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Congress Seeks to Increase FBI Surveillance Powers, Here’s What They Already Got

Surveillance

Sputnik – January 10, 2018

Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives are expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would codify into law some surveillance practices that have previously been criticized as unconstitutional.

The bill would re-authorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which serves as the basis of some of the US government’s largest surveillance programs.

Section 702 was authorized in 2008 and was set to expire on December 31, 2017, but was prolonged until January 19 as Congress was unable to reach an agreement on the terms of its re-authorization.

This section allows intelligence agencies to surveil the transnational communications of Americans without a warrant, as long as the “target” is not a US citizen. The problem is that this, due to loopholes, often results in the warrantless surveillance of US citizens as well.

The proposed bill seeks to close the so-called backdoor search loophole, where the National Security Agency (NSA) shares certain kinds of information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which can then be used by the FBI to search Americans’ communications without a warrant.

However, while the bill seeks to close the loophole, it would make significant exceptions. For example, FBI does not have to apply for a warrant if it is a matter of national security or when it determines that there is a “threat to life or serious bodily harm.”

The bill also addresses the so-called “about” collection, a practice where the NSA may search through communications, including those of American citizens, in order to collect communications that are “about” a targeted non-American individual. While the bill will legally forbid the practice, it will establish certain provisions whereby the practice can be continued in individual, specific cases.

The bill has provoked concerns from privacy advocates as well as some privacy-minded Republican and Democrat lawmakers.

“The bill’s language risks being read as a codification and expansion of certain illegal government practices such as collecting communications that are not to or from a surveillance target, including domestic communications,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement Friday, calling on Congress to abandon efforts to pass the legislation.

FBI Surveillance Powers

Critics warn that the approval of the bill would further increase the FBI’s intelligence and surveillance powers. They were significantly expanded by the 2001 Patriot Act, which was aimed at strengthening national security after the 9/11 attacks.

In particular, under the Patriot Act, the FBI can covertly conduct physical searches or wiretaps of American citizens in order to obtain evidence of crime without having to prove probable cause, which critics say contradicts the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.

The legislation also gives the FBI unchecked power to access the records of citizens’ activities held by a third party, including financial records, medical histories, internet browsing history, library visits, travel patterns and any other activity that leaves a record, which has also been criticized as a violation of the Constitution.

In 2008, an amendment was made to FISA, which authorizes security and intelligence agencies, including the FBI, to monitor phone, email and other communications of American citizens “for up to a week” without a warrant, as long as one of the parties is outside the US.

The amendment has been used as the legal basis for surveillance programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013, including PRISM, which involves the collection of emails, chat messages and videos from tech companies for intelligence purposes. The information is gathered by the NSA, but can be shared with other agencies, including the FBI.

Image – CCO

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | 1 Comment

NATO’s Fraudulent War on Behalf of Women

By George Szamuely | CounterPunch | January 9, 2018

In a recent Guardian article titled “Why NATO Must Defend Women’s Rights,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Soltenberg and Hollywood movie star Angelina Jolie assert that “NATO has the responsibility and opportunity to be a leading protector of women’s rights.” NATO, moreover, “can become the global military leader in how to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict.” The two vowed to identify “ways in which NATO can strengthen its contribution to women’s protection and participation in all aspects of conflict-prevention and resolution.”

The pairing of a NATO bureaucrat and a famous movie actress may at first glance appear odd. However, this partnership has been long in the making. Some years ago, NATO, always on the lookout for a reason to justify its continued existence, not to mention its perpetual expansion, came up with a new raison d’être: It would be the global champion of women. “Achieving gender equality is our collective task. And NATO is doing its part,” said Mari Skåre, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, in 2013. In March 2016, on International Women’s Day, NATO held a so-called “Barbershop Conference” on gender equality. Stoltenberg took the opportunity to declare that gender equality was a frightfully important issue for NATO because “NATO is a values-based organization and none of the Alliance’s fundamental values—individual liberties, democracy, human rights and the rule of law—work without equality.” Diversity was a source of strength. “We learned in Afghanistan and in the Balkans that by integrating gender within our operations, we make a tangible difference to the lives of women and children,” Stoltenberg explained. He stressed that NATO is proud of its record in embedding gender perspectives within its work. Last November, Stoltenberg was at it again: “Empowering women is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do: it makes countries safer and more stable. NATO is determined to make a difference.”

NATO has indeed made a difference but not through empowering women. When it isn’t bombing, killing, blowing up bridges and buildings, destroying wedding receptions, empowering jihadis, triggering refugee flows and ruining the lives of countless women, NATO holds unctuous press briefings, organizes self-congratulatory conferences and publishes articles such as the one by Stoltenberg/Jolie seeking to present a gargantuan 29-state military coalition as a do-gooder charity helping out the needy.

This is where Angelina Jolie comes in. Jolie is a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and, in that capacity, wanders around the world berating the “international community” for not doing enough to address humanitarian crises. Her take on these crises is invariably the same as that of NATO. “It is important that we intervene in a timely fashion,” she once explained, “diplomatically if we can, with force if we must.” In October 2011, following seven months of relentless NATO bombing, Jolie rushed to Libya and excitedly hailed the Libyan “revolution”:

I’m… here on behalf of the Libyan people to show them solidarity. I think this revolution on behalf of human rights, which is what I feel these people really have been doing and what they have pushed for, and to help them to implement these new laws and help them with the future of their country.

Sometimes it’s breathless enthusiasm for “revolution,” sometimes it’s tearful pleading for plain, old-fashioned “humanitarian intervention”—Angelina Jolie is nothing if not consistent in her advocacy for Western use of force. When it comes to Syria, Jolie has declared that “some form of intervention is absolutely necessary.” She sneered at the U.N. Security Council permanent members that stood in the way of intervention. “I feel very strongly that the use of a veto when you have financial interests in the country should be questioned and the use of a veto against humanitarian intervention should be questioned,” she said in an interview. Jolie was of course simply echoing the blustery words of the Obama administration. Recall Susan Rice’s tirade following Russia’s and China’s veto of a February 2012 Security Council resolution calling for Bashar al Assad to step aside and for the Syrian army to return to its barracks. Rice, then U.S. permanent representative at the U.N., called the vetoes “disgusting and shameful.” The countries “that have blocked potentially the last effort to resolve this peacefully…will have any future blood spill on their hands.”

This kind of attack on the veto-wielding Security Council members has become a staple of the humanitarian intervention crowd. For example, former French President François Hollande told the U.N. General Assembly in September 2013 that when mass atrocities were taking place, U.N. Security Council permanent members must give up their veto powers:

The U.N. has a responsibility to take action. And whenever our organization proves to be powerless, it’s peace that pays the price. That’s why I am proposing that a code of good conduct be defined by the permanent members of the Security Council, and that in the event of a mass crime they can decide to collectively renounce their veto powers.

Taking action, of course, means taking military action. It never means, say, the lifting of sanctions so that food, oil, medical supplies could get through. To the contrary, if military action is ruled out, the humanitarians immediately resort to demanding the tightening of sanctions. Interventionists such as Hollande, Rice, et al., never explain why it is necessary for U.N. permanent members to give up their veto if the right course of action is so self-evident. The unstated assumption obviously is that any reluctance to sanction the use of force must be motivated by moral failings such as greed, selfishness, political ambition or lack of compassion.

The heartlessness of the so-called international community was the message of the 2011 film she wrote and directed about the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, In the Land of Blood and Honey. The film, she said, points a “finger at the international community, which should have intervened in the Bosnian war was much sooner.” She proudly boasted that among the experts she consulted in making the film were Richard Holbrooke and Wesley Clark, two figures who played prominent roles in the devastation of Bosnia and Kosovo. The film, predictably, features villainous Serbs persecuting innocent Muslims. Asked whether her film should have been a little more balanced, Jolie replied “The fact is that the war was not balanced. I could not make a film where it’s 50-50. It’s inaccurate to what happened.” This is standard NATO stuff, particularly the part about NATO’s military intervention as having finally brought peace to Bosnia.

Jolie is useful to NATO not only because she can be relied on to echo the military alliance’s self-justifying rationales for its favored solution to any problem, namely, the threat to use force. Jolie’s is the glamorous face of NATO’s revamped PR campaign. NATO would have us believe that it’s not only bringing enlightenment to backward societies but also to us, NATO member-state citizens, by informing us about something of which we had hitherto been apparently unaware: sexual violence occurs during wartime. The obvious remedy—doing everything possible to avoid war—is not one that either NATO or Jolie favors. NATO can’t very well be expected to advocate itself out of existence. In NATOspeak you threaten and defend military action even as you bemoan in lachrymose terms its predictable consequences, namely, war crimes, including sexual crimes.

In April 2014, Jolie traipsed around the Balkans with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, visiting the Srebrenica memorial center in Potocari, Bosnia. During the visit, Jolie stated, “The use of rape as a weapon of war is one of the most harrowing and savage of these crimes against civilians. This is rape so brutal, with such extreme violence, that it is even hard to talk about it.” Hague and Jolie jointly launched a campaign called Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, the goal of which was “to address the culture of impunity, ensure more perpetrators are brought to justice and ensure better support for survivors. We’re campaigning to raise awareness, rally global action, promote international coherence and increase the political will and capacity of states to do more.”

Hague earnestly explained, “I started this campaign with Angelina Jolie because foreign policy has got to be about more than just dealing with urgent crises—it has to be about improving the condition of humanity.” Then Hague warmed to his theme: “Tens of thousands of women, girls and men were raped during the war in Bosnia. We are visiting to draw the world’s attention to their search for justice, and to call for global action to end the use of rape as a weapon of war once and for all.” In a BBC interview Hague claimed that sexual violence in conflict was “one of the great mass crimes of the 20th century and the 21st century…. If anything, this is getting worse—war zone rape as a weapon of war, used systematically and deliberately against civilian populations.”

Hague was of course British foreign secretary during NATO’s 2011 Libyan bombing campaign. It hardly needs to be said that NATO did nothing to help Libya’s women. To the contrary: Thousands of women lost their lives as a direct result of NATO and Hague’s humanitarian bombs. NATO destroyed government, law and public order, institutions that before its intervention had protected the women of Libya from sexual crimes. Most striking of all, NATO helped deliver perhaps millions of women into the hands of ISIS. Here is an account of the record of ISIS rule in Libya from Human Rights Watch (a reliably pro-interventionist outfit) in its 2017 country report on Libya: “In the first half of 2016, fighters loyal to ISIS controlled the central coastal town of Sirte and subjected residents to a rigid interpretation of Sharia law that included public floggings, amputation of limbs, and public lynchings, often leaving the victims’ corpses on display.”

Not to worry: In June 2014, Hague and Jolie co-hosted in London a grand three-day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence. Participants included Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. According to one report, the summit cost £5.2 million to host. The food bill alone was more than £299,000, while total expenditure on taxis, hotels and transport reached £576,000. Jolie declared:

We need to shatter that culture of impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes. We need political will, replicated across the world, and we need to treat this subject as a priority. We need to see real commitment and go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in to help the worst-affected countries. We need all armies, peacekeeping troops and police forces to have prevention of sexual violence in conflict as part of their training.

Punishing the perpetrators of sexual violence sounds laudable enough. The trouble is that NATO’s record of making incendiary charges and then failing to back them up with serious evidence is not one that inspires confidence. During the Bosnian war, for example, the media reported obsessively on the use of rape as an instrument of war. In 1992, Dame Ann Warburton’s European parliamentary delegation estimated that 20,000 rapes had already taken place in Bosnia. In January 1993, Newsweek carried a lengthy cover-story charging Serbs with the rape of as many as 50,000 women, mostly Muslim, as part of “deliberate programs to impregnate Muslim women with unwanted Serb babies.”

Systematic research on the subject however resulted in findings that were insufficiently dramatic to make it into the papers. On Jan. 29, 1994, the U.N. secretary-general issued a report on rapes in the former Yugoslavia, including Bosnia and Croatia, based on a study by the U.N. Commission of Experts. The report found “126 victims, 113 incidents, 252 alleged perpetrators, 73 witnesses.” The report also stated “some of the rape cases” were “clearly the result of individual or small-group conduct without evidence of command responsibility. Others may be part of an overall pattern. Because of a variety of factors, such a pattern may lead to a conclusion that a systematic rape policy existed, but this remains to be proved.”

Allegations of mass rape were a key component of NATO’s propaganda campaign during the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook regaled the public with lurid tales of Serbs forcing women “to endure ‘systematic rape’ at an army camp at Djakovica.” Clare Short, Britain’s international development secretary, added that the rapes were “deliberately performed in front of children, fathers and brothers.” The British Foreign Office followed up with claims of having discovered three more rape camps: “Refugees reported orchestrated rapes at Globocica, Urosevac and an unidentified point on the Kosovo-Albania border.” Subsequently, when it was too late to matter, the media sheepishly admitted that the rape-camp stories, like most of NATO’s allegations, were a fabrication. The Washington Post reported that “Western accusations that there were Serb-run rape camps in the cities of Djakovica and Pec, and poorly sourced allegations in some publications that the Serbs were engaging in the mutilation of the living and the dead—including castration and decapitation—all proved to be false.” Even Human Rights Watch’s Fred Abrahams, who had worked as an investigator for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, admitted in testimony that he had found no evidence to support the incendiary rape-camp allegations.

Still, NATO remained undeterred. During NATO’s next campaign, the one directed against Libya, rape stories made their appearance within days of the launch of the first bombs. Susan Rice, the U.S. Permanent Representative at the U.N., informed the Security Council that Libya’s leader, Muammar Qaddafi, was supplying his troops with Viagra in order to help them commit mass rape. Though Rice offered no evidence to support her claims, her charge was sufficient for the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, to announce that he had “information to confirm that it was a policy in Libya to rape those who were against the Government. Rape is a new aspect of the repression.” Moreno-Ocampo even accepted as confirmed Rice’s Viagra story: “We are finding some elements confirming this issue of acquisition of Viagra-type of medicaments to show a policy. They were buying containers with products to enhance the possibility to rape, and we are getting the information in detail confirming the policy.”

In the end, predictably enough, NATO’s rape allegations turned out to have been made up out of whole cloth. Donatella Rovera, a senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty International, reported that the organization had “not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.” Rovera also dismissed the Viagra story. She said that “rebels dealing with the foreign media in Benghazi started showing journalists packets of Viagra, claiming they came from burned-out tanks, though it is unclear why the packets were not charred.”

Though one allegation after another has proved to be false, NATO will continue to make them, seizing on whatever is the hot-button issue of the moment. NATO does nothing for women and does nothing to stop sexual crimes, whether in NATO member-states or anywhere else in the world. What NATO does do well, thanks to its multimillion dollar sophisticated PR machinery, is seizing on highly emotional issues such as rape and turning them into justifications for bigger budgets, more weaponry, more expansion, more deployments in more countries and, in the end, military action.

George Szamuely, PhD, author of Bombs for Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia, is Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute of London Metropolitan University.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wired’s Fake-News Suggests Russia Plotting to Cut Trans-Atlantic Internet Cables

By Robert BRIDGE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 10.01.2018

Well, that didn’t take long. Just five days into 2018, and the American fake news industry is already up and running, churning out tasteless whoppers faster than Burger King.

Wired magazine has joined the greasy ranks of other Western mythmakers now fueling a black wave of anti-Russia hysteria by mass-producing never-ending unsubstantiated claims and outright lies against the Kremlin.

The article begins with a doomsday scenario involving some “terrorist organization or nefarious nation” making the reckless decision to cut the undersea fiber optic cables that connect people across the world. So out of all the numerous diabolical groups that now populate the planet, who did Wired nominate as the most likely to pull off such a wanton act of sabotage? Yes, you got it. Putin’s Russia.

The obvious question for any rational thinking person is: Why would Russia do such a thing? Because, according to Wired, the Russian Navy has been “repeatedly caught snooping near the cables” that run along the entire expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean. Wired conveniently fails to remind its readers, however, that any country with a naval force would be forced to pass these lines on numerous occasions in the course of its travels. But acknowledging as much would be putting facts before fiction, and of course we can’t have that.

So where does Wired get its information regarding these latest nefarious plans on the part of Russia? From yet another purveyor of Russian fake news – arguably second only to the Washington Post – the New York Times.

“Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict,” the Times breathlessly reported back in 2015.

However, just like the fake news of ‘Russia hacking the 2016 US presidential elections,’ don’t expect any evidence to support the claims. In fact, the Times admits as much in the third paragraph.

“While there is no evidence yet of any cable cutting, the concern is part of a growing wariness among senior American and allied military and intelligence officials over the accelerated activity by Russian armed forces around the globe.”

Well, now we’re getting somewhere. What really seems to be annoying the Americans is not some sort of outlandish attack on the Internet by Russia, but the fact that the Russian military is now a force to reckon with.

It is also worth noting that the Times article appeared just one month after Vladimir Putin committed the Russian military in September 2015 to fighting against Islamic State forces in Syria – following a formal request by Syrian President Bashar Assad. Some might call that curious timing.

So what exactly would Russia stand to gain from cutting these undersea cables? Absolutely nothing. In fact, as even Wired was gracious enough to admit – albeit buried far at sea in its hit piece – is that any cutting of the cables would be more injurious to Russia than most other countries.

“… Russia’s epic hypothetical cable attack would primarily harm its own people,” according to a Telegeography senior analyst Jonathan Hjembo, as quoted by the magazine. “It would hurt the Russians perhaps even more than it would hurt [Americans]. They’re far more dependent on international networks than we are, because so much of our content is stored locally.”

In fact, Wired was forced to admit that the greatest threat to the undersea cables is not Russia, the bogeyman of nearly every Western publication in circulation, but fishermen and scavengers.

Wired retold the story of one elderly woman who accidentally cut through an underground cable “while scavenging for copper,” cutting off Armenia’s entire internet access, leaving the country offline for five hours.

Yet despite those admissions, and the absolute lack of any incentive on the part of Russia to commit such an act of folly, Wired bowed out of its story with a parting shot at “Putin’s Russia” anyways.

“There have also been no ruptures attributed to Russian aggression. It appears that Putin has largely left the undersea cables alone, at least for now.”

Clearly, as this ridiculously flimsy article illustrates, without any shame, there will be no pause in the anti-Russia propaganda mudslinging in the New Year.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Open Letter from Academics at Birzeit University in Palestine

IMEMC News – January 9, 2018

We at Birzeit University call on the academic community to protest the Israeli government’s deliberate harassment of international students and academics who travel to Palestine in order to study or work in Palestinian academic institutions.

The past few years have seen many international students and academics stopped, interrogated, and/or deported by Israeli security as they tried to enter Palestine through the entry points controlled by Israel.

These excessive measures violate academic freedom, the right to education, and the free exchange of students and academics. Such actions are often pursued without charge and include interrogation techniques, many of which constitute verbal assault. Thus, it is another flagrant violation of basic human rights by the Israeli occupation.

We call upon the international academic community – especially universities – to stand in solidarity with both their own students and academics, as well as Palestinian institutions, in common condemnation of these unjust practices and violations. We also call upon you to intensify your efforts in boycotting Israel and its academic institutions till it ends its violations of the human rights of the Palestinians.

The right to access Palestinian academic institutions is denied through systematic abuse of power designed to discourage prospective members of the academic community, coupled with an implied threat of retaliation should members of that community persist in seeking their rights. Human rights conventions state that access to education should be granted based on merit and ability. But in this unique situation, Israel is denying academic access and unjustly punishing those seeking it.

The decision of some international institutions to stop their students from engaging with their Palestinian counterparts is giving the Israeli authorities a helping hand in implementing these violations. Condemnation should be directed instead towards the Israeli authority’s harassment of these institutions’ own students and academics in Palestine.

Such a decision reflects the sad reality that punishes the victims of Israeli discrimination and human rights violations, as well as the Palestinian academic institutions. Students and academics who experience discrimination, harassment, and denial of entry at the hands of the Israeli authority should receive support and protection from their own states and academic institutions.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Israel Demands Compensation From Family Of Palestinian Crushed To Death Under Army Jeep

Abdullah Eyad Ghanayem was 22 years of age when he died in 2015. He had been a political prisoner from 2012 – 2014.
If Americans Knew | January 10, 2018

Abdullah was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier, then crushed to death under a military jeep. Now the military is demanding compensation from Abdullah’s family for damages to the jeep.

from IMEC News

The Israeli army filed a lawsuit against the family, and the entire town, of a Palestinian who was crushed to death under a military jeep which flipped over him, after the army invaded Kafr Malek village, east of Ramallah, in central West Bank, in mid-June 2014.

The military is demanding the family of Abdullah Ghanayem (Ghneimat), and his entire town, to pay 95,260 Israeli Shekels (about $28,000), in compensation for damages caused to the military jeep.

Ghanayem was crushed by an Israeli military jeep, on June 14, 2015, after the soldiers invaded Kafr Malek.

He remained under the jeep for three hours, and bled to death, after the soldiers prevented medics and rescue teams from helping him.

Now, the Israeli authorities are demanding his family, and his entire village, to pay 95,260 Shekels  in compensation, for damages caused to the military jeep.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 7 Comments

Drones Attacked Hmeymim Base From ‘Moderate’ Opposition-Controlled Area

Sputnik – January 10, 2018

MOSCOW – The drones that attacked Hmeymim air base earlier this month flew out of the area in the southwest of the de-escalation zone Idlib controlled by the so-called “moderate” opposition, the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, the official publication of the Russian Defense Ministry, said on Wednesday.

The ministry reported earlier this month that 13 drones had been used in attempted attacks on two Russian military facilities in Syria on January 6. Ten of them targeted the Hmeymim air base and three were sent toward the Tartus naval base.

“According to the Russian Defense Ministry, it was established that the launch of the drones was carried out from the area of ​​the Muazar settlement located in the southwestern part of Idlib de-escalation zone controlled by the armed formations of the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition,” the statement said.

It is noted that in connection with this incident, the Russian Defense Ministry had sent letters to the Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Gen. Hulusi Akar, and Head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, Hakan Fidan.”The documents indicate the need for Ankara to fulfill its obligations to ensure compliance with the ceasefire regime by the armed formations under its control and to step up work on the installation of observation posts in Idlib de-escalation zone in order to prevent such attacks by UAVs against any objects,” the statement added.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the country’s forces had taken control over six out of 13 drones, involved in the January 6 attempted attack in Syria. Thus, three UAVs were landed by the Russian forces in a controlled area, three other drones detonated after collision with the ground, and seven other UAVs were destroyed by the Russian Pantsir-S air defense systems. Subsequently, the Pentagon said that the devices and technologies used for the drone attack “easily accessible on the open market.” This statement caused concern of the Russian Defense Ministry.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

US spy plane circled between Russian airbase & port facility during Syria drone attack – MoD

RT | January 9, 2018

Moscow has noted “strange coincidences” surrounding a terrorist attack on a Russian airbase and port facility in Syria, in which guided combat drones were deployed by militants. These include a US spy plane spotted in the area.

The Russian Ministry of Defense consciously didn’t point any fingers when talking about the January 6 attack on Russia’s airbase and port facility in Syria, the Tuesday statement said, but added that technology used in the attack was telling.

Advanced training in engineering in “one of the developed countries” would be necessary to program the principal controllers and bomb-release systems of an aircraft-type combat drone, the statement stressed. “Not everyone is also able to get exact [attack] coordinates from the space surveillance data,” it added.

The ministry noted that a US Navy Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft was flying over the region between the Russian bases in Latakia and Tartus for some four hours around the time of the drone attack. An earlier Pentagon statement allowed the Russian military to “take a new look at some strange coincidences” surrounding the incident, it said.

The Saturday attack targeted both Khmeimim Airbase and the maritime logistics facility in the city of Tartus, and involved as many as 13 combat drones. The assault was successfully repelled by the Russian anti-aircraft defense systems and electronic warfare specialists.

It was the first time terrorists had used such a technology in the conflict, the ministry said, adding that the technical assessment showed that the drone could have been obtained “only from a country possessing state-of-the-art technologies.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the US said it was “concerned” over the incident. Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankin-Galloway, however, claimed that “those devices and technologies can easily be obtained in the open market.” He later also told Sputnik that the US already saw what it called “this type of commercial UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] technology” being used in Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) missions.

Russia has repeatedly warned that US military supplies aimed at supporting “moderate” Syrian militants eventually end up in the hands of terrorists.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

US, Israel step up hybrid war in Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | January 9, 2018

The Russian airbase in Syria, Hmeimim, and the naval base at Tartus came under simultaneous drone attack on Saturday. The advanced Russian air defence system thwarted the attack. A wave of 13 drones was involved, and, interestingly, three of them were brought down intact.

After forty-eight hours of careful analysis of the incident, the Russian Defence Ministry in Moscow came out with a statement on Monday:

  • During the hours of darkness Russian air defense facilities made clear 13 remoted unknown small-sized air targets approaching the Russian military assets. Ten combat UAVs were approaching Russia’s Hmeymim air base and three more — the logistics center of Tartus.
  • Engineering solutions used by terrorists when attacking Russian facilities in Syria could have been received only from a country with high technological potential on providing satellite navigation and distant control of firing competently assembled self-made explosive devices in appointed place. (TASS )

The countries with such “high technological potential” and capability for “Satellite navigation and distant control” which are involved in the proxy war in Syria are just two in number – United States and Israel. Take your pick. To my mind, it is improbable that Israel, despite its bravado, would dare to attack Russia.

In sum, there was a spiteful American attack on Russian “assets” on the Christmas Day of the Russian Orthodox Church. The statement in Moscow was made after evaluation of the 3 drones that have been captured. Its fairly explicit tone is meant for the folks in Pentagon. To be sure, Pentagon suo moto came out with a pre-emptive statement deflecting the blame to Syrian rebels. That is an act of plausible deniability, since there are rebel groups operating in northern Syria. But they are al-Qaeda affiliates, who are American and Israeli proxies. The RT has a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder, here, to the Pentagon disclaimer.

Why is the US contesting the Russian bases in Syria? The point is, these Russian bases are located in Latakia province along the Mediterranean coast. And the US military objective is to gain access to the Mediterranean coast for the Kurdistan enclave it is creating in Syria without which the enclave will be landlocked and dependent critically on supply routes via Turkey or Iraq, apart from being economically unviable (although it is an oil-rich region of Syria.)

The Saudi establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported on Monday that the Trump administration is planning to grant diplomatic recognition to the Kurdistan enclave in northern Syria (which is of the size of Lebanon.) The idea is to create a permanent foothold for the US and Israel in a strategic, economically self-sufficient independent Kurdistan where the borders of Turkey, Iraq and Syria meet, and which may eventually reach Iran’s western border with northern Iraq.

But the US-Israeli strategy will remain a pipedream if the Kurdistsn is land-locked and continues to be challenged by Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Hence the criticality of creating an access route to the Mediterranean via Latakia province.

Russia and Turkey understand the US intentions perfectly well. That explains their latest move to clear the al-Qaeda affiliate groups that are ensconced in the Idlib province adjacent to Latakia. The Syrian government forces and its allied militia with Russian air support are advancing on Idlib in an operation that began last week. Idlib is a fairly big province and some protracted fighting is needed to vanquish these al-Qaeda groups. On Sunday, Syrian government forces captured a strategic town, Sinjar, which brings them within 20 kilometers of the sprawling air base at Abu Zuhour in Idlib. By the way, the highway connecting Damascus and Aleppo also passes through eastern Idlib.

Turkey is cooperating with Russia in clearing Idlib of the al-Qaeda groups. (Idlib borders Turkey.) Indeed, Turkey is staunchly opposed to the US efforts to create a Kurdistan in northern Syria. President Recep Erdogan openly threatened last weekend that Washington will “never be able to turn northern Syria into a terror corridor,” vowing to “hit them (US) very hard. They should know that we are determined on this. Areas that they consider as part of the terror corridor could turn out to be their graves.”

Conceivably, the recent attempts by the US and Israel to stir up turmoil within Iran is linked to all this. The US-Israeli game plan is to get Iran bogged down in internal issues. The Syrian and Iraqi governments are dependent on Iran and Hezbollah to do the heavy lifting in the war against the US-backed al-Qaeda and ISIS groups.

Tehran understands the US-Israeli strategy. The Iranian regime is highly experienced in defeating the US and Israel covert operations. The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei understands that the Syrian conflict is also an existential battle for Iran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders are on record that the choice is between fighting the US-Israeli proxies in Syria and Iraq or fighting them on Iranian soil.

How will Moscow react to the US-backed drone attack on its bases? A permanent solution lies in retaliating against the American forces and inflicting heavy casualties – like in Beirut in 1983. If a few dozen American body bags arrive in Washington from Syria, President Trump is sure to say, ‘Enough is enough, boys, come home.’

But the problem is that the US is fighting a “hybrid war”, embedded within the Kurdish militia and cannot be targeted easily. Pentagon has also inserted “contractors” (American mercenaries) so that political risk is minimized.

Therefore, Russia’s option will be to step up the operations to cleanse Idlib province of the al-Qaeda groups backed by US and Israel once and for all. Indeed, Nikki Haley will begin howling in the UN on Israeli instructions alleging “war crimes.”

Of course, as they say, all is fair in love and war and there is another option open to the Russians or Iranians, too – equipping the Afghan Taliban with drones. But they are unlikely to go that far — as of now, at least.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surrounded by Neocons

They are all the news that fits

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • January 9, 2018

Award winning journalist James Risen has recently described in some detail his sometimes painful relationship with The New York Times. His lengthy account is well worth reading as it demonstrates how successive editors of the paper frequently cooperated with the government to suppress stories on torture and illegal activity while also self-censoring to make sure that nothing outside the framework provided by the “war on terror” should be seriously discussed. It became a faithful lap dog for an American role as global hegemon, promoting government half-truths and suppressing information that it knew to be true but which would embarrass the administration in power, be they Democrats or Republicans.

If one were to obtain a similar insider account of goings-on at the other national “newspaper of record”, The Washington Post, it is quite likely that comparable trimming of the narrative also took place. To be sure, the Post is worse than the Times, characterized by heavily editorializing in its news coverage without necessarily tipping off the reader when “facts” end and speculation begins. In both publications, stories about Iran or Russia routinely begin with an assertion that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and that Iran is the aggressor in the Middle East, contentions that have not been demonstrated and can easily be challenged. Both publications also have endorsed every American war since 2001, including Iraq, Libya and the current mess in Syria, one indication of the quality of their reporting and analysis.

A recent op-ed in the Times by Bret Stephens is a perfect example of warmongering mischief wrapped in faux expert testimony to make it palatable. Stephens is the resident neocon at the Times. He was brought over from the Wall Street Journal when it was determined that his neocon colleague David Brooks had become overly squishy, while the resident “conservative” Russ Douthat had proven to be a bit too cautious and even rational to please the increasingly hawkish senior editors.

Stephens’ article, entitled Finding the Way Forward on Iran sparkles with throwaway gems like “Tehran’s hyperaggressive foreign policy in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal” and “Real democracies don’t live in fear of their own people” and even “it’s not too soon to start rethinking the way we think about Iran.” Or try “A better way of describing Iran’s dictatorship is as a kleptotheocracy, driven by impulses that are by turns doctrinal and venal.”

Bret has been a hardliner on Iran for years. Early on in this op-ed he makes very clear that he wants it to be dealt with forcibly because it has “centrifuges, ballistic missiles, enriched uranium [and] fund[s] Hezbollah, assist Bashar al-Assad, arm[s] the Houthis, [and] imprison[s] the occasional British or American citizen.” He describes how Iran is a very corrupt place run by religious leaders and Revolutionary Guards and proposes that their corruption be exposed so that the Iranian people can take note and rise up in anger. And if exposure doesn’t work, they should be hammered with sanctions. He does not explain why sanctions, which disproportionately hurt the people he expects to rise up, will bring about any real change.

Stephens cites two of his buddies Ken Weinstein of the Hudson Institute and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), who are apparently experts on how to squeeze Iran. Weinstein prefers exposing the misdeeds of the Mullahs to anger the Iranian people while Dubowitz prefers punitive sanctions “for corruption.”

The article does not reveal that Weinstein and Dubowitz are long time critics of Iran, are part of the Israel Lobby and just happen to be Jewish, as is Stephens. The Hudson Institute and the FDD are leading neocon and pro-Israel fronts. So my question becomes, “Why Iran?” The often-heard Israeli complaint about its being unfairly picked on could reasonably be turned on its head in asking the same about Iran. In fact, Iran compares favorably with Israel. It has no nuclear weapons, it does not support any of the Sunni terrorist groups that are chopping heads, and it has not disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of people that it rules over. The fact is that Iran is being targeted because Israel sees it as its prime enemy in the region and has corrupted many “opinion makers” in the U.S., to include Stephens, to hammer home that point. To be sure, Iran is a very corrupt place run by people who should not be running a hot dog stand, but the same applies to the United States and Israel. And there are lots of places that are not being targeted like Iran that are far worse, including good friend and ally of both Jerusalem and Washington, Saudi Arabia.

Oddly enough Stephens, Weinstein and Dubowitz do not get into any of that back story, presumably because it would be unseemly. And, of course and unfortunately, the New York Times opinion page is not unique. An interesting recent podcast interview by Politico‘s Chief International Affairs correspondent Susan Glasser with leading neoconservatives Eliot Cohen and Max Boot, is typical of how the media selectively shapes a narrative to suit its own biases. Glasser, Cohen and Boot are all part of the establishment foreign policy consensus in the U.S. and therefore both hate and fail to understand the Trump phenomenon. Both Cohen and Booth were vociferous founding members of the #NeverTrump foreign policy resistance movement.

Boot describes the new regime’s foreign policy as “kowtow[ing] to dictators and undermin[ing] American support for freedom and democracy around the world,” typical neocon leitmotifs. Glasser appears to be in love with her interviewees and hurls softball after softball. She describes Boot as “fantastic” and Cohen receives the epithet “The Great.” The interview itself is remarkably devoid of any serious discussion of foreign policy and is essentially a sustained assault on Trump while also implicitly supporting hardline national security positions. Cohen fulminates about “a very serious Russian attack on the core of our political system. I mean, I don’t know how you get more reckless and dangerous than that,” while Boot asks what “has to be done” about Iran.

Pompous ass Cohen, who interjected in the interview that “and you know, Max and I are both intellectuals,” notably very publicly refused to have any part in a Trump foreign policy team during the campaign but later when The Donald was actually elected suggested that the new regime might approach him with humility to offer a senior position and he just might condescend to join them. They did not do so, and he wrote an angry commentary on their refusal.

Hating Trump is one thing, but I would bet that if the question of a hardline policy vis-à-vis Russia or the Jerusalem Embassy move had come up Cohen and Boot would have expressed delight. The irony is that Trump is in fact pursuing a basically neocon foreign policy which the two men would normally support, but they appear to be making room for Trump haters in the policy formulation process to push the national security consensus even farther to the right. Indeed, in another article by Boot at Foreign Policy he writes “I applaud Trump’s decisions to provide Ukraine with arms to defend itself from Russian aggression, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to send additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and to accelerate former President Barack Obama’s strategy for fighting the Islamic State.” Cohen meanwhile applauds the embassy move, though he warns that Trump’s success in so doing might embolden him to do something reckless over North Korea.

Perhaps one should not be astonished that leading neocons appearing in the mainstream media will continue to have their eyes on the ball and seek for more aggressive engagement in places like Iran and Russia. The media should be faulted because it rarely publishes any contrary viewpoint and it also consistently fails to give any space to the considerable downside to the agitprop. It must be reassuring for many Americans to know that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is preparing itself to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear attack on the United States and it will be sharing information on the appropriate preparations with the American people. There will be a public session on how to prepare for a nuclear explosion on January 16th.

CDC experts will consider “planning and preparation efforts” for such a strike. “While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps,” the Center elaborated in its press release on the event.

That the United States should be preparing for a possible nuclear future can in part be attributed to recent commentary by the “like, really smart” and “very stable genius” who is the nation’s chief executive, but the fuel being poured on the fire for war is from the very same neocons who are featured in the mainstream media as all-purpose experts and have succeeded in selling the snake oil about America’s proper role as aggressor-in-chief for the entire world. It would be an unparalleled delight to be able to open a newspaper and not see Bret Stephens, Eliot Cohen, Max Boot or even the redoubtable Bill Kristol grinning back from the editorial page, but I suppose I am only dreaming.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is http://www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

January 10, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments