The U.S. National Security Agency accessed the internal communications of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela and acquired sensitive data it planned to exploit in order to spy on the company’s top officials, according to a highly classified NSA document that reveals the operation was carried out in concert with the U.S. embassy in Caracas.
The March 2011 document, labeled, “top secret,” and provided by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, is being reported on in an exclusive partnership between teleSUR and The Intercept.
Drafted by an NSA signals development analyst, the document explains that PDVSA’s network, already compromised by U.S. intelligence, was further infiltrated after an NSA review in late 2010 – during President Barack Obama’s first term, which would suggest he ordered or at least authorized the operation – “showed telltale signs that things were getting stagnant on the Venezuelan Energy target set.” Most intelligence “was coming from warranted collection,” which likely refers to communications that were intercepted as they passed across U.S. soil. According to the analyst, “what little was coming from other collectors,” or warrantless surveillance, “was pretty sparse.”
Beyond efforts to infiltrate Venezuela’s most important company, the leaked NSA document highlights the existence of a secretive joint operation between the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency operating out of the U.S. embassy in Caracas. A fortress-like building just a few kilometers from PDVSA headquarters, the embassy sits on the top of a hill that gives those inside a commanding view of the Venezuelan capital.
Last year, Der Spiegel published top-secret documents detailing the state-of-the-art surveillance equipment that the NSA and CIA deploy to embassies around the world. That intelligence on PDVSA had grown “stagnant” was concerning to the U.S. intelligence community for a number of reasons, which its powerful surveillance capabilities could help address.
“Venezuela has some of the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world,” the NSA document states, with revenue from oil and gas accounting “for roughly one third of GDP” and “more than half of all government revenues.”
“To understand PDVSA,” the NSA analyst explains, “is to understand the economic heart of Venezuela.”
Increasing surveillance on the leadership of PDVSA, the most important company in a South American nation seen as hostile to U.S. corporate interests, was a priority for the undisclosed NSA division to which the analyst reported. “Plainly speaking,” the analyst writes, they “wanted PDVSA information at the highest possible levels of the corporation – namely, the president and members of the Board of Directors.”
Given a task, the analyst got to work and, with the help of “sheer luck,” found his task easier than expected.
It began simply enough: with a visit to PDVSA’s website, “where I clicked on ‘Leadership’ and wrote down the names of the principals who would become my target list.” From there, the analyst “dumped the names” into PINWALE, the NSA’s primary database of previously intercepted digital communications, automatically culled using a dictionary of search terms called “selectors.” It was an almost immediate success.
In addition to email traffic, the analyst came across over 10,000 employee contact profiles full of email addresses, phone numbers, and other useful targeting information, including the usernames and passwords for over 900 PDVSA employees. One profile the analyst found was for Rafael Ramirez, PDVSA’s president from 2004 to 2014 and Venezuela’s current envoy to the United Nations. A similar entry turned up for Luis Vierma, the company’s former vice president of exploration and production.
“Now, even my old eyes could see that these things were a goldmine,” the analyst wrote. The entries were full of “work, home, and cell phones, email addresses, LOTS!” This type of information, referred to internally as “selectors,” can then be “tasked” across the NSA’s wide array of surveillance tools so that any relevant communications will be saved.
According to the analyst, the man to whom he reported “was thrilled!” But “it is what happened next that really made our day.”
“As I was analyzing the metadata,” the analyst explains, “I clicked on the ‘From IP’ and noticed something peculiar,” all of the employee profile, “over 10,000 of them, came from the same IP!!!” That, the analyst determined, meant “I had been looking at internal PDVSA comms all this time!!! I fired off a few emails to F6 here and in Caracas, and they confirmed it!”
“Metadata” is a broad term that can include the phone numbers a target has dialed, the duration of the call and from where it was placed, as well as the Wi-Fi networks used to access the Internet, the websites visited and the times accessed. That information can then be used to identify the user.
F6 is the NSA code name for a joint operation with the CIA known as the Special Collection Service, based in Beltsville, Maryland – and with agents posing as diplomats in dozens of U.S. embassies around the world, including Caracas, Bogota and Brasilia.
In 2013, Der Spiegel reported that it was this unit of the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy that had installed, within the U.S. embassy in Berlin, “sophisticated listening devices with which they can intercept virtually every popular method of communication: cellular signals, wireless networks and satellite communication.” The article suggested this is likely how the U.S. tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
SCS at the U.S. embassy in Caracas played an active role throughout the espionage activities described in the NSA document. “I have been coordinating with Caracas,” the NSA analyst states, “who have been surveying their environment and sticking the results into XKEYSCORE.”
XKEYSCORE, as reported by The Intercept, processes a continuous “flow of Internet traffic from fiber optic cables that make up the backbone of the world’s communication network,” storing the data for 72 hours on a “rolling buffer” and “sweep[ing] up countless people’s Internet searches, emails, documents, usernames and passwords.”
The NSA’s combined databases are, essentially, “a very ugly version of Google with half the world’s information in it,” explained Matthew Green, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute, in an email. “They’re capturing so much information from their cable taps, that even the NSA analysts don’t know what they’ve got,” he added, “an analyst has to occasionally step in and manually dig through the data” to see if the information they want has already been collected.
That is exactly what the NSA analyst did in the case of PDVSA, which turned up even more leads to expand their collection efforts.
“I have been lucky enough to find several juicy pdf documents in there,” the NSA analyst wrote, “one of which has just been made a report.”
That report, dated January 2011, suggests a familiarity with the finances of PDVSA beyond that which was public knowledge, noting a decline in the theft and loss of oil.
“In addition, I have discovered a string that carries user ID’s and their passwords, and have recovered over 900 unique user/password combinations” the analyst wrote, which he forwarded to the NSA’s elite hacking team, Targeted Access Operations, along with other useful information and a “targeting request to see if we can pwn this network and especially, the boxes of PDVSA’s leadership.”
“Pwn,” in this context, means to successfully hack and gain full access to a computer or network. “Pwning” a computer, or “box,” would allow the hacker to monitor a user’s every keystroke.
A History of US Interest in Venezuelan Affairs
PDVSA has long been a target of U.S. intelligence agencies and the subject of intense scrutiny from U.S. diplomats. A February 17, 2009, cable, sent from the U.S. ambassador in Caracas to Washington and obtained by WikiLeaks, shows that PDVSA employees, were probed during visa interviews about their company’s internal operations. The embassy was particularly interested in the PDVSA’s strategy concerning litigation over Venezuela’s 2007 nationalization of the Cerro Negro oil project – and billions of dollars in assets owned by U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil.
“According to a PDVSA employee interviewed following his visa renewal, PDVSA is aggressively preparing its international arbitration case against ExxonMobil,” the cable notes.
A year before, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that the U.S. government “fully support the efforts of ExxonMobil to get a just and fair compensation package for their assets.” But, he added, “We are not involved in that dispute.”
ExxonMobil is also at the center of a border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. In May 2015, the company announced it had made a “significant oil discovery” in an offshore location claimed by both countries. The U.S. ambassador to Guyana has offered support for that country’s claim.
More recently, the U.S. government has begun leaking information to media about allegations against top Venezuelan officials.
In October, The Wall Street Journal reported in a piece, “U.S. Investigates Venezuelan Oil Giant,” that “agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies” had recently met to discuss “various PDVSA-related probes.” The “wide-ranging investigations” reportedly have to do with whether former PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez and other executives accepted bribes.
Leaked news of the investigations came less than two months before Dec. 6 parliamentary elections in Venezuela. Ramirez, for his part, has rejected the accusations, which he claims are part of a “new campaign that wants to claim from us the recovery and revolutionary transformation of PDVSA.” Thanks to Chavez, he added, Venezuela’s oil belongs to “the people.”
In its piece on the accusations against him, The Wall Street Journal notes that during Ramirez’s time in office PDVSA became “an arm of the late President Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution,” with money made from the sale of petroleum used “to pay for housing, appliances and food for the poor.”
The former PDVSA president is not the only Venezuelan official to be accused of corruption by the U.S. government. In May 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice accused Diosdado Cabello, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, of being involved in cocaine trafficking and money laundering. Former Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami, the former director of military intelligence, Hugo Carvajal, and Nestor Reverol, head of the National Guard, have also faced similar accusations from the U.S. government.
None of these accusations against high-ranking Venezuelan officials has led to any indictments.
The timing of the charges, made in the court of public opinion rather than a courthouse, has led some to believe there’s another motive.
“These people despise us,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in October. He and his supporters argue the goal of the U.S. government’s selective leaks is to undermine his party ahead of the upcoming elections, helping install a right-wing opposition seen as friendlier to U.S. interests. “They believe that we belong to them.”
Loose Standards for NSA Intelligence Sharing
Ulterior motives or not, by the NSA’s own admission the intelligence it gathers on foreign targets may be disseminated widely among U.S. officials who may have more than justice on their minds.
According to a guide issued by the NSA on January 12, 2015, the communications of non-U.S. persons may be captured in bulk and retained if they are said to contain information concerning a plot against the United States or evidence of, “Transnational criminal threats, including illicit finance and sanctions evasion.” Any intelligence that is gathered may then be passed on to other agencies, such as the DEA, if it “is related to a crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed.”
Spying for the sole purpose of protecting the interests of a corporation is ostensibly not allowed, though there are exceptions that do allow for what might be termed economic espionage.
“The collection of foreign private commercial information or trade secrets is authorized only to protect nation the national security of the United States or its partners and allies,” the agency states. It is not supposed to collect such information “to afford a competitive advantage to U.S. companies and U.S. business sectors commercially.” However, “Certain economic purposes, such as identifying trade or sanctions violations or government influence or direction, shall not constitute competitive advantage.”
In May 2011, two months after the leaked document was published in NSA’s internal newsletter, the U.S. State Department announced it was imposing sanctions on PDVSA – a state-owned enterprise, or one that could be said to be subject to “government influence or direction” – for business it conducted with the Islamic Republic of Iran between December 2010 and March 2011. The department did not say how it obtained information about the transactions, allegedly worth US$50 million.
Intelligence gathered with one stated purpose can also serve another, and the NSA’s already liberal rules on the sharing of what it gathers can also be bent in times of perceived emergency.
“If, due to unanticipated or extraordinary circumstances, NSA determines that it must take action in apparent departure from these procedures to protect the national security of the United States, such action may be taken” – after either consulting other branches of the intelligence bureaucracy. “If there is insufficient time for approval,” however, it may unilaterally take action.
Beyond the obvious importance of oil, leaked diplomatic cables show PDVSA was also on the U.S. radar because of its importance to Venezuela’s left-wing government. In 2009, another diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks shows the U.S. embassy in Caracas viewed PDVSA as crucial to the political operations of long-time foe and former President Hugo Chavez. In April 2002, Chavez was briefly overthrown in a coup that, according to The New York Times, as many as 200 officials in the George W. Bush administration – briefed by the CIA – knew about days before it was carried out.
The Venezuelan government was not informed of the plot.
“Since the December 2002-February 2003 oil sector strike, PDVSA has put itself at the service of President Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, funding everything from domestic programs to Chavez’s geopolitical endeavors,” the 2009 cable states.
Why might that be a problem, from the U.S. government’s perspective? Another missive from the U.S. embassy in Caracas, this one sent in 2010, sheds some light: Chavez “appears determined to shape the hemisphere according to his vision of ‘socialism in the 21st century,’” it states, “a vision that is almost the mirror image of what the United States seeks.”
There was a time when not so long ago when the U.S. had an ally in Venezuela, one that shared its vision for the hemisphere – and invited a U.S. firm run by former U.S. intelligence officials to directly administer its information technology operations.
Amid a push for privatization under former Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera, in January 1997 PDVSA decided to outsource its IT system to a joint a company called Information, Business and Technology, or INTESA – the product of a joint venture between the oil company, which owned a 40 percent share of the new corporation, and the major U.S.-based defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, which controlled 60 percent.
SAIC has close, long-standing ties to the U.S. intelligence community. At the time of its dealings with Venezuela, the company’s director was retired Admiral Bobby Inman. Before coming to SAIC, Inman served as the U.S. Director of Naval Intelligence and Vice Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Inman also served as deputy director of the CIA and, from 1977 to 1981, as director of the NSA.
In his book, “Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chavez Government,” author Gregory Wilpert notes that Inman was far from the only former intelligence official working for SAIC in a leadership role. Joining him were two former U.S. Secretaries of Defense, William Perry and Melvin Laird, a former director of the CIA, John Deutsch, and a former head of both the CIA and the Defense Department, Robert Gates. The company that those men controlled, INTESA, was given the job of managing “all of PDVSA’s data processing needs.”
In 2002, Venezuela, now led by a government seeking to roll back the privatizations of its predecessor, chose not to renew SAIC’s contract for another five years, a decision the company protested to the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which insures the overseas investments of U.S. corporations. In 2004, the U.S. agency ruled that by canceling its contract with SAIC the Venezuelan government had “expropriated” the company’s investment.
However, before that ruling, and before its operations were reincorporated by PDVSA, the company that SAIC controlled, INTESA, played a key role in an opposition-led strike aimed at shutting down the Venezuelan oil industry. In December 2002, eight months after the failed coup attempt and the same month its contract was set to expire, INTESA, the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information alleges, “exercised its ability to control our computers by paralyzing the charge, discharge, and storage of crude at different terminals within the national grid.” The government alleges INTESA, which possessed the codes needed to access those terminals, refused to allow non-striking PDVSA employees access to the company’s control systems.
“The result,” Wilpert noted, “was that PDVSA could not transfer its data processing to new systems, nor could it process its orders for invoices for oil shipments. PDVSA ended up having to process such things manually because passwords and the general computing infrastructure were unavailable, causing the strike to be much more damaging to the company than it would have been if the data processing had been in PDVSA’s hands.”
PDVSA’s IT operations would become a strictly internal affair soon thereafter, though one never truly free from the prying eyes of hostile outsiders.
Canada’s new prime minister is sounding not-so-new when it comes to the civil war that has devastated the lives of millions of people in eastern Ukraine. CBC News reports that Justin Trudeau directed critical and ill-informed words to Russian President Vladimir Putin two days ago during the G20 summit meeting in Antalya, Turkey. Trudeau’s words portend badly for the people of Ukraine if continued.
CBC cites Trudeau speaking of his exchange with Putin: “I pointed out that although Canada has shifted its approach on a broad range of multilateral and international issues, we remain committed to the fact that Russia’s interference in Ukraine must cease; that we stand with the Ukrainian people and expect the president to engage fully in the Minsk peace process.”
The reference to the Minsk ceasefire agreement of Feb 12, 2015 (‘Minsk-2’) is ill-informed or malevolent. Russia was a key international sponsor and negotiator of the agreement, along with Germany and France. Canada and the United States were nowhere to be seen or heard from. The agreement was effectively a refutation of the aggressive egging-on of Kyiv’s civil war in which the U.S., Canada and Britain have engaged ever since Kyiv launched its civil war–‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’–in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.
Minsk-2 sets out 13 very specific clauses which must be met by the governing regime in Kyiv and the rebel, pro-autonomy forces in Donetsk and Lugansk. Kyiv has violated every single one of those clauses. Today, only the first two of the clauses are close to being met by Kyiv–a ceasefire, and a withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the front line of the conflict which runs through the heart of the Donbas region (Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts).
Clause four requires the holding of local elections in Donetsk and Lugansk which would recognize principles of local autonomy. Clauses 11 and 12 require constitutional changes that recognize autonomy for Donbas. None of this has happened. On the contrary, Kyiv has crafted new political measures which block and deny said autonomy.
Clauses five and six require Kyiv to provide amnesty to combatants who resisted its civil war and to conduct a full prisoner exchange with the rebel side. It has failed on the first count, and Kyiv continues to hold many combatants and political prisoners it refuses to exchange.
Clause eight requires Kyiv to end its economic sanctions (cutting of social payments) against the population of the east which it implemented in the summer of 2014 and to end its obstruction and blocking of economic transactions. This has not occurred. Indeed, in the the latest in a string of human rights reports critically examining the situation in Ukraine, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Nils Muižnieks admonishes Kyiv for failing to end its economic blockade of eastern Ukraine. His report was issued on November 3.
Clause ten of Minsk-2 reads, “Pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under OSCE supervision. Disarmament of all illegal groups.” Yet Canada, the U.S. and Britain dispatched soldiers to Ukraine in the months following February 12, under the guise of launching “training missions” of the Ukrainian army. And as for the disarming of “illegal groups” (referring to the extremist paramilitary battalions fighting alongside the Ukrainian army), Kyiv has solved that little problem by incorporating the battalions into its National Guard. This effectively worsens the situation by legitimizing the battalions and giving them more formal access to training and weaponry, including from the aforementioned NATO countries.
So if Ukraine has violated the clauses of Minsk-2 so widely, and if the human rights commissioner of the European Union(!) effectively acknowledges much of this, what is Justin Trudeau talking about when he blames a foreign country, Russia, for violations of the agreement?
Trudeau is either being played by the governing regime in Kyiv, or he and his government have decided to play along.
Last summer, Kyiv began to face up to the fact that it could not longer openly flout Minsk-2 and continue its shelling of Donbas. The military setbacks it suffered during 18 months of civil war cannot be easily fixed. Polls of Ukrainians show very high numbers of people wanting an end to the fighting. Kyiv’s economic and social disaster at home is looming ever larger, including an impending default on its foreign debt. And Berlin and Paris decided last summer that a continued war in Ukraine was not in their interest; they had bigger problems requiring their undivided attention. So as of September 1, Kyiv largely ceased its shelling and it began to match the withdrawals of heavy weaponry already begun by rebel forces. This was and remains a significant political setback to Kyiv’s efforts to crush resistance to its pro-Europe, anti-Russia and pro-austerity program.
The one card that remains for Kyiv to play in order to avoid its obligations under Minsk-2 and obfuscate the real situation is the enduring myth of a Russian invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine. This is what Trudeau is talking about when he speaks of Russian violations of the agreement. He is parroting the wording to this effect that was begun by Kyiv as it faced its forced climbdown on September 1.
Trudeau can get away with uttering nonsense about Russia violating Minsk-2 because the Canadian population has been deeply misled and misinformed about the situation in Ukraine. Parliamentarians of all parties in Ottawa and the country’s corporate media are 100 per cent united behind a hostile, anti-Russia policy that blames all the ills in Ukraine on its large neighbour to the east. Much of the Canadian population knows of no other story of Ukraine than the one it has been aggressively fed for two years now. But the unfolding disaster of U.S., Canadian and European policy taking place in Syria and the Middle East, and the contrast to that of the apparent, early achievements of Russian diplomacy, have growing numbers of Canadians on full alert against more foreign policy deceptions and misadventures.
Justin Trudeau and his government, not to speak of the people of Ukraine, have nothing to gain and much to lose by a continuation of Stephen Harper’s aggressive and hostile policy towards Ukraine and Russia.
The Toronto Star report on Justin Trudeau’s encounter with Vladimir Putin explained, “Trudeau’s brief chat [with Putin] is in contrast with the lengthy discussion that unfolded here between Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama on the crisis in Syria.”
The hypocrisy of “free market” advocates is astounding. While they trumpet increased competition and the elimination of state imposed barriers as a means of spurring economic advancement, they ignore how the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other “free trade” accords increase monopolistic intellectual property provisions.
In a recent CTV interview on the TPP Carleton business professor Ian Lee began by saying we’ve known for three centuries that “free trade” increases wealth while a Maclean’s editorial “celebrating” the accord noted “as with most things, the best sort of trade is free: free from tariffs, restrictions and other government-imposed barriers.”
But the TPP significantly strengthens many “government imposed barriers” to free exchange. The recently negotiated accord harmonizes intellectual property provisions upwards across the 12 nation zone. In Canada the deal will increase the length of copyright from 50 to 70 years after the death of an author. It will also increase (corporate) copyright holders’ capacity to compel Internet Service Providers to block content on websites and to pursue individuals who transfer content they own between devices or upload/repost highlights from trademarked work such as professional sports.
The TPP will also extend drug patent protections. Brand-name pharmaceutical companies in Canada will be given patent term restoration to compensate for time lost during the drug approval process.
In some other TPP countries the patent extensions will be even greater, along with the resulting social costs. Médecins Sans Frontières warns that “the deal will further delay price-lowering generic [drug] competition by extending and strengthening monopoly market protections for pharmaceutical companies.”
Intellectual property is also listed as an asset under the Investor State Dispute Settlement section of the agreement. This will give patent or copyright holders the ability to sue governments – in a private, investor-friendly international tribunal – for pursuing policies that interfere with their profit making. Techdirt editor blog Mike Masnick notes, “including intellectual property in the investment chapter is a poison pill designed to ensure that intellectual property can only continue to ratchet up, rather than back.”
And, one might ask, what does extending patent, trademark or copyright provisions have to do with free trade? In fact, as a type of monopoly, they stifle competition, which is supposed to be a pillar of free trade ideology.
The TPP isn’t the only “free trade” agreement that promotes anti-competitive monopolies. The Canada-Europe Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) gives patent holders the ability to appeal overturned patents, increases patent data protection terms and grants patent term restoration for any time lost during the approval process. The extension of Canadian patents under the yet to be signed CETA is expected to drive up already high pharmaceutical drug costs in this country by between $850 million and $1.65 billion a year, according to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study. This far surpasses the $225 million Canadian companies paid in tariffs to the EU in 2013.
To a lesser extent, other “free trade” accords such as the World Trade Organization and North American Free Trade Agreement also strengthened intellectual property monopolies. With patents, trademarks and copyright ever more important to big corporations, there’s been heavy pressure to extend intellectual property systems.
While the Maclean’s editors denounce “government imposed barriers”, they ignore how the TPP and similar agreements they promote extend state designated monopolies. I guess it’s preferable to consider oneself a “free marketer” rather than a “sycophant of corporate power”.
Read Part 1.
On November 12th the jury found Mr. Topham guilty of ‘inciting hate.’ This leads to a few questions.
First, the jury found Mr. Topham guilty on Count 1 but not guilty on Count 2. Ordinarily, this is a result we are comfortable with since the state (the Crown) may have proved ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that a defendant committed an assault but not have shown sufficient evidence of battery. Mr. Topham’s case is different. He was charged with two virtually identical counts, both relating to his website but covering different periods of time, that is, count 1 was for the period from April 28, 2011 to May 4, 2012, and count 2 was for January 29, 2013 to December 11, 2013.
If Mr. Topham intended to incite hate, would he really have changed his mind in the brief period between counts 1 and 2? We will never know what the jury relied upon; in yet another abrogation of free speech, the jury was threatened that if they spoke to anyone about their deliberations, they would be committing a criminal offense. How is the public supposed to understand the mysterious machinations of the term ‘hate’ without knowing what caused a jury to convict a fellow citizen of such a crime?
Hate is a crime the essential elements of which have been left undefined. As a writer, one must not only discern from the miasma what constitutes ‘hate’ but also guess what elements a jury will find persuasive. If one of the main goals of the criminal law is to prevent certain behavior then clarity of what such behavior is, is essential. What can Canadians say? May they say they disagree strongly with a particular group? What evidence can one print in support of their disagreement? Surely, it is not the defendant’s responsibility that a particular political group is also associated with an ethnic identity and a religion. The Crown, by controlling website content through its ‘hate’ law, is controlling not only what Canadians may say but also what Canadians may read. Mr. Topham’s is not the only blog to criticize Israel and Zionism. Should Canadians then read political criticism only from other countries? Very troubling.
Second, the crown had almost 2 years to prepare its case. Its evidence was contained in 4 binders. Many of the pages were illegible and the Crown itself seemed to have extraordinary difficulties in citing to its own arguments. The defense quite properly objected. The Crown wanted to provide clear copies of the illegible pages in yet another binder cross referenced to the originals. The trial could have been an exercise in maze solving. Judge Butler ruled that the Crown had to provide legible copies. This seemed to present a large obstacle and endless court time was wasted in discussions of printing costs, etc. As a foreign observer it seemed ironic that the crown spent $190 an hour on its expert witness, who as an earlier independent complainant against Mr. Topham might have been willing to accept less, and I don’t know how much money on ‘security’ but had so much trouble producing legible copies.
I belabor this point because it is very odd for the prosecution to allow its evidence to be blurry. I would expect in proving an elusive crime like ‘hate’ they would want their evidence to be as clear and convincing as possible. Was the intent to confuse the jury? Was the Crown merely incompetent? This is not impossible. The judge spent much time instructing the crown’s representative, Ms. Johnston, on procedural issues. This gave me the impression (and perhaps the jurors as well?) that the judge was helping and thus favoring the prosecution. Surely this was unintentional on Judge Butler’s part.
Third, and this relates to point two, the jury was given 62 pages of ‘charges’ (or what Americans call jury instructions). Even if all twelve jurors, ordinary men and women, are speed readers, how are they to read and evaluate 62 pages of instructions and then apply them to four binders? The plethora of material leads me to suspect that the jury was not intended to read the material at all. This would tend the jury toward a guilty verdict.
There is not a sinister act by the jury. They were asked to sit through weeks of testimony about Jewish politics, history, religion, and identity. Jury selection would have excluded anyone who was actually interested in such topics. They were handed stacks of paper. Faced with these circumstances, they presumably decided that the Crown and the judge worked for their province and had British Columbia’s best interests at heart. It is actually a testimony to the weakness of the Crown’s case that Mr. Topham was found not guilty at all.
The battle is not over. Following the verdict, both sides indicated that they intended to appeal. (Here Canada differs from the United States where prosecutors can appeal only under very limited circumstances). The Crown asked that Mr. Topham’s bail restrictions be changed and that his website be taken down. Judge Butler did not decide these issues because first, as the defense pointed out, these requests were improperly made. Mr. Topham intends to present a Charter (constitutional) argument that the judge had stayed at the beginning of the trial so that the ‘facts’ of the case could be more fully developed at trial.
Eve Mykytyn graduated from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to bar of the state of New York.
Arthur Topham, the man behind Radical Press, was found guilty yesterday on one count of communicating statements that “wilfully promote hatred against an identifiable group.”
Some Canadians such as Harry Abrams, former B.C. representative for the League of Human Rights for B’nai Brith Canada, were thrilled. “Canada says that you should be able to walk in peace and not be fearful to be victimized, to be vilified, because of who you are or who you were born as,” Abrams told CBC News. But Topham, who has been married to a Jewish woman for over 37 years, doesn’t criticise or vilify Jews for who they are or the family into which they were born. He actually criticises some Jews, like Abrams, who subscribe to some particularly noxious tribally exclusive politics and ideology. Topham must have wrongly assumed that in a Western society, all forms of politics and ideologies, including Jewish ones, must be subject to criticism.
Topham’s case is full of surprises. Topham was found guilty on ‘count one’ but not guilty on ‘count two.’ But the two counts are pretty much identical in meaning, content and context. Both counts refer to “communication of statements, other than in private conversation, that wilfully promote hatred against an identifiable group, people of the Jewish religion or ethnic origin, contrary to Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code.“ The two counts differ only in the dates they cover.
Some commentators and legal experts speculated yesterday what led the jury to form such an inconsistent ruling. The documents, books and texts disseminated by Topham on his site (The Radical Press ) within the period covered by both counts are all widely available to the Canadian public on many on-line outlets including amazon.ca. The one document on Topham’s site that has not been widely available recently is: ‘Israel Must Perish!’
In fact, ‘Israel Must Perish!’ is a hateful text. It promotes hatred against an ‘identifiable group.’ The book advocates the genocide through sterilization of all Israelis and the territorial dismemberment of Zion. The text is a deeply problematic pamphlet that demands the strongest possible condemnation, except that it wasn’t really written by Arthur Topham. ‘Israel Must Perish!’ was actually written by a politically driven Zionist Jew named Theodore N. Kaufman in 1941 under the title ‘Germany Must Perish!’ While ‘Germany Must Perish!’, is advocating the extinction of all Germans, Topham’s ‘Israel Must Perish!’ is clearly a satire, quoting as it does,verbaitm from Kaufman’s original (He substitutes the word ‘Israel’ for ‘Germany’ and ‘Zionist(s) for German(s).)
Topham’s satire, published in 2011, was obviously intended to make Israelis and Zionists reflect on their politics following a decade of extensive Jewish lobby advocacy of more and more immoral interventionist wars (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran etc). ‘Israeli Must Perish!’ is a mirror placed in front of the forgotten Kaufman’s ‘Germany Must Perish!’ Presumably, Topham saw some applicability of a critique of Germany in 1941 to Israel and global Zionism today.
If history is the attempt to narrate the past as we move along, then the return to Kaufman’s text couldn’t be more timely and essential. In an interview in the September 26, 1941, issue of The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, Kaufman attempted to justify his plan for the “sterilization of all Germans”. He said:
“I believe, that the Jews have a mission in life. They must see to it that the nations of the world get together in one vast federation. ‘Union Now’ is the beginning of this. Slowly but surely the world will develop into a paradise. We will have perpetual peace. And the Jews will do the most to bring about this confederation, because they have the most to gain. … Let us sterilize all Germans and wars of world domination will come to an end!” (Harold U. Ribalow (September 26, 1941). “Hitler Will Be Nothing But A Rosebud Says Author ‘Germany Must Perish!’. One Man’s Plan For Peace Forever”. The Canadian Jewish Chronicle. p. 5. Retrieved December 4, 2011.)
At the time, Kaufman’s book was widely quoted in Germany as evidence of a Jewish plan for genocide against the German people. Goebbels wrote,
“Thanks to the Jew Kaufman, we Germans know only too well what to expect in case of defeat.”
American journalist Howard K. Smith was in Germany when Germany Must Perish! became known. He wrote:
“No man has ever done so irresponsible a disservice to the cause his nation is fighting and suffering for than Nathan Kaufman. His half-baked brochure provided the Nazis with one of the best light artillery pieces they have, for, used as the Nazis used it, it served to bolster up that terror which forces Germans who dislike the Nazis to support, fight and die to keep Nazism alive …”( Howard K. Smith, Last Train from Berlin (London: Phoenix Pr., 1942), 134)
When the Jews of Hanover were evicted on September 8, 1941, the local authorities cited Kaufman’s book as one of the reasons. The well respected German philosopher and historian Ernst Nolte argued recently that the German reaction to ‘Germany Must Perish!’ supports his view that WWII was a genuine response to German knowledge of a worldwide Jewish plot.
And yet, Kaufman’s book was concealed for 7 decades. It didn’t fit into the Zionist Shoah narrative. It was, in fact, Arthur Topham and his crude satire that brought Kaufman’s hateful text to our attention.
Topham’s crime is obvious, the radical man is guilty of unveiling some shameful corners in Jewish past, exposing some documents Jews would prefer to keep deep under the carpet.
If Topham has to be penalised for contextualizing Israeli present within a Jewish historical continuum, we may have to accept it. Within the western ethos often enough the brave truth teller pays heavily for other people’s sins. But we should never forget that that within the same Western ethos, the truth has the unique capacity to resurrect itself.
Make sure to save a copy of Germany Must Perish! onto your HD before it is removed by the Canadian thought police: http://www.radicalpress.com/?page_id=1314
As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead trying to kill me.
They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only doing their duty, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.
— George Orwell1
War is necrophilia. And this necrophilia is central to soldiering, just as it is central to the makeup of suicide bombers and terrorists. The necrophilia is hidden under platitudes about duty or comradeship.
— Chris Hedges2
My Chinese-born companion wanted to catch the latest news, so she tuned in to CBC. It was replete with Remembrance Day festivities and war veterans.
“Is this Canada?” she asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
Her next utterance caused me to grab a pen and write down her words: “They went to other countries to kill other peoples?”
“No one has attacked Canada, so Canada’s soldiers only go to other countries,” I replied.3
“And we are to remember them every year?” she asked.
The inanity of a holiday dedicated to willing, albeit unwitting, accomplices of empire was on my mind since yesterday.
I was at a school which was renamed after a man who likely is a war criminal: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After all, he was the president who ordered the internment of US citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps and the commander-in-chief of a military that firebombed Tokyo.
That conflagration was called “the greatest single disaster incurred by any enemy in military history” by flight commander general Thomas Power.4
The US Strategic Bombing Survey went so far as to state that:
probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a 6-hour period than at any time in the history of man. People died from extreme heat, from oxygen deficiency, from carbon monoxide asphyxiation, from being trampled beneath the feet of stampeding crowds, and from drowning. The largest number of victims were the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly.4
That such facts are a matter of history causes one to pause upon considering that an institute of learning is so named today.
The educator Noam Chomsky once made an acerbic comment about education: “Most schooling is just training for stupidity and conformity…”5
The events of 10 November brought this home to me. Roosevelt Elementary School held an assembly in the school gym. Students were informed that silence was expected on this solemn occasion. Near the front of the gym were seated a couple of veterans. Students sat on the floor, and teachers and parents were seated or standing around the gym’s perimeter.
A number of videos were presented. First there was a welcome from Indigenous educators and then came a Bryan Adam’s song, “Remembrance Day.” He calls it, WWII, a “bloody war” but the video features several images of violence.
The warring is updated to Canada’s participation in the aggression (what the Nuremberg Tribunal deemed “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”6 ) of Afghanistan with a simple ditty by a band that I had never heard of before, the Trews: “Highway of Heroes.”
In contrast to Bryan Adams’ “promise of glory” rationale for fighting —
For our king and our country and the promise of glory
We came from Kingston and Brighton to fight on the front line
— the Trews sing:
I served with distinction,
No visions of glory.
I served without question,
Or personal gain.
Seek no justification,
Its not part of my story.
To serve without question? Is this what schools would like to impart to young minds? Isn’t questioning integral to learning?
Who is a hero? Is going to fight another non-threatening country something that should be accepted?7
The usual reading of “In Flanders Fields,” observing two-minutes of silence, as well as the playing of the Canadian anthem were part of the agenda. The entire assembly was one of conformity. For any student to have demurred, it would likeliest have been labeled as disobedience. (Should instilling obedience be part of schooling?) Shouldn’t such heavy topics such as war and peace be discussed in classes? Are not contemplation, reflection, and forming one’s own conclusions part of becoming an independent thinker?
In 1931, Canada’s parliament changed the name of Armistice (referring to warring parties reaching agreement to cease hostilities) Day to Remembrance (remembrance for those serving Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace) Day. The change of title reflects a shift in emphasis from ending warring to serving in the warring. But is not society better served by a day more so dedicated to promoting universal peace and an end to all warring?
All Canadian involvement in wars have been wars of choice. That is something to remember and act upon.
No more should humans pick up weapons to use against other humans. Is this mindset, however, achievable when soldiers are venerated by society thus conferring a veneer of respectability to a profession which teaches killing?
- “The Lion and the Unicorn.”
- War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, (New York: PublicAffairs, 2002): 165.
- Of course I refer only to the state of Canada which was erected on the genocide and dispossession of the Original Peoples.
- See Mark Selden, “A Forgotten Holocaust: US Bombing Strategy, the Destruction of Japanese Cities & the American Way of War from World War II to Iraq,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
- See “Most Schooling Is Training for Stupidity and Conformity – Noam Chomsky on Education.”
- See Nuremberg Tribunal, “Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 22,” Monday, 30 September 1946, Avalon Project.
- BJ Sabri and I explore the question of whether soldiers are “heroes” or undiscerning, paid killers? See “American Violence in Iraq: Necrophilia or Savagery?Part 3: King Frederick’s and George Bush’s Troops,” Dissident Voice, 1 September 2005.
Kim Petersen can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trudeau “unveils most diverse Cabinet in Canada’s history”, was how one media outlet described the new Liberal cabinet. It includes a Muslim woman, four Sikhs, an indigenous woman, two differently abled individuals and an equal number of women and men. Half even refused any reference to God at Wednesday’s swearing in ceremony.
But in one respect there was no diversity at all. Every single person wore a Remembrance Day poppy. Even Justin Trudeau’s young children were made to publicly commemorate Canadians (and allies) who died at war.
As we approach the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month expect politicians of every stripe to praise Canadian military valour. At last year’s Remembrance Day commemoration Stephen Harper suggested that Canada was “forged in the fires of First World War”. The former Prime Minister described “the values for which they fought … Justice and freedom; democracy and the rule of law; human rights and human dignity.”
On Remembrance Day what is it we are supposed to remember? The valour, sacrifice and glory of soldiers — and no more?
What about the victims of Canadian troops? Should we abandon the search for truth and learning from our past on this day that is supposedly devoted to remembering?
Why not a diversity of recollection? An honest accounting of what really happened and why — isn’t that the best way to remember?
For example, World War I had no clear and compelling purpose other than rivalry between up-and-coming Germany and the lead imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. In fact, support for the British Empire was Ottawa’s primary motive in joining the war. As Canada’s Prime Minister Robert Borden saw it, the fight was “to put forth every effort and to make every sacrifice necessary to ensure the integrity and maintain the honour of our empire.”
To honour Canada’s diversity, how about this year we remember some of the victims of that empire?
For Africans World War I represented the final chapter in the violent European scramble for their territory. Since the 1880s the European powers had competed to carve up the continent.
Canada was modestly involved in two African theatres of World War I. A handful of Canadian airmen fought in East Africa, including naval air serviceman H. J. Arnold who helped destroy a major German naval vessel, the Königsberg, during the British/Belgian/South African conquest of German East Africa. Commandant of Canada’s Royal Military College from 1909 to 1913, Colonel J.H.V. Crowe commanded an artillery division for famed South African General Jan Christiaan Smuts and later published General Smuts’ Campaign in East Africa.
About one million people died as a direct result of the war in East Africa. Fighting raged for four years with many dying from direct violence and others from the widespread disease and misery it caused. Hundreds of thousands of Africans were conscripted by the colonial authorities to fight both in Africa and Europe.
J.H.V. Crowe was English born, but an individual with deeper roots in Canada, commanded the force that extended Britain’s control over the other side of the continent.
The son of a Québec City MP and grandson of a senator, Sir Charles MacPherson Dobell, commanded an 18,000 man Anglo-French force that captured the Cameroons and Togoland. Gazetted as Inspector General of the West African Frontier Force in 1913, the Royal Military College grad’s force defeated the Germans in fighting that destroyed many villages and left thousands of West Africans dead. Early in the two-year campaign Dobell’s force captured the main centres of Lomé and Douala and he became de factogovernor over large parts of today’s Togo and Cameroon. A telegram from London said “General Dobell should assume Government with full powers in all matters military and civil.”
British officials justified seizing the German colony as a response to the war in Europe, but to a large extent World War I was the outgrowth of intra-imperial competition in Africa and elsewhere. In The Anglo-French “Condominium” in Cameroon, 1914-1916 Lovett Elango points to “the imperialist motives of the campaign”, which saw the two allies clash over their territorial ambition. Elango concludes, “the war merely provided Britain and France a pretext for further colonial conquest and annexation.” After the German defeat the colony was partitioned between the two European colonial powers.
Canada’s massive contribution to World War I propped up British (as well as French, Belgian and South African) rule in Africa. It also added to it. Similar to the Berlin Conference of 1885, which effectively divided Africa among the European powers, after World War I European leaders gathered to redraw Africa’s borders. But this time the Canadian prime minister attended.
World War I reshaped colonial borders in Africa. Germany lost what is now Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and part of Mozambique (German East Africa) as well as Namibia (German West Africa), Cameroon and Togoland. South Africa gained Namibia, Britain gained Tanzania and part of Cameroon, France gained Togo and part of Cameroon while Belgium took Burundi and Rwanda.
The other British Dominions (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) that fought alongside London were compensated with German properties. With no German colonies nearby Ottawa asked the Imperial War Cabinet if it could take possession of the British West Indies as compensation for Canada’s defence of the Empire. London balked.
Ottawa was unsuccessful in securing the British Caribbean partly because the request did not find unanimous domestic support. Prime Minister Borden was of two minds on the issue. From London he dispatched a cable noting, “the responsibilities of governing subject races would probably exercise a broadening influence upon our people as the dominion thus constituted would closely resemble in its problems and its duties the empire as a whole.” But, on the other hand, Borden feared that the Caribbean’s black population might want to vote. He remarked upon “the difficulty of dealing with the coloured population, who would probably be more restless under Canadian law than under British control and would desire and perhaps insist upon representation in Parliament.”
Our racist and colonial past, as well as Canada’s role in exploiting people of colour all over the world, must also be included in our remembrance if we are to build a nation of respect for all people — the essence of real diversity.
Arab nations, who initially took part in the US-led airstrikes against ISIL, have grown wary of Washington’s scheming in the Middle East and have switched their efforts to tackle what they perceive as real threats, military expert Vladimir Prohvatilov told Radio Sputnik.
“Many know perfectly well that the US is not really interested in defeating ISIL. Washington’s true aim is to create a zone of controlled chaos in the Middle East to deal with geopolitical and geo-economic issues. America’s task is to spark a bloody conflict and drag others into it,” the analyst asserted.
Washington’s plans for the Middle East, according to Prohvatilov, prompted Canada’s newly elected prime minister to pull out of the anti-ISIL bombing campaign. Delivering on this promise would mean that Justin Trudeau does not view the operation led by the US as beneficial for Canada.
This stance is not exclusive to Ottawa, the expert maintains. Many Arab countries which nominally take part in the US-led efforts share this position.
“People [in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar] are used to high living standards and do not want to take part in a war. The Saudi Army is essentially manned by Pakistani mercenaries. Saudi nationals have no wish to fight,” he asserted.
Washington’s Arab allies have switched their attention to Yemen and see tackling the Houthis as a priority.
“Riyadh views the Houthis as a threat since they are capable of calling to arms as many as 200,000 seasoned fighters. The same goes for Jordan and Qatar. They perceive Yemen as a real threat while ISIL is a subtle game engineered by the US,” Prohvatilov noted.
Washington’s stance towards Moscow’s counterterrorism efforts in Syria is also a part of this game.
“The Americans want the Russians either to stop the campaign (so that Washington could accuse Moscow of a military defeat or cowardice) or to expand it so that Russia would bear all the cost” of a major military engagement, he added.
The US is not interested in defeating ISIS but would want to control its movements to create a geopolitical balance on the ground and provide the US-led coalition with leverage at the Vienna talks, said Middle East geopolitics analyst Sharmine Narwani.
RT: There are more than 60 countries in the coalition fighting against Islamic State. How hard is it for the US to keep them all united?
Sharmine Narwani: I think the US is playing loose with international law. To start off with, this coalition is illegitimate. The reason to have signed up 60 countries is more to create some kind of cover, some kind of legitimacy for these illegal operations in Syria. The main struggle is probably with the key Arab members of the coalition who were the starting members of the coalition – five Persian Gulf countries and Jordan included – because they have quite disparate objectives from the US.
RT: How many countries in the coalition are actually contributing to its goals?
SN: That is a very interesting point, because even though there are 60 countries listed in the coalition, there are only 11 who have contributed in Syria. There are two groups: like I mentioned, the Arab states – I call them the Sunni states, because they provide some kind of Arab Sunni legitimacy for the Americans; the other states are the UK, the US and France – three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Canada and Australia.
What is interesting about this is – of those five Western countries it is only Canada that stepped in relatively early, when things kicked off last year. It was the US mainly with the Arab States, and the UK, France and Australia have only come in the last three months, as well as Turkey, who is a new entrant in this coalition of 11, not 60.
RT: It’s been more than a year since the US-led bombing campaign started. Why has the coalition failed to prevent ISIS from seizing new territory?
SN: Again, interesting that Turkey is a new entrant in this coalition of 11 bombing Syria. It only came on board around I think two months ago, in August, when it launched strikes against ISIL. Now, about a month ago we, after Turkey launched its airstrikes, we’re looking at still only about three airstrikes against ISIL – the rest were against Kurdish targets. So Turkey is an example of another Sunni state in this coalition of 11 that has disparate objectives from the US. So Turkey’s interest may be on the Kurdish issue, but for instance, in the other Arab Sunni states – their interests diverge from the Americans, because they are interested in regime change in Syria, whereas the Americans have taken a back seat on that in recent months. So it is very, very hard to keep this coalition together, because there are no common objectives among its 11 partners.
RT: What are the reasons, do you think the coalition is breaking apart? How can the coalition increase the efficiency of its actions?
SN: I see the coalition breaking apart or being redundant for two reasons. One is the lack of common objectives among the 11 actors participating in the coalition, but the other is more in line with military strategy in fighting any war or conflict, anywhere. We’ve heard this over and over again in the Syrian conflict – you need a coordination of air force and ground power. The US-led coalition does not have this. Part of the reason it doesn’t have this is because it entered Syrian air space and violated international law in doing so against the wishes of the Syrian government. So it cannot coordinate with the Syrian government who leads the ground activities, whether it is the Syrian army or various Syrian militias that are pro-government; or Hezbollah – a non-state actor from Lebanon; or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their advisory capacity. The Russians of course do enjoy that relationship, so their airstrikes are not only both valid and legal, but also useful – a coordinated effort to target ISIL and other terrorist organizations.
RT: Do you think the US doesn’t have real intentions to fight ISIS, and that is the main reason of instability of its coalition?
SN: Absolutely. The US-led coalition has failed in attaining goals to defeat ISIS, not just because it cannot lead a coordinated military effort in air, land and sea in Syria, or because it lacks legality, or because the member states of the coalition have diverging interests. But I think the US interest as well has to be called into question. I mean: does the US want to defeat ISIS? I would argue very strongly based on what we’ve seen in the last year that the US is not interested in defeating ISIS. The US is interested in perhaps controlling ISIS’ movements, so that it helps to create a geopolitical balance on the ground that will provide the US government and its allies with leverage at the negotiating table. So they don’t want ISIS to take over all of Syria [because] that poses threats to allies in the region. They don’t want ISIS and other terrorist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others, and the various coalitions they have formed to lose ground, because at the end of the day the only pressure they are going to be able to apply on the Syrian government and its allies is what is happening on the ground. And they need something; they need advantage on the ground that they can take with them to the negotiating table in Vienna.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani
Five security guards, members of the RCMP, two in bulletproof vests, all entrants pass through metal detectors, undergo a wand search, check all electronics including cell phones and have their bags meticulously scrutinized. Why all the security? The crown was presenting its criminal case against Arthur Topham, for the crime of “hate.”
Section 319 of Canada’s criminal code is an extraordinary law by most western standards. It reads, in relevant part: “(2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, willfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
The statute does not define hatred, but does provide 4 statutory defenses.
(a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;
(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;
(c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or
(d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.
It is important to understand that the prosecution (the Crown), with all of its resources, need only prove ‘hate,’ and then the only available defenses are affirmative, meaning that the burden of proof switches to the defense.
This week I attended some of the extraordinary trial of Arthur Topham in the Supreme Court (the highest provincial trial court) in Quesnel, British Columbia. As a lawyer, the differences in procedure between American and Canadian courts were of interest to me. Ahead of the trial, I read a little about the Canadian legal system and found that on paper the differences appeared minor. I don’t know if the huge differences in practice that I observed in this trial has to do with the way trials are usually conducted in Canada, the understandable loosening of formality in a court in a small town and/or the nature of the trial.
The history of Mr. Topham’s travails can be found here.
It is sufficient to understand that this trial follows eight years of harassment. Mr. Topham has already had to close his successful remodeling business. This is a criminal trial, and Mr. Topham could go to prison for two years. Mr. Topham and his wife live on a remote property on which they maintain a chicken coop, grow vegetables and engage in other rural activities. But it is clear that Mrs. Topham could not live there alone. These are not wealthy people. Mrs. Topham told me that she is not a political person, but she loves and supports her husband and believes in free speech. The defendant and his wife have exhibited bravery, courtesy and calm to a degree that is awe inspiring.
The police arrested Mr. Topham for ‘hate’ after they received complaints from various Jewish people who found his writing hateful. Although the police clearly knew where he lived, they arrested Topham as he and his wife were driving, leaving his wife stranded and Mr. Topham in jail. While jailed, Mr. Topham’s house was searched and his computers, shotguns and other items were taken. (Shotguns are essential in an area where grizzlies often decide to take up residence on the porch.)
I understand that before I arrived, the Crown presented the arresting and investigating officers. Clearly the officers are not qualified to establish ‘hate,’ so how does the Crown do this? There is no victim to present, no one whose injuries the jury must assess, instead it is to the jury to decide if ‘hate’ is present, no injury need be shown.
The Crown chose to use an expert witness to show hate, and qualified Len Rudner as an expert in Judaism and anti-Semitism. Mr. Rudner’s biography indicates that he is a ‘professional Jew,’ in that he has been employed for the last 15 years by the Canadian Jewish Congress and its successor organization, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). Prior to this trial, Rudner has attempted to force Mr. Topham’s internet service provider to shut down his web site, and has lodged civil complaints against Mr. Topham.
The crown used its questioning of Rudner to introduce what it considered to be the most damaging articles on Topham’s site, Radical Free Press (RFP). These included a list of books and articles, all of which are easily accessible on the internet and/or for sale at Amazon.ca.
Most of these publications accuse Jews of some pretty nasty politics. What at first appeared to be the Crown’s most damning evidence was a picture of a stereotyped Jew holding puppets that were Canadian politicians. On cross examination, it was hard for Mr. Rudner to counter what a careful viewing showed to be a clear political statement. I think the shocking picture of the Jew served to make the statement more powerful. But is it the job of the court to evaluate the strength of a political cartoon?
Without going to the truth of the matters presented, I am troubled that Mr. Topham is on trial for reprinting sources that are widely available in Canada. Again, on cross examination, Mr. Rudner had to admit that this was so. A quick google search for “the protocols of the Elders of Zion,” reveals hundreds of sources that display the protocols in full.
The procedure, at least in this court, was that all objections had to be heard outside the presence of the jury. This meant that each objection forced the jury to leave the room (not the judge and the lawyers) thus making an objection, even for the record, was a cumbersome and time consuming process.
In one of these interminable objection interludes, the Crown stated that ‘free speech is not on trial here.” Shockingly, Judge Butler echoed her sentiments. Legal fictions (such as that all lawyers are capable of providing an adequate defense) are generally employed to allow the system to work. In this case, the legal fiction went to the charge itself. Mr. Topham is on trial for writing and for publishing articles that presumably reflect his beliefs. What else is free speech if not that?
Mr. Rudner indicated under direct examination that he was the author of the written expert opinion he provided to the court. This was troubling, because the Crown had originally employed Bernie Farber as its expert, and Mr. Farber had provided an opinion that was word for word the same as Mr. Rudner’s. If Mr. Rudner did not commit perjury, he was at least deceptive in his presentation of his expert opinion.
Barkley Johnson, defense attorney extraordinaire, gave an opening argument that was an impassioned call for freedom of thought and speech. Later the Crown objected, but the damage so-called had been done. Mr. Johnson endured a tongue lashing and a civil procedure lesson from the judge. The jury was instructed to ignore some of Mr. Johnson’s speech. I assume that this helped plant the speech more firmly in their minds.
Mr. Topham countered the charge of hate and argued as a defense that the writing was political with an expert of his own. Gilad Atzmon, the iconoclastic jazz musician, writer and philosopher volunteered his time to help. It seems wrong to enjoy a presentation when a man’s freedom is at stake, but it was delightful to watch Mr. Atzmon ignore or flaunt every rule of procedure and get away with it.
Atzmon was qualified as an expert on Jewish Identity Politics a topic that clearly few in the court had heard of. In his most amusing argument on the subject, Atzmon explained that there was a section on identity politics in every bookshop, and that topics included the LBGT community. Faced with political correctness, the court backed off and agreed to allow Atzmon in as an expert.
Atzmon began by explaining his system of characterization. He divides ‘the Jews’ into three non-exclusive categories. The first, Judaism, is made up of religious Jews. The second, Jews, are people who are Jewish by an accident of birth. The third, and most important category for this purpose is ‘Jewishness,’ those who identify politically as Jews. Mr. Atzmon described the first two categories as innocent. Objections were raised, innocent is, after all, a legal conclusion and if the first two are innocent, the third is, by implication, guilty. Judge Butler agreed with the Crown’s objection and then allowed Atzmon to proceed in describing the first two categories as innocent. From then on, the defense attorney, the prosecution and the judge adopted these categories for clarity of discussion.
Atzmon argued that contemporary opposition to Jewry is driven by political and ideological arguments; that no one criticizes Jews as a race or a biology. There is little criticism of Judaism, the religion, as a whole, but there has been some criticism leveled at a few aspects of the religion such as blood rituals and goy hatred. The thrust of his argument was that Jewish politics and ideology must be subject to criticism like all other politics and ideologies.
Like a rabbi on acid, Atzmon explained his philosophy, allowed few questions, and browbeat the attorneys. He dealt with his own philosophical approach to Jewishness and the dangers of believing oneself ‘chosen’ and then he got in a few swipes at categories one and two as well. The jury was mesmerized. Later, Atzmon told friends that he had directed his remarks to the juror sleeping in the first row. If he could be made to listen, presumably the others could as well.
Atzmon made the point that many of the most apparently anti-Semitic writings were made by the early Zionists. According to Atzmon, Herzl and others saw a problem with European Jewry and thought that the existence of a homeland could cure problems such as usury, discrimination against non-Jews, exclusiveness, etc. The take away is that if Jews are entitled to criticize Jews, why can’t other people? This is especially true because the Jews have a disproportionate amount of power in government, finance and the media. They clearly have the means to counter criticism if they choose to do so.
- Part 2 will cover the closing arguments and the verdict.
Eve Mykytyn graduated from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to bar of the state of New York.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Suraia Suhar, an Afghan-born woman who now lives in Toronto, Canada. At the time, Suraia was organizing with Afghans for Peace (AFP), and I was serving on the board of directors for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Back in 2012, NATO held their annual summit in Chicago, where thousands of antiwar protesters showed up to support AFP and IVAW, and to protest NATO’s ongoing and ever-expanding militarism. The rallies and actions culminated when members of IVAW discarded their medals, echoing the actions of Dewey Canyon III in 1971, when Vietnam Veterans Against the War threw their military mementos on the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C.
The anti-NATO protests were the last massive antiwar demonstrations to take place in the U.S. Since then, and even in the preceding years (2008-2012), the antiwar movement has been all but absent. However, even when the antiwar movement was active and visible (2002-2007), the war in Afghanistan was a taboo topic. In short, progressives and leftists in North America have never come to terms with the fact that the war in Afghanistan was, is and will always be catastrophic and immoral.
No less than a few weeks ago, as most people know, the U.S. military bombed a civilian hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 12 members of the health organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres, along with 10 Afghan civilians who were being treated for illnesses linked to NATO’s ongoing occupation. Without doubt, the horror continues for the Afghan people, with no end in sight, as Obama decided that he would keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan until he departs office in January, 2017.
Recently, I had the chance to briefly speak with Suraia, who currently works with anti-racist organizations in Toronto. When asked about the bombing in Kunduz, Suraia said that the world should support Medecins Sans Frontieres’ current campaign and hopefully use this brutal event to apply political pressure, both in the U.S. and abroad. What’s needed, according to Suhar, is an independent investigation. As IVAW showed with its Winter Soldier hearings, the U.S. military will not properly investigate their own. When the military does investigate and occasionally prosecute, low level enlisted servicemen and women are the ones who face the music, not higher ranking officials.
Regarding Obama’s recent announcement concerning U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, she said, “It’s just an extension of the ongoing occupation. Concerning the future, well, I think a lot of that will depend on who’s elected after Obama leaves office.” In other words, “Obviously Trump would have a different approach to foreign policy than Sanders. And given her reputation, I’m worried that a Clinton administration would lead to more war hawk policies abroad than Obama’s failed policies.”
But what about the Afghan women? Suraia isn’t buying it. “This is a tired and debunked orientalist argument. Given that we live in the Information Age, my hope is that those who believe and repeat these claims make the effort to read statistical reports on the quality of life for women in Afghanistan, and how much of the progress, albeit with flawed results, had little to nothing to do with military warfare.” Turns out, bombs aren’t conducive to gender equality or political rights – imagine that.
In fact, NATO’s bombs and raids have created more insecurity. “The entire occupation has been rife with corruption, escalations of violence, preventable casualties, and further disempowerment of the Afghan people. The high numbers of internally displaced people and rise in refugee populations is evident of the deteriorating security in Afghanistan.” Indeed, the situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan was considered the good (legal) war, and a justified response to 9/11. Almost immediately fear-mongering was fueled with a rise in Islamophobia, xenophobia, and the media had no trouble propagating anti-terrorism rhetoric in the form of jingoism.” Further, Suhar notes that, “When the Afghanistan war was escalated at the end of 2009, a Democrat (Obama) was in power, so the anti-war movement subsequently, and cowardly I might add, dissipated. It was disappointing to say the least.”
Biting criticism? No doubt. But true nonetheless. I can personally attest to the cowardly position many antiwar organizations took with regard to the war in Afghanistan. Even on the Left, people never understood how to deal with the “good war.” Part of the problem, at least from my perspective, is that we did a poor job of educating peace and justice activists about American Empire, its history and the legacy of so-called humanitarian interventions and counterinsurgency operations.
As far as the antiwar movement is concerned, I asked Suraia what advice she would have for those seeking to rebuild the movement, or better yet, build a new movement to oppose militarism and empire. “I can’t stress enough the importance of working alongside people from Afghanistan who are well informed, experienced, and already doing community organizing. This goes for all conflict regions that the anti-war movement is involved with.”
Moreover, according to Suhar, “I also think it’s important to know how to counter and find alternative solutions to military warfare, so better understanding long-term sustainable development, restorative justice and reparations would tremendously help the peace movement.” Additionally, “The anti-war movement should be aware of the problems that can arise from certain areas of identity politics. A prime example of this is celebrating diversity in the US military, when that military is still serving the interests of the US government and corporations.”
At the end of the conversation, I asked Suraia what life has been like for her, an Afghan woman living in Toronto, who’s outspoken and public:
I think more people are becoming aware that the current climate of Islamophobia and racism has been used to support police state policies, wars abroad, and laws against civil liberties, so there’s been a growing resistance to it. To be clear, being a publicly outspoken Afghan woman living in North America in the post-9/11 world hasn’t been without its challenges.
Running into misinformed and heavily biased views aside, one thing I’ve noticed has been consistent sexist criticisms directed towards myself and the Afghan women I’ve worked with, which has come from many sources – pro-warlord Afghans who support the NATO mission, neoconservative media figures and their followers, and racists in general. Keep in mind, I’m talking about Canadians here. They’ve targeted us with vitriolic harassment and online stalking for being vocal Muslim women from Afghanistan with a political opinion, which of course differs from theirs. This reveals their hypocrisy in claiming to support women’s rights and liberation through Western wars. It’s unavoidable, so I’ve come to expect that it happens. I realize the intent is to silence dissent, but it’s a cowardly tactic. A good defense is transparency and allied support.
Suraia’s advice and reflections are very similar to the guidance and reflections I’ve heard from other Afghans and Iraqis over the years. In short, these activists need solidarity and true allies – allies who are willing to put aside petty differences in the pursuit of ending U.S. Empire abroad and Islamophobia and militarism at home. After all, we’re talking about war, so let’s get serious my friends, because our brothers and sisters abroad require our solidarity and commitment.
Vincent Emanuele can be reached at email@example.com
Critical reaction to President Barack Obama’s blocking of the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil industry amounted to a shrug, perhaps because the US has constructed enough pipeline in the last five years to equal 10 Keystone projects, a new report stated.
Keystone XL’s “deliberation process has gone on so long that the market has evolved and adapted in the meantime,” Mark Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, told Market Watch. “The need for it is less urgent now than when it was originally first commissioned.”
During the seven years TransCanada was applying to the US State Department to extend its Keystone pipeline across the US border, other pipelines expanded rapidly within the US, according to a report by the Financial Post. From 2009 to 2013, more than 8,000 miles of piping was built. In 2014, mileage increased over 9 percent to reach 66,649 miles, Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL) data shows.
“While people have been debating Keystone in the US we have actually built the equivalent of 10 Keystones. And no one’s complained or said anything,” AOPL spokesman John Stoody told the Post.
TransCanada had sought to build 875 miles for its Keystone XL. On Monday, it asked the State Department to discontinue its application review process, but that didn’t happen. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden stood alongside the president on Friday for his eight-minute prepared remarks agreeing with State Department’s rejection of the application.
“Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security,” Obama said.
In Canada, the decision was seen as political. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall viewed this as the Obama administration putting politics “ahead of its relationship with its most important trading partner, Canada.”
President and chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute, Jack Gerard, said, “It’s ironic that the administration would strike a deal to allow Iranian crude onto the global market while refusing to give our closest ally, Canada, access to US refineries” in a media conference call.
The number one source of crude oil for the US is Canada. In August, the amount of Canadian crude oil shipped to the US rose to a record 3.4 million barrels a day. Since 2010, crude oil imports from Canada have risen by a million barrels per day.
The US-based oil industry is growing too. A Houston-based pipeline company, Enterprise Product Partners, projected last week that by 2018 it will have spent a total of $7.8 billion on such projects. Shipping company Magellan Midstream Partners, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, announced this week that it had increased its budget to purchase capital and equipment to move oil from $200 million to $1.6 billion.
Meanwhile, Enbridge, another Canadian energy transportation corporation, has already doubled the quantity of oil it delivers to the US without an application process, as its routes don’t cross a national border.