Aletho News


Court acquits Mubarak petroleum minister, 5 officials in Israeli gas export deal

Mada Masr | February 21, 2015

The Cairo Criminal Court overturned prison sentences which had been issued against the Mubarak-era Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy and other petroleum officials on Saturday, clearing them of any criminal charges pertaining to the massive losses incurred in the course of Egypt’s natural gas exports to Israel.

Fahmy had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in 2012 on charges of misappropriation and squandering public funds. The court had also ruled that he should be dismissed from all his professional duties. Mubarak’s associate, the fugitive business tycoon Hussein Salem, had also been sentenced to 15 years in absentia on the same charges. Three of their co-defendants had also been issued prison sentences ranging from three years to 15 years imprisonment.

According to state-owned media outlets and news agencies, Saturday’s court-ordered acquittals did not include Hussein Salem.

Fahmy had served as Mubarak’s petroleum minister from 1999 to 2011. He was also a member of Mubarak’s then-ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), as well as a member of the NDP’s policy secretariat.

During his tenure as petroleum minister, Fahmy had overseen the sale and export of natural gas to Israel since 2005. The sale of its natural gas to Israel for well below its market value meant that Egypt was incurring hefty losses, along with dwindling national supplies, in the course of this gas export deal.

While the exact extent of losses through this deal are not known, it is estimated that Egypt accumulated several hundred million dollars worth of losses in the six years that it exported its gas to Israel, and perhaps several billions more in light of other sub-market priced deals with Spain and Jordan.

Following dwindling national supplies, and repeated attacks on its natural gas pipeline to Israel, Egypt halted its gas exports to Israel in 2012.

With its subsequent chronic shortage of natural gas supplies, Egypt has recently been considering and discussing the import of natural gas from Algeria, Russia, Cyprus, and potentially even Israel.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Corruption | , | Leave a comment

Car Hacking Report Refuels Concerns About Michael Hastings Crash

By Mary Papenfuss | WhoWhatWhy | February 20, 2015

Those still wondering what really happened in gonzo journalist Michael Hastings’ fiery demise likely sat up straight during 60 Minutes’ recent piece on how hackers can hijack the controls of a car.

After Hastings died in a bizarre one-car crash along a straight Los Angeles street, former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke noted the accident was “consistent with a car cyber attack” and that it was easy to hack cars. It seems he was right, as 60 Minutes demonstrated in a chilling fashion.

In the segment, a nervous Lesley Stahl smashed into safety cones on a driving course after two men using a laptop computer remotely commandeered her brakes. Former video game developer Dan Kaufman, who’s now working for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, set up the demonstration.

In trying to figure out what kinds of attacks enemies might be plotting on American soil, government agencies are learning the same techniques. To wrest the controls from Stahl, a hacker dialed in through the vehicle’s OnStar system to first busy up the computer, then planted code that allowed it to reprogram the control systems. Kaufman stood by giving driving orders to the hackers.

The demonstration underscored what Clarke, counterterrorism chief under both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, said after Hastings’ crash. “You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard,” he said. “So if there were a cyber attack on the car—and I’m not saying there was—I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.” Clarke added that the LAPD was unlikely to have the tools necessary to detect such an attack, particularly after a fire.

No Crowbar Needed, Just an iPad

One thing is clear: Drivers are at risk.

In a stinging report released this week, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Markey slammed car companies for their failure to protect car owners  from hackers and intrusive data collectors who might seize control of increasingly computerized vehicles. “Automakers haven’t done their part to protect us from cyber-attacks or privacy invasions,” he said.

Much of the report focuses on how car computers can be used to collect driving history, from where a car is parked to where it traveled. But it also reveals hackers’ ability to remotely turn, stop and accelerate cars. Markey’s report notes that car companies can now disable vehicles if owners fall behind on their payments. Burglars can exploit the same vulnerabilities.

But Markey doesn’t believe there have been other types of incidents in which hackers seize control of cars—yet.

Nonetheless, the 60 Minutes story and Markey’s investigation likely made drivers squirm the next time they climbed behind the wheel.

The report has also reignited suspicions that arose nearly two years ago after Hastings’ crash.


Hastings’ work as a thorn in the side of government and the 33-year-old journalist’s death in an unusual crash in June 2013 immediately triggered speculation. A witness reported seeing Hastings’ new silver Mercedes C250 coupe speeding down a Hollywood street before dawn when it bounced, slammed into a tree and burst into flames.

Shortly before Hastings’ death, he sent what was described as a “panicky” email to friends expressing concern that associates were being interviewed by “the Feds.” He also wrote that he was onto a big story and needed to “get off the radar for a bit.” His 2010 story for Rolling Stone in which Stanley McChrystal skewered the White House and its strategy in Afghanistan led to the general’s resignation.

The FBI denied Hastings was the target of any investigation, yet a Freedom of Information Act request later unearthed an FBI file on Hastings. Hastings also told a neighbor he thought someone had been tampering with his car. At the time of his death he was working on an article about CIA director John Brennan.

The Los Angeles Police Department concluded that the crash was an accident and did not involve foul play. The coroner’s report also declared Hastings’ death, ascribed to “massive blunt force trauma,” as accidental, and revealed that there were trace amounts of marijuana and amphetamine in his system, though neither was considered a factor in the crash. The report noted that Hastings’ family had been trying to convince him to go into detox.

Just an Accident?

Hastings’ widow, who hired a private investigator to examine all the evidence, at least publicly labeled the crash an accident. “You know, my gut here, was that it was just a really tragic accident,” Elise Jordan said in an interview two months after Hastings’ death.

Hastings’ brother Jonathan said that he feared his sibling was experiencing a “manic episode” before his death, which he suspected was linked to drugs. He had flown to LA to try to convince his brother to enter rehab; Hastings died the next day. “The government is out of control in a lot of ways, so I sympathize with people who want to turn Mike’s death into some kind of symbol,” he said. “I just think that his death happens to be a bad foundation to build that case on.”

But not everyone agrees. “I’m definitely suspicious about the crash,” Montana state Rep. Daniel Zolnikov told WhoWhatWhy. The Republican legislator has introduced a bill, which he says was inspired in part by Hastings’ work, to bar state government agencies from accessing servers to get reporters’ notes.

Like Markey, Zolnikov is also concerned about risks posed by increasingly high-tech cars, which he described as “computers without protections.”

If that’s the case, then the information superhighway and highways have merged dangerously.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

Top 10 Bogus ISIS Stories

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | February 20, 2015

… as America debates the possibility of a full-scale ground invasion of ISIS-controlled territory, it’s important to note that much of the ISIS threat — namely that which targets the West — has been habitually overstated by an uncritical media.

In no particular order, here are the ten most bogus ISIS scare stories over the past year:

1. Female genital mutilation edict – July 2014

Genital Mutilation

Who it fooled: Most major media outlets from Time to Reuters to The Atlantic to the BBC (whose story has since been scrubbed online). Above all, the UN itself.

Why it’s bogus: Actual residents of Mosul and regional experts quickly knew it reeked. The story was subsequently discredited by experts and jouranalists and called a hoax soon after.

2. Church-burning in Mosul – July 2014

Mosul Church Burning

Who it fooled: Human Rights Watch, The Atlantic, The Independent, The Times of India

Why it’s bogus: An intrepid archaeologist, Sam Hardy, called BS and thanks to the magic of reverse image Google search and some prodding by yours truly, it was eventually retracted by several outlets and never mentioned again.

3. ISIS in Mexico – October 2014

ISIS in Mexico

Who it fooled: Fox News, Judicial Watch, The Inquisitr.

Why it’s bogus: Absurd on its face, the story was quickly and roundly debunked.

4. ISIS recruiting emo British teen – December 2014

ISIS Emo Teen

Who it fooled: Metro, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph

Why it’s bogus: The person who uploaded the picture admitted on Twitter it was a fake. The media subsequently deemed it a “hoax”.

5. ISIS Caliphate map – July 2014


Who it fooled: ABC News, International Business Times, Breitbart

Why it’s bogus: The original story from ABC News cited a map that had been floating around the Internet for months. To this day, its one and only source is a tweet from a noted white supremacist website Third Position. and others eventually deemed it a hoax.

6. ISIS beheads Christian children – Aug 2014


Who it fooled: Originally asserted on CNN by self-proclaimed Iraqi-Christian activist Mark Arabo–a grocery story industry lobbyist whose previous media appearance was on a local San Diego news channel to oppose an increase in minimum wage–this story spread among right-wing and Christian media.

Why it’s bogus: After a fairly thorough inquiry, snopes eventually determined the claim was “inconclusive,” having found no independent evidence it occurred.

7. $425m bank robbery – June 2014

ISIS Robbery

Who it fooled: The Washington Post, International Business Times, Fox News, Mic, Vocativ

Why it’s bogus: The story was based solely on accounts from the former mayor of Mosul and was later found to be uncredible by The Financial Times and, ultimately, US officials themselves.

8. ‘Over 100 Americans have joined ISIS’ – October 2014

100 Americans in ISIS

Who it fooled: NBC News, Washington Post, Al Jazeera

Only 12 Americans Fighting With ISIS

Why it’s bogus: After the FBI admitted there were only “about a dozen” Americans fighting alongside jihadists in Syria in September 2014, several media outlets continued to report “over 100,” despite the government correcting the record several weeks prior.

9. #AllEyesOnISIS “Twitter storm” – June 2014

ISIS Twitter War

Who it fooled: The Daily Mail, McClatchy

Why it’s bogus: Yours truly showed that the “Twitter storm” was simply a reposting of weeks- or months-old tweets by an overzealous ISIS fanboi.

10. ISIS’s ebola terror plot – December 2014


Who it fooled: The Daily Mail, Fox News, Mashable, random right-wing media

Why it’s bogus: “Iraqi media” was the only source for the story, and the Iraqi minister of Health quickly debunked it.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Arm twisting’ & arbitrary embargoes: Obama’s foreign policy in 7 snapshots

RT | February 22, 2015

Nine months into Barack Obama’s presidency, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation”. Six years on, has the 44th president of the United States lived up to his peacemaker laurels?

Humility and Power

“… our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please… our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.” – First inaugural address, January 2009.

“We’re the largest, most powerful country on Earth… [America] is going to be the indispensable nation for the remainder of this century.” – January 2015, interview with Vox magazine


“Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law?“ – Candidate Obama in a June 2008 speech in Berlin, Germany

August 2014 news conference: “We tortured some folks… We did some things that were contrary to our values.”


“… might does not make right…Citizens, like nations, will never settle for a world where the big are allowed to bully the small. “ – Speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, September 2014

“We occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn’t do what we need them to do.” – February 2015 interview with Vox magazine

Embargoes don’t work…Do they?

President Obama announced lifting the embargo against Cuba in January 2015, because “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.”

In the same speech, Obama boasted that “Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters,” due to sanctions by the US and EU governments for alleged Russian “provocations” in Ukraine.

Decisions, decisions

“Ukraine must be free to decide its own destiny.” – Barack Obama, speaking in Estonia in September 2014

‘F**k the EU’: Snr US State Dept. official caught in alleged phone chat on Ukraine

Legitimacy to lead

“A leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country.” – Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly in September 2014, referring to President Bashar Assad of Syria.

“…since ultimately there is no military solution to this crisis, we will continue to support President Poroshenko’s efforts to achieve peace.” – Tallinn, September 2014

Petro Poroshenko’s plan for peace in Ukraine:

International law matters?

Addressing an EU youth conference in Brussels, in March 2014, Obama said: “in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force … international law matters.”

Exposed: Obama states Kosovo left Serbia only after referendum, but there was NO referendum

Partner, not policeman

Secretary of State John Kerry introduced President Obama at the Summit to Counter Violent Extremism as someone who has “consistently sought to act not as the world’s policeman, but as the world’s partner.”

While he doesn’t have the option of “simply invading every country where disorder breaks out,” the overall goal “is a world in which America continues to lead,” Obama told Vox magazine.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hundreds of Palestinians flee as Israel opens dams into Gaza Valley


Ma’an – 22/02/2015

GAZA CITY – Hundreds of Palestinians were evacuated from their homes Sunday morning after Israeli authorities opened a number of dams near the border, flooding the Gaza Valley in the wake of a recent severe winter storm.

The Gaza Ministry of Interior said in a statement that civil defense services and teams from the Ministry of Public Works had evacuated more than 80 families from both sides of the Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) after their homes flooded as water levels reached more than three meters.

Gaza has experienced flooding in recent days amid a major storm that saw temperatures drop and frigid rain pour down.

The storm displaced dozens and caused hardship for tens of thousands, including many of the approximately 110,000 Palestinians left homeless by Israel’s assault over the summer.

The suffering is compounded by the fact that Israel has maintained a complete siege over Gaza for the last eight years, severely limiting electricity and the availability of fuel for generators. It has also prevented the displaced from rebuilding their homes, as construction materials are largely banned from entering.

Gaza civil defense services spokesman Muhammad al-Midana warned that further harm could be caused if Israel opens up more dams in the area, noting that water is currently flowing at a high speed from the Israel border through the valley and into the Mediterranean sea.

Evacuated families have been sent to shelters sponsored by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, in al-Bureij refugee camp and in al-Zahra neighborhood in the central Gaza Strip.

The Gaza Valley (Wadi Gaza) is a wetland located in the central Gaza Strip between al-Nuseirat refugee camp and al-Moghraqa. It is called HaBesor in Hebrew, and it flows from two streams — one whose source runs from near Beersheba, and the other from near Hebron.

Israeli dams on the river to collect rainwater have dried up the wetlands inside Gaza, and destroyed the only source of surface water in the area.

Locals have continued to use it to dispose of their waste for lack of other ways to do so, however, creating an environmental hazard.

This is not the first time Israeli authorities have opened the Gaza Valley dams.

In Dec. 2013, Israeli authorities also opened the dams amid heavy flooding in the Gaza Strip. The resulting floods damaged dozens of homes and forces many families in the area from their homes.

In 2010, the dams were opened as well, forcing 100 families from their homes. At the time civil defense services said that they had managed to save seven people who had been at risk of drowning.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Fresh leak at Fukushima nuclear plant sees 70-fold radiation spike

RT | February 22, 2015

Another radioactive water leak in the sea has been detected at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the facility’s operator TEPCO announced. Contamination levels in the gutter reportedly spiked up 70 times over regular readings.

The sensors are connected to the gutter that pours rain and ground water from the plant to a bay adjacent to the facility.

The levels of contamination were between 50 and 70 times higher than Fukushima’s already elevated radioactive status, and were detected at about 10 am local time (1.00 am GMT), AFP reported.

After the discovery, the gutter was blocked to prevent leaks to the Pacific Ocean.

Throughout Sunday, contamination levels fell, but still measured 10 to 20 times more than prior to the leak.

“We are currently monitoring the sensors at the gutter and seeing the trend,” a company spokesman said.

He did not specify the cause of the leak.

It has proved difficult for TEPCO to deal with plant decommissioning. Postponed deadlines and alarming incidents occur regularly at the facility.

Earlier this week, the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) said Japan had made significant progress, but there is still a radioactive threat, and a “very complex” scenario at Fukushima.

About a month ago, TEPCO announced it would miss their toxic water cleanup deadline, suspending it until the end of May, after earlier pledges it would be done by March.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Failing Tonkin Gulf Test on Ukraine

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | February 21, 2015

Many current members of Congress, especially progressives, may have envisioned how they would have handled the Tonkin Gulf crisis in 1964. In their imaginations, they would have asked probing questions and treated the dubious assertions from the White House with tough skepticism before voting on whether to give President Lyndon Johnson the authority to go to war in Vietnam.

If they had discovered what CIA and Pentagon insiders already knew – that the crucial second North Vietnamese “attack” on U.S. destroyers likely never happened and that the U.S. warships were not on some “routine” patrol but rather supporting a covert attack on North Vietnamese territory – today’s members of Congress would likely see themselves joining Sens. Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening as the only ones voting no.

Bravery in hindsight is always easy, but things feel quite different when Official Washington is locked in one of its pro-war “group thinks” when all the “important people” – from government to the media to think tanks – are pounding their chests and talking tough, as they are now on Russia and Ukraine.

Then, if you ask your probing questions and show your tough skepticism, you will have your patriotism, if not your sanity, questioned. You will be “controversialized,” “marginalized,” “pariahed.” You will be called somebody’s “apologist,” whether it’s Ho Chi Minh or Vladimir Putin.

And nobody wants to go through that because here’s the truth about Official Washington: if you run with the pack – if you stay within the herd – you’ll be safe. Even if things go terribly wrong – even if thousands of American soldiers die along with many, many more foreign civilians – you can expect little or no accountability. You will likely keep your job and may well get promoted. But if you stand in the way of the stampede, you’ll be trampled.

After all, remember what happened to Morse and Gruening in their next elections. They both lost. As one Washington insider once told me about the U.S. capital’s culture, “there’s no honor in being right too soon. People just remember that you were out of step and crazy.”

So, the choice often is to do the right thing and be crushed or to run with the pack and be safe. But there are moments when even the most craven member of Congress should look for whatever courage he or she has left and behave like a Morse or a Gruening, especially in a case like the Ukraine crisis which has the potential to spin out of control and into a nuclear confrontation.

Though the last Congress already whipped through belligerent resolutions denouncing “Russian aggression” and urging a military response – with only five Democrats and five Republicans dissenting – members of the new Congress could at least ascertain the facts that have driven the Ukraine conflict. Before the world lurches into a nuclear showdown, it might make a little sense to know what got us here.

The Nuland Phone Call

For instance, Congress could investigate the role of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt in orchestrating the political crisis that led to a violent coup overthrowing Ukraine’s constitutionally elected President Viktor Yanukovych a year ago.

What was the significance of the Nuland-Pyatt phone call in early February 2014 in which Nuland exclaimed “Fuck the EU!” and seemed to be handpicking the leaders of a new government? “Yats is the guy,” she said referring to her favorite, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, with Pyatt musing about how to “midwife this thing”?

Among other questions that Congress could pose would be: What does U.S. intelligence know about the role of neo-Nazi extremists whose “sotin” militias infiltrated the Maidan protests and escalated the violence against police last February? [See’sNYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]

And, what does U.S. intelligence know about the mysterious snipers who brought the crisis to a boil on Feb. 20, 2014, by opening fire on police apparently from positions controlled by the extremist Right Sektor, touching off a violent clash that left scores dead, including police and protesters. [A worthwhile documentary on this mystery is “Maidan Massacre.”]

Congress might also seek to determine what was the U.S. government’s role over the next two days as three European countries – Poland, France and Germany – negotiated a deal with Yanukovych on Feb. 21 in which the embattled president agreed to Maidan demands for reducing his powers and accepting early elections to vote him out of office.

Instead of accepting this agreement, which might have averted a civil war, neo-Nazi and other Maidan militants attacked undefended government positions on Feb. 22 and forced officials to flee for their lives. Then, instead of standing by the European deal, the U.S. State Department quickly embraced the coup regime as “legitimate.” And, surprise, surprise, Yatsenyuk emerged as the new Prime Minister.

What followed the coup was a Western propaganda barrage to make it appear that the Ukrainian people were fully behind this “regime change” even though many ethnic Russian Ukrainians in the east and south clearly felt disenfranchised by the unconstitutional ouster of their president.

A U.S. congressional inquiry also might ask: Was there any internal U.S. government assessment of the risks involved in allowing Nuland and Pyatt to pursue a “regime change” strategy on Russia’s border? If so, did the assessment take into account the likely Russian reaction to having an ally next door overthrown by anti-Russian extremists with the intent to put Ukraine into NATO and potentially bring NATO armaments to Russia’s front yard?

Since the entire crisis has been presented to the American people within an anti-Yanukovyh/anti-Moscow propaganda paradigm – both by the U.S. mainstream news media and by the U.S. political/academic elites – there has been virtually no serious examination of the U.S. complicity. No one in Official Washington dares say anything but “Russian aggression.”

Post-Coup Realities

Beyond the events surrounding the coup a year ago, there were other pivotal moments as this crisis careened out of control. For instance, what does U.S. intelligence know about the public opinion in Crimea prior to the peninsula’s vote for secession from Ukraine and reunification with Russia on March 16?

The State Department portrayed the referendum as a “sham” but more objective observers acknowledge that the vote – although hasty – reflected a broad consensus inside Crimea to bail out of the failed Ukrainian state and rejoin a somewhat more functional Russia, where pensions are about three times higher and have a better chance of being paid.

Then, there was the massacre of ethnic Russians burned alive in Odessa’s trade union building on May 2, with neo-Nazi militias again on the front lines. Like other topics that put the U.S.-backed coup regime in a bad light, the Odessa massacre quickly moved off the front pages and there has been little follow-up from international agencies that supposedly care about human rights. [See’sUkraine’s ‘Dr. Strangelove’ Reality.”]

The next major catastrophe associated with the Ukraine crisis was the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17. Again, the State Department rushed to a judgment blaming the ethnic Russian rebels and Russia for the tragedy that killed all 298 people on board. However, I’ve been told that some U.S. intelligence analysts had a very different take on who was responsible, finding evidence implicating a rogue element of the Ukrainian government.

However, following the pattern of going silent whenever the Kiev coup regime might look bad, there was a sudden drop-off of interest in the MH-17 case, apparently not wanting to disrupt the usefulness of the earlier anti-Russian propaganda. When a Dutch-led inquiry into the crash issued an interim report last October, there was no indication that the Obama administration had shared its intelligence information. [See’sThe Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]

There also is little interest from Congress about what the MH-17 evidence shows. Even some progressive members are afraid to ask for a briefing from U.S. intelligence analysts, possibly because the answers might force a decision about whether to blow the whistle on a deception that involved Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior Obama administration officials.

This sort of cowardly misfeasance of duty marks the latest step in a long retreat from the days after the Vietnam War when Congress actually conducted some valuable investigations. In the 1970s, there were historic inquiries into Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, led by Sen. Sam Ervin, and into CIA intelligence abuses by Sen. Frank Church.

A Downward Spiral

Since then, congressional investigations have become increasingly timid, such as the Iran-Contra and October Surprise investigations led by Rep. Lee Hamilton in the late 1980s and early 1990s, shying away from evidence of impeachable wrongdoing by President Ronald Reagan. Then, in the 1990s, a Republican-controlled Congress obsessed over trivial matters such as President Bill Clinton’s personal finances and sex life.

Congressional oversight dysfunction reached a new low when President George W. Bush made baseless claims about Iraq’s WMD and Saddam Hussein’s intent to share nuclear, chemical and biological weapons with al-Qaeda. Rather than perform any meaningful due diligence, Congress did little more than rubber stamp Bush’s claims by authorizing the Iraq War.

Years afterwards, there were slow-moving investigations into the WMD intelligence “failure” and into the torture practices that were used to help fabricate evidence for the fake WMD claims. Those investigations, however, were conducted behind closed doors and did little to educate the broader American public. There apparently wasn’t much stomach to call the perpetrators of those abuses before televised hearings.

The only high-profile foreign-affairs hearings that have been held in recent years have been staged by House Republicans on the made-up scandal over an alleged cover-up of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a hot-button issue for the GOP base but essentially a non-story.

Now, the United States is hurtling toward a potential nuclear confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and this congressional ineptness could become an existential threat to the planet. The situation also has disturbing similarities to the Tonkin Gulf situation although arguably much, much more dangerous.

Misleading Americans to War

In 1964, there also was a Democratic president in Lyndon Johnson with Republicans generally to his right demanding a more aggressive military response to fight communism in Vietnam. So, like today with President Barack Obama in the White House and Republicans demanding a tougher line against Russia, there was little reason for Republicans to challenge Johnson when he seized on the Tonkin Gulf incident to justify a ratcheting up of attacks on North Vietnam. Meanwhile, also like today, Democrats weren’t eager to undermine a Democratic president.

The result was a lack of oversight regarding the White House’s public claims that the North Vietnamese launched an unprovoked attack on U.S. warships on Aug. 4, 1964, even though Pentagon and CIA officials realized very quickly that the initial alarmist reports about torpedoes in the water were almost surely false.

Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1964 was a young Defense Department official, recounts – in his 2002 book Secrets – how the Tonkin Gulf falsehoods took shape, first with the panicked cables from a U.S. Navy captain relaying confused sonar readings and then with that false storyline presented to the American people.

As Ellsberg describes, President Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara announced retaliatory airstrikes on Aug. 4, 1964, telling “the American public that the North Vietnamese, for the second time in two days, had attacked U.S. warships on ‘routine patrol in international waters’; that this was clearly a ‘deliberate’ pattern of ‘naked aggression’; that the evidence for the second attack, like the first, was ‘unequivocal’; that the attack had been ‘unprovoked’; and that the United States, by responding in order to deter any repetition, intended no wider war.”

Ellsberg wrote: “By midnight on the fourth, or within a day or two, I knew that each one of those assurances was false.” Yet, the White House made no effort to clarify the false or misleading statements. The falsehoods were left standing for several years while Johnson sharply escalated the war by dispatching a half million soldiers to Vietnam.

In August 1964, the Johnson administration also misled Congress about the facts of the Tonkin Gulf incident. Though not challenging that official story, some key members worried about the broad language in the Tonkin Gulf resolution authorizing the President “to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression … including the use of armed force.”

As Ellsberg noted, Sen. Gaylord Nelson tried to attach an amendment seeking to limit U.S. involvement to military assistance – not a direct combat role – but that was set aside because of Johnson’s concern that it “would weaken the image of unified national support for the president’s recent actions.”

Ellsberg wrote, “Several senators, including George McGovern, Frank Church, Albert Gore [Sr.], and the Republican John Sherman Cooper, had expressed the same concern as Nelson” but were assured that Johnson had no intention of expanding the war by introducing ground combat forces.

In other words, members of Congress failed to check out the facts and passed the fateful Tonkin Gulf resolution on Aug. 7, 1964. It should be noted, too, that the mainstream U.S. media of 1964 wasn’t asking many probing questions either.

Looking back at that history, it’s easy for today’s members of Congress to think how differently they would have handled that rush to judgment, how they would have demanded to know the details of what the CIA and the Pentagon knew, how they wouldn’t let themselves be duped by White House deceptions.

However, a half century later, the U.S. political/media process is back to the Tonkin Gulf moment, accepting propaganda themes as fact and showing no skepticism about the official line. Except today, Official Washington’s war fever is not over a remote corner of Southeast Asia but over a country on the border of nuclear-armed Russia.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

UK Home Office refuses to admit responsibility for ‘aid for executions’

Reprieve | February 22, 2015

The Home Office is refusing to disclose the part played by UK counter-narcotics funding in facilitating executions in countries such as Pakistan – even though a number of Brits have been revealed to be on that country’s death row.

The UK provides counter-narcotics funding to organisations such as Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force – which has cited the number of death sentences it secures as a key ‘prosecution achievement.’ Reprieve has warned ministers that the funding amounts to public funds being used to support executions overseas, at odds with the UK’s long-standing policy of opposition to the death penalty.

In recent correspondence with legal charity Reprieve, which supports British citizens and others facing the death penalty abroad, the Home Office recently stated that the issue of counter-narcotics aid doesn’t fall under their remit, but rather that of the Foreign Office. However, in a Parliamentary answer earlier this month, minister Lynne Featherstone admitted that the Home Office has “lead responsibility” for international counter-narcotics policy.

Twenty-four people have been executed in Pakistan since December 2014, when the authorities began a new wave of executions. There are now fears that drug offenders on the country’s 8000-strong death row, among them a number of British citizens, are directly at risk of being executed.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, and is now actively executing prisoners – placing a number of Brits at risk. The UK Government has given a series of flaccid excuses for continuing to support anti-drug raids in Pakistan, which very often see drug offenders sentenced to death. Now that the Pakistani authorities are once again carrying out executions, the lives of these people and many others are in grave danger. If the UK is committed to ending the death penalty worldwide, why is British anti-narcotics aid supporting these drug convictions – and why won’t the Home Office admit responsibility?”

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment