Hey, remember back in those “good ol’ days” we called the Cold War when we thought World War Three would begin over some penny-ante border skirmish in Europe? You know, a Soviet plane gets close to the border, we panic, it gets shot down. Then the Soviets decide to shoot down the next plane that tries that again. Then it escalates from there. Well, folks, have a look at this.
There. Putin just placed some long-range surface-to-air missiles in Syria. The next Turkish F-16 pilot to play Top Gun is going to get a hotfoot he’ll never forget. Ok, but let’s get back to the Cold War for a second. Can anyone imagine it being 1983 and Reagan giving the okey-dokey to shoot down a Soviet aircraft? Of course not. Not even Reagan was that bonkers. If Turkey had said they were going to do that, they’d have been told in no uncertain terms: Absolutely not. We’d have never allowed a NATO nation to threaten such a thing, much less carry out that threat. They’d have been told to follow the protocols which are to send up planes and escort the aircraft away. That’s what NATO has been doing since they provoked the Russians into resuming Bear bomber excursions close to NATO airspace. They escort the planes away. They don’t shoot them down, no matter how many bloodthirsty whack-jobs were calling for it.
Also, the surviving crewman of the shot-down Russian plane has been recovered. Guess where? Syria! Gee, how’d that happen? If the Russian plane was in Turkey, how comes the Turks didn’t capture the guy? And since the pilot was killed by ground fire coming from al-Qaida, there are only two possibilities there. One, the plane was in Syria, which we can pretty much say is a given. Or, two, the plane was in Turkey and al-Qaida is getting safe haven in Turkey. So, ok, Turkey, which one was it? Was the plane in Syria when your F-16s ambushed it? Or are you harboring al-Qaida?
I bet NATO nations that want to stay out of this are crapping enough bricks to build a pyramid at this point. I hear tell that Turkish F-16s cross into Syria with some regularity. Sooner or later, one will get bagged by a Russian SAM crew. Or the next F-16 to shadow a Russian plane is going to get a supersonic parting gift. “Vanna, tell our contestant what he’s won!” “He’s won a surface-to-air missile and a free trip by parachute into the arms of his air rescue crew!” Turkey goes whining to NATO and demands assistance. There, we’re in World War Three. I tend to think this entire thing has been staged and Turkey was coached in it by those who want to get us into a war by any means necessary. I tend to think that actor is the Pentagon. They probably think the President and Congress aren’t getting us into a war fast enough.
Here’s what’s obviously going down over there. Turkey is, and always has been, supporting al-Qaida and ISIS. Both of them are covertly supported by the United States which is why a year-plus-change-you-can-believe-in’s worth of airstrikes haven’t even cost ISIS a magazine subscription. ISIS and al-Qaida have been using Turkey as a safe haven and that’s the starting point of the ISIS version of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. How come ISIS keeps getting resupply? Because Turkey is where the supply depot is. So, ok, ISIS ends up nuttier than a fruitcake but we still need them to get rid of Assad, so we just kick the can down the road, hoping an international coalition will get rid of ISIS later. But here came the Russians and no one thought that would happen. And it might not have if NATO and the U.S. had minded their own business in Ukraine. So Putin moved up his pieces on the board. But now here was the chance to get the war we wanted to start in Ukraine started in Syria and kill two birds with one stone. So to speak. Hence, Turkey was not challenged and warned off by the U.S. when they said they were going to shoot down Russian planes. In fact, that’s exactly what the Pentagon needed. And now it’s happened.
See, the Pentagon thinks it can win a war with Russia. Seriously. They do. Because even if it goes nuclear, as long as we wipe them out and we’ve got a handful of bureaucrats and generals alive in their bunkers, we won! Hooray! Aren’t you all excited and proud to be an American right now? Gee, it’s swell to know we didn’t scrap all those nuclear weapons after the Cold War. We scrapped the air raid sirens so, hey, if you’re in the shower you might not even know the world is going to end before you’re done washing your hair. Don’t worry about drying it, the heat flash will do that for you.
Don’t you just love it? I can’t see any other conclusion that can be arrived at except that we’re about to risk a war with Russia over al-Qaida. Makes you wonder if al-Qaida ever was formally off the CIA payroll.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — to the outrage of liberals everywhere — says he wants more waterboarding. Reports the Washington Post: “‘Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat,’ Trump said to loud cheers during a rally at a convention center [in Columbus, Ohio] Monday night that attracted thousands. ‘And I would approve more than that. Don’t kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn’t work.’
“Trump said such techniques are needed to confront terrorists who ‘chop off our young people’s heads’ and ‘build these iron cages, and they’ll put 20 people in them and they drop them in the ocean for 15 minutes and pull them up 15 minutes later.’
“‘It works,’ Trump said over and over again. ‘Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing. It works.'”
There’s no shortage of people denouncing or pretending to correct Trump’s remarks. Virtually all miss the point. The fact is torture produces bad but useful intelligence. That is, it gives you “intel” that some bigwig with a conniving agenda wants to push. Like that Iraq had WMDs and we needed to invade.
As I wrote in my piece of last year: ““Both Sides” Are Wrong: Torture Did Work — to Produce Lies for War (See Footnote 857 of Report)“:
Nothing solidifies the establishment more than a seemingly raging debate between two wings of it in which they are both wrong. Not only wrong, but in their wrongness, helping to cover their joint iniquities, all the while engaging in simultaneous embrace and fingerpointing to convey the illusion of seriousness and choice.
>The truth is that torture did work, but not the way its defenders claim. It “worked” to produce justifications for policies the establishment wanted, like the Iraq war. This is actually tacitly acknowledged in the [Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture, partly declassified last year] — or one should say, it’s buried in it. Footnote 857 of the report is about Ibn Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured in Afghanistan shortly after the U.S. invasion and was interrogated by the FBI. He told them all he knew, but then the CIA rendered him to the brutal Mubarak regime in Egypt, in effect outsourcing their torture. From the footnote:
“Ibn Shaykh al-Libi reported while in [censored: ‘Egyptian’] custody that Iraq was supporting al-Qa’ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [censored], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [censored, likely ‘Egyptians’], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear. For more more details, see Volume III.” Of course, Volume III — like most of the Senate report — has not been made public….
So, contrary to the claim that torture helped save lives, torture helped build the case of lies for war that took thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, helping to plunge the region into astounding violence, bringing al-Qaeda into Iraq, leading to the rise of ISIS and further bloody wars.
But rather than face how torture actually works — and indeed how the establishment acknowledges it works — it’s more fun for so-called conservatives like Trump to talk about how we shouldn’t care that a bunch of presumably bad guys getting tortured and for liberals to pontificate about how we’re better than that and we need to live up to our values. Or for some to say that “torture doesn’t work” without examining what “works” means in a manipulative political context. Everyone can then pretend to feel good about themselves: Trump cares about your safety; Liberals uphold our great values that show how superior we are to the savages, and how superior they are to Trump.
It’s all phony. I’m not even sure if Trump knows it’s phony. I do know that many reporters and presumed opponents of torture are aware of this, but have chosen to stay mum about it. Again, as I wrote in my piece last year:
Exploiting false information has been well understood within the government. Here’s a 2002 memo from the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency to the Pentagon’s top lawyer — it debunks the “ticking time bomb” scenario and acknowledged how false information derived from torture can be useful:
“The requirement to obtain information from an uncooperative source as quickly as possible — in time to prevent, for example, an impending terrorist attack that could result in loss of life — has been forwarded as a compelling argument for the use of torture. … The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate intelligence. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption.” The document concludes: “The application of extreme physical and/or psychological duress (torture) has some serious operational deficits, most notably, the potential to result in unreliable information. This is not to say that the manipulation of the subject’s environment in an effort to dislocate their expectations and induce emotional responses is not effective. On the contrary, systematic manipulation of the subject’s environment is likely to result in a subject that can be exploited for intelligence information and other national strategic concerns.” [PDF]
So torture can result in the subject being “exploited” for various propaganda and strategic concerns. This memo should be well known but isn’t, largely because the two reporters for the Washington Post, Peter Finn and Joby Warrick, who wrote about in 2009 it managed to avoid the most crucial part of it in their story, as Jeff Kaye, a psychologist active in the anti-torture movement, has noted. One reporter who has highlighted critical issues along these lines is Marcy Wheeler — noting as the recent report was being released: “The Debate about Torture We’re Not Having: Exploitation.”
An additional irony is that Trump is putting himself out there as the guy opposed to the Iraq war.
Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson has acknowledge the torture-evidence link, and I questioned Powell about this. Noted Wilkerson: “What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda.”
Trump can pose as standing up to political correctness. The actual political correctness is how torture is used by war makers to get the tortured “evidence” they want to have a pretext for war and other hideous policies. The actual political correctness is to pretend that “torture doesn’t work” when it works for evil ends all too well. It’s way past time to get off the liberal-conservative phony debate not-so-merry-go-round.
In response to the tragic Paris events of November 13, Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan warned that “ISIL is planning additional attacks… It is clear to me that ISIL has an external agenda, that they are determined to carry out these types of attacks.” (Quoted in Daily Telegraph, November 16, 2015)
Five days later following the CIA Chief’s premonition, the Bamako Radisson Hotel Blu in Mali’s capital was the object of a terrorist attack, resulting in 21 people dead. Following the attack and the taking of hostages by the terrorists, French and Malian special forces raided the hotel. US. Africa Command (AFRICOM) also confirmed that US special forces were involved.
The Bamako terror operation was allegedly coordinated by Mokhtar Belmokhtar (aka Khaled Abu al-Abbas), leader of an affiliate of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Islamist al-Mulathameen (Masked) Brigade, or “Those who Sign with Blood.”
Belmokhtar’s group was created in 2012 in the wake of the war on Libya. His organization has also allegedly been involved in the drug trade, smuggling as well kidnapping operations of foreigners in North Africa. While his whereabouts are said to be known, French intelligence has dubbed Belmokhtar “the uncatchable”.
In June he was reported dead as a result in a U.S. air strike in Libya. His death was subsequently denied.
Based on shaky evidence, The New York Times report below (November 20) concludes that Belmokhtar’s group (together with AQIM) is unequivocally behind the Bamako attacks:
A member of Al Qaeda in Africa confirmed Saturday that the attack Friday on a hotel in Bamako, Mali, had been carried out by a jihadist group loyal to Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian operative for Al Qaeda. The Qaeda member, who spoke via an online chat, said that an audio message and a similar written statement in which the group claimed responsibility for the attack were authentic. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist groups, also confirmed the authenticity of the statement.
The Qaeda member, who refused to be named for his protection, said that Mr. Belmokhtar’s men had collaborated with the Saharan Emirate of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, … In the audio recording, the group, known as Al Mourabitoun, says it carried out the operation in conjunction with Al Qaeda’s branch in the Islamic Maghreb.
The recording was released to the Al Jazeera network and simultaneously to Al Akhbar, … The recording states: “We, in the group of the Mourabitoun [Arabic Rebel Group], in cooperation with our brothers in Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, the great desert area, claim responsibility for the hostage-taking operation in the Radisson hotel in Bamako.” (emphasis added)
The SITE Intelligence Group is presented as an “independent” Washington think tank with a mandate of analyzing data pertaining to Al Qaeda affiliated terror organizations. SITE is also on contract with a number of US government agencies and has close links to US intelligence.
SITE has provided no substantive evidence which supports the authenticity of the online audio chat recording, which is considered as a reliable source. The story could have been planted.
Following the audio release, the Western media in chorus immediately pointed to an act of revenge directed against the French Republic in response to France’s 2013 military intervention in Mali, which had been ordered by President Francois Hollande.
“France saved Mali from al-Qaeda but it never broke terror threat”. “France saved northern Mali from al-Qaeda’s brutal rule … But the country is still beholden to outsiders and, as events at the Radisson hotel have demonstrated, acutely vulnerable to the worst of terrorism” (The Independent, November 20, 2015)
Screenshot The Independent, November 20, 2015
In turn, the French Minister of Defense acknowledged –prior to the conduct of a police investigation– that the authors of the attack were “most likely” led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group in association with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
What Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain failed to mention was that both Belmokhtar and AQIM have longstanding links to the CIA, which in turn has a working relationship with France’s General Directorate for External Security, Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE).
Casually ignored by the Western media, the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) including Belmokhtar were trained and recruited by the CIA in Afghanistan. Acknowledged by the Washington based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):
Most of AQIM’s major leaders are believed to have trained in Afghanistan during the 1979-1989 war against the Soviets as part of a group of North African volunteers known as “Afghan Arabs” that returned to the region and radicalized Islamist movements in the years that followed. The group is divided into “katibas” or brigades, which are clustered into different and often independent cells.
The group’s top leader, or emir, since 2004 has been Abdelmalek Droukdel, also known as Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud, a trained engineer and explosives expert who has fought in Afghanistan and has roots with the GIA in Algeria. (Council on Foreign Relations, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, cfr.org, undated)
Saudi born terror mastermind Osama bin Laden was recruited in 1979 ironically under the auspices of the CIA. The training, recruitment and indoctrination of Mujahideen launched in 1979 was considered to be “the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA” in response the Soviet Union’s military support of the pro-Communist secular Afghan government of Babrak Kamal.
Al Qaeda in Arabic means “the Base”. What it referred to was the CIA’s “Database” of Mujahideen recruits who were referred to by President Ronald Reagan as “freedom fighters”:
Shortly before his untimely death, former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that “Al Qaeda” is not really a terrorist group but a database of international mujaheddin and arms smugglers used by the CIA and Saudis to funnel guerrillas, arms, and money into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. (See Pierre-Henri Bunel, Al Qaeda: The Database, Global Research, November 20, 2005, emphasis added)
Mokhtar Belmokhtar: Post Cold War CIA intelligence asset?
The Council on Foreign Relations erroneously describes “Mokhtar Belmokhtar as the one-eyed veteran of the anti-Soviet Afghan insurgency.” (CFR, op cit, emphasis added). Belmokhtar (born in 1972) did not fight in the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989). He was recruited in 1991 at the age of 19 in the immediate wake of the Cold War.
CIA recruitment continued in the wake of the Cold War. It was in large part directed against the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Republics as well as the Middle East.
The purpose of this later CIA recruitment was to establish a network of “intelligence assets” to be used in the CIA’s post-cold war insurgencies. Leaders of the Chechen Islamist insurgencies were also trained in CIA camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the notorious leader of the Chechen insurrection Ibn al-Khattab (a citizen of Saudi Arabia).
Following his training and recruitment and a two year stint in Afghanistan (1991-1993), Mokhtar Belmokhtar was sent back to Algeria in 1993 at age 21 where he joined the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) (emblem left). The latter was initially part of the so-called Armed Islamic Group (Groupe islamique armé (GIA)) in Algeria which sought to overthrow the secular Algerian Government with a view to installing a theocratic Islamic State.
Supported covertly by the CIA, Belmokhtar fought in Southern Algeria in the civil war opposing Islamist forces and the secular government. He was also instrumental in the integration and merging of “jihadist” forces.
In January 2007, the Armed islamic Group (GIA) which had been prominent in the 1990s, officially changed its name to the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
In turn, as of 2007, the newly formed AQIM established a close relationship with the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was directly supported by NATO during the 2011 war on Libya, “providing weapons, training, special forces and even aircraft to support them in the overthrow of Libya’s government.” (Tony Cartalucci, The Geopolitical Reordering of Africa: US Covert Support to Al Qaeda in Northern Mali, France “Comes to the Rescue”, Global Research, January 2013).
British SAS Special Forces had also been brought into Libya prior to the onset of the insurrection, acting as military advisers to the LIFG.
In fact, what has unfolded since the war on Libya is the merging of LIFG and AQIM forces. In turn, many of the LIFG operatives have been dispatched to Syria to fight within the ranks of Al Nusrah and the ISIS.
Robert Stephen Ford, US Ambassador to Algeria (2006-2008)
It is worth noting that the 2007 restructuring of jihadist forces in Algeria and the Maghreb coincided with the appointment of Robert Stephen Ford as US ambassador to Algeria in August 2006. Ford had been reassigned by the State Department from Baghdad to Algiers. From 2004 to 2006, he worked closely with Ambassador John Negroponte at the US embassy in Baghdad in supporting the creation of both Shia and Sunni death squads in Iraq.
This project consisted in recruiting and training terrorists modelled on the so-called “Salvador Option” which had been applied by the CIA in Central America. Negroponte as we recall played a central role in supporting the Contras terrorists in Nicaragua as ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, “The Salvador Option For Syria”: US-NATO Sponsored Death Squads Integrate “Opposition Forces”, Global Research, May 28, 2012)
The 2006 appointment of Robert Stephen Ford to head the US Embassy in Algeria was timely. It coincided with the consolidation of jihadist groups within Algeria and the Maghreb. It preceded the 2011 US-NATO sponsored insurrections in Libya and Syria.
In 2010, Ford was approved by the US Congress as US Ambassador to Syria. He presented his credentials to president Bashar al Assad in January 2011, barely two months prior to the onslaught of the terrorist insurrection in the border city of Daraa in mid-March 2011. Ford played a central role in assisting the channelling of US and allied support to Syrian “opposition” groups including Al Nusrah and the ISIS.
Belmokhtar’s history and involvement in Afghanistan confirms that from the very outset he was an instrument of US intelligence. While, he operates with a certain degree of independence and autonomy in relation to his intelligence sponsors, he and his organization are bona fide CIA “intelligence assets”, which can be used by the CIA as part of a covert agenda.
There are various definitions of an “intelligence asset”. From the standpoint of US intelligence, “assets” linked up to terrorist organizations must not be aware that they are supported and monitored by Western intelligence.
With regard to Al Qaeda, from the outset in 1979, the CIA chose to operate through various front organizations as well as indirectly through its Saudi, Qatari and Pakistani intelligence partners. CIA’s Milton Beardman who played a central role in the Soviet Afghan war confirms that members of Al Qaeda including Osama bin Laden were not aware of the role they were playing on behalf of Washington. In the words of bin Laden (quoted by Beardman): “neither I, nor my brothers saw evidence of American help”(Michel Chossudovsky, Who is Osama bin Laden, Global Research, September 12, 2001):
Motivated by nationalism and religious fervor, the Islamic warriors were unaware that they were fighting the Soviet Army on behalf of Uncle Sam. While there were contacts at the upper levels of the intelligence hierarchy, Islamic rebel leaders in theatre had no contacts with Washington or the CIA. (Ibid)
Amply documented, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)and its affiliated groups including the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) was serving the interests of the Western military alliance. Confirmed by the Washington Post, June 29, 2011 (See below), France was supplying weapons to the LIFG at the height of NATO’s bombing raids.
AQIM in turn was receiving weapons from the LIFG, which was supported by NATO. Moreover, LIFG mercenaries had integrated AQIM brigades.
According to alleged Terror Mastermind Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who also coordinated the 2013 In Amenas Mali kidnapping operation:
“We have been one of the main beneficiaries of the revolutions in the Arab world. As for our benefiting from the (Libyan) weapons, this is a natural thing in these kinds of circumstances.” http://www.hanford.gov/c.cfm/oci/ci_terrorist.cfm?dossier=174
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is indelibly tied into a Western intelligence agenda. While it is described as ”one of the region’s wealthiest, best-armed militant groups”, financed covertly by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. France’s Canard enchaîné revealed (June 2012) that Qatar (a staunch ally of the United States) has been funding various terrorist entities in Mali:
The original report cites a French military intelligence report as indicating that Qatar has provided financial support to all three of the main armed groups in northern Mali: Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Ed-Dine, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).
The amount of funding given to each of the groups is not mentioned but it mentions that repeated reports from the French DGSE to the Defense Ministry have mentioned Qatar’s support for ‘terrorism’ in northern Mali. (quoted by Jeune Afrique June 2012)
Qatar is a proxy state, a de facto Persian Gulf territory largely controlled by Washington. It hosts a number of Western military and intelligence facilities.
The Emir of Qatar does not finance terrorism without the consent of the CIA.
And with regard to Mali, the CIA coordinates its activities in liaison with its French intelligence partners and counterparts, including la Direction du renseignement militaire (DRM) and the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE).
The implications are obvious and should be carefully understood by Western public opinion. Inasmuch as Belmokhtar and AQIM are “intelligence assets”, both US and French intelligence are (indirectly) behind the Bamako attacks.
Both US and French intelligence are complicit in the State sponsorship of terrorism.
Last week the US House dealt a blow to President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrians fleeing their war-torn homeland. On a vote of 289-137, including 47 Democrats, the House voted to require the FBI to closely vet any applicant from Syria and to guarantee that none of them pose a threat to the US. Effectively this will shut down the program.
The House legislation was brought to the Floor after last week’s attacks in Paris that left more than 120 people dead, and for which ISIS claimed responsibility. With the year-long US bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, there is a good deal of concern that among those 10,000 to be settled here there might be some who wish to do us harm. Even though it looks as though the Paris attackers were all EU citizens, polling in the US shows record opposition to allowing Syrian refugees entry.
I agree that we must be very careful about who is permitted to enter the United States, but I object to the president’s plan for a very different reason. I think it is a sign of Washington’s moral and intellectual bankruptcy that US citizens are being forced to pay for those fleeing Washington’s foreign policy.
For the past ten years the US government has been planning and executing a regime change operation against the Syrian government. It is this policy that has produced the chaos in Syria, including the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda in the country. After a decade of US destabilization efforts, we are now told that Syria is totally destabilized and we therefore must take in thousands of Syrians fleeing the destabilization that Washington caused.
Has there ever been a more foolish and wrong-headed foreign policy than this?
The American people have been forced to pay untold millions for a ten-year CIA and Pentagon program to undermine and overthrow the Syrian government, and now we are supposed to pay millions more to provide welfare for the refugees Obama created.
Who should pay for the millions fleeing the chaos that Washington helped create? How about the military-industrial complex, which makes a killing promoting killing? How about the Beltway neocon think-tanks that continue to churn out pro-war propaganda while receiving huge grants from defense contractors? How about President Obama’s national security advisors, who push him into one regime change disaster after another? How about Hillary Clinton, who came up with the bright idea that “Assad must go”? How about President Obama himself, a president elected to end wars, but who has ended up starting more wars than his predecessor? It’s time those who start the wars start paying for the disasters they create. Then perhaps we might have some relief from an interventionist foreign policy that is destroying our financial and national security.
If Obama wants to take in refugees from the chaos in Syria, there are probably plenty of vacant rooms in the White House.
Among the many anomalies and strange coincidences in American history is the frequency in which the name Harvey appears in connection to political assassinations.
Consider that the man chosen by Allen Dulles to head up the CIA’s assassin recruiter program was one William King Harvey. Dubbed ZR/RIFLE, the project was a component of Operation Mongoose, the Agency’s umbrella program to overthrow, and if necessary, assassinate Fidel Castro.
Among the more plausible theories regarding the JFK assassination is that Mongoose was simply reverse engineered to target President Kennedy after he and his brother Bobby had ruffled too many Establishment feathers.
We have, of course, the case of Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged “lone nut” assassin of President Kennedy. The cumulative evidence strongly indicates that the 24 -year old Oswald was a low to mid level intelligence operative working for the US government, perhaps Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The CIA had a 201 file on him and his actions in the year leading up to the assassination were strongly indicative of an intelligence operation. The “loner” Oswald had a pregnant wife and child at home and reportedly a girlfriend on the sly.
There is the case of Laurence Harvey, the actor who played the role of a mind-controlled assassin in the 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate. The movie, directed by John Frankenheimer (Seven Days in May) and produced by Frank Sinatra, was the screen adaption of a 1959 novel by Richard Condon. The book and movie are particularly notable because they gave the public a glimpse into at least one aspect of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program (mind-controlled assassins) which had yet to be exposed.
It is also worth pointing out that Sinatra also starred in the movie. Sinatra’s career is perhaps the best illustration of how worlds of politics and entertainment intersect with the underworlds of intelligence and organized crime.
And finally we have the case of Raymond Lee Harvey*. The Ohio-born unemployed drifter was arrested by the Secret Service on May 5, 1979 for possessing a starter pistol with blank rounds at a Los Angeles shopping center where then President Jimmy Carter was scheduled to deliver a speech.
The “mentally disturbed” Harvey claimed to be part of a four-man assassination team targeting the president. According to Harvey, he had been recruited by three Latino men who gave him the pistol and instructed him to fire at the ground to create a diversion while they shot the president from a hotel room. Sound familiar?
Although the police originally dismissed Harvey’s story as “a tale spun by an intoxicated man” their cursory investigation found a room rented at the nearby Alan Hotel by one Osvaldo (Oswald?) Espinoza Ortiz containing a shotgun case and three unspent rounds of ammunition. The occupant had checked out the day of the alleged assassination attempt.
Harvey was jailed on $50,000 bond and “Oswaldo” Ortiz was taken into custody as a material witness. Both were eventually released and charges dismissed for lack of evidence.
So we have the following names: William K. Harvey, Lee Harvey Oswald, Laurence Harvey and Raymond Lee Harvey all associated with the subject of political assassination in the span of seventeen years.
Okay, fine. So maybe it’s all just a coincidence. They do happen. But Harvey, while not an uncommon name is not that common.
*See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Lee_Harvey
Tim Kelly is the host of Our Interesting Times, a podcast carried on the UCY network.
Patrick Henningsen | 21st Century Wire | November 20, 2015
Question: should ‘ISIS’ be considered a credible news source? Sadly, CNN does.
In the wake of the Paris Attacks, a most disturbing trend has suddenly emerged in the mainstream media’s ‘terror’ coverage – where CNN, FOX News, and other majors are now deferring to ISIS press releases as a primary news source.
Leading the charge on Wednesday was CNN’s intrepid reporter, Chris Cuomo, who seemed uncomfortably dazzled by a report in the latest English language issue of ‘ISIS Monthly’ aka DABIQ magazine (image, right), a glossy coffee table rag filled with colorful jihadi lifestyle features and career advice for aspiring young terrorists (if only it were a joke).
The DABIQ article proudly displays an image of a 16oz Schweppes Gold pineapple soda can with a few bits alongside it, claiming that this was the bomb that brought down Russia’s Metrojet Airbus A321 – a plane which broke up in midair 20 minutes into its journey after leaving Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt en route to St. Petersburg, Russia on Oct. 31st.
The DABIQ article goes on to reveal a grand plot (albeit, after the fact), saying, “After resolving to bring down a plane belonging to a nation in the American-led Western coalition against ISIS, the target was changed to a Russian plane”.
‘WORKING THEIR SOURCES’: Crack ‘journalist’ Chris Cuomo scored a major scoop from the ISIS propaganda magazine.
CNN even properly credits the terror group, as evidenced in the upper right hand corner ‘ISIS/Dabiq’.
Then comes the big DABIQ reveal: “A bomb was smuggled onto the airplane…”, although it doesn’t explain exactly how, or by whom. Seeing as the Sinai airline disaster took place almost 3 weeks ago, you’d think that ISIS might have boasted about this brilliant ‘job’ earlier. Maybe they were busy planning for Paris, or working on the magazine. Who knows. More reason to believe that the DABIQ article is nothing more than a very sick prank – unless of course you are a member of the mainstream media – then it’s good as gold.
‘What’s the take?’
Granted, most people are used to seeing this type of vapid reporting on TV, but it’s still astonishing to watch how CNN’s Cuomo seized upon his latest ‘scoop’ without even questioning the validity of the source. Later in their coverage, Cuomo tried to ‘walk it back’ somewhat, but still presented this ISIS propaganda as if it was actual ‘evidence’ of a bomb that brought down the Russian plane.
CHRIS CUOMO: “Joining us now is CNN’s Ian Lee. He’s in Cairo; he has the latest. Now, Ian, as you know, the early reporting was that this was a 1-kilogram explosive, that’d be about 2.2 pounds, certainly different than this soda can. What’s the take? ”
IAN LEE: “That’s right, this is a fairly primitive bomb. When you look at it, you do have that soda can. Now explosive experts have told CNN that that could hold about 500 grams, roughly a pound. But they say that’s enough to take down a plane. You also have the detonator and you have the switch.”
“Now we do not know if this is in fact the bomb. It could be ISIS trying to throw investigators off their trail. But all signs are pointing that that it was a bomb that took down the plane. Now, the one thing that is also very concerning about this bomb, it’s is that if you look at it, it cannot be remotely detonated. This was a suicide mission, if it was the bomb…”
CHRIS CUOMO: “Big point there at the end. Ian Lee, thank you very much for the reporting!”
‘TEAM COVERAGE’: David Soucie, Chris Cuomo and Josh Rogin (purple tie)
CNN then rolled out one of its many panels of ‘terror experts’, which on the occasion included Josh Rogin (Daily Beast ) and ‘Safety Analyst’ David Soucie, both of whom seemed to parrot Cuomo’s infatuation with the soda can images, all nodding in unison and seeming to agree that somehow, ‘Yes, it all makes sense Chris!’
Based on what’s been released so far from the official investigation into the Sinai airline crash, it’s clear that the soda can CNN and ISIS have been touting around this week could not have held the explosive material necessary to trigger the fatal explosion. According to Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, it’s estimated that the bomb TNT load was at least 2.2 lbs (1 kg). This would make DABIQ’s soda can claim even more impossible than it already is, unless of course, it was a Six Pack (now that would’ve been a real scoop!). Although CNN had access to this report at the time of their ‘Schweppes Bomb’ scoop, it didn’t slow down Cuomo and their crack news team from running with the ISIS version of events.
If ISIS says so, well then, that’s good enough for CNN.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. CNN’s brain trust go on to ask, ‘is it possible that this soda can could have been detonated remotely?’, even though the crude switch looking like a detonator in the photo – looks nothing like a remote detonator. Hence, Ian Lee’s awkward deflection during his exchange with Cuomo.
While any real journalist would have immediately questioned the validity of this story if the source was a terrorist group with a history of fabricating claims of ‘credit’ for various events, this also begs the question of whether CNN is really in the business of journalism – or spreading fear and hysteria.
Even if the DABIQ article were somehow true (and who in their right mind would root for that?), there is something very weird about western TV networks whose ‘expert’ panels are comprised mainly of ‘former’ CIA operatives, Pentagon staffers, think tank fellows and private security executives – who rely on information supplied by what is supposed to be a ruthless international terrorist outfit. It’s a little obvious how easy it would be to deliver misinformation and disinformation directly to millions of viewers worldwide. Funny that we find CNN right in the middle of that very uncomfortable junction, often doing most the PR heavy lifting for a dubious media production like DABIQ.
Interestingly, Schweppes Gold (non alcoholic) Soda Facebook page has 169,000 ‘likes’. Coincidentally (or not), its last post was on Oct 30th, some 24 hrs before the Sinai crash, showing a rather dark depiction of a Schweppes Gold can, presumably for Halloween.
At any rate, you can expect full-sized soda cans to be banned from the in-flight drinks trolley.
‘Maybe, Could Be, ISIS’
Although Russia’s Security Council now admits, “we can say definitely that this was a terrorist act…”, there is absolutely no proof that ISIS is responsible for this mid-air tragedy, other than an insistence by the media and Washington’s ‘intelligence community’ (‘probably is’, ‘seems like’, ‘could be’, ‘most likely is’, ‘has the fingerprints’ and ‘has all the hallmarks” etc.), the usual political innuendos, and of course, spurious online claims of credit by various social media accounts claiming to be run by ISIS affiliates.
What should be more worrying about this and other ‘virtual’ terrorist exhibitions and corresponding propaganda, is the fact none of these terrorist social media claims could ever stand-up as forensic evidence in any homicide case in any criminal court of law. For US and European media outlets and hapless politicians, that seems to be just fine though. In other words, when it comes to the emotive subject of ‘ISIS’, there is almost no burden of proof for the mainstream media and US-European policy makers, so long as ‘security officials believe’, or ‘we’re told that it’s very likely from the Islamic State’. That and the fact that there is no real independently verifiable comprehensive record which defines or quantifies ISIS, its membership, where they come from, from where their money and arms are derived and where they reside. Until such a study is done, we are told to just accept certain people’s word as gospel (keeping it vague seems to be the trick here).
Why is the bar so low? Part of the problem is that passes for journalism in the corporate mainstream media these days is a far cry from anything which might have been taught in journalism schools or on the job 30, or 40 years ago. More than other recent event, the coverage of the Paris Attacks by the big networks embodies this terminal condition, one in which we are witnessing an erosion of facts, context and any real challenges to official statements. Instead, all we get is a bevy of anchors, correspondents and ‘experts’ (many of whom openly flaunt their ‘insider’ affiliations as if that’s meant to instill confidence in the viewer’s mind). If you went to sleep in 1985 and woke up in 2015, and turned on the TV, you would think you were living a repeating scene out of Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil.
Earlier in the week, 21WIRE asked a reasonable question regarding the ‘magic passports’ of the supposed suicide bombers on site, one which seems to have evaded the whole of the mainstream media and even much of the alternative media. Simply: is it possible that the alleged ‘Syrian’ passport was likely planted at the scene of the crime? Indeed, that’s what some European officials are now admitting.
Without the ‘Syrian Passport’ leg of the official story, then the whole ‘Terrorists Are Sneaking in With the Migrants’ talking point rapidly disintegrates, and wouldn’t that be a shame.
One gets the feeling that either:
A. The mainstream media is playing a dark practical joke on the public.
B. The mainstream media pundits and ‘anchors’ are too stupid to know the difference between what’s real, and what’s fabricated by ‘ISIS’, or someone else.
Either way, this is bad news for the public, especially in such an incendiary political environment where fear is the new order of the day, and where half the US political establishment is demanding a military “package” of ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria, which would almost certainly lead to a long-term occupation and wider region war in the Middle East.
The only thing we haven’t heard yet, is talk of deploying “nukes.” Judging by the looks of it, that’s not far off now.
It only takes some well-place disinformation and hysterical speculation to push this situation out of balance and into a regrettable state of all out war overseas, and at home. More than any other single entity, the mainstream media play the pivotal role in nudging public support either towards, or away from any war. In the age of mass media and consensus reality, they bear most of the responsibility in that troubling process.
So a message media elites… we can offer you some humble advice in these troubling times: a little restraint would go a long way.
READ MORE PARIS ATTACK NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Paris Attack Files
In its effort to vet one of the leading GOP presidential candidates, Dr. Ben Carson, the New York Times didn’t properly vet its primary source in this vetting, former CIA officer Duane Clarridge—an indicted liar and overseer of Contra death squads in Central America.
While the Times’ Trip Gabriel briefly notes the former, he completely omits the latter, instead offering this starry-eyed description:
Mr. Clarridge, described by Mr. Carson’s top adviser, Armstrong Williams, as “a mentor for Dr. Carson,” is a colorful, even legendary figure in intelligence circles, someone who could have stepped out of a Hollywood thriller. He was a longtime CIA officer, serving undercover in India, Turkey, Italy and other countries, and sprinkles his remarks with salty language.
As head of Reagan’s CIA division in Latin America in the 1980s, Clarridge took part in the effort to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government by illegally supplying funds and arms to the Contras—a right-wing terrorist movement that committed brutal war crimes. This was not an unforeseen consequence, but the point of the operation; asked by CIA Director William Casey to come up with a strategy for dealing with the Sandinista revolution, Clarridge writes in his memoir A Spy for All Seasons :
My plan was simple:
- Take the war to Nicaragua.
- Start killing Cubans.
Clarridge acknowledges that his plan, “stated so bluntly, undoubtedly sounds harsh.”
He also boasts of having come up with the idea of mining Nicaragua’s harbors to interfere with shipping:
I remember sitting with a glass of gin on the rocks, smoking a cigar (of course), and pondering my dilemma, when it hit me. Sea mines were the solution…. To this day I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner.
The mines were, as conservative icon Sen. Barry Goldwater pointed out, an “act of war”—and predictably resulted in the deaths of civilians, something that doesn’t trouble Clarridge overly much. Or, apparently, the New York Times.
The Times vaguely alludes to the Iran/Contra scandal but without mentioning what it entailed, namely that Clarridge had an operational involvement with terrorist death squads.
In addition to this bloodsoaked past, Clarridge has more recently been a freelance hit-list generator for the Defense Department in Afghanistan ( New York Times, 3/14/10)–part of what the Times referred to as “an off-the-books spy operation.”
The kid-glove treatment would even extend to ethnic slurs, which the Times glosses over without citing specifically. Gabriel quotes Clarridge dismissing the notion—spread by right-wing media—that there are Chinese troops in Syria, “using an ethnic slur for the Chinese.” If a top adviser to a leading presidential candidate is referring to Chinese people as “Chinks”—or the equivalent—isn’t that a newsworthy fact that the New York Times ought to report?
It’s not a surprise a New York Times Beltway insider like Trip Gabriel would whitewash Clarridge’s brutal resume to the point of unrecognizability, but it doesn’t make using a grotesque violator of human rights and a known liar to kneecap Carson any less sleazy. On the issue of policy knowledge, it is more than fair to point out Carson’s shortcomings. But the bigger story here—that a leading candidate’s primary international adviser is a CIA goon with a bloody (or as the Times would put it “colorful”) past—is buried in a story about a routine DC pissing match.
This is how America’s war crimes are laundered, by absorbing the most complicit and criminal into respectable circles by passing them off as “experts” with “legendary” pasts. The Times would have better served its readers by pointing out, in clear and honest terms, what this “colorful, even legendary” past amounted to. It would help put Clarridge’s testimony—and Carson’s potential nomination—into historical and moral context.
What do the globalists do when they want to create, reignite and keep their war on terror fought indefinitely? They simply carry out a series of false flag attacks using Muslim terrorist stooges as their hired guns to do their damage. That’s what 9/11 was all about in the US, 7/7 in UK, the 3/11 train attack in Spain, the Hebdo Paris attack last January, and now this latest Paris encore reenactment part two.
In any unsolved crime the first question asked is who benefits by motive with an actual means to execute the crime?
In all of these tragic false flag events the global elite benefits in multiple ways. And it most definitely has the means by issuing marching orders to its owned and operated national governments, its favorite being the militaristic, brutal American Empire.
The elite’s agenda to polarize and destabilize the world politically and militarily manifests through the US foreign policy of regime change, nonstop war through divide and conquer methodology (i.e., Shiites vs. Sunnis, Euro-nationals vs. foreign migrants, Christians vs. Muslims, light skins vs. dark skins) and economic austerity through unpayable high interest from predatory IMF bank loans to debtor nations from both the developing and developed world. Through global theft and destruction, the ruling elite reigns supreme in absolute power.
For decades after World War II US-NATO-Western European allies conspired and perpetrated state sponsored terrorism murdering their own citizens through a protracted series of Gladio operations originally designed to falsely accuse Communist groups in Italy. Spanning over thirty years with violent incidents throughout Europe and Turkey, Gladio-like false flag operations never stopped. Gladio at home took the form of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Operation Northwoods that JFK abruptly halted, partially resulting in his own self-undoing, killing the diabolical military plot of murdering innocent US citizens in Miami and Washington DC in order to blame and start a war against Cuba. The US especially but numerous governments have regularly engaged in false flag operations killing their own to trigger wars, shape public opinion, conceal and divert attention away from citizens ever catching on to the dirty lowdown truth.
The Friday the 13th Paris massacres were highly organized, committed by heavily armed, closely monitored terrorist professionals unleashed onto an unsuspecting, culturally diverse group of young Paris victims. The coordinated attacks seem to carry all the earmarks as state of the art false flag terrorism having had lots of previous practice, most notably the Paris Charlie Hebdo edition. But the growing anomalies stacking up once again turn out to be no different from its predecessors.
All have promoted the same globalist agenda toward unlimited invasive authoritarian surveillance used to bring about increasing draconian measures in order to gain absolute tyrannical control over the populace. At the same time it exploits xenophobia and Islamophobia among its citizenry that in turn increase hatred and tensions laying the groundwork for potential civil war. Today the elite is skillfully working its proven divide and conquer formula perfectly. In one fell swoop it creates the unstable conditions fomenting civil unrest and violent backlash that then increasingly justify oppressive, over-the-top counterterrorism and police state tactics that obliterate human rights.
Finally, false flag terrorism launches a militarized backed by a globally legislative crackdown targeting all dissidence and activism exposing the governments’ false narrative of lies and propaganda, labeling and criminalizing the dissenting truth as homegrown terrorism.
The surreptitiously obtained Syrian passport found so quickly after the fact in Paris has become a false flag trademark used in both Charlie Hebdo and 9/11. Because this pattern proved a serious liability for establishing any credibility, it was later disclosed that the passport actually came off the body of “a Syrian refugee,” as if that made MSM any more believable.
Even before the passport fiasco, the alleged terrorist’s quote from a supposed witness “this is for Syria” was obviously disclosed by mainstream media to shape and manipulate public opinion into quickly blaming Syria, ISIS and Syria’s targeted leader Assad. And then long before any of this alleged (dis)info began surfacing, barely an hour into the attacks while still actively underway, President Hollande kept repeating three times in the next several hours what appeared to be his scripted lines already declaring that France was at war against already identified terrorist attackers from Syria before any investigation had even begun. This rapid sequence of events smacked of false flag.
Furthermore, like the Hebdo attack earlier this year, reports immediately commenced disclosing that French intelligence had long been tracking the perpetrators prior to the attacks. Former antiterrorist judge Marc Trevidic in a Sunday interview claimed that French authorities knew of an impending terrorist attack being planned by Islamic State jihadists “at a French rock concert” as early as August.
The judge had cross-examined militants three months earlier who revealed this rather critically important piece of information. This strongly suggests French intelligence had prior knowledge of the Friday night massacres. Turkey also warned the authorities in France twice about one of the three alleged suicide bombers but The Guardian reported that France only contacted Turkey for information after the Paris attacks. Again, it seems more than plausible that French security forces knew about the planned attacks but purposely failed to stop them or may have even played a sinister role in allowing them to occur.
A couple of other striking parallels with 9/11, when the BBC reporter announced that Building 7 went down 20 minutes prior to the event, the Paris attack was described on twitter dated a full two days in advance of the November 13th killings. Also Wikipedia within two hours from the very onset of the attacks already had posted a fully detailed account complete with footnotes specifying “Syria” being mentioned by a witness, “5 or 6 terrorists”, and “3 suicide bombers” all from the get-go pointing to the big bad Muslim villains yet again. The clinching evidence was Wikipedia running an early story version at 23:06 specifying:
In a televised statement at approximately 23:58 (local time), French President François Hollande declared
a state of emergency and closing of borders for the whole of France.
For that announcement on Wikipedia to be made nearly an hour prior to Hollande’s actual statement could suggest that Wikipedia was in fact being used by the French authorities as an information disseminator of a preplanned event, right away establishing an official narrative from the outset that Arab terrorists from Syria were the guilty murderers behind the attacks far in advance of the start of even a preliminary investigation.
It’s also been recently learned like in several previous false flags that security forces in Paris were simultaneously undergoing another live action emergency drill earlier that same day (as in Charleston, Baltimore, Boston, 9/11). Patrick Pelloux, an emergency medical services specialist and one of the first responders to the attacks, confirmed in a radio interview that a live drill had been conducted that morning of the 13th. These co-occurring government events timed perfectly to overlap so called acts of terrorism cannot be considered purely co-incidental.
Adding more weight to the false flag suspicion is the fact that just two weeks prior to Friday’s attack on October 29th CIA Director John Brennan met with his French counterpart along with UK’s MI6 former chief and former Israeli national security advisor. Additionally on Monday Brennan admitted that the international intelligence community expected a terrorist attack in Europe. Just as the Islamic terrorist mercenaries always “accidentally on purpose” leave their calling cards behind, so are the dirty CIA-Mossad fingerprints left indelibly written all over virtually every state sponsored terrorism on this planet. For years it’s been repeatedly demonstrated that US and Israeli intelligence forces have been covertly working directly with the Islamic State jihadists. NSA documents show that ISIS leader El Baghdadi was trained by Mossad. A recently captured IDF colonel was caught leading Islamic State forces. Overwhelming evidence has proven the US-Israeli-Saudi-Turkish-Gulf State connection to ISIS terrorists, documenting this intimate partnership in the manufactured war on terror.
In late September after Putin outed Obama’s fake war against ISIS at the UN, then throughout October actually destroying ISIS where Obama only pretended, the lost face of a humiliated Emperor’s new clothes turned US war policy in the Middle East completely topsy-turvy. Obama’s dubious leadership sank to an international all-time low when Putin exposed America’s deliberately failed MENA policy. Allied nations were cutting their losses and announcing plans to pull out of Syria. US Empire of Chaos and Destruction was fast losing its global control, its coercive power to subjugate its Euro-puppets into blind submission seriously and overtly eroding. On top of that, while Europe is still reeling from the refugee mass migration crisis directly caused by the US imperial aggression, they were marveling over grandmaster Putin’s bold stroke of finally kicking some Islamic State ass. Stalwart US Euro-ally Germany was already shifting gears warming its relations with Russia, unwilling to follow Washington’s disastrous lead down doomsday road.
So what do the neocon goons in full damage control mode come up with?
While US-Israel are holding joint military exercises in the Sinai desert, did they coordinate with ISIS to make sure it shoots down the Russian airliner as immediate Putin payback? Then came Defense Secretary Carter’s Russia bashing threats from the Ronald Reagan Library followed just hours later a few miles away with the Trident missile’s Saturday night LA bright light show seen around the world as an exclamation threat to Russia and China to back off from challenging the US Empire’s global hegemony.
The DC warmongers are growing increasingly desperate, afraid of losing both their full spectrum dominance in the world as well as their precious proxy terrorist ally while Putin’s aid to Assad is putting the final kibosh on their fanatical Obsessive Compulsive Disorder regime change operation.
So Brennan meets up with French and Israeli intelligence to conjure up the next Paris false flag. And since Hollande’s been Washington’s loyal go-to lackey with Hebdo already under his belt, heading up France’s active role in the imperialistic assault on both Libya and Syria, with Paris terrorism #2 France now becomes US Empire’s key catalyst to pull off another massive 9/11-like attack, in fact the biggest in France since WWII and be the justified driving force behind this newest “coalition of the willing” stepping up its next phase of war in Syria against both Assad and Putin. US bombs being dropped over Syria are now being joined by bombs from French jets as well as Israeli and Saudi warplanes. Timed purposely on the heels of the Paris tragedy, the ongoing G-20 meeting with the world’s most powerful nations in Turkey has turned into a war council to drum up intensified world war effort against nemeses Assad and Putin.
But the Western bombs are making sure that they do not destroy ISIS nor ISIS-controlled oil refineries selling black market oil to NATO member Turkey. Nor are they attacking the critical ISIS supply line in northern Syria that extends back into Turkey. It’s all too obvious that a renewed, heavily fortified allied offensive aggressively going head-to-head with Syrian and Russian forces clearly risks igniting a broader War.
Joachim Hagopian is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer. He has written a manuscript based on his unique military experience entitled Don’t Let The Bastards Getcha Down. It examines and focuses on US international relations, leadership and national security issues.
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | November 19, 2015
Mass murder, as that which just occurred in Paris, is always distressing, but that does not mean we should stop thinking.
Isn’t it rather remarkable that President Hollande, immediately after the event, declared ISIS responsible? How did he know that? And if he was aware of a serious threat from ISIS, why did he not take serious measures in advance?
Within days of Friday 13, French forces assaulted an apartment with literally thousands of bullets being fired, killing a so-called mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Just how are you instantly elevated to the rank of “mastermind”? And if security people were previously aware of his exalted status, why did they wait until after a disaster to go after him?
Well, the ugly underlying truth is that, willy-nilly, France for years has been a supporter of ISIS, even while claiming to be fighting it. How do I know that? Because France’s foreign policy has virtually no independence from America’s. It could be described as a subset of American foreign policy. Hollande marches around with his head held stiffly up after getting off the phone at the Élysée Palace, having received the day’s expectations from Washington. He has been a rather pathetic figure.
So long as it is doing work the United States wishes done, ISIS remains an American protectorate, and regardless of Hollande’s past rhetoric, he has acted according to that reality. But something may just have changed now.
It is important to note the disproportionate attention in the West to events in Paris. I say disproportionate because there are equally ugly things going on in a number of places in the Middle East, but we do not see the coverage given to Paris. We have bombs in Lebanon and Iraq. We have daily bombings and shootings in Syria. We have cluster bombs and other horrors being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen. And of course, there are the ongoing horrors of Israel against Palestinians.
We have endless interviews with ordinary people in Paris, people who know nothing factual to help our understanding, about their reaction to the terror, but when was the last time you saw personal reactions broadcast from Gaza City or Damascus? It just does not happen, and it does raise the suspicion that the press’s concern with Paris is deliberately out of proportion. After all, Israel killed about twenty times as many people in Gaza not very long ago, and the toll was heavily weighted with children, many hundreds of them. Events in Paris clearly are being exploited for highly emotional leverage.
Leverage against what? Arabs in general and Muslims in particular, just part of the continuing saga of deliberately-channeled hate we have experienced since a group of what proved (after their arrest) to be Israeli spies were reported on top of a truck, snapping pictures and high-fiving each other as the planes hit the World Trade Center in 2001. What those spies were doing has never been explained to the public. I’m not saying Israel is responsible for 9/11, but clearly some Israeli government interests were extremely happy about events, and we have been bombarded ever since with hate propaganda about Muslims, serving as a kind of constant noise covering the crimes Israel does commit against Palestinians and other neighbors.
It is impossible to know whether the attack in Paris was actually the work of ISIS or a covert operation by the secret service of an ISIS supporter. The point is a bit like arguing over angels on a pinhead. When you are dealing with this kind of warfare – thugs and lunatics of every description lured into service and given deadly toys and lots of encouragement to use them – things can and do go wrong. But even when nothing goes wrong in the eyes of sponsors for an outfit like ISIS, terrible things are still happening. It’s just that they’re happening where the sponsors want them to happen and in places from which our press carefully excludes itself. Terrible things, for example, have been happening in the beautiful land of Syria for four or five years, violence equivalent to about two hundred Paris attacks, causing immense damage, the entire point of which is to topple a popularly-supported president and turn Syria into the kind of rump states we see now in Iraq.
A covert operation in the name of ISIS is at least as likely as an attack by ISIS. The United States, Israel, Turkey, and France are none of them strangers to violent covert activities, and, yes, there have been instances before when a country’s own citizens were murdered by its secret services to achieve a goal. The CIA pushed Italian secret services into undertaking a series of murderous attacks on their own people during the 1960s in order to shake up Italy’s “threatening” left-wing politics. It was part of something called Operation Gladio. Operation Northwoods, in the early 1960s, was a CIA-planned series of terrorist acts on American civilians to be blamed on Cuba, providing an excuse for another invasion. It was not carried out, but that was not owing to any qualms in the CIA about murdering their own, otherwise no plan would have ever existed. The CIA was involved in many other operations inside the United States, from experiments with drugs to ones with disease, using innocent people as its subject-victims.
There have been no differences worth mentioning between Hollande’s France and America concerning the Middle East. Whatever America wants, America gets, unlike the days when Jacques Chirac opposed the invasion of Iraq, or earlier, when de Gaulle removed France’s armed forces from integration within NATO or bravely faced immense hostility, including a coup attempt undertaken by French military with CIA cooperation, when he abandoned colonialism in Algeria.
If anything, Hollande has been as cloyingly obsequious towards America’s chief interest in the Middle East, Israel, as a group of Republican Party hopefuls at a Texas barbecue fund-raiser sniffing out campaign contributions. After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Hollande honored four Jewish victims of the thugs who attacked a neighborhood grocery store with France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor. I don’t recall the mere fact of being murdered by thugs ever before being regarded as a heroic distinction. After all, in the United States more than twenty thousand a year suffer that fate without recognition.
Israel’s Netanyahu at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack actually outdid himself in manic behavior. He barged into France against a specific request that he stay home and pushed himself, uninvited, to the front row of the big parade down the Champs-Élysées which was supposed to honor free speech. He wanted those cameras to be on him for voters back home watching.
Free speech, you might ask, from the leaders of Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, and Israel, who all marched in front? Well, after the free-speech parody parade, the Madman of Tel Aviv raced around someone else’s country making calls and speeches for Jewish Frenchmen to leave “dangerous” France and migrate “home” to Israel. It would in fact be illegal in Israel for someone to speak that way in Israel to Israelis, but illegality has never bothered Netanyahu. Was he in any way corrected for this world-class asinine behavior? No, Hollande just kept marching around with his head stiffly up. I guess he was trying to prove just how free “free speech” is in France.
But speech really isn’t all that free in France, and the marching about free speech was a fraud. Not only is Charlie Hebdo, the publication in whose honor all the tramping around was done, not an outlet for free speech, being highly selective in choosing targets for its obscene attacks, but many of the people marching at the head of the parade were hardly representatives of the general principle.
France itself has outlawed many kinds of free speech. Speech and peaceful demonstrations which advocate a boycott of Israel are illegal in France. So a French citizen today cannot advocate peacefully against a repressive state which regularly abuses, arrests, and kills some of the millions it holds in a form of bondage. And Hollande’s France enforces this repressive law with at least as much vigor as Israel does with its own version, in a kind of “Look, me too,” spirit. France also has a law which is exactly the equivalent of a law against anyone’s saying the earth is flat: a law against denying or questioning the Holocaust. France also is a country, quite disgracefully, which has banned the niqab.
Now, America’s policy in the Mideast is pretty straightforward: subsidize and protect its colony Israel and never criticize it even on the many occasions when it has committed genuine atrocities. American campaign finance laws being what the are, politics back home simply permits no other policy. The invasion of Iraq, which largely was intended to benefit Israel through the elimination of a major and implacable opponent, has like so many dark operations backfired. I call the invasion a dark operation because although the war was as public as could be, all of America’s, and Britain’s, supposed intelligence about Iraq was crudely manufactured and the reasons for undertaking an act which would kill a million people and cripple an entire country were complete lies.
America’s stupid invasion created new room for Iran to exert its influence in the region – hence, the endless noise in Israel and Saudi Arabia about Iran – and it led directly to the growth of armed rabble groups like ISIS. There were no terrorists of any description in Saddam’s Iraq, just as there were no terrorists in Gadhafi’s Libya, a place now so infested with them that even an American ambassador is not safe.
Some Americans assert that ISIS happened almost accidentally, popping out of the dessert when no one was looking, a bit like Athena from the head of Zeus, arising from the bitterness and discontents of a splintered society, but that view is fatuous. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by accident in this part of the world. Israel’s spies keep informed of every shadowy movement, and America always listens closely to what they say.
It is silly to believe ISIS just crept up on America, suddenly a huge and powerful force, because ISIS was easy for any military to stop at its early stages, as when it was a couple of thousand men waving AK-47s from the backs of Japanese pick-up trucks tearing around Iraq. Those pick-up trucks and those AK-47s and the gasoline and the ammunition and the food and the pay required for a bunch of goons came from somewhere, and it wasn’t from Allah.
A corollary to America’s first principle about protecting Israel is that nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in Israel’s neighborhood that is not approved, at least tacitly, by the United States. So whether,
in any given instance of supply and support for ISIS, it was Israel or Saudi Arabia or Turkey or America – all involved in this ugly business – is almost immaterial. It all had to happen with American approval. Quite simply, there would be hell to pay otherwise.
As usual in the region, Saudi Arabia’s role was to supply money, buying weapons from America and others and transshipping them to ISIS. Ever since 9/11, Saudi Arabia has been an almost pathetically loyal supporter of America, even to the extent now of often cooperating with Israel. That couldn’t happen before an event in which the majority of perpetrators proved to be Saudi citizens and which led to the discovery that large amounts of Saudi “go away” money had been paid to Osama bin Laden for years. But after 9/11, the Saudis feared for the continuation of their regime and now do what they are told. They are assisted in performing the banking function by Qatar, another wealthy, absolute state aligned with the United States and opposing the rise of any possibly threatening new forces in its region.
Of course, it wasn’t just the discoveries of 9/11 that motivated Saudi Arabia. It intensely dislikes the growing influence of Iran, and Iran’s Shia Muslim identity is regarded by Sunni sects in Saudi Arabia in much the way 17th century Protestantism was viewed by an ultramontane Catholic state like Spain. The mass of genuine jihadists fighting in Syria – those who are not just mercenaries and adventurers or agents of Israel or Turkey or the Saudis – are mentally-unbalanced Sunni who believe they are fighting godlessness. The fact that Assad keeps a secular state with religious freedom for all just adds to their motivation.
ISIS first achievement was toppling an Iraqi government which had been excessively friendly to Iran in the view of Israel, and thereby the United States. Iraq’s army could have stopped them easily early on but was bribed to run away, leaving weapons such as tanks behind. Just two heavy tanks could have crushed all the loons in pick-up trucks. That’s why there was all the grotesque propaganda about beheadings and extreme cruelty to cover the fact of modern soldiers running from a mob. ISIS gathered weapons, territory, and a fierce reputation in an operation which saw President al-Maliki – a man disliked by the United States for his associations with Iran and his criticism of American atrocities – hurriedly leave office.
From that base, ISIS was able to gain sufficient foothold to begin financing itself through, for example, stolen crude sold at a discount or stolen antiquities. The effective splitting up of Iraq meant that its Kurdish population in the north could sell, as it does today, large volumes of oil to Israel, an unheard of arrangement in Iraq’s past. ISIS then crossed into Syria in some force to go after Assad. The reasons for this attack were several: Assad runs a secular state and defends religious minorities but mainly because the paymasters of ISIS wanted Assad destroyed and Syria reduced in the fashion of Iraq.
Few people in the press seem to have noted that ISIS never attacks Israel or Israeli interests. Neither does it attack the wheezingly-corrupt rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic equivalent of ancient Rome’s Emperor Nero. Yet those are the very targets a group of genuine, independent warrior-fundamentalists would attack. But ISIS is not genuine, being supplied and bankrolled by people who do not want to see attacks on Israel or Saudi Arabia, including, notably, Israel and Saudi Arabia. ISIS also is assisted, and in some cases led, by foreign covert operators and special forces.
There does seem to be a good deal of news around the idea of France becoming serious in fighting ISIS, but I think we must be cautious about accepting it at face value. Putin is reported as telling ship commanders in the Mediterranean to cooperate and help cover the French aircraft carrier approaching. Hollande keeps calling for American cooperation too, as Putin has done for a very long time, but America’s position remains deliberately ambiguous. A new American announcement of cooperation with Turkey in creating a “safe zone” across the border with northern Syria is a development with unclear intentions. Is this to stop the Kurds Erdogan so despises fighting in the north of Syria from establishing themselves and controlling the border or is it a method for continued support of ISIS along the that border? Only time will tell.
I do think it at least possible Hollande may have come around to Putin’s view of ISIS, but America has not, and the situation only grows more fraught with dangerous possibilities. I’ve long believed that likely America, in its typically cynical fashion, planned to destroy ISIS, along with others like al-Nusra, once they had finished the dirty work of destroying Syria’s government and Balkanizing the country. In any event, Israel – and therefore, automatically, America – wants Assad destroyed, so it would be surprising to see America at this point join honestly with Putin and Hollande.
America has until now refused Russia any real support, including such basic stuff as sharing intelligence. It cooperates only in the most essential matters such avoiding attacks on each other’s planes. It also has made some very belligerent statements about what Russia has been doing, some from the America’s Secretary of Defense sounding a lot like threats. Just the American establishment’s bully-boy attitude about doing anything which resembles joining a Russian initiative does not bode well.
After all, Putin has been portrayed as a kind of Slavic Satan by American propaganda cranking stuff out overtime in support of Ukraine’s incompetent coup-government and with the aim of terrifying Eastern Europe into accepting more American weapons and troops near Russia’s border, this last having nothing to do with any Russian threat and everything to do with America’s aggressive desire to shift the balance of power. How do you turn on a dime and admit Putin is right about Syria and follow his lead?
And there are still the daily unpleasant telephone calls from Israel about Assad. How do you manoeuvre around that when most independent observers today recognize Assad as the best alternative to any other possible government. He has the army’s trust, and in the end it is the Syrian army which is going to destroy ISIS and the other psychopaths. Air strikes alone can never do that. The same great difficulty for Hollande leaves much ambiguity around what he truly means by “going to war against ISIS.”
It is an extremely complicated world in which we live with great powers putting vast resources towards destroying the lives of others, almost killing thousands on a whim, while pretending not to be doing so. We live in an era shaped by former CIA Director Allen Dulles, a quiet psychopath who never saw an opportunity for chaos he did not embrace.
The only way to end terror is to stop playing with the lives of tens of millions in the Middle East, as America has done for so long, and stop supporting the behaviors of a repressive state which has killed far greater numbers than the madmen of ISIS could dream of doing, demanding instead that that state make peace and live within its borders. But, at least at this stage, that is all the stuff of dreams.
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.
Even before the victims of the Paris attacks had been moved from the scene or their bodies identified, members of the US national security state began speculating that encryption was likely part of the reason the terrorists were able to plot and execute their deadly mission without getting caught. Former CIA director Mike Morrell was one of the many people who advanced this theory.
“I think what we’re going to learn is that these guys are communicating via these encrypted apps, this commercial encryption which is very difficult or nearly impossible for governments to break, and the producers of which don’t produce the keys necessary for law enforcement to read the encrypted messages,” he said.
Well, Morrell and his fellow deep state power-pushers appear to be wrong. New reports indicate that the attackers actually used text messages to communicate—plain text text messages.
But does it even matter? The point the spooks are trying to make is that encryption is too dangerous for a free society to tolerate. If bad guys use it to hurt us, it means law enforcement should be able to break encryption technology that billions of people on earth use to securely transfer money, communicate, and share sensitive data.
That’s absurd. Encryption is a tool. Like many tools, it can be used by people who have good motivations or bad ones. Every security specialist worth her salt says that weakening encryption, or installing “backdoors” for cops and spies, would actually put people at greater security risk. That’s because encryption is a security technology.
This time, when the spies tried to smear security technologies in the wake of these horrific murders, they were factually wrong—these attackers didn’t even encrypt their communications. But someday we will likely find evidence that other terrorists indeed did use encryption to plot their attack. It doesn’t matter. Those terrorists will probably also use cars, face to face communication, and walks in the woods to speak without risking that the prying ears of government agents can hear them. And furthermore, investigators in France—which last spring implemented broad new snooping powers—failed to intervene in the Paris plot when the attackers didn’t use encryption. In France, encryption was not the problem.
In the United States, the Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect us from unwarranted government intrusion into our private lives. That bedrock principle of American law makes it harder for police to figure out who is up to no good. That’s by design.
There may very well someday be a case where ISIS operatives use encryption tools to plan a nefarious attack. But when that day comes, the basic facts about encryption, security, and the law won’t have changed. Encryption protects the security of billions of transactions and communications every day—from hackers, foreign governments, and cops who skirt Fourth Amendment law by using stingrays to wiretap people’s private conversations.
When we are confronted with despicable acts like the Paris attacks, our response cannot be to throw our values out the window in a fearful stupor. There are people with bad intentions in the world, yes. But weakening our digital security in response to their violence has the ultimate effect of punishing ourselves. It won’t work, and it’s not smart. Remember that the next time you hear spies spewing fact-free hysteria before the blood has even dried.
The CIA and government officials around the world are using the Paris attacks to push brand new surveillance laws. And it was all planned in advance.
While democratic systems usually take months (if not years) to pass new laws and legislation, it only took a few days after the Paris attacks to slap honest citizens with more surveillance laws. Several organizations are indeed capitalizing on the fear and panic caused by the attacks to bring forth a brand new agenda that takes a bold new step towards total government surveillance. What’s worse: Leaked information proves that authorities were waiting on a terror attack to go forward with their plan.
In a leaked e-mail written by Robert S. Litt, the intelligence community’s top lawyer during the month August, the plan is clearly outlined: There is a lack of support for the banning of encrypted communications but a terror attack could quickly turn the tide.
“Although the legislative environment is very hostile today, it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.
There is value keeping our options open for such a situation.” – Washington Post, Obama faces growing momentum to support widespread encryption
Only a few months after this e-mail, a terror attack occurs in Paris. Only a few hours after the attacks, news strangely blamed “encrypted communications.” Only days after the attacks, officials are calling for… the banning of encrypted communications.
The New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, called it a “game changer” and, insinuated new legislation that would outlaw encryption was necessary by adding: “[Encryption] is something that is going to need to be debated very quickly because we cannot continue operating where we are blind. – The Guardian, Intelligence agencies pounce on Paris attacks to pursue spy agenda
CIA Director John Brennan is also using the terror attacks to plead for unrestricted government surveillance of all communications, blaming “privacy groups” for hindering their job.
Then on Monday, in an epic episode of blame shifting, the CIA director, John Brennan, reportedly said privacy advocates have undermined the ability of spies to monitor terrorists. He explained:
“Because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively, internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging,” adding that there is a “misrepresentation of what the intelligence security services are doing.”
Read Brennan’s comments carefully because they are very revealing. When he says “legal actions,” he’s referring to the fact that multiple federal courts have ruled that the government’s secret mass surveillance on millions of Americans is illegal. So it sounds like the CIA director is saying it’s a shame that intelligence agencies can’t operate completely above the law any more, and is scapegoating any failings on his agency’s part on accountability that is the hallmark of any democracy. (Though he still can apparently operate above the law.)
More importantly, Brennan’s comments are incredibly dishonest. The post-Snowden USA Freedom Act passed by Congress reformed exactly one of the countless mass spying programs the US runs. It was the one that sucked up the phone calls of Americans only, and here’s the thing: it has been active this whole time and isn’t scheduled to shut down until the end of the month. – Ibid.
Government officials in the UK are also capitalizing on fear to rush sweeping new laws.
“On the other side of the Atlantic, politicians in the United Kingdom, which already has the most expansive surveillance laws in the western world, are using the tragedy to attempt to rush through their even more invasive, new mass-spying bill that aims at allowing police to see the websites every citizen visits and to force companies like Apple to backdoor their encrypted tools.”– Ibid.
None of these laws have proven effective in preventing terror attacks. In fact, the Paris attacks took place six months after the enactment of a massive (and controversial) surveillance law in France.
Passed by the French Parliament in May in response to the attacks on the Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo, the law allows the government to monitor phone calls and emails of people suspected of connections to terrorism without the authorization of a judge.
But it goes further than that. The law requires Internet service providers to install “black boxes” that are designed to vacuum up and analyze metadata on the Web-browsing and general Internet use habits of millions of people using the Web and to make that data available to intelligence agencies.
In exceptional cases, the law allows the government to deploy what are called “ISMI catchers” to track all mobile phone communications in a given area. These catchers are basically designed to impersonate cell towers, but they intercept and record communications data from phones within its range, and can also track the movements of people carrying the phones.
Finally, the law allows government agents to break into the homes of suspected terrorists for the purpose of planting microphone bugs and surveillance cameras and installing keyloggers on their computers, devices that capture data on every keystroke and mouse click. – Recode, France Has a Powerful and Controversial New Surveillance Law
In short, after each traumatic event in the Western world (manufactured or not), attention is turned towards a very specific and targeted item that “needs to be addressed as soon as possible.” This item is, in fact, part of controversial law that is sitting on shelves until in can be passed insidiously, while the masses are struck with horror. It happened with the Patriot Act and, almost 15 years later, it is happening again. Their formula is “Order Out of Chaos” and it keeps working.