It is one of the great ironies of the U.S.-led war on terror and post-Cold War transatlantic relations that democratic accountability and human rights protections at times seem stronger in the former Soviet bloc than they do in the United States. This lesson was driven home again last week when Poland paid a quarter of a million dollars to two terror suspects tortured by the CIA in a secret prison on Polish territory between 2002 and 2003.
Imposed by the European Court of Human Rights, the penalty issued against Poland prompted outrage among many Poles who felt they were being unfairly punished for American wrongdoing. “We might have to pay compensation even though our personnel did nothing wrong,” said Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s former foreign minister. Sikorski noted that Poland is the only country that has sought to hold accountable its own senior officials whose decisions allowed the CIA to commit human rights violations on its territory.
This lack of accountability also goes for the United States, which has failed to investigate or prosecute any of the senior officials who authorized the human rights violations at secret CIA prisons in Poland or anywhere else.
Of the 119 known detainees held in CIA black sites between 2001 and 2006, at least 39 were subjected to torture by CIA personnel, according to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture released last December. The two individuals tortured in Poland, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were eventually sent to Guantanamo Bay, where they have remained since 2006.
While al-Nashiri is currently on trial for allegedly orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, Abu Zubaydah is considered one of Guantanamo’s “forever prisoners,” with no charges or trial foreseen. Not even a preliminary ruling has been made on his case in nearly seven years. In a May 12, 2015 article, ProPublica noted that his case has been stalled “for 2,477 days and counting.”
As one of his lawyers, Helen Duffy, wrote in the Guardian last December following the long-delayed release of the Senate report’s executive summary, “Abu Zubaydah might now be described as exhibit A” in the CIA’s rendition and torture regime.
“He has the regrettable distinction of being the first victim of the CIA detention programme for whom, as the report makes clear, many of the torture (or ‘enhanced interrogation’) techniques were developed, and the only prisoner known to have been subject to all of them,” Duffy wrote.
The Senate report contains about 1,000 references to Abu Zubaydah specifically, and confirms the ECHR’s findings regarding the interrogation techniques that he endured.
Among these were “wallings” (being slammed repeatedly against a wall), sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours (usually nude and in stress positions), and waterboarding. The waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, to which he was subjected 83 times in one month alone, was authorized at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
He was also subjected to extreme confinement.
“Over the course of the entire 20 day ‘aggressive phase of interrogation,’ Abu Zubaydah spent a total of 266 hours (11 days, 2 hours) in the large (coffin size) confinement box and 29 hours in a small confinement box, which had a width of 21 inches, a depth of 2.5 feet, and a height of 2.5 feet,” according to the Senate report. “The CIA interrogators told Abu Zubaydah that the only way he would leave the facility was in the coffin-shaped confinement box.”
Duffy notes that beyond Abu Zubaydah’s torture, the Senate report revealed how much misinformation was generated to justify his indefinite detention. Several of the CIA’s claims, in some cases reiterated long after they were known to be false, were repudiated point by point in the report.
For example, despite repeated assertions that Abu Zubaydah was “the third or fourth man in al-Qaida,” the report noted that the “CIA later concluded that Abu Zubaydah was not a member of al-Qaida.” It also refuted the government’s claims regarding his involvement in 9/11, that the interrogating team was “certain he was withholding information” and claims that his torture led to valuable actionable intelligence.
The case of Abu Zubaydah also led to the only prosecution to date in the United States associated with the CIA’s torture program – although not for anyone who was involved with his ill-treatment, but for the CIA whistleblower who first exposed it.
In a 2007 interview with ABC News, former CIA officer John Kiriakou described the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah and later allegedly provided to a journalist the name of a covert officer with the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center who worked on the operation to capture and interrogate Abu Zubaydah. For this offense, Kiriakou was charged under the 1917 Espionage Act and accepted a plea bargain for which he spent two years in prison.
The prosecution of Kiriakou was criticized at the time by some segments of the international community. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, for example, in a resolution adopted in 2012 “condemned the prosecution that U.S. authorities have initiated against former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who is accused of providing journalists details regarding the capture of Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda suspect who is said to have been tortured in a secret CIA prison in Poland and is one of two individuals granted ‘victim status’ by prosecutors in Warsaw.”
Former U.S. Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) said on the House floor on Nov. 17, 2012 that the government’s targeting of Kirakou represented a “selective prosecution.” He asked President Barack Obama to pardon Kiriakou and called the 15-year CIA veteran “an American hero.”
With Kiriakou out of prison after serving his term but the CIA’s torture victims still languishing in Gitmo with no end in sight, Poland has faced not only the political fallout for these policies but also the practical challenges of complying with the ECHR’s rulings considering the logistics of compensating individuals who are incarcerated – one a Palestinian and one a Saudi.
Nevertheless, “Poland is applying the ECHR’s decisions,” foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski said. “In the case of one person, the money was paid into a bank account indicated by his lawyers, in the case of the other, hit by international sanctions, we requested the creation of a judicial deposit,” he added.
In accordance with the ECHR ruling, Poland has also asked the United States to rule out the death penalty for the two men in line with an EU-wide ban on capital punishment, Wojciechowski told AFP.
It irks many in Poland that their country is facing legal repercussions for the secret rendition and detention program which the CIA operated under then-President George W. Bush in several countries across the world after the 9/11 attacks. In Poland, the notion that the former Communist country would tolerate a secret CIA prison in which torture was being used was for years derided by the country’s politicians, journalists and the public as a crackpot conspiracy theory. Polish officials consistently denied the existence of any such prison.
But a string of revelations and political statements by Polish leaders acknowledged for the first time that the United States did indeed run a secret interrogation facility for terror suspects in 2002 and 2003 in a remote region of the country. In December 2014, Poland’s former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski officially admitted that a secret CIA prison had existed at an airbase where terror suspects were brought for interrogation, but he insisted that Warsaw had no knowledge of abuse happening at the site.
It appears now though that the denials of knowledge regarding torture may have been a case of willful ignorance or plausible deniability enforced by millions of dollars in cash payoffs. The Senate torture report revealed that despite initial threats by Poland to halt the transfer of terror suspects to the black site 11 years ago, the government became more “flexible” after the CIA started giving it large amounts of money. Reportedly, the CIA paid Polish officials as much as $50 million in cash to look the other way.
But according to Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s former foreign minister and now marshal of the lower house of the Parliament, the prison was set up out of friendship with the United States. He now concedes however that the covert relationship has proved detrimental to Poland.
“We have been embarrassed by it, but even so we do not apologize for having the closest possible security and intelligence relationship with the United States,” he said. “We might have to pay compensation even though our personnel did nothing wrong. You can imagine how Polish people feel about it.”
“This left bad feelings on our side,” said Tadeusz Chabiera, founder of the Euro-Atlantic Association think tank in Warsaw. “We are a small country that was badly treated by a great power.”
The regrets and feelings of betrayal being expressed in Poland follow a long-established pattern that goes back at least a decade. Signs of this frustration first emerged in 2004 during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, to which Poland committed 2,400 troops.
At the height of the Iraqi insurgency, David Ost reported in The Nation magazine on Sept. 16, 2004, “George W. Bush has managed to do what forty-five years of Communist rule could not: puncture the image of essential American goodness that has always been the United States’ key selling point.”
America’s Eroding Image
In Poland, as in many countries around the world, much of that positive image was restored following the election in 2008 of Barack Obama and the promise of change that he seemed to represent. But as the Pew Research Center reported in 2013, “pro-America sentiment is slipping.”
“The decline is in no way comparable to the collapse of U.S. standing in the first decade of this century,” according to Pew, which noted that at the time of the 2013 global survey, more than six-in-ten in Poland, France, Italy, and Spain had a favorable opinion of the U.S. “But the ‘Obama bounce’ in the global stature of the United States experienced in 2009 is clearly a thing of the past.”
It remains to be seen whether the recent developments on CIA torture will play any significant role in further eroding the image of the United States, but the incongruity of a small country like Poland bearing the brunt of liability for these illegal policies while no one in the United States answers for them should not be lost on any of the U.S.’s other allies.
In some of the countries that cooperated with the U.S. rendition program, the wheels of justice are still spinning, albeit slowly.
A criminal investigation is ongoing in Lithuania, where prosecutors are focusing on a possible illegal border crossing involving CIA prisoner Mustafa al-Hawsawi who was allegedly tortured at a Lithunian black site code-named Violet.
Meanwhile, calls are growing for authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the existence of a CIA black site in Romania, with former Romanian President Ion Iliescu revealing last month that he had approved CIA requests to set up at least one secret prison where prisoners were subject to torture. Iliescu said he deeply regrets that decision.
Calls also continue for the United States to launch credible investigations into its own role, and to offer reparations to the victims of the rendition and torture program.
Coincidentally, the ECHR’s penalty against Poland was imposed the same week that the U.S. was urged by the United Nations to financially compensate victims of the U.S. torture regime and to prosecute the perpetrators of this abuse.
According to a report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, issued on May 15, the U.S. should “ensure that all victims of torture and ill-treatment – whether still in U.S. custody or not – obtain redress and have an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation and as full rehabilitation as possible, including medical and psychological assistance.”
Further, the U.S. should “ensure proper and transparent investigation and prosecution of individuals responsible for all allegations of torture and ill treatment, including those documented in the unclassified Senate summary on CIA activities published in 2014 and provide redress to victims.”
With a September deadline to respond to the UN’s recommendations, the Obama administration will have to make a stated commitment to the world by deciding which of the recommendations will be accepted, and which will be rejected.
When it comes to torture prosecutions and compensation, it is safe to say that the world will be watching.
On Monday, I questioned former acting CIA director Michael Morell about the lies leading up to the Iraq War and their relation to torture. He’s been making the rounds on talk shows and started the talk by speaking about the alleged “failures” of the “pre-war Iraq intelligence,” echoing a frequent mantra. The claim is that somehow the Bush administration and others didn’t engage in propaganda and deceit to sell the Iraq War, but rather, were themselves victims of bad intelligence.
So I cited a claim by the Bush administration made during the run-up to the Iraq War that was provably false. On Sept. 7, 2002, President George W. Bush held a news conference with then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush claimed there was an International Atomic Energy Agency report that claimed Iraq was “six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”
John R. MacArthur, author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, highlighted — at the time that, when questioned, “the IAEA responded that not only was there no new report, ‘there’s never been a report’ asserting that Iraq was six months away from constructing a nuclear weapon.”
When I confronted Morell — who was Bush’s briefer — about Bush’s statement he took no responsibility at all. “So, you know you have to ask him. You have to ask him,” Morell said.
I found it so laughable that he would say this instead of directly responding to the false statement that my initial reaction was not to bother following up on this. If he’s not going take any responsibility for Bush’s false public claims, what’s the point?
I’d rather expect that if I were able to corner Bush and ask him enough follow-up questions, he’d probably excuse his false statements by saying that’s what his briefers told him; so they’d hide behind each other. But Morell also said, “The only thing I can tell you is what we were telling them at the time.” It would certainly be worthwhile to ask him what he was telling Bush about this — or claims he was.
I then asked Morell about the Shaykh al-Libi case. Contrary to the depiction in movies like “Zero Dark Thirty” — which Morell had a hand in — that torture helped get the bad guys, the al-Libi case shows that torture was used to get false but useful information. That is, al-Libi was tortured him into “confessing” that Iraq was working with al-Qaeda.
Morell gave a lengthy objection to my use of the word “torture,” citing approval for “enhanced interrogation procedures” from Bush’s Justice Department lawyers. Morell said: “When the Central Intelligence Agency used enhanced interrogation techniques to get information from Al Qaeda detainees, the Justice Department of United States of America on multiple occasions said it was legal, said it wasn’t torture. Okay, so for you to call it torture is you calling my officers torturers. And the Justice Department of United States of America said they were not.”
Morell also disputed that Egypt’s torture of al-Libi was done at the U.S. government’s behest, questioning what evidence I had for that. The moderator cut off the discussion at this point.
Journalist Marcy Wheeler succinctly notes about Morell’s response here: “1) He doesn’t deal with torture that exceeded and/or preceded DOJ guidelines. 2) Which al-Libi’s torture did 3) that he doesn’t actually deny al-Libi was tortured 4) which is interesting because he got the same treatment as Abu Zubaydah.”
Al-Libi was captured by the U.S. in Afghanistan and turned over to the Egyptians by the CIA and then tortured into saying what the U.S. government wanted him to say — that Iraq was tied to al-Qaeda — his “confession” was featured in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the UN just before the Iraq invasion. [See my “‘Both Sides’ Are Wrong: Torture Did Work — to Produce Lies for War.”]
But, according to Morell, it’s totally out of bounds for me to suggest that his torture was at the U.S. government’s behest. The U.S. government merely provided him to the Egyptians and benefited from his “confession” to start a gigantic war based on “evidence” that the Bush administration is merely the victim of — or so Morell would have us believe.
There’s been a fair amount said about “if we knew now what we knew then” about Iraq. I’ve tried to debunk the notion that we didn’t know that the Bush administration was falsifying, propagandizing and lying to start the Iraq war at the time. And many, including myself, did real time debunking. [See: “White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit” “U.S. Credibility Problems” “Tough Questions for Bush on Iraq Tonight.”]
But we should consider this question in one respect: Given what we know now, why are people like Mr. Morell being taken the least bit seriously and why are they not being prosecuted?
One other line of defense by Morell bares comment — and one that few take exception to. When I questioned him about the Bush falsifications for war, part of his response was to say that such statements were made during the Clinton administration, too. Which is true. The Clinton administration did lie about Iraq, including WMDs and many politicos — not just Jeb Bush — continue to fabricate the record.
That in no way defends what the Bush administration did. It merely highlights that establishment Democrats like those in the Clinton administration and others who voted to “authorize” the Iraq invasion are also culpable. Just because both Bushes and Clintons say something doesn’t mean it’s not a lie, merely that it’s a particularly destructive one.
Transcript at 41:00 of the video:
SAM HUSSEINI: Sam Husseini with IPA. Just to sort of get a baseline here. You were a briefer for George Bush for 9/11 and after 9/11.
MICHAEL MORELL: I was President Bush’s first intelligence briefer, so I briefed him kind of the entire calendar year of 2001. Yes.
SAM HUSSEINI: You’re not acknowledging that the Bush administration falsified information on Iraqi WMDs and other aspects in the build up to the Iraq war.
MICHAEL MORELL: I’m not acknowledging it because it’s not true. It is a great myth. It is a great myth that the Bush White House or hard-liners in the Bush administration pushed the Central Intelligence Agency, pushed the U.S. intelligence community and every other intelligence service in the world that looked at this issue to believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. All they have to do is tell you this, that the CIA believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction programs long before George Bush ever came to office. We were telling Bill Clinton that.
SAM HUSSEINI: One would not be following Iraq to say the Clinton administration never falsified information on Iraq as well. So for example when Bush —
MICHAEL MORELL: I’m just not with you on the falsification, but go ahead.
SAM HUSSEINI: Yeah, well I’m putting evidence if I could.
MICHAEL MORELL: Okay.
SAM HUSSEINI: So in September 2002, when he was at a news conference with Tony Blair, and this is just one example. That there was an IAEA report saying that Iraq was “six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know how much more evidence we need.” And then IAEA says there is no such report — that was just an honest mistake?
MICHAEL MORELL: So, you know you have to ask him. You have to ask him. The only thing I can tell you —
SAM HUSSEINI: — You were the briefer. —
MICHAEL MORELL: The only thing I can tell you is what we were telling them at the time. Okay? That’s the only thing I can tell you.
SAM HUSSEINI: So you, among other things, in your time of the CIA had a role in “Zero Dark Thirty,” which in effect glorifies the use of torture to gain “intelligence.” I want to ask you about a different case and that’s the case of Shaykh al-Libi, who all evidence indicates, was tortured by the Egyptian authorities at our behest.
MICHAEL MORELL: So, so —
SAM HUSSEINI: If I might — you can say whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You’re interrupting me, I’m not interrupting you. —
MICHAEL MORELL: — But your premise is wrong.
SAM HUSSEINI: And you can say that if you like. Who was tortured in order to say that Iraq and Al Qaeda were related. This is actually in the latest Senate report on torture, among other places. Contrary to the mythology that torture breeds good intelligence — or that it’s immoral — it actually breeds intentionally useful but false information. Why not?
MICHAEL MORELL: Okay, so I’m going to go back to your first comment about CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, which you call torture. Which I want to challenge that premise right off the bat. When the Central Intelligence Agency used enhanced interrogation techniques to get information from Al Qaeda detainees, the Justice Department of United States of America on multiple occasions said it was legal, said it wasn’t torture. Okay, so for you to call it torture is you calling my officers torturers. And the Justice Department of United States of America said they were not. So I’m going to defend my officers to my last breath in people calling them torturers. Number two, I’m going to challenge your premise that the Egyptians tortured al-Libi at our behest, at our behest. Not true. We never asked the Egyptians to torture al-Libi. What is your evidence for that?
SAM HUSSEINI: Well — HOST: Let him give you that evidence off-line. We have other people who want to ask questions.
Former CIA analyst and presidential briefer Ray McGovern wrote a pair of relevant pieces, one recently (“The Phony ‘Bad Intel’ Defense on Iraq“) and another, from 2011 (“Rise of Another CIA Yes Man“) on Morell when he was acting CIA director.
In summer 1980, Iraq’s wily president Saddam Hussein saw opportunities in the chaos sweeping the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Islamic revolution had terrified the Saudi princes and other Arab royalty who feared uprisings against their own corrupt life styles. Saddam’s help was sought, too, by CIA-backed Iranian exiles who wanted a base to challenge the fundamentalist regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And as always, the Western powers were worried about the Middle East oil fields.
So because of geography and his formidable Soviet-supplied army, Saddam was suddenly a popular fellow.
On Aug. 5, 1980, the Saudi rulers welcomed Saddam to Riyadh for his first state visit to Saudi Arabia, the first for any Iraqi president. The Saudis, of course, wanted something. At those fateful meetings, amid the luxury of the ornate palaces, the Saudis would encourage Saddam to invade Iran. The Saudis also would claim to pass on a secret message about President Jimmy Carter’s geo-political desires.
During that summer of 1980, President Carter was facing his own crisis. His failure to free 52 American hostages held in Iran was threatening his political survival. As he wrote in his memoirs, Keeping Faith, “The election might also be riding on their freedom.” Equally alarming, President Carter had begun receiving reports that the Republicans were making back-channel contacts with Iran about the hostage crisis, as he would state in a letter to a journalist nearly a decade later.
Though it was unclear then, this multi-sided political intrigue would shape the history from 1980 to the present day. Iraq’s invasion of Iran in September 1980 would deteriorate into eight years of bloody trench warfare that did little more than kill and maim an estimated one million people. What little more the war did was to generate billions of dollars in profits for well-connected arms merchants — and spawn a series of national security scandals.
In 1986-87, the Iran-Contra Affair peeled back some of the layers of secrecy, but bipartisan investigations dumped the blame mostly on White House aide Oliver North and a few low-level “men of zeal.” Later inquiries into Iraqgate allegations of secret U.S. military support for Saddam Hussein also ended inconclusively. The missing billions from the sleazy Bank of Credit and Commerce International disappeared into the mist of complex charge and counter-charge, too. So did evidence implicating the CIA and Nicaraguan Contra rebels in cocaine trafficking.
A similar fate befell the October Surprise story and President Carter’s old suspicion of Republican interference in the 1980 hostage crisis. A special House task force concluded in 1993 that it could find “no credible evidence” to support the October Surprise charges.
Haig’s Talking Points
Still, I gained access to documents from that investigation, including papers marked “secret” and “top secret” which apparently had been left behind by accident in a remote Capitol Hill storage room. Those papers filled in a number of the era’s missing pieces and established that there was more to the reports that President Carter heard in 1980 than the task force publicly acknowledged.
But besides undermining the task force’s October Surprise debunking, the papers clarified President Reagan’s early strategy for a clandestine foreign policy hidden from Congress and the American people. One such document was a two-page “Talking Points” prepared by Secretary of State Alexander Haig for a briefing of President Reagan. Marked “top secret/sensitive,” the paper recounted Haig’s first trip to the Middle East in April 1981.
In the report, Haig wrote that he was impressed with “bits of useful intelligence” that he had learned. “Both [Egypt’s Anwar] Sadat and [Saudi Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel.” This fact might have been less surprising to President Reagan, whose intermediaries allegedly collaborated with Israeli officials in 1980 to smuggle weapons to Iran behind President Carter’s back.
But Haig followed that comment with another stunning assertion: “It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd.” In other words, according to Haig’s information, Saudi Prince Fahd (later King Fahd) claimed that President Carter, apparently hoping to strengthen the U.S. hand in the Middle East and desperate to pressure Iran over the stalled hostage talks, gave clearance to Saddam’s invasion of Iran. If true, Jimmy Carter, the peacemaker, had encouraged a war.
Haig’s written report contained no other details about the “green light,” and Haig declined my request for an interview about the Talking Points. But the paper represented the first documented corroboration of Iran’s long-held belief that the United States backed Iraq’s 1980 invasion.
In 1980, President Carter termed Iranian charges of U.S. complicity “patently false.” He mentioned Iraq’s invasion only briefly in his memoirs, in the context of an unexpected mid-September hostage initiative from a Khomeini in-law, Sadeq Tabatabai.
“Exploratory conversations [in Germany] were quite encouraging,” President Carter wrote about that approach, but he added: “As fate would have it, the Iraqis chose the day of [Tabatabai’s] scheduled arrival in Iran, September 22, to invade Iran and to bomb the Tehran airport. Typically, the Iranians accused me of planning and supporting the invasion.”
The Iraqi invasion did make Iran more desperate to get U.S. spare parts for its air and ground forces. Yet the Carter administration continued to demand that the American hostages be freed before military shipments could resume. But according to House task force documents that I found in the storage room, the Republicans were more accommodating.
Secret FBI wiretaps revealed that an Iranian banker, the late Cyrus Hashemi, who supposedly was helping President Carter on the hostage talks, was assisting Republicans with arms shipments to Iran and peculiar money transfers in fall 1980. Hashemi’s older brother, Jamshid, testified that the Iran arms shipments, via Israel, resulted from secret meetings in Madrid between the GOP campaign director, William J. Casey, and a radical Islamic mullah named Mehdi Karrubi.
For whatever reasons, on Election Day 1980, President Carter still had failed to free the hostages and Ronald Reagan won in a landslide.
A ‘Private Channel’
Within minutes of President Reagan’s Inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, the hostages finally were freed. In the following weeks, the new administration put in place discreet channels to Middle East powers, as Haig flew to the region for a round of high-level consultations.
The trim silver-haired former four-star general met with Iraq’s chief allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and with Israel, which was continuing to support Iran as a counter-weight to Iraq and the Arab states.
On April 8, 1981, Haig ended his first round of meetings in Riyadh and issued a diplomatic statement lauding Saudi Arabia’s “dedication to building a better world and the wisdom of your leaders.” More to the point, he announced that “the foundation has been laid during this trip for the strengthening of U.S.-Saudi relations.”
After Haig’s return to Washington, his top secret Talking Points fleshed out for President Reagan the actual agreements that were reached at the private sessions in Saudi Arabia, as well as at other meetings in Egypt and Israel.
“As we discussed before my Middle East trip,” Haig explained to President Reagan, “I proposed to President Sadat, [Israel’s] Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin and Crown Prince Fahd that we establish a private channel for the consideration of particularly sensitive matters of concern to you. Each of the three picked up on the proposal and asked for early meetings.”
Haig wrote that on his return, he immediately dispatched his counselor, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, to Cairo and Riyadh to formalize those channels. “He held extremely useful meetings with both Sadat and Fahd,” Haig boasted. “In fact, Sadat kept Ed Muskie [President Carter’s secretary of state] waiting for an hour and a half while he [Sadat] extended the meeting.”
These early contacts with Fahd, Sadat and Begin solidified their three countries as the cornerstones of the administration’s clandestine foreign policy of the 1980s: the Saudis as the moneymen, the Israelis as the middlemen, and the Egyptians as a ready source for Soviet-made equipment.
Although President Carter had brokered a historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Sadat, Begin and Fahd had all been alarmed at signs of U.S. weakness, especially Washington’s inability to protect the Shah of Iran from ouster in 1979. Haig’s Talking Points captured that relief at President Carter’s removal from office.
“It is clear that your policies of firmness toward the Soviets has restored Saudi and Egyptian confidence in the leadership of the U.S.,” Haig wrote for the presentation to his boss. “Both [Fahd and Sadat] went much further than ever before in offering to be supportive.”
Haig said “Sadat offered to host a forward headquarters for the Rapid Deployment Force, including a full-time presence of U.S military personnel.” Sadat also outlined his strategy for invading Libya to disrupt Moammar Khadafy’s intervention in Chad. “Frankly,” observed Haig, “I believe he [Sadat] could easily get overextended in such an undertaking and [I] will try to moderate his ambitions on this score.”
‘Special Status,’ Money and Guns
Haig reported that Prince Fahd was “also very enthusiastic” about President Reagan’s foreign policy. Fahd had agreed “in principle to fund arms sales to the Pakistanis and other states in the region,” Haig wrote. The Saudi leader was promising, too, to help the U.S. economy by committing his oil-rich nation to a position of “no drop in production” of petroleum.
“These channels promise to be extremely useful in forging compatible policies with the Saudis and Egyptians,” Haig continued. “Both men value the ‘special status’ you have conferred on them and both value confidentiality. I will follow up with [Defense Secretary] Cap Weinberger and [CIA Director] Bill Casey. …The larger message emerging from these exchanges, however, is that your policies are correct and are already eliciting the enthusiastic support of important leaders abroad.”
In the following years, the Reagan administration would exploit the “special status” with all three countries to skirt Constitutional restrictions on Executive war-making powers. Secretly, the administration would tilt back and forth in the Iran-Iraq war, between aiding the Iranians with missiles and spare parts and helping the Iraqis with intelligence and indirect military shipments.
When the Soviets shot down an Israeli-leased Argentine plane carrying U.S. military supplies to Iran on July 18, 1981, the State Department showed it, too, valued confidentiality. At the time, State denied U.S. knowledge. But in a later interview, Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Veliotes said “it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment.”
According to a sworn affidavit by former Reagan national security staffer Howard Teicher, the administration enlisted the Egyptians in a secret “Bear Spares” program that gave the United States access to Soviet-designed military equipment. Teicher asserted that the Reagan administration funneled some of those weapons to Iraq and also arranged other shipments of devastating cluster bombs that Saddam’s air force dropped on Iranians troops.
In 1984, facing congressional rejection of continued CIA funding of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, President Reagan exploited the “special status” again. He tapped into the Saudi slush funds for money to support the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in their war in Central America. The President also authorized secret weapons shipments to Iran in another arms-for-hostages scheme, with the profits going to “off-the-shelf” intelligence operations. That gambit, like the others, was protected by walls of “deniability” and outright lies.
Some of those lies collapsed in the Iran-Contra scandal, but the administration quickly constructed new stonewalls that were never breached. Republicans fiercely defended the secrets and Democrats lacked the nerve to fight for the truth. The Washington media also lost interest because the scandals were complex and official sources steered the press in other directions.
When I interviewed Haig several years ago, I asked him if he was troubled by the pattern of deceit that had become the norm among international players in the 1980s. “Oh, no, no, no, no,” he boomed, shaking his head. “On that kind of thing? No. Come on. Jesus! God! You know, you’d better get out and read Machiavelli or somebody else because I think you’re living in a dream world! People do what their national interest tells them to do and if it means lying to a friendly nation, they’re going to lie through their teeth.”
But sometimes the game-playing did have unintended consequences. In 1990, a decade after Iraq’s messy invasion of Iran, an embittered Saddam Hussein was looking for pay-back from the sheikhdoms that he felt had egged him into war. Saddam was especially furious with Kuwait for slant drilling into Iraq’s oil fields and refusing to extend more credit. Again, Saddam was looking for a signal from the U.S. president, this time George H.W. Bush.
When Saddam explained his confrontation with Kuwait to U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, he received an ambiguous reply, a reaction he apparently perceived as another “green light.” Eight days later, Saddam unleashed his army into Kuwait, an invasion that required 500,000 U.S. troops and thousands more dead to reverse.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Before the dust has had a chance to settle on the report detailing the American Psychologists Association’s complicity in the CIA torture program, the psychologist found to have violated the ethics code now appears to be helping the FBI do the same thing.
In late April, a 60-page report entitled ‘All the President’s Psychologists’ pointed to Susan Brandon as the White House architect behind the policies regulating the legality of an interrogator’s actions – something that goes against the APA’s own rulebook, which prohibits psychologists from making such judgments.
The document alleges the APA’s close coordination with the White House, the CIA and the Department of Defense on the formulation of a legal policy that would exempt the interrogators from prosecution, following a scandal involving allegation of torture at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. “Susan Brandon … played a central role in the development of the 2005 [Psychological Ethics and National Security] policy,” the report alleges – the second inquiry investigating the medical role in the practice.
“What we see is associations. And the associations with the apparent supervisor of [James] Mitchell and [Bruce] Jessen at each step of the process over a period of three years,” the report said then, in reference to the two masterminds of the CIA torture program, whom Brandon was allegedly in contact with in 2003, as evident from a string of emails.
Brandon’s complete role in the program is at this point unknown, but one particular email she was included on focuses on the pair “doing special things to special people in special places.”
“The issue here is not about what she thinks about torture; the issue is about what she did in the past to knowingly or unknowingly create a legal heat shield for the president using the ethics of the APA. That’s the issue. This is not a question of torture. It’s a question of alleged corruption,” says the report’s co-author and program director at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Nathaniel Raymond, according to the Huffington Post.
Now Brandon is advising the FBI’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group – essentially the Obama’s administration continuation of the CIA program regarded as having crossed the line. She is tasked with research into determining whether a crime has been committed in the course of an interrogation.
The FBI has not officially commented on the claims yet. Journalists might not get a reply from Brandon anytime soon, as she’s still an HIG adviser and is not expected to break protocol – the association has a policy of operating in secrecy, according to fellow member Mark Fallon.
The initial reason for the government’s acceptance of the CIA torture program hinged, in part, on the presence of psychologists and their expertise acting as a check, as is evident from a 2005 Justice Department document.
The reason the APA had to be called in was apparently due to the CIA’s own psychologists’ refusal to sign off on the memo, claiming that the proposed assessments simply strayed outside of medical professionals’ competence.
As a result, Brandon’s Psychological Ethics and National Security policy became the document that could be “seen as opening the door for psychologists to fulfil a function that [CIA Office of Medical Services] health professionals were resisting,” according to the report.
Brandon’s own language went in a separate direction from the CIA doctors’, effectively paving the way for a psychologist’s role in judging the harm and effectiveness of an interrogation.
The APA has denied the report’s findings. Its own review of the complicity in the Bush-era program is ongoing.
Brandon’s role as one of the HIG’s top specialists is now under scrutiny, but she has defenders as well. Fallon, for one, has since said that Brandon “is a research scientist who was helping craft language, from what I can read in those emails, that might in fact be totally appropriate.”
“[Was] it a witting collaboration, or is it an unwitting person within the government who’s a research scientist looking to ensure that we’re at least learning lessons? I just could not conceive that she would ever do anything that would support degrading and inhumane treatment,” he added.
The intelligence sharing relationship between German and American spy agencies is one of dominance and blackmail rather than cooperation, with Germany’s BND acting as a “colony” used to help gather information for US authorities, German activist and publicist Christoph Horstel said.
There has been much speculation regarding the seemingly close relationship between German and US intelligence agencies in recent times, following German media reports alleging that Berlin’s foreign intelligence agency — the BND — spied on various European targets on behalf of America’s National Security Agency (NSA).
According to the reports, the NSA had been given access to the e-mails of various European politicians, EU institutions and European member state ministries.
This led many to suggest Germany was complicit with the US in operating an illegal global spy network. Chancellor Angela Merkel denied Germany was involved in illegal activity, telling journalists that it was essential for the BND to keep working with the NSA in order to ensure the safety of citizens.
‘A Big Show, A Big Farce’
However, Christoph Horstel believes that while Berlin does act on behalf of Washington’s intelligence agencies, he told Sputnik that the relationship is very one-sided.
“Well this is a big show, a big farce. All of the political insiders know what the real question is. The real question is that this is not cooperation; Germany is [a] colony.”
Horstel points out that the former US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) — which later become the CIA — established the German BND, and he believes it has been set up to look after Washington’s European interests.
“What we do have here, in fact, is a written understanding that the BND has to give — free of charge — any of the fruits of its work to the CIA. That is quite normal,” he said.
“The Americans are the masters of the game in Europe, so we [Germany] have to deliver to them. It’s a kind of service; a service of Germany to the US and we have to do that — that’s fact.”
German Officials ‘Blackmailed’ by US
Despite German Chancellor Angela Merkel fronting the media to deny accusations that she was in any way complicit in allowing American authorities to illegally spy on European firms, Horstel believes the chancellor would be well aware of what practices are going on.
“If she [Merkel] was not very deeply cooperating with the Americans, she would not be chancellor. We have a double system to ensure that we do exactly as Washington wants.
“What we have here is a very clear-cut system of blackmail against anyone in a high position — that’s number one,” he said, suggesting that US access to German security files allows American authorities to hold German politicians to ransom.
Meanwhile, Horstel also believes an inherent American influence on German politics and media means that governments in favor of US policy are also elected, and the media consistently follows American rhetoric on international issues, such as the crisis in Ukraine.
“Number two is that when it comes to elections, you will get into a powerful enough position to win unless the Americans are nodding their head. This also applies to the army ranks and the media ranks.
“This is why it’s important to note why the German media is so hostile to Russia. The Americans say it, and we [Germans] do it.”
Austria filed a formal complaint over suspicions that German and American intelligence agencies have spied on its authorities and firms, the Austrian interior minister said on Tuesday.
“Austria demands clarification,” Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told Reuters, following German media reports about such activities. She added that Austria’s security authorities were in contact with their German counterparts.
“Today we have filed a legal complaint with the prosecutor’s office,” she said, “against an unknown entity due to secret intelligence services to Austria’s disadvantage.”
German media reports said the BND, Germany’s intelligence agency, used its Bad Aibling listening post in Bavaria to spy on the French presidential palace, French foreign ministry and European Commission.
The snooping was done at the behest of US spy agency National Security Agency (NSA), which also asked the BND to monitor European firms to check if they were breaking trade embargos, according to reports.
Mikl-Leitner said that while there is not yet concrete evidence, “it’s not far-fetched to suspect that Austria was also spied on.”
She added that Austria will try to resolve the situation through its security, diplomatic and judicial bodies.
The NSA is believed to have passed a list of some 800,000 IP addresses, phone numbers and email addresses to the BND for monitoring, some of which belonged to European politicians and companies.
Citing an unnamed source from the German parliamentary committee on the US spying agency, German newspaper Bild said Berlin chose to remain silent and close its eyes to the information in order to avoid “endangering cooperation” with Washington and the NSA.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has denied reports that he was aware of the spying since at least 2008.
During a press briefing Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin is engaged in consultations with Washington on the NSA’s surveillance practices.
“I think what’s important here is that friends do not spy on each other. The answer is that it should not be so,” Merkel said.
She continued: “We are at the disposal of respective parliamentary bodies. The chancellor’s office is ready to provide all necessary information. This process is already under way. We are also consulting the United States.”
Secret documents leaked in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that the US spy agency monitored Merkel’s personal cell phone too.
By Robert Fantina | Aletho News | April 28, 2015
The United States government seems extremely proud of its ability to kill people without endangering the lives of the killers. Today they can sit in a comfortable office and, videogame-like, assassinate people thousands of miles away, without the risk of being shot down. In the past, pilots would at least see the explosion, and possibly see burned victims running from the scene, but such unpleasantness is no longer a necessary part of the mass murder called war.
At least 5,000 people have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in the last ten years or so. Estimates of the number of ‘terrorists’ (whatever that means) who have been killed range from a few hundred to a few thousand. The rest are what is commonly known as ‘collateral damage’. Such a pleasant, innocuous term! Objects get damaged in a variety of ways; one might drop a dish when washing it, or perhaps dent their car when getting into a tight parking spot. Collateral damage, to be sure, but really nothing more than an inconvenience.
In U.S. parlance, ‘collateral damage’ means innocent people being killed when the U.S. wanted to kill some intended victim; the others, the ‘collateral damage’, were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, U.S. government officials claim, every effort is made to reduce such ‘damage’. This is probably not all that comforting to the loved ones of innocent people who were merely trying to go to work, school or the store, and who were blown to bits as the U.S. targeted some ‘terrorist’.
As long as we’re discussing the elusive concept of terrorism, let’s try to determine what it means. One definition that is occasionally bandied about is anyone who threatens the national security of the United States. So, someone in Pakistan who, perhaps, has been the victim of U.S. oppression, and has very limited resources to cause any damage whatsoever, is targeted, possibly by some CIA (Central Intelligence Agency; now if one wants to discuss international terrorism, that would be a good place to start) informant. So, once identified and placed on President Barack Obama’s kill list, the drone strike is ready. The victim may be assassinated, and if others happen to die also, well, what’s a little collateral damage among friends?
Mr. Obama broke precedent on April 23, when he admitted that two hostages, Dr. Warren Weinstein and Mr. Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in a drone strike, and issued an apology. Said Mr. Obama: “I take full responsibility for our counter-terrorism operations. In the fog of war… mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur… I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the US government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”
Now, Dr. Weinstein was from the U.S., and Mr. Lo Porto from Italy. Mr. Obama ‘profoundly’ regrets their deaths. Their deaths were the result of a ‘deadly mistake’, which can, he says, occur in the ‘fog of war’.
Let us take just a moment to look at some components of the president’s statement. What war, one wants to know, is being waged? An ill-defined ‘war on terror’ does not answer the question. Fighting so-called terror with genuine terror does not constitute a war; it constitutes terrorism.
More importantly, why has Mr. Obama been mainly silent when at least hundreds, and probably thousands of innocent men, women and children have been killed by drone strikes? Does he not ‘profoundly regret’ those horrific deaths, and the abject suffering their deaths inflicted on their loved ones?
Mr. Obama wasted no time once he became president to start killing people. In 2009, in what is thought to be his first authorized drone strike in Yemen, 14 women and 21 children were killed. Of these thirty-five people, one was suspected of having some connection to al-Qaeda. Where were the sympathetic comments of U.S. spokespeople regarding the other thirty-four? Or were they, perhaps, not considered, because they were probably Muslim, and certainly Yemeni, and therefore not of the same intrinsic value as an Italian citizen, and certainly not on a par with a citizen of that most superior society, the U.S.
The U.S. deems as ‘terrorist’ any individual or group that doesn’t toe its racist, imperial line. And it assigns that designation somewhat arbitrarily. In March, the Obama administration said that Venezuela represented an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”. This occurred six days after Venezuela put the names of former U.S. president George Bush and his vice-president, Dick Cheney, on a list of U.S. citizens ineligible to visit Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro said that “We will prohibit visas for individuals who want to come to Venezuela who have violated human rights….” What ‘unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States’ this move represented was never clarified.
This complex web of circumstances constitutes a significant part of U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. can designate any individual, group or country a terrorist, simply because it wishes to do so. It assigns itself the roles of judge, jury and, with drone strikes, executioner. Those who get in the way are mourned if they are from the West, but dismissed as collateral damage if from the East. And then the U.S. accuses other nations of violating international law, as if it is somehow exempt from such trivialities.
The U.S. uses drones to perpetrate unspeakable terror on Third World countries, all in the sacred name of protecting U.S. interests. That those interests always have more to do with corporate profits than with human rights is a given, proven by history and reinforced by all credible documentation today. The myth of the U.S. as a beacon of peace and liberty, supporting the basic human dignity of the downtrodden, is a fairy tale believed in few places beyond U.S. borders. And innocent people around the world continue to pay with their lives for the violence that is so much a part of U.S. imperialism.
In mid-April, hundreds of U.S. paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade arrived in western Ukraine to provide training for government troops. The UK had already started its troop-training mission there, sending 75 troops to Kiev in March.  On April 14, the Canadian government announced that Canada will send 200 soldiers to Kiev, contributing to a military build-up on Russia’s doorstep while a fragile truce is in place in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian Embassy in Ottawa called the decision “counterproductive and deplorable,” stating that the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine have “called for enhanced intra-Ukrainian political dialogue,” as agreed upon in the Minsk-2 accords in February, and that it would be “much more reasonable to concentrate on diplomacy…” 
That viewpoint is shared by many, especially in Europe where few are eager for a “hot” war in the region. Nor are most people enamoured of the fact that more billions are being spent on a new arms-race, while “austerity” is preached by the 1 Per Cent.
But in the Anglo-American corridors of power (also called the Atlantic Alliance), such views are seen to be the result of diabolical propaganda spread through the Internet by Russia’s “secret army.” On April 15, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Ed Royce (R-Calif.), held a hearing entitled “Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information,” with Royce claiming that Russian propaganda threatens “to destabilize NATO members, impacting our security commitments.” 
The Committee heard from three witnesses: Elizabeth Wahl, former anchor for the news agency Russia Today (RT) who gained her moment of fame by resigning on camera in March 2014; Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute (a right-wing UK think-tank); and Helle C. Dale, Senior Fellow for Public Diplomacy at The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing U.S. think-tank.  The Foreign Affairs Committee website contains video clips of the first two witnesses – well worth watching if you enjoy Orwellian rhetoric passionately delivered.
The day before the hearing, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Royce wrote, “Vladimir Putin has a secret army. It’s an army of thousands of ‘trolls,’ TV anchors and others who work day and night spreading anti-American propaganda on the Internet, airwaves and newspapers throughout Russia and the world. Mr. Putin uses these misinformation warriors to destabilize his neighbors and control parts of Ukraine. This force may be more dangerous than any military, because no artillery can stop their lies from spreading and undermining U.S. security interests in Europe.” 
In her formal (printed) submission, Ms. Wahl referred to the Internet’s “population of paranoid skeptics” and wrote: “The paranoia extends to believing that Western media is not only complicit, but instrumental in ensuring Western dominance.”
Helle C. Dale warned of “a new kind of propaganda, aimed at sowing doubt about anything having to do with the U.S. and the West, and in a number of countries, unsophisticated audiences are eating it up.”
Peter Pomerantsev claimed that Russia’s goal is “to trash the information space with so much disinformation so that a conversation based on actual facts would become impossible.” He added, “Throughout Europe conspiracy theories are on the rise and in the US trust in the media has declined. The Kremlin may not always have initiated these phenomena, but it is fanning them… Democracies are singularly ill equipped to deal with this type of warfare. For all of its military might, NATO cannot fight an information war. The openness of democracies, the very quality that is meant to make them more competitive than authoritarian models, becomes a vulnerability.”
Chairman Royce called for “clarifying” the mission of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. federal agency whose networks include Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti). 
The BBG is apparently in disarray. According to Helle Dale’s submission, on March 4, 2015, Andrew Lack, the newly hired CEO of BBG’s International Broadcasting, left the position after only six weeks on the job. On April 7, the Director of Voice of America, David Ensor, announced that he was leaving.
Andrew Lack was formerly the president of NBC News. As Paul Craig Roberts has recently noted, Lack’s first official statement as CEO of the BBG “compared RT, Russia Today, the Russian-based news agency, with the Islamic State and Boko Haram. In other words, Mr. Lack brands RT as a terrorist organization. The purpose of Andrew Lack’s absurd comparison is to strike fear at RT that the news organization will be expelled from US media markets. Andrew Lack’s message to RT is: ‘lie for us or we are going to expel you from our air waves.’ The British already did this to Iran’s Press TV. In the United States the attack on Internet independent media is proceeding on several fronts.” 
Ironically, however, it’s likely that one of the biggest threats (especially in Europe) to Anglo-American media credibility about Ukraine and other issues is coming from a very old-fashioned medium – a book.
Udo Ulfkotte’s bestseller Bought Journalists has been a sensation in Germany since its publication last autumn. The journalist and former editor of one of Germany’s largest newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, revealed that he was for years secretly on the payroll of the CIA and was spinning the news to favour U.S. interests. Moreover he alleges that some major media are nothing more than propaganda outlets for international think-tanks, intelligence agencies, and corporate high-finance. “We’re talking about puppets on a string,” he says, “journalists who write or say whatever their masters tell them to say or write. If you see how the mainstream media is reporting about the Ukraine conflict and if you know what’s really going on, you get the picture. The masters in the background are pushing for war with Russia and western journalists are putting on their helmets.” 
In another interview, Ulfkotte said: “The German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia. This is a point of no return, and I am going to stand up and say… it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, all over Europe.” 
With the credibility of the corporate media tanking, Eric Zuesse recently wrote, “Since Germany is central to the Western Alliance – and especially to the American aristocracy’s control over the European Union, over the IMF, over the World Bank, and over NATO – such a turn away from the American Government [narrative] threatens the dominance of America’s aristocrats (who control our Government). A breakup of America’s [Atlantic] ‘Alliance’ might be in the offing, if Germans continue to turn away from being just America’s richest ‘banana republic’.” 
No wonder the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on April 15 had such urgent rhetoric, especially from Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow at the Legatum Institute – a London-based international think-tank whose motto is “Prosperity Through Revitalizing Capitalism and Democracy” and whose stated mission is “promoting prosperity through individual liberty, free enterprise and entrepreneurship, character and values.”
At the end of March, Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson (named as a potential successor to David Cameron) helped launch the Legatum Institute’s “Vision of Capitalism” speakers’ series, whose rallying cry is “It’s time for friends of capitalism to fight back.”  The sponsor of the event was the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA), whose membership comprises “more than 500 influential firms, including over 230 private equity and venture capital houses, as well as institutional investors, professional advisers, service providers and international associations.” It is not clear whether the BVCA is also sponsoring the Legatum Institute’s “Vision of Capitalism” series.
The Legatum Institute was founded by billionaire Christopher Chandler’s Legatum Ltd. – a private investment firm headquartered in Dubai. According to The Legatum Institute’s website, its executives and fellows write for an impressive number of major media outlets, including the Washington Post, Slate, the New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, New Republic, the Daily Telegraph, The Times, the London Review of Books, the Atlantic, and the Financial Times.
Nonetheless, the Legatum Institute’s Peter Pomeranzev told the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs that “Russia has launched an information war against the West – and we are losing.”
Chairperson Ed Royce noted during the hearing that if certain things are repeated over and over, a “conspiracy theory” takes on momentum and a life of its own.
Pomeranzev said the Kremlin is “pushing out more conspiracy” and he explained, “What is conspiracy – sort of a linguistic sabotage on the infrastructure of reason. I mean you can’t have a reality-based discussion when everything becomes conspiracy. In Russia, the whole discourse is conspiracy. Everything is conspiracy.” He added, “Our global order is based on reality-based politics. If that reality base is destroyed, then you can’t have international institutions, international dialogue.” Lying, he said, “makes a reality-based politics impossible” and he called it “a very insidious trend.”
Apparently, Pomeranzev has forgotten that important October 2004 article by Ron Suskind published in the New York Times Magazine during the second war in Iraq (which, like the first, was based on a widely disseminated lie). Suskind quoted one of George W. Bush’s aides (probably Karl Rove): “The aide said that guys like me [journalists, writers, historians] were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality… That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors… and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’.” 
It’s a rather succinct description of Orwellian spin and secrecy in a media-saturated Empire, where discerning the truth becomes ever more difficult.
That is why people believe someone like Udo Ulfkotte, who is physically ill, says he has only a few years left to live, and told an interviewer, “I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don’t like to have this situation again, because war is never coming from itself, there are always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too… We have betrayed our readers, just to push for war… I don’t want this anymore, I’m fed up with this propaganda. We live in a banana republic and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom…” 
Recently, as Mike Whitney has pointed out in CounterPunch (March 10), Germany’s news magazine Der Spiegel dared to challenge the fabrications of NATO’s top commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, for spreading “dangerous propaganda” that is misleading the public about Russian “troop advances” and making “flat-out inaccurate statements” about Russian aggression.
Whitney asks, “Why this sudden willingness to share the truth? It’s because they no longer support Washington’s policy, that’s why. No one in Europe wants the US to arm and train the Ukrainian army. No wants them to deploy 600 paratroopers to Kiev and increase U.S. logistical support. No one wants further escalation, because no wants a war with Russia. It’s that simple.”  Whitney argued that “the real purpose of the Spiegel piece is to warn Washington that EU leaders will not support a policy of military confrontation with Moscow.”
So now we know the reason for the timing of the April 15 U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, “Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information.” Literally while U.S. paratroopers were en route to Kiev, the hawks in Washington (and London) knew it was time to crank up the rhetoric. The three witnesses were most eager to oblige.
Joyce Nelson is an award-winning Canadian freelance writer/researcher and the author of five books.
 “U.S. Military Instructors Deployed to Ukraine to Train Local Forces,” RT.com, April 17, 2015.
 Steven Chase, “Russian decries Ukraine training,” The Globe & Mail (April 16, 2015).
 Ed Royce, “Countering Putin’s Information Weapons of War,” The Wall Street Journal (April 14, 2015).
 Ron Suskind, “Without a Doubt: Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” The New York Times Magazine (Oct. 17, 2004).
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has held talks with CIA Director John Brennan amid Cairo’s heavy-handed clampdown on opponents of the country’s military-backed government.
According to a statement released by the Egyptian government, Sisi and Brennan discussed regional issues, terrorism and “ways of enhancing bilateral relations” in their Sunday meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
The two sides agreed to continue “consultation and coordination on issues of mutual interest,” the statement added.
The announced visit by the CIA chief to the North African country came less than two weeks after the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced plans to sell air-to-surface missiles worth of $57 million to Egypt.
Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in July 2013 in a military coup led by Sisi, the then army commander.
Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has been the scene of massive anti-government protests, with continuous clashes between security forces and the supporters of the former president, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The new rulers in Egypt have come under pressure from human rights groups over their harsh crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters.
The Egyptian administration’s suppression has led to the deaths of more than 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.
However, Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and a few of his senior officials have been acquitted of all charges leveled against them over the killing of protesters in the country’s 2011 revolution.
Janusz Korwin-Mikke , European lawmaker and leader of Poland’s conservative party
The violent pro-EU protests staged in Ukraine’s Maidan Square last year were organized by the CIA spy agency and Polish figures, a European lawmaker and leader of Poland’s conservative KORWiN party says.
Janusz Korwin-Mikke made the remarks in an interview with Polish media, the Russia-based Sputnik news agency reported on Saturday.
In mid-February 2014, dozens of people were killed by gunmen during street battles in the center of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Pro-EU protesters had staged sit-ins at the Maidan Square since November 2013 to protest against then President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign an Association Agreement with Brussels in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Korwin-Mikke said that the snipers in Kiev had also been trained in Poland, adding the “terrorists shot dead 40 demonstrators and 20 police officers to provoke unrest and the truth about this is finally coming out.”
This file photo shows the Maidan Square in Kiev, Ukraine, which was destroyed by violence during protests in February 2014.
The Polish politician also pointed to the admission by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland that Washington had spent billions of dollars to destabilize Ukraine.
“Victoria Nuland openly admitted that he Americans had spent $5 billion to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, and what we now have in Ukraine is an American aggression with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin bearing the brunt of it all,” said Korwin-Mikke.
Days after the deadly shootings in Kiev, Yanukovych was ousted on February 22, 2014, by Western-backed groups. The ouster triggered in its turn pro-Russia protests in the country’s southern and eastern regions.
In a bid to crush the pro-Russia protests, Kiev launched military operations in mid-April last year, causing deadly clashes in the country’s two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine.
The warring sides inked a ceasefire agreement in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, in February. Since then, both sides have, on numerous occasions, accused each other of breaking the truce.
The fighting has taken a heavy toll on thousands of people. More than 6,100 people have died, while nearly 15,500 have been injured in the conflict, the United Nations says.
Reprieve | April 19, 2015
A court in Germany is set to take evidence from a Yemeni victim of the USA’s secret drone programme – in the wake of revelations that military bases on German soil play a key role in the strikes.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a who lost two relatives to a 2012 drone strike, has won the right to give evidence next month, as part of a constitutional claim filed in Germany.
The claim, filed in October last year by international human rights organisation Reprieve and its German partner, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), seeks measures by the German administration to stop the use of German territory for illegal actions by the U.S. in Yemen. They argue that the German government is acting in breach of the German constitution by allowing the U.S. to use its air base at Ramstein for illegal drone attacks abroad.
Mr Jaber lost his brother-in-law Salim – a preacher – and nephew Waleed – a local police officer – to a US drone strike on the village of Khashamir on 29 August 2012. Salim often spoke out against extremism, and had used a sermon just days before he was killed to urge his congregation to reject Al Qaeda.
The case represents the first time that a court in a country which provides support to the US drone programme will hear from one of its civilian victims. The U.S.’ campaign of drone strikes – carried out in secret by the CIA and U.S. Special Forces – has come in for widespread criticism due to a lack of transparency and accountability. Many legal experts have argued that it violates both domestic and international law, while humanitarians have warned of the large number of civilians killed in the strikes.
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve and Mr bin Ali Jaber’s lawyer: “This is a crucial step in efforts to gain accountability for the civilian victims of secret US drone strikes. It also highlights that the US is not alone in this campaign – support is quietly provided by allies including Germany and the UK. Faisal’s story demonstrates how the misguided drone programme is not simply unacceptable, but deeply counterproductive. Not only is it killing civilians; it has even killed the very people who should be our allies in fighting extremism. Let’s hope this marks the start of some long overdue scrutiny of a programme characterised by secrecy.”
Andreas Schüller, Mr bin Ali Jaber’s attorney at ECCHR, said: “Germany must now take effective measures to stop the US from using Ramsteinn airbase for combat drone missions.”
Reprieve | April 15, 2015
The family of a hunger-striking Pakistani man detained in Guantanamo Bay has today filed an emergency application with the Islamabad High Court, demanding that the Pakistani government intervene immediately in his case.
Ahmad Rabbani has been on hunger strike for more than two years in protest at his detention without charge or trial in Guantanamo, where he has been held since 2004. An affidavit submitted to the court by human rights organization Reprieve, whose staff recently visited Mr Rabbani, describes the damaging effect on his health of his brutal treatment at the prison – including daily force-feedings and ‘forced cell extractions’ (FCEs).
Mr Rabbani has told his lawyers at Reprieve that his weight has dropped to approximately 40kg, and that he regularly vomits and experiences numbness in his limbs, dizziness and fainting. Mr Rabbani described how his thigh has wasted away to the width of his calf. His lawyers describe him as looking “emaciated” during their latest visit.
The urgent court application demands that the Pakistani government intervene immediately with the U.S. authorities to arrange for the release and repatriation of Mr Rabbani before he either dies or suffers permanent damage to his health. Filed today, the petition is likely to be heard tomorrow (Thurs) in the Court.
The court has previously heard how Mr Rabbani’s constitutional rights to legal defence, fair trial, and humane treatment have all been gravely abused by his detention without charge or trial by the United States – violations which, Mr Rabbani’s lawyers argue, oblige the Pakistani government to take up his case.
Mr Rabbani’s lawyers have also submitted to the court a copy of the US Senate’s recent report into CIA torture, which reveals that his 2002 arrest was a case of mistaken identity. The 2014 report also confirms that Mr Rabbani was initially detained for 540 days in secret CIA jails before his transfer to Guantanamo, and was subjected to a number of violent interrogation methods that have been condemned as torture.
Commenting, Mr Rabbani’s lawyer Alka Pradhan, US Counsel at Reprieve, said: “The US Senate report confirmed that Ahmed Rabbani was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time 13 years ago – and that he was horribly tortured in US secret prisons. But he remains in Guantanamo – and after years of abuse, he is now dangerously ill. Ahmad’s hunger strike is a last desperate cry for help from the Pakistani government. They must now intervene in his case and bring him home.”