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Pentagon Accuses Iran of Meddling in Iraqi Election

Sputnik – 16.03.2018

US Defense Secretary James Mattis accused Iran on Thursday of destabilizing Afghanistan and “mucking around in Iraq’s elections” by using money to sway the vote.

“We have worrisome evidence that Iran is trying to influence, using money, the Iraqi elections. That money is being used to sway candidates, to sway votes,” he told reporters.

The Pentagon chief, who was speaking after an unannounced trip to Afghanistan, said the US military believed the amount of money funneled by Iran to Iraq ahead of the May parliamentary polls was not “insignificant.”

He also suggested that the Iranian government was “doing things” in Afghanistan that were not helpful to US attempts to end the war there, although he did not give any details.

Iraq holds parliamentary election on May 12, with Haider al-Abadi seeking another term as prime minister.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 2 Comments

The Cult of Authority

By CJ Hopkins | CounterPunch | March 7, 2018

On a recent episode of “Intercepted,” Glenn Greenwald, James Risen, and Jeremy Scahill, three celebrity journalists employed by a billionaire to provide the masses with fearless, adversarial journalism, debated, for approximately fifty-seven minutes, whether Donald Trump might be guilty of treason. This debate was prompted by the negative response to Risen’s first investigative piece for The Intercept, “Is Donald Trump a Traitor?,” a lengthy rehashing of the official narrative the corporate ruling classes have been relentlessly disseminating for the last eighteen months. Dedicated readers of The Intercept had wondered aloud on social media how, exactly, this repetition of the evidence-free “Trump is a Putin Puppet” narrative qualified as fearlessly adversarial. Some had even gone so far as to suggest that Risen, a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism,had been a bit reckless, ethically speaking, in throwing around words like “treason” and “traitor,” and in allowing his status as a journalistic legend to lend further credence to the most ridiculous official propaganda campaign since the “Saddam is stockpiling WMDs for al Qaeda to attack America with” hoax.

In any event, The Intercept, its brand identity under attack, sprang into action and arranged this debate. Scahill and Risen were live in New York, possibly at First Look’s Fifth Avenue studios, with Greenwald participating remotely from his home in the mountains above Rio de Janiero. Following a solemn introduction by Scahill, and after kowtowing to each other at considerable length, Greenwald and Risen get down to the work of defining the word “treason.” This takes twenty minutes. They then move on to ascertaining whether Greenwald believes, and will admit on camera, that “Russia intervened” in the 2016 elections. Mercilessly pressed on this point by Risen, he finally confesses that he probably believes that the Russians likely “did some things.” This takes up another twenty minutes. The rest of the episode is dedicated to establishing that Greenwald is not a Trump-loving pinko (despite his occasional appearances on FOX), and that Risen agrees that the general public (not to mention fearless, adversarial journalists) should not just accept whatever intelligence agencies tell them without supporting evidence. Scahill then wraps up the episode by joking about Greenwald getting paid in rubles and Risen getting paid by the CIA, and noting how “interesting” it is to be a fearless, adversarial journalist at a serious operation like The Intercept, where extremely affluent, award-winning colleagues are allowed to respectfully disagree about whether the President of the United States should be tried and executed for treason because some Russians bought some Facebook ads and said mean things about Hillary Clinton.

I realize you’ll probably want to break off now and go watch this thrilling debate yourself, but bear with me for just another few minutes, because this essay isn’t really about the debate, or The Intercept, or even First Look Media. Believe it or not, I’m a fan of Glenn Greenwald, who is one of the very few celebrity journalists who has had the guts to consistently challenge the ridiculous “Russiagate” narrative from the start. And just because The Intercept is owned by a neoliberal oligarch who backed a fascist coup in the Ukraine, micro-financed a few Indians to death, and employs a personal security detail of ex-Secret Service agents and State Department types who will fly him to safety in his private jet in the event of imminent zombie apocalpyse, that doesn’t mean The Intercept staff doesn’t publish important investigative journalism.

No, what struck me as I was suffering through this debate was how utterly divorced from reality it was, whatever “reality” might mean anymore. Watching Greenwald, Risen, and Scahill sitting there, like rational people, “debating” whether Donald Trump might be part of some convoluted Russian conspiracy to destroy America and Western democracy, I felt like I was finally having one of those apocryphal LSD flashbacks. It was as if I was watching these respected journalists debating whether the face of Jesus may have actually appeared on a breakfast taco at a daycare center in Beeville, Texas.

Now, I mean no offense to The Intercept, or Jesus, or even breakfast tacos. I’m simply trying to point out how, after eighteen months of relentless repetition, we have all been barraged with so much ridiculous “Russiagate” and “Collusion” propaganda that it is almost impossible to step back from it enough to recognize how ridiculous it is. Fundamentally. The basic premise of the narrative. Imagine for a moment, if you can, that you had never heard about “Russiagate,” and listen to the story concept as if you were hearing it for the very first time. Ready? OK, here it comes … “Donald Trump conspired with Putin to brainwash Americans with Internet ads into electing him President of the United States so he could help the Russians take over the world!” How is this story concept any more credible than the one where a radical Jewish prophet who’s been dead for over two thousand years, but who rules the universe with his omnipotent father, appeared on a taco in Beeville, Texas?

Well … OK, I’ll tell you how it’s more credible. It’s credible because “authoritative sources” say it is credible, over and over, and treat it as a “serious” story, in spite of how blatantly ridiculous it is. It’s not just the corporate media that does this. It’s also fearless, adversarial, “authoritative” organizations like The Intercept. I wish there were a more sophisticated theory I could set forth to explain this phenomenon, but, sadly, it really is that simple.

In any authoritarian society, social group, culture, or … cult, those with the power can make up pretty much any official narrative they want and get the members of the group to believe it, or at least conform their behavior to it. The social hierarchy does all the work. Cults provide the clearest example. The leaders come up with some ludicrous narrative (e.g., Helter SkelterThe House of DavidBody Thetans from Outer SpaceTransubstantiation, et cetera) which is reified by the “inner circle,” who conform their behavior and speech to this narrative, and then pressure the outer members to do likewise. Gradually, everyone gets the message: if you don’t want to be excommunicated, you had better believe, or pretend to believe, the official narrative of the cult. It isn’t a question of deception, belief, gullibility, or even intelligence. It is a question of power, social pressure, and fear of ostracization and exile. Anyone invested in any type of social group that functions along authoritarian lines is susceptible to this type of pressure, regardless of how savvy or intelligent they are.

Which brings me back to The Intercept and this debate about whether Trump is a traitor. If you have an hour to kill, try this experiment. Watch the debate, ignore what they’re saying, and pay attention to how they say it and the effect that is generated by how they say it. (You can also do this with any mainstream media political debate-type show, but assuming you’re as predisposed as I am to identify with The Intercept’s brand, it will be more instructive if you use this debate). What you’ll be watching is a simulation of “seriousness,” “authoritativeness,” and “credibility,” and a demonstration of how “respectable” journalists discuss a “legitimate, newsworthy” story (as opposed to, you know, a conspiracy theory).

In other words, you will be watching a performance … a performance intended to convince its audience that (a) the nonsense being “debated” is a “serious” story worthy of debate by serious, grown-up, authoritative journalists, (b) that there exists such a creature as a “serious, grown-up authoritative journalist,” and (c) that these serious, grown-up journalists, and the “authoritative sources” they rub elbows with, inhabit an exclusive “authoritative” realm populated by “serious people” deserving of our trust and deference.

As it just so happens, in this authoritative realm, where serious people (a/k/a “grown-ups”) are dealing with “real,” “adult” type matters that are none of our business, and which we wouldn’t understand, everyone is extremely well-paid. That’s one way you can tell they are serious. That, and various other hallmarks of “seriousness” and “respectability,” like their overuse of a certain type of adjective (i.e., the type I’ve been having fun with in this essay), important-sounding but meaningless adjectives like “major,” “serious,” “authoritative,” “well-respected,” “legitimate,” and so on. “Serious” people use these adjectives to refer to other “serious” people, or the views or statements of other “serious” people. The more ridiculous the propaganda they are pressuring you to take seriously is, the more they tend to overuse these words. Most of them do not do this consciously. They do it instinctively. They do it out of fear of being excommunicated from the Cult of Authority.

Which might explain why The Intercept has brought a legend like Risen on board to report the ridiculous Russiagate story from the viewpoint of serious, authoritative people, i.e., to balance out Greenwald’s “collusion rejectionism.” After all, at this point, the only people who continue to doubt that Donald Trump is somehow in league with Vladimir Putin and his plot to dominate the entire world by brainwashing folks with Facebook ads are Russian bots, Nazis, traitors, and other such non-authoritative persons. Given all the money they’re paying their journalists, First Look Media can hardly afford to allow them to be confused with that lot. Before too long, they would find themselves deranked, and would be reduced to writing for nothing. And who could possibly take them seriously then?

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at or

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Progressive’ Journalists Jump the Shark on Russiagate

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | March 7, 2018

Russiagate’s sensationalist media coverage

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker and Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks are the latest progressives to jump on the anti-Trump, pro-Russiagate bandwagon. They have made it crystal clear that, in Mayer’s words, they are not going to let Republicans, or anyone else, “take down the whole intelligence community,” by God.

Odd? Nothing is too odd when it comes to spinning and dyeing the yarn of Russiagate; especially now that some strands are unraveling from the thin material of the “Steele dossier.”

Before the 2016 election, British ex-spy Christopher Steele was contracted (through a couple of cutouts) by the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee to dig up dirt on candidate Donald Trump. They paid him $168,000. They should ask for their money back.

Mayer and Uygur have now joined with other Trump-despisers and new “progressive” fans of the FBI and CIA – among them Amy Goodman and her go-to, lost-in-the-trees journalist, Marcy Wheeler of All of them (well, maybe not Cenk) are staying up nights with needle and thread trying to sew a silk purse out of the sow’s-ear dossier of Steele allegations and then dye it red for danger.

Monday brought a new low, with a truly extraordinary one-two punch by Mayer and Uygur.

A Damning Picture?

Mayer does her part in a New Yorker article, in which she – intentionally or not – cannot seem to see the forest for the trees.

In her article, Mayer explains up front that the Steele dossier “painted a damning picture of collusion between Trump and Russia,” and then goes on to portray him as a paragon of virtue with praise that is fulsome, in the full meaning of that word. For example, a friend of Steele told Mayer that regarding Steele, “Fairness, integrity, and truth, for him, trump any ideology.”

Now, if one refuses to accept this portrait on faith, then you are what Mayer describes as a “Trump defender.” According to Mayer, Trump defenders argue that Steele is “a dishonest Clinton apparatchik who had collaborated with American intelligence and law enforcement officials to fabricate false charges against Trump and his associates, in a dastardly (sic) attempt to nullify the 2016 election. According to this story line, it was not the President who needed to be investigated, but the investigators themselves.”

Can you imagine!

I could not help but think that Mayer wrote her piece some months ago and that she and her editors might have missed more recent documentary evidence that gives considerable support to that “dastardly” story line. But seriously, it should be possible to suspect Steele of misfeasance or malfeasance – or simply telling his contractors what he knows they want to hear – without being labeled a “Trump supporter.” I, for example, am no Trump supporter. I am, however, a former intelligence officer and I have long since concluded that what Steele served up is garbage.

Character References

Mayer reports that Richard Dearlove, head of MI6 from 1999 to 2004, described Steele as “superb.” Personally, I would shun any “recommendation” from that charlatan. Are memories so short? Dearlove was the intelligence chief who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 23, 2002 after a quick trip to Washington. The official minutes of that meeting were leaked to the London Times and published on May 1, 2005.

Dearlove explained to Blair that President George W. Bush had decided to attack Iraq for regime change and that the war was to be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.” Dearlove added matter-of-factly, “The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”

Another character reference Mayer gives for Steele is former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin (from 2000 to 2004) who, with his boss George Tenet, did the fixing of intelligence to “justify” the war on Iraq. State Department intelligence director at the time, Carl Ford, told the authors of “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War” that both McLaughlin and Tenet “should have been shot” for what they did.

And then there is CIA veteran spy John Sipher who, Mayer says, “ran the Agency’s Russia program before retiring, in 2014.” Sipher tells her he thinks the Steele dossier is “generally credible” in “saying what Russia might be up to.” Sipher may be a good case officer but he has shown himself to be something of a cipher on substance.

Worse still, he displays a distinct inclination toward the remarkable view of former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who has said that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever.” If Mayer wanted to find some ostensibly authoritative figure to endorse the kind of material in Steele’s dossier, she surely picked a good one in Sipher.

Mayer notes, “It’s too early to make a final judgment about how much of Steele’s dossier will be proved wrong, but a number of Steele’s major claims have been backed up by subsequent disclosures. She includes, as flat fact, his claim that the Kremlin and WikiLeaks were working together to release the DNC’s emails, but provides no evidence.

Major Holes

Mayer, however, should know better. There have been lots of holes in the accusation that the Russians hacked the DNC and gave the material to WikiLeaks to publish. Here’s one major gap we reported on Jan. 20, 2017: President Barack Obama told his last press conference on Jan. 18, that the U.S. intelligence community had no idea how the Democratic emails reached WikiLeaks.

Using lawyerly language, Obama admitted that “the conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.”

It is necessary to carefully parse Obama’s words since he prides himself in his oratorical constructs. He offered a similarly designed comment at a Dec. 16, 2016 press conference when he said: “based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC. … the information was in the hands of WikiLeaks.”

Note the disconnect between the confidence about hacking and the stark declarative sentence about the information ending up at WikiLeaks. Obama does not bridge the gap because to do so would be a bald-faced lie, which some honest intelligence officer might call him on. So, he simply presented the two sides of the chasm – implies a connection – but leaves it to the listener to make the leap.

It was, of course, WikiLeaks that published the very damaging Democratic information, for example, on the DNC’s dirty tricks that marginalized Sen. Bernie Sanders and ensured that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would win the Democratic nomination. What remained to be demonstrated was that it was “the Russians” who gave those emails to WikiLeaks. And that is what the U.S. intelligence community could not honestly say.

Saying it now, without evidence, does not make it true.

Cenk Also in Sync

Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks at once picked up, big time, on the part of Mayer’s article that homes in on an “astonishing” report from Steele in late November 2016 quoting one “senior Russian official.” According to that official, “The Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for secretary of state, Mitt Romney.” Steele’s late November memo alleged that the Kremlin had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions and cooperate on security issues like Syria.

Mayer commented, “As fantastical as the memo sounds, subsequent events could be said to support it.” Fantastical or not, Uygur decided to run with it. His amazing 12-minute video is titled: “New Steele Dossier: Putin PICKED Trump’s Secretary of State.” Uygur asks: “Who does Tillerson work for; and that also goes for the President.”

Return to Sanity

As an antidote to all the above, let me offer this cogent piece on the views of Joseph E. diGenova, who speaks out of his unique experience, including as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (the Church Committee). The article is entitled: “The Politicization of the FBI.”

“Over the past year,” diGenova wrote, “facts have emerged that suggest there was a plot by high-ranking FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in the Obama administration, acting under color of law, to exonerate Hillary Clinton of federal crimes and then, if she lost the election, to frame Donald Trump and his campaign for colluding with Russia to steal the presidency.”

He pointed out that nearly half of Americans, according to a CBS poll, believe that Mueller’s Trump-Russia collusion probe is “politically motivated.” And, he noted, 63 percent of polled voters in a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll believe that the FBI withheld vital information from Congress about the Clinton and Russia collusion investigations.

This skepticism is entirely warranted, as diGenova explains, with the Russiagate probe being characterized by overreach from the beginning.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served in Army and CIA intelligence analysis for 30 years and, after retiring, co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The NICA Act – What Is It and Why Should it be Opposed?

By John Perry | NicaNotes | February 28, 2018

NicaNotes: US Ambassador Laura Dagu reportedly has said that the Senate could vote on the NICA Act “any day now.” It is important that we let our Senators know that we oppose its passage and that the arguments for it are based on false premises.

John Perry provides below a comprehensive counter argument especially crafted to respond to points made by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a response to a constituent.

The Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act (NICA Act), was first introduced in the House of Representatives in July 2016 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) where it passed by unanimous consent but died in the Senate without hearings or a vote. Reintroduced and passed by the House by unanimous consent in 2017, the NICA Act would require the US’s representatives on a range of international lending institutions to vote against loans and grants to Nicaragua, until Nicaragua takes “effective steps to hold free, fair, and transparent elections.” The US has effective veto power in most of the multilateral lending institutions. The NICA Act goes on to make Nicaragua’s access to the international banking system also contingent on Nicaragua showing that it will “promote democracy, as well as an independent judiciary system and electoral council,” “strengthen the rule of law” and “respect the right to freedom of association and expression.” It does not define any of these terms but requires that the Secretary of State “certifies and reports to the appropriate congressional committees” that the requirements are being met.

Responding to Senator Patrick Leahy

Among those co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate are Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has a strong interest in Central American issues and has supported the drive to restore democracy in Honduras after a military coup and electoral fraud in that country. He has held up the disbursement of a percentage of US military aid to Guatemala and Honduras based on human rights violations.

Senator Leahy responded to a constituent who wrote to him to oppose the NICA Act, that he was concerned “… about basic human rights and accountable governance in Nicaragua, conditions for free and fair elections, and an independent judiciary, which currently do not exist in that country.” He wrote, “The Ortega government is known for its corrupt practices, control of the courts and the electoral commission, and abuse of human rights, and we should not support taxpayer funded loans to that government unless it is meeting basic requirements that benefit the Nicaraguan people.”

This paper looks at these arguments and also at the possible effects of the NICA Act if it were to be implemented.

Human Rights in Nicaragua

Anyone living in or visiting Nicaragua will attest to the fact that it is one of the safest countries in Latin America, with the lowest regional homicide rate, a police force regarded as a model in the region for its community-based policing, few if any violent gangs, effectiveness in tackling drug trafficking and the corruption often linked to it, respect for LGBT rights, absence of murders of political figures or journalists, absence of political prisoners and the presence of a free press. Those with knowledge of countries such as Guatemala and Honduras often also remark on the uninhibited political discussions that it is possible to have with ordinary Nicaraguans, who are not afraid to share their opinions and often do so vociferously, in contrast to neighbouring countries. The notion that their ‘human rights’ are being suppressed is not one that would be popularly recognised.

Freedom of Expression

Three main national newspapers publish independently, without any restrictions, two strongly opposing the current government while the third is more balanced. TV channels are owned both by opposition groups and by government-supporting groups and the former often contain programs critical of government policies or government figures. There have never been attempts to close down opposition TV channels. Unlike Honduras, there are no plans to censure social media and everyone has free access to internet in public spaces such as parks. Telecommunications, internet providers, etc. are all private companies.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Nicaragua 92 out of 180 countries for freedom of expression. It is true that it has fallen several places since its last assessment, but it is still well above nearby countries such as Panama, Honduras, Mexico and Colombia, as well as most of Africa and much of Asia. The argument that there is not a ‘free press’ is therefore without any justification.

There have been claims by opposition groups of repression of political demonstrations. While there have been clashes between police and protestors on some occasions, it is clear these often result from provocative acts by demonstrators. In any event – to take one example – one of the main groups protesting the construction of the planned interoceanic canal has been able to hold more than 80 demonstrations (even though its supporters often carry weapons such as machetes to the demonstrations). Criticisms of the government are commonly voiced in conversation and no one would take seriously any assertion that people are afraid to make their opinions known.

Other Aspects of Human Rights

Nicaragua is judged by the World Economic Forum to be one of the best countries in the world for gender equality, occupying 6th position out of 145 countries. It scores particularly highly in political empowerment, health and education. It has the fifth highest share of female parliamentarians in the world.

Nicaragua is also judged by the UN to rank 45th in the ‘world happiness index’ which assesses matters such as gross national product, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make choices, generosity and perceived corruption. Nicaragua was the country that made most progress in these indices in 2017, of 155 examined by the UN.

Domestic violence remains a considerable problem in Nicaragua but one that is being addressed by the Ministry of the Family, the police and the courts. Nicaragua has an incidence level of 0.29 on an international index of domestic violence, which is unsatisfactory but better than most other Latin American countries and better than the United States (0.35).

One region of Nicaragua remains problematic in human rights terms – part of the north-eastern corner of the country, bordering Honduras. There have been numerous deaths in the past few years in struggles for land rights between settlers from elsewhere in Nicaragua and indigenous communities. However in 2017 there was a considerable reduction in such deaths compared with 2015 and 2016.

Accountable Governance and Free and Fair Elections

It is important to note that support for the current government is high, consistently two-thirds or more of those questioned in independent polls by CID-Gallup, M&R Consultants, Borge Associates, etc. President Daniel Ortega and other government functionaries such as the head of police also maintain high levels of public support in such polls. Given the ineffectiveness of opposition political parties in developing any alternative program for governance, the fact that Ortega has twice been returned to power since 2007, should not be surprising.

The most recent, November 2017, elections were for municipalities – mayors, vice-mayors, and city councils. During the preparations for these elections Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was promoting the NICA Act because of the alleged inadequacy of the electoral arrangements. Yet the US government subsequently welcomed the ‘transparency’ that it considered had been brought to the elections by the presence of OAS observers. The OAS had 60 staff working in the country during the election period. Its report identified ‘weaknesses typical of all electoral processes’ that have “not affected substantially the popular will expressed through the vote.” The Nicaraguan government has accepted the criticisms and pledged to work with the OAS to continue to strengthen the institutionality and transparency of its electoral processes.


It is true that there are problems of corruption in Nicaragua, but it is far from evident that these are worse than many other Latin American countries. All of the neighbouring countries, from Mexico to Colombia, and including Costa Rica and Panama, have had well-publicized and recent incidents of corruption at high levels of government, as we have seen with the arrest and imprisonment of a former president in Guatemala, accusations of corruption in the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, and many others. The president of Costa Rica until 2014, Laura Chinchilla, is currently accused of 14 cases of corruption. As is well known, corruption is rife in Honduras and has required a special commission established by the OAS, the president of which resigned recently because of lack of co-operation from the Honduran government.

In Nicaragua, in contrast, any accusations of corruption are rarely accompanied by any detail from the accusers. One recent exception is the allegations against Roberto Rivas, president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), who was sanctioned by the US government in December. In response to concerns, in February the Nicaraguan government removed the majority of Rivas’ functions as head of the CSE and handed them to his deputy.

An example of positive action by Nicaragua against corruption is in measures to tackle money laundering. Nicaragua is regularly assessed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international body which monitors each country’s efforts to tackle money laundering and financing of terrorism. Until two years ago, Nicaragua was on the FATF’s list of ‘high risk’ countries. However at that point it was removed from the FATF ‘high risk’ list, because it is co-operating with international bodies in strengthening its controls against money laundering. The last report on the Nicaraguan economy from the IMF recognized the advances made against money laundering and called on the government to continue the efforts it is making in this respect.

Independent Judiciary

Nicaragua recognizes that there are problems of corruption in the judiciary and has a program to tackle this systematically by removing judges who are proved to be corrupt. Judges are nominated by the President and elected by the National Assembly in a process similar to the United States and most Western democracies. Given that the Sandinista party has been in power for over 10 years, it is simply a function of democracy that most judicial officials lean toward Sandinismo just as it was logical that from 1990-2007 very few judges were Sandinista sympathizers.

Meeting Basic Requirements that Benefit the Nicaraguan People

Senator Leahy stated that the Nicaraguan government is not “meeting basic requirements that benefit the Nicaraguan people,” a statement that just does not conform to independent reports of social and economic progress. These advances since 2007 when Ortega returned to the presidency include:

• Being the first country to meet the UN Millennial Development Goals for tackling malnutrition, for which it was praised by the UN.

• Halving levels of poverty and extreme poverty. Between 2009 and 2014, the general poverty rate fell from 42.5% to 29.6% and has since fallen further.

• Being declared a country that is ‘illiteracy free’ by UNESCO.

• Achieving progress on the UN Human Development Index so that it now ranks above Honduras and Guatemala and has a longer life expectancy than either of these countries or El Salvador. Its gender development index is higher than Mexico’s – a far wealthier country.

• Rebuilding many hospitals and ensuring all cities and neighborhoods have access to free health services, including 24-hour health centres as well as public hospitals in many areas.

• Having water and sanitation plans that have substantially increased coverage, leading to the achievement of the corresponding Millennium Development Goals.

• Becoming one of the safest countries in the hemisphere, because of its low levels of violent crime.

• Addressing issues of energy shortages and over dependence on fossil fuels – having inherited a situation in which over 80% of electricity was generated from bunker fuel, the Ortega government has turned Nicaragua into what the World Bank calls “a renewable energy paradise”, reaching 54% of generation from renewables in 2017 and having a goal to reach 90% by 2020. It has also extended electricity coverage from only half the population in 1990 to 94% at the start of 2018.

One outcome of these huge achievements is that – in contrast to the ‘northern triangle’ countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – Nicaragua produces only a very small proportion of the thousands of undocumented migrants who travel north to Mexico and the US.

Use of International Loans

Nicaragua has access to finance from a number of international institutions which could be ended if the NICA Act were approved and then enforced. The principal institutions are the World Bank and its associated institutions, the IMF, and the Inter-American Development Bank. All three of these have expressed recent satisfaction with the ways in which Nicaragua has spent the finance provided – there have been no allegations of corruption or misuse of funds by these bodies. The IMF has also expressed its concern about the effect on Nicaragua of the NICA Act, if implemented.

Here are examples of how projects benefitting ordinary Nicaraguans would suffer if the NICA Act were enforced and these loans were stopped, and the current attitudes of the World Bank and IDB towards the government of Nicaragua.

World Bank (and International Development Association)

A current, multi-faceted World Bank project improves access to health services and water supply and strengthens land rights. Here are some results reported by the Bank:

• Through “casas maternas,” or maternity waiting homes, maternal and infant health has improved: from 2012 to 2015, the percentage of pregnant women receiving four prenatal controls increased from 50 to 73; institutional deliveries increased from 72 percent to 87 percent; and the percentage of children immunized with the Pentavalent vaccine increased from 88 to 98 in targeted municipal health networks.

• Land rights have been strengthened, benefitting 15 of Nicaragua’s 21 indigenous territories in the historically marginalized Atlantic regions. From 2005 to 2013, through the Land Administration Project (PRODEP), over 104,000 people from 214 communities in five major ethnic groups benefited; 18 percent of the national territory was registered and titled with support of the project.

• From 2009 to 2015, over 168,000 beneficiaries of the Greater Managua Water and Sanitation (PRASMA) Project gained access to reliable water supply and more than 62,000 gained access to sanitation services. In rural areas, from 2008 to 2015, more than 68,000 beneficiaries from the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (PRASNICA) gained access to water supply and sanitation services.

The World Bank has commented on the “efficient division of labor among key development partners” and “the satisfactory pace of implementation” of its projects in Nicaragua. It has praised Nicaragua’s “disciplined macroeconomic policies” enabling it “to shift from crisis control mode to longer-term, pioneering strategies to fight poverty, particularly in remote rural communities.”

Inter-American Development Bank

The IDB currently has over $1 billion of development loans with Nicaragua, including:

• A $133 million loan to improve healthcare in Nicaragua’s ‘Dry Corridor’ (the departments of Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Esteli, Matagalpa and Jinotega). It will fund construction, certification and equipment of hospitals, health centers, health posts and maternity waiting homes as well as actions to improve service quality and train Health Ministry staff members.

• A project supported by the Gates Foundation, aimed at ending malaria in Central America.

• A recently approved $72 million loan to improve access to potable water and basic sanitation in 11 cities in various departments and in the capital, Managua.

The IDB, in a 2015 report, analysed Latin American countries’ institutional capabilities to implement effective, efficient, and transparent public administration. It reported that the governments with the lowest scores on the MfDR in 2007, which included Nicaragua, had taken “significant steps to improve their national public administration systems.” Together with Nicaragua, there were eight other countries achieving “substantial progress” whereas in 15 others progress was only “fair.”

Potential Effects of the NICA Act

The NICA Act could halt financing of the kinds set out above which are usually on ‘soft loan’ terms, with extended pay-back periods and low interest rates.

All of the projects financed by the international bodies on which the US is represented are engaged in poverty-alleviation in some form, in a country which – despite the advances it has made – is still the 2nd or 3rd poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

Furthermore, action by the US may well have a knock-on effect on similar financing by European bodies, such as the EU. The effects would not be felt by Nicaragua’s political classes, but by the poor majority of the population that such projects benefit.

The United States would, arguably, also be acting against its own interests by implementing the NICA Act, for numerous reasons:

• The US has been party to the favorable opinions given by all the main international bodies on the way Nicaragua uses the finance that is provided, with no suggestions of money being diverted for other uses or used corruptly. Its action will therefore be seen as hypocritical, and contrary to the evidence gathered by bodies of which it is an influential member.

• If the drive to reduce poverty were to be drastically affected by the NICA Act, then migration may well increase. As noted above, Nicaraguans contribute little to the undocumented migration that takes place from Central America to the US: this could well change.

• If the US and international bodies “pull out of” Nicaragua, the way is open for it to receive more bilateral help from Asian countries, notably China, Taiwan and Japan, and from Russia. The US would undoubtedly lose influence in its neighbouring region of Central America.

• By singling out Nicaragua for sanctioning via international bodies, the US would be seen as making a political act against a left-of-center government with which it disagrees, especially as the grounds for taking the action are so subjective and difficult to justify, and the action which Nicaragua must take to escape sanctions is vaguely defined and (effectively) at the complete discretion of the Trump administration.

• Practically all Nicaraguan families were damaged in some way by the horrendous Contra War, illegally financed and supported by the US, which ended only 27 years ago. The US has refused to pay reparations for this war, despite being ordered to do so by the International Court of Justice in The Hague (World Court). It resumed its hostility to the Sandinistas and has questioned their electoral success ever since they returned to power in 2007. The NICA Act will be judged as part of a long history of the US undermining the 1979 revolution and the advances made by Nicaraguans over the past 39 years.

Finally, every opinion poll or political analysis of responses in Nicaragua to the NICA Act shows that it is strongly opposed, not only (as would be expected) by the government but by public opinion, NGOs, the private sector, financial institutions, most other political parties, the churches, etc. It is clear that the Act will be self-defeating – it will not be received positively in Nicaragua itself, but will be seen as yet more hostile interference by the US in Nicaragua’s legitimate attempts to reduce poverty and develop economically and socially, with the assistance of international bodies. In effect, the United States will be seen as attacking the poorest people in a neighboring country as a simple act of political vindictiveness.

Contact Your US Representatives to Stop the Nica Act!

(And encourage your friends to as well!)

John Perry lives and works in Masaya, Nicaragua, is a member of the UK Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign and blogs at

March 1, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons learned from ‘Republic of NGOs’

By Yves Engler · February 25, 2018

Imagine living in a country where the entire social services sector is privatized, run by “charities” that are based in other countries and staffed by foreigners who get to decide whether or not you qualify for assistance.

Welcome to Haiti, the “Republic of NGOs.”

As salacious details about Oxfam officials hiring Haitian girls for sex make headlines, the media has downplayed NGOs lack of accountability to those they purportedly serve. Even less attention has been devoted to the role so-called non-governmental organizations have played in undermining the Haitian state and advancing wealthy countries’ interests.

According to a series of news reports, Oxfam UK’s Haiti director hired prostitutes and organized orgies at a charity run villa set up after the devastating 2010 earthquake. Some of the girls may have been as young as 14 and Oxfam representatives traded aid for sex. Oxfam UK leaders tried to keep the issue quiet when it emerged in 2011, which enabled a number of the perpetrators to join other NGOs operating internationally.

Since the earthquake there have been innumerable stories of NGOs abusing their power or pillaging funds raised for Haitians. In an extreme case, the US Red Cross built only six houses with the $500 million they raised for Haiti after the earthquake.

While impoverished Haitians get short shrift, NGOs respond to the interests of their benefactors. After the UN occupation force brought cholera to Haiti in October 2010, Oxfam and other NGOs defended the Washington-France–Canada instigated MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti). In response to Haitians protesting the UN’s role in the cholera outbreak, Oxfam spokeswoman Julie Schindall, told the Guardian “if the country explodes in violence, then we will not be able to reach the people we need to.” At the same time Médecins Sans Frontières’ head of mission in Port-au-Prince, Stefano Zannini, told Montreal daily La Presse,our position is pragmatic: to have learnt the source at the beginning of the epidemic would not have saved more lives. To know today would have no impact either.”

Of course that was nonsense. Confirming the source of the cholera was medically necessary. At the time of these statements UN forces were still disposing their sewage in a way that put Haitian life at risk. Protesting UN actions was a way to pressure MINUSTAH to stop their reckless sewage disposal and generate the resources needed to deal with a cholera outbreak that left 10,000 dead and one million ill.

Worse than deflecting criticism of the UN’s responsibility for the cholera outbreak, NGOs put a progressive face on the invasion/coup that initiated MINUSTAH. Incredibly, many NGOs justified US Marines taking an elected President from his home in the middle of the night and dumping him 10,000 km away in the Central African Republic. On March 25, 2004 Oxfam Québec and a half dozen other Canadian government-funded NGOs defended Canada’s (military, diplomatic and financial) role in the ouster of thousands of elected officials, including President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. Marthe Lapierre of Development and Peace stated: “We’re not talking about a situation where a rebel group suddenly orchestrated Aristide’s departure. We’re talking about a situation where the Aristide government, since 2000, had gradually lost all legitimacy because of involvement in activities such as serious human rights violations and drug trafficking, but also because it was a profoundly undemocratic government.” Oxfam Québec regional director Carlos Arancibia concurred: “I fully agree with the analysis presented by others. It’s important to understand that things went off the rails starting in the year 2000, with the election.”

(After they lost the May 2000 legislative elections the opposition claimed that the electoral Council should have used a different voting method, which would have forced eight Senate seats to a runoff. Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party would likely have won the runoff votes, but the US/Canada backed opposition used the issue to justify boycotting the November 2000 presidential election, which they had zero chance of winning. For its part, Washington used the election dispute to justify blocking aid to the country. Even without the disputed senators, Fanmi Lavalas still had a majority in the senate and even when seven of the eight Lavalas senators resigned the aid embargo and effort to discredit the elections continued.)

At the time of the coup most of Haiti’s social services were run by NGOs. A Canadian International Development Agency report stated that by 2004, “non-governmental actors (for-profit and not-for-profit) provided almost 80 percent of [Haiti’s] basic services.” Amongst other donor countries, the Canadian government channelled its “development assistance” through NGOs to shape the country’s politics. According to CIDA, “supporting non-governmental actors contributed to the creation of parallel systems of service delivery. … In Haiti’s case, these actors [NGOs] were used as a way to circumvent the frustration of working with the government … this contributed to the establishment of parallel systems of service delivery, eroding legitimacy, capacity and will of the state to deliver key services.” As intended, funding NGOs weakened the Aristide/René Préval/Aristide governments and strengthened the US/France/Canada’s hand.

Highly dependent on western government funding and political support, NGOs broadly advanced their interests.

The Oxfam “sex scandal” should shine a light on the immense, largely unaccountable, power NGOs continue to wield over Haitian affairs. In a decent world it would also be a lesson in how not to use “aid” to undermine democracy.

February 26, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

The Mueller Indictments: The Day the Music Died

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | February 24, 2018

Fads and scandals often follow a set trajectory. They grow big, bigger, and then, finally, too big, at which point they topple over and collapse under the weight of their own internal contradictions. This was the fate of the “Me too” campaign, which started out as an exposé of serial abuser Harvey Weinstein but then went too far when published a story about one woman’s bad date with comedian Aziz Ansari.  Suddenly, it became clear that different types of behavior were being lumped together in a dangerous way, and a once-explosive movement began to fizzle.

So, too, with Russiagate. After dominating the news for more than a year, the scandal may have at last reached a tipping point with last week’s indictment of thirteen Russian individuals and three Russian corporations on charges of illegal interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. But the indictment landed with a decided thud for three reasons:

—  It failed to connect the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the alleged St. Petersburg troll factory accused of political meddling, with Vladimir Putin, the all-purpose evil-doer who the corporate media say is out to destroy American democracy.

—  It similarly failed to establish a connection with the Trump campaign and indeed went out of its way to describe contacts with the Russians as “unwitting.”

—  It described the meddling itself as even more inept and amateurish than many had suspected.

After nine months of labor, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller thus brought forth a mouse. Even if all the charges are true – something we’ll probably never know since it’s unlikely that any of the accused will be brought to trial – the indictment tells us virtually nothing that’s new.

Yes, IRA staffers purchased $100,000 worth of Facebook ads, 56 percent of which ran after Election Day. Yes, they persuaded someone in Florida to dress up as Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform and stand inside a cage mounted on a flatbed truck. And, yes, they also got another “real U.S. person,” as the indictment terms it, to stand in front of the White House with a sign saying, “Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss,” a tribute, apparently, to IRA founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the convicted robber turned caterer whose birthday was three days away. Instead of a super-sophisticated spying operation, the indictment depicts a bumbling freelance operation that is still giving Putin heartburn months after the fact.

Not that this has stopped the media from whipping itself into a frenzy. “Russia is at war with our democracy,” screamed a headline in the Washington Post. “Trump is ignoring the worst attack on America since 9/11,” blared another.  “… Russia is engaged in a virtual war against the United States through 21st-century tools of disinformation and propaganda,” declared the New York Times, while Daily Beast columnist Jonathan Alter tweeted that the IRA’s activities amounted to nothing less than a “tech Pearl Harbor.”

All of which merely demonstrates, in proper backhanded fashion, how grievously Mueller has fallen short.  Proof that the scandal had at last overstayed its welcome came five days later when the Guardian, a website that had previously flogged Russiagate even more vigorously than the Post, the Times, or CNN, published a news analysis by Cas Mudde, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, admitting that it was all a farce – and a particularly self-defeating one at that.

Mudde’s article made short work of hollow pieties about a neutral and objective investigation. Rather than an effort to get at the truth, Russiagate was a thinly-veiled effort at regime change. “[I]n the end,” he wrote, “the only question everyone really seems to care about is whether Donald Trump was involved – and can therefore be impeached for treason.

With last week’s indictment, the article went on, “Democratic party leaders once again reassured their followers that this was the next logical step in the inevitable downfall of Trump.” The more Democrats play the Russiagate card, in other words, the nearer they will come to their goal of riding the Orange-Haired One out of town on a rail.

This makes the Dems seem crass, unscrupulous, and none too democratic. But then Mudde gave the knife a twist. The real trouble with the strategy, he said, is that it isn’t working:

“While there is no doubt that the Trump camp was, and still is, filled with amoral and fraudulent people, and was very happy to take the Russians help during the elections, even encouraging it on the campaign, I do not think Mueller will be able to find conclusive evidence that Donald Trump himself colluded with Putin’s Russia to win the elections. And that is the only thing that will lead to his impeachment as the Republican party is not risking political suicide for anything less.”

Other Objectives of “Russiagate”

No collusion means no impeachment and hence no anti-Trump “color revolution” of the sort that was so effective in Georgia or the Ukraine. Moreover, while 53 percent of Americans believe that investigating Russiagate should be a top or at least an important priority according to a recent poll, figures for a half-dozen other issues ranging from Medicare and Social Security reform to tax policy, healthcare, infrastructure, and immigration are actually a good deal higher – 67 percent, 72 percent, or even more.

Summed up Mudde: “… the Russia-Trump collusion story might be the talk of the town in Washington, but this is not the case in much of the rest of the country.” Out in flyover country, rather, Americans can’t figure out why the political elite is more concerned with a nonexistent scandal than with things that really count, i.e. de-industrialization, infrastructure decay, the opioid epidemic, and school shootings. As society disintegrates, the only thing Democrats have accomplished with all their blathering about Russkis under the bed is to demonstrate just how cut off from the real world they are.

But Russiagate is not just about regime change, but other things as well. One is repression. Where once Democrats would have laughed off Russian trolls and the like, they’re now obsessed with making a mountain out of a molehill in order to enforce mainstream opinion and marginalize ideas and opinions suspected of being un-American and hence pro-Russian. If the RT (Russia Today) news network is now suspect – the Times described it not long ago as  “the slickly produced heart of a broad, often covert disinformation campaign designed to sow doubt about democratic institutions and destabilize the West” – then why not the BBC or Agence France-Presse ? How long until foreign books are banned or foreign musicians?

“I’m actually surprised I haven’t been indicted,” tweets Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky. “I’m Russian, I was in the U.S. in 2016 and I published columns critical of both Clinton and Trump w/o registering as a foreign agent.” When the Times complains that Facebook “still sees itself as the bank that got robbed, rather than the architect who designed a bank with no safes, and no alarms or locks on the doors, and then acted surprised when burglars struck,” then it’s clear that the goal is to force Facebook to rein in its activities or stand by and watch as others do so instead.

Add to this the classic moral panic promoted by #MeToo – to believe charges of sexual harassment and assault without first demanding evidence “is to disbelieve, and deny due process to, the accused,” notes Judith Levine in the Boston Review – and it’s clear that a powerful wave of cultural conservatism is crashing down on the United States, much of it originating in a classic neoliberal-Hillaryite milieu. Formerly the liberal alternative, the Democratic Party is now passing the Republicans on the right.

But Russiagate is about something else as well: war. As National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster warns that the “time is now” to act against Iran, the New York Times slams Trump for not imposing sanctions on Moscow, and a spooky “Nuclear Posture Review” suggests that the US might someday respond to a cyber attack with atomic weapons, it’s plain that Washington is itching for a showdown that will somehow undo the mistakes of the previous administration. The more Trump drags his feet, the more Democrats conclude that a war drive is the best way to bring him to his knees.

Thus, low-grade political interference is elevated into a casus belli while Vladimir Putin is portrayed as a supernatural villain straight out of Harry Potter. But where does it stop? Libya has been set back decades, Syria, the subject of yet another US regime-change effort, has been all but destroyed, while Yemen – which America helps Saudi Arabia bomb virtually around the clock – is now a disaster area with some 9,000 people killed, 50,000 injured, a million-plus cholera cases, and more than half of all hospitals and clinics destroyed.

The more Democrats pound the war drums, the more death and destruction will ensue. The process is well underway in Syria, the victim of Israeli bombings and a US-Turkish invasion, and it will undoubtedly spread as Dems turn up the heat. If the pathetic pseudo-scandal known as Russiagate really is collapsing under its own weight, then it’s not a moment too soon.

Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).

February 24, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Is Sweden complicit in Saudi war on Yemen?

Press TV – February 21, 2018

Last year, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström told a conference that the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Yemen was one that “has far too long been neglected and forgotten by the global community” and what Yemeni people were going through was “difficult to imagine.”

It is such statements that, besides leading various international peace efforts to help resolve major conflicts across the globe, including Saudi Arabia’s deadly war on Yemen, have helped Sweden establish the image of a peace-loving country that cares for others.

However, a steady rise in the Scandinavian country’s weapons business over the past years, including its major dealings with repressive Arab regimes in the Persian Gulf region, has cast doubt on Stockholm’s true intentions.

In fact the rise has been so fast that according to official data by the US government, Sweden is now the world’s third largest weapons producer per capita, closely following Russia and Switzerland while overtaking France, Britain and the US.

At the heart of Sweden’s weapons industry is Saab, a company that sold over $2.7 billion worth of weapons in 2016 alone, making its way into the world’s top 30 arms producing companies according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Over the recent years, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have become some of the main customers for Swedish-made weapons.

Svenska Freds, a 135-years-old Swedish anti-militarization group, charges that Stockholm has been providing Riyadh with weapons since 1998, with a brief suspension in 2015 following a diplomatic row between the two countries.

The larger chunk of the trade has taken over in the past eight years. According to Svenska Freds, the arms sales to Saudi Arabia reportedly approached six billion Swedish kronor ($741mn) between 2010 and 2016.

That means the arms deals between the two sides have continued throughout Saudi Arabia’s deadly war on Yemen, which began in March 2015 and has killed nearly 14,000 Yemeni civilians.

The UAE, another Saudi ally in the bloody war, was able to secure a larger deal in 2016, when the Swedish administrative authority, the National Inspectorate of Strategic Products, authorized 11 billion Swedish kronor ($1.3bn) in arms sales to the Arab country.

Before that, the country had sold 2.1 billion kronor ($272mn) in weapons sales to the UAE.

In a move that further proved Sweden’s desire to expand military ties with repressive Arab regimes, Saab opened a new office in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi in late 2017.

Lawmakers in the Swedish parliament have time and again criticized the government’s arms deals with the Saudi-led coalition.

While Foreign Minister Margot Walltröm has pledged to introduce measures that would limit the exports later this year, there are no signs that Stockholm is willing to end the profitable business anytime soon.

February 21, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Lifting of US Propaganda Ban Gives New Meaning to Old Song

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan discuss allegations of Russian influence in presidential elections (CNN Screenshot)
By Whitney Webb – Mint Press News – February 12, 2018

Though its ostensible purpose is to fund the US military over a one year period, the National Defense Authorization Act, better known as the NDAA, has had numerous provisions tucked into it over the years that have targeted American civil liberties. The most well-known of these include allowing the government to wiretap American citizens without a warrant and, even more disturbingly, indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charge in the name of “national security.”

One of the lesser-known provisions that have snuck their way into the NDAA over the years was a small piece of legislation tacked onto the NDAA for fiscal year 2013, signed into law in that same year by then-President Barack Obama. Named “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012,” it completely lifted the long-existing ban on the domestic dissemination of US government-produced propaganda.

For decades, the US government had been allowed to produce and disseminate propaganda abroad in order to drum up support for its foreign wars but had been banned from distributing it domestically after the passage of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. However, the Modernization Act’s co-authors, Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA, no relation to the Smith of the 1948 act), asserted that removing the domestic ban was necessary in order to combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among populations.”

Thornberry stated that removing the ban was necessary because it had tied “the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others, by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.” Yet, given that Thornberry is one of the greatest beneficiaries of weapon manufacturers’ campaign contributions, the real intent — to skeptics at least — seemed more likely related to an effort to ramp up domestic support for US military adventurism abroad following the disastrous invasions of Iraq and Libya.

Five years later, the effects of the lifting of the ban have turned what was once covert manipulation of the media by the government into a transparent “revolving door” between the media and the government. Robbie Martin — documentary filmmaker and media analyst whose documentary series,  “A Very Heavy Agenda,” explores the relationships between neoconservative think tanks and media — told MintPress, that this revolving door “has never been more clear than it is right now” as a result of the ban’s absence.

In the age of legal, weaponized propaganda directed at the American people, false narratives have become so commonplace in the mainstream and even alternative media that these falsehoods have essentially become normalized, leading to the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”

Those who create such news, regardless of the damage it causes or the demonstrably false nature of its claims, face little to no accountability, as long as those lies are of service to US interests. Meanwhile, media outlets that provide dissenting perspectives are being silenced at an alarming rate.

The effects of lifting the ban examined

Since 2013, newsrooms across the country, of both the mainstream and “alternative” variety, have been notably skewed towards the official government narrative, with few outside a handful of independently-funded media outlets bothering to question those narratives’ veracity. While this has long been a reality for the Western media (see John Pilger’s 2011 documentary “The War You Don’t See”), the use of government-approved narratives and sources from government-funded groups have become much more overt than in years past.

From Syria to Ukraine, US-backed coups and US-driven conflicts have been painted as locally driven movements that desperately need US support in order to “help” the citizens of those countries — even though that “help” has led to the near destruction of those countries and, in the case of  Ukraine, an attempted genocide. In these cases, many of the sources were organizations funded directly by the US government or allied governments, such as the White Helmets and Aleppo Media Centre (largely funded by the US and U.K. governments) in the case of Syria, and pro-Kiev journalists with Nazi ties (including Bogdan Boutkevitch, who called for the “extermination” of Ukrainians of Russian descent on live TV) in the case of Ukraine, among other examples. Such glaring conflicts of interests are, however, rarely — if ever — disclosed when referenced in these reports.

More recently, North Korea has been painted as presenting an imminent threat to the United States. Recent reports on this “threat” have been based on classified intelligence reports that claim that North Korea can produce a new nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks, including a recent article from the New York Times. However, those same reports have admitted that this claim is purely speculative, as it is “impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago.” In other words, the article was based entirely on unverified claims from the US intelligence community that were treated as compelling.

As Martin told MintPress, many of these government-friendly narratives first began at US-funded media organizations overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) — an extension of the US state department.

Martin noted that US-funded media, like Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE), were among the first to use a State Department-influenced narrative aimed at “inflaming hostilities with Russia before it soaked into mainstream reporting.” Of course, now, this narrative — with its origins in the US State Department and US intelligence community — has come to dominate headlines in the corporate media and even some “alternative” media outlets in the wake of the 2016 US election.

This is no coincidence. As Martin noted, “after the ban was lifted, things changed drastically here in the United States,” resulting in what was tantamount to a “propaganda media coup” where the State Department, and other government agencies that had earlier shaped the narrative at the BBG, used their influence on mainstream media outlets to shape those narratives as well.

A key example of this, as Martin pointed out, was the influence of the new think-tank “The Alliance for Securing Democracy,” whose advisory council and staff are loaded with neocons, such as the National Review’s Bill Kristol, and former US intelligence and State Department officials like former CIA Director Michael Morell. The Alliance for Securing Democracy’s Russia-focused offshoot, “Hamilton 68,” is frequently cited by media outlets — mainstream and alternative — as an impartial, reliable tracker of Russian “meddling” efforts on social media.

Martin remarked that he had “never seen a think tank before have such a great influence over the media so quickly,” noting that it “would have been hard to see [such influence on reporters] without the lifting of the ban,” especially given the fact that media organizations that cite Hamilton 68 do not mention its ties to former government officials and neoconservatives.

In addition, using VOA or other BBG-funded media has become much more common than it was prior to the ban, an indication that state-crafted information originally intended for a foreign audience is now being used domestically. Martin noted that this has become particularly common at some “pseudo-alternative” media organizations — i.e., formerly independent media outlets that now enjoy corporate funding. Among these, Martin made the case that VICE News stands out.

After the propaganda ban was lifted, Martin noticed that VICE’s citations of BBG sources “spiked.” He continued:

One of the things I immediately noticed was that they [VICE news ] were so quick to call out other countries’ media outlets, but yet — in every instance I looked up of them citing BBG sources — they never mentioned where the funding came from or what it was and they would very briefly mention it [information from BBG sources] like these were any other media outlets.”

He added that, in many of these cases, journalists at VICE were unaware that references to VOA or other BBG sources appeared in their articles. This was an indication that “there is some editorial staff [at VICE News ] that is putting this in from the top down.”

Furthermore, Martin noted that, soon after the ban was lifted, “VICE’s coverage mirrored the type of coverage that BBG was doing across the world in general,” which in Martin’s view indicated “there was definitely some coordination between the State Department and VICE.” This coordination was also intimated by BBG’s overwhelmingly positive opinion of VICE in their auditing reports, in which the BBG “seemed more excited about VICE than any other media outlet” — especially since VICE was able to use BBG organizations as sources while maintaining its reputation as a “rebel” media outlet.

Martin notes that these troubling trends have been greatly enabled by the lifting of the ban. He opined that the ban was likely lifted “in case someone’s cover [in spreading government propaganda disguised as journalism] was blown,” in which case “it wouldn’t be seen as illegal.” He continued:

For example, if a CIA agent at the Washington Post is directly piping in US government propaganda or a reporter is working the US government to pipe in propaganda, it wouldn’t be seen as a violation of the law. Even though it could have happened before the ban, it’s under more legal protection now.

Under normal circumstances, failing to disclose conflicts of interests of key sources and failing to question government narratives would be considered acts of journalistic malpractice. However, in the age of legal propaganda, this dereliction matters much less. Propaganda is not intended to be factual or impartial — it is intended to serve a specific purpose, namely influencing public opinion in a way that serves US government interests. As Karl Rove, the former advisor and deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush, once said, the US “is an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” This “reality” is defined not by facts but by its service to empire.

Meanwhile, counter-narratives, however fact-based they may be, are simultaneously derided as conspiracy theories or “fake news,” especially if they question or go against government narratives.

The revolving door

Another major consequence of the ban being lifted goes a step further than merely influencing narratives. In recent years, there has been the growing trend of hiring former government officials, including former US intelligence directors and other psyops veterans, in positions once reserved for journalists. In their new capacity as talking heads on mainstream media reports, they repeat the stance of the US intelligence community to millions of Americans, with their statements and views unchallenged.

For instance, last year, CNN hired former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper, a key architect of RussiaGate, has committed perjury by lying to Congress and more recently lied about the Trump campaign being wiretapped through a FISA request. He has also made racist, Russophobic comments on national television. Now, however, he is an expert analyst for “the most trusted name in news.” CNN last year also hired Michael Hayden, who is a former Director of both the CIA and the NSA, and former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.

CNN isn’t alone. NBC/MSNBC recently hired former CIA director John Brennan — another key architect of RussiaGate and the man who greenlighted (and lied about) CIA spying on Congress — as a contributor and “senior national security and intelligence analyst.” NBC also employs Jeremy Bash, former CIA and DoD Chief of Staff, as a national security analyst, as well as reporter Ken Dilanian, who is known for his “collaborative relationship” with the CIA.

This “revolving door” doesn’t stop there. After the BBG was restructured by the 2016 NDAA, the “board” for which the organization was named was dissolved, making BBG’s CEO — a presidential appointee — all powerful. BBG’s current CEO is John Lansing, who – prior to taking the top post at the BBG – was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), a marketing association comprised of 90 of the top US and Canadian cable companies and television programmers. Lansing’s connection to US cable news companies is just one example of how this revolving door opens both ways.

Media-government coordination out of the shadows

Such collusion between mainstream media and the US government is hardly new. It has only become more overt since the Smith-Mundt ban was lifted.

For instance, the CIA, through Operation Mockingbird, started recruiting mainstream journalists and media outlets as far back as the 1960s in order to covertly influence the American public by disguising propaganda as news. The CIA even worked with top journalism schools to change their curricula in order to produce a new generation of journalists that would better suit the US government’s interests. Yet the CIA effort to manipulate the media was born out of the longstanding view in government that influencing the American public through propaganda was not only useful, but necessary.

Indeed, Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, who also worked closely with the government in the creation and dissemination of propaganda, once wrote:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

While this was once an “invisible” phenomenon, it is quickly becoming more obvious. Now, Silicon Valley oligarchs with ties to the US government have bought mainstream and pseudo-alternative media outlets and former CIA directors are given prominent analyst positions on cable news programs. The goal is to manufacture support at home for the US’ numerous conflicts around the world, which are only likely to grow as the Pentagon takes aim at “competing states” like Russia and China in an increasingly desperate protection of American hegemony.

With the propaganda ban now a relic, the once-covert propaganda machine long used to justify war after war is now operating out in the open and out of control.

February 13, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s really behind America’s objections to Trump’s military parade

By Finian Cunningham | RT | February 9, 2018

President Donald Trump’s plan to stage a mega military parade in the American capital provoked a broad swath of opposition, from conservatives and liberals alike.

Part of the objection, however, seems to stem from an unspoken embarrassment – that such a military display shatters American democratic pretensions, at home and around the world.

Surprisingly for a nation that repeatedly boasts about having the most powerful military force on the planet – and, indeed, ever in the whole of recorded history – there was scant enthusiasm this week for Trump’s reported proposal for a full-scale military parade to be held later this year along Washington DC’s Pennsylvania Avenue.

Planning details are still in the works for the proposed event, which is only being sketchily discussed at this time, and may not even materialize.

Trump is said to have been wowed by the military procession he attended in Paris last July on France’s annual Bastille Day. Ever since then the American president has been prodding his aides to stage a similar martial spectacle in the US.

America’s Independence Day on July 4 or Veterans Day on November 11 have been suggested as possible dates to hold the event, which would see columns of troops and weapons filing down the iconic avenue stretching from the Congressional government building on Capitol Hill and the president’s White House residence.

The New York Times reported with a tone of misgiving: “Tanks, jets and other killing machines painted olive-drab and tan could be rolling the routes of the nation’s capital later this year for a peacetime parade inspired by President Trump.”

But, it added: “Few lawmakers – if any – said they loved the idea of Mr Trump’s parade. Some shrugged it off. Others called it undemocratic. Many lamented the use of the military’s time and money.”

Politico reported: “Trump’s military parade draws bipartisan rebuke.” It said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle decried such an event as “a break with democratic traditions.”

Senior Democrat Representative Adam Smith is quoted as saying: “A military parade of this kind would also be a departure from the values of our constitutional democracy. A military parade like this – one that is unduly focused on a single person – is what authoritarian regimes do, not democracies.”

Other commentators focused their objections on what they said was such an event pandering to Trump’s notoriously outsized ego.

CNN pundit Chris Cillizza said: “Of course Trump wants a big shiny parade… Bigger is always better in Trump’s world. And might usually makes right. He with the biggest toys wins.”

A Washington Post commentary said that Trump’s penchant for pomp and grandiose ceremony makes him a sucker for “the sort of martial display these days more associated with single-party states and irredentist autocrats.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is well connected to the military establishment and often espouses hawkish militarist foreign policy, seemed uncharacteristically coy about the parade idea. He said: “I’m not looking for a Soviet-style hardware display. That’s not who we are. It’s kind of cheesy. I think it shows weakness, quite frankly.”

Politico, again, added: “Two Democratic military veterans in Congress – Reps Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Ted Lieu of California – wrote Defense Secretary James Mattis in a letter Wednesday that just because authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea hold massive military parades does not mean that we must as well.”

Some of the public’s opposition appeared to be genuinely based on sound practical reasons.

Military Times, a US publication, cited a survey it conducted among its readers showing that nearly 90 percent of them were against Trump’s idea. They reportedly objected because, they said, it was “a waste of money” or because “our troops are too busy” to participate in such a large-scale spectacle, one which presumably would take a lot of logistical planning and funding to organize.

Nevertheless, what seems to be concerning many among the political establishment is the overt American militarism that such an event would reveal.

Reading between the lines, the stated concerns from politicians and media commentators about maintaining the form of “constitutional democracy” and not being associated with “authoritarianism” are not, one discerns, primarily motivated by genuine constitutional democratic principles. Rather the unspoken concern is the embarrassment about what such a major military display in Washington DC would reveal – the fact that the United States is a massively militarized state.

It is true that big centralized military spectacles are rather rare in the US. Commentators noted that the last event of this kind that took place in Washington DC was nearly 27 years ago, back in the summer of 1991, when then President George Bush Sr held a “victory march” following the First Gulf War against Iraq.

Nonetheless, it can be fairly remarked that military culture is rife across the US in myriad daily and weekly events, from school assemblies saluting the national flag, to veterans marching through every small town jamboree, to fighter jet flyovers at football games.

Arguably, why the military in the US does not participate in annual showpieces in the capital is for the tacit reason of trying to maintain a public appearance of a constitutional democracy amid such rampant militarism endemic to its society. A big display of the kind that Trump is proposing is an awkward demonstration of just how militarized American society is.

The irony over the past week is that while many lawmakers and media outlets were squirming over Trump’s gaudy military plans, the US Congress just voted through a Budget Bill for an extra $160 billion spend on the military. The final military budget comes to some $700 billion and represents over half of the total annual federal spend.

Republican and Democrat lawmakers are wrangling over financial cuts to public services and welfare, nearly shutting down the government again from the impasse. But, evidently, politicians of all stripes, whether conservative or liberal, have no problem whatsoever about splurging $700 billion on military. That expenditure is said to be the highest level ever – exceeding even the heights of the Cold War.

This gargantuan year-on-year allocation of economic resources by the US – greater than the combined expenditure of the world’s next 10 biggest military powers, including Russia and China – is a stupendous testimony to the hyper-militarized state that is the US.

It is a self-evident corollary that the grotesque militarization of the American economy is its permanent waging of overseas wars and bellicose foreign policy.

No other nation comes close to the record of American war-making around the planet. Currently, US forces are bombing seven countries simultaneously, including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the past quarter decade since its “victory parade” in Washington DC for President Bush Sr, over a million people have been killed in American wars, and a litany of countries have been reduced to rubble or “failed states.”

The real reason why Trump’s plan for a military parade is causing such discomfit among the political class is this: they know the spectacle will only serve to illustrate starkly to the American public and the rest of the world that the United States is a rogue military regime.

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | | 1 Comment

Soros & the £400k Question: What constitutes ‘foreign interference’ in democracy?

© Wiktor Dabkowski / Global Look Press
By Neil Clark | RT | February 9, 2018

You’d have to have a real sense of humor failure not to laugh. The news that US billionaire George Soros donated £400k to an anti-Brexit group came on the day that YouTube said they found no evidence of Russian interference in Brexit.

Repeat After Me (with robotic arm movements): “Unproven Russian involvement in Brexit – terrible! Impose more sanctions on Moscow! A £400k check from an American billionaire for an anti-Brexit campaigning group – that’s no problem; it’s helping our democracy!”

You don’t have to own a brand new £999 state-of-the art Hypocrisy Detector from Harrods, to pick up on the double standards. Just having a few functioning brain cells and thinking for yourself will do. For months in the UK we’ve been bombarded with Establishment-approved conspiracy theories – peddled in all the ’best’ newspapers – that Russia somehow ‘fixed’ Brexit. Getting Britain to leave the EU was all part of a cunning plot by Vladimir Putin, aka Dr. Evil, to weaken Europe and the ‘free world.’

Even West End musical composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who knows quite a bit about phantoms, seemed taken in by it. “By quitting Europe, I fear that we are hastening Putin’s dream of the break-up of the EU – and with it, potentially, western civilisation,” the noble Lord declared in July.

Never mind that we don’t have a single statement from Putin or other senior Kremlin figures saying that they actually supported Brexit. These Establishment Russia-bashers know exactly what The Vlad is thinking.

And never mind that RT and Sputnik, which we are repeatedly told are “propaganda arms of the Russian government,” ran articles by pro- and anti-Brexit writers. The same people who told us Iraq had WMDs in 2003 were absolutely sure it was those dastardly Russkies who had got Britain to vote ‘leave.’ The irony is of course that there was significant foreign interference in Brexit. But it didn’t come from Moscow.

The US has always wanted Britain to stay in the EU. In April 2016, two months before the Referendum, President Obama made it clear what he wanted when he visited the UK. He warned that if Britain exited the EU it would be “at the back of the queue” for trade deals with the US.

Just imagine if Putin had said that. The Russophobes would have spontaneously combusted.

Then of course there was the backing the Remain camp had from the giants of US capital. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan donated £500,000 each to the ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ group, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley – £250,000 each.

Again, repeat after me (with robotic arm movements): “This is not foreign interference… This is not foreign interference!”

The point is not whether we are for or against Brexit. Or whether we think George Soros is a malign influence who only acts out of self-interest or an old sweetie-pie with the good of humanity at heart. The point is the double standards that are causing our Hypocrisy Detectors to explode.

Let’s think back to December 2016. Then, the pro-war and fiercely anti-Russian Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told Parliament that it was “highly probable” that Russia had interfered with Brexit.

Fourteen months on, what have we got? On Thursday, the global head of You Tube’s public policy, Juniper Downs, said her company “had conducted a thorough investigation around the Brexit referendum and found no evidence of Russian interference.”

Twitter meanwhile says it detected 49 (yes, 49) accounts from what it claimed to be a “Russian troll factory,” which sent all of 942 messages about Brexit – amounting to less than 0.005% of all the tweets about the Referendum. Twitter said the accounts received “very low levels of engagement” from users. If the Kremlin had planned to use tweets to persuade us to vote ‘leave,’ they didn’t really put much effort into it, did they?

Finally, Facebook said that only three “Kremlin-linked” accounts were found which spent the grand sum of 72p (yes, 72p) on ads during the Referendum campaign. Which amounts to the greater “interference”? 72p or £400K? Erm… tough call, isn’t it?

You might have thought, given his concern with ‘foreign interference’ in British politics, that Ben Bradshaw would have been urging ‘Best for Britain’ to return George Soros’ donation. Au contraire! His only tweets about it were retweets of two critical comments about the Daily Telegraph, and the BBC’s coverage of the story. Conclusion: Those who rail about ‘Russia meddling in Brexit’ but not Soros’ intervention aren’t concerned about ‘foreign interference’ in UK politics, only ‘foreign interference’ from countries they don’t approve of.

Those who are quite happy peddling ludicrous conspiracy theories about Russians shout “conspiracy theorist” (or worse) at those who report factually on proven meddling from others. The Daily Express hit the nail on the head in their Friday editorial which said: “Just what does George Soros think he is doing pouring £400,000 into a campaign to stop Brexit. For a start he is not actually a resident of this country so it has nothing to do with him.”

That really is the rub of the matter. And Bradshaw and co. have no adequate response except to shoot the messenger.

If we look at the affair with an even wider lens, the hypocrisy is even greater. The US has been gripped by an anti-Russian frenzy not seen since the days of Senator Joe McCarthy. The unsubstantiated claim that Russia fixed the election for Donald Trump is repeated by ‘liberals’ and many neocons too, as a statement of fact. “I don’t know that the public understands the gravity of what the Russians were able to do and continue to do here in the United States. They’ve attacked us. They’re trying to undermine our democracy,” film director Rob Reiner said.

But the number one country round the world for undermining democracy and interfering in the affairs of other sovereign states is the US itself.

While Establishment journos and pundits have been foaming at the mouth over ‘Russiagate’ and getting terribly excited over ‘smoking guns’ which turn out – surprise, surprise – to be damp squibs, there’s been less attention paid to the boasts of former Vice President Joe Biden on how he got the allegedly ‘independent’ Ukrainian government to sack its prosecutor general in a few hours. “I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money…”

“I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars,” Biden said during a meeting of the US’ Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a b***h. He got fired.”

Again, just imagine the furore if a leading Russian government figure boasted about how he used financial inducements to get another country’s Prosecutor General to be sacked. Or if a tape was leaked in which the Russian Ambassador and a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson could be heard discussing who should or shouldn’t be in the new ‘democratic’ government of another sovereign state. But we had the US Ambassador to Ukraine and the US Assistant Secretary of State doing exactly that in 2014 – and the ‘Russia is interfering in the Free World!’ brigade were as silent as a group of Trappist monks.

It’s fair to say that Orwell would have a field day with the doublespeak that’s currently on show. The cognitive dissonance is there for all to see. Repeat After Me: Unproven Russian interference – Bad. Proven interference from other external sources – Good. What’s your problem?

Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66

Read more:

No Russian interference in Brexit referendum – YouTube exec tells parliamentary committee

‘Son of b***h got fired’: Joe Biden forced Ukraine to sack prosecutor general ‘in six hours’

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

‘This is Nuts’: Liberals Launch ‘Largest Mobilization in History’ in Defense of Russiagate Probe

By Coleen Rowley and Nat Parry | Consortium News | February 9, 2018

With Democrats and self-styled #Resistance activists placing their hopes for taking down Donald Trump’s presidency in the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, online groups such as MoveOn and Avaaz are launching campaigns to come to the Special Counsel’s defense in the event of him being removed by the president.

Robert Mueller with President George W. Bush
(White House photo)

In an action alert to supporters on Wednesday, Avaaz announced plans to hold some 600 events around the country to defend Mueller in case Trump tries to fire him. “This is nuts,” Avaaz writes. “Trump is clearly gearing up to fire the independent official investigating Russia’s influence over the election — if he does, he’ll have delivered a death blow to one of the fundamental pillars of our democracy.”

Avaaz claims that hundreds of thousands of supporters have signed up for actions protesting Mueller’s possible removal, and that more than 25 national organizations support the protests. The group calls it potentially “the largest national mobilization in history.”

Considering all of the threats to democracy posed by unconstitutional overreach, unfair elections, corruption, and voter suppression – not to mention environmental challenges, economic inequality, an out-of-control U.S. foreign policy, numerous foreign conflicts that the U.S. is engaged in, and the ever-present threat of nuclear war – it is telling that the liberal establishment is mobilizing on this particular issue.

Social psychologists have long talked about how emotional manipulation can work effectively to snooker a large percentage of the population, to get them, at least temporarily, to believe the exact opposite of the facts. These techniques are known in the intelligence community as “perception management,” and have been refined since the 1980s “to keep the American people compliant and confused,” as the late Robert Parry has reported. We saw this in action last decade, when after months of disinformation, about 70% of Americans came to falsely believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 when the truth was the opposite – Saddam was actually an enemy of the Al Qaeda perpetrators.

Such emotional manipulation is the likely explanation for the fact that so many people are now gearing up to defend someone like Mueller, while largely ignoring other important topics of far greater consequence. With no demonstrations being organized to stop a possible war with North Korea – or an escalation in Syria – hundreds of thousands of Americans are apparently all too eager to go to the mat in defense of an investigation into the president’s possible “collusion” with Russia in its alleged meddling in election 2016.

Setting aside for the moment the merits of the Russiagate narrative, who really is this Robert Mueller that amnesiac liberals clamor to hold up as the champion of the people and defender of democracy? Co-author Coleen Rowley, who as an FBI whistleblower exposed numerous internal problems at the FBI in the early 2000s, didn’t have to be privy to his inner circle to recall just a few of his actions after 9/11 that so shocked the public conscience as to repeatedly generate moral disapproval even on the part of mainstream media. Rowley was only able to scratch the surface in listing some of the more widely reported wrongdoing that should still shock liberal consciences.

Although Mueller and his “joined at the hip” cohort James Comey are now hailed for their impeccable character by much of Washington, the truth is, as top law enforcement officials of the George W. Bush administration (Mueller as FBI Director and Comey as Deputy Attorney General), both presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited stunning levels of incompetence.

Ironically, recent declassifications of House Intelligence Committee’s and Senate Judiciary Committee Leaders letters (here and here) reveal strong parallels between the way the public so quickly forgot Mueller’s spotty track record with the way the FBI and (the Obama administration’s) Department of Justice rushed, during the summer of 2016, to put a former fellow spy, Christopher Steele up on a pedestal. Steele was declared to be a “reliable source” without apparently vetting or corroborating any of the “opposition research” allegations that he had been hired (and paid $160,000) to quickly produce for the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

There are typically at least two major prongs of establishing the “reliability” of any given source in an affidavit, the first – and the one mostly pointed to – being the source’s track record for having furnished accurate and reliable information in the past. Even if it is conceded that Steele would have initially satisfied this part of the test for determining probable cause, based on his having reportedly furnished some important information to FBI agents investigating the FIFA soccer fraud years before, his track record for truthfulness would go right up in smoke only a month or so later, when it was discovered that he had lied to the FBI about his having previously leaked the investigation to the media.  (Moreover, this lie had led the FBI to mislead the FISA court in its first application to surveil Carter Page.)

The second main factor in establishing the reliability of any source’s information would be even more key in this case.  It’s the basis of the particular informant’s knowledge, i.e. was the informant an eye witness or merely reporting double-triple hearsay or just regurgitating the “word on the street?”

If the actual basis of the information is uncertain, the next step for law enforcement would normally be to seek facts that either corroborate or refute the source’s information. It’s been reported that FBI agents did inquire into the basis for Steele’s allegations, but it is not known what Steele told the FBI – other than indications that his info came from secondary sources making it, at best, second- or third-hand. What if anything did the FBI do to establish the reliability of the indirect sources that Steele claimed to be getting his info from? Before vouching for his credibility, did the FBI even consider polygraphing Steele after he (falsely) denied having leaked his info since the FBI was aware of significant similarities of a news article to the info he had supplied them?

Obviously, more questions than answers exist at the present time. But even if the FBI was duped by Steele – whether as the result of their naivete in trusting a fellow former spy, their own sloppiness or recklessness, or political bias – it should be hoped by everyone that the Department of Justice Inspector General can get to the bottom of how the FISA court was ultimately misled.

As they prepare for the “largest mobilization in history” in defense of Mueller and his probe into Russiagate, liberals have tried to sweep all this under the rug as a “nothing burger.” Yet, how can liberals, who in the past have pointed to so many abusive past practices by the FBI, ignore the reality that these sorts of abuses of the FISA process more than likely take place on a daily basis – with the FISA court earning a well-deserved reputation as little more than a rubberstamp?

Other, more run-of-the-mill FISA applications – if they were to be scrutinized as thoroughly as the Carter Page one – would reveal similar sloppiness and lack of factual verification of source information used to secure surveillance orders, especially after FISA surveillances skyrocketed after 9/11 in the “war on terror.” Rather than dismissing the Nunes Memo as a nothing burger, liberals might be better served by taking a closer look at this FISA process which could easily be turned against them instead of Trump.

It must be recognized that FBI agents who go before the secret FISA court and who are virtually assured that whatever they present will be kept secret in perpetuity, have very little reason to be careful in verifying what they present as factual. FISA court judges are responsible for knowing the law but have no way of ascertaining the “facts” presented to them.

Unlike a criminal surveillance authorized by a federal district court, no FBI affidavit justifying the surveillance will ever end up under the microscope of defense attorneys and defendants to be pored over to ensure every asserted detail was correct and if not, to challenge any incorrect factual assertions in pre-trial motions to suppress evidence.

It is therefore shocking to watch how this political manipulation seems to make people who claim to care about the rule of law now want to bury this case of surveillance targeting Carter Page based on the ostensibly specious Steele dossier. This is the one case unique in coming to light among tens of thousands of FISA surveillances cloaked forever in secrecy, given that the FISA system lacks the checks on abusive authority that inherently exist in the criminal justice process, and so the Page case is instructive to learn how the sausage really gets made.

Neither the liberal adulation of Mueller nor the unquestioned credibility accorded Steele by the FBI seem warranted by the facts. It is fair for Americans to ask whether Mueller’s investigation would have ever happened if not for his FBI successor James Comey having signed off on the investigation triggered by the Steele dossier, which was paid for by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on her opponent.

In any event, please spare us the solicitations of these political NGOs’ “national mobilization” to protect Mueller. There are at least a million attorneys in this country who do not suffer from the significant conflicts of interest that Robert Mueller has with key witnesses like his close, long-term colleague James Comey and other public officials involved in the investigation.

And, at the end of the day, there are far more important issues to be concerned about than the “integrity” of the Mueller investigation – one being the need to fix FISA court abuses and restoring constitutional rights.

Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. 

Nat Parry is co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush

February 9, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bill Clinton Raped Me” – Juanita Broaddrick Tells Her Story

The Jimmy Dore Show | February 6, 2018

“Bill Clinton Raped Me” – Juanita Broaddrick Tells Her Story

Read Her Full Story Here ▶

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 1 Comment