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TBR News October 18, 2016

Oct 18 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C.  October 18, 2016: ” Overpopulation is upon us as is a climate change.

Sea levels are rising and there is no sign that the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica are not rapidly melting.

This will disrupt all the planet’s populations that live by the edge of the sea, viz the American east coast, parts of SEA, parts of the UK, Holland, Denmark, northern Germany and other areas.

The populations of these areas will have to relocate without question.

Parts of the world that produced food, such as California’s Central Valley, are subject to extreme drought and the failure of crops.

Hydroponics, of course, is an answer but only those countries with advanced technology will be able to cope with the droughts.

As a point, the Colorado River is drying up and Lake Meade, whose waters supplied southern California and Las Vegas will soon be without water.

Also, the electric power from Hoover Dam will dwindle and cease without the water power to turn the turbines.

China gets its fresh water in the main from the Himalaya glaciers which are melting rapidly and not being replenished by the dwindling monsoons.

If China runs out of water, she will eye Siberia to her north with greed and also with desperate necessity.

The permutations are endless.

No one knows what is causing these changes though the internet is full of theories.

None of this will happen overnight but all of this will come slowly upon us but with great surety.”

NYT’s Absurd New Anti-Russian Propaganda

The New York Times is so determined to generate hate against Russia that it has lost all journalistic perspective, even portraying Russia’s military decoys – like those used in World War II – as uniquely evil.

October 16, 2016

by Robert Parry

Consortium News

If the dangers weren’t so great – a possible nuclear war that could exterminate life on the planet – The New York Times over-the-top denunciation of all things Russian would be almost funny, like the recent front-page story finding something uniquely sinister about Russia using inflatable decoys of military weapons to confuse adversaries.

The Oct. 13 article, entitled “Decoys in Service of an Inflated Russian Might,” was described as part of a series called “DARK ARTS … How Russia projects power covertly,” suggesting that the nefarious Russians aren’t to be trusted in anything even in the case of “one of Russia’s lesser-known military threats: a growing arsenal of inflatable tanks, jets and missile launchers.”

The bizarre article by Andrew E. Kramer, one of the most prolific producers of this anti-Russian propaganda, then states: “As Russia under President Vladimir V. Putin has muscled its way back onto the geopolitical stage, the Kremlin has employed a range of stealthy tactics. … One of the newer entries to that list is an updating of the Russian military’s longtime interest in operations of deceit and disguise, a repertoire of lethal tricks known as maskirovka, or masking. It is a psychological warfare doctrine that is becoming an increasingly critical element in the country’s geopolitical ambitions.”

What is particularly curious about Kramer’s article is that it takes actions that are typical of all militaries, going back centuries, and presents them as some special kind of evil attributable to the Russians, such as Special Forces units not dressing in official uniforms and instead blending in with the surroundings while creating deniability for political leaders.

American and European Special Forces, for instance, have been deployed on the ground in Libya and Syria without official confirmation, at least initially. Sometimes, their presence is acknowledged only after exposure because of casualties, such as the death of three French soldiers near Benghazi, Libya, in July.

Indeed, one could argue that the United States has excelled at this practice of stealthily entering other countries, usually in violation of international law, to carry out lethal operations, such as drone assassinations and Special Forces’ strikes. However, rather than condemning U.S. officials for their sneakiness, the Times and other mainstream Western publications often extol the secrecy of these acts and sometimes even agree to delay publication of information about the covert attacks so as not to jeopardize the lives of American soldiers.

U.S. Propaganda Network

The U.S. government also has built extensive propaganda operations around the world that pump out all sorts of half-truths and disinformation to put U.S. adversaries on the defensive, with the American financial hand kept hidden so the public is more likely to trust the claims of supposedly independent voices.

Much of that disinformation is then promoted by the Times, which famously assisted in one major set of lies by publishing a false 2002 front-page story about Iraq reconstituting its nuclear weapons program as a key justification for the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Yet, the Russians are called out for activities far less egregious than what the U.S. government – aided and abetted by the Times – has done.

You could even view the Times’ article citing inflatable weapons as proof of Moscow’s perfidy as itself an example of another U.S. psychological operation along the lines of the Times’ article accusing Iraq of obtaining aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges, when the tubes were actually unsuited for that purpose. In this new case, however, the Times is heating up a war fever against Russia rather than Iraq.

Yet, as in 2002, this current psy-op is not primarily aimed at a foreign adversary as much as it is targeting the American people. The primary difference is that in 2002, the Times was helping instigate war against a relatively small and defenseless nation in Iraq. Now, the Times is whipping up an hysteria against nuclear-armed Russia with the prospect that this manufactured outrage could induce politicians into further steps that could lead to nuclear conflagration.

As German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote in a recent opinion piece, the current tensions between Washington and Moscow are “more dangerous” than during the Cold War.

“It’s a fallacy to think that this is like the Cold War,” Steinmeier wrote. “The current times are different and more dangerous” because there were clear “red lines” during the Cold War where the rival nuclear powers knew not to tread.

Though Steinmeier, as a part of the NATO alliance, puts most of the blame on Moscow, the reality is that Washington has been the prime instigator of the recent tensions, including pressing NATO up to Russia’s borders, supporting an anti-Russian putsch in neighboring Ukraine, and helping to arm rebel groups fighting in Syria alongside Al Qaeda’s affiliate and threatening Russia’s allied Syrian government.

‘Regime Change’ in Moscow?

Further feeding Russia’s fears, prominent Americans, including at least one financed by the U.S. government, have called for a “regime change” project in Moscow. Yet all Americans hear about is the unproven allegation that Russia was responsible for hacking into Democratic Party emails and exposing information that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has tried to keep secret, such as the content of her speeches to Wall Street investment banks and other special interests.

Vice President Joe Biden has announced Washington will retaliate with some information-warfare strike against Moscow. But the reality is that the U.S. government, working hand-in-glove with the Times and other mainstream American publications, has been waging such an information war against Russia for at least the past several years, including promotion of dubious charges such as the so-called Magnitsky case which was largely debunked by a courageous documentary that has been virtually blacklisted in the supposedly “free” West.

The Times also has embraced the U.S. government’s version of pretty much every dubious claim lodged against Moscow, systematically excluding evidence that points in a different direction. For instance, regarding the shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the Times ignored a published Dutch (i.e. NATO) intelligence report stating that the only powerful anti-aircraft missiles in the area capable of hitting MH-17 were under the control of the Ukrainian military.

While it may be understandable that the Times opts to embrace claims by a Ukrainian-dominated investigation that the Russians were responsible – despite that inquiry’s evidentiary and logical shortcomings – it is not journalistically proper to ignore official evidence, such as the Dutch intelligence report, because it doesn’t go in the preferred direction. If the Times were not acting as a propaganda vehicle, it would at least have cited the Dutch intelligence report as one piece of the puzzle.

The Times’ relentless service as the chief conveyor belt for anti-Russian propaganda has drawn at least some objections from readers, although they are rarely acknowledged by the Times.

For instance, Theodore A. Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tried to lodge a protest with the Times’ editors about the “inflatable weapons” story.

In the email, a copy of which he forwarded to me, Postol wrote: “This article is a very good example of the misleading foreign policy reporting that has unfortunately become a hallmark of the New York Times.

“The complete lack of sophistication of this article, coupled with the implication that the use of such decoys is somehow an indication of a Russian cultural bias towards deception is exactly the kind of misleading reporting that cannot possibly be explained as a competent attempt to inform Times readers about real and serious national security issues that we are today facing with Russia.”

Postol attached to his email a series of photographs showing decoys that were used by the Allies during the Battle of Britain and the D-Day invasion. He noted, “There is a vast popular literature about this kind of deception in warfare that is available to even the most unsophisticated nonexperts. It is simply unimaginable to me that such an article could be published in the Times, yet alone on the front page, if the oversight mechanisms at the Times were properly functioning.”

Postol, however, assumes that the editorial system of the Times wishes to provide genuine balance and context to such stories, when the pattern has clearly shown that – as with Iraq in 2002-2003 – the Times’ editors see their role as preparing the American people for war.

Russian air defense raises stakes of U.S. confrontation in Syria

October 17, 2016

by Karen DeYoung

Washington Post

Russia’s completion this month of an integrated air defense system in Syria has made an Obama administration decision to strike Syrian government installations from the air even less likely than it has been for years, and has created a substantial obstacle to the Syrian safe zones both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have advocated.

Deployment of mobile and interchangeable S-400 and S-300 missile batteries, along with other short-range systems, now gives Russia the ability to shoot down planes and cruise missiles over at least 250 miles in all directions from western Syria, covering virtually all of that country as well as significant portions of Turkey, Israel, Jordan and the eastern Mediterranean.

By placing the missiles as a threat “against military action” by other countries in Syria, Russia has raised “the stakes of confrontation,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Sunday.

While there is some disagreement among military experts as to the capability of the Russian systems, particularly the newly deployed S-300, “the reality is, we’re very concerned anytime those are emplaced,” a U.S. Defense official said. Neither its touted ability to counter U.S. stealth technology, or to target low-flying aircraft, has ever been tested by the United States.

“It’s not like we’ve had any shoot at an F-35,” the official said of the next-generation U.S. fighter jet. “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.”

For more than two years, Syria has tacitly accepted U.S. and coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, in areas relatively far afield from where the civil war is being fought. An agreement signed by Moscow and Washington last fall, after Russia sent its own air force to join that of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is designed to ensure that U.S. and Russian planes stay well away from each other.

But the ongoing Russian-Syrian siege of Aleppo, and the failure of diplomatic negotiations to stop it, has forced the administration to reconsider its options, including the use of American air power to ground Assad’s air force.

The possibility of using U.S. air power in the civil war, even to patrol a safe zone for civilians, has never been favored by the Pentagon, which has argued that it would involve preemptory strikes on Syria’s fixed air defenses. Now, with the installation of a comprehensive, potent Russian air defense system, many military officials see it as risking a great power game of chicken, and possible war, according to senior administration officials.

Several officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Russian capabilities and recent high-level White House meetings on Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State, including a Friday gathering of the National Security Council chaired by President Obama. The NSC session largely focused on the Mosul offensive begun against the Islamic State this week, and an upcoming operation against the militants in the city of Raqqa, their Syrian headquarters.

Consideration of other alternatives, including the shipment of arms to U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria, and an increase in the quantity and quality of weapons supplied to opposition fighters in Aleppo and elsewhere, were deferred until later, officials said. U.S. military action to stop Syrian and Russian bombing of civilians was even further down the list of possibilities.

Another senior official dismissed what he called Moscow’s “yard sale approach” of displaying all available systems to attract potential purchasers, and said last month’s S-300 deployment did not much change Russian capabilities from where they have been over the past year. Russian arms sellers have repeatedly hailed the performance of their weaponry in Syria and claimed heightened sales abroad.

U.S. strikes in heavily populated western Syria, despite the presence there of al-Qaeda-affiliated forces of the Front for the Conquest of Syria, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, have been few and far between, precisely to avoid the risk of civil war involvement and, more recently, confrontation with Russia.

An attack early this month that eliminated a senior Front official in Idlib province, in northwestern Syria, was carried out by an unmanned U.S. drone, with notice provided to Russia.

Moscow has denied that Russian and Syrian attacks have intentionally struck civilians, saying they are directed toward the Front, some of whose forces are mixed with the rebels in Aleppo and elsewhere. In early September, Kerry said the United States would join with Russia in attacking the al-Qaeda forces, in exchange for a Russian and Syrian cease-fire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged civilians.

It was when that agreement fell apart — and the United States suspended contacts with Russia over Syria as hundreds of civilians have been killed in the brutal bombing of Aleppo — that the Russians moved to install S-300 missiles. They formed the final component of an integrated air defense system, along with S-400 and other surface-to-air systems previously deployed in and around Russia’s Hmeimen air base in Latakia province along the Syrian coast.

Amid widespread talk of U.S. “kinetic” action to stop the Aleppo slaughter, the Russian Defense Ministry warned of the “possible consequences,” noting that “the range [of the defense systems] may come as a surprise to any unidentified flying objects.”

Russian soldiers and officers, it said, were working on the ground throughout territory controlled by the Syrian government and “any missile or airstrikes . . . will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen.”

In addition, the ministry said, following the Sept. 17 U.S. airstrike that inadvertently killed dozens of Syrian soldiers in eastern Syria, “we have taken all necessary measures to avoid any such ‘mistakes’ against Russian troops and military installations in Syria.”

Neither the administration, nor either of the presidential nominees, has ever favored using U.S. combat forces in Syria’s civil war. But the use of air power to create a zone inside the country where civilians could be safe from relentless airstrikes by Syria and Russia has long been advocated by regional allies and domestic critics of what is seen as a weak administration policy.

Both Clinton and Trump have favored such a strategy — in Clinton’s case, since she was secretary of state. Trump has advocated establishing a safe zone inside Syria as a way to stem the flow of Syrian refugees to Europe and this country.

But while such zones — protected by U.S. air power — were established during years past in Iraq, Libya and Bosnia, all were against relatively weak opponents and conducted under United Nations authorization. Neither presidential nominee has addressed the question of comprehensive Russian air defenses.

Although Kerry has continued to try to revive the cease-fire, U.S. leverage against Russia appears minimal. Following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. European and regional allies last weekend, Kerry said that increased sanctions against both Russia and Syria were under consideration.

Meanwhile, Russia on Monday offered an eight-hour pause to the Aleppo bombing this week to allow Front militants and civilians to leave the city.

Ecuador cuts internet for Assange, says WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks has activated “contingency plans” after its founder lost internet access. The alleged move by the Ecuadorian Embassy comes as the anti-secrecy organization ramps up its campaign on Hillary Clinton.

October 17, 2016


WikiLeaks on Monday said the Ecuadorian Embassy in London had cut internet access for Julian Assange, the whistleblowing organization’s founder and editor-in-chief.

“We can confirm Ecuador cut off Assange’s internet access Saturday, 5 p.m. GMT, shortly after publication of [Hillary] Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches,” the organization noted on social platform Twitter.

We have activated the appropriate contingency plans,” WikiLeaks said in an earlier tweet.

A spokesperson for the organization, speaking with the AFP news agency, claimed the cutoff was directly linked to WikiLeaks’ ongoing publications concerning US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Days before the Democratic National Convention in July, WikiLeaks published damning internal emails that revealed a concerted effort to undermine the presidential campaign of Clinton’s competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders.

Democratic Party officials and the Clinton campaign have accused Russia of involvement in a series of hacks on the American political party’s servers, including “senior-most officials.”

However, the anti-secrecy organization has refused to disclose the sources of the hacked material.

The Ecuadorian Embassy in London has declined to comment on the development, according to news agencies.

Assange has lived at the embassy since 2012. He received asylum at Ecuador’s diplomatic presence in the UK after a British court ordered him extradited to Sweden for questioning over sex crimes allegations.

WikiLeaks’ latest publications concern Clinton’s paid speeches to financial giant Goldman Sachs.

Judge rejects riot charges for journalist Amy Goodman after oil pipeline protest

  • Authorities had issued a warrant for her arrest after Democracy Now! host filmed guards for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters
  • North Dakota arrest warrant for Amy Goodman raises fears for press freedom

October 17, 2016

by Sam Levin

The Guardian

San Francisco- North Dakota judge rejected prosecutors’ “riot” charges against Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman for her reporting on the oil pipeline protests, a decision that advocates hailed as a major victory for freedom of the press.

After the award-winning broadcast journalist filmed security guards working for the Dakota access pipeline using dogs and pepper spray on protesters, authorities issued a warrant for Goodman’s arrest and alleged that she participated in a “riot”, a serious offense that could result in months in jail.

On Monday, judge John Grinsteiner ruled that the state lacked probable cause for the riot charge, blocking prosecutors from moving forward with the controversial prosecution.

“I feel vindicated. Most importantly, journalism is vindicated,” Goodman told reporters and supporters on a live Facebook video Monday afternoon. “We have a right to report. It’s also critical that we are on the front lines. Today, the judge sided with … freedom of the press.”

The case stems from a 3 September report when Goodman traveled to the Native American-led protest against a controversial $3.8bn oil pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says is threatening its water supply and cultural heritage.

Goodman’s dispatch on the use of dogs went viral and has since garnered 14m views on Facebook and also prompted coverage from many news outlets, including CBS, NBC, NPR and CNN.

The North Dakota state attorney’s office had originally charged the journalist with “criminal trespass”. But last week, prosecutors emailed Goodman’s attorney, admitting that there were “legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute”, according to Democracy Now! Instead, the state said it would be seeking riot charges.

“If the prosecutor thought he was going to intimidate Amy, he severely misjudged the situation,” Reed Brody, one of Goodman’s lawyers, told the Guardian after the judge’s decision Monday.

In one email, state’s attorney Ladd Erickson alleged that Goodman “was not acting as a journalist”, according to Democracy Now! However, the original trespassing complaint noted that she is a reporter, with prosecutors writing that Goodman “can be seen on video identifying herself and interviewing protesters”.

Erickson claimed to the local Bismarck Tribune newspaper that Goodman is a “a protester, basically”, adding: “Everything she reported on was from the position of justifying the protest actions.”

Goodman – who has written for the Guardian in the past – is a critically acclaimed progressive host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a program that airs on more than 1,400 stations across the globe. She has also co-authored six New York Times bestsellers.

During the September dispatch, Democracy Now! quoted one protester describing the dogs violently attacking activists: “These people are just threatening all of us with these dogs. And she, that woman over there, she was charging, and it bit somebody right in the face.”

The dog has blood in its nose and its mouth,” Goodman said at the time. “Why are you letting their, her dog go after the protesters? It’s covered in blood.”

An unprecedented gathering of Native American protesters has emerged over the past month to protest against the pipeline, which is scheduled to transport fracked crude from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to a refinery near Chicago.

Last week, actor Shailene Woodley, star of The Fault In Our Stars and the Divergent series, was arrested alongside 26 other activists at the pipeline protests.

Depending on the specific charge, Goodman could have faced several months or up to a year if convicted, according to Brody.

The riot claim was particularly unusual and disturbing, the lawyer added.

“I’ve never seen it. This case is a real outlier in general in the United States.”

Brody said he hoped the state would stop targeting Goodman and other journalists. “He tried one charge. He tried another. At a certain point, I would think it would become too embarrassing for him to pursue these charges.”

The case backfired on prosecutors by prompting many journalists to write about law enforcement’s questionable responses to protesters, he added.

“If he thought these charges were going to deflect media attention from the pipeline, then he really blew it.”

The Freedom of the Press Foundation noted that Goodman was arrested in 2008 for covering Minnesota protests at the Republican national convention. She later won $100,000 from the state in a first amendment lawsuit.

The foundation slammed the prosecution in a statement before the court appearance: “Not only are they flagrantly violating the constitution, they are giving every two-bit dictator and corrupt police establishment around the world every excuse to point to this episode and arrest journalists abroad, while making a mockery of our own press freedom protections at home.”

Erickson, the state’s attorney, declined to say whether his office would end its prosecution of Goodman.

“The case against her and the other people we submitted for charges is still under review,” he said in an email. “Don’t know if that will mean charges or not [at] this point.”

Kyle Kirchmeier, the local county sheriff, said he is continuing to investigate Goodman and others arrested at the protests and that prosecutors are still exploring options to move the case forward.

“I am assured charges are being considered against these individuals,” he said in a statement, adding: “Let me make this perfectly clear, if you trespass on private property, you will be arrested.”

How Israel Became a Hub for Surveillance Technology

October 17 2016

by Alex Kane

The Intercept

In 1948, the year Israel was founded, the Mer Group was established as a metal workshop.

Today it’s a much different company. It operates a dozen subsidiaries and employs 1,200 people in over 40 countries, selling wireless infrastructure, software for public transit ticketing systems, wastewater treatment, and more. But at the ISDEF Expo, an event held last June to show off Israeli technology to potential buyers from foreign security forces, the Mer Group’s representatives were only promoting one thing: surveillance products sold by the company’s security division.

The Mer Group’s evolution from cutting metal to electronic snooping reflects a larger shift in the Israeli economy. Technology is one of the main sectors in Israeli industry. And Israeli firms with ties to intelligence, like the Mer Group, are using their expertise to market themselves internationally. The company’s CEO, Nir Lempert, is a 22-year veteran of Unit 8200, the Israeli intelligence unit often compared to the National Security Agency, and is chairman of the unit’s alumni association. The Mer Group’s ties to Unit 8200 are hardly unique in Israel, where the cyber sector has become an integral aspect of the Israeli economy, exporting $6 billion worth of products and services in 2014.

When drafted into the army, Israel’s smartest youth are steered toward the intelligence unit and taught how to spy, hack, and create offensive cyberweapons. Unit 8200 and the National Security Agency reportedly developed the cyberweapon that attacked Iranian computers running the country’s nuclear program, and Unit 8200 engages in mass surveillance in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to veterans of the military intelligence branch.

Increasingly, the skills developed by spying and waging cyberwarfare don’t stay in the military. Unit 8200 is a feeder school to the private surveillance industry in Israel, the self-proclaimed “startup nation” — and the products those intelligence veterans create are sold to governments around the world to spy on people. While the companies that Unit 8200 veterans run say their technologies are essential to keeping people safe, privacy advocates warn their products undermine civil liberties.

In August, Privacy International, a watchdog group that investigates government surveillance, released a report on the global surveillance industry. The group identified 27 Israeli surveillance companies — the highest number per capita of any country in the world. (The United States leads the world in sheer number of surveillance companies: 122.) Unit 8200 veterans either founded or occupy high-level positions in at least eight of the Israeli surveillance companies named by Privacy International, according to publicly available information. And that list doesn’t include companies like Narus, which was founded by Israeli veterans of Unit 8200 but is now owned by Boeing, the American defense contractor. (Privacy International categorized Narus as an American company because it’s headquartered in California.) Narus technology helped AT&T collect internet traffic and billions of emails and forward that information to the National Security Agency, according to reporting in Wired magazine and documents from the Snowden archive.

“It is alarming that surveillance capabilities developed in some of the world’s most advanced spying agencies are being packaged and exported around the world for profit,” said Edin Omanovic, a research officer at Privacy International. “The proliferation of such intrusive surveillance capabilities is extremely dangerous and poses a real and fundamental threat to human rights and democratization.”

Today, Amit Meyer is a journalist, an unusual career path for a veteran of Unit 8200. Many of his colleagues have taken the skills in intelligence collection and hacking they learned in the military and monetized them in the private sector. Unit 8200 is a “brand name” in Israel, a celebrated institution that allows members easy access to tech companies after their service, said Meyer. Sometimes technology companies approach alumni of the unit; other times alumni recommend one another. There’s a secret Facebook group for alumni filled with job offers at tech companies, Meyer said. “In many cases you just put Unit 8200 in your CV, and magic happens,” he told The Intercept.

Neve Gordon, an Israeli scholar who has studied the country’s homeland security industry, explained that Israel’s prominence in the surveillance industry stems from the close links between the Israel Defense Forces and the technology sector. In 1960, the Israeli military was developing computer software — nine years before the Israeli software industry and university computer science programs even existed. Israeli military units that work with computers, including Unit 8200, have become a “conveyor belt” toward Israel’s military and homeland security industry, said Gordon.

Gordon said there are two other reasons why Israel plays such an outsize role in the global surveillance industry. One is that there are “hardly any” legal limits on veterans “taking certain research ideas they worked on in the military and developing them” in the private sector. In addition, said Gordon, Israel’s decadeslong occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, along with its periodic wars, “provides a laboratory for testing and fine tuning different commodities that are created, or different technologies.”

Those technologies are then exported around the world.

Mer Security is one of the companies exporting spy products. It is well-known in the country’s security circles; it won an Israeli police contract in 1999 to establish “Mabat 2000,” which set up hundreds of cameras in Jerusalem’s Old City, a flashpoint of tensions in the occupied area. In an interview with the Israel Gateway magazine, a trade publication, Haim Mer, chairman of the company’s board and also a Unit 8200 veteran, explained that “the police needed a system in which ‘Big Brother’ would control and would allow for an overall view of events in the Old City area.”

At the ISDEF Expo, Eyal Raz, the product director for Mer Security, told The Intercept about what “Israel’s greatest security minds,” as a company brochure puts it, have created. Raz was showcasing Open Source Collection Analysis and Response, known as OSCAR, which trawls through the internet and social media platforms and promises to uncover hidden connections from the data OSCAR collects and monitors.

Another product, called Strategic Actionable Intelligence Platform, or SAIP, takes that data in and groups it together. To pinpoint “actionable intelligence,” SAIP uses technology that can highlight words, sentences, and information that might interest intelligence officers. These types of language analysis tools are increasingly popular with intelligence services around the world as a tool for pinpointing the next threat. These products claim to “understand what it’s reading,” as Raz said. For instance, a list of chemicals included in a paragraph may seem innocuous to the layperson, but the language analysis machine can recognize that the person is talking about making an explosive device, Raz said.

Raz explained another feature of SAIP: Users can create an avatar “in order to get the credentials to closed forums and to gather information from closed forums. This is also one way you can counterfeit your activities.” Facebook does not allow people to create fake profiles, but the technology Raz and others are selling promises to blend into social networks so that profiles operated by law enforcement look authentic. Multiple news outlets this year have reported that the Israeli Police use similar tactics by creating fake Facebook profiles to befriend targets of investigations and monitor Palestinians. Though Israeli Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld was quoted in one report as confirming the police use this tactic, he denied this claim when contacted by The Intercept.

Mer Group’s clients are in Israel and abroad. The company does “joint development” work with Unit 8200, according to Raz, and they recruit veterans from the unit to work for the company. Other clients are scattered around the world, including in Europe, though Raz refused to divulge specifics. But publicly available information shows, for instance, that in 2011 Mer inked a $42 million contract with Buenos Aires to set up a “Safe City” system, complete with 1,200 surveillance cameras, including license plate recognition technology.

Unit 8200’s ties to the Israeli surveillance industry attracted widespread attention in late August, when digital security researchers at the University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab released a report detailing the provenance of a specific type of malware. They said it was likely that the United Arab Emirates had targeted Ahmed Mansoor, a prominent human rights activist, with sophisticated spyware that had the ability to turn his iPhone into a mobile surveillance device that could track his movement, record his phone calls, and control his phone camera and microphone.

Mansoor says he’s been targeted since 2011, the year he signed a petition demanding democratic reforms in the Emirates. “The state security authorities are basically very obsessed with the monitoring and spying on people, activists,” he said. “They are totally possessed with this kind of thinking.”

Citizen Lab analyzed the spyware after Mansoor received a text message with a link promising “new secrets about torture of Emiratis in state prison.” Rather than clicking, Mansoor sent the texts to the digital security group, which had also, in 2012, analyzed spyware created by Italian surveillance company Hacking Team that had infected Mansoor’s computer.

“We’ve never seen any exploits like this for a mobile device which operates on the very latest version,” said Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab who co-authored the report.

The culprit behind the spyware, Citizen Lab’s report concluded, was the NSO Group, a secretive Israeli surveillance company.

Details about the NSO Group are hard to come by. Their founders rarely talk to the press. They have no website. Israeli and foreign news media have reported that Omri Lavie and Shalev Hulio, the founders of the company, are veterans of Unit 8200. However, some Israeli outlets have reported that they served in other units. Still, at least three of NSO Group’s current employees served in the intelligence unit, according to their LinkedIn pages. And Unit 8200 veterans provided the company with $1.6 million in seed money to develop Pegasus, the name for the spyware, according to Defense News, a trade publication.

Zamir Dahbash, the spokesperson for the company, did not answer specific questions about the NSO Group, which was bought in 2014 for $120 million by a U.S. private equity fund. He told The Intercept in a statement that “the company sells only to authorized governmental agencies, and fully complies with strict export control laws and regulations. … The agreements signed with the company’s customers require that the company’s products only be used in a lawful manner.”

On its face, an Israeli surveillance company selling spyware to an Arab nation is striking. The United Arab Emirates and Israel do not have official diplomatic relations, and like in other parts of the Arab world, many Emiratis detest Israel’s decadeslong occupation of Arab lands. But NSO Group’s sale to the UAE is an indication of the growing ties between Israel and the Gulf state, which has a growing appetite for surveillance gear.

“These regimes are unstable in the sense that most of the people living in these regimes do not have basic rights,” said Gordon, the Israeli scholar, “and they constantly need to monitor and surveil their populations.”

In February 2015, the Middle East Eye writer Rori Donaghy reported that the UAE had signed a contract with Asia Global Technologies, a Swiss-registered company owned by an Israeli and reportedly staffed by former Israeli intelligence agents, to set up a surveillance system featuring thousands of cameras.

Donaghy, who is also the founder of the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, said the UAE has quietly bought hundreds of millions of dollars worth of security products from Israel in recent years. The UAE turns to Israel, he said, because it believes Israelis are “simply the best in this market, the most intrusive, the most secretive.”

US Allies Are Funding Isis – and Hillary Clinton Knew All Along

October 15, 2016

by Patrick Cockburn

The Unz Review

It is fortunate for Saudi Arabia and Qatar that the furore over the sexual antics of Donald Trump is preventing much attention being given to the latest batch of leaked emails to and from Hillary Clinton. Most fascinating of these is what reads like a US State Department memo, dated 17 August 2014, on the appropriate US response to the rapid advance of Isis forces, which were then sweeping through northern Iraq and eastern Syria.

At the time, the US government was not admitting that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies were supporting Isis and al-Qaeda-type movements. But in the leaked memo, which says that it draws on “western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region” there is no ambivalence about who is backing Isis, which at the time of writing was butchering and raping Yazidi villagers and slaughtering captured Iraqi and Syrian soldiers.

The memo says: “We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.” This was evidently received wisdom in the upper ranks of the US government, but never openly admitted because to it was held that to antagonise Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and Pakistan would fatally undermine US power in the Middle East and South Asia.

For an extraordinarily long period after 9/11, the US refused to confront these traditional Sunni allies and thereby ensured that the “War on Terror” would fail decisively; 15 years later, al-Qaeda in its different guises is much stronger than it used to be because shadowy state sponsors, without whom it could not have survived, were given a free pass.

It is not as if Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the US foreign policy establishment in general did not know what was happening. An earlier WikiLeaks release of a State Department cable sent under her name in December 2009 states that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan].” But Saudi complicity with these movements never became a central political issue in the US. Why not?

The answer is that the US did not think it was in its interests to cut its traditional Sunni allies loose and put a great deal of resources into making sure that this did not happen. They brought on side compliant journalists, academics and politicians willing to give overt or covert support to Saudi positions.

The real views of senior officials in the White House and the State Department were only periodically visible and, even when their frankness made news, what they said was swiftly forgotten. Earlier this year, for instance, Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic wrote a piece based on numerous interviews with Barack Obama in which Obama “questioned, often harshly, the role that America’s Sunni Arab allies play in fomenting anti-American terrorism. He is clearly irritated that foreign policy orthodoxy compels him to treat Saudi Arabia as an ally”.

It is worth recalling White House cynicism about how that foreign policy orthodoxy in Washington was produced and how easily its influence could be bought. Goldberg reported that “a widely held sentiment inside the White House is that many of the most prominent foreign-policy think tanks in Washington are doing the bidding of their Arab and pro-Israel funders. I’ve heard one administration official refer to Massachusetts Avenue, the home of many of these think tanks, as ‘Arab-occupied territory’.”

Despite this, television and newspaper interview self-declared academic experts from these same think tanks on Isis, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are wilfully ignoring or happily disregarding their partisan sympathies.

The Hillary Clinton email of August 2014 takes for granted that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis – but this was not the journalistic or academic conventional wisdom of the day. Instead, there was much assertion that the newly declared caliphate was self-supporting through the sale of oil, taxes and antiquities; it therefore followed that Isis did not need money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The same argument could not be made to explain the funding of Jabhat al-Nusra, which controlled no oilfields, but even in the case of Isis the belief in its self-sufficiency was always shaky.

Iraqi and Kurdish leaders said that they did not believe a word of it, claiming privately that Isis was blackmailing the Gulf states by threatening violence on their territory unless they paid up. The Iraqi and Kurdish officials never produced proof of this, but it seemed unlikely that men as tough and ruthless as the Isis leaders would have satisfied themselves with taxing truck traffic and shopkeepers in the extensive but poor lands they ruled and not extracted far larger sums from fabulously wealthy private and state donors in the oil producers of the Gulf.

Going by the latest leaked email, the State Department and US intelligence clearly had no doubt that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding Isis. But there has always been bizarre discontinuity between what the Obama administration knew about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and what they would say in public. Occasionally the truth would spill out, as when Vice-President Joe Biden told students at Harvard in October 2014 that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates “were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war. What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world”. Biden poured scorn on the idea that there were Syrian “moderates” capable of fighting Isis and Assad at the same time.

Hillary Clinton should be very vulnerable over the failings of US foreign policy during the years she was Secretary of State. But, such is the crudity of Trump’s demagoguery, she has never had to answer for it. Republican challenges have focussed on issues – the death of the US ambassador in Benghazi in 2012 and the final US military withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 – for which she was not responsible.

A Hillary Clinton presidency might mean closer amity with Saudi Arabia, but American attitudes towards the Saudi regime are becoming soured, as was shown recently when Congress overwhelmingly overturned a presidential veto of a bill allowing the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government.

Another development is weakening Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies. The leaked memo speaks of the rival ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar “to dominate the Sunni world”. But this has not turned out well, with east Aleppo and Mosul, two great Sunni cities, coming under attack and likely to fall. Whatever Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the others thought they were doing it has not happened and the Sunni of Syria and Iraq are paying a heavy price. It is this failure which will shape the future relations of the Sunni states with the new US administration.

For U.S. and Obama, Mosul campaign is calculated risk

October 18, 2016

by Warren Strobel, Yara Bayoumy and Jonathan Landay


Washington-Iraq and the United States have launched a crucial battle to liberate the city of Mosul without determining how its volatile region will be governed once Islamic State militants are ejected, U.S. and other officials said.

U.S. officials acknowledge gaps and risks in the plan for Mosul, amid worries that defeat of Islamic State in its de facto Iraqi capital could give way to sectarian score-settling and land grabs in the country’s ethnically mixed north.

But they argue that the alternative — waiting to first sort out Iraq’s fractious sectarian politics — is unrealistic. With Islamic State hurting militarily, now is the time to strike, they say.

Plans for administering Mosul itself, and aiding hundreds of thousands of civilians who could flee the fighting are in place, Western and Iraqi officials say.

But being left for later, they say, are fundamental issues likely to determine Iraq’s future stability. Among them are bitterly contested territorial claims in the country’s north, including the divided city of Kirkuk and the disputed borders of the Kurds’ autonomous region.

In Mosul, it remains to be seen how power will be shared among the city’s Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and minority Turkmen, Christians, Yazidis and others.

“Some of those big-picture governance, territorial issues, are going to be pushed down the road,” a senior State Department official said.

Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to Washington from 2013 until earlier this year, said that while military planning is advanced, “on the politics, we still need to get our house in better shape.”

The United States has repeatedly found in recent years that the aftermath of war can prove more troublesome than the fighting itself.

It invaded Iraq in 2003 without a detailed post-war plan and with insufficient troops, contributing to the chaos that still engulfs the country more than 13 years later. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are making gains 15 years after U.S. and allied Afghan forces ousted them from Kabul.

Iraqi government forces, backed by air and ground support from the U.S.-led coalition, on Monday launched the initial stages of the offensive to retake Mosul. The assault has been in preparation since July.

Fighting is expected to take weeks, if not months, as government forces, Sunni tribal fighters and Kurdish Peshmerga first encircle the city of more than 1 million and then attempt to oust between 4,000 and 8,000 Islamic State militants.

“If we try to solve everything before Mosul, Daesh will never get out of Mosul. And this is really a war of momentum,” Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s counter-Islamic State envoy, told reporters this month. Daesh is a derogatory Arabic term for Islamic State.

At stake for Obama is his hoped-for legacy of seizing back as much territory as he can from the jihadists before he leaves office in January. The launch of the Mosul campaign comes three weeks before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.

“There is a desire to make as much progress against Daesh as possible,” said a Western diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.


The decision to back Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s move on Mosul, which involves a force of more than 30,000 fighters, has support in key quarters of Obama’s administration.

But some U.S. defense and intelligence officials question whether Iraq’s rebuilt army is ready. And they say they worry that the aftermath of a messy battle could be a political nightmare as Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites each try to hold parts of the city they have helped liberate.

“In some circles around Washington, they want … things completely in place before the military campaign starts,” said an administration official, speaking before Abadi’s announcement of the start of the offensive early on Monday.

“Taking Iraqis’ focus away from the military fight to resolve all the longstanding political fights will only achieve a loss of momentum against ISIL,” the official said, using another acronym for the group.

Other spoilers are possible, officials acknowledge.

Turkey, which has longstanding cultural and historic ties to Mosul, says a force it has trained in northern Iraq is now participating in the fight. Powerful Shi’ite militias also want a role, raising fears of sectarian clashes in majority Sunni Mosul.

In weeks of intense regional diplomacy, senior U.S. envoys drove home the message that all forces must be under Abadi’s command, the officials said. Whether the message sticks remains to be seen.

While bigger issues will be left for later, plans have been laid for governing and stabilizing Mosul in the near-term after the fighting subsides, the officials said.

The plan calls for the governor of Mosul’s Nineveh province, Nawfal al-Agoub, to be restored and the city divided into sub-districts with local mayors for each. Agoub will govern along with a senior representative from Baghdad and from Erbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.

Screening procedures for civilians fleeing Mosul have been enhanced, in an effort to learn from the battle for Fallujah, in Anbar province. There, Sunni men and boys were held, tortured and in some cases killed by Shi’ite militia members, who had erected makeshift checkpoints.

U.S. and Iraqi officials are working to ensure displaced civilians take safe routes out of the city, and that checkpoints are overseen by provincial authorities and monitored by international non-government groups.

They are also hoping that Mosul’s populace stay in their homes if possible, unlike in the cities of Tikrit, Fallujah and Ramadi, which virtually emptied out as they were being freed from Islamic State’s grip.

The United Nations has said the Mosul battle could leave as many as 1 million people homeless.

“There’s a chance, maybe a significant chance, that it’s going to be fewer people than we expect, but of course it would be dangerous to assume that,” the senior State Department official said.

The Western diplomat acknowledged that moving now against Islamic State’s stronghold in Mosul involves a balancing act.

“There’s a certain amount where you can prepare as much as possible, but once you sort of hit the ground and things actually start happening, you actually have to be quite flexible and ready,” the diplomat said.

(Additional reporting by John Walcott. Editing by Stuart Grudgings.)

 Hacked Emails Prove Coordination Between Clinton Campaign and Super PACs

October 18 2016

by Lee Fang and Andrew Perez

The Intercept

The fact that political candidates are closely coordinating with friendly Super PACs – making a mockery of a central tenet of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision – is one of the biggest open secrets in Washington.

Super PACs are only allowed to accept unlimited contributions on the condition that the money is spent independently of specific campaigns. The Federal Election Commission hasn’t reacted for a variety of reasons, including a lack of hard evidence, vague rules, and a partisan divide among the commissioners so bitter they can’t even agree to investigate obvious crimes.

But newly disclosed hacked campaign documents published by WikiLeaks and a hacker who calls himself Guccifer 2.0 reveal in stark terms how Hillary Clinton’s staffers made Super PACs an integral part of her presidential campaign.


  • In a July 2015 memo addressed to Clinton herself, her campaign laid out plans for working with the Democratic National Committee and Correct the Record, a Super PAC. Correct the Record was created by David Brock, a longtime Clinton ally and the founder of Media Matters for America. One section of the memo instructed: “Work with CTR and DNC to publicize specific GOP candidate vulnerabilities.”
  • In October 2015, several Clinton staffers strategized over ways to attack author Ed Klein for attributing an apparently fake quote to former President Bill Clinton in his book. “I’m sure Brock and team would love to go at him. Nick, want me to put you in touch with them?” Clinton campaign communications staffer Christina Reynolds, wrote, referring to Clinton press secretary Nick Merrill. “I can reach out to David,” volunteered Karen Finney, another Clinton staffer on the email chain.
  • A month later, Reynolds emailed a list of agenda items for an upcoming campaign meeting. High on the list: determining how to frame Bernie Sanders, and whether attacks on Republicans “should go through HRC, surrogates, DNC, CTR,” another reference to Correct the Record.
  • In December 2015, a fundraiser for multiple pro-Clinton super PACs emailed John Podesta, the campaign’s chairman, with a suggested seating chart for an event with Super PAC donors. “John, Below is the seating chart for this evening and attached is a best of hits for both Correct the Record and American Bridge on the Presidential,” Mary Pat Bonner, the fundraiser, wrote. Campaign finance records show four donors on Bonner’s list have given $725,000 to American Bridge 21st Century, which conducts opposition research against Republicans. One donor on the list has contributed $125,000 to Correct the Record. Bonner included a document highlighting the work done by Correct the Record. The paper asserts the group may “coordinate directly and strategically with the Hillary campaign.”
  • In another email that month, Bonner requested Podesta speak to an adviser to Jim Simons, a hedge fund manager who was considering donating to Correct the Record. “He told me he is intending to call you on Monday to discuss the importance of CTR and their donation,” Bonner wrote. “He is interested in the fact that CTR is a coordinated PAC that does not do any paid communication.” (Simons has not donated to CTR.)
  • In February 2016, Dennis Cheng, the lead fundraiser for the Clinton campaign, emailed other staffers to recommend that Podesta call certain donors to Priorities USA Action, the largest pro-Clinton Super PAC, to thank them for their six- and seven-figure donations. Cheng flagged three donor names, telling a colleague they were “very important Priorities USA calls that ideally John can make.”
  • In a separate email, Guy Cecil, an official from Priorities USA, apologizes to Podesta for sending him to the wrong address for a meeting. Podesta noted it had been raining and quipped, “Priorities owes me a pair of shoes.”

The emails show consistent, repeated efforts by the Clinton campaign to collaborate with super PACs on strategy, research, attacks on political adversaries and fundraising. The cache also reveal meetings between the campaign and Priorities USA Action, and that campaign officials have helped with the group’s fundraising.

The files were apparently hacked from a variety of Clinton staffers and have been posted online in recent weeks by Wikileaks and Guccifer 2.0. Obama administration intelligence officials have alleged, without providing evidence, that the email hacks were conducted on behalf of the Russian government in an attempt to disrupt the U.S. elections.

The Clinton campaign, Correct the Record and Priorities USA did not respond to requests for comment.

Super PACs, known technically as “Independent Expenditure-Only Political Committees,” are a direct result of the Citizens United court decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the author of the decision, proclaimed that deregulating outside money would have no corrupting effect upon candidates because there would be strict firewalls between candidates and outside groups.

Correct the Record has long argued it could work directly with the Clinton campaign. When the group launched, it said it would only produce and distribute communications online, and that its work would therefore be exempt from FEC coordination rules.

The Super PAC was recently the subject of a complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission by the Campaign Legal Center, which called on regulators to investigate whether Clinton’s campaign has illegally coordinated with the group.

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog organization, has also alleged that officials working for Donald Trump have similarly blurred the line between the campaign and one of its largest Super PACs, Make America Number 1, by employing common vendors.

The Campaign Legal Center argued that Correct the Record has likely made “coordinated expenditures” that could be considered in-kind contributions to the Clinton campaign — such as its spending on “opposition research, message development, surrogate training, reporter pitches, media booking, video production, ‘rapid response’ press outreach, and other ‘earned media.’”

“These documents affirm what we’ve been saying all along about Correct the Record,” said Brendan Fischer, an associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. “They are basically operating as an arm of the Clinton campaign.”

While Correct the Record has argued it is exempt from FEC rules, Clinton herself has said she does not work with Priorities USA Action. That Super PAC has spent millions of dollars on independent expenditures, including six-figure media advertising buys, to boost Clinton’s candidacy. The group has raised over $133 million through individual donations as large as $6 million.

As other media outlets have reported, Marc Elias, the Clinton campaign attorney, provided a memo with guidance on how the campaign could solicit funds for Priorities USA Action. The memo notes that campaign staffers would have to use certain language when trying to raise money for the super PAC:

Permissible: “Donor A works in financial services and has been a long-time contributor. I think she’d be willing to do six figures for Priorities.”

Not recommended: “I want you to call Donor A and ask for $250,000.”

In another email, campaign officials discussed ramping up their work with Priorities USA. Oren Shur, a campaign media advisor, organized the call “following several discussions we had with Marc,” a reference to Marc Elias, to discuss even more direct coordination with Priorities USA, noting that doing so would be “breaking new ground.” Officials floated pursuing coordinated “issue advocacy ads,” campaign ads that do not mention express advocacy for a candidate but are clearly political and partisan in nature.

Shur recommended a second course of action: using consultants shared with Emily’s List, a Democratic group, to shoot campaign video that would be posted online to “send public smoke signals in a more traditional way to the Priorities IE.” That way, the Priorities USA team would pick “up the signals,” and air independent expenditures that would “save the campaign anywhere from $2M-$4M.”

The subject of Super PAC interaction was of particular concern for Elias, who emailed and met with Podesta on several occasions to discuss pro-Clinton groups. In one email on March 5, 2015, shortly before the formal launch of the campaign, Elias contacted Podesta to ask if he was “good to meet with Priorities and CTR” at his law firm.

Two months later, Correct the Record formally separated from another Brock-led super PAC, called American Bridge 21st Century, and announced it would be “allowed to coordinate with campaigns.”

Elias’s law firm, Perkins Coie LLP, has provided legal services to the Clinton campaign, Correct the Record and Priorities USA Action, making it a central node in the campaign infrastructure.


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