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TBR News October 2, 2016

Oct 02 2016

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C.  October 2, 2016: “We have had several readers wonder why we used the Russia Today website for news when it was a propaganda site for that country. It is entirely true that RT is owned by the Russian government and expresses their views on many subjects.

It is also true that if one checks the accuracy of their stories, they are always based entirely on fact, not fiction. RT was the first site to discuss in depth the assauts by American law enforcement on unarmed black citizens.

All of these stories without exception, are unfortunately true and the Guardian has also begun to use the same material in its stories.

All countries make use of propaganda.

When there was trouble in eastern Ukraine, the New York Times showed pictures on its front page of Russian troops, and said that these had just invaded the Ukraine. Unfortuately for truth, the pictures were old ones, taken on military training excercies ten years before.

When a hospital was bombed in Syria, the American media rushed into print, blaming Russia and decrying such activities.

They conveniently forgot the recent American military assault on a Pakistani hospital.

In the view of the US media, this was ‘a regrettable accident’ but in the case of accusatory articles on alleged Russian activities, these were condemned as ‘brutal disregard of humanitarian standards.’

Lies always have short legs.”

Germany’s finance minister presses for a ‘German Islam’

October 2, 2016

by Caroline Copley

Reuters

BERLIN-A veteran ally of Angela Merkel urged Muslims in Germany on Sunday to develop a “German Islam” based on liberalism and tolerance, saying the influx of people seeking refuge, many of them Muslims, is a challenge for mainstream society.

Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, stepping out of his usual finance remit, urged tolerance, saying the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants required a better understanding among Germans of what is important to them and how they want to live.

Almost 1 million migrants from the Middle East and Africa, came to Germany last year, stoking social tensions and boosting support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has said Islam is not compatible with the constitution.

The arrival of large numbers of refugees has strained communities and led to a rise in far-right violence and attacks on migrant shelters, particularly in eastern Germany.

Schaeuble, a stalwart of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), said: “Without a doubt, the growing number of Muslims in our country today is a challenge for the open-mindedness of mainstream society.”

In a guest article for conservative paper Welt am Sonntag, he added: “The origin of the majority of refugees means that we will be increasingly dealing with people from quite different cultural circles than previously.”

Schaeuble, 74, is seen as possible CDU candidate for Chancellor should Merkel not seek re-election next year.

He acknowledged that sexual attacks by migrants in Cologne and two attacks by migrants claimed by the Islamic State militant group over the summer had soured the mood.

“We should not, in this more tense situation, allow an atmosphere to emerge in which well-integrated people in Germany feel alien,” he said.

Despite the rising number of xenophobic attacks in Germany, Schaeuble said he believed the majority of Germans would say: “Yes, we want you to belong to us.”

The migrant crisis and the integration of the large number of refugees has raised question marks over Merkel’s re-election prospects.

Her Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have relentlessly blamed her open-door refugee policy for the CDU’s poor showing in recent state elections and want to cap the number of migrants coming to Germany at 200,000 a year.

Schaeuble emphasized at an annual conference on Islam last Tuesday that people of all faiths are part of Germany, repeating a view that Merkel voiced in 2015 at the height of the popularity of the anti-Islam PEGIDA grassroots movement.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

Congress’s Retreat on 9/11 Saudi Bill Shows Fear of Backlash

  • After rushing override, Ryan and McConnell consider changes
  • Neither party wanted to take tough vote against families

September 30. 2016

by Steven T. Dennis, Jim Rowley, Billy House

Bloomberg

To Republicans in the U.S. Congress, a bill letting Sept. 11 victims’ families sue the Saudi government was just the sort of legal remedy — and feel-good campaign gesture — to show they’re tough on terrorism.

So they rushed the law through over the objections of the White House, with one top Republican posting a photo of himself signing the bill on Facebook. Then they hurried to override the president’s veto — with the help of all but one Senate Democrat.

Not 24 hours later, Republicans were backpedaling. Some fretted that the law invited retaliation against U.S. soldiers, the exact point the White House had been making for months. Others worried it would disrupt the U.S.’s delicate, decades-long embrace of the oil-rich Saudi kingdom.

The top two Republicans in Congress say they’re open to changing the legislation. But with lawmakers going home for a six-week recess, any modifications are on hold. The White House is accusing lawmakers of bungling the bill to score political points.

So how did Congress get itself into this?

Misjudging the House

Interviews with Democrats and Republicans show that both lawmakers and the White House made a key miscalculation: that the U.S. House of Representatives would sit on the bill, making passage impossible. That gave the Senate license to pass the measure in May without the expectation it would become law.

And, one senior Democratic aide said, it appeared to cause the White House not to mount a full-court press against the bill, beyond its frequent criticism during the daily press briefing.

“I wish we had all focused on this earlier,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters this week. He said he regrets that he didn’t try harder to block its passage without more study and changes. But “the same difficulties would have presented themselves,” he said.

“Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were but nobody had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships, and I think it was just a ball dropped,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters Thursday, saying it was worth discussing possible fixes after the elections.

“I wish the president — I hate to blame everything on him and I don’t, but it would have been helpful if we had a discussion on this much earlier than last week,” he added.

The White House, which labeled the Senate’s 97-1 override vote as the most embarrassing action of that chamber in decades, scoffed at the criticism.

‘Buyer’s Remorse’

“Ignorance is not a defense,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday, accusing Congress of developing “rapid-onset buyer’s remorse.”

The bill itself had been kicking around for several years, pushed by two powerful senators — John Cornyn of Texas, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, and Chuck Schumer of New York, anointed earlier this year as the next Democratic leader.

The White House quietly tried to put the brakes on the bill, according to a senior Democratic aide, but Schumer and Cornyn managed to persuade senators to drop their opposition, in part by adding a provision allowing a stay on lawsuits if the administration attests that the affected country is negotiating a settlement in good faith.

A senior Republican aide said that both Corker and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham lifted holds they had placed on the bill after the tweaks, only to later have second thoughts.

So despite warnings from Saudi Arabia that the bill would damage relations with the kingdom, senators suddenly passed it in May by a voice vote, before the White House had even issued a formal veto threat.

The minor changes didn’t satisfy the White House, which warned the measure could still put U.S. soldiers, diplomats and spies at risk.

Sept. 11 Anniversary

House leaders decided to get the bill on the floor two days ahead of the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Right before that vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and other House members held a ceremony on the steps of the Capitol to mark the occasion.

“I don’t think it was a political vote on the part of anybody,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. But, she added, “If you’re saying the timing of when it was brought up was political, well, that I don’t know.”

The House sent the bill to the president’s desk without opposition.

When President Barack Obama vetoed the measure, he issued a detailed lengthy explanation, warning that allowing such lawsuits against foreign governments “based solely upon allegations by private litigants” may “lead to suits against the United States or U.S. officials for actions taken by members of an armed group that received U.S. assistance, misuse of U.S. military equipment by foreign forces, or abuses committed by police units that received U.S. training,” even if the lawsuits are “without merit.”

Muted Lobbying

But the White House still didn’t mount an all-out offensive on Capitol Hill.

Corker complained at the start of a hearing Thursday that the White House didn’t respond to an effort he made with Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland — the top Democrat on the committee — to get a meeting this week on the bill.

“I know Ben and I were trying to set up a meeting to try and deal with the issue of Jasta, to try to come to some other option that might create an outlet for the victims of 9/11 and yet not undermine some of our sovereign immunity issues,” he said, using an acronym for the bill.

Corker said he talked to Secretary of State John Kerry twice, “and we agreed the best way to resolve this was to have a meeting” — a meeting with Schumer, Cornyn, Cardin, and himself, along with Senate Minority Harry Reid of Nevada and McConnell.

“Secretary Kerry couldn’t even get the White House to call me,” Corker said.

“They wouldn’t even sit down to meet with the secretary of state and us to try to create a solution to a problem that they felt was real,” said Corker.

White House Pushback

The White House didn’t confirm that Corker had requested the meeting, or explain why the administration would be unwilling to convene such a gathering. But Earnest on Thursday said Corker needed to “get his story straight.”

“For a number of days, Senator Corker was suggesting that he had never heard from anybody in the administration,” Earnest said. “That clearly is not true, I guess now by his admission.”

All the finger-pointing at the White House by Congress came after lawmakers repeatedly pushed the bill forward.

Corker and Graham last week told reporters they would prefer the override vote to happen after the elections and talked of narrowing the bill further, but neither objected when McConnell went to the floor Monday to ask for — and receive — unanimous consent to hold the vote Wednesday.

Even though the Saudis waged a high-profile lobbying campaign, including having several chief executive officers of large companies call senators, Saudi influence on Capitol Hill isn’t what it was a decade ago, when gas prices were far higher, the senior Democratic aide said.

At this point, there were some congressional voices urging colleagues to reconsider overriding the president’s veto. But those were not enough to derail the override sought by the Sept. 11 victims’ families.

Possible Changes

Even so, with the bill becoming law, Ryan said he wants to see if it can be fixed.

“We want to make sure that the 9/11 victims and their families have their day in court,” he told reporters Thursday. “At the same time, I would like to think there may be some work to be done to protect our service members overseas from any kind of — any kind of legal ensnarements that could occur, any kind of retribution.”

Corker said he hoped a fix could make it into a year-end, must-pass omnibus spending bill, or perhaps be enacted next year.

Saudi Arabia wants the law changed.

“It is our hope that wisdom will prevail and that Congress will take the necessary steps to correct this legislation in order to avoid the serious unintended consequences that may ensue,” the Saudi embassy said in a statement Thursday.

But Schumer dismissed the idea that governments other than Saudi Arabia are particularly concerned by what he and other sponsors have insisted is a narrow exemption to sovereign immunity.

“I’m willing to look at any proposal they make, but not any that hurt the families,” Schumer said.

Nor would he support limiting the bill to the Sept. 11 attacks.

“That tells the Saudis, go ahead and do it again, we won’t punish you,” he said.

Europe’s Top Human Rights Court Will Consider Legality of Surveillance Exposed by Edward Snowden

September 30, 2016

by Ryan Gallagher

The Intercept

Human rights groups have launched a major new legal challenge over mass surveillance programs revealed by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Ten organizations – including Privacy International, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Amnesty International – are taking up the landmark case against the U.K. government in the European Court of Human Rights (pictured above). In a 115-page complaint released on Thursday, the groups allege that “blanket and indiscriminate” surveillance operations carried out by British spy agencies in collaboration with their U.S. counterparts violate privacy and freedom of expression rights.

The case represents the first time Europe’s top human rights court has been asked to consider the legality of surveillance exposed in the Snowden documents. Its judgments are legally binding and could potentially have ramifications for how surveillance is conducted by U.K. agencies.

“Through bulk surveillance programs, the U.S. and U.K. governments intercept the private communications and data of millions of people around the world,” said Ashley Gorski, staff attorney at the ACLU National Security Project. “Not only is bulk surveillance unlawful, but it has a deeply chilling and corrosive effect on political discourse and our personal communications. We are hopeful that the European Court of Human Rights will recognize that this mass surveillance violates fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech, and that the court’s ruling will help put an end to these practices on a global scale.”

An appendix to the complaint names more than a dozen surveillance programs that it says violate rights and do not have adequate safeguards against abuse. Among them are programs operated by the British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters – such as KARMA POLICE – which were exposed by The Intercept last year. KARMA POLICE was designed to allow the U.K. agency to build “a web browsing profile for every visible user on the internet.” The appendix also focuses on NSA-operated programs that have been shared with British spies, such as XKEYSCORE, a tool that can be used to sift through masses of emails, online chats, and virtually every other kind of internet data.

The complaint argues that the scale of the surveillance “is unprecedented in terms of (a) the number of individuals whose communications are potentially affected; (b) the quantity of communications content and related communications data that is actually initially intercepted, extracted, filtered, stored, analysed and/or disseminated by the U.K. intelligence agencies.” It adds that the “the operation of sophisticated covert surveillance powers without adequate safeguards is ipso facto disproportionate.”

The U.K. government’s Home Office had not responded to a request for comment at time of publication.

A Terrible Parallel

Roosevelt’s spies and the same group influencing Bush

by Harry von Johnston PhD

There are strong parallels between the September 11th  2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

In both instances, the government was fully aware that attacks against American targets were in the offing. American intelligence, both in 1940-41 and in 2000-2001 received a tremendous amount of information concerning the probability of such attacks and yet both succeeded achieving a total surprise which should never have occurred.

Both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are cited as examples of poor performances on the part of intelligence agencies. The raw information was in our hands but somehow, the enemies seemed to enjoy total surprise.

To answer this point, it is necessary to look beyond the gathering, disseminating and comprehension of intelligence material.

The answer to the shocking successes of our enemies is far more likely to be found in the policies of the administrations in power than in faulty dissemination of vital intelligence.

In the case of Pearl Harbor, blame was shifted to the local commanders, Admiral Kimmel and General Short. They were accused of not being alert to the impending Japanese attack and were forced to retire in disgrace. But it follows that if the commanding officers of the Hawaiian forces were not given even a fraction of the intelligence received in Washington from Army, Navy and Department of State sources, their behavior should be viewed in a different light.

In the case of 9/11 similar logic applies. We have seen the great influx of decoded Imperial Japanese military and diplomatic messages, the meaning of which clearly pointed to a Japanese attack and in the case of 9/11, there is an appalling similarity.

Given that these attacks were certainly not a surprise to those agencies who received incoming intelligence, there are only two reasons why the enemies achieved such great successes.

Either both Administrations were led by men of utter stupidity or both of them welcomed attacks which would then enable them to achieve what they considered to be higher goals. Roosevelt was eager to engage Hitler in combat for a number of reasons. He was unable to do so without a casus belli and Pearl Harbor supplied just this.

Identically, it is now very obvious that the Bush Administration was unable to achieve its aims without a public goad and the pending Arab attack would, and did, supply such a goad.

In both cases, the Presidents were influenced in their attitudes by groups of advisors who themselves had their own agendas.

Roosevelt was informed, advised and often pressured by a group of advisors such as Harry Dexter White, Alger Hiss, David Niles, Henry Morgenthau, Bernard Baruch and others who felt that Hitler must be destroyed and that America was the one entity that could do this. Balked by Hitler’s refusal to rise to provocations, these men turned their attentions to Japan with an eye to dragging a reluctant America into a European war by the back door. This war would be to the advantage of the Soviet Union alone and it was worked for with great cunning and diligence by the cabal involved.

These men were not only pro-Stalin but many were active agents for the Soviet Union. It is now known that Harry Dexter White, through his superior, Henry Morgenthau, was successful in thwarting an American plan to settle differences with Japan. The entirely predictable result of this rejection was the final decision of the frustrated Japanese to launch a war that, in reality, these same men working with a willing President, had provoked.

In the matter of 9/11, a similar groups of Presidential advisors also wear eager for a military action in the Middle East. These men, the so called neo-cons, were of what they considered a patriotic goal of establishing American power over the unstable oil producing regions of the world and, as important, to support and defend the political and military aims of Israel.

Roosevelt was a brilliant domestic politician but failed completely in his foreign policies. The former sprang from his own persona while the other was thrust upon him by those with their own agendas.

Bush was a man of limited intellect who depended entirely upon his staff for brief, verbal analysis of world events. In this case, he who made the daily reports controlled the President’s world views.

Although the final results are not known in the Iraqi adventure, they certainly are in the Roosevelt adventure. In that case, America emerged from the war as the dominant economic and military power. In the case of Iraq, though the end had not yet  been realized, it is clearly evident that unlike Roosevelt, Bush will leave office with his country in a highly negative position.

In his case, the sins of the fathers will certainly be visited upon their children

Spy-Counterspy

by Mike Hunt

For some time, B.A.E. Systems has been running a series of classified, intelligence system for various American agencies, such as the CIA. BAE is a British company based at Farnborough, UK, which has extensive worldwide interests, particularly in North America through its subsidiary BAE Systems Inc. BAE was formed on 30th November 1999 with the merger of British Aerospace (BAe) and Marconi Electronic Systems (MES), the defence arm of The General Electric Company (GEC). The run a so-called “Covert Communications” network that is a highly classified blog that acts as a forum for agencies and individual employees to communicate and share information. Since 2005, over a thousand of such blogs have been instituted.

B.A.E. Systems, which runs the CIA’s blog that is hosted  on IntelLINK. This has an information technology contract with the C.I.A. The IntelLINK intelligence network links information in the various classified databases of the US intelligence agencies (e.g. FBI, CIA, DEA, NSA, USSS, NRO) to facilitate communication and the sharing of documents and other resources.

There is also the ncr.disa.mil system.  The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) was established in Washington, D.C., as the Defense Communications Agency (DCA) with 450 employees on May 12, 1960, by Secretary of Defense Thomas B. Gates. Its mission was to manage the Defense Communications System (DCS), a consolidation of the independent long-haul communications functions of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Unfortunately for the security of this massive intrusion program, the United States has made the colossal error of informing their opposite intelligence numbers in Israel with the result that while we were sharing requested information with Israeli Intelligence, they, in turn were initiating their very own program directed against the United States. The following American financial institutions have been the subject of on-going Israeli surveillance:

  • CHIPS: Clearing House Interbank Payments System

100 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004 (212) 613-0188

http://www.chips.org/home.php

  • CHIPS: Clearing House Interbank Payments System. An interbank payment system related to international trade, CHIPS is used for the transfer of international trade dollars. CHIPS is used by both Fedwire and S.W.I.F.T.
  • FEDWIRE: Operated by the Federal Reserve Board of the USA http://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/fedwire/
  • ACH: Automated Clearing House of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY

http://www.newyorkfed.org/aboutthefed/fedpoint/fed31.html

The DHS has stations located in various cities in the United States who are responsible for specific areas of financial interest and they worked, and have worked, closely with the Department of State who have been called upon to apply “extreme diplomatic pressure” to countries whose banking systems are reluctant to cooperate with this program. In addition to the S.W.I.F.T people:

SWIFT: Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication

Avenue Adèle 1, B-1310 La Hulpe, Belgium Tel: 01132-2655-31-11

http://www.swift.com/

List of Offices: http://www.swift.com/index.cfm?item_id=320

who were informed by their pro-Cheney CEO that the U.S. spy program was a “highly limited and temporary” program for the interdiction of global terrorists. Later, when the executives in this organization began to have concerns that this program had grown to complete surveillance of any and all transactions, their objections were dealt with very severely by the Department of State through the Embassy in Belgium.

In addition to the Belgian clearing house, the following other bank transfer systems were also used to track the flow of money. Some of these were entirely willing, in the beginning, but later started having regrets and others had no knowledge that their systems had been penetrated by computer hackers in the paid employ of the DHS (a central California branch has been responsible mainly for these break-ins)

These now consist of:

  • BOJ-NET: Bank Of Japan Clearing House

http://www.boj.or.jp/en/theme/psys_seibi/paysys/bojnet/index.htm

http://www.law.nyu.edu/centralbankscenter/texts/Boj-Net.html

  • BOJNET: Electronic wire transfer system overseen by the Bank of Japan.
  • CHAPS: Clearing House Automated Payments System

(Operated by the Bankers Clearing House of London)

  • CHAPS: Clearing House Automated Payments System. Operated by the Bankers Clearing House of London, CHAPS is used for interbank messaging and wire transfers involving British Pounds.

Also being surveilled are banking systems in the PRC, South Korea, Singapore, Mumbai, Australia, Canada, Spain, Italy and Turkey.

Another excellent DHS source of information are the FUNDS WIRING SERVICES: Although there are many wire transfer services, they must each use the basic services such as Fedwire, S.W.I.F.T, or BOJNET.  Examples of wire money transfer services are Western Union, Moneygram, Eurigro, Sterling Draft Service, and the various payment services available on the Internet such as Paypal

It looks like the clearing house SAMA uses is SWIFT, The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, Avenue Adèle 1, B-1310 La Hulpe, Belgium. Their “secure” electronic transfers have also, apparently, been breached by the snoopers. State is afraid that if the Royal family of Saudi Arabia ever finds out that we are snooping, if we are, into their own personal financial dealings, it could cause immense trouble over oil. The State people are livid with rage over this because of the collateral damage that could result but my friend told me that DHS is run by a bunch of rejects from the BATF and who have no oversight and less intelligence. I would wager that certain previous financial transactions between the Bush interests and the bin Laden family will never be mentioned. Toss this up in the air and see if anyone is interested in the fact that a “front operation” for DHS has been breaking into the confidential computers of mid-east banking concerns, initially spying on certain Saudi bank accounts believed to be controlled by the bin Laden family. I made notes and these are the banks involved in the clandestine hacking:

National Commercial Bank, Riyad

Riyad Bank, Riyad

Saudi American Bank, Riyad

Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corp., Riyad

Saudi British Bank, Riyad

Arab National Bank, Riyad (Arab Bank Subs.)

Al Bank Al Saudi Al Fransi, Abha

Saudi Hollandi Bank, Riyad

Al-Jazeera bank, Riyad

Al-Akami bank, Riyad

Al Bank Al Saudi Al Tejari Al Muttahed, Dammam

Faysal Islamic Bank of Bahrain, Jeddah

International bank, Riyad

Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah

Saudi Arabian Agricultural Bank, Riyadh

Saudi Cairo Bank, Riyadh

Saudi Development and Industrial Corp., Riyadh

Saudi French bank, Riyad

Saudi Investment Bank, Riyad

Saudi United commercial bank, Riyad

United Saudi Bank, Riyadh

Western union, Jeddah

World Bank, Riyadh

Theresa May: UK to trigger Article 50 by end of March 2017

The UK prime minister has told the BBC that the Brexit process will formally begin by the end of March 2017. May has also promised a “Great Repeal Bill.”

October 2, 2016

Britain will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – which sets the rules for a two-year negotiating process for a nation leaving the EU – by the end of March, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, May said: “As you know, I have been saying that we wouldn’t trigger it before the end of this year so that we get some preparation in place.”

“But yes, I will be saying in my speech today that we will trigger Article 50 before the end of March next year.”

The prime minister will further outline her plans for Britain’s divorce from the European Union in her keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham later on Sunday.

Earlier, in a front-page story in “The Sunday Times” under the headline “May fires starting gun,” May announced her plans to make Britain “a sovereign and independent country” by repealing the act that brought the United Kingdom into the European Union.

“We will introduce, in the next Queen’s Speech, a Great Repeal Bill that will remove the European Communities Act from the statute book,” said May.

EU law and regulations would instead be enshrined in British law and then removed or kept, depending on what the UK parliament decided.

The act would take legal effect once Britain formally leaves the European Union, the newspaper reported.

‘Getting the right deal’

May had been under increasing pressure from EU officials, investors and her own party to provide a more concrete outline of the government’s plans for Britain’s exit from the union.

However, May did not give more explicit details as to what negotiating approach Britain would take in its divorce talks with the remaining 27 EU states. When asked whether she would curb immigration over access to tariff-free trade with the EU, May said that she only wanted to get the “right deal.”

“I want the right deal for trade in goods and services, and what we are doing at the moment … is listening to businesses here in the UK, listening to different sectors, finding out what it is that is most important to them,” she said.

Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23 in a national referendum. May took over the prime ministership from David Cameron, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU and resigned shortly after suffering defeat in the referendum.

Pentagon paid PR firm $540mn to make fake terrorist videos

October 2, 2016

RT

The Pentagon paid a UK PR firm half a billion dollars to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq in a secret propaganda campaign exposed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

PR firm Bell Pottinger, known for its array of controversial clients including the Saudi government and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation, worked with the US military to create the propaganda in a secretive operation.

The firm reported to the CIA, the National Security Council and the Pentagon on the project with a mandate to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers.

Both the White House and General David Petraeus, the former general who shared classified information with his mistress, signed off on the content produced by the agency.

The Bell Pottinger operation started soon after the US invasion of Iraq and was tasked with promoting the “democratic elections” for the administration before moving on to more lucrative psychological and information operations.

Former employee Martin Wells told the Bureau how he found himself working in Iraq after being hired as a video editor by Bell Pottinger. Within 48 hours, he was landing in Baghdad to edit content for secret “psychological operations” at Camp Victory.

The firm created television ads showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light as well as creating content to look as though it had come from “Arabic TV”. Crews were sent out to film bombings with low quality video. The firm would then edit it to make it look like news footage.

They would craft scripts for Arabic soap operas where characters would reject terrorism with happy consequences. The firm also created fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, which were then planted by the military in homes they raided.

Employees were given specific instructions to create the videos. “We need to make this style of video and we’ve got to use Al-Qaeda’s footage,” Wells was told. “We need it to be 10 minutes long, and it needs to be in this file format, and we need to encode it in this manner.”

The videos were created to play on Real Player which needs an internet connection to run. The CDs were embedded with a code linking to Google Analytics which allowed the military to track IP addresses that the videos were played on.

According to Wells, the videos were picked up in Iran, Syria and the US.

“If one, 48 hours or a week later shows up in another part of the world, then that’s the more interesting one,” Wells explained. “And that’s what they’re looking for more, because that gives you a trail.”

The Pentagon confirmed the PR firm did work for them under the Information Operations Task Force (IOTF) creating content they say was “truthful”. The firm also worked under the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF). The Pentagon said it could not comment on JPOTF operations.

US law prohibits the government from using propaganda on its population, hence the use of an outside firm to create the content.

Documents show the Pentagon paid $540 million to Bell Pottinger in contracts between 2007 and 2011, with another contract for $120 million in 2006. The firm ended its work with the Pentagon in 2011.

In 2009, it was reported that the Pentagon had hired controversial PR firm, The Rendon Group, to monitor the reporting of journalists embedded with the U.S. military, to assess whether they were giving “positive” coverage to its missions.

It was also revealed in 2005 that Washington based PR company the Lincoln Group had been placing articles in newspapers in Iraq which were secretly written by the US military. A Pentagon investigation cleared the group of any wrongdoing.

Dangerous Hurricane Matthew closes in on Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba; still watching possible U.S. East Coast impacts

October 2, 2016

by Brian McNoldy

The Washington Post

Hurricane Matthew remains an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm with peak winds of 150 mph. It shows no signs of weakening, either — with favorable winds and deep warm waters ahead of it, there is plenty of fuel to keep it going.

After a brief stall, the northward turn did take place on Saturday evening as predicted, and the storm is now crawling toward the northwest at 5 mph. It should pick up some speed today, and conditions will deteriorate in Jamaica and Haiti later today, with the worst arriving tomorrow. All areas near the predicted path are under hurricane warnings or watches, and the impacts include destructive winds, significant storm surges along the coastlines, and inland flooding and mudslides.

This part of the Caribbean is no stranger to high-end hurricanes, but, unfortunately, the impacts are usually catastrophic. Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba are all mountainous, and that helps to enhance the rainfall amounts and generate terrible flash flooding and mudslides. According to the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory, “Matthew is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 15 to 25 inches over southern Haiti, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 40 inches. Matthew is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 20 inches over eastern Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches.”

Florida should certainly still be on alert, and impacts further north from the Carolinas through New England cannot be ruled out yet either. Most models keep the center of the storm 200 to 400 miles east of Florida’s coastline, but even so, tropical storm conditions would still be possible in Florida from Wednesday through Friday, and there is still time for the track to shift a bit.

Several models are indicating a track that would actually maximize the time over warm water, with minimal disruption to the storm’s intensity. Matthew could “thread the needle,” sneaking through the Jamaica Channel and the Windward Passage. Since 1851, the only hurricane we could find that passed completely through both gaps was Tomas in 2010, although Hazel in 1954 was very close (the center clipped Haiti twice).

Although no Category 4 or 5 hurricane has ever passed through this area from the south, other such hurricanes have passed through the area with devastating consequences. Infamous storms such as Dean (2007), Ivan (2004), Gilbert (1988), Allen (1980), Cleo (1964) and Flora (1963) are etched in people’s memories and stories.

The storm intensity has clearly been a wildcard, as the tremendous rapid intensification that occurred Friday was not predicted by anything and anyone. But the track has been fairly “well-behaved.” The map below shows Matthew’s track history (thick black line with diamonds) as well as all of the National Hurricane Center’s five-day forecasts since last Wednesday, when it became a tropical storm. Over those five days, the forecast track has been slightly too far north — meaning the storm stayed farther south than expected — but the northward turn is in line with past forecasts. Over the next couple of days, we’ll see how well the forecast positions between Jamaica and Haiti verify.

Although all eyes are focused on the big islands in the Greater Antilles now, the entire U.S. East Coast needs to be aware of potential impacts in the coming week, especially given the track uncertainty.

Timber Company Tells California Town, Go Find Your Own Water

October 1, 2016

by Thomas Fuller

New York Times

WEED, Calif. — The water that gurgles from a spring on the edge of this Northern California logging town is so pristine that for more than a century it has been piped directly to the wooden homes spread across hills and gullies.

To the residents of Weed, which sits in the foothills of Mount Shasta, a snow-capped dormant volcano, the spring water is a blessing during a time of severe and prolonged drought.

To the lumber company that owns the land where the spring is, the water is a business opportunity.

Roseburg Forest Products, an Oregon-based company that owns the pine forest where the spring surfaces, is demanding that the city of Weed get its water elsewhere.

“The city needs to actively look for another source of water,” said Ellen Porter, the director of environmental affairs for Roseburg who led the company’s negotiations with the city. “Roseburg is not in a position to guarantee the availability of that water for a long period of time.”

For the past 50 years, the company charged the city $1 a year for use of water from the Beaughan Spring. As of July, it began charging $97,500 annually. A contract signed this year directs the city to look for alternative sources.

Roseburg has not made public what it plans to do with the water it wants to take back from the city. But it already sells water to Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring, which bottles it in Weed and ships it as far away as Japan. Crystal Geyser is looking to increase its overall supply.

Residents of Weed, including the current mayor and three former mayors, say the water was always intended for municipal and domestic use and should not be sold to the highest bidder.

“The corporate mentality is that they can make more money selling this water to Japan,” said Bob Hall, a former mayor of Weed and currently a member of the City Council. “We were hooked at the hip with this company for years,” he said of the timber company, the largest private employer in the area. “Now, they are taking advantage of people who can’t defend themselves.”

Bottled-water plants have met with resistance and in some cases protests in a number of places across California, including a Nestlé plant last year in Sacramento. In the water-rich towns in the shadow of Mount Shasta, residents have raised concerns over proposed bottling plants that they say could severely diminish local water supplies.

A measure on the ballot in the November election in Siskiyou County, where the towns are, would for the first time require that companies obtain permits to export water.

The disputes echo California’s broader water wars. Five years of drought have escalated competition among farmers, factories and residents over water use and have pitted the arid south against the more water-rich north.

“Water is money,” said David Webb, a resident of the city of Mount Shasta who follows the water disputes in the area. “If you can get it, you can make money from it.”

The mayor of Weed, Ken Palfini, says the value of the city’s water was emphasized during a visit several weeks ago by Pierre Papillaud, the founder of the company that owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring. In what the mayor and another participant described as a tirade of abuse, Mr. Papillaud demanded that the city give up its spring water so that his company could have more.

“He said if he didn’t get his way, he was going to blow up the bottling plant,” Mr. Palfini said of Mr. Papillaud’s visit. “He said that twice.”

Mr. Papillaud’s son Ronan Papillaud came to Weed in mid-September to apologize for the brusque treatment and to rescind his father’s demands. But Mr. Palfini said it was a lesson on how small municipalities in the area need to protect themselves from water-hungry companies.

“They are just corporations,” Mr. Palfini said. “They are not your friend.”

Residents of Weed, which is still rebuilding after a major wildfire two years ago, say they believe that their dispute with Roseburg will end in the courts and that they have a document showing that the previous owner of Roseburg’s timber business here, International Paper, handed over water rights to the city in 1982.

But they describe a David and Goliath battle between Roseburg, a wealthy corporation capable of paying for high-powered lawyers, and a relatively poor city with just 2,700 people.

Residents in Weed followed the legal battles of Missoula, Mont., where the State Supreme Court ruled in August that the city could seize water from a private company by eminent domain to secure the municipal water supply.

The alternative to legal proceedings for now is to drill a new well at a cost of around $2 million, according to Ron Stock, the Weed city administrator.

Roseburg has suggested a site on its property, but city officials say it is potentially dangerous: The well would be located a few hundred yards from a former wood treatment facility that is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals including arsenic. The facility, which is managed by Roseburg, was fenced off in 1986 and has been declared a Superfund site.

Because of the complex hydrology of the area, including lava tubes that carry water in various directions under the mountains, the city would not know whether the water was safe until it drilled a test well, Mr. Stock said.

“The city has to be very careful,” he said. “We don’t want a Flint, Mich., situation.”

Ms. Porter, the Roseburg representative, said the proposed well site was “well outside any area of contamination.”

In an interview at the company’s timber plant outside Weed, where logs are spun and shaved into thin sheets used for plywood, Ms. Porter blamed Mr. Hall, the city councilor, and others in the city for casting Roseburg in a bad light.

“We are becoming the corporate bad guy, and that’s really unfortunate,” she said. The city already has wells that serve around half the population, she said.

Ronan Papillaud, the president of CG Roxane, which owns Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring together with a Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, was also defensive when asked about his company’s plans.

“We do not belong in this story,” Mr. Papillaud said. “We are not depriving anyone of anything.” CG Roxane has bought water from Roseburg since the late 1990s and dedicates one of its production lines in its Weed plant to bottling water bound for Japan.

Mr. Papillaud described his deal with Roseburg as a simple relationship between a buyer and seller.

“Is this blood water? Are they involved in child labor?” he asked rhetorically. “We are clients, end of story.”

Watching the water dispute warily are members of the Winnemem Wintu, a small Native American tribe that considers the slopes of Mount Shasta sacred.

According to tribal beliefs, one of the springs on the mountain is the place where animals and mankind emerged into the world. Six years ago, for the first time in the oral history of the tribe, that spring dried up, according to Luisa Navejas, a tribe member.

The water around Mount Shasta is not limitless, she said.

“This mountain is calling us now, and we need to listen,” Ms. Navejas said of the inactive volcano.

“This mountain will talk,” she said. “The time will come.”

Obama’s Gift to Israel – and Lockheed

October 1, 2016

by JP Sottile

AntiWar

The Israeli lobby wins again! That’s the obvious takeaway from President Barack Obama’s historically large, but not quite unprecedented $38 billion “aid package” to Bibi Netanyahu’s supposedly intransigent government.

In Israel, the ten-year deal is seen as a solid, but not complete victory for Bibi. In the U.S., the deal looks like it’s the cost of doing business with Iran. Sadly, the deal also looks like a bad sign of things to come for the Palestinian people.

Shortly after the deal was sealed, President Obama’s farewell tour took him to the United Nations where he stated without irony, “Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.” The utter toothlessness of his admonition was preemptively underlined by a fascinating online video posted by Netanyahu in which he claimed the Palestinians – not the rapidly encroaching Israelis – were the real outlaws. Apparently, they are advocating “ethnic cleansing” by hoping to reclaim pilfered land from illegal Israel settlements peppered throughout the absconded territory of the West Bank.

It’s an amazing bit of pretzel logic gleefully served up to a dwindling, demoralized crowd of two-state enthusiasts. The mustard came when Obama made his final, flaccid appeal to a now-buoyant Bibi regarding his not-so-subtle expansion of Israel’s ethnically-pure settlements.

Of course, this predictable turn of events confirmed what critics of Israel’s outsized influence have always believed – that when it comes to the State of Israel, the fix is always in no matter how badly the “special relationship” appears to be broken.

In 2006, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University made a strong case that, as they wrote in the London Review of Books, the “Israel Lobby” surpasses all “other special-interest groups” in its ability to not just “skew foreign policy” away from America’s “national interest,” but it has also simultaneously convinced “Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.”

Although there’s little doubt that much of America’s foreign policy establishment seems inexorably convinced that the two nations share “identical” interests, there are indications that Israel is not quite the arm-twister it used to be.

That’s because the Iran Nuke Deal was a distinct departure from the usually suspect arrangement between Washington and Tel Aviv. It does appear that Obama broke 40 years of Israeli exceptionalism to defeat the vaunted Israeli Lobby. In exchange, Obama had to paper-over that unprecedented break with 38 billion greenbacks. In effect, he purchased Israel’s acceptance of the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Transactional Politics

It’s transactional politics and it makes a lot of sense. To keep war with Iran off the table, Obama simply had to reinforce Israel’s nuclear-tipped military edge over Iran, over other regional powers and over the people living in the bombing range also known as Gaza. But there is another thrust to the bulging aid package.

It also reinforced the United States’ notable edge as the world’s leading salesman of military hardware. And that’s the interesting upshot of the big deal with little Israel. It’s all laid out in a synopsis of the “Memorandum of Understanding” published by the White House:

  • This amount represents a significant increase over the current MOU by every measure, and will enable Israel to acquire additional advanced military capabilities from the United States.
  • It includes $33 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds and an unprecedented $5 billion commitment in missile defense assistance. This funding will be disbursed in equal increments of $3.3 billion in FMF and $500 million in missile defense funding each year for the duration of the understanding.
  • In practical terms, the level of funding specified in the MOU will permit Israel to update the lion’s share of its fighter aircraft fleet – including through the acquisition of additional F-35s – increase its missile defense, and acquire other defense capabilities needed to meet its threat environment.
  • The $500 million in annual missile defense funding under the MOU exceeds the average level of non-emergency support the United States has provided to Israel for missile defense over the last five years.

Most importantly, President Peace Prize secured a key provision that terminates Israel’s ability to spend 26.3 percent of Uncle Sam’s annual gift “within Israel on non-U.S. products.” In other words, all of the tax dollars Uncle Sam sends over there now have to come back here and be spent in Uncle Sam’s Club – a.k.a. America’s Supermarket of Military Hardware.

The Needy Military Industrial Complex

In fact, the White House stated with detectable pride that “Israel will spend more funding, as much as $1.2 billion per year, on the advanced military capabilities that only the United States can provide.” So, Israel’s big win also cornered a part of their market for those American corporations that lead the world in developing new and exciting ways of killing people.

And it comes none too soon for America’s defense industry. As a “longtime consultant for American military contractors” recently told Foreign Policy, the already wildly profitable defense industry is looking for some assistance because “domestic defense spending is flat as a pancake and Israel is a consumer of high-end military technology.”

And nothing is more “high-end” (and more in need of aid) than Lockheed Martin’s bloated boondoggle – the F-35. As it turns out, the biggest win of all might be for Lockheed’s embattled, trillion-plus dollar weapon system.

So far, the “next generation” fighter injures its pilots, just suffered “another engine fire” from tailwinds, probably cannot beat the F-16 or European Typhoon in a dogfight and is still hampered by a panoply of “serious problems,” according to the “Pentagon’s top weapons tester.” But fear not, Lockheed shareholders … here comes military aid to the rescue!

As Eric Pianin detailed in The Fiscal Times, Israel was an early-adopter of the “ill-fated, long overdue and far over budget” fighter jet. In 2006, they slated an “augmented version” of the jet as a replacement for yet another profitable weapon system purchased from Uncle Sam’s Club – their fleet of 300 F-16s.

The problem is that they’d budgeted $5 billion to buy 100 F-35s. That works out to a bargain price of $50 per plane. But now “the price tag has ballooned to $15 billion – or about $200 million per plane,” writes Pianin.

So, it’s quadrupled in price over the last decade … and it hasn’t even been delivered yet! But the first souped-up Israeli model is supposed to arrive on Dec. 12, 2016. And that’s where the $38 billion deal comes in. The “aid” is going to help the Israelis make up the difference.

So, thanks to the American taxpayer, they’ll be able to afford to receive the plane from Lockheed, which has only been able to build the plane because of an ongoing subsidy also provided by the US taxpayer in the form of the Pentagon’s own haphazard effort to get the “most expensive weapons system in history” off the ground here in the United States.

Can’t you just hear the money flushing down the drain … and into the already-flush bank accounts of the executives and shareholders who are perennially enriched by the world’s biggest weapons-maker and the US government’s biggest contractor?

Investment in Lobbying

Not coincidentally, Lockheed has spent over $7 million on lobbying thus far this year. And that’s why it’s worth considering that the Israel Lobby is not, as Mearsheimer and Walt claimed in 2006 and many believe today, the apex predator among the herd of special interest groups feasting on US foreign policy.

The vaunted American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has spent $1.8 million on lobbying so far this year. Its high-water mark was during last year’s scrum around the Iran nuclear deal when it spent $3.88 million, according to OpenSecrets.org.

And Lockheed’s high water mark? They hit $16.1 million in 2008, when the profitable, but ever-more catastrophic Global War on Terror came under a great deal of election year scrutiny. That year was a high-water mark for the industry as a whole with a whopping $153.3 million spread around the political process by Profiteers of Doom.

Lockheed also leads the defense industry pack in giving to Congressional candidates of both stripes. So far this year they’ve doled-out $3.1 million while the entire industry has dropped a cool $22 million around Capitol Hill, according to OpenSecrets.org’s latest numbers. It’s enough to (almost) make Sheldon Adelson blush.

So, here’s the question: Is Israel’s $38 billion windfall really yet another example of how Washington, DC is “Israeli Occupied Territory”? Or it is just a continuation of a decades-long defense industry money-laundering scheme dating back to the start of the Cold War with the Mutual Defense Assistance Act of 1949?

That’s when the so-called Iron Curtain officially became a cash cow for the Military-Industrial Complex and President Harry Truman created one of the industry’s most reliable slush funds – foreign military assistance. Some of that aid was used to send US weapons directly to allies. Some of it was direct aid (a.k.a. money) used to buy US weapons. Some of it financed the purchase of US weapons. And some of was used to buy from other dealers – particularly as Europe built-up its own, NATO-stoked defense industry.

But mostly it’s been a tidy little loop that cycles US tax-dollars back to the corporate arms-dealers back in the United States. And it still is. That’s why contractors are touting Cold War 2.0 to investors and why the State Department deploys de facto salespeople to push arms around the Middle East and why the Israelis always get their way in spite of what would seem to be America’s larger national interests.

Frankly, the $38 billion “aid” package is as much of – if not more of – a gift to the Military-Industrial millionaires who’ve made a killing off of the Middle East’s woes. And now that Obama nixed Israel’s use of aid on its own industry, it is really just the middleman through which the money passes on its way back to America’s defense industry.

A Money-Laundering Scheme

The stark truth is that America’s so-called ‘’national interests” reflect the wishes of the Military-Industrial Complex far more than they do Israel or any foreign power. That’s why military aid so often laundered tax dollars through a rogue’s gallery of strongmen, counterproductive military juntas, brutal anti-Communist regimes and, since the advent of the Global War on Terror, through those snazzy little coalitions cobbled together out of nations willing to aid in overthrowing governments, to abet in torture and, thereby, to create an endless supply of enemies around the world.

Really, once you view US foreign policy as a vast money-laundering scheme, America’s frustrating (perhaps even immoral) policies toward Israel and Saudi Arabia and Eastern Europe and practically everywhere else suddenly look a lot more rational.

So, it isn’t ideology or stupidity or some Svengali-induced trance that has America looking the other way in the Occupied Territories or supporting the carnage in Yemen or fueling the largest military buildup in Europe … since the last largest military buildup in Europe.

Rather, there is a simple profit motive at the heart of US foreign policy. Always has been. Maybe there always will be. To wit, America isn’t just the world’s biggest spender on its own military, but it also accounts for one-third of all foreign military sales worldwide.

Uncle Sam’s Club services “at least” 96 countries. That’s nearly half of the world’s nations. And 40 percent of those weapons end up in the Middle East. Like Israel, Saudi Arabia is among its most reliable customers and Uncle Sam is keeping them supplied with everything they need to turn Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Just like Israel, many point to the pernicious power of Saudi influence in shaping US policy. And like Israeli policy, Saudi policy seems counterproductive to US interests. Perhaps even more so since Saudi-exported jihadism helped set the conditions for the Global War on Terror. But that means the Saudi Government is not just a great customer, but they even open up new markets!

And that’s the real reason Saudi Arabia, just like Israel, always seems to get away with (literally) murder. It’s not because they “control” the United States. It’s because US taxpayer-funded defense spending in a “dangerous world” is the most reliable source of income in human history.

Like Listerine needs “chronic halitosis” to sell mouthwash, the post-Cold War defense industry needs lotsa “bad breath” in Russia, in the South China Sea, in Africa and, of course, in the Middle East. And who leaves a more bitter taste in the mouths of their neighbors than Israel and Saudi Arabia?

Even better, here in the US they’ve become big glaring targets of disdain and suspicion despite the fact that the biggest beneficiaries of US policy toward both are the US corporations that sell them big bangs for big bucks … and profit even more off the collateral chaos they spawn.

So, it’s not influence. It’s really about customer service. And the customer is always right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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