TBR News September 12, 2015

Sep 12 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. September 11, 2015:A very informative, and very well-connected, neighbor has been speaking with us about very imporant, often astonishing, national and international matters. His family connections are beyond question and we have spent the last few weeks making copious notes of our meetings.

In the late spring of 1971, as a Yale law student, Hillary Rodham began dating Bill Clinton, also a law student at Yale. That summer she interned at the Oakland, California, law firm of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein.

The firm was well known for its support of civil liberties, radical causes and constitutional rights. Two of its four partners were current or former Communist Party members. Robert Treuhaft, a crusading radical lawyer who inspired his wife, Jessica Mitford, to write her best seller ”The American Way of Death,” was the son of Hungarian immigrants and was raised in the Bronx and then Brooklyn. Mr. Treuhaft won a scholarship to Harvard, where he studied law. During Prohibition his father became a bootlegger.

Mr. Treuhaft and Jessica Mitford were married in 1943. They moved to San Francisco, where Mr. Treuhaft started a radical law firm that specialized in fighting every kind of discrimination and social injustice.

Both joined the United States Communist Party and were frequently investigated and harassed by government officials; for many years they were denied passports, for example.

In 1971 he accepted a young Yale lawyer named Hillary Rodham(later Hillary Rodham Clinton) as an intern.

Mrs. Clinton’s subsequent involvement in the firm’s plea negotiations over an armed invasion of the California Legislature by Black Panthers is well-known but officially denied by Clinton suporters.

This incident consisted of what was termed an armed invasion of the California Legislature on May 2, 1967 by a group of about young blacks.

They were protesting against a pending bill which woud restrict the carrying of loaded weapons within city limits in California. Six of them went into the legislative chamber armed with shotguns. Capitol police arrived and removed all of them from the building, later confiscating their weapons.

Treuhaft law partner Bunstein said, when told of Clinton’s denial of involvement in this: “I just have a very distinct memory of going to Sacramento that summer with Hillary in my car and working with the D.A.’s office to resolve the Panther case. I really remember that quite clearly,”

The account was featured in a San Francisco Chronicle article that appeared shortly after Mr. Clinton won the presidency in 1992. And, there can be no dispute that she was at the Treuhaft firm as it played a role in a highly publicized trial in which a top leader of the black militant group, Huey Newton, was charged with killing an Oakland police officer, John Frey.

Newton’s first retrial began in July 1971, soon after Mrs. Clinton arrived at the Treuhaft firm. Treuhaft represented a Panther activist and longtime friend of Newton, Gene McKinney. On the witness stand, McKinney, who was with Newton the night the policeman was killed, took the Fifth Amendment. However, the mere suggestion that McKinney, who was uncharged, could have been the killer may have helped Newton win a hung jury.

During her tenure at the Treuhaft firm and her association with Black Panther members, Ms Rodham came under both Federal and State investigions and in July of 1981, filmed surveillance of active Black Panther members observed her naked in bed with a female Panther member in an Oakland motel.

Mrs. Clinton claims to be Welsh in background but the Rodham family were originally Rodomski, originated in Lodz, in Poland before immigrating to England and were Jewish. Her brother and daughter subsequently married Jews.

Her support of Israel is well-known.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis Will Transform Middle East Politics

July 14 2015

by Charles Glass

The Intercept

By the time the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 ended, Israeli forces had expelled about 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes. Their plight led to the overthrow of Arab regimes as well as civil wars in Jordan in 1970 and in Lebanon from 1975 to 1990. Israel bombed refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Gaza. Radicalized Palestinians staged hijackings, airport massacres and suicide bombings that captured headlines around the world and more than once led to dangerous American-Soviet confrontations.

The legacy of Syria’s refugee disaster awaits. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Gutteres, has just declared that 4 million Syrians are now refugees in neighboring countries. That is almost six times greater than the number who fled Palestine. Another 7.6 million Syrians, he says, have also lost their homes but remain destitute within Syria. Gutteres said, “This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation.”

The U.N. reports that Lebanon, a country of 4 million, has taken in 1.2 million Syrians. This figure is probably an underestimate, because not all refugees register with the U.N. Almost all these Syrians, like the Palestinians before them, are Sunni Muslims whose mere presence upsets the delicate sectarian balance through which the Lebanese attempt to govern themselves. Where the Palestinians caused fear among the Christians, the Syrian Sunnis pose a threat to the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah. Hezbollah depends on its Shiite plurality in Lebanon to hold power while it fights for the regime in Syria against Sunni Muslim jihadis. In Lebanon, displaced Syrians live where they can. Some dwell in unfinished buildings, others in schools or farms. Lebanon does not wish to establish camps for them as it did for the Palestinians after 1948. Jordan has taken 630,000, many of whom languish in desert camps along the border with Syria. Another 1.8 million Syrians have settled in Turkey, which has no intention of providing permanent homes for either Kurds or Arabs from Syria. Astoundingly, 250,000 Syrians have fled to Iraq despite the war there.

Before the war began in 2011, Syria fed itself and provided almost all of its medicines from flourishing pharmaceutical industries. Now it is dependent on foreign charity that is anything but adequate. The U.N. says that of the $4.53 billion needed for displaced Syrians to survive, it has received only $1.06 billion in the first half of this year. Gutteres lamented that aid falls far short of “the most basic survival needs of millions of people over the coming six months.”

The U.N. has had to cut food supplies to 1.6 million refugees. John Owen reported on Voice of America that the monthly food allowance for refugees in Lebanon has been reduced from $27 last January to $13.50. Try feeding yourself on $13.50 a month to understand the reasons behind the desire of some Syrians to escape the region to feed their children. One 22-year-old Syrian, Osama al-Raqa, who lost his chance to go to university because of the war, told Agence France-Presse, “I dream of leaving to Europe. Europeans eat and live in houses. We, on the other hand, are homeless and the whole world treats us like a burden.”

Syrians who can flee the poverty of refugee camps and shantytowns in the Middle East are paying smugglers to take them by land and sea to Europe. Of the 137,000 people who attempted the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean to Western Europe in the first six months of this year, the U.N. says that one third were Syrians. The fact that many of them drowned has not deterred the others, who face living death without proper sustenance in the Middle East.

To imagine that the long-term plight of millions of Syrian refugees in the Middle East and Europe will have no consequences is folly on a greater scale than predicting the Palestinian refugee problem would disappear after 1948. This is a political more than a humanitarian issue. For the refugee exodus to stop, the war must end.

While millions of Syrians are fleeing, tens of thousands of jihadi volunteers are coming in. They are the shock troops of the self-styled Islamic State, which with Saudi and Turkish backing has taken control of large swathes of Syria and Iraq that it calls its caliphate. Its oppressive rule is reminiscent, albeit in religious garb, of the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Indeed, Ahmed S. Hashim wrote in Middle East Policy that Saddam’s former intelligence operatives were “maintaining special detachments for conducting assassinations, kidnappings and the collection of funds” for ISIS.

In addition, the Islamic State is gaining support among jihadis worldwide. One private intelligence assessment, by IntelCenter, estimates that ISIS has attracted 35 affiliates and loyalist groups in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Mali, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. One of them murdered 38 tourists, 30 of them British, in Tunisia on June 26. The shooter trained in Libya, where Western air power delivered the country over to a motley collection of jihadis who have unfurled the ISIS banner as their own. Britain is advising its citizens to avoid Tunisia, but Tunisia is unlikely to be the last place where jihadis will strike.

A friend of mine in Aleppo, who refuses to leave despite the battles in his once beautiful city, told me over the telephone, “You have sent hell to us.” That is, he blames me as a Westerner for putting the jihadis in his midst. The day cannot be far off when the jihadi militants, like the poor refugees whom they and the regime have displaced, will bring that hell back to us.

Charles Glass, former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent, recently published Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring (OR Books).

Refugee Crisis: Where Are All These People Coming from and Why?

September 8, 2015

by Patrick Cockburn


It is an era of violence in the Middle East and North Africa, with nine civil wars now going on in Islamic countries between Pakistan and Nigeria. This is why there are so many refugees fleeing for their lives. Half of the 23 million population of Syria have been forced from their homes, with four million becoming refugees in other countries.

Some 2.6 million Iraqis have been displaced by Islamic State – Isis – offensives in the last year and squat in tents or half-finished buildings. Unnoticed by the outside world, some 1.5 million people have been displaced in South Sudan since fighting there resumed at the end of 2013.

Other parts of the world, notably south-east Asia, have become more peaceful over the last 50 years or so, but in the vast swathe of territory between the Hindu Kush mountains and the western side of the Sahara, religious, ethnic and separatist conflicts are tearing countries apart. Everywhere states are collapsing, weakening or are under attack; and, in many of these places, extreme Sunni Islamist insurgencies are on the rise which use terror against civilians in order to provoke mass flight.

Another feature of these wars is that none of them show any sign of ending, so people cannot go back to their homes. Most Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in 2011 and 2012, believed the war in Syria would soon be over and they could return. It is only in the last couple of years that they have realised that this is not going to happen and they must seek permanent sanctuary elsewhere. The very length of these wars means immense and irreversible destruction of all means of making a living, so refugees, who at first just sought safety, are also driven by economic necessity.

Such wars are currently being waged in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, south-east Turkey,Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and north-east Nigeria. A few of them began a long time ago, an example being Somalia, where the state collapsed in 1991 and has never been rebuilt, with warlords, extreme jihadis, rival parties and foreign soldiers controlling different parts of the country. But most of these wars started after 2001 and many after 2011. All-out civil war in Yemen only got under way last year, while the Turkish-Kurdish civil war, which has killed 40,000 people since 1984, resumed this July with airstrikes and guerrilla raids. It is escalating rapidly: a truckload of Turkish soldiers were blown up at the weekend by Kurdish PKK guerrillas.

When Somalia fell apart, a process which a disastrous US military intervention failed to reverse in 1992-94, it seemed to be a marginal event, insignificant for the rest of the world. The country became a “failed state”, a phrase used in pitying or dismissive terms as it became the realm of pirates, kidnappers and al-Qa’ida bombers. But the rest of the world should regard such failed states with fear as well as contempt, because it is such places – Afghanistan in the 1990s and Iraq since 2003 – that have incubated movements like the Taliban, al-Qa’ida and Isis. All three combine fanatical religious belief with military expertise. Somalia once seemed to be an exceptional case but “Somalianisation” has turned out to be the fate of a whole series of countries, notably Libya, Iraq and Syria, where until recently people had enough food, education and healthcare.

All wars are dangerous, and civil wars have always been notoriously merciless, with religious wars the worst of all. These are what are now happening in the Middle East and North Africa, with Isis – and al-Qa’ida clones such as Jabhat al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham in Syria – ritually murdering their opponents and justifying their actions by pointing to the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas by the Assad government.

What is a little different in these wars is that Isis deliberately publicises its atrocities against Shia, Yazidis or anybody else it deems its enemies. This means that people caught up in these conflicts, particularly since the declaration of Islamic State in June last year, suffer an extra charge of fear which makes it more likely that they will flee and not come back. This is as true for professors in Mosul University in Iraq as it is for villagers in Nigeria, Cameroon or Mali. Unsurprisingly, Isis’s advances in Iraq have produced great waves of refugees who have all too good an idea of what will happen to them if they do not run away.

In Iraq and Syria, we are back to a period of drastic demographic change not seen in the region since the Palestinians were expelled or forced to flee by the Israelis in 1948, or when the Christians were exterminated or driven out of what is now modern Turkey in the decade after 1914. Multi-confessional societies in Iraq and Syria are splitting apart with horrendous consequences. Foreign powers either did not know or did not care what sectarian demons they were releasing in these countries by disrupting the old status quo.

The former Iraqi National Security Advisor, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, used to tell American political leaders, who glibly suggested that Iraq’s communal problems could be solved by dividing up the country between Sunni, Shia and Kurds, that they should understand what a bloody process this would be, inevitably bringing about massacres and mass flight “similar to the Partition of India in 1947″.

Why are so many of these states falling apart now and generating great floods of refugees? What internal flaws or unsustainable outside pressures do they have in common? Most of them achieved self-determination when imperial powers withdrew after the Second World War. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, they were ruled by military leaders who ran police states and justified their monopolies of power and wealth by claiming that they were necessary to establish public order, modernise their countries, gain control of natural resources and withstand fissiparous sectarian and ethnic pressures.

These were generally nationalist and often socialist regimes whose outlook was overwhelmingly secular. Because these justifications for authoritarianism were usually hypocritical, self-interested and masked pervasive corruption by the ruling elite, it was often forgotten that countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya had powerful central governments for a reason – and would disintegrate without them.

It is these regimes that have been weakening and are collapsing across the Middle East and North Africa. Nationalism and socialism no longer provide the ideological glue to hold together secular states or to motivate people to fight for them to the last bullet, as believers do for the fanatical and violent brand of Sunni Islam espoused by Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. Iraqi officials admit that one of the reasons the Iraqi army disintegrated in 20014 and has never been successfully reconstituted is that “very few Iraqis are prepared to die for Iraq.”

Sectarian groups like Isis deliberately carry out atrocities against Shia and others in the knowledge that it will provoke retaliation against the Sunni that will leave them with no alternative but to look to Isis as their defenders. Fostering communal hatred works in Isis’s favour, and it is cross-infecting countries such as Yemen, where previously there was little consciousness of the sectarian divide, though one third of its 25 million population belong to the Shia Zaydi sect.

The likelihood of mass flight becomes even greater. Earlier this year, when there were rumours of an Iraqi Army and Shia militia assault aimed at recapturing the overwhelming Sunni city of Mosul this spring, the World Health Organisation and the UN High Commission for Refugees began pre-positioning food to feed another one million people who they expected to flee.

Europeans were jolted by pictures of the little drowned body of Alyan Kurdi lying on a beach in Turkey and half-starved Syrians crammed into Hungarian trains. But in the Middle East the new wretched diaspora of the powerless and the dispossessed has been evident for the last three or four years. In May, I was about to cross the Tigris River between Syria and Iraq in a boat with a Kurdish woman and her family when she and her children were ordered off because one letter spelling a name on her permit was incorrect.

But I’ve been waiting three days with my family on the river bank!” she screamed in despair. I was heading for Erbil, the Kurdish capital, which aspired until a year ago to be “the new Dubai” but is now full of refugees huddling in half-completed hotels, malls and luxury blocks.

What is to be done to stop these horrors? Perhaps the first question is how we can prevent them from getting worse, keeping in mind that five out of the nine wars have begun since 2011. There is a danger that by attributing mass flight to too many diverse causes, including climate change, political leaders responsible for these disasters get off the hook and are free of public pressure to act effectively to bring them to an end.

The present refugee crisis in Europe is very much the conflict in Syria having a real impact on the continent for the first time. True, the security vacuum in Libya has meant that the country is now the conduit for people from impoverished and war-torn countries on the edges of the Sahara. It is from Libya’s 1,100-mile coastline that 114,000 refugees have made their way to Italy so far this year, not counting the several thousands who drowned on the way. Yet, bad though this is, the situation is not much different from last year, when 112,000 made their way to Italy by this route.

Very different is the war in Syria and Iraq which has seen the number of people trying to reach Greece by sea jump from 45,000 to 239,000 over the same period. For three decades Afghanistan has produced the greatest number of refugees, according to the UNHCR; but in the past year Syria has taken its place, and one new refugee in four worldwide is now a Syrian. A whole society has been destroyed, and the outside world has done very little to stop this happening. Despite a recent flurry of diplomatic activity, none of the many players in the Syrian crisis shows urgency in trying to end it.

Syria and Iraq are at the heart of the present crisis over refugees in another way, because it is there that Isis and al-Qa’ida-type groups control substantial territory and are able to spread their sectarian poison to the rest of the Islamic world. They energise gangs of killers who operate in much the same way whether they are in Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen or Syria.

The mass flight of people will go on as long as the war in Syria and Iraq continues.

(Reprinted from The Independent by permission of author or representative)


Windows 10: Microsoft is recording EVERYTHING you type, but here’s how to stop it

WINDOWS 10 tracks your every keystroke and Cortana request, sending the data it collects back to Microsoft to try and improve accuracy. But there is a way to stop it.

September 8, 2015

by Aaron Brown


Microsoft can track every word you type, or say out loud, while using its latest operating system, Windows 10.

Windows 10, which unites the Microsoft ecosystem across a host of devices including smartphones, tablet and desktops PC, first rolled out back in July.

The Microsoft OS saw huge adoption within the first few hours of its release – but the free upgrade process has not been without issues.

Users have reported agonisingly slow boot-up speeds, wifi issues and problems with child safety features following the jump to Windows 10.

he news comes days after it was revealed Microsoft was working on a major update for its latest operating system, which featured a visual refresh.

Now a keylogger has reportedly been discovered within the latest Microsoft operating system.

The Redmond firm included the software, which tracks every keystroke made on the Windows 10 device, to try and improve its products and services.

Voice data is also collected and analysed every time virtual assistant Cortana is used on the desktop operating system.

It was thought that Microsoft would only include the key logger within the Technical Preview versions of the operating system, so that it could use the vast data supplied by beta testers to tweak the final release.

However the slightly creepy software has now been included in the commercial version of Windows 10, PC World has confirmed.

Explaining the role of the spyware in its FAQ, Microsoft writes: “When you interact with your Windows device by speaking, writing (handwriting), or typing, Microsoft collects speech, inking, and typing information—including information about your Calendar and People (also known as contacts)…”

Fortunately, Windows 10 users can switch off the key logging.

Simply navigate to the Start Menu, then tap Settings.

Privacy is in the third row of the Settings window.

Once you are in the Privacy menu, tap on General, then under Send Microsoft info about how I write to help use improve typing and writing in the future – toggle the setting to Off.

Then, under the Speech, Inking and Typing menu, which is located four rows beneath General – click Stop getting to know me.

This will turn off the speech tracking through dictation and Cortana.


Exclusive – U.S. to China: Take back your undocumented immigrants

September 11, 2015

by Mark Hosenball and Tim Reid


WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES- In early June, in cities across America, U.S. immigration agents arrested more than two dozen Chinese nationals with unfulfilled deportation orders, telling them that after years of delay, China was finally taking steps to provide the paperwork needed to expel them from the U.S.

But, not for the first time, China failed to provide the necessary documents, and three months later not one of those arrested has been deported, and many have been released from custody. They form part of a backlog of nearly 39,000 people Chinese nationals awaiting deportation for violating U.S. immigration laws, 900 of them classed as violent offenders, according to immigration officials.

The issue, which is likely to come up during a state visit to Washington later this month by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has further strained a U.S.-China relationship already frayed by tensions over economic policy, suspected Chinese cyber hacking and Beijing’s growing military assertiveness.

Meanwhile, China is pushing the U.S. on a different immigration issue: the return of Chinese citizens it says are fugitives from corruption investigations at home.

The June arrests, described by immigration lawyers, U.S. officials and some of the arrestees themselves, grew out of meetings aimed at speeding up a clogged process that has long frustrated the United States.

China has been extremely slow, U.S. immigration officials say, to provide the proof of citizenship necessary to send visa violators home. Some of the nearly 39,000 Chinese immigrants awaiting deportation have been under orders to leave for well over a decade, and the backlog continues to grow.

An apparent breakthrough came, officials say, at a March meeting in Beijing between Sarah Saldana, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Zheng Baigang, a top Chinese Public Security official. Their discussions produced a “memorandum of understanding,” agreed to by both countries, to help expedite the process.

In April, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson traveled to Beijing, where his Chinese counterparts “agreed to begin repatriation flights from the U.S. for Chinese nationals with final deportation orders,” said DHS Press Secretary Marsha Catron.

As part of that agreement, two Chinese officials traveled to the U.S. to interview those arrested in the June sweep, along with more than 50 others on the deportation list, including many with criminal convictions in the United States. China promised their cases would be resolved quickly.

In the past, an ICE official said, China has explained delays by saying it can be difficult to verify citizenship, a process that might require visits to distant villages and towns.

But one U.S. official suggested another reason for the holdups: “They do not want these people back.”

A senior Obama administration official told Reuters, ahead of Xi’s visit, that the U.S. would like to see China move on this issue. “We have made that very clear, and pressed them to do so,” the official said.


One of the immigrants detained in the recent sweeps was Daniel Maher, who was arrested as he left for work from his San Francisco Bay area home on June 2. Four uniformed immigration officials pulled up behind his car, he said, shackled his wrists and legs and then drove him to a U.S. deportation office.

There, Maher says, he was searched along with 13 other Asian men and put into a prison jumpsuit. “We were told there was a 99.9 percent chance the travel documents were arriving to deport us to China,” said Maher, who was born in Macau, a former colony of Portugal that became a special administrative region of China after Maher immigrated to the United States. “I was told I would need a jacket, because the plane would be cold.”

But Maher, who was convicted of holding up a San Jose, California auto parts warehouse in the 1990s and served a six-year term before being ordered deported in 2000, has since been released.

In a statement provided to Reuters, ICE said Maher was let go on August 14 “after it became apparent the agency would not be able to obtain a travel document in the foreseeable future to carry out its repatriation.”

U.S. frustrations over the massive deportation backlog come as Beijing is pushing for more help in tracking down and repatriating dozens of alleged fugitives living in the U.S. who are wanted in China as part of a widespread crackdown on corruption dubbed Operation Fox Hunt.

Officials in the U.S. put distance between the two issues, saying there will be no ‘quid pro quo’ agreement to provide Operation Fox Hunt suspects in exchange for cooperation on immigration violators. But they acknowledged that there are parallel discussion on the matters.

China, however, sees the two subjects as tied. In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said: “China believes that there should be no double standards when it comes to the issue of handling the repatriation of illegal immigrants,” urging “support for China’s efforts to fight corruption.”

U.S. officials say they are not averse to cooperation on Operation Fox Hunt, but that despite requests, Beijing has failed to produce the kind of evidence of criminality needed under American law to support deportation.

There is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and China, and Western governments have long been reluctant to hand over suspects because of a lack of transparency and due process in China’s judicial system. In the past, Chinese government officials convicted of corruption have sometimes been sentenced to death.


Anoop Prasad, a San Francisco immigration attorney who represented Maher and others arrested in the June sweeps, says the Northern California detainees were transferred to an ICE facility in Adelanto, California, about a week after their arrest. There, they were each interviewed by two Chinese officials during a brief moment of cooperation between the two countries on the matter. They were also each ordered to fill out applications for Chinese passports.

“Those interviewed were selected because ICE determined that there was a significant likelihood of their removal in the reasonably foreseeable future,” an ICE spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

And although no paperwork has yet come, the spokesperson added, “ICE expects the Chinese will honor their commitment to issue travel documents for those individuals confirmed to be Chinese nationals.”

ICE acknowledges, however, that the backlog has been caused largely because of Chinese failure to provide documents and proof of citizenship.

Prasad said he believes his clients are being used as pawns in international diplomatic negotiations between China and the U.S., with America looking for help to reduce the backlog, and China wanting help in hunting down its corrupt fugitive officials, although Prasad admits he has no proof of that.

Prasad also questions why Maher was targeted. Since his release from jail in 2000, the attorney says, Maher, who is now married with a family, has turned his life around, working full time since 2005 and keeping all supervision appointments with ICE for the past 15 years.

U.S. officials say the two Chinese officials who conducted the interviews returned home in August.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts in New York, Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Sue Horton


FBI says ‘Australian IS jihadist’ is actually a Jewish American troll named Joshua Ryne Goldberg

September 11, 2015

by Elise Potaka and Luke McMahon

The Age

A young Jewish American man has been charged with pretending to be an Australian-based Islamic State jihadist after a FBI joint investigation with the Australian Federal Police based on information provided by Fairfax Media.

Joshua Ryne Goldberg, a 20-year old living at his parents’ house in US state of Florida, is accused of posing online as “Australi Witness,” an IS supporter who publicly called for a series of attacks against individuals and events in western countries.

In recent days Australi Witness has claimed online that he is working with other jihadists to plan attacks in Australia and the United States. He distributed pictures of a bomb that he was working on with “2 lbs of explosives inside”.

Early on Friday, Australian time, Goldberg, who is non-Muslim and has no real-world links with extremism, was arrested at his home by Florida police for “distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices, and weapons of mass destruction”.

Australian national security and citizenship laws were strengthened last year to create a new offence of advocating terrorism, partly to stop online recruitment of jihadists, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier this year allocated significant funding to security agencies because “too many Australians are being brainwashed online by this death cult”.

However, one of those apparent representatives of Islamic State has now been revealed as an America-based, non-Muslim online hoaxer.

The Australian Federal Police do not intend to apply for Goldberg’s extradition, but said in a statement that he faced a 20-year prison term if convicted.

“Investigations by the AFP in June 2015 established no initial threat to the Australian community. When investigations determined it was likely the person responsible for these threats was based in the United States, the investigation became the jurisdiction of the FBI, with the AFP in a support role.”

AFP Acting Deputy Commissioner National Security Neil Gaughan alleged Goldberg had “relied on the internet providing a cloak of anonymity”.

“This operation again highlights how law enforcement can investigate people in the online space and use our long-established partnerships to work with overseas agencies to bring people to account for their actions”.

An affidavit sworn at the time of the arrest says that, between August 19 and August 28, Mr Goldberg “distributed information pertaining to the manufacturing of explosives, destructive devices, or weapons of mass destruction in furtherance of an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence”.

US Attorney Lee Bentley III, said Goldberg instructed a confidential source how to make a bomb similar to two used in the Boston Marathon bombings two years ago that killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

He allegedly instructed someone how to fill the bomb with nails, metal and other items dipped in rat poison.

Police base the charge on his communication of five web links to sites that provided instructions that could be used to make explosives as part of a plot to explode a bomb on September 13 at a memorial ceremony in Kansas City, commemorating the 9/11 the terrorist attacks.

The affidavit, released by Special agent William Berry of US Customs and Border Protection, says that Goldberg had initially denied to officers that he had any involvement with distributing information on how to make a bomb, but then later admitted it.

“Goldberg further admitted that he believed the information would create a genuine bomb,” Agent Berry alleged.

However, Goldberg also claimed that he meant for the person he was communicating with to either kill himself creating the bomb or, that Goldberg intended to warn police in time so that he would receive “credit for stopping the attack”.

In conversations with Fairfax Media, which were also cited in the affidavit, Mr Goldberg had said he did not expect any jihadist to actually carry out an attack because: “These guys are pussy keyboard warriors”.

Fairfax media can also reveal that Goldberg, as Australi Witness, is suspected of a number of other online hoaxes, including posing online as prominent Australian lawyer, Josh Bornstein.

Australi Witness’s online actions might have had fatal real-world consequences in May.

In the leadup to an exhibition in Garland, Texas, at which pictures of the Prophet Mohammed were to be displayed, “Australi Witness” tweeted the event’s address and reposted a tweet urging people to go there with “weapons, bombs or with knifes”.

Two Muslim men attempted an attack at the exhibition, and were killed by police. Australi Witness then praised them online as martyrs.

The Australi Witness persona fooled members of the international intelligence community as well as journalists, with well-known analyst Rita Katz of SITE Intelligence Group saying the “IS supporter” held a “prestige” position in online jihadi circles and was “part of the hard core of a group of individuals who constantly look for targets for other people to attack”.

Ms Katz has previously acted as a consultant for US and foreign governments and testified before Congress on online terrorist activities.

The Australian Federal Police were unaware of Australi Witness’s real identity as Goldberg until contacted by journalists working on behalf of Fairfax Media.

In the Bornstein hoax, Goldberg established a blog on the Times of Israel in the lawyer’s name before posting an inflammatory article calling for the “extermination” of Palestinians. The Times retracted the article and apologised, and Bornstein went public with the story saying “I deplore racism…I’ve fought racism since I was four years old”.

When confronted, Goldberg boasted he had avoided detection, saying, “That guy has no idea. He thinks [online radical right wing website] Daily Stormer did it.” He also said he wanted to obtain Bornstein’s real life address, in order to “freak him out even more”.

In conversations and in articles written under his real name, Goldberg repeatedly professed to be an advocate for free speech, and showed disdain for organisations and individuals who call for limits on hate speech or hate speech laws.

As Australi Witness, he publicly linked himself to Amnesty International, saying that he used to work there. The fake jihadi also claimed a friendship with anti-Islamophobia campaigner Mariam Veiszadeh, but only to smear her reputation.

In online conversations, Goldberg said: “I wanna smear Amnesty and Mariam Veiszadeh…Amnesty is already in hot water over their links to CAGE, I wanna cement their jihadist connections and ruin their reputation. And Mariam is a Muslim whore, so smearing her as a jihadist should be easy.”

Ms Veiszadeh said she was not suprised at Goldberg’s arrest, saying she had “fallen within his radar” because of the campaign by an anti-Muslim hate group, the Australian Defence League, who campaigned to “incite hatred and violence towards me from across the globe.”

Mr Bornstein declined to comment.

Elise Potaka is a journalist for SBS


Problem Partners, Ugly Outcomes: U.S. Special Ops Missions in Africa Fail to Stem Rising Tide of Terror Groups, Coups, and Human Rights Abuses

by Nick Turse (with additional reporting by Gabriel Karon)


“Africa is a challenging place today and one that, if left unattended, is likely to be the birthplace of many more challenges in the future,” Army Secretary John McHugh said recently. Since 9/11, in fact, the continent has increasingly been viewed by the Pentagon as a place of problems to be remedied by military means. And year after year, as terror groups have multiplied, proxies have foundered, and allies have disappointed, the U.S. has doubled down again and again, with America’s most elite troops — U.S. Special Operations forces (SOF) — leading the way.

The public face of this engagement is a yearly training exercise called Flintlock. Since 2005, it has brought together U.S. special operators and elite European and West African troops to “strengthen security institutions, promote multilateral sharing of information, and develop interoperability among the partner nations of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).”

Directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sponsored by SOCAFRICA — the special operations contingent of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) — and conducted by Special Operations Command Forward-West Africa, the Flintlock exercises have sought to “develop the capacity of and collaboration among African security forces to protect civilian populations across the Sahel region of Africa.” This year, for instance, 1,300 troops representing 28 countries — including U.S. Army Green Berets — trained together in the host nation of Chad, as well as in Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Tunisia, conducting mock combat patrols and practicing counterterrorism missions.

Flintlock exercises provide AFRICOM with a patina of transparency and a plethora of publicity each year as a cherry-picked group of reporters provide mostly favorable, sometimes breathless cookie-cutter coverage. (The command has, for years, refused my repeated requests to attend.) Spinning tales of tough-talking American commandos barking orders at “raw,” “poorly equipped” African troops “under the pewter sun” in the “suffocating heat” and the “fine Saharan sand” on a “dusty training ground” in the “rocky badlands” of West Africa, they dutifully report on one three-week U.S. special ops mission.

What goes on the rest of the year is, however, shrouded in secrecy as the U.S. military “pivots” to Africa and shadowy contingents of Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets shuttle on and off the continent under the auspices of various programs. This includes Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET), low-profile missions that lay the groundwork for each year’s Flintlock exercise, providing instruction in all manner of combat capabilities, from advanced marksmanship and small unit tactics to training in conducting ambushes and perfecting sniper skills.

The U.S. military says little about JCET activities in Africa or elsewhere. Special Operations Command, which oversees America’s most elite forces, will not even disclose the number of JCETs carried out by American commandos on the continent. AFRICOM, for its part, refuses to reveal the locations of the missions, citing “operational security reasons and host nation sensitivities.” And what little information that command will divulge only raises additional questions.

According to AFRICOM, special operators conducted “approximately nine JCETs across Africa in Fiscal Year 2012” and 18 in 2013. Documents obtained by TomDispatch through the Freedom of Information Act from the office of the assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs indicate, however, that there were 19 JCETs in 2012 and 20 in 2013. The reports provided by the Pentagon to keep Congress informed of “training of Special Operations forces” show that, from October 2011 to October 2013 (fiscal years 2012 and 2013), there was only one month in which U.S. commandos did not conduct Joint Combined Exchange Training somewhere on the African continent. In all, according to those documents, Special Operations forces spent nearly 2,200 days in 12 countries under the JCET program alongside more than 3,800 African soldiers.

AFRICOM attributes the confusion over the numbers to differing methods of accounting. However one tallies them, such missions increased last year according to figures provided by the command and they seem to be on the rise again this year. In 2014, the number of JCETs jumped to 26. By the end of July, “approximately 22” had already been carried out.

U.S. Africa Command refuses to name the forces it’s training with. All that can be said, in the words of AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, is that “there are locations where U.S. personnel are working side-by-side with African military members in close proximity to various threat groups.” The documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, however, paint a vivid picture of unceasing special ops missions across Africa — many in nations with checkered human rights records.

The Company You Keep

Officially, Joint Combined Exchange Training is designed to enable U.S. special operators to “practice skills needed to conduct a variety of missions, including foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, and counterterrorism.” Authorization for the program also allows “incidental-training benefits” to “accrue to the foreign friendly forces at no cost.”

In reality, JCETs appear little different from other far more overt U.S. military overseas training efforts. “They have to be able to show that more than 50% of the benefit of this training activity goes to U.S. Special Operations forces,” Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst at the Rand Corporation and author of One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare, says of the missions. “Now, of course, the other 49% can be for the benefit of the partner and this certainly is a very strong rationale for doing it — ultimately that is the overarching goal of these activities.”

Africa Command doesn’t, in fact, shy away from touting the benefits to foreign troops. “JCETs improve the capabilities of African forces to protect civilians from current and emerging threats. The ultimate goal is to enable African states to address security issues without the need for foreign intervention and empower regional solutions to transnational threats,” according to AFRICOM’s Chuck Prichard. Experts, however, question the efficacy of such training missions.

There’s an unexamined assumption in policy circles that because we have, by our own estimation, the best soldiers in the world — indeed the best soldiers in all of recorded history — therefore it must follow that our soldiers have the ability to convey fighting capacity to anybody else that they deal with,” says Andrew Bacevich, retired Army lieutenant colonel and author of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country. “At root,” he notes of U.S. efforts in Africa, “it’s probably a racist assumption that the white guys are going to be able to teach the ‘lesser breeds’ and somehow lift them up in a military sense.”

From October through November 2011, for example, Green Berets were deployed in Mali to work with 150 local troops. For 45 days, they practiced patrolling and desert warfare, as part of a JCET, according to the Pentagon documents obtained by TomDispatch. “International principles and procedures of human rights will be integrated throughout all phases of training,” reads the report. What effect it had is open to debate.

That same year, the State Department called out Mali due to “several reports that the government or its agents committed unlawful killings” as well as “arbitrary and/or unlawful deprivation of life.” In early 2012, with the next Flintlock exercise to be held there, America’s troops were already in Mali when a U.S.-trained officer overthrew the democratically elected government. Flintlock 2012 was first postponed, then finally cancelled.

The junta soon found itself being muscled aside by Islamist militants whose ranks were joined by American-trained commanders of elite army units, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe, civilian deaths, and savage atrocities at the hands of all parties to the conflict. Years later, after a U.S.-backed French and African intervention, Mali is still plagued by a seemingly interminable and increasingly brazen insurgency and remains a fragile state. “It’s not some place that, by any stretch, you can say we’ve succeeded,” says RAND’s Linda Robinson.

And Mali was hardly an anomaly.

Under the so-called Leahy Law — named for Vermont senator Patrick Leahy — the U.S. is prohibited from providing assistance to units “of the security forces of a foreign country if the secretary of state has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.” But this hasn’t stopped the U.S. from conducting JCETs alongside the military forces of African countries with genuinely dismal records in that regard.

From October through December 2011, for example, members of an elite force of Navy SEALs and support personnel, known as Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 (NSWU-10), carried out JCET training alongside soldiers from Cameroon’s elite 9th Battalion Intervention Rapid (9th BIR). That same year, the U.S. State Department noted that the “most important human rights problems in the country were security force abuses,” including killings and the mistreatment of detainees and prisoners. Members of NSWU-10 nonetheless were back in the country in January and February 2012 to continue the training, this time with troops from the 8th BIR, and members of still another BIR unit that August and September. The same year, according to the State Department, members of various BIR units threatened, beat, shot at, and sometimes seriously injured civilians as well as policemen.

In 2013, personnel from NSWU-10 trained with troops from Cameroon’s 1st BIR — three separate JCETs from January through June. That same year, according to the State Department, “there were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings,” specifically that members of “the BIR, an elite military unit” were “implicated in violence against civilians.” In September, for example, “three members of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) beat a man to death in a barroom altercation.”

Despite reports by human rights groups that Chad’s security forces were “killing and torturing with impunity,” members of NSWU-10 trained in desert warfare and long-range patrolling with elite indigenous forces there from October through November 2011. According to Amnesty International, during the spring of 2012 the Chadian Army was also recruiting “massive numbers of child soldiers.” But that fall, members of NSWU-10 were back in Chad for a JCET that included training in reconnaissance operations and desert patrols.

In early 2013, while sailors from NSWU-10 and Chadian troops were practicing raids and “heavy weapons employment,” members of Chad’s “security forces shot and killed unarmed civilians and arrested and detained members of parliament, military officers, former rebels, and others,” according to the State Department. The next year, according to a United Nations report, Chadian soldiers in the Central African Republic opened fire on a marketplace filled with civilians, killing 30 and leaving 300 wounded. Within a year, U.S. troops were nonetheless back in Chad, playing host to Flintlock 2015, while, reports Amnesty International, “cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishments, including beatings, continued to be widely practiced by security forces… with almost total impunity.”

During 2012 and 2013, JCETs were also conducted in Algeria, where, according to the State Department, “Impunity remained a problem,” and Kenya, where there were “abuses by the security forces, including unlawful killings, forced disappearances, torture, rape, and use of excessive force.”

In addition, the U.S. carried out such missions in Mauritania (“abusive treatment, arbitrary arrests”), Morocco (“excessive force to quell peaceful protests, resulting in hundreds of injuries; torture and other abuses by the security forces”), Niger (“reports that security forces beat and abused civilians”), Senegal (“some reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings”), Tunisia (“security forces committed human rights abuses”), and Uganda (“unlawful killings, torture, and other abuse of suspects and detainees”). Meanwhile, Flintlock exercises were held in Senegal in 2011 (“reports of physical abuse and torture”), Mauritania in 2013 (“authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained protesters, presidential opponents, and journalists”), Niger in 2014 (“some reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings”), and this year in Chad.

Discipline and Punish

While AFRICOM refused to name these foreign forces involved in JCET training, the command nonetheless touts the program as a success. “SOF have conducted a series of JCETs with military forces in West Africa in addition to multi-national training events such as the Flintlock series of exercises. These same military units have since formed a regional task force to combat and contain Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin area,” AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard explained. “We’re proud of our ongoing engagement with these military professionals and continue to support their efforts to protect citizens from Boko Haram violence.”

Despite regular tutelage and hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance in the decade since the Flintlock exercises began, the countries of the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership — Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, most of them also key JCET partners — haven’t fared well. Year after year, as the U.S. trained the Nigerian military at Flintlock exercises and worked alongside them during weeks of JCET, for example, Boko Haram grew from an obscure radical sect in northern Nigeria to a raging regional insurgent movement that has killed thousands in that country as well as growing numbers, more recently, in Chad and Cameroon. And it is just one of a number of terror outfits, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitun, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, and Ansaru, a Boko Haram splinter group, that have all been wreaking havoc in one country after another. Even General Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command, couldn’t help but note the bleakness of the situation. “Organizations like Boko Haram pose a significant threat to West-Central Africa… which is destabilizing a large part of the continent,” he said at a conference earlier this year.

At the closing ceremony for Flintlock 2015, AFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez praised Chad and its “African partners” for conducting a military training exercise while also battling Boko Haram. “The capacity to execute real world operations while simultaneously training to increase capacity and capability,” he said, “demonstrates a level of proficiency exhibited only by an extremely professional, capable, and disciplined military.”

But partner forces from Mali or Chad or Nigeria, for example, have hardly shown themselves to be “extremely professional, capable, and disciplined” militaries. In 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry castigated Nigerian security forces for “credible allegations” that they were “committing gross human rights violations.” Last year, according to the State Department, their army “committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force.” A recent Amnesty International report is even more damning, revealing evidence of “horrific war crimes committed by Nigeria’s military including 8,000 people murdered, starved, suffocated, and tortured to death.”

U.S. special operators have, in fact, partnered with rogue militaries throughout the region. Last year, the government of Burkina Faso was, like Mali before it, overthrown by a U.S.-trained officer — a former student of the Defense Department’s Joint Special Operations University, no less. There were also coups by the U.S.-backed militaries of Mauritania in 2005 and again in 2008 and Niger in 2010 as well as a 2011 revolution that overthrew Tunisia’s U.S.-backed government after its U.S.-supported army stood aside.

Despite billions of dollars in aid from U.S. taxpayers as well as training missions and exercises conducted by America’s most elite troops, West African nations find themselves chronically imperiled by a plethora of insurgent groups and members of their own armed forces, with hundreds of thousands of Africans caught up in one conflict, conflagration, or crisis after another.

Achieving peace, stability, and prosperity in the region begins with ensuring that security forces are well trained and equipped to… deny sanctuary to terrorist cells,” said Colonel Kurt Crytzer, the commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara, following Flintlock 2010. Five years, four Flintlocks, and scores of JCETs later, the verdict is seemingly in. Amanda Dory, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, for instance, recently noted that terrorist incidents on the continent have increased exponentially over the last quarter century, with the pace quickening of late. “The growth in the number of terrorist incidents globally, in particular from 2010, is mirrored in Africa,” she wrote.

AFRICOM’s own 2015 posture statement is hardly less damning when it comes to the state of the region after more than a decade of military interventions. “In North and West Africa, Libyan and Nigerian insecurity increasingly threaten U.S. interests. In spite of multinational security efforts, terrorist and criminal networks are gaining strength and interoperability,” it reads. “Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Murabitun, Boko Haram, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and other violent extremist organizations are exploiting weak governance, corrupt leadership, and porous borders across the Sahel and Maghreb to train and move fighters and distribute resources.”

For years, AFRICOM’s answer to this increasing instability has been more: more money, more troops, more engagement. Back in 2010, 14 countries took part in the Flintlock exercise. By this year, the number had doubled. RAND’s Linda Robinson is also of the more-is-better school of thought, though in a highly nuanced fashion. “There were a lot of episodic JCETs over the years,” she said in regard to the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership nations. While stressing that she had not conducted a “deep dive” study of the region, she drew attention to deficiencies plaguing the program. “You have to have a different model. You can’t just string together a bunch of JCETs and an annual exercise, in this case Flintlock. That is not enough to make it work. That doesn’t constitute a successful model,” she said, advocating for a more persistent, though less widespread, U.S. special ops presence in the region.

Andrew Bacevich is far more skeptical. “The assumption that we know how to create armies in other parts of the world is a pretty dubious proposition,” he told me recently. “The Pentagon exaggerates its ability to create effective fighting forces in the developing world.”

Nonetheless, JCETs — indeed all special ops engagement in Africa — seem impervious to failure. Since 2006, in fact, the average number of special operators on the continent went from 1% of elite forces deployed abroad to 10%, a jump of 900%. And with worldwide Joint Combined Exchange Training missions set to increase next year, according to Pentagon projections, Africa is a likely site of expansion.

The question is: Will episodic training with militaries regularly implicated in human rights abuses, militaries that overthrow their governments, and militaries that have consistently failed to defeat local terror groups turn them into professional, successful armies when longer-term, more intensive, bigger-budget U.S. efforts to build-up national armies from South Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq have been so ineffective? “It’s not difficult to make the case that we are viewed as aliens,” says Bacevich. “Therefore the prospects of being able to effectively transmit whatever the magic is that makes an army into an effective force is not likely to be in the offing. But still, we’re always disappointed and surprised when it turns out we can’t pull that off.”


Gabriel Karon contributed reporting to this article


The Knot At the Heart of the Ukraine Crisis

September 11, 2015

by Ted Snider,


The origin of the Ukraine crisis is consistently reported in the West as an unfortunate and unpopular choice by President Viktor Yanukovych to go with an economic alliance with Russia over the economic alliance offered by the European Union. The package offered by the European Union is portrayed as benign and Yanukovych’s rejection of it as a betrayal.

But it was the European Union’s offer, not Yanukovych’s rejection of it, that was the betrayal.

It has often been reported that when Russia agreed to allow Germany to become part of NATO, NATO and the U.S. agreed not to move “one inch” further east than Germany. The history of the promise isn’t that clear or that simple, but there was a promise.

At a February 9, 1990 meeting, George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker, promised Gorbachev that if NATO got Germany and Russia pulled its troops out of East Germany “there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction one inch to the east.” But according to Professor of Russian and European Politics, Richard Sakwa, this promise meant only that NATO would not spill over from West Germany into East Germany. The promise of not “one inch to the east,” meant only that NATO wouldn’t militarize East Germany.

But the logic of the specific assurance implies the larger assurance. Russia wouldn’t have it as a security concern that East Germany not be home to NATO forces if there were NATO forces in all the Soviet Republics between East Germany and the western border of the Soviet Union. The value of the promise not to militarize East Germany is contingent upon the understanding that NATO won’t militarize east of East Germany.

So the question of militarizing east of Germany never had to explicitly come up: it was implicitly understood. Sakwa says, “The question of NATO enlargement to the other Soviet bloc countries simply did not enter anyone’s head and was not discussed.”

The promise was made on two consecutive days: first by the Americans and then by the West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. According to West German foreign ministry documents, on February 10, 1990, the day after James Baker’s promise, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, told his Soviet counterpart Eduard Shevardnadze “‘For us . . . one thing is certain: NATO will not expand to the east.’ And because the conversation revolved mainly around East Germany, Genscher added explicitly: ‘As far as the non-expansion of NATO is concerned, this also applies in general.’”

Former CIA analyst and chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch Ray McGovern reports that the US ambassador to the USSR at the time of the promise, Jack Matlock – who was present at the talks – told him that “The language used was absolute, and the entire negotiation was in the framework of a general agreement that there would be no use of force by the Soviets and no ‘taking advantage’ by the US … I don’t see how anybody could view the subsequent expansion of NATO as anything but ‘taking advantage. . . .”

Mikhail Gorbachev thinks there was a promise made. He says the promise was made not to expand NATO “as much as a thumb’s width further to the east.” Putin also says the promise was made. In 2012, Putin said, “And what happened to the assurances our Western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them.”

Putin then went on to remind his audience of the assurances by pointing out that the existence of the NATO promise is not just the perception of him and Gorbachev. It was also the view of the NATO General Secretary at the time: “But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said. I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr. [Manfred] Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: ‘the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee.’ Where are those guarantees?”

McGovern says that when he asked Viktor Borisovich Kuvaldin, a Gorbachev adviser from 1989-1991, why there was no written agreement, Kuvaldin replied painfully, “We trusted you.”

The significance of this agreement today is that this strand of history becomes tangled in a knot when it combines with the contemporary strand of the European Union economic offer to Ukraine. The offer was not the benign one presented by the Western media. It was not just an economic offer.

According to Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Princeton, Stephen Cohen, the European Union proposal also “included ‘security policy’ provisions . . . that would apparently subordinate Ukraine to NATO.” The provisions compelled Ukraine to “adhere to Europe’s ‘military and security’ policies.” So the proposal was not a benign economic agreement: it was a security threat to Russia in economic sheep’s clothing.

So, after NATO engulfed Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1999; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004 and Albania and Croatia in 2009, the economic offer made by the European Union to Ukraine was, in fact, the most recent and most serious security threat to the Russians and the most recent and most serious betrayal of the cold war promise.

Russia had no problem with E.U. expansion. Russia was willing – even anxious – to work with and cooperate with Europe. Sakwa says, “ . . . there was no external resistance at this point to EU enlargement. On its own it posed no security threat to Russia, and it was only later, when allied with NATO enlargement . . . that enlargement encountered resistance.” And that is the problem with the E.U. offer to Ukraine: it is allied with NATO.

Sakwa says “EU enlargement paves the way to NATO membership” and points out that, since 1989, every new member of the E.U. has become a member of NATO. It’s not only that the E.U. package subordinated Ukraine to NATO, since the E.U. Treaty of Lisbon went into effect in 2009 all new members of the E.U. are required to align their defense and security policies with NATO.

The E.U.’s Association Agreement with Ukraine was not just an economic agreement, as consistently presented in the Western media. Article 4 says the Agreement will “promote gradual convergence on foreign and security matters with the aim of Ukraine’s ever-deeper involvement in the European security area.” This article is a betrayal of the cold war’s closing promise and a violation of NATO’s “firm security guarantee” to Russia.

Article 7 speaks of the convergence of security and defense, and Article 10 says that “the parties shall explore the potential of military and technological cooperation”.

So the knot at the heart of the Ukraine conflict is the entanglement of two agreements: the first agreement – between NATO and the U.S.S.R. – promises that NATO will not metastasize into the Russian sphere of concern, while the second, between the E.U. and Ukraine commits the country that holds the paramount position in the Russian sphere of concern to moving into the NATO sphere.

Ted Snider writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history

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