TBR News September 26, 2016

Sep 26 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C.  September 26, 2016: “I rarely go to the movies these days because the films are not worth the time, or the money, to watch.

I did see the Snowden movie last night and felt constrained to make some comments on it.

In the first place, Edward Snowden worked for the CIA, not NSA as the film shows. Snowden, who did not have a high school diploma, was brilliant with computers and the CIA hired hired him as one of their top experts. Snowden was paid a salary of $200,000 a year. He was sent to Geneva to work in the CIA headquarters there and became so disgusted with what he saw that he resigned his job.

He also made the error of contacting Wikileaks to pass on some of his knowledge.

He did not know that Wikileaks is run by Russian intelligence and so this group persuaded Snowden to go back to work and gather more important information.

He was told to get employed by Booze Hamilton who was a contract worker for various top-level US intelligence agencies but also told to apply to work in the Hawaii office.


Because this was the only Booze Hamilton location that did not have controls over their office computers and it would prove impossible to find out which of their employees had searched which officlal sites.

Snowden, working now for Russian intelligence, harvested thousands of the most sensitive documents, loaded them into six laptops and flew to Hong Kong with them.

It would have been embarrassing for him to have flown straight to Moscow.

The real problem, insofar as US intelligence is concerned, is that to this day they do not know what Edward Snowden downloaded and in professional intelligence agencies, his fund of information is considered the most important intelligence coup in history.

None of this is mentioned in the film, though much of it is not a secret.

As entertainment, the film is quite successful but as accurate history, it fails of its goal.”

The New Cold Warriors Sic the FBI on Donald Trump

Democrats enlist the “intelligence community” in their campaign for the White House

September 26, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


While we have gotten used to the neo-McCarthyite tactics employed by the Clinton campaign linking Donald Trump to the Kremlin, the whole disgraceful operation has reached a new low with the introduction of US law enforcement agencies into the mix. According to a report by Michael Isikoff – who has become the Judy Miller of this smear campaign – the feds are moving in on the Trump campaign:

“U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue.”

US citizens have no right to question or attempt to change American foreign policy, and any effort to do so will result in the FBI swinging into action:

“The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and ‘high ranking sanctioned individual’ in Moscow over the summer as evidence of ‘significant and disturbing ties’ between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau.”

The War Party would love to outlaw private efforts to eliminate vindictive and mutually harmful sanctions, and target those of us trying to build a peaceful relationship with the Russians: however, such activities are entirely legal, and Sen. Reid has no basis in law for his rather scary request. Americans have the right to travel: they also have the right to speak their minds – except, of course, in Harry Reid’s world, which is an alternate universe in which we don’t want to live.

Yet the authoritarian mindset of Reid and his co-thinkers in the Clinton campaign is apparently shared by the “intelligence community,” according to Isikoff’s unnamed sources:

“U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being ‘actively monitored and investigated.’

“A senior U.S. law enforcement official did not dispute that characterization when asked for comment by Yahoo News. ‘It’s on our radar screen,’ said the official about Page’s contacts with Russian officials. ‘It’s being looked at.’”

Let’s take a look at who apparently didn’t make it onto their radar screen, and so wasn’t looked at:

  • Dahir Adan, the Somali immigrant who stabbed nine people at a Minneapolis mall and was claimed by ISIS as “a soldier of Islam.”
  • Ahmed Rahami, the Chelsea bomber, whose father told the FBI that his son was a potential terrorist.
  • Omar Mateen, who shot up an Orlando gay nightclub, killing 49 people, who was twice interviewed by the FBI and then written off as harmless.
  • Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tasfeen Malik, the two jihadists who killed 14 people in San Bernardino.

And then there’s the latest entry in the jihadi sweepstakes, Turkish immigrant Arcan Çetin, who shot and killed five people in a Burlington, Washington, mall.

Was the FBI was too busy “probing” Carter Page and the Trump campaign to bother investigating the many leads that would’ve caused suspicion to fall on at least three of these people?

This is the same FBI whose leader scotched the prosecution of Hillary Clinton for setting up her own private email server while Secretary of State, sending and receiving thousands of pages of classified material and endangering national security – a felony.

Now we see that they are trying to embroil the Trump campaign in an “investigation” that is clearly political. While Isikoff describes Page’s alleged meeting with former Russian official Igor Sechim as “problematic,” what’s really problematic is the intervention of the US “intelligence community” into the US election.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, two California Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees, have issued a joint statement declaring without proof that the Russians are trying to “influence” the election – presumably in Trump’s favor. The Kremlin, they aver, is making a “concerted effort” on Trump’s behalf – and yet the only “concerted effort” in evidence here is one by the Democrats and the government agencies they control to target their political opponents. We haven’t seen anything quite like this since the days of J. Edgar Hoover.

If and when Hillary Clinton is elected President, it’s not hard to envision a crackdown on “pro-Russian” activities in the US, including any effort to improve relations between the US and the Russian Federation. Instead of going after jihadists, active and potential, they will be “investigating” the peaceful legal actions of private US citizens like Carter Page, and perhaps this writer, who agree with Trump when he opines that “Wouldn’t it be nice if we got along with Russia?”

The logical next step in this campaign of calumny is the revival of the House Committee on “Un-American” Activities and its Senate counterpart: one can imagine public hearings – a traditional ritual in all official witch-hunts – targeting groups and individuals who oppose the new cold war. “Experts” who have found a lucrative new way to make a living will be called to testify. The parade of witnesses will no doubt be a who’s who of professional Russia-haters: Michael Weiss, whose “journalistic” activities are funded by the son of Russian oligarch — and accused embezzler and murderer — Mikhail Khodorkovsky; Cathy Young, a Russian immigrant who, when she isn’t hyperventilating over alleged phony rape charges, is sounding the alarm about “Putin’s American fan club“; and Julia Ioffe, another Russian immigrant who has spent a good part of her journalistic career maligning her mother country, and whose latest jeremiad is a remarkably murky piece for Politico that asks: “Was [Carter] Page the shadowy messenger between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin …?” All that’s missing is scary music audio.

The propaganda campaign targeting Russia as the root of all evil is part of the political class’s effort to switch gears when it comes to defining the principal enemy of the US on the world stage. Our eternal “war on terrorism,” as useful as it has been in shoring up and expanding the national security state, has provoked – from their perspective – some unfortunate blowback. Instead of ginning up yet more wars, at this point it’s inspiring some considerable pushback from the peons in flyover country, who are sick and tired of futile wars in the Middle East when they see their own country falling to pieces. This has led to the rise of the alleged “isolationist” Trump and his “America First” foreign policy perspective, both of which are a mortal threat to the Washington crowd and their journalistic camarilla.

The push is on, therefore, to substitute Russia for the jihadists as the new bogeyman: there’s more money in it, and they think they can sell it to the American people. And so we see this extraordinary campaign by the Clinton campaign and the Washington crowd to, first, use it to swing the election, and, in terms of longer range goals, to shift the focus of American ire away from the radical Islamist terrorists and home in on the man they consider the real enemy: Vladimir Putin.

The neocons have been at war with Putin ever since he refused to go along with the Iraq war: leading war advocate Richard Perle called for Russia to be thrown out of the G-8 as long ago as 2003. Ever since then there have been an escalating series of accusations aimed at the Russian leader that have only gotten more fantastic over the years, from blaming him for the death of every Russian “dissident” who so much as stubs a toe to hacking the Democratic National Committee and revealing information embarrassing to the Clinton political machine. Indeed, the default “explanation” for each and every hacking of a computer system is “The Russians did it!” This in spite of the fact that it is next to impossible to attribute such incursions with any degree of accuracy.

Now the new cold warriors are taking their campaign one step further by involving the nation’s law enforcement agencies – an ominous turn of events that could have dire implications for our already precarious civil liberties. The last time the national security state turned its gaze on Russia, we had a wholesale assault on free speech and freedom of association in this country. Are we in for a repeat? The answer is: I’m afraid so.

What makes it more dangerous this time around is that leading “liberals” are in the vanguard of the new cold war: together with their new-found neoconservative allies, they will make the next chapter in the long history of American witch-hunting even darker than the previous one.

Libertarians and independents are eroding the GOP’s military support

September 23, 2016

by Leo Shane III and George R. Altman

Military Times

Military voters have long been considered a safe support bloc for Republican political candidates, but a new poll conducted by Military Times and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families suggests conservatives shouldn’t take the troops for granted.

Nearly 40 percent of the active-duty service members surveyed in September said they don’t affiliate with either major political party, almost as many as those who consider themselves Republicans (about 43 percent). The survey included more than 2,200 responses, and IVMF analysts weighted the results to be scientifically representative of the total military demographic.

Two years ago, in a non-scientific survey of Military Times’ active-duty readership, more than one-third said that neither Democrats nor Republicans had been strong advocates for the military, while 44 percent said they believed both major political parties were becoming less supportive of military issues. Over the nine years that question was asked in the annual survey, the percentage of respondents identifying as Republican dropped each year.

This trend is not unique to the military, of course. Nationwide, political party affiliation and satisfaction have fallen to historic lows. A Gallup poll conducted in January found that 42 percent of American voters identify as independents, the fifth year in a row that figure has been above 40 percent.

Approximately 29 percent of Americans now identify as Democrats and 26 percent as Republicans.

But the military, as a voting demographic, is mostly white males with a strong interest in defense issues, a group assumed to be overwhelmingly conservative in comparison to the general population. The new Military Times-IVMF poll suggests that, in reality, many of those votes may be up for grabs.

Right now, that service member support appears split between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Libertarian hopeful Gary Johnson. The poll showed Trump leads Johnson 37.6 percent to 36.5 percent, within the study’s 2 percent margin of error. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton drew 16.3 percent of troops’ support.

About 15 percent of respondents identified as Libertarians, a figure that gives the third-party stronger representation in the ranks than the general population.

A 2014 Pew Research poll found about 11 percent of Americans described their voting patterns as “libertarian,” but state-specific data on the number of registered party voters is incomplete. Johnson drew only about 1 percent of the presidential vote in 2012, but he is polling nationally around 10 percent this cycle.

Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, said he’s not surprised to see the third-party message is having strong appeal among military personnel.

“In part, the military population is younger, and millennials on a range of issues tend to be rejecting the two major parties more,” he said.

“And people in the military have a better appreciation for the strength and weaknesses for the use of military force overseas, so they’re open to the [party’s] non-interventionist message.”

Johnson has hammered that message on the campaign trail, saying he is committed to using military force to protect American security and interests but opposed to overseas nation-building missions and an aggressive use of power in foreign affairs.

Enlisted troops were more likely to identify themselves as libertarian than officers (16 percent versus 12 percent), while officers were more likely to call themselves independent than enlisted personnel (26 percent to 20 percent).

A large part of Johnson’s appeal among military voters — and perhaps their drift toward the Libertarian Party — appears to be resentment of the major party candidates.

Of those surveyed, 85 percent said they were dissatisfied with Clinton as the choice for the Democratic presidential nominee, including 35 percent of those who plan to vote for her nonetheless. On the other side, 66 percent said they were dissatisfied with Trump as the Republican pick, including 21 percent of those who plan to vote for him.


Between Sept. 8 and 15, Military Times and IVMF conducted a voluntary, confidential online survey of U.S. service members. The questions focused on the nation’s current political climate, the 2016 presidential election and other relevant issues.

The survey received 2,207 responses from active-duty troops. A standard methodology was used by IVMF analysts to estimate the weights for each individual observation of the survey sample. The margin of error for the party preference question is 0.4 percent. Other questions have slightly higher margins of error.

The survey audience was 85 percent male and 15 percent female, and had a mean age of 29 years old. The respondents identified themselves as 73 percent white, 16 percent Hispanic, 8 percent African American, 4 percent Asian and 8 percent other ethnicities. Respondents were able to select more than one race.

Responses came from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and unspecified sites overseas.

Calling the SEC

September 25, 2016

by David Dayen

The Intercept

Part 4

Chris DiIorio suspected major broker-dealer Knight Capital of tanking penny stocks on purpose and racking up massive, unsustainable balance-sheet liabilities based on all the stocks it “sold” that it never really had.

It had taken him five years to reach these conclusions — five years of digging through reams of financial data in search of answers to how and why his particular penny stock investment was so brutally crushed. Knight never answered DiIorio’s questions, nor, during the reporting of this story, any of The Intercept’s.

In April 2011, DiIorio decided he had to alert the Securities and Exchange Commission. He reached out to the SEC through its Office of the Whistleblower.

“The core business at Knight has always been naked shorting penny stocks,” DiIorio asserted.

Shorting a stock is betting it will drop in price: You borrow a share, sell it, hope the stock price drops, then buy another share to pay back your loan, hopefully for less than you borrowed it for.

In naked shorting, you sell a share that doesn’t exist and cash the proceeds. Do that enough and you bet the price will drop. Set it up so that it looks like you really sold the share to everyone except an obscure middleman, and the only toxic byproduct is a liability on your balance sheet representing shares you have sold but not yet purchased.

DiIorio believed this represented the secret of Knight’s success. “I told the SEC, ‘If you don’t believe me, ask Knight!’ If their penny stock volumes went to zero, what would happen to their trading profits?”

DiIorio filed a TCR (tip, complaint, or referral) form. Under Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC has the authority to provide substantial monetary awards to eligible whistleblowers who inform the agency of securities law violations, if the subsequent enforcement actions exceed $1 million. But DiIorio says he wasn’t trying to win back his losses by filing a whistleblower complaint; he just wanted to see the ongoing fraud of investors like him put to a stop.

He also pointed to the threat to the markets from Knight’s thinning capital compared to the billion-dollar-plus “sold not yet purchased” liability. “I said, ‘Knight is insolvent, and this is how I know.’”

Indeed, the firm’s own second-quarter 2011 report to the SEC clearly showed $1.9 billion in “sold, not yet purchased” liabilities — up from $1.3 billion just six months earlier. By contrast, it reported “net current assets, which consist of net assets readily convertible into cash less current liabilities, of $105.1 million.”

Other than a perfunctory acknowledgement of receipt, the SEC did not respond to the TCR. DiIorio sent personal emails to top officials at the agency. One still exists on the SEC’s website, an October 2011 letter to Robert Khuzami, then the SEC’s head of enforcement. “Why won’t [then-Knight CEO Thomas] Joyce disclose to the investing public the nearly [$2 billion] sold not yet purchased liability is where he moves aged fails,” DiIorio wrote. “It is a structural liability and does not in fact ‘fluctuate with volumes’ as [Joyce] has said in several public filings.”

In this case, aged fails are the obligation left over when the stock whose shares the seller was supposed to actually hand over no longer exists because of a merger or split.

SEC spokesperson Ryan White declined to comment on the matter. As a matter of policy, the SEC never confirms nor denies the existence of an investigation until it reaches the public record in a court action or administrative proceeding, and it usually doesn’t inform whistleblowers about the status of their cases unless it grants them an enforcement award.

But DiIorio grew frustrated with the lack of response. “I was baffled why the SEC was not acting on what appeared to be blatant securities violations,” he said.

What About UBS?

He used the delay, however, to clear up another nagging question: What about the other major trader in these penny stocks, the Swiss bank UBS, one of the largest private banks in the world?

Time after time, DiIorio would isolate individual penny stocks and find UBS and Knight as major traders in them. While it wasn’t possible to know for sure, the correlation suggested that UBS was repeatedly on the other side of Knight’s trades; its clients would go long while Knight’s would go short. If true, that meant UBS, or its clients, were taking on multitudes of losses by design.

Why was UBS so involved with penny stocks, which had little upside potential for a global megabank? Why was it so intertwined with Knight? Who was it purchasing these penny stocks for?

And why didn’t the bank seem to care that its clients were being sold stock that kept going down in value?

New attack on free speech: Pro-Israel groups wage war on campus freedom

Attacks on pro-Palestinian activists have grown increasingly vicious, but free-speech supporters are fighting back

September 24, 2016

by David Palumbo-Liu


College campuses traditionally have been the sites of social and political protest — the combination of youth, intellectual energy, free speech, and academic freedom is a powerful catalyst for vibrant and often heated debate. Given the strain this can sometimes place on the equilibrium of universities, it is not surprising to see limits placed on speech and action. What is unusual is for pressure to come from groups outside the university. That’s precisely what is happening today when it comes to the topic of Israel and Palestine, and the overreach of some pro-Israel organizations into campus free speech is such that even those who oppose an academic boycott of Israel have condemned their actions.

A number of recent cases have come onto the scene just as the academic year has begun. Not only have these cases continued previous trends regarding the stifling of speech and the retaliation against those who are critical of Israeli state policies toward the Palestinians, they have raised such efforts to a new level.

The Amcha Initiative, Canary Mission and other groups claim that they are fighting anti-Semitism on campus. But because they equate criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews as a people, any act or speech critical of Israel may be construed as anti-Semitic. These groups then exert political pressure on administrators to punish what they call anti-Semitism, and administrators will often bend to their will to avoid bad publicity, abrogating their responsibilities to protect free speech and academic freedom.

In October 2014, a group of prominent Jewish scholars issued a statement criticizing Amcha’s tactics:

It goes without saying that we, as students of antisemitism, are unequivocally opposed to any and all traces of this scourge. That said, we find the actions of AMCHA deplorable. Its technique of monitoring lectures, symposia and conferences strains the basic principle of academic freedom on which the American university is built. Moreover, its definition of antisemitism is so undiscriminating as to be meaningless. Instead of encouraging openness through its efforts, AMCHA’s approach closes off all but the most narrow intellectual directions and has a chilling effect on research and teaching.

Yet Amcha’s tactics pale before those of Canary Mission, which claims: “The Canary Mission database was created to document the people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on college campuses in North America. Every individual and organization has been carefully researched and sourced.”

But Canary Mission is not just “documenting people and groups,” it is also contacting their employers and universities to smear reputations with distorted depictions of activities and opinions, endangering these activists’ careers both inside and outside the academy. Writing in the Academe Blog of the American Association of University Professors, Hank Reichman calls Canary Mission a “genuine blacklisting site … which is potentially far more dangerous [than Amcha] for academic freedom.”

Some who have been targeted are speaking out, describing what it’s like to be targeted by Canary Mission and how it has affected their lives.

Liliana, a junior majoring in international relations who did not want to be identified further, said, “Canary Mission gave me the worst anxiety. They launched a Twitter campaign to get me fired from my job. Luckily, my job’s human resources called and were totally supportive. They recognized them as a hate group and were ultimately concerned about my safety. I was so thankful. However, the anxiety that doesn’t seem to go away is the fact that I might not be able to enter Palestine. I have family there and my mother especially is worried about what we will endure at the border crossing next time we go. When my profile first got put up, I had trouble eating and sleeping. I would wake up with bad anxiety and start gagging as if I were going to vomit … I can handle grade-school bullying. What bothers me is the constant worry about what’s going to happen to me because of it. I also feel uncomfortable having my pictures out there. It puts me at risk for sexual and/or physical violence.”

Shezza Abboushi Dallal, who graduated from Barnard College in May 2016 with a history degree, told me that she and about 15 other organizers with the campus groups Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine and Columbia Jewish Voice for Peace woke up one day to find newly published profiles appearing on the first page of a Google search. These profiles featured “dozens of quotes, photographs, and videos that had been collected from an array of online platforms — including our private social media accounts,” Dallal said. “Pictures of me accompanied by humiliating and inciting captions were being tweeted and retweeted … It was incredibly shocking to have documentation of involvement of which I am resiliently proud be distorted and manipulated to appear as the exact opposite of what it is — an effort to stand for the human rights and dignity of a people in the face of occupation, oppression, and gross violation of international law. Equally shocking was the knowledge that countless individuals were being empowered to contribute to such an initiative, while having their acts of intimidation protected by the site’s anonymity.”

Sumaya Awad of Williams College wrote: “My future was threatened by this ominous and libelous website labeling me a ‘terrorist threat.’ Canary Mission was created to make students like me feel atomized and threatened, to push us away from activism and to erode the rights of Palestine activists to mobilize.”

Students and faculty being profiled by Canary Mission are proud of their actions and have no desire to disavow them. What they object to is the way they say Canary Mission has taken fragments of statements and recontextualized them, distorting their original meaning, broadcasting them all over the Internet and then contacting employers, future employers and universities, all while operating under the cloak of anonymity.

An open letter opposing Canary Mission’s tactics will be released this week, signed by more than 1,000 scholars including Robin D.G. Kelley, Daniel Boyarin, James Schamus and Joan Scott. [Full disclosure: I am also a signatory.]

The letter reads in part:

As faculty who serve, have served, or are likely to serve on an admissions committee at graduate and undergraduate university programs across the country, we unequivocally assert that the Canary Mission website should not be trusted as a resource to evaluate students’ qualifications for admission. We condemn Canary Mission as an effort to intimidate and blacklist students and faculty who stand for justice for Palestinians…

Although, as individual faculty, we hold a range of viewpoints on Israel-Palestine, we recognize that student advocacy for Palestinian human rights is not inherently anti-Semitic, and that such advocacy represents a cherished and protected form of free speech that is welcome on college campuses. We reject the McCarthyist tactics used by Canary Mission. Canary Mission’s aim is to damage these students’ futures, and to punish them for their principled human rights activism. We urge our fellow admissions faculty, as well as university administrators, prospective employers and all others, to join us in signing below and standing against such bullying and attempts to shut down civic engagement and freedom of speech.

In the case of faculty who are employed at public universities, another tactic used to harass activists has been to delve into their personnel records, as in the case of Simona Sharoni. As reported in Inside Higher Education, Sharoni, a professor of gender and women’s studies at SUNY Plattsburgh who was raised in Israel and previously taught there, is a strong proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS). Recently her university informed her that a series of public records requests had been made to gather information on her “hiring, continued employment and conferences attended while at Plattsburgh.”

IHE goes on to note a strongly worded letter written on Sharoni’s behalf by the Middle East Studies Association, which reads in part: “It appears to us that these [open-records] requests are part of the continuing campaign to harass and intimidate Sharoni because she has expressed certain political views … We therefore call upon university officials to exercise extreme caution and responsible judgment in reviewing and approving [such] requests for records pertaining to Sharoni, so as not to be complicit in furthering the campaign of harassment being waged against her.” It also urges the university to “publicly and vigorously affirm its commitment to the principles of free speech and academic freedom as well as its intention to defend Sharoni and other faculty members against harassment and threats by politically motivated individuals and groups based outside the university community.”

Another case among many is that of Prof. Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University, who has long been the target of harassment due to her work as the director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities Diaspora program there. Outside groups have pressed administrators to investigate how she carries our her duties — building research and study opportunities for her campus with colleagues abroad is construed by such groups as association with “terrorists.” Recently Abdulhadi negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding between SFSU and An-Najah University in the West Bank. In this and other ventures she has gone through the proper procedures and secured the requisite authorization. SFSU’s administration has defended Abdulhadi, finding that she acted in accord with its rules and in order to fulfill her job.

In 2014 SFSU president Leslie Wong stated, in response to Amcha’s continued attacks on Abdulhadi, “Faculty can and do communicate with others relevant to their research, communicating by various methods that can involve travel. Professor Abdulhadi’s academic work in race and resistance studies requires examination of some of the world’s most challenging and controversial issues. San Francisco State University will continue to respect academic freedom, and we will not censor our scholars nor condone censorship by others.”

But Amcha and other organizations are not satisfied with leaving universities to manage their own affairs. Besides these acts of intimidation against students and faculty, sometimes reaching into their personal lives, organizations are also trying to influence what kinds of courses can be taught at the university.

At the University of California, Berkeley, a course on Palestine was criticized by Jewish groups, who — in a campaign organized by Amcha — wrote to the U.C. administration urging that the course be censored. A thorough report on this episode by John K. Wilson in Academe Blog explains how administrators suspended the course in midsession, a highly unusual act, especially given the fact that the groups protesting the course had not even asked for such a radical move. This can be seen as yet another instance where university administrators react defensively in ways that violate proper procedure and faculty governance.

The U.C. administration first explained that its decision to suspend the class was because the instructors had not received the proper authorization to offer it. Yet as Wilson’s article documents, the instructors had indeed gathered all the proper authorizations. It was apparently the administration that had erred in not being aware of the necessary procedures in the first place. Of course, there’s a decent chance that the administration’s rationale for suspending the course was simply a pretext for bending to the will of outside organizations.

As Wilson writes:

If there was a breakdown in bureaucratic procedures (and there is no evidence of it), then it is the obligation of the university to fix those procedures in the future, not to ban a course and punish a facilitator and his students who reasonably followed every written rule.

This decision sends a clear message to the campus: controversial speech will be punished, especially if it is critical of Israel.

This course suspension is absolutely indefensible, completely unacceptable and purely motivated by politics and public relations. It is a violation of academic freedom, shared governance, U.C. Berkeley’s guidelines, the Regents Policies, and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

A letter from students in the class, written to the administrators who authorized the suspension, points out the irony of something like this happening at Berkeley:

The decision to suspend Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis is a violation of our academic freedom. This is an alarming development to have transpire on the same campus that not only hosted the Free Speech Movement, but which also routinely claims and utilizes the same Movement’s legacy to market itself as a world-class institution, a bastion of tolerance and diversity, and the site of intellectual inquiry — inquiry that is sometimes discomforting, but always enriching. Your decision constitutes nothing less than an act of discrimination against students who wanted to debate and discuss this contentious issue in a spirit of genuine sincerity, mutual respect and open-minded curiosity.

Again: the decision to suspend our course is both discriminatory and a violation of our academic freedom. We demand the reinstatement of the course.

As a result of protests from both students and faculty at Berkeley, as well as elsewhere, on Sept. 19 the administration relented and, in a letter to the instructors, reinstated the course. As John K. Wilson noted in a followup piece, the U.C. dean involved in this case may not have had the authority to suspend the course in the first place, or to insist that instructors alter the course’s content as a condition of its reinstatement. This sets a dangerous precedent, when an outside group can exert such influence as to change the content of a course, bypassing the rights and responsibilities of faculty and interfering with what students can learn and how they can learn it.

Much of this overreach by anti-boycott groups turns out to be unwarranted and unnecessary. When challenged, as in the Berkeley case just mentioned, complaints against pro-Palestinian education and activism as “anti-Semitic” are often shown to be unfounded. The vast majority of the charges anti-boycott organizations have leveled against pro-Palestinian activism has failed to stick. At the University of California at Irvine, as reported by Palestine Legal:

After interviewing witnesses and reviewing extensive video footage, UCI’s Office of Student Conduct released a 58-page report finding that SJP students arrived peacefully at the event but were locked out by its organizers … Members of SJP, joined by students from other student groups, began demonstrating outside the event when they were locked out. The report confirms SJP’s account that their protest was peaceful, and found claims made by attendees of the event that protesters blocked the exits and threatened attendees to be unsubstantiated.

At San Francisco State, a study concluded that contrary to charges brought against demonstrators, a protest against Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s visit was not anti-Semitic: “On September 1, San Francisco State University (SFSU) released a report examining a protest of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat who visited the campus in April. After interviewing 20 witnesses and reviewing extensive documentation, the impartial investigator concluded that the protest was disruptive, but that it posed no safety risks and focused on the mayor for the policies he promotes.” As Palestine Legal reports, “Student protestors were accused of threatening Jewish students with violent and anti-Semitic messages. SFSU singled out the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) for discipline despite the participation of many students from diverse groups. GUPS members were also targeted with death threats, rape threats, online profiling and in-person harassment following the protest.”

Despite the failure of these charges, such actions will continue, largely because part of their purpose is to tie up resources and energy, and make administrators act preemptively to disallow events that might pose a problem.

Those not involved in the debate over Israel-Palestine may not be concerned about Canary Mission and its methods. But these tactics can be used by any group. Especially in educational institutions, it is essential to recognize outside organizations whose goal is to interfere with the mission and ethos of education, and who seek to silence, smear and intimidate those with whom they disagree.

Opinion: Why Trump is successful – and what we should learn from this

The first live debate between Clinton and Trump is expected to be the largest political television event in history. Ines Pohl discusses why this is and what the world should learn from Trump’s success.

September 26, 2016


  1. Production instead of product / Spectacle rather than real policies

In the history of television, there has never been a political event that will be watched by as many people as the first TV debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It is estimated that not only in the USA but worldwide, around 100 million people will be sitting in front of their television screens. This is not only because of the global importance of the office of US president. It is more than anything to do with Trump’s unprecedented style of communication. He is a man who seems to masterfully know how to turn his public appearances into a spectacle; to amuse and entertain people with his provocations and oftentimes politically incorrect statements. These tactics seem to attract many people, perhaps because an objective analysis of our complicated world has become too difficult, or too frustrating.

  1. Assertions without factual basis

Trump and his team have adopted the tactic of repeating untruths so often that they end up being discussed as facts in public discourse. The problem is that there are no longer any institutions in the US with role of providing an independent voice on such statements – and thereby debunking them and exposing them for what they are: simply lies. The extremely polarising election campaign has worn down the social forces that should have been taking on this role. This failure by the intellectual elite to engage in providing a balance to Trump’s extreme views poses a serious threat in itself. This is how democracies lose the power to stop demagogues from using carefully selected disinformation to dominate public discourse.

  1. Reliance on quotes rather than journalistic analysis

Donald Trump has been made great by the media through a reliance on quotes rather than providing any journalistic analysis. From the beginning Trump has relied heavily on his unique style with its continuous, high-voltage belligerence, which has provided a source of endless quotes. The media have jumped through every hoop that Trump has held out to them. For example, a campaign appearance was turned into a lengthy television broadcast, which provided the New York businessman with a self-promotion platform for hours on end. Journalists began factually checking Trump’s assertions and challenging his statements far too late in the campaign.

  1. Voters living in parallel worlds

A problem with social media is that there are fewer and fewer spaces where a meaningful political exchange can take place. Voters increasingly stay in their own little worlds where exchanges take place between like-minded people. They stay informed through media who no longer seem to have the requirement to report objectively and to evaluate arguments fairly. The mainstream media has not yet found a way to deal with the parallel world of social media. Donald Trump realised this early on and, though his use of Twitter, found a way to directly communicate with his supporters. The simplistic clarity of his messages seem to be made for internet services that only allow a certain number of characters.

  1. A longing for solutions

It doesn’t seem to matter whether Trump’s plans are realistic or not, for example, building a wall on the Mexican border or defeating IS with military strikes. People are frustrated and desperate; they are insecure and afraid that they will lose their economic prosperity. They want to believe in simple solutions. They feel they are being taken seriously because Donald Trump is very specific about his concrete plans and in naming culprits.

  1. Protest against the status quo

There has been no other presidential candidate who has stood as firmly for the Establishment as Hillary Clinton. What for her supporters is interpreted as expertise is seen by her critics and opponents as evidence for how corrupt the political system is and how the elite use the country as a self-service store. It is for this reason that Bernie Sanders, who presented himself as a revolutionary political outsider, was so successful. Many people are fed up with the current political system. A large part of Trump’s support comes from people who want to protest against the political system itself.

  1. Rejecting the truth

People dream of recreating a past that has no place in a globalised world of the future. Trump’s propaganda and his power fantasies are in large part a rejection of the reality of today’s world. His success is partly due to the low education level of many Americans, although there is also a large percentage of Trump supporters who have graduated from high school. But people are increasingly living in a virtual parallel world and are losing any connection to reality. It is no coincidence that Donald Trump was so successful as the moderator of a Reality Show.

  1. Anything is possible

At the beginning of this election year no one would have thought it possible that Donald Trump could have defeated his republican rivals and have a serious chance of running for president. Not only the Brexit, but also the phenomenon that is Donald Trump, is proof that the Establishment must get down from its ivory tower as fast as possible and start engaging with everyday problems faced by voters. Of course there is only one Donald Trump. And it may be the case that the US electoral system is particularly susceptible to populism and changes in the mood of the public. But it in the end Trump’s success has been made possible by a social climate where there is an ever-widening gap between the super-rich and those living on the edge of existence. And this situation is not only limited to the United States.

On the Trail of African Migrant Smugglers

Since 2013, over 10,000 migrants have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Behind the deaths lies a multi-million dollar smuggling trade with financial connections to Frankfurt, Italy and Libya.

September 26, 2016

by Alexander Bühler, Susanne Koelbl, Sandro Mattioli and Walter Mayr


He is the most wanted migrant smuggler in the world but there are no photos of him, only an artist’s rendering that investigators produced. It depicts a heavyset man with short hair. He is thought to be an Ethiopian in his early 40s and is suspected of having been in the business for the last 10 years.

On the phone, his voice sounds dark and guttural and he chooses his words carefully, his Arabic occasionally punctuated by English words. Words such as “life jackets,” which he used in an intercepted telephone call after one of his ships sank off the coast of Lampedusa on Oct. 3, 2013. “I have never sent along life jackets, is that clear?”

On that day, 366 people drowned as they sought to make it to Europe, within sight of the island of Lampedusa, when their vessel went down. The man who organized the voyage of the wooden boat was vexed by the disaster — not so much because of the deaths, but because it wasn’t good for his reputation. “So many refugees have set off with other organizations and become fish food,” he said. “But nobody talks about them.” Only he is being hunted, he complained.

His name is Ermias Ghermay.

Since that “day of tears,” as Pope Francis called it, around 10,000 more refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean — an average of one every three hours. During the same period, almost 500,000 people survived the journey to the coast of Italy — all of which has translated into several billions of euros in earnings for criminal African migrant smugglers over the last three years.

The rules of this murderous business are dictated by Ethiopians, Sudanese and Libyans, but particularly by men from Eritrea. Their homeland is one of the poorest countries in the world, a single-party dictatorship referred to by Human Rights Watch as a “gigantic prison.” More than a million Eritreans have fled abroad, representing a huge market for Eritrean migrant smugglers, who are increasingly using the central route across the Mediterranean.

As logs of phone calls intercepted by Italian prosecutors show, the smugglers’ envoys in Khartoum, Tripoli, Palermo, Rome, Frankfurt and elsewhere are extremely well networked. Spread across the route, they guide their compatriots northward — and rake in millions in the process.

Eritreans are responsible for more asylum applications in Germany than any other African country. At the same time, the number of migrant smugglers who go underground in Germany is also growing. Migrant smuggling has joined the arms trade and drug dealing as one of the most lucrative forms of organized crime and has largely become controlled by Eritreans. It is happening under the noses of German officials, whose alleged inaction in the face of the development is met with consternation on the part of Italian investigators.

DER SPIEGEL spent months reporting on the migrant smugglers’ network, spending time in Libya, Italy, Frankfurt and Berlin. We examined more than one thousand pages of case files, evaluated confidential records and spoke with refugees who survived the trip across the Mediterranean. The reporting painted a clearer image of the cynical migrant smugglers who are willing to accept the deaths of thousands, who lock up refugees and sell them like livestock.

One of the most notorious of these smugglers is Ermias Ghermay.


The police station belonging to the crack unit known as Tarik al-Sika is located on the eponymously named street in the heart of the Libyan metropolis. This is where the adversaries of Ermias Ghermay and other smugglers are headquartered. For foreigners, the complex had always been off limits, until now.

A steel gate opens onto a courtyard. To the left are the offices belonging to investigators and special forces. To the right are the prison cells. Tarik al-Sika is an elite unit responsible for hunting down human traffickers and members of extremist militias. In contrast to the chaos that has become normal in Libya, the situation here is well-regulated: The shift schedule hangs on the wall and records of the unit’s operations are carefully filed away in folders.

Hussam, the shift supervisor, who requests that his last name not be used for security reasons, is wearing a T-shirt and jeans rather than a uniform. He wears his facial hair in the style popular among members of the militia group Libya Dawn: a carefully sculpted half-circle from ear to ear, passing below the lower lip. He wears his hair in a ponytail.

“We know where he and his men are, who they work with, where their movements take them and where they live,” he says when asked if he has an idea where Ghermay might be found. He grabs a file and recites what they know: Until 2015, he says, Ghermay lived in a part of Tripoli populated mostly by African migrants, an area notorious as a transfer point for drugs, weapons and alcohol. Hussam says that his unit raided Ghermay’s apartment twice, but he managed to escape both times. Currently, he continues, Ghermay is hiding out with his heavily armed bodyguards in Sabrata, a coastal town in western Libya. Unfortunately, he adds, Libyan security officials don’t have enough people or weapons to go after him there.

There are many migrant smugglers who brag openly about their excellent relations with the Libyan police and claim that they can even get anyone out of prison simply by buying off law enforcement officers. When asked about such claims, Hussam says that the phenomenon doubtlessly exists in Libya, but not within his unit.

“Ermias is an Ethiopian with Eritrean citizenship and dresses inconspicuously in jeans and a T-shirt,” says Yonas, a former intermediary for Ghermay who stands almost two meters (6′ 7″) tall. Ever since Tarik al-Sika arrested him at his workplace — in the cafeteria of the Eritrean Embassy in Tripoli — several months ago, Yonas, whose name was changed for this story, has been cooperating with Libyan special forces. On the day of our visit, he was presented as an important witness. Yonas says that he used to earn 50 dinars, around 30 euros ($33), for every Eritrean refugee he referred to Ghermay — and that some of them were aboard the vessel that sank off the coast of Lampedusa. On the night of the accident, Yonas says, “Ermias slid a passenger list under the door of the Eritrean Embassy so that their families could be informed” — a cold-blooded move that Ghermay is proud of, according to the logs of intercepted phone calls. The relatives of the victims, most of whom came from Eritrea, were thus promptly “informed,” he gloated. It’s the kind of gesture that is good for business.

“Immediately afterwards, I called him and set up a meeting in the cafeteria. I wanted to get him to pay compensation to the families,” Yonas says. “He actually turned up, but in the end, he only returned the price for the voyage. Nobody got any more than that.”

The refugees have only themselves to blame for their deaths, Ghermay said in a telephone call to a migrant smuggler from Sudan, adding that they didn’t follow his instructions and carelessly caused the boat to capsize. He insisted that he had a clear conscience. “If I followed the rules and they died anyway, then it’s fate,” Ghermay said.

The man from Sudan agreed: “There is no appeal against God’s judgment.”


The ruins of the old Sabrata theater can be seen from quite a distance. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it stands witness to a more glorious past under the Roman philosopher king Marcus Aurelius. Today, the several-thousand-year-old city is a hub of international crime and a transfer site for the huge sums earned from human trafficking.

Most of the migrants travelling from Sub-Saharan Africa these days end up in Sabrata and it is also the launch point for many of the boats heading for Italy. Most of the refugees have already travelled thousands of kilometers by the time they reach the city — and spent thousands of dollars. Eritreans who have already managed to make it across Ethiopia to eastern Sudan have to pay up to $6,000 ( 5,400 euros) for the continuation of their journey to the Libyan Mediterranean coast via the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. For most of them, it is a journey full of suffering, with many taken hostage in the Sahara — locked up and systematically abused — until their families back home send money for the next stage of the trip.

Eighteen-year-old Fanos Okba, who was raped in one such camp before surviving the tragedy off the coast of Lampedusa, says: “We were forced to stand the entire day and watch as other migrants were tortured in a variety of ways — with electric shocks, lashes to the soles of their feet and with a rope that was tied around their legs and neck in such a way that even the smallest movement could lead to their strangulation.”

To end their suffering, family members have to pay, sending money to accounts in Sudan, Israel or Dubai. Or they sent the ransom money using the Middle Eastern transfer system known as “hawala.” It is a system that works on the basis of trust: one person accepts the money on consignment and a second person pays that exact same money out to the end recipient elsewhere in the world. Only when the sum demanded has been received does the family of the captured refugee receive a code that they must then send to the mobile phone of the migrant smuggler. Only then can the trip northwards continue.

A Tight Ship

Once they reach the Libyan coast, Ghermay’s clients are again locked up, usually in warehouses in Sabrata or on the outskirts of Tripoli. The refugees are given registration numbers to make recordkeeping easier: not unlike in the wholesale livestock trade. Ghermay maintains “direct contacts with migrant smugglers in Sub-Saharan Africa,” it says in Italian case files. That allows him to “buy loads” of migrants from other smugglers “to increase his own profits.”

Ghermay’s senior henchmen, who demand to be called “colonel,” run a tight ship. It costs money to keep refugees in the warehouses, which is why those who cannot immediately pay for the passage to Italy are tortured, beaten and worse. According to the aid organization Save the Children, there have been cases of children being held for months and forced to drink their own urine so as to avoid dying of thirst.

All of this is taking place in a country that was granted an “immediate and substantial” aid package worth 100 million euros from the European Union in April 2016. It is happening as ships from Germany and elsewhere in Europe — part of an EU mission called Sophia — are patrolling so close to the Libyan coast that migrant smugglers only have to spend a pittance on boats and fuel. A rickety tub, a few liters of diesel and a satellite phone for the emergency call are all that’s necessary.

The investigators from Tarik al-Sika are unable to break-up the Sabrata ring because smugglers and heavily-armed militias are working together there hand-in-hand. The militias need money and human smugglers need protection, a profitable arrangement for both sides. And there is plenty of money available: UN Special Representative Martin Kobler claimed a week ago that there are currently thought to be 235,000 refugees waiting near the Libyan coast to be transported to Italy.

The Libyan King of Migrant Smuggling

According to Libyan investigators, Ermias Ghermay is currently living in a neighborhood located just behind the Sabrata water tower. “He roams from city to city,” says Major Basem Bashir, the head of the police unit charged with investigating illegal migration in the coastal town. “He is extremely dangerous. Our sources say that he is currently living here.”

Recently, Sabrata officials warned that the city’s morgue was unable to accept any more bodies of deceased foreigners, saying the building was simply too small to hold all of African migrants that wash up on its beaches: people from Sudan, Nigeria and Eritrea. In July, there were more than 120 bodies, 53 of them showing up on a single day, according to the mayor.

Ghermay isn’t the only migrant-smuggling magnate who lives in Sabrata, Major Bashir confirms. The entrepreneur Dr. Mosaab Abu Grein is here as well. Investigators in Tripoli believe he is the Libyan king of migrant smuggling. According to people in town, Mosaab Abu Grein is a 33-year-old father of two sons who has a respectable demeanor and, officially at least, a spotless reputation. There is no international warrant for his arrest. According to officials, he is the owner of the largest beach club in Sabrata but has declined to respond to the accusations made by investigators.

A former accomplice of his, who is now cooperating with the authorities, claims that the businessman smuggled 45,000 people to Europe in 2015 alone — a number that would represent almost a third of all illegal immigrants who made it to Italy last year. The millionaire businessman was said to have excellent contacts to the Italian mafia and to exert a powerful influence over the human trafficking industry even prior to Moammar Gadhafi’s death in 2011. Now, investigators say, Ghermay controls the African refugee smuggling business for clients from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan on his behalf.

Hussam, from the anti-terror unit in Tripoli, merely shakes his head when asked if European investigators are familiar with the findings of their Libyan counterparts. “You Europeans are constantly complaining about the masses of refugees from Africa,” he says. “But none of your investigators or prosecutors from Italy or Germany has come to Tripoli to ask what’s going on here.”


He has a wide face, black eyes and wears a necklace of plastic pearls: According to the Italian warrant for his arrest, Atta Wehabrebi maintained “direct relationships with the smugglers in Libya, including Ermias Ghermay”:

According to Calogero Ferrara, Atta is a “key witness.” The tanned, angular public prosecutor with a cigarillo in the corner of his mouth is clearly proud. Here, in Ferrara’s Palermo office, Atta spoke for the first time, in April 2015. The Eritrean’s testimony, says Ferrara, is as valuable as admissions by leading Sicilian Mafiosi once were.

Ferrara works for the legendary anti-mafia brigade of the Palermo public prosecutor’s office. Each morning, on his way to his office on the second floor of the palace of justice, he passes a plaque commemorating several of his murdered predecessors. Judges Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone, both murdered in 1992, also worked in this building. “There are lots of things that don’t work in Italy, but we know something about fighting organized crime,” Ferrara says.

According to the Sicilian investigators, the smugglers’ enormous crimes justify measures just as drastic as those taken against the Cosa Nostra. The Italian judiciary allows investigators to tap phones and perform video surveillance. Key witnesses are treated generously, including witness-protection programs.

So far, the Palermo prosecutors have conducted three large operations to shut down the cells of Ghermay’s smuggling network — “Glauco 1” to “Glauco 3.” Seventy-one warrants have been issued. During the last big raid in June, two thirds of the 38 accused were from Eritrea. There have also been convictions — including that of Atta, who now lives in a witness protection program. “Everything we know about this network is thanks to him,” says Ferrara.

Atta came to Libya from Eritrea at the age of 13, and later lived on the same, middle-class Tripoli street as Ermias Ghermay. During the Gadhafi era, he ran a café there where would-be migrants would stop before attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Atta collected their money for the trip and sent it along to the smugglers.

In 2007, he fled to Italy and from there he took advantage of his contacts to the big players in the smuggling business. He rose up the hierarchy, becoming, according to the arrest warrant, one of the “bosses and co-founders” of the criminal organization, along with Ghermay and a Sudanese man named John Mahray. He was responsible for operations on Italian territory.

Hard to Track

Atta was in charge of transporting the refugees who arrived in Sicily further north. He had to get them out as soon as possible — before the Italian authorities could take their fingerprints. Without fingerprints, the refugees are hard to track. Without them, officials in Germany can hardly tell who comes from where.

Atta drove some of the migrants personally, without a driver’s license, in cars to Germany and even to Scandinavia, an easy game in a Europe without border controls. In other cases, he sent accomplices; they left Bologna for the Bavarian city of Rosenheim at around 9:30 p.m. He motivated his helpers by telling them: “You’ll be back at 6 a.m. and you’ll have earned 1,000 euros.” He advised his helpers: “If you are caught by the Germans, tell them you don’t know the people in the car, and you’ll be out of prison one day later.”

According to Atta, the sale of registration notices, marriage certificates and personal status certificates was especially lucrative. Some of his Eritrean accomplices, he claimed, had simultaneously filed applications in five different Italian prefectures with five different registration notices for family reunification with five different “wives” who were supposedly still in Eritrea.

The women, who then received the necessary entry papers, were thus spared the dangerous boat trip across the sea. For that reason, they also paid up to $15,000 for their fake marriage. And the whole thing, Atta says, works so well because the Italian prefectures don’t compare information with one another.

The Italians can afford this kind of nonchalance. Although in the past year alone, 38,000 Eritreans reached Italy illegally, the overall number of Eritreans in the country has gone down by 30 percent since 2011 — to the current number of 9,600. Every year, tens of thousands go north after their arrival — onward to Switzerland, Sweden and Germany. These include the very poor, but also wealthy smugglers.

The German authorities know about it, Ferrara claims, thanks to the European justice authority Eurojust — but he says they apparently don’t care. “We Italians are conducting investigations, issuing warrants, encouraging Eurojust coordination meetings. We have documents which suggest that the network has contacts to Germany.” According to Ferrara, 40,000 wiretap transcripts have been sent to colleagues in other EU countries via Europol. Ferrara sought their help in determining how well connected the murderous smuggling syndicate now is.

‘I’m Sick of It’

The UK, Sweden and the Netherlands, Ferrara says, evaluated the data and started to conduct their own investigations: “The Germans, however, have done nothing. They don’t seem especially interested either. At one Eurojust meeting, they had an intern take part. But I’ve also heard the same sentence from the German side for the hundredth time: ‘We are prepared to help the Italians’ — and to be honest, I’m sick of it.”

Are the Germans arrogant or naïve? Ferrara suspects the latter: “It reminds me a bit of my mafia investigations. There, too, the Germans had a tendency to say, ‘Mafia? Doesn’t exist here.’ Germans close their eyes to the truth — even though we have given them sufficient evidence.”

German investigators claim that the Italians informed them too late. They say that the Italians shared their evidence only after the “Glauco 1” and “Glauco 2” operations had already been concluded. In security circles, one hears that the work is made even more difficult by the structural differences between the two systems in Germany and Italy.

A friendly man with an office not far from the Palermo cathedral is particularly critical of the Germans. Carmine Mosca leads a special anti-migrant-smuggling division within Squadra Mobile, the police’s mobile task force.

Mosca was there in June in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum during the extradition proceedings of a migrant smuggler for whom an international arrest warrant had been issued. He lauds the cooperation with the British National Crime Agency, which helped capture the smuggler, and with the Dutch, who, he says, always have an ear open for Italian concerns. But when the conversation turns to the Germans, he struggles to control his anger.

It’s actually not so complicated to capture people like Ermias Ghermay, says Mosca, but the task is repeatedly made unnecessarily more difficult for him and his team. Normally, for example, an EU rescue ship from the Sophia mission docks in a Sicilian harbor with hundreds of refugees on board. “We drive there to investigate,” says Mosca. “We ask who the smugglers are and about phone contacts to Libya, that we can later monitor. Most of the crews — the Irish, the Spaniards, the Norwegians — are very well organized and welcoming.”

But, he claims, there is one exception: the Germans. One time, he relates, the frigate Hessen docked with maritime refugees on board. “Officers didn’t even let us on board the ship. They didn’t support us in any way, gave us no evidence. No briefing, nothing. We were unable to arrest a single smuggler afterwards.”

And this despite the fact that, as Mosca claims, he had three Italian prosecutors with him at the time. Even they were turned away by the Germans. The whole thing, the investigator says, is hard to fathom: “We are here in Italy, they are bringing us migrants and they don’t even let us on board to find out how the rescue went.” Among the crews of all of the EU ships, he says, the Germans stick out with their “truly singular behavior.” He says there is no useful contact: “The German liaison officer in Italy? Never heard, never seen.”

‘I’ll Have Them Sleep Standing Up’

When asked by DER SPIEGEL, the commander of the Hessen said he “cannot recall” incidents when Italian authorities were denied access to the ship. The Defense Ministry added that in mid-2015 a “mandate for the fight against smuggling-crime in the Mediterranean” had yet to be issued. During joint operations, access to ships is certainly provided “as needed.”

On Sicily, an historical intersection point between Europe, Africa and the Middle East, it has become impossible to overlook the consequences of the thousands of shipwrecked arrivals. It’s enough to follow the tracks Atta, the key witness, has provided to the investigators. In Palermo, for example, in the Vicolo Santa Rosalia alley. There, in an unremarkable bar, is where the smugglers housed their human cargo until a raid in July. Today, you can see young men looking out at the street with a mirthless look in their eyes, their cheeks filled with leaves of khat, a popular drug on the Horn of Africa.

And those searching for the house in Catania where Ghermay’s brother once housed 117 refugees — “if necessary, I’ll have them sleep standing up,” he said in one recorded phone call — will find, just a few steps away, the makeshift outdoor hovels belonging to the stranded.

About 400 kilometers linear distance away, in Rome, the Eritreans have their base in the Palazzo Selam, a glass palace that once housed Tor Vergata University’s Institute for Philosophy and Humanities and now gives shelter to up to 2,000 refugees. Two of the migrant smugglers who had warrants issued for their arrest in June were registered here while a few others were registered by the Jesuits in central Rome.

There, inside Via degli Astalli 14a, Pope Francis’ followers run more than just a soup kitchen; they also offer specific services behind their green iron door. Refugees without a permanent place of residence are allowed to use their postal address if they want to make an application for asylum or a visa. And, for that reason, seven of the 28 warrants issued during “Glauco 3” were delivered to the Roman Jesuits.

But that’s not all. Atta, who lived in a bourgeois brick building with a view of the Alban hills in Rome during his time as a smuggler, gave many more clues in his 10-hour interrogation. Parts of his testimony are still classified, under the highest level of secrecy. “We are now working on operation ‘Glauco 4’,” says prosecutor Ferrara: “This time it’s about the financial streams; we have asked for the support of several intelligence services. Because you need to follow the money.”


To understand where the millions earned by the migrant smugglers end up, one should embark on a search for Ermias Ghermay’s wife, Mana Ibrahim. She has applied for asylum in Germany, says key witness Atta. “She is now living in the Frankfurt area. All the money that Ermia earns is in Germany.”

Officials in Palermo claim to have forwarded all the data they have about Ghermay’s wife to their German counterparts. But in Germany, nobody knows anything about Mana Ibrahim: Nobody at the agencies responsible and none of the investigators. Yet they claim that they carefully pursue all leads.

In response to a request for comment submitted by DER SPIEGEL, Frankfurt prosecutors said that Frankfurt is without a doubt one of “the German focal points of Eritrean smugglers,” and that “around 10 to 15 proceedings” pertaining to their activities were recently carried out here. The division for organized crime, they said, has repeatedly launched investigations targeting the “commercial smuggling of foreigners.” Mostly, though, they have only managed to capture bit players.

Meanwhile, Palermo investigators complain that several major migrant smugglers from Ghermay’s organization — for whom arrest warrants have been issued — are still at large in Germany. In previous years, significant figures in the smuggling industry were only tracked down in Germany in response to entreaties from Italy. Measho Tesfamariam, for example. He stands accused of being responsible for one journey across the Mediterranean that resulted in 244 migrants disappearing without a trace in June 2014. Afterward, the Eritrean traveled to Germany and applied for asylum. In December 2014, investigators found him in Müncheberg, a town in the eastern German state of Brandenburg.

Yonas Redae, an important member of the network in Sicily, is another example. He later lived as an asylum seeker in Göttingen and was arrested in February of this year. Or Mulubrahan Gurum, who has been accused of being the treasurer of one of the most powerful migrant smuggling groups. Disguised as an asylum seeker, he lived in Worms until his arrest in August 2015.

Financial Aid for a Dictator

In Italy, numerous criminal complaints, such as rape, bodily harm and domestic disturbance, had been filed against Gurum, who denied all accusations against him. He applied for asylum in Germany using his real name. When an extradition request for Gurum landed on the desk of senior prosecutor Mario Mannweiler in the nearby city of Koblenz, he initially thought it was merely another routine case of legal cooperation, as he now recalls. Yet the grounds for the extradition request stated: “Membership in a criminal organization.” The requested cooperation was swiftly provided and Gurum was handed over to the Italians in short order, but German prosecutors, Mannweiler says, are chronically overburdened. “It’s not easy to find someone who is interested, who wants to dig deeper.”

So is Germany simply blind to the perpetrators who come into the country via Libya and Italy? Or are the country’s laws to blame? In Italy, just being a member of the Mafia is a crime, but not in Germany. Here, there has to be evidence of a crime committed before an arrest can be made.

In Berlin, a senior German intelligence officer concedes: “We are indeed concerned. There are refugees in Germany who have not been accounted for. We are also alarmed by the cooperation between migrant smugglers, militias and political extremists in the Sahara.” He also noted that there are Islamic State cells and fighting units in cities like Tripoli and Sabrata — the city where Ermias Ghermay is thought to be living.

The European Union is hoping that the refugee crisis can be solved with money. The goal of the so-called Khartoum Process is to provide financial aid to countries on the Horn of Africa and other states along the migrant routes. Among the recipients of such aid is the brutal Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, who is set to receive millions from the EU. One EU action plan aims to strengthen the Eritrean government’s institutions and personnel — a government that Amnesty International has accused for years of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of those who would dare to question it.

But it won’t be possible to stop the Eritrean exodus with an injection of money. Already, Frankfurt is home to Eritrean Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox congregations, an Eritrean consulate and, behind the central train station, bars and restaurants where Eritreans gather. One of them told us how he once met Ermias Ghermay in Khartoum with the help of a friend from the migrant smuggling scene. “Like many major migrant smugglers, he retreats to Sudan in the fall and is part of the top circles there,” the young man says. He says that the attempt to get African officials to combat the smugglers is in most cases absurd. “In Sudan, generals in uniform greet Ermias Ghermay like a close acquaintance. He stands under their protection and when he returns to Libya, he is protected by the Libyans.”


The rows of small mounds of sand in the cemetery not far from the town of Zawiya seem almost endless. White blocks, hundreds of them, maybe a thousand, serve as grave markers for the nameless bodies that have washed up on the beach. Here and there, where the sea breeze has blown away the sand, a jacket can be seen poking out, or a bone. The tattered pages of a book about the Old Testament flutter in the wind. Perhaps they once belonged to a Christian Eritrean who is now buried here.

A few kilometers further on, a half-dozen men from the Coast Guard in Zawiya are gazing out to sea. Their spokesman, who they refer to as Colonel Naji, is clearly making an effort in his new role spearheading the fight against human trafficking. Since Aug. 30, teams like his have been receiving training from the EU and now, when they see a refugee boat, they are supposed to bring it back to shore.

But it is difficult to know on which side they ultimately stand. Refugees say that the first question they ask upon boarding a boat is: “Who are you from?” In other words, which smuggler did you pay? The answer determines whether the vessel will be allowed to continue out to sea toward the ships of the EU mission Sophia. Or whether they will be pulled back to the coast. It seems that there are smugglers who have a good relationship with the Coast Guard and others who aren’t attentive enough to the maintenance of such contacts.

Colonel Naji says he thinks it’s a good thing that Germany is supporting his men in the fight against human smuggling. But he still has a piece of advice for his allies to the north: “You have to change your asylum laws. The smugglers are now using you like a taxi service that picks up their customers safely and for free just off the coast of Libya.”


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