of police using their authority to turn a profit — he pointed to exploitative municipal police practices in St. Louis County, exposed in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing, as one example — but said he saw none of that in the context of HSI’s higher-earning investigations. “The cases that result in large forfeitures, they take years to investigate,” Hampl said. “And then after the investigation is done, the legal stuff can take years. So it’s not like agents are really in control of the outcome.”

Hampl predicted the national immigration debate would be unlikely to impact HSI’s equitable sharing agreements with state and local law enforcement. “You could have a community that has lots of law enforcement problems, lots of interactions over the immigration and deportation issues under this administration, but is it going to affect what they get as far as equitable sharing?” he asked. “Probably not.”


Mass hysteria may explain ‘sonic attacks’ in Cuba, say top neurologists

Despite 22 Americans reporting symptoms no evidence of a weapon found

Experts suspect a psychosomatic disorder linked to high stress in Havana

October 12, 2017

by Julian Borger and Philip Jaekl

The Guardian

Senior neurologists have suggested that a spate of mysterious ailments among US diplomats in Cuba – which has caused a diplomat rift between the two countries – could have been caused by a form of “mass hysteria” rather than sonic attacks.

The unexplained incidents have prompted the US to withdraw most of its embassy staff from Havana and expel the majority of Cuban diplomats from Washington.

The neurologists who talked to the Guardian cautioned that no proper diagnosis is possible without far more information and access to the 22 US victims, who have suffered a range of symptoms including hearing loss, tinnitus, headaches and dizziness.

The state department has described the incidents as “attacks”, saying they began at the end of last year with the last recorded incident in August.

But US and Cuban investigations have produced no evidence of any weapon, and the neurologists argue that the possibility of “functional disorder” due to a problem in the functioning of nervous system – rather than a disease – should be considered.

From an objective point of view it’s more like mass hysteria than anything else,” said Mark Hallett, the head of the human motor control section of the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“Mass hysteria” is the popular term for outbreaks among groups of people which are partly or wholly psychosomatic, but Hallett stressed there should be no blame attached to them.

“Psychosomatic disease is a disease like anything else. It shouldn’t be stigmatised,” said Hallett, who is also president of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology. “It’s important to point out that symptoms like this are not voluntary. They are not a sign of weakness in an individual’s personality.”

Hallett said it was more common for such disorders to affect smaller groups of people, often in families, but he added that it was feasible for larger numbers of individuals to be affected, especially when they were working closely together in a tense and hostile environment.

“There are a very large number of individuals that have relatively vague complaints as far as I can see,” Hallett said. “There has been an exploration of possible causes for this and nothing has been found and the notion of some sonic beam is relatively nonsensical.

“If it is mass hysteria that would clarify all the mystery – and presumably normalise US-Cuban relations again,” said Hallett. “These people are all clustered together in a somewhat anxious environment and that is exactly the situation that precipitates something like this. Anxiety may be one of the critical factors.”

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that it had been provided audio tapes of high-pitched whining noises which some US embassy workers said they heard in Havana, but it is unclear whether the sounds were linked to the health complaints. The report noted that not all the Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds, and of those who did, it is not unclear if they heard the same thing.

Alan Carson, a consultant neuropsychiatrist and former president of the British Neuropsychiatry Association told the Guardian: “Typically what one gets in a functional disorder is some trigger. It is often relatively mild and non-specific, it can be a minor physical injury. But then a combination of a degree of anxiety and also belief and expectation distort that feeling.”

“If there is a strong enough expectation that something is going to happen, that will distort in an entirely real way the incoming information,” Carson said. “In certain circumstances that can be transmitted from person to person… If one person has that experience strongly enough and sets off that train of thought in somebody’s else’s mind, that can happen too.”

Many acoustics experts have said that it is highly unlikely that the range of symptoms reported could have been caused by any kind of sonic weapons.

Another theory was that the health complaints were caused by a surveillance operation that had gone wrong – but that has also met with scepticism from experts and a dearth of evidence.

The US has not directly blamed the Cuban government but said Havana had failed in its obligation to protect foreign diplomats on its territory. The Cuban government has denied conducting any form of attack and has offered its cooperation in discovering the cause of the symptoms.

“I don’t think the Cuban government is behind it,” said Ben Rhodes, Barack Obama’s foreign policy adviser, who was involved in negotiating the previous administration’s rapprochement with Havana.

“First, these things apparently started in December … At the same time the attacks were starting the Cuban government was frantically concluding agreements with us, signing business deals … in other words trying to preserve the relationship. So the notion that at the same time as doing that, they would initiate something that is so obviously designed to blow up the relationship doesn’t make any sense.”

Asked about the possibility of functional disorders, a state department spokesperson said: “We have no definitive answers on the cause or the source of the attacks on US diplomats in Cuba, and an aggressive investigation continues. We do not want to get ahead of that investigation.”

Donald Trump has struck a markedly more hostile tone towards Cuba than his predecessor, and in June announced a partial rollback of Obama’s rapprochement, tightening travel and trade rules with the island.

Jon Stone, a University of Edinburgh neurologist and the co-editor of a book on functional neurologic disorders, said that such disorders were very common, and the second commonest reason to see a neurologist.

“There is a misconception that only people who are weak-willed, people who are neurotic, get these symptoms. It isn’t true,” Stone said. “We are talking about genuine symptoms that people have of dizziness, of headaches, of hearing problems, which they are not faking.”

He added that the outbreak could have started with one or two people falling ill with headaches or hearing problems, and those spread in a high-stress atmosphere and then amid talk of a “sonic attack”.

“None of this makes sense until you consider the psychogenic explanation,” said Robert Bartholomew, a medical sociologist and the author of series of books on outbreaks of mass hysteria.

“American intelligence agencies are the most sophisticated in the world, and they reportedly don’t have a clue as to what’s causing the symptoms. I will bet my house that there are agents in the intelligence community who have also concluded that this is a psychogenic event – but their analysis is either being repressed or ignored by the Trump administration because it doesn’t fit their narrative. Mass psychogenic illness is by far the most plausible explanation.”


‘We Need to Develop Political Heroism’

In a DER SPIEGEL interview, French President Emmanuel Macron talks about his first months in office, elaborates on his plans for Europe and discusses his developing relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

October 13, 2017

Interview Conducted by Klaus Brinkbäumer, Julia Amalia Heyer and Britta Sandberg in Paris


DER SPIEGEL: Mr. President, since entering office in May, you have made significant waves around the world. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who you read during your university studies, once described Napoleon Bonaparte as “the Weltgeist (“world spirit”) on horseback.” Do you believe that a single person can, in fact, steer history?

Macron: No. Hegel viewed the “great men” as instruments of something far greater. It should be said that in referring to him in that way, he wasn’t being particularly nice to Napoleon, because he of course knows that history can always outflank you, that it is always larger than the individual. Hegel believes that an individual can indeed embody the zeitgeist for a moment, but also that the individual isn’t always clear they are doing so.

DER SPIEGEL: How must a president, a politician, behave to move things forward and to change history?

Macron: Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to do great things alone or through individual actions. On the contrary, I think it is only possible to know what to do in a specific moment once you have understood the zeitgeist, and it is only possible to move things forward if you have a sense of responsibility. And that is exactly the goal I have set for myself: to try to encourage France and the French people to change and develop further. But that can only be done as a collective, with one another. You have to bundle the strength of those who want to take that step. The same is true for Europe.

(The president’s dog wanders in.)

Macron: Nemo, sit!

DER SPIEGEL: Nemo … did you name him that?

Macron: Yes. He was abandoned as a puppy and spent a year in an animal shelter. I had decided that I wanted a dog from an animal shelter. Normally, presidents have purebred dogs, but he is a Labrador-griffon mix. Absolutely adorable. Quite a stroke of fortune, isn’t it? From the animal shelter to the Élysée Palace. I quite like the idea, even if he has little idea where he has ended up.

DER SPIEGEL: You have lived for the last five months here in the Élysée, an almost mythical place. Do you feel that you have changed at all? Infallibility? Megalomania?

Macron: I try to follow certain rules. Nothing here should become habitual, because routine lends one a deceptive feeling of security. You begin not noticing certain things and lose your focus on what’s important. Uncertainty and change keep you attentive. This place and, to a certain extent, my office, help me avoid developing habits. The function of president in France is one of significant symbolic value; it can’t be compared with that of prime minister or cabinet member. Everything you do, everything you say – but also what you don’t say – suddenly has meaning. That might sound quite formidable or even stressful, but I think it is a product of the history of this role.

DER SPIEGEL: What’s it like to live here?

Macron: It is a place laden with history. The emperors spent time here, Napoleon I and Napoleon III. In the Fourth Republic, it was the palace of a president without powers. Only in the Fifth Republic did Charles de Gaulle move back in. It is a place where power has left its mark – over the course of centuries, ever since the revolution. You just sort of become part of it and continue the history. But, of course, there is a sense of gravitas.

DER SPIEGEL: That sounds a bit suffocating.

Macron: No, because you can leave this place when you want to. I go out and I say and do what I want – even if people may find that shocking. One could, of course, decide to be suffocated by all the pomp here. But if you decide to resist it, then you won’t be suffocated.

DER SPIEGEL: It seems your predecessors weren’t always particularly successful in that effort.

Macron: What is clear is that being president is the end of innocence for you as an individual. Nothing is innocent anymore when you are president. And that changes your life dramatically. Normally, everyone can afford the luxury of doing things that make no sense. They do things, no matter what it is, and nobody cares. But when you are president, everything is significant, at least for the others. Everything is important and could even have profound consequences. That is sometimes troubling, yes. But it isn’t overwhelming.

DER SPIEGEL: Do you think that Angela Merkel feels the same way?

Macron: Germany is different from France. You are more Protestant, which results in a significant difference. Through the church, through Catholicism, French society was structured vertically, from top to bottom. I am convinced that it has remained so until today. That might sound shocking to some – and don’t worry, I don’t see myself as a king. But whether you like it or not, France’s history is unique in Europe. Not to put too fine a point on it, France is a country of regicidal monarchists. It is a paradox: The French want to elect a king, but they would like to be able to overthrow him whenever they want. The office of president is not a normal office – that is something one should understand when one occupies it. You have to be prepared to be disparaged, insulted and mocked – that is in the French nature. And: As president, you cannot have a desire to be loved. Which is, of course, difficult because everybody wants to be loved. But in the end, that’s not important. What is important is serving the country and moving it forward.

DER SPIEGEL: Often, things work quite a bit different in practice than in theory, even for those who have thought through every step.

Macron: That is true. You can anticipate and plan everything, but when you actually experience it, it’s different. For me, my office isn’t first and foremost a political or technical one. Rather, it is symbolic. I am a strong believer that modern political life must rediscover a sense for symbolism. We need to develop a kind of political heroism. I don’t mean that I want to play the hero. But we need to be amenable once again to creating grand narratives. If you like, post-modernism was the worst thing that could have happened to our democracy. The idea that you have to deconstruct and destroy all grand narratives is not a good one. Since then, trust has evaporated in everything and everyone. I am sometimes surprised that it is the media that are the first ones to exhibit a lack of trust in grand narratives. They believe that destroying something is part of their journalistic purpose because something grand must inevitably contain an element of evil. Critique is necessary, but where does this hate for the so-called grand narrative come from?

DER SPIEGEL: Why is this narrative so important?

Macron: I think we need it badly! Why is a portion of our youth so fascinated by extremes, jihadism for example? Why do modern democracies refuse to allow their citizens to dream? Why can’t there be such a thing as democratic heroism? Perhaps exactly that is our task: rediscovering something like that together for the 21st century.

DER SPIEGEL: You have been increasingly criticized in France due to your aloofness. You have been accused of arrogance and hubris.

Macron: Who is leveling those accusations? The press.

DER SPIEGEL: Not just the press.

Macron: Have you ever heard someone on the street say: “He is aloof?”


Macron: I am not aloof. When I travel through the country, when I visit a factory, my staff tells me after three hours that I am ruining the schedule. When I am with French people, I am not aloof because I belong to them. My view is that the French president belongs to the French people, because he emanates from them. What I do is this: I am putting an end to the cronyism between politics and the media. For a president, constantly speaking to journalists, constantly being surrounded by journalists, has nothing to do with closeness to the people. A president should keep the media at arm’s length.

DER SPIEGEL: You recently held a celebrated speech at the Sorbonne about Europe in which you said you would like to “rebuild” Europe.

Macron: Regarding the speech, I am quite modest about it. There has always been extensive talk about Europe. My initiative contains some new elements, but I also revisited ideas that have been around for a while and been proposed by others.

DER SPIEGEL: Modesty has thus far not been one of you most noticeable qualities.

Macron: What’s new is this: Since 2005, when the French and the Dutch voted “no” on a constitution for Europe, nobody has developed a real project for the EU. And certainly not France. If there were ideas, they came from Wolfgang Schäuble or Joschka Fischer, and these German ideas were downright quashed by France. I want to put an end to that. Perhaps I am following in the footsteps of Mitterrand, who really did want to shape Europe. My predecessors, by contrast, thought it was best to say nothing at all and to keep all their options open. That may sound like a tactical approach, but perhaps it was simply because they didn’t have any ideas for Europe at all.

DER SPIEGEL: You have proposed the establishment of new institutions and the simplification of procedures. But isn’t Europe’s problem more that everyone seems intent on pursuing their own interests?

Macron: What I am proposing is to start a new chapter in Europe. To begin this adventure anew, and differently, if you’d like. The institutions as such aren’t particularly important to me – and I think most people feel the same. The problem is that debates over Europe have become disputes between experts and lawyers. Yet Europe was initially supposed to be primarily a political project! The EU never would have come about had it been up to experts or diplomats. It was created by people who had learned from the drama of our collective history. I am proposing a new beginning, not one in which it is first deliberated ad infinitum what instruments one needs, but one that follows from the goals we want to achieve. What do we want? What should our Europe look like? I want to renew the European dream and reawaken ambitions for it.

DER SPIEGEL: What does the Europe you dream of look like?

Macron: For me, Europe consists of three things: sovereignty, unity and democracy. If we keep our eyes on these goals and work toward them together then – and only then – can we fulfill our promise: the guarantee of lasting peace, prosperity and freedom. Let’s put an end to this European civil war, the existence of which we don’t want to admit, and stop constantly looking at whether we are better than our neighboring country at this or the other thing. We have to be open to new things, and that includes things that have been taboo until now: France still insists that the treaties cannot be changed. Germany doesn’t want any financial transfers. We have to leave these old ways of thinking behind.

DER SPIEGEL: What does that mean concretely?

Macron: I think the goal should be that of creating a space that protects us and helps us survive in this world. The European community of values is unique: It combines democracy with the market economy, individual freedoms with social justice. How can we expect the U.S. or China to defend these values, this one-of-a-kind European balancing act that has developed over the course of decades? The challenges are manifold, issues such as migration or terrorism are important to us all. But the switch to renewable sources of energy must also be planned together. And last, but not least, there is digitalization and the societal change that goes along with it. We can only have success on all those fronts if we move forward together.

DER SPIEGEL: How do you intend to do so? How can you get the Eastern Europeans to get behind your project, and all those countries that are increasingly displaying nationalist tendencies and that don’t want to have anything to do with Europe anymore?

Macron: I don’t think what you say is true. I was in Bulgaria in August. The people there are excited about Europe. We can’t start dividing people up into categories. In the past, France has often committed the error of not speaking to everybody because there was a belief that some countries could be neglected. I am convinced that there is a desire for Europe. And by the way, who is to be blamed if that isn’t the case? The Europeans. We have allowed the development of a kind of collective defeatism and are allowing primarily those to speak who hate Europe and want to give up on it.

DER SPIEGEL: You are exaggerating.

Macron: I have often taken part in grotesque meetings as a sherpa. It was said there, for example, that summits exclusively for Eurozone members shouldn’t be held because it could offend the British or the Poles. And what have we woken up to five years later? The British want to leave and the Poles are increasingly distancing themselves from Europe. That only shows that the more reticent one is with European ambitions, the less progress one makes.

DER SPIEGEL: How important is the trans-Atlantic relationship with the U.S. to you?

Macron: The trans-Atlantic relationship is strong and must remain so. The U.S. is an ally in the camp of freedom. On security and military questions, whether in Iraq and Syria or in Africa, we are closely tied to one another. But we have to establish a joint strategy on other issues, such as Iran and North Korea, but also on climate change. That’s why I think it is important to speak at length with the American president and show him a path forward for possible cooperation. I feel an obligation to do so.

DER SPIEGEL: Does Trump make you afraid?

Macron: (Thinks for some time before answering.) Trump is here, he is the head of a global power. I speak with him and explain my views. We have an extremely cordial relationship. Sometimes, we have contradictory views but sometimes we agree. I won’t stop working together with him.

DER SPIEGEL: You speak of a united Europe, but one gets the impression that you are fond of taking unilateral action – things like inviting Trump to Paris, offering to mediate between the Iraqi government and the Kurds following the independence referendum and holding an important speech on the future of Europe two days after the German elections.

Macron: Every country has its own diplomacy. Being part of Europe doesn’t mean giving up one’s independence or no longer being able to take the initiative. There are 27 of us – does that mean it is forbidden for some of us to be more ambitious than the others? No, otherwise stasis would be the result and we would be putting ourselves in handcuffs. For example, I often speak with (Turkish) President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan. I have established a certain relationship with him and talk about it with the German chancellor. When I speak with the Turkish president, I defend European positions. That is how we European partners must do things. You also will have taken note of the fact that I intentionally avoided holding my Sorbonne speech before the elections in Germany. I coordinated closely with the chancellor and spoke with her at the end of the campaign and even on the evening of the election. She even received a copy of my speech before I delivered it.

DER SPIEGEL: Did you change anything in your speech as a result?

Macron: I took into account some things and deliberately left open the technical implementation on some points. I don’t trust certain political debates that often lead to big things failing because of the technical details. But we are essentially in agreement: The chancellor concurs with the goals and direction I outlined in my speech, and that is important to me. Of significance is our joint ambition to create something new for Europe. It was important to me to avoid triggering discussions in Germany that would have forced the chancellor to distance herself from my speech. We were able to prevent that thanks to close consultation and perfect coordination.

DER SPIEGEL: “France must make it possible for Europe to take a leading role in the free world,” you said recently. That doesn’t sound particularly modest, either.

Macron: Ambition is never modest. If modesty means to have middling success, then I can only say: I’m not interested. France has a special position: We are Continental Europe’s nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This special role, though, only makes sense if France fills it as a member state of the European Union. France cannot play this role alone, it must be seen as a part of Europe. I have always insisted on that. Our international role depends on a strong Europe and a strong Europe depends on France’s ability to share leadership with others, including Germany. If France is economically weak and doesn’t carry out reforms, it is no longer credible. Europe’s position on the global stage is thus weakened. I would like to change all that. France needs a strong Germany and a strong chancellor. But Germany also needs a strong France.

DER SPIEGEL: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told us in an interview that he has learned a lot from Angela Merkel. Is the same true for you?

Macron: I speak often with Madame Merkel. We talk at least once or twice a week. We send messages to each other regularly and have a lot of joint meetings. I have great respect for her, even if we have a lot of differences.

DER SPIEGEL: What kind of differences?

Macron: We don’t have the same history or the same background, yet there is still this complete desire to understand each other. I have extremely friendly feelings for your chancellor. I think she is very courageous, and that is one reason I have such great respect for her. But I also know that she has now survived French presidents for 12 years. I am constantly trying to imagine all the mistakes my predecessors made and to avoid repeating them.

DER SPIEGEL: Despite all the differences, is there something that unites the two of you?

Macron: Yes, of course. We are both people who proceed methodically, we love details. (The Europe adviser in the room nods vigorously.) At summits, we two are among the few heads of state and government who take notes. I have always been someone who wants to explore things down to the last detail so I can understand them. And she is the same, I value that about her. I love the discussions that we have with each other about such things.

DER SPIEGEL: You are more than 23 years younger than the German chancellor. Do you nevertheless see your relationship as one of equal partners?

Macron: Absolutely. I tell her, for example, that we can’t stop here with Europe – we must continue to move forward. I think we complement each other. What I really value in her is that she has never tried to tap the brakes on my élan, my enthusiasm. She tells me: I’m not going to play the role of the person who has already experienced and seen everything.

DER SPIEGEL: It almost sounds like you are a bit in love.

Macron: We have developed an extremely close relationship. I never would have held the Europe speech at the Sorbonne had Angela Merkel and I not agreed on the salient points.

DER SPIEGEL: She is not, in other words, the political Sphynx she is for many Germans, who still have the feeling that they don’t really know their chancellor?

Macron: No, and I would even say: Madame Merkel embodies Germany’s 20th century fate. It is not up to me to pass judgment on her place in history, but I believe that she is the chancellor of Germany’s reconciliation with Europe. She stands for a Germany for whom globalization has been a success and which accepts its role in foreign and defense policy. I thought the way she dealt with the refugees was courageous. I think she is the chancellor of reconciliation. And I hope that she can become the chancellor of the rebuilding of Europe, in close cooperation with the role that I will play in the process.

DER SPIEGEL: Are you concerned that Merkel’s potential coalition government with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens could stand in the way of your European project? The rise of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany will also certainly make things more difficult.

Macron: I don’t think so and I told the chancellor that as well. There are three possible ways to react to right-wing extremist parties. The first is to act as though they don’t exist and to no longer risk taking political initiatives that could get these parties against you. That has happened many times in France and we have seen that it doesn’t work. The people that you are actually hoping to support no longer see themselves reflected in your party’s speeches. And it allows the right wing to build its audience. The second reaction is to chase after these right-wing extremist parties in fascination.

DER SPIEGEL: And the third possibility?

Macron: To say, these people are my true enemies and to engage them in battle. Exactly that is the story of the second round of the presidential election in France. That is also what I told our German friends: Don’t be shy with these people. Look at me, the Front National got many more votes than the AfD. Ms. Le Pen ended up with 34 percent of the vote, 34 percent! I defended Europe, an open society and all my values. And today, the Front National has been significantly weakened. In the debates, you don’t hear anything from them anymore – because we engaged them in battle. Now is the time to be bold! The only answer to the AfD is courage and ambition.

DER SPIEGEL: In all seriousness, how do you intend to gain support for this project from an AfD voter who feels threatened by globalization and Europe?

Macron: The point is to show that Europe protects people. The rise of the AfD could also be an opportunity to force us to clarify things. Many European parties, including the conventional parties in France, no longer have the ability to keep people together. And in terms of the coalition government, I am convinced that the chancellor has the necessary will and ambition. I want to be very cautious with my statements about her coalition negotiations, but support for Europe is part of the DNA of both the Greens and the FDP. I was very pleased that the heads of both parties spoke out positively about the European project. I also took note of Wolfgang Schäuble’s enthusiasm for rebuilding Europe. As such, I am hopeful.

DER SPIEGEL: The weekly magazine Le Point has described you as “France’s last chance.” Does that create pressure for you?

Macron: No, otherwise I would not have taken on this battle. If this enormous pressure didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have been elected. It would have been one of the usual candidates. But that also means that there is no time for a breather right now. I titled my book “Revolution.” And that is exactly what it is. France is experiencing a time of transformation – in education, on the labor market and in the pensions system. We’re talking about a cultural revolution.

DER SPIEGEL: Many French people view you as a representative of a world that is not theirs. You have referred to these people as “slackers” or have told them, as you did last week, that they should find a job instead of protesting and creating chaos. Why do you do that?

Macron: People have been accusing me of that ever since I got involved in politics. Some would just like to stick a pin through me like insect researchers do a dried butterfly and then say: Look, there’s the banker who doesn’t like people. If that were the case, I would not be here. I am not arrogant to the French – I am determined. During the election, I traveled all across the country. I like my country and the French. I love talking with them and convincing them. It is my job each day to fight for my compatriots. But also to not succumb to demagoguery and lies or agree to favors.

DER SPIEGEL: The French left views you as an unbending neoliberal who protects his own caste.

Macron: What does one have to do today to reconcile France? Distribute public money – that’s what some expect, especially the radical left. They think that you help people by handing them money. But that is a fallacy because it is not me distributing the money, but rather future generations. So, it is my duty to say: Something has to change. I say that very directly, in clear words so that nobody can misunderstand me. And I believe in our new initiative for continuing education and vocational training. For French people who are socially disadvantaged, this means real recognition and support.

DER SPIEGEL: But it is precisely those French who also can’t understand why you want to get rid of the wealth tax.

Macron: Why? Because the wealth tax doesn’t do anything for them. It doesn’t exist in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. So, we want to build up Europe and yet retain the wealth tax at the same time? And what is it that leads company founders to leave, which in turn results in the loss of those jobs? We aren’t protecting the people who most need it when those who can contribute to the country’s success emigrate. Contrary to what some claim, I am not doing this to help the rich. My predecessor taxed wealthy, successful people at a higher rate than ever before. And what happened? They left. And what came of it? Did unemployment drop? No.

DER SPIEGEL: You are aware of the power of symbols. And by eliminating the wealth tax, you took a symbolic step that has riled up the left against you.

Macron: I stand completely behind this decision. I am not from the political or banking elite. I am a child of the middle class far from Paris. And if someone had told me that success is bad or if they had placed hurdles in my path, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I want it to be possible for young people in our country to be successful – whether they want to find that success in the family, as an artist or by founding a company. I refuse to give into the sad reflex of French envy because this envy paralyzes our country. We cannot create jobs without company owners, the state cannot create jobs by decree.

DER SPIEGEL: You visited Germany this week, where you opened the Frankfurt Book Fair together with Angela Merkel. What do you learn about your country when you read contemporary French authors like Michel Houllebecq, Virginie Despentes or Patrick Modiano?

Macron: Houllebecq is surely the novelist who best describes contemporary phobias and fears. He also succeeds perhaps like no other in portraying the postmodern character of our society. He addresses the possibilities of genetics at times, or Islamism, and infuses all of it with a certain amount of absurdity. I get a very strong sense of that in “Submission.” The way he toys with the absurd makes him an author sui generis, one who stands out from the others. I call the fears that Houllebecq so magnificently describes “sad passions.” Patrick Modiano, on the other hand, is a melancholic author who describes a certain Paris, with an obsession for World War II and the traces it has left behind in our society.

DER SPIEGEL: Who else do you read?

Macron: I am very interested in writers from the Francophone world. I like Kamel Daoud a lot, for example. In “The Meursault Investigation” and “Zabor,” he shows a passion for the French language, a very special way of writing that belongs to those who live on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea. It is language that connects us. It allows people there to cling to our history, our culture and sometimes also our values. Leila Slimani, a Moroccan who has lived in France for years, has also written impressive books about society in France today and about our contemporary societies in general. I thoroughly believe that reading and literature can help a society to better understand itself.

DER SPIEGEL: Your prime minister writes novels, as does your economics minister. When will your first novel be published?

Macron: I do write, but for now I am keeping it all in the desk drawer. I have always written. The only book that I have published was “Revolution,” during the election campaign, a book that contains both personal and political chapters. I have never been happy with what I have written, including three novels that, from my point of view, are incomplete.

DER SPIEGEL: What was missing? What wasn’t good enough?

Macron: In political life, dissatisfaction is remedied, or at least combated, through action. For as long as you are not totally satisfied, you remain active and keep going. In literary life, at some point you have to stop and allow others to read what you have written. I find that difficult. I am probably too proud. In any case, that is why I have never published anything. But I do plan to do so one day.

DER SPIEGEL: It was your grandmother, for the most part, who introduced you to literature and encouraged you to read.

Macron: That is true. The story of my grandmother is that of a French woman from the provinces who through her perseverance and thirst for knowledge worked her way up to become the head of a school. She belonged to a generation that didn’t travel much. She took perhaps two trips, but no more. But she believed in Europe and she wanted Europe. And she read a lot – she knew mythology, literature and the classics very well. She passed that on to me, along with the conviction that you can earn your own position in society.

DER SPIEGEL: Can you still remember the first German book you read?

Macron: My father read Günter Grass. He introduced me to German literature. I believe the first book I read by a German author was from Grass.

DER SPIEGEL: Which one was it?

Macron: Wait a second. I don’t want to say something that’s inaccurate. I read Goethe in a bilingual edition and then a lot of philosophy later on. In terms of contemporary German literature, however, it was Grass and Patrick Süskind.

DER SPIEGEL: “Perfume”?

Macron: Yes. But also “The Double-Bass.” By Grass, of course “The Tin Drum.” After that, Thomas Mann accompanied me for a few years during my literature studies. I tried again and again to read the original German text, but I never really succeeded. German poetry also touches me, especially the Romantics.

DER SPIEGEL: What about music from German composers?

Macron: I come from a family in which music was important, especially German music — from Bach to Beethoven. I played a lot of piano, mostly Bach. I really loved Glenn Gould’s interpretations. The subject of the master class I was supposed to take, incidentally, was “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” It is a universe within itself. The music has such a depth, such an intimacy – it is touching and timeless at the same time. What I like about Bach is that there are no bells and whistles. It’s like looking at a painting by Georges de La Tour: Despite all its beauty, there is an extreme austerity. It forces a person to drop any sense of vanity. As terribly banal as it may sound, Mozart was the most brilliant. You can play the role of the biggest snob, but it always comes down to that. When Daniel Barenboim was in Paris a short time ago, we spoke about this very thing. Even he enjoys playing Mozart the most. Mozart is to music something like Rimbaud was to literature. They are people who created something that nobody before them had. Absolute geniuses. You can recognize their harmonies among thousands. There is something very powerful about German music. That’s why I chose German music with a European meaning for the day of my election. Accompanied by the music of a deaf German …

DER SPIEGEL: … you’re referring to Beethoven, of course, the Ninth Symphony …

Macron: … I crossed the inner courtyard of the Louvre to the sound of the European anthem.

DER SPIEGEL: What has life been like for you since then?

Macron: I travel a lot – around France, Europe and the world. In the exceptional event that there is no evening appointment or obligations dictated to me by protocol or a working dinner with colleagues, I go through files here.

DER SPIEGEL: Are there ever occasions when you find yourself sitting here in this lounge reading together with your wife?

Macron: Yes, so far, we have succeeded in maintaining a certain amount of togetherness. We have at least one night a week when we see each other. And I have never given up reading. I read each evening, at night and whenever possible during the day when I am traveling. I have always read.

DER SPIEGEL: You have said several times that the family of your wife Brigitte, her children and seven grandchildren, are your bedrock, your foundation. Is there room for them in the Élysée?

Macron: Oh yes, our children and grandchildren visit us regularly. The little ones are constantly running around outside in the garden. The first time they were intimidated by this place, but now they move around here totally normally. I think it is important that people really live in this place.

DER SPIEGEL: Have you changed many things since you moved in?

Macron: Everything. This office, for example, looked totally different. There was a giant, heavy rug and a lot more furniture. We made everything lighter and more modern and we provided more space to contemporary artists. I want to open up this palace. A concert will be held tonight. We have invited school classes from socially disadvantaged neighborhoods and Élysée Palace staff and their families. That’s 200 people who normally wouldn’t have access to this building. Living in a place like this also means sharing it with others.

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we thank you for this interview.


What is the Shroud of Turin?


The Shroud of Turin is a large rectangular woven cloth, approximately 14 ft by 3.5 ft. It appears to show the front and rear images of a naked man and is alleged by some to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ. It is owned by the Catholic Church and stored in the cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy, hence its name. It is rarely on display to the public. While some Christians vouch for its authenticity, many do not. Even the Vatican won’t say it’s authentic, which is in itself instructive.

The provenance or history of past ownership of the Shroud of Turin can only be traced back to the 14th century, around 1355 CE. It turned up in the possession of a soldier of fortune who could not or would not say how he acquired the most holy relic in all of Christendom. There is no record of its existence from the time of Jesus’ crucifixion until this date. That’s 13 centuries of silence. The Bible, the only source that describes the miracles that revolved around Jesus, his eventual crucifixion and the rise of Christianity makes no mention of a burial cloth displaying the image of Jesus. While the Bible does describe the burial method and the burial cloth of Jesus, its description in no way matches the Shroud of Turin. A few decades after it first appeared in the 14th century, two bishops claimed the shroud was a fake and appealed to Pope Clement VII. The Pope ruled that it was not to be claimed that it was the true burial cloth of Jesus. And remember that we are told that popes are infallible, incapable of making an error. (Of course Catholics will argue that papal infallibility didn’t exist back then and anyway, it doesn’t apply to such trivial matters such as whether they should be worshiping an old stained cloth. Papal infallibility is for important things like deciding whether masturbation is a sin worse than murder.) (Also note that Clement VII was later declared an antipope by the Catholic Church, although this probably had nothing or little to do with his pronouncement on the shroud. See this comment.) In 1898 a photograph of the image on the shroud was produced. The ‘negative’ image of this photographic appears to reveal much more detail than the actual ‘positive’ normal image. Although it’s not actually a true negative, this supposed photographic nature of the shroud’s image generated great public interest and the debate around the shroud’s authenticity began in earnest. In 1978 the Vatican allowed a group of scientists called STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project) — most of who were deeply religious — to examine the shroud. They concluded that ‘The image is an ongoing mystery and… the problem remains unsolved’. They also noted that ‘few further definite conclusions are possible without information about the age of the cloth… [and] the only unambiguous means to establish this is by the carbon-14 method’. In 1988 the Vatican, no doubt buoyed by STURP’s tests and recommendation, allowed a sample of the shroud to be carbon dated by three independent laboratories in America, England and Switzerland. They all concluded that the flax making up the shroud dates to between 1260 and 1390 CE. This matches perfectly the date of its first appearance — circa 1355 CE.

Disappointed that they didn’t get the expected 1st century date, shroud proponents have spent the intervening years trying to discredit the carbon dating tests by throwing up everything from accusations of outright cheating by atheistic scientists to incompetence in selecting the sample, from failure to account for contamination of the sample to incompetence in cleaning the sample. It needs to be remembered that they were perfectly happy with the integrity of the tests until the tests returned the ‘wrong’ date.

As with evaluating any claim, one needs to look at the evidence supporting it and the evidence against. Some reasons may be very strong and some quite weak, so it’s not simply a matter of counting up arguments for and against. Sometimes one piece of evidence or one argument is insufficient to reach a conclusion, so one must look at the weight of evidence. Where does the majority of evidence point? Is it conclusive?

In the case of the shroud, there are obviously arguments both for and against the shroud’s authenticity. However I believe the shroud is not the burial cloth of Jesus because the strongest evidence, the most rational arguments and the weight of evidence all point to this conclusion. My conclusions are based on critical thinking, reason and logic, not faith.

First we list the evidence against the shroud’s authenticity, then we will provide the popular arguments that shroud proponents use, with a brief reason why I believe they fail.

Strong evidence against the authenticity of the shroud:

  • Respected, trusted and very reliable scientific carbon dating has placed the shroud’s origin around the 14th century, specifically between 1260 and 1390 CE.
  • The provenance or history of the shroud can only be traced back to the 14th century. The earliest written record of the shroud is a Catholic bishop’s report to Pope Clement VII, dated 1389, stating that it originated as part of a faith-healing scheme, and that a predecessor had “discovered the fraud and how the said cloth had been cunningly painted, the truth being attested by the artist who had painted it”. In 1390, Pope Clement VII declared that it was not to be claimed that it was the true burial cloth of Jesus.
  • The Bible gives clear details of Jesus’ burial cloth — linen strips and a separate cloth for the head — that clearly conflicts with the shroud, which is one large rectangular piece.

‘Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.’ [Jn 19:40]

‘So Peter… reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter… went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.’ [Jn 20:3-7]

‘Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves…’ [Lk 24:12]

Note also that Jesus was wrapped buried ‘in accordance with Jewish burial customs’. Jesus was not the only person in the Bible to rise from the dead, so did Lazarus, and following Jewish burial customs he was also wrapped in strips of linen:

‘The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”‘ [Jn 11:44]

  • The Bible described 75 to 100 pounds of spices being wrapped in the burial cloth. No traces of spices have been found on the shroud. [Jn 19:40]
  • The Bible quotes Jesus as saying there are nail holes in his hands from the crucifixion. By contrast the shroud image has no wounds in his hands but one in his wrist. [Jn 20:24-27]
  • No examples of the shroud linen’s complex herringbone twill weave date from the first century. However the weave was used in Europe in the Middle Ages, coincidentally when the shroud first appeared.
  • The clear implication of all three synoptic gospels is that the material was bound tightly round the body, yet the Shroud of Turin shows an image made by simply lying a linen shroud on top of the front of the body, over the head and down the back. There is a lack of wrap-around distortions that would be expected if the cloth had enclosed an actual three-dimensional object like a human body. Thus the cloth was never used to wrap a body as described in the Bible. If the image had been formed when the cloth was around Jesus’ corpse it would have been distorted when the cloth was flattened out.
  • There are serious anatomical problems with the image, such as the height of the body, length of limbs, ears missing, front and back images not matching, hair hanging the wrong way etc. (More details further in the article.)
  • There is no blood on the shroud: all the forensic tests specific for blood, and only blood, have failed. There is no trace of sodium, chlorine or potassium, which blood contains in high amounts and which would have been present if the stains were truly blood. The alleged bloodstains are unnaturally picture-like. Real blood spreads in cloth and mats on hair, and does not form perfect rivulets and spiral flows. Also, dried “blood” (as on the arms) has been implausibly transferred to the cloth. The alleged blood remains bright red, unlike genuine blood that blackens with age. All the wounds, made at different times according to the Gospel accounts, appear as if still bleeding, even though blood does not generally flow after death. A corpse does not bleed, however it can leak blood through an open wound due to gravity. This could explain some blood but not all the bleeding wounds or the unexpected detail in the blood flow.
  • The Bible [John 19:40] indicates that Jesus’ burial followed Jewish customs. Thus, Joseph of Arimethea would have washed the body. Since he had time to wrap in the spices, he would have had time to wash it. The body shown in the shroud was not washed.
  • Microscopic analysis shows significant traces of what could be paint pigment on image areas.

Circumstantial evidence against the authenticity of the shroud:

  • The shroud surfaced in France exactly at the height of the ‘holy relic’ craze, the collection of patently false relics relating to Jesus. Not one such relic has ever been proved to be genuine, and the faking of relics was rife at this time. There were at least between 26 and 40 ‘authentic’ burial shrouds scattered throughout the abbeys of Europe, of which the Shroud of Turin was just one. One source writes that ‘In medieval Europe alone, there were “at least forty-three ‘True Shrouds”‘ (Humber 1978, 78)’.
  • There is no mention of a miraculously imaged Shroud in the New Testament or any early Christian writings. Surely, given the desire for miraculous proof of the divine nature of Jesus, such a relic would have rated a mention? The image on the cloth would presumably have been at its brightest and most obvious. So why don’t the gospels, who mentioned the linen used to wrap the body, bother to mention this miraculous image? The most obvious answer is that you can’t write about an image that isn’t there.
  • The image on the shroud has his hands neatly folded across his genitals. A real body lying limp could not have this posture. Your arms are not long enough to cross your hands over your pelvis while keeping your shoulders on the floor. To achieve this the body can not lie flat, yet Jewish burial tradition did not dictate that a body must be hunched up so as to cover the genitals before wrapping in the shroud. The most obvious answer is that the artist knew the image would be displayed and didn’t want to offend his audience or have to guess what the genitals of Jesus would look like. A dead body wrapped from head to toe in an opaque cloth wouldn’t be concerned with modesty since he wasn’t actually naked. He was well covered.
  • The Vatican, the one organisation with a vested interest in its authenticity, refuses to say the shroud is authentic. The Vatican has performed more tests on it than any other group, it has more documentary evidence on its history than any other group and it also has the Pope, God’s representative here on earth. Surely he could ask God if it’s a fake? Perhaps he has. Perhaps the Vatican’s silence on this matter is telling? Actually Pope John Paul II is on record as saying, “The Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions. She entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate”. Say what now? “No specific competence” to have an opinion on the origin of a dirty piece of cloth, but you can’t shut them up regarding the origin of the universe and life. The conservative Catholic Encyclopedia actually argues that the shroud is probably not authentic.

Weak evidence put forward for the authenticity of the shroud:

  • ‘The shroud’s image appears to show a crucified man’. This is true, but then magicians appear to cut people in half too. Appearances can be deceptive. Even if this was truly a crucified man, there is no way you could prove it was Jesus.
  • ‘There is the exact number of lashes from a whipping on the back as stated in the Bible’. Nowhere in the Bible is the number of lashes that Jesus received mentioned. Thus it is impossible to say that the shroud wounds match that of Jesus. This is pure invention.
  • ‘The image on the shroud matches the Biblical account of Jesus’ crucifixion’. As detailed above, the Bible completely conflicts with the shroud image, so use of this argument is dishonest.
  • ‘We can also see a large blood stain and elliptical wound on the person’s right side (remember, in a negative imprint left and right are reversed)’. No, they’re not. Left and right are reversed in a mirror image, but not in a negative image. This confusion aside, the Bible says that Jesus was pierced with a spear, but it does not say which side. Thus arguments that attempt to say it does and that this matches the shroud are false.
  • ‘The shroud shows one wound in the wrist, not the hand. Research has show that this is correct since nails through the hands would not have been able to support a body on the cross. Medieval artisans would not have known this’. It is pure arrogance to assume that medieval artisans wouldn’t have known this. They were a lot closer to crucifixion times than we are. Even though artists generally painted Jesus with nails through the hands, they were probably just depicting what was described in the Bible. If the shroud is correct about the wrist, then the Bible is wrong. An authentic shroud means a false Bible. Remember also that artists always depicted Jesus with his genitals covered (and Adam and Eve with fig leaves
  • ‘The shroud image is naked, as Jesus would have been, whereas medieval artisans never depicted Jesus naked’. This is true, but as discussed above, the image hides his nudity by adopting an unnatural posture. He is effectively clothed, whereas a dead body wrapped from head to toe in an opaque cloth wouldn’t be concerned with modesty.
  • ‘The image of the shroud obviously portrays Jesus’. Rubbish. No one has any idea what Jesus actually looked like. The Bible contains no hints — short, tall, fat, skinny, long hair, bald etc. No details at all, so how can anyone say that an image resembles him? A dishonest argument.
  • ‘The apparent bloodstains contain real human blood’. This is contradicted by other scientists who insist that all the forensic tests specific for blood, and only blood, have failed. While there are traces of iron, proteins and porphyrins which are found in blood, these are also found in artists’ pigments. However, as already stated, there is no trace of sodium, chlorine or potassium, which blood contains in high amounts and which would have been present if the stains were truly blood. It’s also important to realize that even if there was blood on the shroud, whose blood was it? How old is it? Medieval perhaps? The existence of blood proves nothing as we don’t know Jesus’ blood group nor do we have a sample of his DNA to compare it with.
  • ‘Pollen from Palestine is found on the shroud’. This claim has been discredited as “fraud” and “junk science”. The person who originally claimed to have found the pollen on the Shroud was Max Frei, a Swiss criminologist. However the pollens were very suspicious, as pollen experts quickly pointed out. First of all, they were missing the most obvious pollen you would expect, which would be from olive trees. 32 of the 57 pollens allegedly found by Frei are from insect-pollinated plants and could not have been wind-blown onto the exposed shroud in Palestine. Similar samples taken by STURP in 1978 had comparatively few pollens. Also cloth was often brought to medieval Europe from Palestine, so there is no strong support even if pollen was found.
  • ‘Coins dated to the early 1st century are seen over the eyes of the shroud image’. This claim was originally made by Father Francis Filas after examining a 1931 photograph, yet the coins can’t be seen in better quality 1978 photos. We are expected to believe that poor quality photos showed not just coins, but enough detail to determine when they were minted. Another problem with the coins is explaining why they were placed on the eyes. There was no such Jewish custom in 1st century Palestine. The claim of some believers to see coins must be weighed against the claim of others to also see nails, a spear, a sponge on a reed, a crown of thorns, a hammer, scourges, tongs, dice, flowers etc on the shroud. Even most shroud researchers reject these claims as simply an example of an overactive imagination. •’STURP scientists authenticated the shroud’. No, they didn’t. They merely concluded that ‘The image is an ongoing mystery and… the problem remains unsolved’. That said, it’s unfortunate that almost all of those that made up this group were deeply religious, and many were not specialized in the field they investigated. The group consisted of 40 US scientists, made up of 39 devout believers and 1 agnostic. The makeup of this group was stacked and very biased towards authenticating the shroud, and therefore their claims must be taken with an extremely large grain of salt. The common belief that STURP scientists authenticated the shroud is no doubt based on ‘authenticity’ statements some of the scientists publicly made before they had even examined the shroud, such as: ‘I believe it through the eyes of faith, and as a scientist I have seen evidence that it could be His shroud’. However they were unable to authenticate or date the shroud. Even if their conclusions that the shroud was not a simple fake were beyond reproach, given the scientific tools they had available at the time (1978), science has advanced greatly since then. Carbon dating in 1988, a more invasive and accurate test, dated the shroud to between 1260 and 1390 CE. STURP’s results have been superseded. That is the nature of science.
  • ‘The shroud contains a negative of the image, and medieval artisans knew nothing of photography’. The shroud image is NOT a true photographic negative but only an apparent one — a faux-photographic negative. The “positive” image shows a figure with white hair and beard, the opposite of what would be expected for a Palestinian Jew in his thirties. Medieval artisans need know nothing of photography since it’s not photographic.
  • ‘It’s impossible to reproduce an image with shroud-like qualities’. False. Joe Nickell constructed one using a rubbing technique on a bas-relief model, using the pigments, tools and techniques available in the Middle Ages. The statement that we cannot make such an image is simply false propaganda. Faux-negative images are automatically produced by an artistic rubbing technique. Also as noted in the following section of this article, scientist Luigi Garlaschelli made a very convincing reproduction of the shroud in 2009.
  • ‘The image contains 3D information’. The quality of this information is often exaggerated or misinterpreted. Also if the image was produced using a bas-relief method, 3D information would be expected.
  • There are no brush strokes on the image’. Probably true, but if the image was produced by rubbing as for a bas-relief, then there wouldn’t be.
  • ‘The blood flows and anatomical details are accurate and beyond the knowledge of medieval artisans’. On the contrary, as described above, there are serious anatomical problems with the image. Also as detailed above, the blood flows are completely unrealistic. Blood does not flow from a corpse and real blood spreads in cloth and mats in hair. Also medieval artisans would have been intimately familiar with blood and dead bodies compared to the sheltered life that we in the 21st century lead. The Black Death occurred during the 14th century so blood and death would have surrounded those living during this time.
  • References to the shroud can be found prior to the Middle Ages’. This claim usually refers to the ‘Image of Edessa’, a holy relic allegedly found in 554 CE in Edessa. It was a square or rectangle of cloth on which it was alleged the face of Jesus was imprinted. Some try to claim that the shroud and the ‘Image of Edessa’ are one and the same. Yet it did not contain a full body image, only the face, and this legend actually began when Jesus was still alive, so it can’t be referring to the shroud. Another image in the Hungarian Pray Manuscript is equally problematic. There are no reputable shroud references that don’t conflict with what we know about the shroud, prior to 1355 CE.


No responses yet

Leave a Reply