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Contradictions In Seth Rich Murder Continue To Challenge Hacking Narrative

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 03/02/2018

As rumors swirl that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing a case against Russians who are alleged to have hacked Democrats during the 2016 election – a conclusion based solely on the analysis of cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, a Friday op-ed in the Washington Times by retired U.S. Navy admiral James A. Lyons, Jr. asks a simple, yet monumentally significant question: Why haven’t Congressional Investigators or Special Counsel Robert Mueller addressed the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich – who multiple people have claimed was Wikileaks’ source of emails leaked during the 2016 U.S. presidential election?

Mueller has been incredibly thorough in his ongoing investigations – however he won’t even respond to Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand entrepreneur who clearly knew about the hacked emails long before they were released, claims that Seth Rich obtained them with a memory stick, and has offered to provide proof to the Special Counsel investigation.

On May 18, 2017, Dotcom proposed that if Congress includes the Seth Rich investigation in their Russia probe, he would provide written testimony with evidence that Seth Rich was WikiLeaks’ source.

In addition to several odd facts surrounding Rich’s still unsolved murder – which officials have deemed a “botched robbery,” forensic technical evidence has emerged which contradicts the Crowdstrike report. The Irvine, CA company partially funded by Google, was the only entity allowed to analyze the DNC servers in relation to claims of election hacking:

Notably, Crowdstrike has been considered by many to be discredited over their revision and retraction of a report over Russian hacking of Ukrainian military equipment – a report which the government of Ukraine said was fake news.

In connection with the emergence in some media reports which stated that the alleged “80% howitzer D-30 Armed Forces of Ukraine removed through scrapping Russian Ukrainian hackers software gunners,” Land Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine informs that the said information is incorrect.

Ministry of Defence of Ukraine asks journalists to publish only verified information received from the competent official sources. Spreading false information leads to increased social tension in society and undermines public confidence in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. – (translated) (1.6.2017)

In fact, several respected journalists have cast serious doubt on CrowdStrike’s report on the DNC servers:

Pay attention, because Mueller is likely to use the Crowdstrike report to support the rumored upcoming charges against Russian hackers.

Also notable is that Crowdstrike founder and anti-Putin Russian expat Dimitri Alperovitch sits on the Atlantic Council – which is funded by the US State Department, NATO, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukranian Oligarch Victor Pinchuk. Who else is on the Atlantic Council? Evelyn Farkas – who slipped up during an MSNBC interview with Mika Brzezinski and disclosed that the Obama administration had been spying on the Trump campaign:

The Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about the Trump staff dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would not longer have access to that intelligence. –Evelyn Farkas

Odd facts surrounding the murder of Seth Rich

“The facts that we know of in the murder of the DNC staffer, Seth Rich, was that he was gunned down blocks from his home on July 10, 2016. Washington Metro police detectives claim that Mr. Rich was a robbery victim, which is strange since after being shot twice in the back, he was still wearing a $2,000 gold necklace and watch. He still had his wallet, key and phone. Clearly, he was not a victim of robbery,” writes Lyons.

Another unexplained fact muddying the Rich case is that of a 40 caliber Glock 22 handgun stolen from an FBI agent’s car the same day Rich was murdered. D.C. Metro police said that the theft occurred between 5 and 7 a.m., while the FBI said two weeks later that the theft had occurred between Midnight and 2 a.m. – fueling speculation that the FBI gun was used in Rich’s murder.

Furthermore, two men working with the Rich family – private investigator and former D.C. Police detective Rod Wheeler and family acquaintance Ed Butowsky, have previously stated that Rich had contacts with WikiLeaks before his death.

“According to Ed Butowsky, an acquaintance of the family, in his discussions with Joel and Mary Rich, they confirmed that their son transmitted the DNC emails to Wikileaks,” writes Lyons.

While Wheeler initially told TV station Fox5 that proof of Rich’s contact with WikiLeaks lies on the murdered IT staffer’s laptop, he later walked the claim back – though he maintained that there was “some communication between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.”

Wheeler also claimed in recently leaked audio that Seth Rich’s brother, Aaron – a Northrup Grumman employee, blocked him from looking at Seth’s computer and stonewalled his investigation.

Wheeler said that brother Aaron Rich tried to block Wheeler from looking at Seth’s computer, even though there could be evidence on it. “He said no, he said I have his computer, meaning him,” Wheeler said. “I said, well can I look at it?…He said, what are you looking for? I said anything that could indicate if Seth was having problems with someone. He said no, I already checked it. Don’t worry about it.”

Aaron also blocked Wheeler from finding out about who was at a party Seth attended the night of the murder.

“All I want you to do is work on the botched robbery theory and that’s it,” Aaron told Wheeler –Big League Politics

Perhaps the most stunning audio evidence, however, comes from leaked audio of a recorded conversation between Ed Butowsky and Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who told him of a “purported FBI report establishing that Seth Rich sent emails to WikiLeaks.”

As transcribed and exclusively reported on by journalist Cassandra Fairbanks last year:

What the report says is that some time in late Spring… he makes contact with WikiLeaks, that’s in his computer,” he says. “Anyway, they found what he had done is that he had submitted a series of documents — of emails, of juicy emails, from the DNC.”

Hersh explains that it was unclear how the negotiations went, but that WikiLeaks did obtain access to a password protected DropBox where Rich had put the files.

All I know is that he offered a sample, an extensive sample, I’m sure dozens of emails, and said ‘I want money.’ Later, WikiLeaks did get the password, he had a DropBox, a protected DropBox,” he said. They got access to the DropBox.”

Hersh also states that Rich had concerns about something happening to him, and had

“The word was passed, according to the NSA report, he also shared this DropBox with a couple of friends, so that ‘if anything happens to me it’s not going to solve your problems,’” he added. “WikiLeaks got access before he was killed.”

Brennan and Russian disinformation

Hersh also told Butowsky that the DNC made up the Russian hacking story as a disinformation campaign – directly pointing a finger at former CIA director (and now MSNBC/NBC contributor) John Brennan as the architect.

I have a narrative of how that whole f*cking thing began. It’s a Brennan operation, it was an American disinformation, and the fu*kin’ President, at one point, they even started telling the press – they were backfeeding the Press, the head of the NSA was going and telling the press, fu*king c*cksucker Rogers, was telling the press that we even know who in the Russian military intelligence service leaked it.

Listen to Seymour Hersh leaked audio: 

(full transcription here and extended audio of the Hersh conversation here

Hersh denied that he told Butowsky anything before the leaked audio emerged, telling NPR “I hear gossip… [Butowsky] took two and two and made 45 out of it.

Techincal Evidence

As we mentioned last week, Dotcom’s assertion is backed up by an analysis done last year by a researcher who goes by the name Forensicator, who determined that the DNC files were copied at 22.6 MB/s – a speed virtually impossible to achieve from halfway around the world, much less over a local network – yet a speed typical of file transfers to a memory stick.

The big hint

Last but not least, let’s not forget that Julian Assange heavily implied Seth Rich was a source:

Given that a) the Russian hacking narrative hinges on Crowdstrikes’s questionable reporting, and b) a mountain of evidence pointing to Seth Rich as the source of the leaked emails – it stands to reason that Congressional investigators and Special Counsel Robert Mueller should at minimum explore these leads.

As retired U.S. Navy admiral James A. Lyons, Jr. asks: why aren’t they?

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump And Kim’s Tug-Of-War Over President Moon

By Andrew KORYBKO – Oriental Review – 03/03/2018

North Korea is reportedly willing to engage in talks with South Korea and the US.

The message was apparently conveyed after a high-level North Korean official met with the South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, who had previously campaigned on a promise to revive the so-called “Sunshine Policy” of some of his predecessors in actively seeking a rapprochement with Pyongyang. The course of developments in the 9 months since his election, especially regarding US actions towards North Korea and its preplanned calculated responses to it, made it almost impossible to advance this idea, but the recently concluded Pyeongchang Winter Olympics proved to be the perfect opportunity for breathing new life into this stalemated but nevertheless promising vision.

China and Russia previously proposed what they called the “Double Freeze” whereby the US and South Korea would indefinitely halt their joint military drills with one another in exchange for North Korea doing the same with its missile and nuclear tests. Washington took the first step in announcing the postponement of its planned exercises with Seoul, which created an amicable atmosphere for Pyongyang to do its part in making the Olympic Games a diplomatic success for everyone and infusing fresh optimism into the “Double Freeze” proposal. As could have been expected, however, the US recently said that it would be resuming its military games with South Korea and even deploying attack drones to the peninsula, which drew sharp condemnation from North Korea who accused America of endangering the incipient peace process.

Even so, this hasn’t yet resulted in any characteristically ostentatious moves from Pyongyang, which can be interpreted in one of two ways. The first is how Trump and his team are likely perceiving this, which is that North Korea is indicating its receptivity to talks from a position of weakness, especially after the US’ new sanctions against the country. The second, though, is more probable, and it’s that North Korea doesn’t want to be seen as being the first one to break the “Double Freeze” , especially since it’s betting that its recent “charm offensive” during the Olympics was enough to convince President Moon of Kim Jong-Un’s sincerity in holding talks with him.

Basically, the North Koreans are trying to deepen the divide between the US and their military allies in South Korea in an attempt to embolden Seoul to flex its independence and proactively take the initiative to further the positive gains achieved during the “Olympic Peace” and “Double Freeze”. Pyongyang has gone to great lengths to “humble itself” before the eyes of the world in presenting its peaceful intentions, which it’s hoping was successful in creating space for President Moon to once more try his hand at reviving the “Sunshine Policy”. Kim will try to encourage him, Trump will try to deter him, but what everything essentially comes down to is which of the two ultimately comes out on top in this tug-of-war over President Moon.

The post presented is the partial transcript of the CONTEXT COUNTDOWN radio program on Sputnik News, aired on Friday Mar 2, 2018.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

US war with North Korea ‘worth it’ – Lindsey Graham

RT | March 3, 2018

The damage caused by a US war with North Korea would be “worth it,” Senator Lindsey Graham said. The comments further fuel speculation the US is gearing up for action against Pyongyang.

“All the damage that would come from a war would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security,” the Republican senator from South Carolina told CNN. “I’m completely convinced that President Trump and his team reject the policy of containment… They’ve drawn a red line here and it is to never let North Korea build a nuclear-tipped missile to hit America.”

Graham’s comments come as the US is reportedly considering military action against North Korea, should Pyongyang build a nuclear missile capable of striking the US, according to multiple sources, CNN reports.

Last week, Washington revealed its latest round of sanctions against North Korea for its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, targeting Pyongyang’s shipping industry. Trump warned a phase two could be “very, very unfortunate for the world.”

The US appears at odds with the apparent willingness of both North and South Korea to engage in dialogue following the Winter Olympic Games, which saw North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, attending. Kim Yo-jung was the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the Korean War, and shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the opening ceremony.

On Thursday, Moon told Trump he plans to send an envoy to North Korea following the invitation extended by Pyongyang. This would be the first inter-Korean summit since 2007. South Korea said in a statement that dialogue with the North “will go on.”

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a longtime hawk who has often advocated for US military action, including calling for the US to send 10,000 troops to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Iraq. He was also among the chorus of Republican presidential candidates calling for the US to shoot down Russian planes in Syria in 2015.

Curiously, Graham is aware of the devastation a conflict between the US and North Korea would create in the region. Speaking on the Today show in August, Graham noted: “Japan, South Korea, China would all be in the crosshairs of a war if we started one with North Korea.”

“If there’s going to be a war to stop [Kim Jong-un], it will be over there. If thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They’re not going to die here,” he added. “And [Trump] told me that to my face. That may be provocative, but not really. When you’re president of the United States, where does your allegiance lie? To the people of the United States.”

During the Korean War of 1950-53, an estimated 2.5 million people died. Should the US enter a war with North Korea, the conflict would likely have disastrous consequences for the greater region and endanger US citizens.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 5 Comments

Russia slams extended US sanctions as illegal, harmful to world

Press TV – March 3, 2018

Russia has slammed US sanctions against the country as illegal and harmful to the world after Washington extended embargoes against Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.

“We have never been the initiator of these sanctions, we consider them illegal and harmful not just to the people of our two countries but the whole world,” Interfax news agency quoted Russian presidential press spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Saturday.

The remarks came a day after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to extend sanctions against Moscow, which have been in place since the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea rejoined Russia in 2014.

Ties between the US and Russia have plummeted to levels not seen since the Cold War due to the two powers’ disputes over the crises in Ukraine and Syria and after US officials accused Russia of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

On Friday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the US was planning to deploy some 400 anti-ballistic missiles on Russia’s doorstep as part of its military buildup in Eastern Europe.

Last year, the US for the first time deployed Patriot long-range anti-aircraft missiles to the Baltics to be used in large-scale NATO military drills in Lithuania near Russia’s border.

The armed conflict in Ukraine broke out following the ouster of pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and intensified after people in Crimea voted for reunification with the Russian Federation in a referendum held in March 2014.

The US and its allies in Europe brand the reunification as annexation of the territory by Russia, accusing Moscow of having a major hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, an allegation strongly rejected by the Kremlin.

Western countries have levied broad economic sanctions against Moscow over its alleged support for pro-Russia separatist forces in eastern Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

In late 2016, Washington alleged that Russia had influenced the US presidential election in November that year to help Donald Trump get elected, an allegation that Russia strongly denied.

Russia and the US are also at odds over the Syrian crisis, as they are backing opposite sides in the conflict.

Russia has been offering military advisory support to the Syrian government in its battle against extremist militants, while the US and its allies back the Takfiri militants fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , | 2 Comments

Iranian scholar Mohammad Marandi banned from BBC debate at American University of Beirut

Press TV – March 3, 2018

An Iranian scholar has been banned from taking part in a BBC debate about Iran and Saudi Arabia at an American University in Lebanon.

In an interview with Press TV on Saturday, Mohammad Marandi, a professor at the University of Tehran, suggested that the decision has been politically motivated.

“I really do not know what is behind this decision but obviously the US government and the Saudi regime and other such antagonists have always been putting pressure on governments and academic institutions and as well as other institutions to toe the line. Whatever reason behind this ban I find it completely unacceptable,” Professor Marandi said. ” I think it discredits the American University of Beirut and it discredits the image that the United States wishes to promote about itself. Also, I believe that the BBC must refuse to hold the debate at this venue, whether I am included in the discussion or not. AUB must not be allowed to dictate the terms of the debate.”

The Iranian scholar had been invited to speak at the English-speaking panel, but the AUB’s administration informed BBC on Saturday that he will not be permitted to take part in the debate on its campus.

“If one cannot speak freely for a few minutes at a university which is controlled by Americans and which all the academics are hired by Americans, if they do not have the self-confidence to allow an alternative voice to speak at such a debate with five other people on the panel, including hardline opponents of Iran, if they do not have that sort of confidence, then it shows that the narrative that the Americans, American institutions, the American government, and the American mainstream media are promoting is weak and lacking in reason and logic,” he added.

Iran has been a staunch critic of Saudi Arabia’s hostile policies including attempts to destabilize the region namely through incessant bombardment of impoverished Yemen as well as support for Takfiri militants across the region.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 3 Comments

How ‘Operation Merlin’ Poisoned U.S. Intelligence on Iran

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse on Jan. 26, 2016 with his wife Holly, center, and attorney Barry Pollack. Photo: Kevin Wolf/AP
By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | March 3, 2018

Jeffrey Sterling, the case officer for the CIA’s covert “Operation Merlin,” who was convicted in May 2015 for allegedly revealing details of that operation to James Risen of the New York Times, was released from prison in January after serving more than two years of a 42-month sentence. He had been tried and convicted on the premise that the revelation of the operation had harmed U.S. security.

The entire case against him assumed a solid intelligence case that Iran had indeed been working on a nuclear weapon that justified that covert operation.

But the accumulated evidence shows that the intelligence not only did not support the need for Operation Merlin, but that the existence of the CIA’s planned covert operation itself had a profound distorting impact on intelligence assessment of the issue. The very first U.S. national intelligence estimate on the subject in 2001 that Iran had a nuclear weapons program was the result of a heavy-handed intervention by Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt that was arguably more serious than the efforts by Vice-President Dick Cheney to influence the CIA’s 2002 estimate on WMD in Iraq.

The full story of the interaction between the CIA operation and intelligence analysis, shows, moreover, that Pavitt had previously fabricated an alarmist intelligence analysis for the Clinton White House on Iran’s nuclear program in late 1999 in order to get Clinton’s approval for Operation Merlin.

Pavitt Plans Operation Merlin

The story of Operation Merlin and the suppression of crucial intelligence on Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be understood apart from the close friendship between Pavitt and CIA Director George Tenet. Pavitt’s rise in the Operations Directorate had been so closely linked to his friendship with Tenet that the day after Tenet announced his retirement from the CIA on June 3, 2004, Pavitt announced his own retirement.

Soon after he was assigned to the CIA’s Non-Proliferation Center (NPC) in 1993 Pavitt got the idea of creating a new component within the Directorate of Operations to work solely on proliferation, as former CIA officials recounted for Valerie Plame Wilson’s memoir, Fair Game. Pavitt proposed that the new proliferation division would have the authority not only to collect intelligence but also to carry out covert operations related to proliferation, using its own clandestine case officers working under non-official cover.

Immediately after Tenet was named Deputy Director of the CIA in 1995, Pavitt got the new organization within the operations directorate called the Counter-Proliferation Division, or CPD. Pavitt immediately began the planning for a major operation targeting Iran. According to a CIA cable declassified for the Sterling trial, as early as March 1996 CPD’s “Office of Special Projects” had already devised a scheme to convey to the Iranians a copy of the Russian TBA-486 “fireset” – a system for multiple simultaneous high explosive detonations to set off a nuclear explosion. The trick was that it had built-in flaws that would make it unworkable.

A January 1997 declassified cable described a plan for using a Russian émigré’ former Soviet nuclear weapons engineer recruited in 1996 to gain “operational access” to an Iranian “target.” The cable suggested that it would be for the purpose of intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program, in the light of the fact that the agency had not issued a finding that Iran was working on nuclear weapons.

But in mid-March 1997 the language used by CPD to describe its proposed covert operation suddenly changed. Another declassified CPD cable from May 1997 said the ultimate goal was “to plant this substantial piece of deception information on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.” That shift in language apparently reflected Tenet’s realization that the CIA would need to justify the proposed covert operation to the White House, as required by legislation.

With his ambitious plan for a covert operation against Iran in his pocket, Pavitt was promoted to Associate Deputy Director of Operations in July 1997. On February 2, 1998, CPD announced to other CIA offices, according to the declassified cable, that a technical team from one of the national laboratories had finished building the detonation device that would include “multiple nested flaws,” including a “final fatal flaw” ensuring “that it will not detonate a nuclear weapon.”

An official statement from the national lab certifying that fact was a legal requirement for the CIA to obtain the official Presidential “finding” for any covert operation required by legislation passed in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair.

Pavitt obtained the letter from the national laboratory in mid-1999 a few weeks after it was announced he would be named Deputy Director of the CIA for Operations.

But that left a final political obstacle to a presidential finding: the official position of the CIA’ s Intelligence Directorate remained that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program. The language of the CIA’s report to Congress for the first half of 1999, which was delivered to Congress in early 2000, contained formulations that showed signs of having been negotiated between those who believed Iran just have a nuclear weapons program and those who did not.

The report referred to nuclear-related projects that “will help Iran augment its nuclear technology infrastructure, which in turn would be useful in supporting nuclear weapons research and development.” The shift from “will” to “would” clearly suggested that nuclear weapons work was not yet an established fact.

A second sentence said, “expertise and technology gained, along with the commercial channels and contacts established-even from cooperation that appears strictly civilian in nature-could be used to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons research and developmental program.” That seemed to hint that maybe Iran already had such a nuclear weapons program.

That was not sufficient for Tenet and Pavitt to justify a covert nuclear weapons program involving handing over a fake nuclear detonation device. So the dynamic duo came up with another way around that obstacle. A new intelligence assessment, reported in a front page article by James Risen and Judith Miller in the New York Times on January 17, 2000, said the CIA could no longer rule out the possibility that Iran now had the capability to build a bomb – or even that it may have actually succeeded in building one.

Risen and Miller reported that Tenet had begun briefings for Clinton administration officials on the new CIA assessment in December 1999 shortly after the document was completed, citing “several U.S. officials” familiar with it. The Tenet briefings made no mention of any evidence of a bomb-making program, according to the sources cited by the Times. It was based instead on the alleged inability of U.S. intelligence to track adequately Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology and materials from the black market.

But the new assessment had evidently not come from the Intelligence Directorate. John McLaughlin, then Deputy Director for Intelligence, said in e-mail response to a query that he did not recall the assessment. And when this writer asked him whether it was possible that he would not remember or would not have known about an intelligence assessment on such a high profile issue, McLaughlin did not respond. Pavitt and Tenet had obviously gone outside the normal procedure for an intelligence assessment in order to get around the problem of lack of support for their thesis from the analysts.

A declassified CIA cable dated November 18, 1999 instructed the Russian émigré to prepare for a possible trip to Vienna in early 2000, indicating that Tenet hoped to get the finding within a few weeks. Clinton apparently did give the necessary finding in early 2000; in the first days of March 2000 the Russian émigré dropped the falsified fireset plans into the mail chute of the Iranian mission to the United Nations in Vienna.

Pavitt Suppresses Unwelcome Iran Nuclear Intelligence

Pavitt’s CPD was also managing a group of covert operatives who recruited spies to provide information on weapons of mass destruction in Iran and Iraq. CPD not only controlled the targeting of the operatives working on those accounts but the distribution of their reports. CPD’s dual role thus represented a serious conflict of interest, because the CPD had a vested interest in an intelligence estimate that showed Iran had an active nuclear weapons program, and it could prevent intelligence analysts from getting information that conflicted with that interest.

That is exactly what happened in 2001. One especially valuable CPD operative, who was fluent in both Farsi and Arabic, had begun recruiting agents to provide intelligence on both Iran and Iraq since 1995. His talents had been recognized by the CPD and by higher levels of the Operations Directorate: by 2001 he had been promised an intelligence medal and a promotion to GS14 – the second highest grade level in the civil service.

But that same year the operative reported very important intelligence on the Iran nuclear issue that would have caused serious problems for Pavitt and CPD and led ultimately to his being taken out of the field and being fired.

In a November 2005 court filing in a lawsuit against Pavitt, the unnamed head of CPD and then CIA Director Porter Goss, the operative, identified only as “Doe” in court records, said that one of his most highly valued “human assets” – the CIA term for recruited spies – had given him very important intelligence in 2001. That information was the subject of three crucial lines of the key paragraph in the operative’s complaint that were redacted at the demand of the CIA. For years “Doe” sought to declassify the language of that had been redacted, but the CIA had fought it.

It was assumed in press accounts at the time that the redacted lines were related to Iraq. But the lawyer who handled the lawsuit for “Doe,” Roy Krieger, revealed to this writer in interviews that the redacted lines revealed that the CIA “human asset” in question was an Iranian, and that he had told “Doe” that the Iranian government had no intention of “weaponizing” the uranium that it was planning to enrich.

It was the first intelligence from a “highly-valued” U.S. spy – one who was known to be in a position to know he claimed to know – on Iran’s intentions regarding nuclear weapons to become available to the U.S. intelligence community. “Doe” reported what the spy had said to his supervisor at CPD, according to the court filing, and the supervisor immediately met with Pavitt and the head of CPD. After that meeting the CPD supervisor ordered “Doe” not to prepare any written report on the matter and assured him that Pavitt and the head of the CPD would personally brief President Bush on the intelligence.

But “Doe” soon learned from his own contacts at CIA headquarters that no such briefing ever took place. And “Doe” was soon instructed to terminate his relationship with the asset. After another incident involving intelligence he had reported on WMD in Iraq that had also conflicted with the line desired by the Bush administration, CIA management took “Doe” out of the field, put him in a headquarters job and denied him the intelligence medal and promotion to GS-14 that he had been promised, according to his court filing. The CIA fired “Doe” without specifying a reason in 2005.

Pavitt did not respond to requests for an interview for this story both at the Scowcroft Group and, after he retired, at his home in McLean, Virginia.

The intervention by Pavitt to prevent the intelligence from Doe’s Iranian asset from circulating within the U.S. government came as the intelligence community was working on the 2001 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iranian nuclear program. That NIE concluded that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon, but the finding was far from being clear-cut. Paul Pillar, the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, who was involved in the 2001 NIE, recalled that the intelligence community had no direct evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. “We’re talking about things that are a matter of inference, not direct evidence,” Pillar said in an interview with this writer.

Furthermore he recalls that there was a deep divide in the intelligence community between the technical analysts, who tended to believe that evidence of uranium enrichment was evidence of a weapons program, and the Iran specialists, including Pillar himself, who believed Iran had adopted a “hedging strategy” and had made no decision in favor or a nuclear weapon. The technical analysts at the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC), were given the advantage of writing the first draft not only on Iranian technical capabilities but on Iranian intentions – a subject on which it had no real expertise – as well, according to Pillar.

The introduction of the intelligence from a highly credible Iranian intelligence asset indicating no intention to convert its enriched uranium into nuclear weapons would arguably have changed the dynamic of the estimate dramatically. It would have meant that one side could cite hard intelligence from a valued source in support of its position, while the other side could cite only their own predisposition.

Pillar confirmed that no such intelligence report was made available to the analysts for the 2001 NIE. He noted just how rarely the kind of intelligence that had been obtained by “Doe” was available for an intelligence estimate. “Analysts deal with a range of stuff,” he said, “from a tidbit from technical intelligence to the goldmine well-placed source with an absolutely credible account,“ but the latter kind of intelligence “almost never comes up.”

After reading this account of the intelligence obtained by the CPD operative, Pillar said he is not in a position to judge the value of the intelligence from the Iranian asset, but that the information from the CPD Iranian asset “should have been considered by the NIE team in conjunction with other sources of information.”

That lead to a series of estimates that assumed Iran had a nuclear weapons program.

In 2004, a large cache of purported Iranian documents showing alleged Iranian research related to nuclear weapons was turned over to German intelligence, which the Bush administration claimed came from the laptop of an Iranian scientist or engineer. But former senior German Foreign Official Karsten Voigt later revealed to this writer that the whole story was a fabrication, because the documents had been given those documents by the Mujahedin-E Khalq, the Iranian opposition group that was known to have publicized anti-Iran information fed to it by Israel’s Mossad.

Those documents led directly to another CIA estimate in 2005 asserting the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, which in turn paved the way for all the subsequent estimates – all of which were adopted despite the absence of new evidence of such a program. The CIA swallowed the ruse repeatedly, because it had already been manipulated by Pavitt.

Operation Merlin is the perfect example of powerful bureaucratic interests running amok and creating the intelligence necessary to justify their operations. The net result is that Jeffrey Sterling was unjustly imprisoned and that the United States has gone down a path of Iran policy that poses serious – and unnecessary – threats to American security.

Gareth Porter is an independent journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of numerous books, including Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (Just World Books, 2014).

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Loves Ya, Saudi?

Just the UK’s Theresa May and her deluded Foreign Office, and the callous death merchants of Washington and Tel Aviv

Prime Minister Theresa May met with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud on her visit to Saudi Arabia. Image credit: Number 10/ flickr
By Stuart Littlewood | American Herald Tribune | March 3, 2018

It’s amazing what unprincipled people will admit to when goaded. A petition has been posted on the parliamentary website calling on prime minister Theresa May to withdraw her invitation to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, to visit the UK. It reads:

“The Saudi Arabian regime has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Torture and arbitrary detention are widely documented. In 2017 alone, over 100 people were executed.

“The Crown Prince has directed the bombardment of Yemen. Tens of thousands have been killed or injured. There is widespread famine and cholera, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yet, the UK still sells arms to Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi regime has supported repression in Bahrain, where its military intervened to end peaceful protests in 2011.”

An Early Day Motion (EDM865) has been tabled in Parliament also asking for the visit to be cancelled. It notes that the Saudi regime actually executed 142 people last year.

Bin Salman arrives in London on 7 March. He’ll be met by angry protesters.

The petition has well over 11,000 signatures so far. Of course, their request will be ignored. The UK Government is a great admirer of terror regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, which are now bosom-pals. They share many ambitions, such as the de-stabilising and overthrow of countries they don’t happen to like with the help of their useful idiots in Washington and Westminster. Prime targets are Iran and Syria. And they are itching to annihilate resistance groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, and any others that get in their way.

They also share utter contempt for human rights and international norms of behaviour.

Successive British governments have gone to extreme lengths to invent preposterous reasons why they adore and support the criminals who run Israel, slaughter the Palestinians and menace the region (and indeed the rest of the world) with their undeclared and unsafeguarded nuclear arsenal. Now Westminster ties itself in knots trying to explain why we continue to snuggle up to the Saudis who are eager to join the US-UK-Israeli axis.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our mainstream media, instead of wringing their hands and broadcasting disinformation about the Middle East, investigated and named the evil warmongers who recruit, bankroll and arm the corrupt regimes, rebel militia, mercenaries and assorted hoodlums who started and now perpetuate the horror and devastation in Syria and Yemen?

Saudi Arabia a partner for “tackling international terror and extremism”? Seriously?

Responding to the petition, the ever-inventive Foreign Office says our strong relationship with Saudi Arabia “is important for mutual security and prosperity” and includes meaningful discussion on reform and human rights. The statement says it has helped make both of our countries safer and more prosperous. “We have vital national security and economic interests in maintaining and developing our strong relationship, including how we can work together to tackle international challenges such as terrorism and extremism.”

And Saudi intelligence “has saved potentially hundreds of lives in the UK”, according to Mrs May.

What’s more, the Crown Prince has embarked on a series of reforms to modernise society and the economy such as allowing women to drive and attend football matches, reopening cinemas and a commitment that women will make up one third of the Saudi workforce by 2030. “The visit will usher in a new era in bilateral relations focused on a partnership that delivers wide-ranging benefits for both the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

As for the apalling state of affairs in Yemen, the Government says the UK “is committed to securing a political solution that ends the humanitarian disaster” and will continue to play a leading role in “supporting the UN to find a peaceful solution through close engagement with our regional and international partners”.

We’ve heard this claptrap many times before, especially in relation to never-ending crimes against the Palestinians.

What else does our upstanding Government say? “The UK supports the Saudi-led Coalition military intervention [in Yemen]…. We regularly raise the importance of compliance with International Humanitarian Law with the Saudi Arabian Government and other members of the military Coalition. Saudi Arabia has publicly stated that it is investigating reports of alleged violations of IHL, and that lessons will be acted upon.”

So why not wait for real evidence of that before rolling out the red carpet and infuriating decent people by allowing the Crown Prince of this obnoxious regime to pose on the steps of Downing Street for the world’s media and be filmed poncing around with our Royal Family? From his track record Bin Salman understands only too well the value of PR, which he exploits for all its worth, while precious little changes beneath the elaborate ‘modernising’ veneer.

Guilty as hell of complicity

Since Bin Salman’s bombing campaign in Yemen started three years ago the UK, instead of condemning such murderous aggression, has showered Saudi Arabia with £billions worth of aircraft and other weaponry to help deliver death and destruction. All principles are jettisoned, it seems, and all concerns for human suffering forgotten so that greedy business can milk the obscene wealth of that part of the world.

Last summer the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) brought a legal action against the Secretary of State for International Trade for continuing to grant export licences for arms to Saudi Arabia, arguing that this was a breach of UK policy which states that the Government must refuse such licences if there’s a clear risk that the arms might be used to commit serious violations of International Humanitarian Law.

It was, by then, undeniable that Saudi forces had used UK-supplied weaponry to violate International Humanitarian Law in their war on Yemen. According to the United Nations, well over 10,000 people had been killed up to that point, the majority by the Saudi-led bombing raids that had also destroyed vital infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and contributed to the cholera crisis. 3 million Yemenis had been displaced from their homes and 7 million were on the brink of dying from famine. UNICEF were reporting that a child died in Yemen every ten minutes from preventable causes including starvation and malnourishment.

A crippling naval blockade aided and supported by the US had been a key cause of the humanitarian crisis. The European Parliament and numerous humanitarian NGOs had condemned the Saudi air strikes as unlawful. And 18 months earlier a UN Panel of Experts had accused Saudi forces of widespread and systematic targeting of civilians.

The UK Government at that time had licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms such as aircraft, helicopters, drones, missiles, grenades, bombs and armoured vehicles to the Saudi regime and refused to suspend this lucrative trade even when the horrors stared them in the face. It was claimed that the Government ignored warnings by senior civil servants and its own arms control experts, and that some records of expressed concern had gone missing.

Despite the glaring facts, the High Court decided to allow the UK Government to carry on exporting arms to Saudi Arabia for use against Yemenis.

The CAAT website today reports that the UK has licensed over £4.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombing began in March 2015:

£2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)

£1.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

£572,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)

And the UK government admits that Saudi Arabia has used UK weapons in its attacks on Yemen. Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, manufactured by BAE Systems, have been central to the attacks. The Government confirms that they have been deployed on combat missions in Yemen and further Typhoons have been delivered. Meanwhile, BAE and the UK government are pushing for a new contract, so who knows what triumphant announcement compounding these crimes against humanity will be made during the Crown Prince’s visit?

The Government has also admitted that UK-supplied precision-guided weapons have been used in Yemen and that it “accelerated delivery of Paveway precision-guided bombs” in response to Saudi requests.

At the start of the conflict in March 2015 former Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:

“If we are requested to provide them with enhanced support – spare parts, maintenance, technical advice, and resupply – we will seek to do so. We’ll support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat.” [emphasis added]

In September 2016 the House of Commons Business, Innovation & Skills and International Development Committees commented:

“Given that the UK has a long history of defence exports to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, and considering the evidence we have heard, it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK.” [emphasis added]

And in December 2016, the UK government finally admitted that UK-made cluster bombs had also been deployed in the conflict.

How sick is that?

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yemen: Peace On The Horizon

By Andrew KORYBKO – Oriental Review – 02/03/2018

The Houthis and the former President of South Yemen introduced somewhat similar peace proposals for ending the War on Yemen.

The first move in this direction was made during last week’s Valdai Conference on Russia’s role in the Mideast, when Ali Naser Mohamad, who presided over the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen from 1980-1986, issued an 8-point plan for resolving the conflict in which his most unique suggestion was to “initiate a dialogue between all the political forces on the establishment of a two-region federal state.” This was clearly in reference to the Southern Transitional Council’s (STC) seizure of Aden, their former capital, from Hadi’s government at the end of January after the internationally recognized leader refused to reform his Cabinet and reportedly ordered that force be used against the protesting Southerners.

Federalization has long been thought of as a “compromise” between wartime allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the first of which began the war in order to reinstall Hadi as Yemen’s President while the latter is thought of having a favorable approach towards the Southern separatists.

As for the Houthis’ proposal, it interestingly mirrored most of what the former South Yemeni leader proposed, albeit with its own nuances. Both sides want an end to the war, new elections, and UNSC support, though they seem to differ over some technicalities. Whereas the South wants a federal solution, the Houthis importantly suggest that all contested issues be decided by a referendum, with the implication being that it would be a nationwide one where the more populous North would have the electoral power to reject any regional-centric proposal put forth by the South. The issues of South Yemen’s autonomy and the country’s corresponding constitutional reform to legalize this desired status seem to be the primary difference between each party’s peace proposals.

In the stalemated military situation that defines the present day, neither side is able to enforce their will on the other, but the most important observation is that the political will for peace invariably exists in the territories that used to comprise the independent countries of North and South Yemen.

Extrapolating from this, it can be deduced that each of their populations are completely exasperated by this war, especially the majority of the country that resides in the North and has been forced to endure the insufferable humanitarian consequences of the coalition’s war against the Houthis for over three years now. Likewise, presuming that the former South Yemeni President was speaking in a semi-official capacity and “testing the waters” at Valdai, the conclusion can be reached that the STC is “moderating” its independence aspirations and willing to settle for federalization, at least at this stage, which of course appeals to the Saudis and the Houthis for different reasons and makes it easier to begin a dialogue on ending the war.

In the coming future, all sides will likely readjust their positions somewhat as they politically jockey with one another in preparing for inevitable peace talks, and it’s here where Russia could play a strategic role in facilitating this by mediating or possibly even hosting this dialogue whenever it ultimately happens.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Putin Claims Strategic Parity, Respect

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | March 3, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s State-of-the-Nation speech Thursday represents a liminal event in the East-West strategic balance — and an ominous one.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

That the strategic equation is precarious today comes through clearly in Putin’s words. The U.S. and Russia have walked backwards over the threshold of sanity first crossed in the right direction by their predecessors in 1972 with the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Amid the “balance of terror” that reigned pre-1972, sensible statesmen on both sides concluded and implemented the ABM treaty which, in effect, guaranteed “mutual assured destruction” — the (altogether fitting) acronym was MAD — if either side attempted a nuclear attack on the other. MAD might not sound much better than “balance of terror,” but the ABM treaty introduced a significant degree of stability for 30 years.

The treaty itself was the result of painstaking negotiation with considerable understanding and good faith shown by both sides. The formidable task challenging us intelligence specialists was to be able to assure President Nixon that, if he decided to trust, we could monitor Soviet adherence and promptly report any violations. (Incidentally, the Soviets did cheat. In mid-1983 we detected a huge early warning radar installation at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia — a clear violation of the ABM treaty. President Reagan called them on it, and the Soviets eventually tore it down.)

During the U.S.-Soviet negotiations on the ABM treaty, a third of the CIA Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, which I led at the time, was involved in various supporting roles. I was in Moscow on May 26, 1972 for the treaty signing by President Richard Nixon and Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. I recall not being able to suppress an audible sigh of relief. MAD, I believed, would surely be preferable to the highly precarious strategic situation that preceded it. It was.

Cornerstone of Stability

In his speech on March 1, President Putin included an accurate tutorial on what happened after three decades, noting that Moscow was “categorically against” the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from the ABM treaty. He described the treaty as “the cornerstone of the international security system.”

Putin explained that under the treaty, “the parties had the right to deploy ballistic missile defense systems in only one of its regions. Russia deployed these systems around Moscow, and the U.S. around its Grand Forks land-based ICBM base [in North Dakota].”  (He did not mention the aborted attempt to deploy a second installation at Krasnoyarsk.)

The Russian President explained: “The ABM treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust, but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons … because the limited number of ballistic missile defense systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.”

Putin was saying, in effect, that no matter how bad — even mad — the MAD concept may seem, it played a huge stabilizing role. He added that the U.S. rejected all Russian proposals toward constructive dialogue on the post-ABM treaty situation, and grossly underestimated Russia’s ability to respond. The Russian President then gave chapter and verse, cum video clips, on an array of new Russian weaponry which, he claimed, rendered missile defense systems “useless.” The show-and-tell segment of Putin’s speech has been widely reported.

New York Times Skeptical

David Sanger, the New York Times’ go-to guy on key issues, who is among the best in the trade on reporting as “flat facts” things like WMD in Iraq and “Russian meddling,” wrote the lede on Putin’s speech in Friday’s NY Times together with Neil MacFarquhar. The meme this time is not flat fact, but skepticism: “Do these weapons really exist? Or is Putin bluffing?”

In support of their skepticism, Sanger and MacFarquhar blithely report that “analysts writing on Facebook and elsewhere leaned toward the bluff theory.” So, QED!

And echoing former National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s insight that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever,” Sanger and MacFarquhar remind NYT readers that “deception lies at the heart of current Russian military doctrine.”

The two NYT journalists did get one thing right at the very end of their article; namely, “For years, Mr. Putin has chafed at the perceived disrespect showed to him and Russia by the United States. ‘Nobody listened to Russia,’ he said near the end of his speech, to huge applause. ‘Well, listen now.’”

Russians, like all proud and gifted people, resent attempts to demean or marginalize them. Putin may have seen his speech, in part, as a blistering response to former President Barack Obama’s dismissive comments that “Russia doesn’t make anything” and is no more than “a regional power.”

Door Still Open to Talks

It is to be hoped that the Marine generals running U.S. defense policy, rather than calling Putin’s bluff, will now encourage President Donald Trump to take up Putin’s latest offer to “sit down at the negotiating table” and “work together … to ensure global security” — taking into account that “strategic parity” is now a reality.

Referring to what he called “our duty to inform our partners” about Russia’s claimed ability to render ABM systems “useless,” Putin added: “When the time comes, foreign and defense ministry experts will have many opportunities to discuss all these matters with them, if of course our partners so desire.”

Putin also said, “We are greatly concerned by certain provisions of the revised Nuclear Posture Review,” which envisages a nuclear response to “conventional arms attacks and even to a cyber threat.”

He described Russia’s military doctrine, as “very clear and specific”:  “Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons solely in response to a nuclear attack, or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies, or an act of aggression against us with the use of conventional weapons that threatens the very existence of the state.”

With burgeoning threats against Iran and Syria, it is to be hoped that someone in Washington thinks to ask Putin which countries he includes among Russia’s allies.

White Lies Nobody Believes

Dana White, Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters Thursday, “Our missile defense has never been about” Russia. Now, as Harry Truman would have put it, the Russians “weren’t born yesterday.”  Putin has been extremely derisive toward those promoting the bromide that ABM installations in and around Europe are designed to defend against missiles from Iran — or North Korea.

In an unusually candid remark on missile defense on April 17, 2014, the day before Crimea was annexed, Putin told a national TV audience: “Missile defense … is no less, and probably even more important, than NATO’s eastward expansion. Incidentally, our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this.

To take some liberties with Shakespeare, “The fault is not in our stars, but in our Star Wars.” Ever since President Ronald Reagan was sold on the notion that a “Star Wars” ABM system could provide the U.S. with complete protection from missile attack, exceptional opportunities to restrain — or even put an end to — the nuclear arms race have been squandered. Victory has gone to the arms profiteers — those whom Pope Francis described to Congress as the “blood drenched arms merchants.”

The ABM project has been called, with justification, the world’s largest corporate welfare program. Jonathan Marshall  today explains quite well what should scare us — still more billions likely to be thrown at the makers of systems that, most serious scientists and engineers agree, can always be defeated, and comparatively cheaply, one way or another.

Three Decade-Old Conundrum

During the mid-80s, I had a front-row seat watching President Ronald Reagan blow what appeared to be a golden chance for a comprehensive peace. I had spent most of my CIA career focusing on Soviet foreign policy and was able to tell the senior U.S. officials I was briefing that Mikhail Gorbachev, in my view, was the real deal. Even so, I was hardly prepared for how far Gorbachev was willing to go toward disarmament. At the 1986 summit with President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland, Gorbachev proposed that all nuclear weapons be eliminated within ten years.

Reagan reportedly almost rose to the occasion, but was counseled to reject Gorbachev’s condition that any research on anti-ballistic missiles be confined to laboratories for that decade. “Star Wars,” the largest and most wasteful defense-industry program in recent memory, won the day.

I know the characters who, for whatever reason, danced to the tune of “Star Wars,” Reagan’s benighted, wistful wish for an airtight defense against strategic missiles.

The naysayers to peace included ideologues like CIA Director William Casey and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, windsocks like CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates and one of his proteges, Fritz Ermarth, a viscerally anti-Russian functionary and former Northrop Corporation employee, who was a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Soviet and European Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) during Reykjavik.

According to author Jim Mann, several years after Reykjavik, Ermarth reflected on how he had been wrong in being overly suspicious of Gorbachev and how the intuition of Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz had been more perceptive.

What Now?

By all appearances, President Putin is as interested in stemming the strategic arms race as was Gorbachev. On Thursday, Putin talked about this particular moment being liminal — he called it “a turning point for the entire world.”  Will there be anyone in Washington at the other end of the phone, if Moscow calls? If, in effect, the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media complex answers, ABM developers will continue to fatten their purses and squander our children’s future.

It may be time to recall the admonition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a speech he gave 65 years ago:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. …

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. … This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?

‘Nuff said.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington.  He served 30 years as an U.S. Army Intelligence and CIA analyst, and in retirement co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Welcome to another Western edition of anti-Assad political theater, now in Ghouta

By Robert Bridge | RT | March 2, 2018

Western media is heaping scorn on Syria for using ‘excessive force’ in its effort to liberate Ghouta from militant control. But where was that same concern when Mosul was being pulverized by US-led forces?

The Syrian government’s liberation efforts in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta have deteriorated into a media circus where truth has taken a back seat in the clown car. As was the case in the liberation of Aleppo, the government of President Bashar Assad – as opposed to the militant groups wreaking havoc in his country – has borne the main brunt of criticism from the Western world.

Due to the conditions on the ground in Ghouta, it is virtually impossible to get a clear picture of the situation there. What we do know, however, is that Damascus is being hit by approximately 70 missiles daily from militant positions inside Ghouta. The Western media would rather ignore that fact, speculating instead that “more than 500 people” have been killed by the Assad “regime” since efforts to retake the city began last month.

So where does the Western media get its information? In the majority of cases, from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a one-man operation based out of a humble abode in Coventry, UK. Western reporters also rely on the so-called White Helmets, the very same ‘humanitarian’ group that is suspected of working in tandem with terrorist groups that are carrying out attacks on civilians. Based on these extremely dubious sources, and others, one of the UK’s most respectable newspapers, the Guardian, was bold enough to assert that “Eastern Ghouta is turning into Syria’s Srebrenica.”

“Like the Bosnian Muslim enclave in 1995, eastern Ghouta … has been besieged by regime forces since the early stages of the Syrian war,” Simon Tisdall wrote. “As in Bosnia, nobody attempted to protect the civilian population when a regime offensive began there in December after negotiations failed. The airstrikes and bombardments… are carried out with impunity by Syrian forces and their Russian backers.”

I read that article twice in the hope of finding any mention of the militant forces that have been occupying Eastern Ghouta off and on since late 2012, subjecting the local population to untold horrors, including the threat of chemical attack. Regrettably, I failed; not a single mention of the terrorists. Indeed, to read Tisdall’s article one gets the impression that the citizens of Ghouta are perfectly content with the occupation of their city by fanatical militants.

Examples of such biased attitudes towards the Syrian government have, at the same time, overtaken the social media jungle like the invasive kudzu vine, blocking out the light of truth.

This week, for example, a US-based user who goes by the name of Sami Sharbek posted two photos on his Twitter account – one showing a building consumed by an explosion; the other depicting a man carrying a crying child.

“This is not a movie. This is Syria,” he wrote in the caption.

Sharbek was only 50 percent right.

Although the photos were not taken from a Hollywood blockbuster film, they did feature horrific images from Gaza and Mosul, respectively. In other words, very far from the action in Ghouta. Although Sharbek later admitted to his error, the damage was already done. As of February 28, the Tweet had made a huge impression, generating over 125,000 shares and 154,000 likes (the account is now blocked, open only to “approved followers”), possibly reaching millions of users.  It is probably safe to say that very few of those same people will hear that Sharbek’s tweet was for all intents and purposes fake news.

Smoke rises from the Tuffah neighborhood after an Israeli airstrike in eastern Gaza City, July 29, 2014 © Sameh Rahmi / Global Look Press

On February 25, Danny Gold, a writer and correspondent, compared the situation in Ghouta to one of history’s worst human atrocities when he tweeted: “I know how Jews who lived through the holocaust felt 70 years later about the world turning a blind eye, can’t imagine how Syrians in Ghouta will feel about their suffering being so well-documented as it’s happening yet doubted by so many.”

Dan Cohen, a correspondent with RT America, responded to Gold: “Ghouta is like the Holocaust but Mosul was ‘a huge journalism event’ in which US-led forces took ‘much care’ in burying at least 3,200 civilians in the rubble.”

Cohen’s comment was a jibe at a tweet Gold had sent on February 1, 2017 in which he embellished the historical record of the US-led Iraqi campaign, remarking: “Mosul was a huge journalism event. Everyone who covers the Middle East was there.”

But if Mosul really was one big happy media confab, then how was it possible for the fatality figures to have been so skewed? As AP rather belatedly reported in December 2017, long after the nine-month conflict had ended, “The price Mosul’s residents paid in blood to see their city freed was between 9,000 and 11,000 dead … a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported.”

Perhaps if Western reporters had not spent so much of their time reporting on the same type of military operation in Aleppo, which was then the focus of a Russian-backed liberation campaign, they may have more accurately described the situation in Iraq’s second-largest city.

Michael Raddie, co-editor of BSNews, provided a convincing explanation for the discrepancy in the way the Western media reports on war zones, which he said can be reduced to a matter of “worthy victims” and “unworthy victims.”

“The victims of US bombs and British airstrikes are not worthy because we don’t do that kind of thing,” Raddie told RT. “Our killing of civilians is a mistake, collateral damage. The Syrian air force killing of civilians … that is atrocities. And that is the ideology that Western media portray all the time.”

However, there is another side to this wave of Western cynicism with regards to Syria that could spark a real catastrophe. That involves the threat of a chemical strike, which the West seems to believe is something only the “Assad regime” is capable of committing. After all, who would ever suspect bona-fide terrorists deprived of modern weapons of resorting to such barbaric means of warfare?

Much like Barack Obama’s utterly reckless “red line” warning regarding the use of chemical weapons, which he said would warrant US military action, French President Emmanuel Macron issued the very same foolish warning on February 14.

“On chemical weapons, I set a red line and I reaffirm that red line,” Macron told reporters. “If we have proven evidence that chemical weapons proscribed in treaties are used, we will strike the place where they are made.”

Did it surprise anyone that less than two weeks after Macron’s warning a chemical attack – conveniently supported by photos provided by, yes, the White Helmets – was reported to have occurred in Ghouta? Western media and politicians have actually suggested a Russian connection to the event.

“Whoever conducted the attacks, Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in Eastern Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

Presently, a 30-day ceasefire endorsed by the UN Security Council is in effect across Syria, as well as a daily five-hour “humanitarian pause” in Eastern Ghouta enforced by Russia.

Yet thus far the plan is not producing the desired effect. Militants are preventing civilians from fleeing besieged Eastern Ghouta and are sabotaging the humanitarian operation there, Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin, a spokesman for the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria, told journalists on Thursday.

Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is author of the book, ‘Midnight in the American Empire,’ released in 2013.


Read more:

Activist ‘raising awareness’ for Syria on Twitter used photos from Gaza & Mosul

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cambodia PM accuses US of lying about aid suspension

Press TV – March 3, 2018

Cambodia’s prime minister has slammed the US administration for being dishonest about the “suspension” of aid to the Southeast Asian nation, saying Washington’s aid cut had actually taken place in 2016.

The White House announced Tuesday that it was suspending or curtailing several Treasury, USAID and military aid programs aimed at supporting Cambodia’s military, taxation department and local authorities, claiming that they were all responsible for the country’s recent political instability.

Reacting to the announcement, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Washington’s ambassador to Phnom Penh, William Heidt, was lying and insisted that US aid to Cambodia’s tax department was slashed back in 2016, Reuters reported.

“We, the 16 million people, didn’t receive American aid in the tax sector. This aid was already finished in 2016,” said the prime minister during a speech to thousands of garment workers in the country’s southern province of Preah Sihanouk.

He then added, “Please, US Ambassador, answer this one question: why did you announce cutting aid while there is no aid? Do you intend to distort the reputation of Cambodia?”

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh, however, refused to comment about the prime minister’s remarks.

According to the report, Washington’s decision to partially suspend its aid to Cambodia came amid an ongoing government crackdown on the nation’s political opposition, Hun Sen’s critics, as well as opposition lawmakers and non-governmental organizations months prior to a July general election.

Hun Sen, who the report describes as “a close ally of China,” has often criticized Washington publicly, specifically for dropping bombs on Cambodia during the Vietnam War, which concluded in 1975.

He has also accused the leader of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who was detained and jailed last year, of conspiring with Washington to topple him.

Meanwhile, the White House has said the US had spent over $1 billion worth of aid for Cambodia and that its assistance to the country for health, agriculture and mine-clearing will continue.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Pentagon wants more money to develop its own hypersonic nukes, just like Russia’s

RT | March 3, 2018

The Pentagon may not be surprised by the new Russian hypersonic missiles – but why not use them as a pitch for more money? A military budget about 10 times that of Russia is not enough, according to the DARPA director.

Asked by a gathering of journalists on Thursday if the United States is spending enough on its own hypersonic missile program, Steven Walker, the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), replied, “I would say no.”

“The dollars that were allocated in this budget were great, but they were really focused on adding more flight tests and getting some of our offensive abilities further down the line into operational prototypes,” he said. “We do need an infusion of dollars in our infrastructure to do hypersonics.”

Separate statements made on the same day by Pentagon spokesman Dana White exuded a bit more confidence – and far less concern – about how well the US arsenal stacks up against Russia’s.

“We’ve been watching Russia for a long time. We’re not surprised,” White said, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s State of the Nation address, which highlighted Russia’s new nuclear arsenal – including hypersonic missiles that have a nearly unlimited range and are capable of outmaneuvering missile defense systems.

“America is moving forward to modernize our nuclear arsenal and make sure our capabilities aren’t being matched,” White insisted.

Since taking office, President Donald Trump, with help from the Republican-controlled Congress, has added more than $200 billion to the projected levels of defense spending for fiscal years 2017 through 2019 – a sum more than twice the size of Russia’s entire defense budget, which totalled an estimated at $69.2 billion in 2016. Washington’s projected military expenditures for fiscal year 2018 is set at $700 billion.

A fair part of that money apparently gets lost to wasteful spending and sloppy accounting. An internal audit leaked to the press in February found that a large Pentagon agency failed to properly keep track of more than $800 million in constructions projects. Plans for a full audit will set the department back another $367 million in 2018.

In 2016, it was reported that the Pentagon had intentionally buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste amid fears Congress would use the explosive findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget.

And while Pentagon officials beg for more money to counter Russian hypersonic technology, there seems to be plenty of cash – $1.4 trillion, to be exact – to pay for Lockheed Martin’s defect-riddled F-35.

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , | Leave a comment