The push for “action” following the alleged chemical attack in Idlib, Syria is reaching fever pitch. Indeed, it may already have had disastrous consequences. The spokespeople for power that are the Western press consider the case against the Assad regime air-tight. Absent any forensic, or even circumstantial, evidence the mainstream media have resorted to simple arguments from authority looks of bewilderment.
The trouble is “authority” doesn’t seem have any cohesion in this matter – so the press have carefully chosen who they will listen to… and who they will remove from their websites.
Col. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is the favored voice of “reason” on these matters, he has dismissed any idea other than a deliberate attack by the Syrian government as “fanciful”. And has been cited everywhere from Channel 4, to the Daily Mail to the Guardian, to the BBC. He is universally credited as a “chemical weapons expert” who works as the director of “Medics Under Fire”…. but that’s not his only job, just his most recent.
He was originally in the British army, filling an important role at NATO:
Previously Commanding Officer of the UK CBRN Regiment and NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion, Hamish is one of the most operationally experienced CBRN practitioners in the World and is regarded as one of the leading experts in Chemical and Biological Counter Terrorism and warfare.
With other hints from his biography suggesting some work in espionage or military intelligence:
He has also worked with US networks and British newspapers to smuggle chemical samples out of Syria for verification in UK and France.
… so he’s hardly an objective source.
Of course, “Medics Under Fire” is nothing like what it appears to be, either. Its name conjures up imagery of global charities, along the lines of Medecins sans Frontieres. It is nothing like that, in truth it is a Western-backed NGO working out of Syria, very much like the White Helmets. In fact, their websites are almost completely identical.
On the other side of this narrow divide is Jerry Smith, a chemical weapons expert who took part in the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks in 2013. He is hardly a frothing pro-Assad alternative voice, but he takes a measured approach. He wrote in the Guardian :
Russia’s claim that the latest poisoning is a result of a conventional attack on an opposition arms storage facility should not be dismissed out of hand. While it is true that nerve agent can be destroyed by explosion, it is perfectly possible that some agent could survive and be ejected out as a result of an explosion.
… but obviously nobody there was listening, because “dismissing it out of hand” is exactly what they have done.
Mr Smith was also interviewed on Channel 4 news (curiously absent from their online archive), and ABC news in Australia, both times saying very similar things.
The BBC referenced and quoted his Channel 4 interview in their article on the attack, this quote was included in an article headlined Syria chemical ‘attack’: Trump condemns ‘affront to humanity’:
… the official who led the UN-backed operation to remove Syria’s chemical weapons told the UK’s Channel 4 News that the Russian version of events could not be discounted.
“If it is Sarin that was stored there and conventional munitions were used, there is every possibility that some of those [chemical] munitions were not consumed and that the Sarin liquid was ejected and could well have affected the population,” Jerry Smith said.
This paragraph was completely removed just 35 minutes later. The current version of this article makes no mention of Mr Smith at all. No reason is given, and there is no note referencing that the article had been amended.
A reminder that these are standards deemed acceptable by the “news service” for which we are all forced, by law, to pay.
Our thanks to the media lens twitter for bringing this issue to our attention, and to newssniffer for the very important work they do.
Just hours after the alleged terrorist attack on a St Petersburg metro station, a BBC news reporter stated (see the video above):
Well, there have been demonstrations – political demonstrations – against corruption, and against President Putin and his system… perhaps this is some kind of attempt to distract from the calls for a corruption investigation, and the calls for President Putin himself to step down.”
The BBC never uttered a single word about the possible political motives behind any other terrorist attack. Not for decades. Lockerbie, Nice, 7/7, Berlin, the Bataclan, Orlando, 9/11, JFK and the 2001 Anthrax Attacks. Every single attack or assassination has a “possible false flag” theory behind it. Some are extremely likely, others less so.
The BBC has given the same exact level of coverage to all of them: zero.
There are even proven cases of Governments planning and/or conducting such attacks: Operation Northwoods, The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, the USS Liberty and Operation Gladio. These are all uncontested historical facts.
The BBC has given the same exact level of coverage to all of them: zero.
Not a single second of airtime was given over to even the faintest possibility that the Westminster attack was a “false flag”. And yet, on the very same day it happened, the BBC is already floating the idea the Russian government blew up a St Petersburg metro station “for a distraction”.
Why, all of a sudden, has the BBC changed its policy?
This comes hot on the heels of Noam Chomsky stating the following in an interview with alternet (my emphasis):
And then what happens becomes significant. In order to maintain his popularity, the Trump administration will have to try to find some means of rallying the support and changing the discourse from the policies that they are carrying out, which are basically a wrecking ball to something else.
Maybe scapegoating, saying, “Well, I’m sorry, I can’t bring your jobs back because these bad people are preventing it.” And the typical scapegoating goes to vulnerable people: immigrants, terrorists, Muslims and elitists, whoever it may be. And that can turn out to be very ugly.
I think that we shouldn’t put aside the possibility that there would be some kind of staged or alleged terrorist act, which can change the country instantly.
This is the same Noam Chomsky who said it ultimately “didn’t matter” who shot JFK, and who answered a question on 9/11 truth with a simple “Who cares?”
It seems false-flags CAN happen after all, it’s just that only certain people can do them, or only in certain specific places.
False flags are done by one of them or over there, and never by one of us over here.
That is a dangerous narrative to keep a hold of, and may end up coming back to bite the MSM en masse, just as their “fake news” epithet has done.
Following Saturday’s charges come Sunday’s denials.
On Saturday in a series of tweets Donald Trump accused his predecessor Barack Obama of wiretapping his office in Trump Tower. A few hours later Obama responded with a statement published by his spokesman which neither admitted nor denied the wiretap but which said that Obama himself had never ordered surveillance within the US on anyone.
Then came an interview for NBC by Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. In it in carefully chosen words Clapper said that he had “no knowledge” of any FISA court authorising wiretaps of Trump Tower, and that no section of the US intelligence community which he supervised had carried out such a wiretap.
Some sections of the media – especially in Britain the BBC and the Guardian – have reported these denials in a way that gives the impression to a casual viewer or reader that Clapper has denied the existence of the wiretap outright. This is certainly not so. Clapper’s careful words were
[For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw] there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign….. I can’t speak for other authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity (bold italics added)
In words which have received far less publicity, Clapper also denied that he had seen any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and said that the report on Russian interference in the election submitted to Obama and Trump, a redacted version of which was provided to Congress, and a further redacted (and content free) version of which was made public, made no such claim
Clapper was also asked on “Meet the Press” if he had any evidence that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russian government while the Kremlin was working to influence the election.
“Not to my knowledge,” Clapper said, based on the information he had before his time in the position ended.
“We did not include anything in our report … that had any reflect of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report,” he said. “We had no evidence of such collusion.”
A few hours after Clapper’s comments, there appeared an article in The New York Times drawing on the usual anonymous sources. This claimed that shortly after the President published his tweets on Saturday FBI Director Comey contacted the Justice Department to say that the President’s claim that Obama had ordered Trump’s phone in Trump Tower wiretapped was false, and asked the Justice Department to publish a retraction (as of the time of writing the Justice Department has published no such retraction).
In a comment which I see as intended to goad Comey into publishing his own statement denying the President’s claims, The New York Times questions why he has not done so
It is not clear why Mr. Comey did not issue a statement himself. He is the most senior law enforcement official who was kept on the job as the Obama administration gave way to the Trump administration. And while the Justice Department applies for intelligence-gathering warrants, the F.B.I. keeps its own records and is in a position to know whether Mr. Trump’s claims are true. While intelligence officials do not normally discuss the existence or nonexistence of surveillance warrants, no law prevents Mr. Comey from issuing the statement.
As I recall, The New York Times initially also made the very strange claim that because Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged contacts with Russia, Comey was finding it difficult to find anyone in the Justice Department competent to handle his request.
That cannot be true since Sessions’s statement on Friday made it clear that it would be the acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente who would henceforth be supervising the investigation and who Comey would therefore be dealing with. I notice that the current version of the story in The New York Times no longer makes this claim.
It is always difficult (and perhaps unwise) to comment on something someone is reported to have said based on accounts of what that person is reported to have said which are provided anonymously and at second hand. Assuming however that The New York Times story is true (as I believe) and assuming that Comey’s concerns are also being reported accurately (which with some qualifications I also believe) then Comey is not actually denying that a wiretap took place, merely that Obama ordered it. Here is the first paragraph of The New York Times report
The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.
This is of course what Obama said in his statement on Saturday, and which (as I have already pointed out) is almost certainly true
The statement does not deny that Donald Trump’s office in Trump Tower was wiretapped. Nor does it deny that Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ (a flexible word the precise meaning of which has never been made clear) or members of his campaign team were placed under surveillance.
Instead it indirectly denies that Obama himself or people working directly under him in the White House ordered these actions. It does so by denying they have ever ordered surveillance of any US citizen, something which by the way is almost certainly true.
The statement hints than any order to wiretap Donald Trump’s office or for carrying out surveillance on Donald Trump’s ‘associates’ was the work of officials in the Justice Department, and it seeks to shift responsibility – or blame – onto them.
This too is almost certainly true. (bold italics added)
On the face of it therefore Comey’s comments – if they are being reported accurately – do not add anything to what following Obama’s statement of Saturday we already know.
Certain other comments attributed to Comey in The New York Times article are attracting less attention, though they are actually very interesting.
Firstly, it seems that what drove Comey to contact the Justice Department is concern that Donald Trump’s tweets on Saturday implied that the FBI by wiretapping his office had broken the law.
Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump levelled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.
Comey’s concern here is entirely legitimate. As I have said previously, if there was a wiretap and if it was authorised by a court after an application made in the proper way by the Justice Department, then the wiretap was legal. Comey is absolutely right to want to set the record straight about this. Presumably in the absence of a public statement that will be done over the course of the Congressional inquiries which the President has now requested.
The second point is even more interesting, which is that The New York Times story again essentially confirms that the FBI investigation into the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia is drawing a blank.
In addition to being concerned about potential attacks on the bureau’s credibility, senior F.B.I. officials are said to be worried that the notion of a court-approved wiretap will raise the public’s expectations that the federal authorities have significant evidence implicating the Trump campaign in colluding with Russia’s efforts to disrupt the presidential election. (bold italics added)
This is very twisted language which shows that The New York Times is not reporting this part of the story straightforwardly. However the meaning is clear enough. The FBI is worried that the more discussion of its investigation there is – extending all the way to discussions by no less a person than the President himself of court approved wiretaps – the more people will fall for the false ‘no smoke without fire’ argument, and will feel let down by the FBI when it eventually announces that its investigation has drawn a blank.
This is an entirely valid concern, and is one of several reasons why such investigations are supposed to be confidential.
This is the second confirmation within a few hours from people who have held posts within the national security bureaucracy that the endlessly repeated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia are not supported by evidence. The first was made by Clapper (see above) and the second was made anonymously to The New York Times by officials of the FBI.
These admissions follow a continuous pattern of admissions from officials within the national security bureaucracy now stretching back months that inquiries into claims of collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia are drawing a blank.
Not only in the present paranoid atmosphere are these admissions being ignored, but the security agencies are being constantly bullied to divert more and more resources into more and more inquiries to find the evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which officials of the security agencies repeatedly say is not there.
Students of political witch-hunts eg. the Popish Plot in Seventeenth Century England, the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, or the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1950s, will recognise the phenomenon.
The position therefore as of the time of writing is that Obama has denied – though in a very convoluted way – that he ordered a wiretap (though he has hinted that if there was a wiretap it was the Justice Department which requested it), Comey is reported as having also denied that Obama ordered a wiretap, and Clapper has denied that the part of the bureaucracy that he supervised sought or carried out a wiretap.
These are not denials that a wiretap took place. Neither are they admissions that it did take place. I have repeatedly warned against the logical error of inferring a positive from a negative, and of treating a denial of one thing as an admission of something else. What it is fair to say is that the fingers are being pointed towards Obama’s Justice Department, and that so far its senior officers – Loretta Lynch and Sally Yates – are staying silent.
WE HAVE TO ALERT PARTY MEMBERS and supporters that the soft coup is underway. It’s planned, co-ordinated and fully resourced. It is being perpetrated by an alliance between elements in the Labour Party and the Murdoch media empire, both intent on destroying Jeremy Corbyn and all that he stands for.
The coup is not being waged up front in public but strictly behind the scenes. Having learned the lesson of the last coup attempt – that a direct attack on Jeremy and his policies will provoke a backlash from many party members – the coup perpetrators are this time round pursuing a covert strategy.
The aim of these covert coup plotters is to undermine the support Jeremy has secured among Labour Party members, and also importantly to undermine support from Labour voters.
Undermining support for Jeremy from Labour voters is important to the plotters because their objective is to ensure Jeremy trails in the polls and can’t win elections. In this way they can destroy morale among party members and their confidence in him.
The tactics include daily and constant behind-the-scenes non-attributable briefings against Jeremy and his Shadow Cabinet every time he or his shadow ministers make a statement, intervene in Parliament or launch a policy. The plotters use every opportunity to chip away at Jeremy’s standing to seek to demean him and undermine support for him in the Labour Party and among Labour supporters. This constant barrage of negative briefings also crowds out any positive initiatives or narrative from Jeremy and his team. It also feeds and confirms in the public’s mind that the Labour Party is split.
The plotters are effective in distorting the media coverage because they have extensive contacts and allies in the media, many inherited from Mandelson’s days. The professional planning of interventions in which attacks to undermine Jeremy are framed evidences an exceptionally well resourced ‘dark arts’ operation of the old spin school. The coup plotters are willing to sacrifice the Party at elections just to topple Jeremy and prevent a socialist leading the Party. It is more important to them that they regain control of the Party than it is to win elections.
The irony is that they are willing to go so far in denigrating Jeremy that they endanger their own parliamentary seats and endanger the very existence of the party they want to use to get into power. We saw the methods they use with the leaking of the Party’s internal polling. This was a carefully planned and executed operation. Let’s use it as a case example.
Both quantitative and qualitative polling is undertaken by the Party regularly under the direction of Jon Trickett, the Party’s National Campaign Co-ordinator. Jon arranged for one focus group to be carried out by the Party’s polling agency in Manchester to assess how our frontbench members appearing on television programmes at the time were being perceived in the north west. This polling took place back in November and its results were only accessible to a small number of party officials, Jon Trickett and the polling agency. To this day I have still not seen the results. The polling was leaked by someone to James Lyons, a Times journalist who has regularly received leaks from within the Labour Party – usually used to attack Jeremy and his team.
The Murdoch media had already run earlier in the week fake news stories in The Times and Sun alleging that Jeremy was planning to stand down as leader of the Party. No matter how many times it was explained that this story was completely untrue and absolute fiction, the The Times and Sun continued to run it – and the BBC and other broadcast media took it up and reported it extensively. The media then invented the story that the polling on the perception of Shadow Cabinet members in the north west was the Party testing the perceptions of potential successors to Jeremy.
This was a classic negative story framing and transmission exercise. It is just one example of what we confront on a weekly and at times almost daily basis. It is vitally important that our supporters understand and appreciate what we are facing. What we are experiencing is completely predictable and expected. Spreading that understanding of what we are up against enables us all to organise how we can fight back and overcome the soft coup strategy.
We all have an important role to play in explaining what we are facing and how, by standing together, we can defeat the plotters again. This is the testing time for the Corbyn transformation. The challenges are great and the times are tough – but we all know that this is the socialist opportunity of a lifetime.
John McDonnell is Shadow Chancellor, MP for Hayes and Harlington, Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and Chair of the Labour Representation Committee.
contact – email@example.com
© Labour Briefing 2017
Hebron, occupied Palestine – Yesterday the Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the extra-judicial killing of Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, which happened last year in Hebron. Everybody in Hebron was waiting for the sentence. Everybody knew by one o’clock what it was. Everyone was heavy hearted. Palestinian friends compared a sentence of two years for stone throwing with Azaria’s eighteen months for murder. The implications here on the ground for what soldiers can do with impunity is also clear to all.
We at ISM had been in touch with Imad Abu Shamsiya, the Palestinian who filmed the execution, in case he wanted our support if the settlers were angry at the sentence as he has experienced large amounts of threats and harassment from both soldiers and settlers for bringing this incident to light.
Today I get email from the UK with news of how the case was reported on the BBC flagship morning show:
‘… almost all of the piece consisted of a discussion with their Jerusalem correspondent about Israeli anger that Azaria had been jailed. The fact that Palestinians were angered at the brevity of the sentence was tacked on as an afterthought. It was not explained that the Israeli soldiers are an army of occupation that is protecting settlers who are in Hebron illegally. It was not explained that Abdel Fattah al-Sherif had been lying injured and motionless on the ground for ten minutes and presenting no threat to anyone before Azaria executed him. Al-Sherif was described as “an attacker”, Azaria as “a soldier”. The framing of what happened could have been scripted by the IDF. The impression given was of the IDF acting in support of the civil authorities and being subjected to a military assault by enemy combatants. The right-wing Israeli perspective that Azaria was an inexperienced conscript who acted in the heat of the moment in battle was reported unchallenged. The alternative view that al-Sharif had committed grievous bodily harm or some such criminal assault before being totally incapacitated and that he was then murdered in cold blood by a heavily-armed agent of an occupying power was not given.’
The video so bravely filmed by Imad which led to the case being heard at all can be seen here.
The BBC appear enraptured by the apparent death of Ronald Fiddler in Mosul fighting for Islamic State forces. Fiddler was a former inmate of Guantanamo Bay, so this “vindicates” the War on Terror. The BBC are leading every news bulletin and giving us full spectrum security services propaganda. We have MI6 mouthpiece Frank Gardner, the discredited neo-con chancers of the Quilliam Foundation and the far right professional supporter of military attacks on the Middle East, Afzal Ashraf, all giving us their views every half hour on the BBC.
It has never been disputed that Ronald Fiddler was tortured in Guantanamo, which is partly why he was paid substantial compensation by the British government. It does not seem to have occurred to the BBC as worth any consideration that the fact Fiddler emerged from Guantanamo and apparently became a supporter of violent Islam, does not in any sense prove that he was a violent islamist before being tortured in Guantanamo. Yet that Guantanamo was the cause of his extreme alienation is on the surface highly probable.
The BBC did not interview Moazzam Begg or Clive Stafford Smith or anybody who might have something thoughtful to say on the subject. Instead they went solely for self-reinforcing voices of the right wing establishment, the most pro-invading the Middle East voices that could possibly be found.
750,000 civilians face the assault on Mosul in the next few days. The rebel forces being attacked have precisely the same religion, precisely the same philosophy, and in a significant number of cases belong to precisely the same organisations as the rebels who were driven out of Aleppo by Assad forces and the Russians. Yet the assault on Mosul is apparently a wonderful thing, to be cheered on by the propaganda of embedded journalists, while the precisely analogous assault on Aleppo was an appalling and irresponsible massacre. It must be very strange to stretch your conscience to work in the BBC; a peculiar and remarkable kind of talent.
Britain’s divisive Brexit politics are playing out through the new US presidency of Donald Trump. It seems that a faction within the British political establishment which is opposed to Britain leaving the European Union has joined forces with American intelligence counterparts to hamper Trump’s new administration.
By hampering Trump, the pro-EU British faction would in turn achieve a blow against a possible bilateral trade deal emerging between the US and Britain. Such a bilateral trade deal is vital for post-Brexit Britain to survive outside of the EU. If emerging US-British trade relations were sabotaged by disenfranchising President Trump, then Britain would necessarily have to turn back to rejoining the European Union, which is precisely what a powerful British faction desires.
What unites the anti-Trump forces on both sides of the Atlantic is that they share an atlanticist, pro-NATO worldview, which underpins American hegemony over Europe and Anglo-American-dominated global finance. This atlanticist perspective is vehemently anti-Russian because an independent Russia under President Vladimir Putin is seen as an impediment to the US-led global order of Anglo-American dominance.
The atlanticists in the US and Britain are represented in part by the upper echelons of the intelligence-military apparatus, embodied by the American Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s Military Intelligence (Section) 6 (MI6).
Notably, incoming US President Donald Trump has expressed indifference towards NATO. This week he repeated comments in which he called the US-led military alliance «obsolete». Trump’s views are no doubt a cause of grave consternation among US-British atlanticists.
It is now emerging that British state intelligence services are involved much more deeply in the dirty tricks operation to smear Trump than might have been appreciated heretofore. The British involvement tends to validate the above atlanticist analysis.
The dirty tricks operation overseen by US intelligence agencies and willing news media outlets appears to be aimed at undermining Trump and, perhaps, even leading to his impeachment.
The former British MI6 agent, named as Christopher Steele, who authored the latest sexual allegations against Trump, was initially reported as working independently for US political parties. However, it now seems that Steele was not acting as an independent consultant to Trump’s political opponents during the US election, as media reports tended to indicate.
Britain’s Independent newspaper has lately reported that Steele’s so-called «Russian dossier» – which claimed that Trump was being blackmailed by the Kremlin over sex orgy tapes – was tacitly given official British endorsement.
That endorsement came in two ways. First, according to the Independent, former British ambassador to Russia, Sir Andrew Woods, reportedly gave assurances to US Senator John McCain that the dossier’s allegations of Russian blackmail against Trump were credible. Woods met with McCain at a security conference in Canada back in November. McCain then passed the allegations on to the American FBI – so «alarmed» was he by the British diplomat’s briefing.
The second way that Britain has endorsed the Russian dossier is the newly appointed head of MI6, Sir Alex Younger, is reported to have used the material produced by his former colleague, Christopher Steele, in preparing his first speech as head of the British intelligence service given in December at the agency’s headquarters in London. That amounts to an imprimatur from MI6 on the Russian dossier.
Thus, in two important signals from senior official British sources, the Russian dossier on Trump was elevated to a serious intelligence document, rather than being seen as cheap gossip.
Excerpts from the document published by US media last week make sensational claims about Trump engaging in orgies with prostitutes in the presidential suite of the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel while attending a Miss World contest in 2014. It is claimed that Russian secret services captured the alleged lewd activity on tape and will now be able to leverage this «kompromat» in order to blackmail Trump who becomes inaugurated this week as the 45th president of the United States.
Several informed analysts have dismissed the Russian dossier as an amateurish fake, pointing out its vague hearsay, factual errors and questionable format not typical of standard intelligence work. Also, both Donald Trump and the Kremlin have categorically rejected the claims as far-fetched nonsense.
While most US media did not publish the salacious details of Trump’s alleged trysts, and while they offered riders that the information was «not confirmed» and «unverifiable», nevertheless the gamut of news outlets gave wide coverage to the story which in turn directed public attention to internet versions of the «sensational» claims. So the US mainstream media certainly lent critical amplification, which gave the story a stamp of credibility.
US intelligence agencies, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA chief John Brennan, appended the two-page Russian dossier in their separate briefings to outgoing President Barack Obama and President-elect Trump last week. Those briefings were said to mainly focus on US intelligence claims that Russian state-sponsored hackers had carried out cyber attacks to influence the US election last November.
Therefore, US intelligence, their British counterparts and the mass media all played a concerted role to elevate low-grade gossip against Trump into a seemingly credible scandal.
Trump has been waging a war of words with the US intelligence agencies, snubbing them by cutting back on presidential briefings and rubbishing their claims of Russian hacking as «ridiculous». Recently, Trump appeared to shift towards accepting the US intel assessment that Russia had carried out cyber attacks. But he balked at any suggestion that the alleged hacking was a factor in why he won the election against Hillary Clinton.
At a news conference before the weekend, Trump turned up the heat on the US intelligence agencies by blaming them for leaking to the media their briefing to him on the notorious Russian dossier. Trump compared their tactics to that of «Nazi Germany». CIA chief John Brennan couldn’t contain his anger and told media that such a comparison was «outrageous».
Trump may have savaged the Russian blackmail allegations as «fake news». But there are indications that US and British intelligence – and their reliable media mouthpieces – are not giving up on their dirty tricks operation, which has all the hallmarks of a vendetta.
Pointedly, James Clapper, the outgoing US Director of National Intelligence, has said that the secret services have not arrived at a judgment as to whether the Russian blackmail claims are substantive or not. British state-owned BBC has also reported that CIA sources believe that Russian agents have multiple copies of «tapes of a sexual nature» allegedly involving Trump in separate orgies with prostitutes in Moscow and St Petersburg.
In other words this scandal, regardless of veracity, could run and run and run, with the intended effect of undermining Trump and crimping his policies, especially those aimed at normalizing US-Russia relations, as he has vowed to do. If enough scandal is generated, the allegations against Trump being a sexually depraved president compromised by Russian agents – a declared foreign enemy of the US – might even result in his impeachment from the White House on the grounds of treason.
Both the American and British intelligence services appear to be working together, facilitated by aligned news media, to bolster flimsy claims against Trump into allegations of apparent substance. The shadowy «deep state» organs in the US and Britain are doing this because they share a common atlanticist ideology which views Anglo-American dominance over the European Union as the basis for world order. Crucial to this architecture is NATO holding sway over Europe, which in turn relies on demonizing Russia as a «threat to European security».
Clamping down on Trump, either through impeachment or at least corrosive media smears, would serve to further the atlanticist agenda.
For a section of British power – UK-based global corporations and London finance – the prospect of a Brexit from the EU is deeply opposed. The Financial Times list of top UK-based companies were predominantly against leaving the EU ahead of last year’s referendum. Combined with the strategic atlanticist ideology of the military-intelligence apparatus there is a potent British desire to scupper the Trump presidency.
But, as it happens, the American and British picture is complicated by the fact that the British government of Prime Minister Theresa May is very much dependent on cooperation and goodwill from the Trump administration in order for post-Brexit Britain to survive in the world economy outside the EU.
The British government is committed to leaving the EU as determined by the popular referendum last June. To be fair to May’s government, it is deferring to the popular will on this issue. Premier May is even talking about a «hard Brexit» whereby, Britain does not have future access to the European single market. Fervent communications between Downing Street and the Trump transition team show that the British government views new bilateral trade deals with the US as vital for the future of Britain’s economy. And Trump has reciprocated this week by saying that Britain will be given top priority in the signing of new trade deals.
In this way, the British establishment’s divisions over Brexit – some for, some against – are a fortunate break for Trump. Because that will limit how much the British intelligence services can engage in dirty tricks against the president in league with their American counterparts. In short, the atlanticist desire to thwart Trump has lost its power to act malevolently in the aftermath of Britain’s Brexit.
That might also be another reason why Donald Trump has given such a welcoming view on the Brexit – as «a great thing». Perhaps, he knows that it strengthens his political position against deep state opponents who otherwise in a different era might have been strong enough to oust him.
Trump and Brexit potentially mean that the atlanticist sway over Europe is fading. And that’s good news for Russia.
Laura Kuenssberg © ZUMAPRESS.com / Global Look Press
Award winning BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg has been reprimanded by the BBC Trust for inaccurately reporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s views on shoot-to-kill policies in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.
The Trust concluded that Kuenssberg breached the BBC’s impartiality and accuracy guidelines at a time of “extreme national concern,” but insisted there was no evidence of bias or of intent on the part of the journalist.
The report was broadcast for the News at Six in November 2015, shortly after terrorists attacked the Bataclan and other sites in Paris.
The news package included a clip of Corbyn saying: “I am not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counterproductive. I think you have to have security that prevents people firing off weapons where you can.”
Kuenssberg had presented Corbyn’s response as an answer to a question on whether he would be “happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack.”
However the BBC Trust concluded Corbyn had been responding to a question asking whether he would be happy to order police or military “to shoot to kill” on Britain’s streets – and not specifically in response to a Paris-style attack.
A viewer complained to the Trust about the broadcast after four separate complaints were rejected by the BBC.
The Trust found the inaccuracy was “compounded” when Kuenssberg went on to state that Corbyn’s message “couldn’t be more different” to that of then-prime minister David Cameron.
In its report, the Trust concluded the inaccuracy was particularly important when dealing “with a critical question at a time of extreme national concern.”
“According to this high standard, the report had not been duly accurate in how it framed the extract it used from Mr Corbyn’s interview.”
BBC News director, James Harding, rejected the Trust’s ruling and defended Kuenssberg as “an outstanding journalist and political editor with the utmost integrity and professionalism.”
He said: “While we respect the Trust and the people who work there, we disagree with this finding.”
Thousands of Corbyn supporters launched a campaign last May against Kuenssberg’s perceived bias against the Labour leader.
Some 35,000 people signed a petition calling for the journalist to be sacked.
The reporter was named Broadcaster of the Year by the Political Studies Association last November and Journalist of the Year by Press Gazette last December.
RT | January 17, 2017
The BBC’s flagship current affairs programme has aired an edition on the alleged financial ties between U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. It also reports on whether Russia played a key role in Trump’s election success. Making its assumptions very clear, the BBC called the programme ‘The ‘Kremlin Candidate’. RT’s Ilya Petrenko explains how pulling-in the viewers often means rolling with the rumours.
The CIA, Trump and Unverified News
London — Morning breakfast news on the BBC’s Radio Four on Friday was a delightful affair filled with discussions on Russia (when do we not talk about that busy, stirring Bear these days?), Donald Trump, dossiers and the intelligence fraternity. Did it even matter that various sources have been unverified, subject matter lumped together in cumbersome conversations on fake news, sexual frolics and the like?
Discussants on the Beeb who kept listeners company over coffee included former, recently confessed spook Frederick Forsyth, for years the go-to creator of the spy narrative, and the official intelligence historian Sir Christopher Andrew.
For Forsyth, the allegations outlined by former British spy Christopher Steele that Trump found himself in prancing company with Russian hookers, dubious real estate deals targeted as bribes and a treasonous coordination with the Russian intelligence services to defeat Hillary Clinton, beggared belief. Trump was hardly that much of a buffoon, surely.
On Wednesday night, the US director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., issued a statement in the aftermath of a conversation with Trump on the Steele dossier, suggesting that the agencies had “not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.” Naturally, despite any claims about authenticity, the report had been circulated within the deepest recesses of spook central. Clapper would never want to deny his own officials the pleasure of that smut.
The New York Times conceded that much of the story remained “out of reach – most critically the basis question of how much, if anything, in the dossier is true.” You would think that this point was most salient, rendering any other discussion empty and flatulent.
Nonetheless, the paper would go on to assert that it was “possible to piece together a rough narrative of what led to the current crisis, including lingering questions about the ties binding Mr. Trump and his team to Russia.”
With the US presidential inauguration fast approaching, the press jackals have been swarming. The tid bits offered by the Steele report are themselves shrouded, stemming from September 2015 when an anti-Trump Republican donor (naturally, we do not know the name) commissioned Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research firm stacked by former journalists turned information hit-men, to do some digging. The mission was simple: find as much debilitating dirt as possible and sink the Trump ship.
Steele, considered at one point one of Britain’s foremost Russian experts within MI6, was considered ideal for the job of funneling information to Glenn Simpson at Fusion GPS. The themes of those memos were stock standard: the old compromising (kompromat) material, with sex being central; and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee with discussion by Trump officials with Russian entities.
Trump has not done himself any favours, preferring to throw meagre carrion at the press corps, and hope that it miraculously dissipates. His polemical advisors would have been best served to tell him to shut it. News is not interesting. Allegations have become the gold dust of political debate.
This latest battle of spite and indignation reveals that internally, there is a war between claims and institutions within the United States. The intelligence community finds itself unsheathing its weapons. Trump has duly responded.
The point being missed here is the possibility that the servants of the elected commander-in-chief may actually be subverting the Republic, for all Trump’s sullen, and childish authoritarianism. Sources garnered from the very foundry of deception have assumed an aura of reliability. The argument about fake news has been turned inside out.
While care should be taken in packaging the entire US intelligence community into a neat box of anti-Trump enthusiasts, a good number of former officials were very keen that Hillary Clinton take over the reins in the White House. Views were expressed throughout the election cycle: Trump had to be defeated at all costs.
Once it became clear that Trump was gaining electoral momentum at nerve racking pace, it was important to side with the Clinton electoral team on a revived Cold War mantra: the Russians were doing terrible things, with Trump operating in the shadow of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For former CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, Trump was “the useful fool, some naïf, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”
Former CIA Director Michael J. Morell also took a step that can only be regarded as singular and institutionally troubling: coming out from the shadows to pick his preferred candidate while denigrating another.
In August, he bored readers with his resume in an opinion piece for the New York Times. (“In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties.”) He expressed a solemn view that Trump was “not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.” Russia’s Putin “had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
The Fourth Estate used to be the solemn interrogating power of the parliamentary galleries. Being unelected, it was given, as an accident of history, a certain influence. Like all power, it can be misdirected, even ill-informed. The questioners can become vessels and conduits.
Over time, that same estate has withered, becoming a faint echo of investigation and fact checking. Even in notionally democratic states, it can be co-opted. As Glenn Greenwald has argued, the most useful tool of the deep state has been the US media, “much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials.”
Leakers are punished; facts are not cross-checked. The hack now floats in an ether of speculation, fed by the unverifiable, and pampered by the intelligence official. The battles now seemingly are not over narratives of veracity but narratives of invention. Power, it would seem, to the creative in this new Republic of trouble that is the United States.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This one was doing the rounds yesterday.
From the BBC:
Migrating birds are arriving at their breeding grounds earlier as global temperatures rise, a study has found.
Birds have reached their summer breeding grounds on average about one day earlier per degree of increasing global temperatures, according to the research by Edinburgh University.
The study looked at hundreds of species across five continents.
It is hoped it will help scientists predict how different species may respond to future environmental change.
Reaching their summer breeding grounds at the wrong time – even by a few days – may cause birds to miss out on maximum availability of vital resources such as food and nesting places.
Late arrival to breeding grounds may, in turn, affect the timing of offspring hatching and their chances of survival.
Long-distance migrants, which are shown to be less responsive to rising temperatures, may suffer most as other birds gain advantage by arriving at breeding grounds ahead of them.
Flowering and breeding
Takuji Usui, of Edinburgh University’s school of biological sciences, said: “Many plant and animal species are altering the timing of activities associated with the start of spring, such as flowering and breeding.
“Now we have detailed insights into how the timing of migration is changing and how this change varies across species.
“These insights may help us predict how well migratory birds keep up with changing conditions on their breeding grounds.”
The study examined how various species, which take flight in response to cues such as changing seasonal temperatures and food availability, have altered their behaviour over time and with increasing temperatures.
The researchers examined records of migrating bird species dating back almost 300 years.
The study drew upon records from amateur enthusiasts and scientists, including notes from 19th-century American naturalist Henry David Thoreau.
Species that migrate huge distances – such as the swallow and pied flycatcher – and those with shorter migrations – such as the lapwing and pied wagtail – were included in the research.
The study, published in Journal of Animal Ecology, was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.
So, let’s get this straight.
One day earlier for each degree of global warming. That means birds are migrating a whole day earlier than during the 19thC.
And we are supposed to be concerned about this?
In fact, given the inter-annual variability, I simply do not believe that these results have any statistical significance whatsoever. The error margins must dwarf the results.
But here’s the thing. Birds have been adapting to changing climate for millennia. It is not the climate that forces them to do anything. Quite the reverse in fact. Birds will adopt the strategy that is most beneficial for them.
The longer they can stay at their summer breeding grounds, the better it is for them, as it allows more time for them to raise their chicks.
The project was funded by the NERC. Isn’t it time we stopped wasting taxpayers’ money on such rubbish?
Hashtag #lasttweet began to appear in Twitter frequently after government troops engaged the final phase of Aleppo’s liberation in recent weeks.
Bana al-Abed, an alleged seven-year resident of the largest city in Syria, was the first who created an Internet hysterical fit designed to discredit the process of recapturing Aleppo. Her Twitter account was registered in September, 2016, amid intensified fighting in Aleppo. There are many details of the horrors of war on her page. And the girl blames not the terrorists but the Syrian government and its allies. Tweets are actively retweeted and not only by the Syrian opposition, but also by the mainstream Western media. For example, The Washington Post called Bana the Syrian Anne Frank (who wrote a diary in Nazi-occupied Netherlands).
At the same time, no one draws attention to the strange nuances. First, tweets appear very often. It seems that the little girl posts the information about the situation in the city 24/7. Aleppo is a city of constant fighting, with no constant energy source and water supply, and there is often lack of food and medicine. The more so, no one can easily access the Internet and cellular network due to damaged infrastructure. Second, her account looks perfect it terms of English language. Third, celebs, Western journalists and popular opposition bloggers contribute to the viral dissemination of Bana’s posts. It took just three hours to collect more than 3,700 likes and more than 5,000 retweets after the publication of one of the first tweets of Bana. According to Social Rank website, the request “Who was your first follower?” shows the first subscriber of Bana was an Al-Jazeera journalist Abdul Aziz Ahmed.
Social Rank website shows the results of the request
Moreover, J.K. Rowling promised to send the girl a Harry Potter book and by doing so the writer made a very good ad and emphasized the problem of Bana. Despite the fact that Syria has always been at a high level of literacy of the population (more than 90 percent in fact), Aleppo has been involved in the civil war for four years. At the same time we are forced to believe that the seven-year-old child has such a good command of a foreign language that she is ready to read a book of several hundred pages in the original language.
Speaking of the language it should be noted that a Syrian activist Maytham Al Ashkar who is originally from Al-Zahraa in northern Syria, currently in Beirut, but often travelling to Damascus and Aleppo contacted the 7-year-old Twitter star, Bana Alabed, on November 27, offering to evacuate her family from eastern Aleppo. After a month, someone who identified herself as Bana’s mother responded. When he got contacted by Bana’s account, he started to chat in Arabic since they are all Syrians and Arabic is their mother tongue. However, it was obvious that the person behind the account preferred English as a language of communication.
The more so, according to the media, Bana’s mother studied law. This means that she has studied the Syrian curriculum for 12 years, which is all in Arabic, plus 4 years at university, where all the subjects are taught in Arabic
The girl and her mother didn’t arrange the possibility of evacuation which could be provided by the journalist. So, Maytham Al Ashkar decided that the girl is just a face, a tool used by the British intelligence. (British – because of the strong relationship between the Bana’s account and the White Helmets funded and sponsored by the UK)
Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed’s account
It should be noted that Bana not only writes these tweets but also her mother Fatima al-Abed who is a teacher at a local school. It is she who helps her daughter to write so grammatically correct. Nevertheless, all this raises a number of questions: who is really writing on behalf of Bana and where from? There are a number of other controversial issues. Inside Syria Media Center will try to investigate the Bana project.
On November 27, Bana reported that her home had been destroyed after the shelling. The house is allegedly located in Joured Awaad quarter in the eastern part of Aleppo. Meanwhile, about 20 shellings performed by the anti-government forces were registered in the provinces of Aleppo on November 26. The armed groups of the Syrian Free Army fired multiple launch rocket systems against Bayada and Salah al-Din quarters of the Aleppo city. In addition, terrorists of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and ISIS fired multiple launch rocket systems, tube artillery, mortars and small arms several times against Shurfa inhabited area, Binyamin, Dahiya al-Assad, Jamaiyah Fahat, Amri, Ashrafiyah, Art Sabah, Akyul, 1070, Hai Zahraa Awwad, Kastello trade center, al-Assad military academy, area of the former military school, and Higma school in the Aleppo city.
At the same time, the activity of the government troops was concentrated in the area to the south of the city of Hanano. So, the question arises: why does the girl insist on her house being fired upon and ruined while none of the parties opened fire near her house.
It is also unclear why the walls and the furniture in Bana’s room are not affected by the attacks, and always look new, despite the fact that the girl is constantly complaining that she frequently has to move into a new house. Moreover, the curtains on her photos are always tightly closed and the girl is always clean dressed.
On November 22, Bana published a video which showed her walking down the street in a terrorist-controlled district. Very few people are seen in the area. Getting into the shot, some of the occasional pedestrians are trying to get out of sight. They don’t really care for a little girl being shot. At 0.59, a head appears from a corner and immediately disappears. This looks really suspicious. The high quality of the footage, professional editing, and a tripod (the video is really smooth) – all these prove that the video was staged.
Bana’s tweets are written in English and the girl keeps alleging that Bashar al-Assad “kills children, bombs schools, shells neighborhoods and hurts Aleppo’s residents”. She constantly accuses the Syrian AF of aggressive actions. The little girl’s account is politically straight with messages including popular hashtags. However, in her interview to BBC, Fatima al-Abed stressed that Bana’s twitter wasn’t a propaganda campaign and wasn’t linked to terrorists.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of photos not connected to Bana. For instance, the photos of children allegedly killed in the airstrike at an Idlib school. It’s unknown how the footage got into the hands of Bana’s parents, and why the family doesn’t want to leave east Aleppo for government-controlled areas.
Everything becomes clear when you see the Facebook page of Ghassan, the girl’s father, with lots of his friends tied to various radical groups fighting in Syria.
Omar al-Amd, a Jabhat al-Nusra sniper, one of Bana father’s friends
Besides, some media reported that Bana’s tweets are written by the popular Syrian opposition blogger Abdel Kafi al-Hamdo (https://twitter.com/Mr_Alhamdo). Creating his account in October, 2016, a teacher and an activist gained as much as 17,000 followers.
The propaganda pouring from Bana’s Twitter was mentioned at a high political level. In his interview to the Danish channel TV2, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed that the terrorists and their allies promoted Bana’s tweets.
The Hollywood-stylish Bana’s “death” should also be mentioned. First, the girl’s Twitter became inactive just after the government offensive on east Aleppo started. But soon BBC reported that the girl and her mother were alive and that they had come to a safe place. The account was restored and a new Tweet appeared: “Under attack. Nowhere to go, every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye – Fatemah”.
The ban provoked mass hysteria in the social media, the hashtag #whereisBana quickly became trending. At the same time, Bana’s fake accounts started to post messages about her “death”, which were allegedly written by her mother.
As of today, it should be noted that the project is still active. “Last tweets” have been repeatedly appearing. Probably, the world will witness other news from Bana, whose messages remind us of the story of “Aleppo’s last hospital”.
Till now Bana remains a mystery. The city is completely under government control but no proof of Bana and her mother’s existence has emerged. It is possible that the girl left Aleppo for Idlib alongside the most radical militants (as pointed out by a NBC report) or headed to Turkey in the company of other armed groups. The latter suggestion is supported by the call for help directed at Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that Bana published on Twitter.
Locating Bana and showing that she is safe and can start a new, more quiet life, should be of utmost interest for the Syrian authorities. On the other hand, the rumors could be disproved by finding the flat in the eastern quarter of Joured Awwad and proving that exploiting children’s death is nothing but another propaganda plot of the Western media, and that the Bana project is closed.