Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Facespook! Social media giant becomes arm of US intel

By Finian Cunningham | RT | October 18, 2017

Facebook, the world’s top social media platform, is reportedly seeking to hire hundreds of employees with US national security clearance licenses.

Purportedly with the aim of weeding out “fake news” and “foreign meddling” in elections.

If that plan, reported by Bloomberg, sounds sinister, that’s because it is. For what it means is that people who share the same worldview as US intelligence agencies, the agencies who formulate classified information, will have a direct bearing on what millions of consumers on Facebook are permitted to access.

It’s as close to outright US government censorship on the internet as one can dare to imagine, and this on a nominally independent global communication network. Your fun-loving place “where friends meet.”

Welcome to Facespook!

As Bloomberg reports: “Workers with such [national security] clearances can access information classified by the US government. Facebook plans to use these people – and their ability to receive government information about potential threats – in the company’s attempt to search more proactively for questionable social media campaigns ahead of elections.”

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment, but the report sounds credible, especially given the context of anti-Russia hysteria.

Over the past year, since the election of Donald Trump as US president, the political discourse has been dominated by “Russia-gate” – the notion that somehow Kremlin-controlled hackers and news media meddled in the election. The media angst in the US is comparable to the Red Scare paranoia of the 1950s during the Cold War.

Facebook and other US internet companies have been hauled in front of Congressional committees to declare what they know about alleged “Russian influence campaigns.” Chief executives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, are due to be questioned again next month by the same panels.

Mark Zuckerberg, the 33-year-old CEO of Facebook, initially rebuffed claims his company had unwittingly assisted Russian interference in the last US election in November. But after months of non-stop allegations by politicians and prominent news media outlets vilifying Russia, Zuckerberg and the other social media giants are buckling.

Led, perhaps unwittingly, by US intelligence fingering of Russian meddling, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are now saying they have discovered postings and advertisements “linked to the Russian government.” Notably, the sources impugning the “offending ads” are the intelligence agencies and members of Congress who are hawkish on the Russia-gate narrative.

One glaring weakness in this narrative is that the alleged “Russian ads” involved a spend of $100,000 on Facebook. Twitter identified $274,000 worth of “Russian-linked ads.” Some of the information being promoted appears to be entirely innocuous, such as pet-lovers sharing cute photos of puppies.

It is far from clear how these ads are connected to Russian state agencies allegedly attempting to subvert the US elections. Moscow has dismissed the allegations.

Much of it is assumed and taken on face value from claims made by American intelligence and their political and media associates. But what is clear – albeit overlooked in much US media coverage – is the sheer implausibility that the Russian government intended to warp the US presidential election with a few hundred thousand dollars.

Facebook alone earns billions of dollars from advertising. The alleged Russian ads represent a drop in the bucket. The expenditure and presumed impact on public opinion is also negligible compared to the billions of dollars American corporations donated to the election campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Facebook are among the top 50 biggest US corporate donors in lobbying the Federal government and Congress. Last year, the top 50 corporations reportedly spent over $700 million, of which Alphabet and Facebook contributed $15 million and $8.7 million, respectively. This expenditure is explicitly intended to influence policy and legislation. So, what’s that about Russia allegedly swaying the presidential election with a fraction of the financial muscle?

Despite the irrational focus on Russian meddling, internet companies like Facebook have become willing participants in the official efforts to clamp down on this illusory “enemy of democracy.”

What’s more is the complete oversight on how the US media environment is increasingly dominated and controlled by vested powerful corporate interests.

While the mainstream media and politicians fret over alleged Russian influence on American citizens, there is an absurd absence in the public debate about the disproportionate power of just six US media conglomerates dominating all major American news services.

Social media and internet companies are vying with the traditional news channels. In a recent article, New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote about the “Frightful Five” – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google). He writes: “The Five elicit worries of total social control.”

The influence these US-owned media giants exert cuts across all cultural sectors, from the news received, to books, film and other entertainment. In effect, these companies are molding citizens into the consumers that they want to maximize their profits.

Facebook’s reported plans to employ US government-validated people who can use their intelligence contacts and prejudices to control what millions of ordinary people will read, watch or listen to is another manifestation of the larger drift into a corporate matrix.

Under the preposterous guise of “protecting” from “fake news” and “foreign meddling in elections,” Facebook is turning into a government censor.

This disturbing trend has accelerated over the last year. Far from Russia or some other foreign impostor tampering with freedom of information and free speech – supposed bedrocks of democracy – it is increasingly American companies that are the very real and formidable constraint.

Robert Bridge, a fellow Op-Edge contributor, said Facebook appears to be deliberately blocking links disseminating particular news stories carried by the channel.

Bridge concurs with the experience of many other ordinary people around the world who also have noticed how US internet companies have substantially curbed the search freedom previously enjoyed on the internet.

“It’s really incredible how Google and YouTube have earnestly started manipulating their algorithms and censoring news, ” says Bridge. “I was researching a story recently, and it was so difficult to pull up any relevant information that was not critical of Putin or Russia.”

A similar finding was reported by the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), which carried out a study on how search traffic to that site and other left-wing, anti-war online journals has plummeted by over 50 percent since Google announced new search engines to curtail “fake news” back in April.

Facebook and the other big US internet companies are instead directing users to what they call “authoritative” news organizations, which by and large are corporate-controlled entities aligned with government interests. Ironically, these news outlets have peddled some of the biggest fake news stories, such as the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which launched a decade-long US war killing over a million Iraqis.

“Russia-gate” is another fabricated narrative which is being used to crush critical alternative sources.

The infernal paradox is that genuinely alternative, critical news sources are now at risk of being censored by internet companies working in league with nefarious US government intelligence.

Read more:

Welcome to 1984: Big Brother Google now watching your every political move

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

So You’ve Decided To Boycott Google…

corbettreport | October 13, 2017

You’ve decided to boycott Google? Congratulations! That’s a great idea! But now, where do you go for alternatives? Are there any other search engines? Join The Corbett Report’s open source investigation into search alternatives as we explore the good the bad and the ugly of online filter bubbles.

JOIN THE OPEN SOURCE INVESTIGATION: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=24412

October 13, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | | Leave a comment

US Needs to Probe Facebook, Google Abuse of Mega-Data for Profit – Analyst

Sputnik – October 12, 2017

Wall Street Analyst Charles Ortel believes that the US authorities have to investigate the alleged use of mega-data gathered by social media corporations for business profit.

The US government needs to launch a serious inquiry into how the social media giant corporations led by Facebook and Google use the mega-data they gather on hundreds of millions of people for business gain, financial analyst Charles Ortel said in an interview on Wednesday.

“Google and Facebook in the main what they are doing is convincing people around the world to give away very valuable information and then they’re monetizing this for their investors,” Ortel told RT on Wednesday. “There should be some serious inquiry into that.”

Ortel was commenting on the close cooperation between the major US media outlets led by the New York Times and the social media giant corporations in distorting search results and boosting stories overwhelmingly hostile to President Donald Trump.

“What we’ve seen so far is shocking,” he said. “Over 90 percent of the news was negative (on Trump). “I think that kind of stuff happens all the time.”

The Google search engine suppressed conservatives financial analysts and others who were critical of the left-wing and progressive beliefs of most of the billionaires who ran Silicon Valley, Ortel said.

“On the question of Google I have noticed what I believe to be suppression of Google search results… When someone is identified as being conservative economically they go into the question file… These people in Silicon Valley they all lean to the left,” he said.

Trump has publicly accused the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS of presenting fake news.Ortel told RT that Trump had been correct in his criticisms as major US media outlets, especially The New York Times, openly and repeatedly slanted the news according to their preferred bias.

“The New York Times certainly has had an anti-conservative bent for a long, long time… The New York Times has a decided bias and it needs to reform itself or it will indeed fail as Donald Trump in fact suggests it is [already failing],” he said.

Ortel also said the New York Times during the 2016 presidential election campaign had refused to report the fact that the Clinton Foundation charity was under investigation.

“In August 2016 the New York Times knew the Clinton Foundation was under investigation. That is incredibly relevant information that they spiked,” he said.

Charles Ortel, a former executive at the financial firms Chart Group and Dillon, Read & Company, exposed financial fraud at General Electric back in 2007 and is proceeding with his private investigation into the alleged fraud of the Clinton Foundation.

Ortel discussed the issue of media bias at RT after Project Veritas released hidden camera footage of conversations with New York Times editor Nick Dudich. The video showed Dudich admitting to using connections at YouTube to get New York Times videos on the front page of the platform.

October 12, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

Google’s New Search Engine Bias is No Accident

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | October 1, 2017

Alternet has gone public with concerns about the way Google and Facebook have limited traffic to its website and, more generally, undermined access to progressive and independent media.

Its traffic from web searches has dropped precipitously – by 40 per cent – since Google introduced new algorithms in the summer. Other big progressive sites have reported similar, or worse, falls. More anecdotally, and less significantly, I have noticed on both my own website and Facebook page a sharp drop in views and shares in recent weeks.

Alternet is appealing for financial help, justifiably afraid that the drop in traffic will impact its revenues and threaten its future.

Nonetheless, there is something deeply misguided, even dangerous, about its description of what is happening. Here is how its executive editor, Don Hazen, describes Alternet’s problems:

Little did we know that Google had decided, perhaps with bad advice or wrong-headed thinking, that media like AlterNet—dedicated to fighting white supremacy, misogyny, racism, Donald Trump, and fake news—would be clobbered by Google in its clumsy attempt to address hate speech and fake news. …

So the reality we face is that two companies, Google and Facebook—which are not media companies, do not have editors or fact-checkers, and do no investigative reporting—are deciding what people should read, based on a failure to understand how media and journalism function.

“Bad advice”, “wrong-headed”, “clumsy”, “failure to understand”. Alternet itself is the one that has misunderstood what is going on. There is nothing accidental or clumsy about what Google and Facebook are doing. In fact, what has happened was entirely predictable as soon as western political and media elites started raising their voices against “fake news”.

That was something I and others warned about at the time. Here is what I wrote on this blog late last year:

But the claim of “fake news” does usefully offer western security agencies, establishment politicians and the corporate media a powerful weapon to silence their critics. After all, these critics have no platform other than independent websites and social media. Shut down the sites and you shut up your opponents.

Google and Facebook have been coming under relentless and well-documented pressure from traditional media corporations and the political establishment to curb access to independent news and analysis sites, especially those offering highly critical perspectives on the policies and behaviour of western corporations and state bureaucracies. These moves are intimately tied to ongoing efforts to spread the dishonest claim that progressive sites are working in the service of Russia’s Vladimir Putin in his alleged attempts to subvert western democracies.

Shadowy groups like PropOrNot have been springing up to make such wildly unsubstantiated claims, which have then been taken up as authoritative by traditional corporate media like the Washington Post. It is noticeable that the list of sites suffering sudden downturns in traffic closely correlates with the progressive websites defamed as Putin propaganda outfits by PropOrNot.

The pressure on Google and Facebook is not going to ease. And the two new-media giants are not likely to put up any more resistance than is absolutely necessary to suggest they are still committed to some abstract notion of free speech. Given that their algorithms and distribution systems are completely secret, they can say one thing in public and do something else entirely in private.

Other comments by Hazen further suggest that Alternet does not really understand the new environment it finds itself in. He writes:

Ben Gomes, the company’s vice president for engineering, stated in April that Google’s update of its search engine would block access to ‘offensive’ sites, while working to surface more ‘authoritative content’. This seemed like a good idea. Fighting fake news, which Trump often uses to advance his interests and rally his supporters, is an important goal that AlterNet shares.

Fake news can be found across much of the media spectrum: in the New York Times, CNN, BBC, Guardian, as well in Donald Trump’s tweets. It has existed for as long as powerful interests have dominated the media and its news agenda – which is since the invention of print. Fake news cannot be defeated by giving greater powers to huge media conglomerations to decide what people should hear. It is defeated by true media pluralism – something we have barely experienced even now, in this brief heady period of relative online freedom.

Alternet is treating Google and Facebook, and the powerful corporate interests behind them, as though they can be tamed and made to see sense, and persuaded that they should support progressive media. That is not going to happen.

Like the media barons of old, who alone could afford the economies of scale necessary to distribute newspapers through delivery trucks and corner shops, Google and Facebook are the monopolistic distribution platforms for new and social media. They have enormous power to decide what you will see and read, and they will use that power in their interests – not yours.

They will continue to refine and tighten their restrictions so that access to dissident media becomes harder and harder. It will happen so subtly and incrementally that there is a real danger few will notice how they have been gradually herded back into the arms of the media corporations.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Russia-gate’s Shaky Foundation

By Daniel Herman | Consortium News | September 29, 2107

Anyone who watches the news knows that Russian hackers gave Democratic National Committee documents to WikiLeaks and hacked voter databases in 21 states. Prominent Democrats call these shenanigans “a political Pearl Harbor.”

On the blog Daily Kos, one contributor cries “we were robbed!” (arguing that somehow Russian meddling gave Trump a victory in North Carolina, where his margin was 180,000, and where no evidence whatsoever indicates a successful hack of voter databases).

In a new video propamentary, er, docuganda, or something like that, Morgan Freeman declares “we have been attacked. We are at war. This is no movie script.”

Before we hop on the Morgan Freeman train, we might want to consider some history. In 1898, the American press — taking the word of naval investigators — reported that a Spanish mine had destroyed the battleship, U.S.S. Maine. Leading newspapers promptly called for war, and the U.S. government obliged.

Finally, the U.S. became an imperial power with the acquisition of Cuba and the Philippines and a few other odds and ends, at the bargain cost of 2,500 American soldiers dead, plus another 4,000 lost in the Filipino rebellion that followed, not to mention the lives of tens of thousands of Filipino opposition fighters. Only later did it come to light that the Maine was destroyed by a boiler explosion.

In 1915, leading newspapers again whipped up the American public by announcing that a German submarine had sunk the unarmed passenger ship, Lusitania. Two years later — and in part due to lingering outrage over the Lusitania — the U.S. went to war, this time costing 116,000 American lives and over 200,000 wounded, not to mention creating a patriotic frenzy at home that led to beatings, lynchings, and attacks on civil liberties. Decades later, divers proved that the Lusitania was carrying arms to Britain — contrary to government assurances — thus violating international law. German naval intelligence had proved correct.

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed he had a list of men in the State Department who were communists. A credulous press played up his accusations, despite the fact that the numbers on his supposed list kept shifting. McCarthy and his allies in Congress recklessly charged Americans in Hollywood and in government with being either communists or “fellow travelers,” often ruining their careers.

Congress meanwhile passed the McCarran Internal Security Act, which required suspected “subversives” to register with the government. It also permitted the government to round up and hold those same suspected “subversives” on the order of the President. McCarthy, of course, had no real list, and finally ruined his own reputation by accusing Army brass of communist sympathies. McCarthy’s many allies, however, paid no penalty for overreach.

Fake Intelligence

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson announced that the North Vietnamese had attempted a second torpedo attack on an American destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin, then used the incident to get Congress to give him the power to make war.

Thanks to the press endorsing the war effort and cheerleading on the nightly news (at least until the Tet Offensive four years later), the Vietnam War led to 58,000 American deaths and over a million war deaths altogether. Covert U.S. forces, meanwhile, kick-started a civil war in Cambodia that ended in genocide after the Khmer Rouge took power. Cambodia lost over half of its population of 7 million between 1970 and 1980.

It later became clear that there had been no second attack on the destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin; its crew had misread radar signals.

In 2002, U.S. intelligence, via George W. Bush’s administration, told the American public that Iraq had a hand in planning the 9/11 attacks and, moreover, that Iraq secretly maintained an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that might be shared with Al Qaeda. Both claims were utterly false, yet the American press — particularly the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN — led Americans to believe they were true. Far from questioning authority, the press became its servant. The result: 4,500 American war deaths; at least 110,000 Iraqi deaths (some estimates put the figure at over a million); and a destabilized Middle East, wherein both Iran and ISIS (who are bitter enemies) were empowered. In all likelihood, moreover, there would have been no Syrian war had there been no Iraq War.

When the American press and American political leaders loudly accuse another country of “an act of war,” in short, the American public needs to be on the alert. Rather than marginalizing and belittling skeptics, the press and public should give them a fair hearing. Far better to have a spirited debate now than to come to the realization in the future that groupthink created catastrophe.

Hack or Leak? It’s Worth Asking

With all that history in mind, we should be grateful that William Binney, the National Security Agency’s former technical director, is shouting with everything he can muster that the U.S. intelligence community has no solid evidence that Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee. The NSA, he says, would have a record of any overseas exfiltration and could release that data without danger to national security; yet the NSA hasn’t. Though Binney left the NSA 16 years ago, he should know: he created the powerful cyber-vacuum that the NSA still uses.

Binney’s organization, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), has produced a report in which they argue that forensic evidence from documents produced by Guccifer 2.0 (G2) suggests — strongly — that G2 was a hoaxer. Skip Folden, a VIPS associate and a former elite tech executive with IBM, has issued his own report that buttresses the VIPS report. Adam Carter (a pseudonymous investigator) and Forensicator (another pseudonymous investigator) have also buttressed the VIPS Report, as have cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr and former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter (Ritter disagrees with VIPS in part but not on the basic charge of insufficient evidence).

To the extent they mention the skeptics, American journalists dismiss them as fringe. Yet the skeptics deserve a hearing. Among the important points they make is that U.S. intelligence has only identified the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups (APT 28 and 29 to be precise) associated with the hacking, and not the hackers themselves. An APT is a set of common parameters — tools, modes of operation, target patterns — used by hackers. But how certain are our intelligence agencies that Russians stand behind APT 28/29?

It happens that Dimitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike — the cybersecurity entity that analyzed DNC servers — was asked that question in June 2016. His answer: “medium-level of confidence that FancyBear is [Russian intelligence agency] GRU… low-level of confidence that CozyBear is [Russian intelligence agency] FSB.”

Skip Folden suggests that Alperovitch’s estimates equal a 37-38 percent probability that Russian intelligence stands behind APT 28/29. It’s not clear how Folden came up with that figure. We should note here that Alperovitch subsequently raised his confidence levels to “high,” but then had to reduce them again in March 2017 after realizing that his new assessment was based on phony data published by a Russian blogger. Meanwhile, in January, Director of National of Intelligence James Clapper’s hand-picked team had used Alperovitch’s “high confidence” assessment of Russian hacking of the DNC, which every major network reported dutifully without so much as a blink.

It’s hard to say what additional evidence the NSA/CIA team might have had — or whether there was any — though there are rumors that a Kremlin mole working for Latvia confirmed that Putin ordered his cyber-warriors into action. The NSA, however, didn’t consider the source fully trustworthy (remember Curveball, the wonderful gift of German intelligence?), hence it committed itself to only “moderate confidence” even as the CIA stated “high confidence.” At any rate, the January report lacked both solid technical evidence and more traditional evidence confirming Russian hacking.

Not Making Sense

Several other oddities stand out: first, why would G2 announce himself two days after the DNC reported being hacked, brag he was the hacker, and add that he had given his material to WikiLeaks? WikiLeaks exists for one reason: to give whistleblowers deniability. Normally, people don’t give material to WikiLeaks and then brag about it publicly.

Least of all would Russian intelligence do such a thing, assuming — as some allege — that they routinely use WikiLeaks to disseminate hacked data. Why would Russia implicate its proxy? Why, indeed, would Russia not only cast aspersions on Julian Assange’s honesty, but also cast doubt on the authenticity of the DNC data, given that intelligence services are known to doctor hacked documents? Why, moreover, would G2 give information to WikiLeaks in the first place, given that he had the ability to curate it and disseminate it on his own, as he showed by distributing “choice” (but actually innocuous) data to journalists?

Then there’s the forensic evidence, which shows that (1) G2 put DNC documents into a Russian template; and (2) G2 made those changes on the computer in an East Coast U.S. time zone. Plus, linguistic evidence suggests that G2 showed none of the typical speech idiosyncrasies of a native Russian speaker.

Metadata can be fudged, so it’s possible that (1) and (2) don’t matter. If that is the case, however, one must explain why G2 would drop deliberate clues indicating that he’s Russian — including leaving the name of the founder of the Soviet secret police in one document, along with Cyrillic error messages in another — while also dropping deliberate clues indicating he’s an American leaker. Tricky indeed.

Then there’s another important piece of forensic evidence: the transfer speed, which corresponds to the speed of a download to a local thumb drive rather than to an overseas exfiltration. Critics — including a few VIPS dissenters — promptly insisted that the VIPS report was wrong to assume that such speeds could not be attained in an overseas exfiltration in 2016. Signers of the original VIPS report, however, subsequently conducted multiple experiments to prove or disprove that hypothesis; not once did they achieve a transfer speed anywhere close to that indicated in the DNC metadata.

Critics have also argued that the DNC documents transfer speed may refer to a download to a thumb drive after the initial hack, yet the download would nevertheless have had to have been done on the East Coast of the U.S., since transfer speed metadata correlate to time stamp data. Why would a hacker exfiltrate data to Romania or Russia, then return to the U.S. to download the material to a thumb drive?

Inconsistencies and Uncertainties

The above inconsistencies, I should add, apply to the DNC data, not the Podesta emails. No one, so far as I know, has cast doubt on the theory that the Podesta emails were phished via APT 28. Still, the same rules of caution apply. As Alperovitch himself testified in June 2016, APT 28 does not necessarily prove Russia involvement, and even if it did, no one has proven that Russians gave the Podesta emails to WikiLeaks. There are many other possibilities.

The Wall Street Journal, for instance, reported that Republican operatives were desperately reaching out to the hacking community to locate Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails. They made contact with several hacking groups including some that claimed to have the emails and even sent samples. The Republicans told the hackers to turn over the emails to WikiLeaks, but — supposedly — offered no payment. It’s not inconceivable, however, that the same Republican dirt-diggers — or others — indeed did pay hackers to turn over materials to WikiLeaks. Even if that occurred, however, the hackers might well have been non-state actors who occasionally work with Russian intelligence, but who otherwise work independently (more on that later), and who were not under orders from Putin. Or, they may have been hackers who have no connection to Russia whatsoever.

Regarding Roger Stone’s infamous remark that “it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel,” which has been cited as proof that Stone had foreknowledge of WikiLeaks’ publication of Podesta’s emails, Stone explained on Tuesday that he was referring to his own research on Podesta’s consulting work for foreign governments in the context of similar complaints being lodged against Stone’s friend and Trump’s erstwhile campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Questioning the Investigation

There are worrisome implications here. First, if we are “at war with Russia”; if the hacking was “the crime of the century”; if it’s “bigger than Watergate”; why didn’t the FBI examine the DNC server, given that James Comey admitted that was “best practice”? Why did he rely on CrowdStrike’s analysis, especially given CrowdStrike’s strong ties to the Atlantic Council (created solely to support NATO and heavily funded by foreign entities) and CrowdStrike’s grossly mistaken charges of Russian hacking in other contexts?

Second, why has there been no comprehensive or coordinated Intelligence Community Assessment or a full-scale National Intelligence Estimate — weighing evidence of Russian culpability against contrary theories — by the U.S. intelligence community, given that it has known about alleged Russian election hacking of both the DNC and state voter databases for well over a year?

What we got in January was a hurried intelligence assessment put together by a “hand-picked” team from three agencies, not a consensus of “17 agencies,” as the U.S. press wrongly blared for months. If Russia had committed an “act of war,” then surely President Obama would have ordered the fullest assessment of intelligence that the U.S. is capable of producing; yet he didn’t.

Third, why would Putin order an enormous campaign against Hillary Clinton, knowing that she would very likely win anyway (and did win the popular vote). Would Putin risk the likelihood of President Hillary Clinton finding out about his shenanigans? What implications would that have for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, for additional sanctions, for Syria, for Ukraine, for NATO funding, for the possibility of renewed Cold War? Perhaps — as James Comey contends — Putin hated Clinton so much that he was willing to play “Russian roulette.” Yet one wonders.

Has the Press Fed Hysteria?

Why, moreover, has the U.S. press barely mentioned the fact that U.S. intelligence services — and the press itself — wrongly accused Russia of the Macron hack? France’s head of cyber intelligence, after finding no evidence of Russian hacking, said this: “Why did [NSA Director Michael] Rogers say that, like that, at that time? It really surprised me. It really surprised my European allies. And to be totally frank, when I spoke about it to my NSA counterparts and asked why did he say that, they didn’t really know how to reply either.”

Think about those words for a moment; they were not meant to be diplomatic. They were unabashedly chastening.

Why, too, has the U.S. press barely mentioned the fact that German intelligence, after a months-long investigation, found no Russian meddling in its recent election (and moreover, found that the supposed Russian hack of the Bundestag in 2015 was likely a leak after all), despite U.S. intelligence agencies’ insistence that Germany was Russia’s next target?

Why do we not hear that Britain found no evidence of Russian efforts to influence Brexit, despite allegations to that effect? Why has the U.S. press wrongly reported a Russian hack of a Vermont utility; a Russian hack of an Illinois water pump; a Russian hack of north Texas voter rolls; a Russian hack of Qatari news media? Add to those examples the latest round of debunkings: there was no Russian attempt to hack Wisconsin voter rolls, nor any Russian attempt to hack California’s. Despite all the debunked stories, the U.S. press eagerly reports new Russia-done-it stories every time some anonymous source breathes a leak.

Here’s a test you can do at home:  Type “Germany Russia hacking” into your search engine and see what comes up. Then type “Brexit Russia hacking.” Then try “France Russia hacking.” You’ll get an absolute barrage of stories — hundreds of links — that melodramatically attest to Russian hacking and/or meddling in all three situations, but you’ll struggle mightily to find stories refuting those charges.

One can readily see why some curious soul sitting at home who takes it upon himself to do a little internet research would come away utterly convinced of Russian perfidy. Google here becomes an instrument not of truth-finding, but of algorithmic fake news.

Why, too, did former Assistant Secretary of Department of Homeland Security for Cybersecurity, Andy Ozment, insist in September 2016 that hacking attempts on voter rolls were not of Russian origin, but rather were criminal attempts to steal identification data for sale on the dark net? Why did DHS say as late as October that they lacked evidence to blame Russians? Were they simply protecting the nation against mass hysteria that could cast doubt on the presidential vote?

And yet the basic evidence pattern for attributing the attempted hacks to Russia (or anyone else) hasn’t changed; it’s not as if some new damning piece of evidence emerged after September. Even Reality Winner’s leaked NSA document from June 2017 notes uncertainty about the identity of the hackers. If one looks at the leaked chart showing details of the flow of hacked information, one notes that the final arrow on the left pointing to Russian intelligence (GRU) is marked “probably.” Click here and scroll down to see the blown-up chart.

Incidentally, if you think the case of Reality Winner is a bit suspect — i.e., a cleverish ruse to undermine The Intercept (publisher of the “Winner leak”) and puff up the Russia hysteria — you might want to check out this story. I withhold judgment, personally.

What I Am Arguing

Am I implicating Obama in a conspiracy? No way. Am I suggesting that G2 was a DNC actor seeking to blame Russia for a damaging insider leak to Assange? Not necessarily, but not “not necessarily,” either. There is reason for suspicion at least.

Am I suggesting that U.S. intelligence agencies are lying in order to protect massive U.S. funding for NATO and to force Russia to loosen its ties to Iran and Syria, not to mention lay off Ukraine? No, I am not suggesting any deliberate lie, though yes, wishes can father thoughts. Certainly Trump’s campaign talk of defunding NATO, friendship with Russia, and leaving Syria to Assad ruffled feathers in the intelligence community.

I am far from being a cyber-security expert, let alone knowledgeable about IT, so I write all this in modesty. And yet I find myself agreeing with experts who say that APT associations are not grounds for “high confidence” intelligence assessments, and that the American public deserves to see strong evidence not just of hacking — but of actual Russian hacking — given the magnitude of the issue.

I also find myself agreeing with cyber-security experts who tell us that U.S. intelligence agencies — as well as private cyber-security firms like CrowdStrike — tend to build the evidence around hypotheses, rather than letting the evidence lead to its own conclusions.

I don’t think there’s a conspiracy; I think there’s bias, groupthink, and boss-pleasing — in both the press and the intelligence agencies — just as there was in the Iraq WMD fiasco.

As Folden points out, there are numerous international crime organizations (an $800 billion industry last year) that might well stand behind APT 28/29. Given the sloppiness of the DNC and Podesta hacks (assuming they were hacks), what’s probable is that Russia isn’t doing the work directly, but might be paying a third party that sells its wares to bidders. Or, perhaps Russia isn’t involved.

As Folden notes, numerous states and international crime organizations have strong economic and/or strategic interests in both internal U.S. campaign information and in U.S. elections outcomes. The same observation goes for allegations of hacked voter databases. Any number of entities have both the wherewithal to employ APT 28/29 and an economic interest in harvesting voter identification data.

We should pause to note here that almost all the state database attacks were just that — attacks — not breaches. Unsuccessful attacks cannot be traced to APT groups, only to IP addresses, which are highly unreliable evidence. What few confirmed breaches there were (e.g., Illinois), moreover, did not change election results, and — as with the alleged DNC hack — can only be traced to APTs, not to actual hackers.

Here’s an aside just for fun: why would Russian hackers imagine for a second they could turn Illinois into a Trump state? Clinton won that state by a million votes. Sure, one can understand why Russians might want to meddle with voter roles in a swing state, but Illinois? More likely the hackers were criminals seeking voter identification info, which is precisely why they downloaded 90,000 registration records. The FBI absurdly claimed that Russians needed all those records to figure out precisely how Illinois voter registration works, thus to improve their dirty work. Really? They needed 90,000 records for that?

Pressuring Facebook

Of course, if the voter database attacks turn out to be no-big-deal, the press still will find some new way to exploit the Russia hysteria. The Washington Post and the New York Times — along with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees — are now investigating Russian attempts to use Facebook ads and posts to help Trump win the election. Facebook — thanks to subpoenas from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and pressure from congressional Democrats — has turned up $100,000 of suspicious ad buys from phony accounts.

Think of that for a moment: Russians (supposedly) mustered fully $100,000 for ads in a presidential campaign that cost $2.4 billion. Talk about bang for your buck! The current allegation is that over the past three years, a few hundred Russian trolls armed with $100,000 and 470 Facebook accounts (compared to Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue and 2 billion monthly users) deployed issues ads (not primarily attack ads against specific candidates) to out-brigade millions of ordinary Americans who posted campaign pieces on Facebook every day, not to mention Clinton’s public relations army.

Poor David Brock paid a million dollars for his own pro-Clinton troll brigade, but they were children compared to these nefarious Russians. It’s a feat right up there with Xenophon’s Anabasis … a tiny force of foreigners, slashing their way through the Persian hordes! Someone get an epic poet!

Of course Sen. Mark Warner, a hawkish vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, informs us that the $100,000 is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Who knows, maybe the Russians spent $200,000.

Even if these propaganda charges turn out to be 100 percent true — and even if the Russians were clever enough to target voters in the Upper Midwest — it is highly unlikely that they had more influence on the election than a host of other factors, ranging from Clinton’s bad campaign decisions to emailgate to anti-establishment fervor to Trump’s 4-Chan volunteers (did he really need several hundred Russians? Surely he had plenty of home-grown trolls).

Silencing Dissent

So, maybe the Russians did play some small role on Facebook — though I suspect this suspicion, too, will be challenged — but should we therefore conclude that we’re at war, as Morgan Freeman declares? Should we demand that Facebook and Google continue to rework algorithms to shut down posts or ads deemed pro-Russian? Doesn’t that remind anyone of the anti-German hysteria — and censorship — during World War I?

Should we demand, moreover, that the tiny Russian-owned media outlet RT register as a foreign agent — as the Atlantic Council has insisted, and as the Justice Department is now demanding — but not require the same of the BBC and CBC, which are financed by the British and Canadian governments respectively?

What about the Atlantic Council itself, which, receives much of its funding from foreign nations that seek to strengthen NATO? Should the Atlantic Council be required to register as a foreign agent? Does anyone seriously think the Atlantic Council doesn’t propagandize for NATO and for hawkish policies more generally? Or what about the hawkish Brookings Institution, or a host of other think tanks that welcome money from foreign powers?

The unspoken assumption here is that only Russia propagandizes; no other nation is so shifty. Surely Saudi Arabia wouldn’t do such a thing, nor Israel, nor Ukraine, nor countless other nations that seek to influence American policy. After all, they have their paid lobbyists and press buddies working for them every day; they don’t need several hundred trolls.

Let’s be honest, we live in a world in which foreign powers seek to influence American public opinion, just as we seek to influence public opinion in other nations. Which brings to mind a bill that President Obama signed in December, at the outset of the Russia hysteria: “The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act,” which created the State Department’s “Global Engagement Center,” which seeks to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United Sates national security interests.”

The act also offers grants to organizations (think news agencies and research groups) that promise to “counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability” of the U.S. and allied nations. (Shout out to Rob Reiner; did you apply for one of those grants? Might be a good opportunity for you.)

Does no one see a problem with this?  What exactly is foreign propaganda? Is it RT’s occasional charges that the U.S. press treats Trump unfairly? Is it RT’s penchant for left-wing, anti-establishment commentary, e.g., Chris Hedges, Thom Hartmann, and Lee Camp? Our intelligence elites certainly think so, judging from the seven pages they dedicated to RT’s supposed rascally programming in the January intelligence assessment.

And what exactly will it mean to “counter … foreign … disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda”? Will it mean countering any news or commentary deemed anti-NATO or pro-Russian? Any news or commentary deemed pro-Iranian? How exactly will our government define “foreign propaganda”? How, moreover, will it define “national security”? What lengths will it take to deny the American public — not to mention foreigners — access to legitimate opinions?

Alien and Sedition Acts

Perhaps the real analogue here isn’t World War I after all, but the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Of course it wasn’t Russians that President John Adams worried about; it was hot-blooded Irish radicals and French émigrés with their revolutionary idealism, which was ostensibly corrupting the nation. Ordinary Americans were suddenly refusing to vote for their Federalist political betters, and those betters determined to make them pay. Far better to jail Jeffersonian editors and drive out foreigners than to let them endanger America’s “national security.”

We are forsooth reliving the age of Hamilton, I fear, when political elites dance to Wall Street theatricals about anti-democrats while feeling virtuous about opposing “deplorables.” Just don’t expect them to care about free speech. Thanks to our government’s push against so-called fake news, both Google and Facebook have already altered algorithms to such an extent that they have pushed down readership for one old progressive venue, AlterNet, by fully 40 percent (other progressive venues have seen similar declines), thus starving them for ad revenue. Meanwhile neoconservative researchers are trumpeting inch-deep investigations into supposed Russian propagandizing that — thanks to vast funding — may get churned out for years to come.

Let’s not kid ourselves; this project isn’t about shutting down “fake news.” From the moment the Washington Post ran its infamous PropOrNot story in November 2016, the message has been clear: the real threat isn’t Russians, it’s any media outlet that fuels anti-establishment politics.

The Universality of Hacking 

All that said, it is still very possible that CrowdStrike and the intelligence community are correct to attribute at least some DNC exfiltration of data to Russians or to loose-leashed teams working as subcontractors, or, alternatively, criminal organizations that sometimes answer to Russia. The one thing that the skeptics (of whom I am obviously one) have not answered is why the CrowdStrike investigation found uniquely modified X-TUNNEL source code in DNC servers, which would seem to have been created for this particular hack.

Since I don’t have years to become a cyber-security expert, I’ll leave the technical experts to further argue that question. However, I am left to wonder whether X-TUNNEL indeed betrays a Russian hack of at least some DNC emails, but that another party altogether — a leaker — was nevertheless responsible for handing the full complement of DNC documents to Wikileaks.

None of the skeptics are claiming that the Russians for certain didn’t hack the DNC (which wouldn’t be that surprising, really; we probably hack their political entities, too). The skeptics are only claiming that G2 was an insider who downloaded documents onto a thumb drive. Both claims can be true.

I’ll add — just to be clear — that I am quite certain that the U.S. intelligence community is correct that the Russian government is engaged in broad hacking attempts aimed at targets all over the world, many of them associated with APT 28/29. But that doesn’t mean they carried out the particular hacks at issue here (or, at least, it doesn’t mean that Russian state actors were behind the WikiLeaks releases, or the attacks on state databases).

And it certainly doesn’t mean — contrary to what over-wrought bloggers claim — that Russians changed 2016 vote tallies. The answer isn’t to shout “war” and create hysteria; the answer is to secure U.S. infrastructure.

I’ll also add that even “high confidence” that Russia hacked the DNC, Podesta, and/or state databases is insufficient grounds for aggressive policy — e.g., harsh sanctions and diplomatic ejections, not to mention military action — let alone grounds for announcing “we are at war.” Suppose for the sake of argument that “high confidence” is 75 percent probability. Would we convict an accused murderer on 75 percent probability?

If we did that — and if the accused were then put to death — we would be knowingly killing 25 innocents out of every 100 we adjudge. The same logic should apply to foreign policy. We should not be taking punitive measures unless we can assess culpability with greater certitude, else we risk harming millions of people who had no role in the original crime.

Where We Stand

It seems to me that we are in uncharted waters. Not everyone can be a cyber-security expert; we must trust those who are. And yet in doing so, we put enormous powers into the hands of unelected technocrats with their own biases and agendas. As others have noted, moreover, the cyber-war community is at odds with the cyber-security community.

On the one hand, intelligence operatives are constantly developing new tools to exploit cyber vulnerabilities of other nations and criminal actors. On the other hand, cyber-security people (e.g., DHS) seek to patch those same vulnerabilities to protect U.S. infrastructure. The problem is that the people who know how to exploit the vulnerabilities don’t want to report those vulnerabilities because it means years of work down the drain. Why make your tools obsolete?

We need to resolve these contradictions in favor of security, not cyberwar.

I cannot say this loudly enough. This whole episode isn’t just about Hillary Clinton losing the election, or Russian hacking of the DNC, or Deep State bias and boss-pleasing. The upshot is that we are entering a cyber-arms race that is going to become ever more byzantine, hidden, and dangerous to democracy, not just because elections can be stolen, but because in guarding against that, we are handing over power to unelected technocrats and shutting down dissenting speech. We are entering a new era; this won’t be the last time that hacking enters political discourse.

We might already be in the midst of a cyber Cold War, though the American public has no idea — flat zero — what sort of offensive gamesmanship our own cyber-warriors are engaging in. (One interesting theory: The Russians deliberately implicated themselves in the DNC hack in order to send a warning to U.S. cyber-warriors: we can play dirty, too).

Presumably not even our cyber-security experts at the DHS and FBI know what the CIA and NSA’s cyber-warriors are up to. Thus Russian hacking becomes “Pearl Harbor” rather than an unsurprising reciprocal response. Both the State Department and the CIA, after all, have been in the foreign propaganda business for decades; the American public, however, has not the vaguest idea of what they do.

We might also be on the brink of something else nightmarish: an international cyber-war with multiple parties participating — attacking one another while no-one-knows-who-did-what.

The intelligence community’s whispered “trust us, we’re the experts” simply isn’t good enough. If we don’t demand hard evidence, then we’re following the same path we took in 1898, 1915, 1950, 1964, and 2003. Let’s not go there.

Daniel Herman is Professor of History at Central Washington University. He specializes in American cultural history and the American West.

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google hiring 1,000 journalists in effort to control American news flow

It’s about controlling information offline and online

By Alex Christoforou | The Duran | September 19, 2017

Google is learning from its mistakes.

Not being able to place Hillary Clinton in office, the search monopoly has decided that online influence over what Americans think, say, and do is not enough to guarantee the right woman enters the White House.

Google is now embarking on a 5 year plan, where they will seed 1,000 aspiring, liberal left journalists into America’s local media markets.

Poynter reports that the Google News Lab will be working with Report For America (RFA) to hire 1,000 journalists all around the country.

Many local newsrooms have been cut to the bone so often that there’s hardly any bone left. But starting early next year, some may get the chance to rebuild, at least by one.

On Monday, a new project was announced at the Google News Lab Summit that aims to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms in the next five years. Report For America takes ideas from several existing organizations, including the Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America and public media.

Unlike foreign or domestic service programs or public media, however, RFA gets no government funding. But they are calling RFA a national service project. That might make some journalists uncomfortable – the idea of service and patriotism. But at its most fundamental, local journalism is about protecting democracy, said co-founder Charles Sennott, founder and CEO of the GroundTruth Project.

“I think journalism needs that kind of passion for public service to bring it back and to really address some of the ailments of the heart of journalism,” he said.

Here’s how RFA will work: On one end, emerging journalists will apply to be part of RFA. On the other, newsrooms will apply for a journalist. RFA will pay 50 percent of that journalist’s salary, with the newsroom paying 25 percent and local donors paying the other 25 percent. That reporter will work in the local newsroom for a year, with the opportunity to renew.

Zerohedge reports…

Of course, while the press release above tries to tout the shared financial responsibility of these 1,000 journalists, presumably as a testament to their ‘independence’, it took about 35 seconds to figure out that the primary funder of the journalists’ salaries, RFA, is funded by none other than Google News Lab.

Meanwhile, as a further testament to RFA’s ‘independence, we noticed that their Advisory Board is flooded with reputable, ‘impartial’ news organizations like the New York Times, NPR, CBS, ABC, etc….

We are sure that these 1,000 journalists will never be called upon by Google to report on the news in a way that benefits the giant search company.

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Seeks to Monopolize Cyberwarfare

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 15.09.2017

The use of information to enhance martial power goes back to the beginning of human civilization itself, where propaganda and psychological warfare went hand-in-hand with slings, arrows, swords and shields.

The most recent iteration of this takes the form of social media and cyberwarfare where tools are being developed and deployed to influence populations at home and abroad, to manipulate political processes of foreign states and even tap into and exploit global economic forces.

In the beginning of the 21st century, the United States held an uncontested monopoly over the tools of cyberwarfare. Today, this is changing quickly, presenting an increasingly balanced cyberscape where nations are able to defend themselves on near parity with America’s ability to attack them.

To reassert America’s control over information and the technology used to broker it, Jared Cohen, current Google employee and former US State Department staff, has proposed a US-created and dominated “international” framework regarding cyberconflict.

His op-ed in the New York Times titled, “How to Prevent a Cyberwar,” begins by admitting the very pretext the US is using to expand its control over cyberwarfare is baseless, noting that “specifics of Russia’s interference in the 2016 America election remain unclear.”

Regardless, Cohen continues by laying out a plan for reasserting American control over cyberwarfare anyway, by claiming:

Cyberweapons won’t go away and their spread can’t be controlled. Instead, as we’ve done for other destructive technologies, the world needs to establish a set of principles to determine the proper conduct of governments regarding cyberconflict. They would dictate how to properly attribute cyberattacks, so that we know with confidence who is responsible, and they would guide how countries should respond.

Cohen, unsurprisingly, nominates the US to lead and direct these efforts:

The United States is uniquely positioned to lead this effort and point the world toward a goal of an enforceable cyberwarfare treaty. Many of the institutions that would be instrumental in informing these principles are based in the United States, including research universities and the technology industry. Part of this effort would involve leading by example, and the United States can and should establish itself as a defender of a free and open internet everywhere.

Cohen never explains how this US-dominated framework will differ from existing “international” frameworks regarding conventional warfare the US regularly abuses to justify a growing collection of devastating conflicts it is waging worldwide.

And as has been repeatedly documented, the United States’ definition of a “free and open internet everywhere” is an Internet dominated by US tech companies seeking to enhance and expand US interests globally.

Cohen ironically notes that:

Cyberweapons have already been used by governments to interfere with elections, steal billions of dollars, harm critical infrastructure, censor the press, manipulate public conversations about crucial issues and harass dissidents and journalists. The intensity of cyberconflict around the world is increasing, and the tools are becoming cheaper and more readily available.

Indeed, cyberweapons have already been used, primarily by the United States.

Jared Cohen himself was directly involved in joint operations between Google, Facebook, the US State Department and a number of other US tech and media enterprises which before and during 2011 set the stage for the so-called “Arab Spring.”

It included the training, funding and equipping of activists years ahead of the the uprisings as well as active participation in the uprisings themselves, including providing assistance to both protesters and militants everywhere from Libya to Syria in overthrowing governments targeted by Washington for regime change.

One such tool used in these efforts was described in a UK Independent article titled, “Google planned to help Syrian rebels bring down Assad regime, leaked Hillary Clinton emails claim,” which would report that:

An interactive tool created by Google was designed to encourage Syrian rebels and help bring down the Assad regime, Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails have reportedly revealed.

By tracking and mapping defections within the Syrian leadership, it was reportedly designed to encourage more people to defect and ‘give confidence’ to the rebel opposition.

The article would continue, mentioning Jared Cohen by name:

The email detailing Google’s defection tracker purportedly came from Jared Cohen, a Clinton advisor until 2010 and now-President of Jigsaw, formerly known as Google Ideas, the company’s New York-based policy think tank.

In a July 2012 email to members of Clinton’s team, which the WikiLeaks release alleges was later forwarded to the Secretary of State herself, Cohen reportedly said: “My team is planning to launch a tool on Sunday that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from.”

Would Cohen’s more recently proposed “framework” have prevented the United States’ use of these cyberweapons against sovereign states to undermine sociopolitical stability, overturn entire governments and plunge them into enduring chaos many still remain in 6 years later? Most likely not.

What Cohen and the interests he represents are truly concerned with is that nations are now not only able to recognize, prepare for and defend against US cyberwarfare, they may be capable of retaliating against the US.

Cohen’s proposal for an international framework to govern cyberwarfare simply seeks to define it in terms that leaves the US with both an uncontested monopoly over cyberwarfare as well as the means to wield it globally with absolute impunity.

It would be not unlike current “international” frameworks used to govern conflicts between nations which the US has used to justify an expansive, global campaign of extraterritorial war stretching from North Africa to Central Asia and beyond.

Such frameworks have become enablers of injustice, not a deterrence to it.

As nations from Iran to North Korea are discovering, the only true means of defending oneself from foreign military aggression is creating a plausible deterrence to dissuade foreign nations from attacking. This is done by creating a price for attacking and invading that is higher than the perceived benefits of doing so.

Nations like Russia and China have already achieved this balance with the United States in terms of conventional and nuclear warfare, and have now nearly established a similar deterrence in terms of cyber and information warfare. For the rest of the world, developing cyberdefense is not as costly as conventional military or nuclear arsenals, making cyberwarfare a corner of the battlefield unlikely to be monopolized by the US as it had done at the turn of the century.

Ensuring that no single nation ever has the opportunity to abuse such a monopoly again means exposing and confronting efforts by those like Google’s Jared Cohen and his proposal for an “international framework” for cyberwarfare that resembles the same sort of enabling the United Nations provides the US in terms of proliferating conventional conflicts across the globe.

September 15, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

We Told You So: Google Is NSA

By Phil Butler – New Eastern Outlook – 04.09.2017

Google wants to be Big Brother’s eyeballs on you. All us Internet gurus knew this since before the NSA was found out spying on everybody. But now the Mountain View boys are more determined than ever to filter your information, and to obliterate any semblance of truth reaching people.

If I had led into an article with that paragraph even five years ago, I’d have been instantly labeled a “conspiracy theorist” or worse. How about now dear reader? Is the idea the technocrats and their huge monied handlers want to run you crazy? I didn’t think so. But if you need proof beyond the obvious, Google’s 160-page handbook tells us all exactly how they plan to spoon feed us only “their” news. The lengthy handbook is a heavy read for the average person, but the book does lay out an Orwellian machination unlike anything seen since the Nazi propaganda machine of Hitler. Pay close attention to the “instructional” on page 108 where Google dictates who does and does not meet rating criteria. The section under Fails to Meet (FailsM) is a steamrolling of the free press, and suggested hiding certain kinds of sites:

“Pages that directly contradict well established historical facts (e.g., unsubstantiated conspiracy theories), unless the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”

As per usual, Google has obscured its real intentions with the idea some super smart algorithm is “filtering” or “learning” results to help your life be better. Once again Google supposes to do “what is good for us” by destroying some sources and propping up others. Using terms like “search quality rating guidelines” and “page quality rating guidelines” the little Machiavellis at Google provide justification for controlling what you see and read on the web. Censorship and monopolization of internet information and business – this is the case against the Mountain View boys this time.

Then there’s the section concerning how Google will rank the best of the best news sites entitled “A High Level of Expertise/Authoritativeness/Trustworthiness (EAT)”. The acronym should clue you that Google search users are about to be fed some bullshit truth. “High Quality Pages” for the Google oligarchs means that either the page owner pays Google through the nose, or that the site in question serves Google’s masters well – period. At the top of this matrix of sources are newspapers (High News 1) like The Washington Post and New York Times, followed by the articles within those pages (High News 2). On down the list of authority pages are government sites like the US State Department and White House, and then pages categorized (believe it or not) “High Humor”. So, Google has factored out the importance of truth or even the importance of the news story itself, in favor of “who” wrote the story and the “reality” Google wants you to accept – Big Brother’s network – end of story.

Melissa Dykes of Truth Stream Media made a video about the new Big Brother effort, and Government Slaves did their take as well. And the latter even suggests alternatives to using Google Search, such as Yandex and DuckDuckGo, for those refusing the totalitarian tendencies we see headed our way these days. For people who would rather boycott the imminent evil Government Slaves also lists 400 sites for independent news outside Google’s MATIX. My advice for everyone is to start making the transition away from Google and Facebook now. My own vast experience in dealing with these tech people has revealed people with no morals whatsoever, people willing to do anything necessary to perpetuate their dominance in digital. Google has destroyed millions of people’s livelihoods, broken its own code, lawyers itself around anti-trust and fair practice rules, avoided taxes, and colluded against the people of the United States with the intelligence agencies. All these assertions are not just this writer’s ramblings. Back in 2014 John W. Whitehead wrote about the NSA and Google for the Huffington Post :

“Just look around you. It’s happened already. Thanks to an insidious partnership between Google and the National Security Agency (NSA) that grows more invasive and more subtle with every passing day, “we the people” have become little more than data consumer commodities to be bought, sold and paid for over and over again.”

On August 29th the notorious Zero Hedge creator, Tyler Durden wrote a piece entitled “Why Google Made The NSA”, which revealed a project called INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowd-funded investigative journalism project that had released a story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. You read that correctly. My past assertions that Sergey Brin and Larry Page were “lifted up” by unseen money were probably correct. While I presumed George Soros or Rockefeller being behind it, it’s conceivable Uncle Sam was the spook in the woodpile. The Zero Hedge story delves deep into a “deep state” we never imagined in our worst nightmares. The report unveils Pentagon Highlands Forum’s more or less taking over tech giants like Google to pursue mass surveillance. Furthermore, the report shows how the intelligence community has played a key role in secret efforts to manipulate the media and the public. The endless crisis and war we find ourselves in, is in large part because of the efforts of Google and the other technocratic institutions. In another section the author frames how the Obama administration really consolidated this “Big Brother” control:

“Under Obama, the nexus of corporate, industry, and financial power represented by the interests that participate in the Pentagon Highlands Forum has consolidated itself to an unprecedented degree.”

These people refer to themselves as “the gatekeepers”. Their arrogance is only exceeded by their amoral agnosticism. The successes of the information age, Silicon Valley’s dubious venture capital bonanzas, the mysterious ways in which fairly ordinary innovators were propelling into the limelight warns us to the underlying swamp Donald Trump described. But it is the immensity of the network that should clue us. Imagine a new president taking office and fending off attacks as best he could, only to discover that the whole machine of the US government being under such a controlling influence. It’s easy to theorize after learning all this, how Trump did an about face on so many issues. He must have been overwhelmed. Or, he was part of the plan all along.

Finally, if we expand on this news and include other technocrats like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, then understanding world crises caused by bad US policy becomes simpler. It’s a corporation – all of it is a corporation for war and friction. Bezos walking with former Marine General and current Secretary of Defense, “Mad Dog” Mattis at Amazon is symbolic. Trump’s posture with Israel, the Saudis, even on domestic policy tells us those campaign promises sank in the wake of a deep state ship at full steam forward. If we allow Google and other such players to continue unchecked….

Well, you are as capable as I of completing that sentence. I only pray we are not too late.

September 4, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Left, You Have Been Duped

By Richard Hugus | August 20, 2017

On August 19, a week after a heavily publicized clash over a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, an estimated 8,000 people converged on Boston Common to protest a speaking event organized by a group calling itself the Boston Free Speech Movement. Who are the Boston Free Speech Movement and what do they stand for? We’ll never know because antifascists, leftists, anti-racists, and progressives of Boston prevented them from even speaking. Some might say this was a good thing — no one wants to hear from bigots (if that’s who they were) — but in fact the left in all its self-righteousness was duped into an assault on the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees the right of free speech, for everyone. The left have been the pawns of much more powerful forces who, if they aren’t organizing these news events and provocations outright, are certainly happy to see precedents set for publicly shutting down free speech by the use of force. First it will be the speech of fascists, then it will be the speech of anybody the authorities don’t like, including leftists.

Suddenly we are being confronted with organizations who claim to know what is or is not appropriate for the rest of us to hear. Now that sides have been established — one which can decide what is and isn’t acceptable speech, and another which is forbidden to speak on pain of attack, all that remains is for the powerful to make sure their narrative is the one that’s allowed. Isn’t this fascism? Aren’t people who claim to be anti-fascist actually doing what classic fascists do?

It’s not a coincidence that just prior to these speaking events being shut down, Google, Inc. asserted its right to decide what is and is not a legitimate news source. At the same time the US Congress is considering legislation that would make it illegal for US citizens to support boycott, divestment, or sanctions against Israel. Not surprisingly, the pro-Israel Anti Defamation League (ADL) has been brought on by Google to advise them on which news sources are legitimate and which are not. Google now has such a monopoly on information on the Internet that it is in a position to bury unapproved news sources forever. The ADL will therefore be able to effectively censor any negative news about what Israel is doing in Palestine and the middle east, just as AIPAC, through its ownership of the US Congress, will be able to censor free speech of American citizens when it comes to, once again, Israel.

In the ‘50s the ADL monitored “pinkos” for the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. In the ‘90s ADL monitored activists working to end apartheid in South Africa, in the 2000s the ADL began monitoring Arab American organizations and mosques. Today the ADL monitors pro-Palestine groups on college campuses. In each case the ADL has gone after “extremism and hate speech” in the US, as defined by Israel.

One wonders, why does Israel, a foreign country, have such a say on what people in the US can and can’t talk about?

There is no way to censor speech without a point of view or agenda. The agenda is usually dictated by whoever has power. Thus censorship serves those in power. When we take part in it, we serve the power.

People are apparently upset about an upsurge of Nazism. Why weren’t they in the streets when neocon Victoria Nuland and the US State Department organized a coup in Ukraine with the overt assistance of neo-Nazis? Why were Nazis okay during Obama’s presidency but not during Trump’s?

Where was the outrage when Hillary Clinton and the US State Department attacked and destroyed Libya? The liberal left considered this a “humanitarian intervention,” just as it did when the US decimated Yugoslavia.

Why is it that after six years of siege and murder committed by US proxy forces in Syria, the only national demonstration that could be mustered in Washington was on the issue of private remarks Trump once made about grabbing women — the famous “pussy hat” demonstration?

Why is it that the liars in the mainstream press could get away with false stories of chemical attacks in Syria being carried out by the Syrian government when it was obvious that the attacks were carried out as false flags by US proxy forces? Why are Syrians still being bombed and killed every day by US “coalition” forces with no protest?

Why is it that Iraq is no longer a concern, after 26 years of genocidal assault by Uncle Sam, with efforts now being made to balkanize Iraq through support for “Kurdistan”? Why are US troops still there? Why are they still in Afghanistan? Where are the masses taking to the streets to shout down the liars making these policies?

Why is it the business of the US to interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs, even to the point of military intervention? Has Venezuela harmed the US in some way? Has the left swallowed yet again the lie that the US is concerned about human rights in another country?

Why is it that Palestinians have been forgotten, as Israel, the US’s closest ally, transparently conducts genocide against them, year after year, so that today Israel can talk openly of forced transfer of the entire Arab population of Palestine. Isn’t terror also being committed when Israeli settlers routinely ram their cars into Palestinians in the street, or is it just terror when this happens in Europe?

Why is it that the US supports a state for Jewish people only that necessarily discriminates again non-Jewish Christians and Muslims? Isn’t discrimination on the basis of religion a hate crime? Isn’t the ADL in a conflict of interests when it claims to be an authority on hate crimes while representing such a state? Has the left ever repudiated its long record of blocking for Israel and Israel’s crimes?

Why is it that the virtuous left has nothing better to do than face off with a few obvious provocateurs with their over-the-top nazi slogans while the US — their country, in their name — is actively supporting Saudi Arabia in its destruction of a practically defenseless Yemen?

Where has the left been in its opposition to US government and media “hate speech” and war-baiting against Russia, China, and Iran? Is World War III not a problem? Did something lead leftists to believe that life on earth was not important right now?

Is the US threat of a nuclear attack on North Korea a side issue — something to be dealt with only after facing off with the Klan?

What about the murder of millions of Arabs and Muslims since 9-11 on the basis of a false story about who did 9-11? Surely there is a case to be made here for discrimination on the basis of religion, if not serial mass murder, based on a pretext which itself was an open crime for all the world to see. Why does the left consider discussion of this crime unimportant and passé?

That the left has mobilized to stomp on a handful of people in Charlottesville and Boston only proves its impotence. It’s like the man who has been frustrated at work all day who comes home and kicks his dog.

The worst of it all is that both the left and right have been suckered into a division which will use up all their energy and get plenty of attention from the press while the real crimes and the real criminals roll steadily along, laughing at the stupidity of everyone involved and the ease with which they were manipulated.

August 20, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 3 Comments

For Google, the Pixels Just Hit the Fan

Sputnik – July 12, 2017

Distinguished research psychologist Robert Epstein explains why Google was recently fined $2.7 billion for one of its search-engine manipulations. This is just the beginning, he says, of bad news for a company that tracks and manipulates people on a massive scale.

Dr. Robert Epstein — The pixels have hit the fan. The EU just fined Google $2.7 billion for favoring its online comparative shopping service in its search results.

Google officials knew this fine was coming and that much worse is possible, so in August 2015, they reorganized the company so that it is now part of a holding company called Alphabet. This was not done, as Larry Page, one of the company’s co-founders, rapped at the time, to make the company “cleaner and more accountable” (what on earth does that mean?). It was likely done to try to protect the value of the stock held by the company’s major stockholders.  The EU’s antitrust action against Google had been filed in April, 2015, and that got Google officials thinking. When the US Department of Justice broke up AT&T in the 1980s, the stock value dropped by 70 percent.

Google officials are nervous because they know exactly how many questionable practices they engage in every day, along with how many have been uncovered so far and how many are still unknown to authorities. My associates and I have discovered some of these practices, and we study them every day.  They are brilliant, mind-blowing, and largely invisible new ways of both tracking and manipulating human behavior on an unprecedented scale, all serving a singular purpose: to make Google richer.  Before I give you a few examples of the practices we are examining these days, let me put the big EU fine into a broader context.

First of all, Google can handle it. The company will likely have revenues of over $100 billion this year, so they can pay the fine painlessly, and they also have unlimited legal resources. In court, they will claim, as they always do, that they haven’t done anything wrong, that it’s just the algorithm, and that the algorithm — in its objective purity, driven by its deep digital desire to serve human needs — just happens to rank Google products above inferior ones.

This is complete nonsense. As I explain in detail in my US News essay, “The New Censorship,” Google employees have complete control over where items occur in search results. The search algorithm is just a set of computer instructions written by Google software engineers, and they manually adjust the algorithm daily to remove items from the search results it generates about — 100,000 items per year under Europe’s “right to be forgotten” law alone — or to demote companies that piss Google off.

Second, this hefty fine is just the tip of a very large digital iceberg. Bear in mind that it is based on merely one instance of search bias: putting Google’s own comparative shopping service ahead of others. A US Federal Trade Commission investigation in 2012 found that Google’s search results are generally skewed to favor its own products and services. When was the last time you Googled a movie without seeing YouTube — owned by Google — in the top search result? Both India and Russia have levied fines against the company for rigging search results, with a much larger fine still looming in India. Bear in mind also that the EU’s search-related action against Google is just one of three antitrust cases they have initiated so far; the other two concern Google’s dominance in mobile computing and advertising. Europe’s concerns about Google are so deep that in late 2014 the European Parliament voted (in a non-binding proceeding) to break Google up into pieces, reminiscent of the DOJ’s dismantling of AT&T.

These and other legal actions are all about new techniques Google has developed for tracking and manipulating people. The search engine may have started out as a simple index of web pages, but it was soon refined and repurposed. Its main purpose became to track user behavior, yielding a vast amount of information about people that Google still leverages to send out the targeted advertisements that account for most of the company’s income. The public still thinks of the Google search engine, Google Maps, Google Wallet, YouTube, Chrome, Android and a hundred other Google platforms as cool services the company provides free of charge. In fact, they are all just gussied-up surveillance platforms, and authorities around the world are finally figuring that out.

As the EU’s recent antitrust decision shows, authorities are also beginning to figure out how extensively Google is using its platforms to suppress competition and manipulate user behavior. The EU’s investigation found, for example, that when Google officials realized in 2007 that their comparative shopping service was failing, they elevated their own service in their search results while demoting competing services. This increased traffic to its service “45-fold in the United Kingdom, 35-fold in Germany, 19-fold in France, 29-fold in the Netherlands, 17-fold in Spain and 14-fold in Italy” while reducing traffic to its competitors by “85% in the United Kingdom, up to 92% in Germany and 80% in France.”

Does position in search results really affect user behavior that much? You bet. My own research has shown, for example, that favoring one political candidate in search results can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by up to 80 percent in some demographic groups.  Search results that favor one perspective over another on abortion, fracking, homosexuality, you name it also dramatically shift the opinions of people who haven’t yet made up their minds. The research also shows, unfortunately, that this type of manipulation is virtually invisible to people and, worse still, that the few people who can spot favoritism in search results shift even farther in the direction of the bias, perhaps because they see the bias as a kind of social proof.

What if authorities were examining not just the dominance of Google’s comparison shopping service in the company’s search results but the dominance of, say, anything, in those results: certain brands of mobile phones or computers; political candidates who serve or interfere with the company’s needs; attitudes toward Oracle, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other companies that compete with or are in conflict with Google; news stories that are “fake” or anti-Trump or pro-Google; and on and on. Do you see how big this problem really is? And no one — at least not yet — is tracking any of this. The trillions of pieces of information Google is showing people every day are all ephemeral. They hit your eyeballs and then disappear, leaving no trace, and much or most of them favor one perspective or another. Do we really want a single company, which handles 90 percent of search in most countries, to have the power to manipulate our opinions about anything? How, over the years, has Google been exercising this power?

My newest research is showing that it is not just the order of search results we need to worry about.  Here are three examples of manipulations we are currently studying which, once again, no authorities are tracking — at least not yet:

  1. Search suggestions: Before you even see those search results, Google typically flashes search suggestions at you. When Google introduced this feature in 2004, they showed you a long list of suggestions — usually 10 — that indicated what other people were searching for; Bing and Yahoo still do this. Google, however, now typically shows you just four suggestions that are often unrelated to what others are searching for. Instead, they show you terms they believe you are likely to click, which gives them a great deal of control over your search. One way they now manipulate searches is by strategically including or withholding negative search terms. Negative terms (like “suicide” or “crimes”) attract far more clicks than neutral or positive ones do-10-to-15 times as many in some demographic groups. By withholding negative suggestions for a perspective or person the company supports while allowing negatives to appear for a person or perspective the company dislikes, they drive millions of people to view material that shifts opinions in ways that serve the company’s needs.  Four, it turns out, is the magical number of suggestions that maximize their control. It maximizes the power of the negative search term to draw clicks while also minimizing the likelihood that people will type their own search term.
  2. I’m feeling lucky: When you mouse over a Google search suggestion, you see a small “I’m feeling lucky” link. With this feature, Google gets people to skip seeing search results altogether; it gives the company complete control over the actual web page you see. By limiting the number of suggestions you see and then attracting you to the “lucky” link, they exert a high degree of control over what opinion you will form on issues you’re uncertain about. All of this occurs without users having any awareness of how they are being manipulated.
  3. The featured snippet: Google is rapidly moving away from the search engine model of tracking and manipulation toward much more powerful means. (To view a satire I wrote about Google donating its search engine to the American public, click here.) The “featured snippet” — the answer box we see more and more frequently above the search results — is one such tool we are studying. Google officials have long known that people don’t really want to see a list of 10,000 search results when they ask a question; they just want the answer. That’s what the snippet is now giving people — the answer, wrong or right, and it’s often wrong. In one of our newest experiments, the voting preferences of undecided voters shifted by 36.2 percent when they saw biased search rankings without an answer box, but when a biased answer box appeared above the search results, the shift was an astounding 56.5 percent. In other words, when you give people the answer, you have an even larger impact on their opinions, purchases, and voting preferences. Google is rapidly shifting to this new model of influence not just on its search engine, but with its new audio Home device (“Okay Google, what’s the best Italian restaurant around here?”), as well as with its new Android-based Google Assistant.

It took years for the EU to collect and analyze the terabytes of data it needed to make a case against Google in the shopping services action. Meanwhile, Google is moving light years ahead. This might always be a problem when it comes to the machinations of high-tech companies. Laws and regulations will necessarily lag way behind, unless-unless, that is, we change the game.

As The Washington Post and other media outlets reported in March 2017, about six months before the November 2016 election in the US, my associates and I deployed a Nielsen-type system for tracking search results in real time. Using custom software and a nationwide network of anonymous field agents, we were able to look over the shoulders of people as they conducted a wide range of election-related searches using Google, Bing, and Yahoo, ultimately preserving the first page of results from 13,207 searches and the 98,044 web pages to which the search results linked. We found that these searches, especially the ones conducted on Google, generally favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in all ten search positions on the first page of search results. Perhaps more important, we learned that our monitoring system could be used to track any of the ephemeral stimuli that Google and other tech companies are showing us every day: news feeds, advertisements, you name it.

I am now working will colleagues from Stanford, Princeton, King’s College London and a dozen other institutions to create an organization that will monitor the online behavior of Big Tech companies worldwide on a real-time basis. If we do this right, it will take only seconds, not years, to spot illegal or unethical behavior, and we might even be able to anticipate manipulations before they occur, providing evidence on an ongoing basis to journalists, regulators, legislators, law enforcement officials, and antitrust investigators.  Such a system will force Big Tech companies, both now and in the future, to be more accountable to the public, and it will also help preserve the free and fair election.

In the meantime, my advice to consumers is:  be wary of the information you obtain online and, more important, be cautious about the information you reveal. Learn how to increase your online privacy; it’s not that hard.

And my advice to Google officials is: cut down on the greed and arrogance. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.

_______________________

A Ph.D. of Harvard University, Robert Epstein is senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, the author of 15 books, and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today magazine. Follow him on Twitter @DrREpstein.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Who Shall Debunk The Debunkers?

By Tim Hayward | June 27, 2017

Established information sources like Google or Wikipedia sometimes answer a search about an intriguing claim you’re investigating by assuring you from the get-go that it has been discredited or debunked. They seem keen you should know this before they even explain what the claim actually is. I’ve learned to be suspicious.

Relatedly, I’ve found, the entire purpose of certain “independent” organisations calling themselves “fact checkers” seems to be to dispose of views that challenge or dissent from a given narrative promoted by the corporate media. These defensive communicators are savvy enough to know you can’t fool all the people all the time but, being part of a near monopoly of information, they have an advantage of numbers.  Dissenters can get isolated and marginalised as “conspiracy theorists”. Challenges to authorized versions of events are portrayed as all the crazier when they diametrically oppose “what we all know”.

“We all know”, for instance, that Bashar Al-Assad is an evil dictator murdering his people, so when people die in an apparent chemical attack, “we all know” he was responsible; sure, the definitive prove might not be there “yet”, but we are promised we’ll have it in due course. Meanwhile, the sight of some dead children – no matter if they might have been killed and filmed by war criminals opposed to the Syrian government – is enough evidence for warmongers in Washington to license the unleashing of a bit of armed “democracy”, US-style.

Complicit in this process are those who undertake to discredit dissenting voices. Their support is needed because regarding such red-line-crossing incidents as those involving chemicals in Syria – as in 2013 and in April 2017 – controversy remains about who was responsible. Certainly, it is not beyond reasonable doubt that Assad was responsible. Too many indications suggest the possibility of an opposed conclusion.[1]

The quality of debunking, in fact, is sometimes shoddy. I first got drawn into publicly debating information about Syria for that reason. Having seen the famous clip of Eva Bartlett confronting the mainstream media narrative at the UN,[2] I was intrigued to learn that Channel 4 had debunked her claims. The Channel 4 piece was extraordinarily misleading, however, since it did not in fact attempt to refute any of Eva’s major claims about no western journalists being on the ground in Aleppo and about all information coming from compromised sources. She was demonstrably correct on those points. Her substantive version of events on the ground was also then vindicated with the liberation of Aleppo.

Misdirection, however, appears to be standard practice for those debunkers who present themselves as impartial arbiters of evidence but in fact cherrypick and obfuscate it.[3] One modus operandi is to pick up on some technical detail of an event that can be cast as a scientific inquiry. Very long and convoluted reasoning is then deployed to “prove” that this scientific evidence is actually sufficient, for those capable of understanding it, to prove the authorized account. Dissenters are then dismissed by showing that they cannot grasp the science. If they say that the scientific question is not sufficient to settle the matter about who is responsible, they get carefully coralled back to questions that the debunker has prepared a position on. Those who persist in asking independently reasonable questions are liable to get ignored. As are those who engage knowledgeably about the science. One way or another, dissent is largely managed away.

So who is to debunk the debunkers? The rest of us have less information about events than will a well-supported debunker. It is quite possible that the more prominent organisations, particularly those that appear to have no need to engage in any fundraising activities, will be suitably briefed about what “is known” in relevantly authoritative circles.

Nonetheless, all of us are capable of using basic logic and evaluating the credibility of competing witness statements. That is why jury systems can deliver verdicts that as a society we are prepared to rely upon. Whereas a jury in a trial gets to hear evidence on two sides, however, the current situation involves a virtual monopoly of information on the part of the authorized version. The case for the other side remains to be made.

To answer my question: those who have skills or knowledge to challenge the authorized version have an obligation of responsible citizenship, in the public interest, to do so. This applies across the social world, but includes a part I know quite well, namely, the academic. Universities and research institutes are full of people with the knowledge and experience to ask probing questions and develop credible alternative explanatory hypotheses. The particular obligation of academics is all the more pointed, I would suggest, since among the debunkers themselves may be some who hold university positions.

There is a line here that I believe we – as academics, and also as part of a wider society – have to hold. It is a line already worryingly breached by the dramatic burgeoning in the neo-liberal era of Think Tanks with barely a veneer of objectivity or impartiality. Within universities, I believe, the disinterested pursuit of knowledge should be regarded as a sacrosanct goal. It has already been put somewhat at risk by governmental pressures on academics to have ‘impact’, and it has always been somewhat blurred in practice, especially in research fields closely alligned with industry interests. I would also acknowledge that those of us who work in social sciences will have certain political leanings that can affect our research priorities. But the academic world as a whole ought to be pluralist and open enough for manifestations of bias to be exposed and adjusted for.

So we depend on proper academic procedures that ensure we all maintain suitably rigorous standards of practice in the conduct of research and dissemination of its findings.

Practitioners from other fields that enter academia with different expertises and experiences can greatly enrich it. This is certainly true in the case of journalists and citizen investigators. There are special affinities here, because we are all engaged in the same kind of enterprise – researching what is going on in the world. The main difference is that a priority for journalists is to do so in timely fashion, whereas the priority for academics is to do so with great accuracy.  In an ideal world, we could collaborate to generate knowledge of the world that is invariably both timely and accurate. In the real world, our collaboration may not yield perfection but it can strive for an optimally timely and reliable knowledge.

But I end with a word of caution. It is theoretically possible that people with academic positions could also have conflicts of interest. I believe it is the collective responsibility of members of universities to ensure that none of our number should act in ways that so contravene basic academic standards as to undermine the very purpose of the university as a public institution. Of course, universities have disciplinary mechanisms for ensuring they are not brought into disrepute. All of us as academics have a professional and personal responsibility, I think, to ensure that the operative criteria of good reputation match those of the fundamental purposes of a university as a social institution. In the age of social media, with truth claims of all sorts being contested as never before, the public role of the university is something to be duly reflective about.

Notes

[1] I have written about the lack of evidence regarding the April 2017 incident here. In subsequent debate on the subject with George Monbiot here, and further here, numerous people have also added interesting additional points in the comments sections.

[2] See the video here, especially from 13:30: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1VNQGsiP8M

[3] Readers will notice that I am not naming names here. My ultimate purpose is not to name and shame any person or organisation but to get the measure of a hat that nobody will want to admit fits them!

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | June 26, 2017

“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.” ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice, dissenting in Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 341 (1966)

The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.”

It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as “traffic shaping” —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

The government, however, doesn’t even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

Credit for this particular brainchild goes to the Obama administration, which issued Executive Order 12333 authorizing the collection of Americans’ data from surveillance conducted on foreign soil.

Using this rationale, the government has justified hacking into and collecting an estimated 180 million user records from Google and Yahoo data centers every month because the data travels over international fiber-optic cables. The NSA program, dubbed MUSCULAR, is carried out in concert with British intelligence.

No wonder the NSA appeared so unfazed about the USA Freedom Act, which was supposed to put an end to the NSA’s controversial collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls.

The NSA had already figured out a way to accomplish the same results (illegally spying on Americans’ communications) without being shackled by the legislative or judicial branches of the government.

The USA Freedom Act was just a placebo pill intended to make the citizenry feel better and let the politicians take credit for reforming mass surveillance. In other words, it was a sham, a sleight-of-hand political gag pulled on a gullible public desperate to believe that we still live in a constitutional republic rather than a down-and-out, out-of-control, corporate-controlled, economically impoverished, corrupt, warring, militarized banana republic.

In fact, more than a year before politicians attempted to patch up our mortally wounded privacy rights with the legislative band-aid fix that is the USA Freedom Act, researchers at Harvard and Boston University documented secret loopholes that allow government agents to bypass Fourth Amendment protections to conduct massive domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens.

Mind you, this metadata collection now being carried out overseas is just a small piece of the surveillance pie.

The government and its corporate partners have a veritable arsenal of surveillance programs that will continue to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

In other words, the surveillance state is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America.

On any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

We have now moved into a full-blown police state that is rapidly shifting into high-gear under the auspices of the surveillance state.

Not content to merely transform local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are working to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

Thus, the NSA’s “technotyranny”  is the least of our worries.

A government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing cannot be reformed from the inside out.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have managed to shut down the government’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages, transactions, communications and activities.

Even with restrictions on its ability to collect mass quantities of telephone metadata, the government and its various spy agencies, from the NSA to the FBI, can still employ an endless number of methods for carrying out warrantless surveillance on Americans, all of which are far more invasive than the bulk collection program.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases, exploiting your social media posts and turning that information over to the government.

“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”

It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

For instance, imagine what the NSA could do (and is likely already doing) with voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance,” the collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for governments and businesses alike.

As The Guardian reports, “voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals. There is already discussion about placing voice sensors in public spaces… multiple sensors could be triangulated to identify individuals and specify their location within very small areas.”

Suddenly the NSA’s telephone metadata program seems like child’s play compared to what’s coming down the pike.

That, of course, is the point.

The NSA is merely one small part of the shadowy Deep State comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control.

For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts.

At every turn, we have been handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability and a representative government by an establishment culture of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach, operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to “we the people.”

Incredibly, there are still individuals who insist that they have nothing to fear from the police state and nothing to hide from the surveillance state, because they have done nothing wrong.

To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning.

There is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

The danger posed by the American police/surveillance state applies equally to all of us: lawbreaker and law-abider alike, black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, blue collar and white collar, and any other distinction you’d care to trot out.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, we are all guilty of some transgression or other.

Eventually, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment