Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0
If there is one hopeful sign in the Presidency of Donald Trump, it is his pledge to ‘drain the swamp’ as it relates to those special insider interests who run the show and those outsider interests who own the show.
It is a hugely ambitious task and hardly achievable in four short years but there is a branch of the Federal government where the President-elect (PE) would find immediate results and bring the satisfaction that American foreign policy would no longer be dependent on globalization or spreading unwinnable wars on wasteful adventurism overseas. If the PE is, in fact, favorable towards a non-interventionist role, the opportunity for a thorough housecleaning and a reshape of the State Department is Now. According to current reports, the struggle is underway within the transition team for the soul of the State Department and ultimately the Trump Administration.
As HRC continued her crazed war talk about Syria and defended NATO encroachment on Russian borders while uttering unprovoked attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin, there was every reason to believe that minutes after concluding her inaugural address, HRC would have walked off the stage and signed the order initiating a No-Fly Zone over Syria, right then and there. And bingo-bango-bongo, Putin would have responded. I knew it as sure as I know my own name. At some point it became clear, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein said so precisely, HRC would be more dangerous than Donald Trump.
Even as he talked about modernizing the US military, Trump’s campaign rhetoric about disentangling from foreign entanglements, making NATO nations pay their fair share and dialogue with Putin rather than the usual “Blame it on the Russians” bombast, struck a chord; there was reason for hope. Unlike Bernie Sanders who has proven to be just another Democrat, Trump dared to question whether there were any ‘moderate’ rebels (aka terrorists) in Syria, the mythical existence of which justified the Obama administration’s lust to overthrow the Assad government. Trump’s positions, limited elucidation though there was, were always far more reasonable than HRC’s inflammatory saber rattling and aggressive militarism that stirred justified fears of WW III. If anyone bothered to listen, Trump was voicing foreign policy concerns that not one Democrat in Congress has dared to articulate in the last eight years.
While I am in the ‘wait and see’ category of pragmatists regarding the PE, I agree with Robert Parry’s point that Trump has the opportunity to be a truly great president IF, and it’s a big IF, he uses his inner grit and a street savvy to break the globalist/neoliberal/neocon stranglehold (with its links to shadow government) on foreign policy at the State Department, a concept that President Barack Obama never understood or even aspired to. The PE appointment for Secretary of State which is currently an intense subject of debate within the transition will indicate which direction the PE will take US foreign policy.
In the early days after the election Trump communication advisor Jason Miller offered reassurance with the following:
“There will be non-traditional names, a number of people who have had wide-ranging success in a number of different fields; wide-ranging success in business … People will be excited when they see the type of leaders the President-elect brings into this administration.”
One not so non-traditional and not so exciting appointment is that of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the Select Committee on Benghazi, as Director of the CIA. Pompeo, who graduated first in his class at West Point and then Harvard Law School and was a backer of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl) during the primaries, would hardly qualify as anything more than the ‘same old’ school of CIA Directors that have dominated the agency for decades under the Republicrats. Pompeo, known as a rabid political ideologue, is not expected to break with the past and can be expected to continue the agency’s widespread unconstitutional violations with an unabashed torture program as if that ever revealed reliable ‘actionable intelligence’ or curtailed dedicated terrorists. So what message does that appointment send?
During their interview, it would be interesting to know if there was discussion that PE Trump’s opposition to the Iran nuclear treaty has been largely based on non-inclusive trade concerns. If, in fact, the PE’s view of foreign policy includes trade as a legitimate tool for negotiations, the House of Representatives recent party-line vote in rejection (a plum for Israel) of the sale of Boeing and Airbus commercial jets to Iran would be considered a diplomatic setback (under a Trump Administration).
Yet to be determined is whether Trump will roll over and appoint his good friend Rudy Giuliani who has no diplomatic experience whatsoever to qualify him and will inevitably be utterly lost in the State Department’s bureaucracy and political snake pit – or will the President-elect allow himself to be pressured to accept former Bush UN Ambassador, the wacky conniving John Bolton who will owe his allegiance to the professional warmongering neocons. Sen. Rand Paul (R-SC) who frequently shows some good Libertarian common sense on foreign policy issues, has announced his intention to block either nomination.
While former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who has been recently added to the list for Secretary of State would add a certain gravitas, he is another not non-traditional name with little first hand, on the ground knowledge of today’s foreign policy complexities. More importantly, does Romney know how to clean house?
As soon as the votes were counted, certain neo-cons jumped Clinton’s sinking ship without so much as a fond adieu and, being shy, retiring types, sought to elbow their way onto the Trump Ship of State. More recently, Eliot Cohen’s attempts at a tryst soured as he expressed displeasure after having ‘made the case that young conservatives should volunteer to serve” now concluded he ‘was wrong’.
Other neo-con names floating as transition team members have been the especially slimy, Richard Perle known appropriately as the Prince of Darkness, foreign policy analyst Michael Ledeen who supports the use violence to spread democracy and noted Islamaphobe Frank Gaffney, who denied he was on the transition team and had ever been contacted.
If the PE and his closest aides are naïve enough to believe that a conciliatory gesture will engender cooperation from the foreign policy establishment, they are woefully misguided. If Trump fails to rein in the neocons and war hawk neolibs (including assistant secretaries, deputy assistant secretaries and lower level staff) with dispatch, they will quickly discover that if you get into the swamp with alligators, you had better be prepared to wrestle alligators.
At the same time, the reality is that the estimated hundreds of embedded neocons and neolibs at State have the potential, as they clean out their desks, to pilfer (an ultra serious legal violation) the last decade worth of top secret and confidential memos, notes and reports, contacts and network names and other vital information necessary for the transition of foreign policy to the Trump administration. It would not be surprising for a situation to develop similar to some months ago when fifty plus State mid level careerists ‘leaked’ an internal memo criticizing President Obama’s policy on Syria without any apparent repercussions. If the Trump Administration takes foreign policy in a new, improved direction, how will the new President deal with being subtly, or not so subtly, undermined by his own staff? There is no reason to believe that the most virulent elements of the US foreign policy establishment closely tied to Israel will ‘go quietly into that good night.’
Less than a week after the election, PE had his first phone conversation with Putin and they reportedly talked extensively about Syria and promised a face-to-face in the near future. Moscow reported that Putin told Trump he was ready for “dialogue of partnership based on principles of equality, mutual response and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other.” The Trump transition team statement said that the PE told Putin ‘he is very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia” which is considerably more encouraging than what HRC would have told Putin if she had been elected.
In a Wall Street Journal interview three days after the election, Trump suggested a shift from Obama’s foreign policy objectives regarding support for the Syrian opposition and its insistence on ousting Syrian president Bashar al Assad. “We’re backing rebels against Syria and we have no idea who these people are.”
Not unexpectedly, Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (2012-2014), as his National Security Adviser succeeding Obama NSA Susan Rice. Flynn resigned or was pushed out of the DIA because of a public difference of opinion regarding the Obama Syria strategy which was to support those mythical ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels to oust Assad rather than focus on the destruction of ISIS. Flynn is being portrayed by the NY Times and others as ‘hotheaded’ and irresponsible with ‘poor judgment’ as well as an “alarming pick” for NSA.
In an interview with Fareed Zakaria in 2015 which was replayed on CNN since his appointment, Flynn spoke about threats from ISIS: “We are not winning, we are participating. We need to do more to defeat this problem than just go kill a couple more radical Islamists.” Flynn took the discussion beyond a military solution citing the need for an “economic transformation beyond building schools” while creating “other aspects of energy to achieve that economic transformation” and the use of “water as a means to increase the economic health of the region.”
Zakaria debunked Flynn’s thoughts with “that would require a huge transformation of the whole region” and would be “incredibly costly, laborious and generational. I think the Obama Administration would say it’s not worth the effort; not the kind of existential threat to the US that would warrant that massive expenditure of time, money and resources.” As if the US war-related $20 trillion deficit is peanuts.
Currently, Flynn is being criticized for comments referring to radical Islamists as ‘a political ideology hiding behind the notion of it being a religion” which brings to mind a discussion re the true tenets of Islam that I had with a Florida Imam. His comparison was that as certain fundamental Christians have distorted Christianity to suit their political agenda; so too have certain Moslems used their religion to justify their ideology. The fact that Flynn sees that distinction is encouraging.
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
‘Bad day for democracy’
Germany’s highest court has rejected the opposition parties’ bid to make the government reveal to a parliamentary commission investigating the activities of the US NSA spy agency in Germany, the spy targets they had jointly worked on.
The head of the Left Party in the NSA parliamentary commission, Martina Renner, said the ruling was a “bad day for democracy,” which signaled that the “secret services can continue doing what they want, undisturbed by parliamentary control,” Zeit reported.
The ruling is a response to a complaint filed by two opposition parties, The Greens and the Left Party, in September 2015 following reports that the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) intelligence agency had collaborated with the NSA, helping it eavesdrop on European firms and prominent politicians.
The Constitutional Court’s October ruling, that was made public only this Tuesday, said the US was against sharing the sensitive spy target list, and doing so without US permission would hamper German intelligence agencies’ ability to cooperate with counterparts in the future, Reuters reported.
Anna Biselli of the digital research organization Netzpolitik called the Constitutional Court’s ruling “a blow for any clarification on the activities of the BND and the NSA and for the entire parliamentary monitoring of secret services.”
“The government has been successful with its universal argument that the state’s welfare is in danger if the list is revealed. Unfortunately, this argument is widely used to avoid giving out information. This makes the parliament’s job of monitoring the BND effectively very difficult, although that is exactly one of its responsibilities,” she told Deutsche Welle.
Biselli said that one of the commission’s key tasks was to look into the selectors list, which included search parameters from the NSA that the German spy agency to track millions of surveillance targets worldwide.
“The commission wanted to look into the list of selectors because it wanted to know which targets the BND illegally spied on for the NSA,” Biselli said. In the course of its investigation, it was found that the BND monitored sensitive targets, including European governments, institutions and corporations.
“There were several million, probably 13 to 14 million selectors [used to spy on targets], controlled together with the NSA over the course of 10 years,” Greens politician Konstantin von Notz, who is on the parliamentary committee investigating NSA activities, said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday.
“There are probably hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of European and German victims. There will be companies, journalists, probably politicians monitored for years, and this is unpleasant at the very least, and it will all remain under the seal of secrecy,” he added.
The NSA spied on German chancellors and their offices for over a decade, a WikiLeaks report revealed last year. Leaked NSA intercepts indicated that the US tapped the phones of the political offices of the last three German chancellors – Angela Merkel, Gerhard Schröder (in office 1998–2002) and Helmut Kohl (chancellor from 1982 to 1998) – and targeted at least 125 phone numbers of top German officials.
Another scandalous revelation made in April last year suggested that the German BND foreign intelligence agency helped the NSA spy on European firms and officials.
The Lawfare blog, run by the Brookings Institution, has long reliably been a good source to go to for reading what defenders of mass surveillance and the surveillance state are thinking — in a non-hysterical way. While I disagree with much of what’s posted on there, it tends to be thoughtful and interesting reading. Its founder and Editor-in-Chief is Ben Wittes, who’s always good for an impassioned defense of the NSA’s surveillance on Americans, and was all in on forcing tech companies to break encryption. He wasn’t worried, you see, because he was quite sure the NSA would never spy on him. Because, you know, he’s a good guy.
And… yet. Something seems to have changed. And that something is who is suddenly about to be in charge of the surveillance state apparatus:
When we founded this site more than six years ago, I never in my wildest dreams imagined myself writing these words about a man who will take the oath of office as President of the United States. We began Lawfare on the assumption that the U.S. federal executive branch was a tool with which to confront national security threats. While I accepted that its manner of doing so might threaten other values—like civil liberties—or prove counterproductive in protecting national security goods, I never imagined I would confront the day when I ranked the President himself among the major threats to the security of the country.
Today, we have to confront that possibility.
Your lack of imagination is really fucking us all over now, isn’t it Ben? This is exactly why so many of us — the people he likes to mock — have said all along that the concern with the surveillance state is always based on the fact that you have to imagine what will happen when the people you trust the least are in power.
Wittes is suddenly having something of an existential crisis about all of this:
So while I of course hope for a successful Trump presidency, I know of only one way Trump can succeed in the national security arena. And that is by radically changing the reckless persona he embodied during a long campaign—changing how he behaves, changing what he believes, changing what he aspires to do, acquiring a sense of restraint, and changing the way he talks about people and groups. And while I agree with Clinton that we owe Trump a chance to lead, the burden is on him to make these changes, not on us to suspend disbelief and pretend we live in the world he has described.
I will be candid and confess that, Clinton’s admonition notwithstanding, my mind is not entirely open about Trump’s capacity to do this, or even his interest in doing it. I have, in fact, deep doubts. And that leaves me, and I think most of America’s national security community, in a very strange position.
Maybe take the time to explore that strange feeling and you can start to understand why so many of us have been concerned about the entire apparatus that you’ve been cheering on for years, because, as you once said: “I have a great deal of confidence that the National Security Agency is not spying on me.” There are an awful lot of people who haven’t had that confidence for a while. And a great many more who won’t have that confidence under the next administration. That strange feeling that Wittes has is finally a recognition that maybe he should be concerned about those people too.
This isn’t a post to mock Ben, but to highlight why so many of us were so concerned all along, even as he mocked us. This is serious stuff and believing that unconstitutional warrantless mass surveillance is okay because you trust the guy in charge only works if you can always trust the guy in charge. And you can’t… as Ben and others are suddenly discovering.
There are disturbing signs that a digital 9/11 terror attack is being readied for election day in the US to ensure that Donald Trump does not win.
Such an attack – involving widespread internet and power outage – would have nothing to do with Russia or any other foreign state. It would be furnished by agencies of the US Deep State in a classic “false flag” covert manner. But the resulting chaos and “assault on American democracy” will be conveniently blamed on Russia.
That presents a double benefit. Russia would be further demonized as a foreign aggressor “justifying” even harsher counter measures by America and its European allies against Moscow.
Secondly, a digital attack on America’s presidential election day this week, would allow the Washington establishment to pronounce the result invalidated due to “Russian cyber subversion”. That option stands to be invoked if the ballot results showed Republican candidate Donald Trump as the imminent victor.
Democrat rival Hillary Clinton is the clear choice for the White House among the Washington establishment. She has the backing of Wall Street finance capital, the corporate media, the military-industrial complex and the Deep State agencies of the Pentagon and CIA. The fix has been in for months to get her elected by the powers-that-be owing to her well-groomed obedience to American imperialist interests.
The billionaire property magnate Trump is too much of a maverick to be entrusted with the White House, as far as the American ruling elite are concerned. The trouble is, however, that despite the massive campaign to discredit Trump his poll support remains stubbornly close to Clinton’s.
The latter has been tainted with too many scandals involving allegations of sleazy dealings with Wall Street, so-called pay-for-play favors while she was former Secretary of State, and her penchant for inciting overseas wars for regime change using jihadist terrorist foot-soldiers.
As one headline from McClatchy News only days ago put it: “Majority of voters think Clinton acted illegally, new poll finds”.
Trump is right. The US presidential election is “rigged”. Despite handwringing condemnations by pundits, it seems obvious that the system is heavily stacked against any candidate who does not conform with the interests of the establishment. The massive media-orchestrated campaign against Trump is testimony to that.
But such is popular disgust with Clinton, her sleaze-ball husband Bill and the Washington establishment that her victory is far from certain. Indeed in the last week before voting this Tuesday various polls are showing a neck-and-neck race with even some indicators putting the Republican narrowly ahead.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post, which has been one of the main media outlets panning Trump on a daily basis, reported this: “The electoral map is definitely moving in Trump’s direction”.
This is where a possible Deep State contingency plan is being readied to scupper a shock win by Trump.
In recent days, American media are reporting a virtual state of emergency by the US government and its security agencies to thwart what they claim are Russian efforts to incite “election day cyber mayhem”.
In one “exclusive” report by the NBC network on November 3, it was claimed that: “The US government believes hackers from Russia or elsewhere may try to undermine next week’s presidential election and is mounting an unprecedented effort to counter their cyber meddling.”
On November 4, the Washington Post reported: “Intelligence officials warn of Russian mischief in election and beyond.”
Apparently, the emergency security response is being coordinated by the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the National Security Agency and other elements of the Defense Department, according to NBC.
These claims of Russian state hackers interfering in the US political system are not new. Last month, the Obama administration officially accused Moscow of this alleged malfeasance.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has lambasted American claims that his country is seeking to disrupt the presidential elections as “hysterical nonsense”, aimed at distracting the electorate from far more deep-rooted internal problems.
The Obama administration and its state security agencies have not provided one iota of evidence to support their allegations against Russia. Nevertheless the repeated charges have a tendency to stick.
The Clinton campaign has for months been accusing Trump of being a “pro-Russian stooge”. Her campaign has also claimed that Russian hackers have colluded with the whistleblower organization Wikileaks to release thousands of private emails damaging Clinton with the intention of swaying the election in favor of Trump.
Wikileaks’ director Julian Assange and the Russian government have both rejected any suggestion that they are somehow collaborating, or that they are working to get Trump elected.
But on the eve of the election, the US authorities are recklessly pushing hysteria that Russia is trying to subvert American democracy. Michael McFaul, the former US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 is quoted as saying: “The Russians are in an offensive mode and the US is working on strategies to respond to that, and at the highest levels.”
NBC cites a senior Obama administration official as saying that the Russians “want to sow as much confusion as possible and undermine our process”.
Ominously, the news outlet adds that “steps are being taken to prepare for worst-case scenarios, including a cyber-attack that shuts down part of the power grid or the internet.”
Nearly two weeks ago, on October 21-22, the US was hit with a widespread internet outage. The actors behind the “distributed denial of service” were not identified, but the disruption was nationwide and it temporarily disabled many popular consumer services. One former official at the US Department of Homeland Security described the event as having “all the signs of what would be considered a drill”. Could that cyber-attack have been the work of US Deep State agencies as a dress rehearsal for an even bigger outage planned for November 8 – election day?
The Washington establishment wants Clinton over Trump. She’s the marionette of choice for their strategic interests, including a more hostile foreign policy towards Russia in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere.
But Trump might just snatch an election day victory from the jaws of defeat.
In which case, the shadowy forces that really rule America will trigger a “digital 9/11”. It’s not difficult to imagine the chaos and mayhem from internet blackout, power, transport, banking and communications paralysis – even for just a temporary period of a few hours.
Months of fingering Russia as a destabilizing foreign enemy intent on interfering in US democracy to get “Comrade Trump” into the White House would then serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. In that event, the US authorities could plausibly move to declare the election of Donald J Trump null and void.
In fact the scenario could be contrived to a far more serious level than merely suspending the election result. The US authorities could easily feign that a state of emergency is necessary in order to “defend national security”.
That contingency catapults beyond “rigged politics”. It is a green light for a coup d’état by the Deep State forces who found that they could not win through the “normal” rigging methods.
US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would put in danger the United States’ security, warn 50 top Republican national security officials.
The officials issued their warning Monday in a letter which was signed by aides and Cabinet members of past GOP administrations including George W. Bush’s and Richard Nixon’s.
“Mr. Trump lacks the character, values, and experience to be president,” the letter reads, adding he “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”
The letter also declared that, “None of us will vote for Donald Trump,” according to the New York Times.
Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency
Among the officials are Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency; Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security for Bush and President Obama; John Negroponte, former director of national intelligence under Bush; Tom Ridge, former homeland security director under Bush in addition to former governor of the battleground state of Pennsylvania; as well as others who have worked as trade representatives, national security advisers and ambassadors.
Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security for both Bush and Obama
The officials said the GOP nominee “appears to lack basic knowledge about the belief in the US Constitution, US laws, and US institutions, including religious tolerance, freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.”
Some other top Republicans have also declared they will not vote for the business mogul, but instead will support his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
On Monday, Lezlee Westine, an aide to former president Bush, said she will support Clinton.
Westine, who worked as the White House director of the office of public liaison and as a deputy assistant to Bush, said she will support Clinton.
“Our nation faces a unique set of challenges that require steady and experienced leadership,” Westine said. “That is why today I am personally supporting Hillary Clinton. She has the expertise and commitment to American values to grow the economy, create jobs and protect America at home and abroad.”
Meanwhile, Trump on Monday announced his new economic plan, part of which he said he would slash taxes, block onerous financial regulations and unleash the energy sector.
“We are in a competition with the world, and I want America to win,” Trump told the Detroit Economic Club. “I want to jump-start America. It can be done, and it won’t even be that hard.”
Trump’s campaign has been marked by a lot of controversies including his remarks against Muslims and immigrants to the US.
This is while Clinton’s lead over Trump is significantly growing in recent polls in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential race.
How the Australian, British, and US Governments Shamelessly Helped Kill Countless People in Indonesia in 1965
The Hague-based International People’s Tribunal has ruled that the Indonesian regime that replaced Indonesian President Sukarno committed crimes against humanity in 1965. The governments of Australia, Britain, and the United States have also been pronounced guilty as complicit partners in the massacre of 500,000 to 1000,000 people or more in Indonesia. People were murdered in Indonesia due to their principles, political ideology, ethnic backgrounds, and opposition to foreign influence. Albeit the ruling is an important historical acknowledgment, the assistance that the Australian, British, and US governments provided to the coup and played in the massacres is not a secret.
Asia-Pacific Research presents these excerpts from the Australian journalist John Pilger’s book The New Rulers of the World, which was published by Verso in 2002, in the interest of providing the historical background about the massacres that took place in Indonesia. Reading them will educate one on the despicable and criminal roles that Australia, Britain, and the US played. ”There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust,” for example Pilger writes. In his work John Pilger also notes that the US was directly involved in the operations of the death squads and helped compile the lists of people to be murdered while the Australian, British, and US media were used as propaganda tools to whitewash the coup and bloodbaths in Indonesia. A key point, however, that is emphasizes is that the underlying economic motivations and plunder hidden behind the ideological discourse of the Cold War that really motivated the massacres in Indonesia. – Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Asia-Pacific Research Editor, 22 July 2016.
Indonesians preparing to die in a mass grave
Excerpts from The New Rulers of the World (Verso)
John Pilger, 2002
… according to a CIA memorandum, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and President John Kennedy had agreed to ‘liquidate President Sukarno, depending on the situation and available opportunities’. The CIA author added, ‘It is not clear to me whether murder or overthrow is intended by the word liquidate.’
Sukarno was a populist, the founder of modern Indonesia and of the non-aligned movement of developing countries, which he hoped would forge a genuine ‘third way’ between the spheres of the two superpowers. In 1955, he convened the ‘Asia-Africa Conference’ in the Javanese hill city of Bandung. It was the first time the leaders of the developing world, the majority of humanity, had met to forge common interests: a prospect that alarmed the western powers, especially as the vision and idealism of nonalignment represented a potentially popular force that might seriously challenge neo-colonialism. The hopes invested in such an unprecedented meeting are glimpsed in the faded tableaux and black-and-white photographs in the museum at Bandung and in the forecourt of the splendid art deco Savoy Hotel, where the following Bandung Principles are displayed:
I – Respect for fundamental human rights and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
2 – Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations.
3 – The recognition of the equality of all peoples.
4 – The settlement of disputes by peaceful means.
Sukarno could be a democrat and a demagogue. For a time, Indonesia was a parliamentary democracy, then became what he called a ‘guided democracy’. He encouraged mass trade unions and peasant, women’s and cultural movements. Between 1959 and 1965, more than 15 million people joined political parties or affiliated mass organisations that were encouraged to challenge British and American influence in the region. With 3 million members, the PKI was the largest communist party in the world outside the Soviet Union and China. According to the Australian historian Harold Crouch, ‘the PKI had won widespread support not as a revolutionary party but as an organisation defending the interests of ‘the poor within the existing system’. It was this popularity, rather than any armed insurgency, that alarmed the Americans. Like Vietnam to the north, Indonesia might ‘go communist’ .
In 1990, the American investigative journalist Kathy Kadane revealed the extent of secret American collaboration in the massacres of 1965-66 which allowed Suharto to seize the presidency. Following a series of interviews with former US officials, she wrote, ‘They systematically compiled comprehensive lists of communist operatives. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured.’ One of those interviewed was Robert J Martens, a political officer in the US embassy in Jakarta. ‘It was a big help to the army,’ he said. ‘They probably killed a lot of people and I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.’ Joseph Lazarsky, the deputy CIA station chief in Jakarta, said that confirmation of the killings came straight from Suharto’s headquarters. ‘We were getting a good account in Jakarta of who was being picked up,’ he said. ‘The army had a “shooting list” of about 4,000 or 5,000 people. They didn’t have enough goon squads to zap them all, and some individuals were valuable for interrogation. The infrastructure [of the PKI] was zapped almost immediately. We knew what they were doing . . . Suharto and his advisers said, if you keep them alive you have to feed them.’
Having already armed and equipped much of the army, Washington secretly supplied Suharto’s troops with a field communications network as the killings got under way. Flown in at night by US air force planes based in the Philippines, this was state-of-the-art equipment, whose high frequencies were known to the CIA and the National Security Agency advising President Johnson. Not only did this allow Suharto’s generals to co-ordinate the killings, it meant that the highest echelons of the US administration were listening in and that Suharto could seal off large areas of the country. Although there is archive film of people being herded into trucks and driven away, a single fuzzy photograph of a massacre is, to my knowledge, the only pictorial record of what was Asia’s holocaust.
The American Ambassador in Jakarta was Marshall Green, known in the State Department as ‘the coupmaster’. Green had arrived in Jakarta only months earlier, bringing with him a reputation for having masterminded the overthrow of the Korean leader Syngman Rhee, who had fallen out with the Americans. When the killings got under way in Indonesia, manuals on student organising, written in Korean and English, were distributed by the US embassy to the Indonesian Student Action Command (KAMI), whose leaders were sponsored by the CIA.
On October 5, 1965, Green cabled Washington on how the United States could ‘shape developments to our advantage’. The plan was to blacken the name of the PKI and its ‘protector’, Sukarno. The propaganda should be based on ‘[spreading] the story of the PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality’. At the height of the bloodbath, Green assured General Suharto: ‘The US is generally sympathetic with and admiring of what the army is doing.” As for the numbers killed, Howard Federspiel, the Indonesia expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research in 1965, said, ‘No one cared, as long as they were communists, that they were being butchered. No one was getting very worked up about it.’
The Americans worked closely with the British, the reputed masters and inventors of the ‘black’ propaganda admired and adapted by Joseph Goebbels in the 1930s. Sir Andrew Gilchrist, the Ambassador in Jakarta, made his position clear in a cable to the Foreign Office: ‘I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change.’ With more than ‘a little shooting’ under way, and with no evidence of the PKI’s guilt, the embassy advised British intelligence headquarters in Singapore on the line to be taken, with the aim of ‘weakening the PKI permanently’ .
Suitable propaganda themes might be: PKI brutality in murdering Generals and [Foreign Minister] Nasution’s daughter . . . PKI subverting Indonesia as agents of foreign Communists . . . But treatment will need to be subtle, e.g. (a) all activities should be strictly unattributable, (b) British participation or co-operation should be carefully concealed.
Within two weeks, an office of the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department (IRD) had opened in Singapore. The IRD was a top-secret, cold war propaganda unit headed by Norman Reddaway, one of Her Majesty’s most experienced liars. It would be salutary for journalists these days to study the critical role western propaganda played then, as it does now, in shaping the news. Indeed, Reddaway and his colleagues manipulated the press so expertly that he boasted to Gilchrist in a letter marked ‘secret and personal’ that the story he had promoted – that Sukarno’s continued rule would lead to a communist takeover – ‘went all over the world and back again’ . He described how an experienced Fleet Street journalist agreed ‘to give exactly your angle on events in his article … . i.e. that this was a kid glove coup without butchery.’
Roland Challis, the BBC’s South-East Asia correspondent, was a particular target of Reddaway, who claimed that the official version of events could be ‘put almost instantly back to Indonesia via the BBC’. Prevented from entering Indonesia along with other foreign journalists, Challis was unaware of the extent of the slaughter. ‘It was a triumph for western propaganda,’ he told me. ‘My British sources purported not to know what was going on, but they knew what the American plan was. There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabaya, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust. It was only much later that we learned the American embassy was supplying names and ticking them off as they were killed. There was a deal, you see. In establishing the Suharto regime, the involvement of the IMF and the World Bank was part of it. Sukarno had kicked them out; now Suharto would bring them back. That was the deal.’
With Sukarno now virtually powerless and ill, and Suharto about to appoint himself acting president, the American press reported the Washington-backed coup not as a great human catastrophe, but in terms of the new economic advantages. The massacres were described by Time as ‘The West’s Best News in Asia’. A headline in US News and World Report read: ‘Indonesia: Hope . . . where there was once none’. The renowned New York Times columnist James Reston celebrated ‘A gleam of light in Asia’ and wrote a kid-glove version that he had clearly been given. The Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, who was visiting the US, offered a striking example of his sense of humour: ‘With 500,000 to a million communist sympathisers knocked off,’ he said approvingly, ‘I think it’s safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.’
Holt’s remark was an accurate reflection of the complicity of the Australian foreign affairs and political establishment in the agony of its closest neighbour. The Australian embassy in Jakarta described the massacres as a ‘cleansing operation’. The Australian Ambassador, KCO Shann, enthused to Canberra that the Indonesian army was ‘refreshingly determined to do over the PKI’, adding that the generals had spoken approvingly of the reporting on Radio Australia, which he described as ‘a bit dishonest’.’ In the Prime Minister’s Department, officials considered supporting ‘any measures to assist the Indonesian army … cope with the internal situation’.
In February 1966, [British] Ambassador Gilchrist wrote a report on the scale of the massacres based on the findings of the Swedish Ambassador, who had toured central and eastern Java with his Indonesian wife and had been able to speak to people out of earshot of government officials. Gilchrist wrote to the Foreign Office: ‘The Ambassador and I had discussed the killings before he left [on the tour] and he had found my suggested figure of 400,000 quite incredible. His enquiries have led him to reconsider it a very serious under-estimate. A bank manager in Surabaya with twenty employees said that four had been removed one night and beheaded . . . A third of a spinning factory’s technicians, being members of a Communist union, had been killed … The killings in Bali had been particularly monstrous. In certain areas, it was felt that not enough people [emphasis in the original] had been killed.’
On the island of Bali, the ‘reorientation’ described by Prime Minister Holt meant the violent deaths of at least 80,000 people, although this is generally regarded as a conservative figure. The many western, mostly Australian, tourists who have since taken advantage of cheap package holidays to the island might reflect that beneath the car parks of several of the major tourist hotels are buried countless bodies.
The distinguished campaigner and author Carmel Budiardjo, an Englishwoman married to a tapol and herself a former political prisoner, returned to Indonesia in 2000 and found ‘the trauma left by the killings thirty-five years ago still gripping many communities on the island’. She described meeting, in Denpasar, fifty people who had never spoken about their experiences before in public. ‘One witness,’ she wrote, ‘who was 20 years old at the time calmly told us how he had been arrested and held in a large cell by the military, 52 people in all, mostly members of mass organisations from nearby villages. Every few days, a batch of men was taken out, their hands tied behind their backs and driven off to be shot. Only two of the prisoners survived . . . Another witness, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian, gave testimony about the killing of 103 people, some as young as 15. In this case, the people were not arrested but simply taken from their homes and killed, as their names were ticked off a list.’
‘In the early sixties,’ he said, ‘the pressure on Indonesia to do what the Americans wanted was intense. Sukarno wanted good relations with them, but he didn’t want their economic system. With America, that is never possible. So he became an enemy. All of us who wanted an independent country, free to make our own mistakes, were made the enemy. They didn’t call it globalisation then; but it was the same thing. If you accepted it, you were America’s friend. If you chose another way, you were given warnings, and if you didn’t comply, hell was visited on you. But I am back; I am well; I have my family. They didn’t win.’
Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, described the terror in Indonesia from 1965 – 66 as a ‘model operation’ for the American-run coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. ‘The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders,’ he wrote, ‘[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965.’ He says Indonesia was also the model for Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, where American-directed death squads assassinated up to 50,000 people. ‘You can trace back all the major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power,’ he told me. ‘The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.’
Indonesia, once owing nothing but having been plundered of its gold, precious stones, wood, spices and other natural riches by its colonial masters, the Dutch, today has a total indebtedness estimated at $262 billion, which is 170 per cent of its gross domestic product. There is no debt like it on earth. It can never be repaid. It is a bottomless hole.
Copyright © Asia-Pacific Research, Asia-Pacific Research, 2016
A Wall Street Journal reporter returning from Beirut was taken into holding, grilled and asked to hand over her phones by the Department of Homeland Security at Los Angeles International Airport.
When the journalist, Maria Abi-Habib, returned from Beirut, it was another ordinary work trip. But after touching down at LAX in Los Angeles, she was treated as a dangerous suspect by the service, which now enjoys broad authority at airports.
She outlined the ordeal in a Facebook post, largely focusing on the dangers of the loss of privacy and the risk to journalistic work emerging out of the DHS practice.
As soon as she joined the line for immigration, a friendly officer walked up, giddily saying “Oh, there you are. I was trying to recognize you from your picture. I’m here to help you get through the line.” The friendly greeting by the female agent was only offset by the fact of how much she already knew. As Abi-Habib explains:
“The DHS agent went on to say she was there to help me navigate immigration because I am a journalist with The Wall Street Journal and have travelled to many dangerous places that are on the US’ radar for terrorism. She independently knew who I worked for and my Twitter account, countries I’d reported from (like Iraq) and even recent articles I’d written — I told her nothing about myself.”
But to a journalist already on the US Immigration list, this was unsurprising. Abi-Habib was put on the list precisely because of her line of work, and it had previously served to help her navigate customs more quickly.
But this time was different. After being escorted to baggage claim, she was led into a closed-off section of LAX into a room, where another DHS agent was already waiting.
“They grilled me for an hour – asking me about the years I lived in the US, when I moved to Beirut and why, who lives at my in-laws’ house in LA and numbers for the groom and bride whose wedding I was attending.”
Although she took this all in high spirits – given her previous work experience with security checks – Abi-Habib’s story quickly took a darker turn when the DHS officers asked her for her two mobile phones, saying they needed to “collect information,” though didn’t say about what.
Abi-Habib tried to explain that this not only violated her First Amendment rights, but exposed the professional sources she was protecting as a journalist. Although the words are nothing out of the ordinary for the profession, the DHS officer questioning her shot back: “Did you just admit you collect information for foreign governments?”
Shocked, Abi-Habib replied: “No, that’s exactly not what I just said,” as she proceeded to protest the confiscation of the phones.
That is when the real shock came. Abi-Habib was promptly handed a DHS document, which outlined that the service could deprive her of her rights as a US citizen at any border, and that the authority extended up to 100 miles (160km) from the border inside the actual country.
“So, all of NY city for instance,” she writes. “If they forgot to ask you at JFK airport for your phones, but you’re having a drink in Manhattan the next day, you technically fall under this authority. And because they are acting under the pretence to protect the US from terrorism, you have to give it up.”
Abi-Habib tried a different tactic – revealing that the phones were the property of the Wall Street Journal, and that the service would need to contact the paper’s attorneys to obtain permission. At that point things became potentially even more dangerous. The DHS now accused her of impeding the investigation.
That is “a dangerous accusation,” she wrote, “as at that point, they can use force.”
“She said she had to speak to her supervisor about my lack of cooperation and would return,” she wrote, as another officer remained.
The female officer returned 30 minutes later and said Abi-Habib was free to go.
“I have no idea why they wanted my phones – it could have been a way for them to download my contacts. Or maybe they expect [sic] me of terrorism or sympathizing with terrorists – although my profile wouldn’t fit, considering I am named Maria Teresa, and for a variety of other reasons including my small child.”
The DHS’ expanded powers are coming under increasing scrutiny in an age when all of one’s most private information is carried in their back pocket – not to mention sensitive work-related information. But as Abi-Habib later found out, the DHS was indeed perfectly within its right to deprive a citizen of their rights for up to 100 miles within US borders – a law that was “quietly passed” in 2013.
“This legislation also circumvents the Fourth Amendment that protects Americans’ privacy and prevents searches and seizures without a proper warrant,” she explains, adding that using encryption is now practically a must – although even then is not a guarantee, seeing as some apps will reveal the identity of the recipient, if not the chat history.
“Never download anything or even open a link from a friend or source that looks suspicious. This may be malware, meaning that they have downloaded software on your phone that will be able to circumvent the powers of encryption,” Abi-Habib warns after speaking to an encryption expert.
She also advises to “travel naked” – an expression which a tech-savvy acquaintance used. That means not taking a sensitive phone with you – only the SIM card – and using it in a ‘clean’ phone. All sensitive numbers should also be written on paper.
Abi-Habib’s story follows a wave of controversy over special powers now afforded to US agencies at the border. A new proposal to ask visitors for their “social media identifier” could help border agents search your background without having to go to the National Security Agency (NSA), it turned out late June.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is part of the DHS, believes having this “identifier” could help it find “possible nefarious activity and connections.”
The public consultation process for that proposal will expire August 22. If successful, the social media information would be gathered in addition to the numerous database checks, fingerprinting, and face-to-interviews that already take place. How it would be processed is not revealed in the proposal and providing the information would be voluntary.
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | July 21, 2016
Events in Turkey just become stranger with each passing day.
We now have Middle Eastern and Persian sources, cited by Russian and German papers, that Russia’s security agencies overheard helicopter radio transmissions by the coup participants, and President Putin warned Erdogan about what was happening, likely saving his skin.
If true, this would help explain the apparent ineptness of the coup forces. My first hypothesis explaining this ineptness plus other peculiarities of the coup was that the plotters were unwittingly working in a dark operation run by Turkish security forces, intended to make them fail while flushing them out and giving Erdogan a free hand.
This possibility of Russian advance warning put together with Erdogan’s own belief that the coup originated in America should yield some serious geopolitical shifts in the region.
We could have an even stronger rapprochement between Turkey and Russia than was already underway, a rapprochement, by the way, which could well have helped tip the United States into giving a wink and a nod (and of course, as always, some cash) to Turkish rebel forces.
But that would not be the only reason for America’s supporting a coup. The truth is, from the American point of view, Erdogan’s erratic behavior – shooting down a Russian war plane, firing artillery into Syria at American Kurdish allies, blackmailing Europe over large numbers of refugees resident in Turkish camps, and still other matters – over the last few years has added uncertainty and potential instability to a strategically important region.
Even if the United States were not involved in the coup, although right now Turkey’s government appears to believe firmly that it was, Putin’s warning would add a powerful positive element to Russian-Turkish relations.
Just as America’s failure to warn Erdogan adds a new negative element to Turkish-American relations. After all, no one is better equipped for international communication interception than the NSA. If the United States were not involved, why didn’t it warn Erdogan? Either way, the outcome is negative for Turkish-American relations.
One of the strongest suggestions for American involvement is the fact that Turkish jets, for bombing and fuel supplies, took off from the İncirlik Airbase during the coup. This airbase is Turkish, but has many Americans resident, including some high-level ones since there is not only a sizable air force stationed there but an estimated fifty thermonuclear bombs. The Turkish commander, Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, was in daily contact with the Americans and sought asylum in the United States before he was arrested by Turkey.
If it is true that Putin warned Erdogan, this would also be the second time Putin has blunted the success of a major American-inspired coup, as he very much did in Ukraine.
Seems as though poor old America, for all its grossly swollen and over-paid security services, just cannot run a good coup anymore.
Putin is disliked by Washington’s establishment precisely because he successfully blunted a huge and costly operation in Ukraine, so disliked that NATO has been pushed dangerously into something resembling the terrifying preparations for Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in Eastern Europe, 1941.
And, of course, Putin also has thwarted the American effort to overthrow President Assad with paid and supplied proxy forces of mercenaries and religious maniacs. Interestingly, Erdogan has been a key player there. French intelligence has just estimated that even now about a hundred thugs cross the border from Turkey into Syria each week.
If Putin has now also stopped a Turkish adventure, the hissing in Washington will likely become much louder.
A new relationship between Turkey and Russia offers a lot of possibilities, none of them favorable from America’s point of view, the restart of the Turkish Stream natural gas project being just one.
And if Europe speaks up or acts too strongly against Erdogan’s counter-coup measures, there’s always the possibility of a new release of refugees from Turkish camps, something which could genuinely destabilize the EU after so many other recent woes. And smooth control of the EU has been one of America’s chief policy objectives for years.
Of course, we should remember that Churchill’s famous quote originally applied to Russia in the days of Stalin. It does not apply to contemporary Russia, and Putin’s deft moves have made some of America’s clumsy efforts at re-ordering the world rather make it resemble Stalin in international affairs.
Sir John Chilcot’s report into the war in Iraq contains 2.6 million words and took seven years to complete yet there is one story which was untold in the dossier. It is the story of how two heroic GCHQ (Government Communications HQ) staff sacrificed their careers and ambitions in order to try and stop the most powerful country in the world from invading Iraq, and thereby preventing the slaughter of innocents.
One of the women, whom I called “Isobel”, came to see me after an anti-war gathering I addressed at Bristol University. It was towards the end of 2002 and I had recently returned from an investigative assignment in Iraq, convinced more than ever that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, as an anti-war journalist, very few of my colleagues in Fleet Street’s mainstream media wanted to run a story saying there were no WMD in Iraq, even though this was also the conclusion of the UN’s chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and his team of experts.
“Isobel” gave me a top secret document which turned out to be the biggest and most damning intelligence leak since World War II. I wondered how I could get the story out to the wider world that America was so desperate to push for war in Iraq that it was prepared to use blackmail against individuals sitting on the UN Security Council to get its wish.
The document made it quite clear that Britain’s spy agencies would do the spade work to seek out and dig dirt on council members which could then be used against them to secure their votes for war. It was sensational.
All of the information was contained in an email from America’s National Security Agency (NSA) to Britain’s GCHQ. British spy agencies were “ordered” by their American counterparts to spy on all members of the Security Council to try to ascertain how they would vote in the event of Bush and Blair seeking UN approval for the war in Iraq.
When “Isobel” handed me the document I was working as a freelance journalist and automatically thought the best way to place it would be at the Daily Mirror which, under editor Piers Morgan, was one of the few Fleet Street titles to adopt an anti-war position. Intelligence stories are always difficult to prove and, without compromising my contacts at GCHQ, I was unable to supply the Mirror with anything other than the original email, although I had used an intelligence contact to verify its authenticity.
The war drums were beating ever louder when it was returned to me with disappointing news; it would not be used by the Mirror. In hindsight, the story was so massive that I should have gone straight to Morgan to try and persuade him to run it.
By this time it was early February and, realising that it had a limited shelf life, I contacted a former colleague at the Observer and told him what I had. I met with Martin Bright in a small cafe in London’s West End and knew straight away that he would give it his best shot as he realised the importance of the document.
It took a full three weeks for Bright, assisted by the Observer’s then defence correspondent Peter Beaumont and US editor Ed Vulliamy, to stand up the story and persuade the editor, Roger Alton, to run with it. It was years later before I discovered that political editor Kamal Ahmed did his best to persuade Alton to dump the exclusive.
There were even attempts to trash my personal reputation as a journalist and reminders bordering on hysteria about the Sunday Times’ embarrassing faux pas over the 1980s hoax “Hitler Diaries”; it was a desperate attempt to dissuade Alton not to use the story but it went ahead and the scoop soon travelled around the world. Sadly, days later, Iraq was invaded and the story was swamped by “Shock and Awe” headlines. Now it is virtually forgotten, but I often wonder if it would or could have altered the course of events had we been able to get the story published in early February 2003.
The woman who handed me the document – “Isobel” – and her colleague Katharine Gun, a 29-year-old Mandarin translator who also worked at GCHQ in Cheltenham, were arrested. When their homes were raided and searched by police, “Isobel” got a message to me; I was in Bahrain at the time and sent Bright a text message saying simply, “Shit, hit & fan”.
Recalling events some five years later, Martin Bright wrote in the New Statesman : “The email was sent by a man with a name straight out of a Hollywood thriller, Frank Koza, who headed up the ‘regional targets’ section of the National Security Agency, the US equivalent of GCHQ. It named six nations to be targeted in the operation: Chile, Pakistan, Guinea, Angola, Cameroon and Bulgaria. These six so-called ‘swing nations’ were non-permanent members of the Security Council whose votes were crucial to getting the resolution through.”
According to Bright, “It later emerged that Mexico was also targeted because of its influence with Chile and other countries in Latin America, though it was not mentioned in the memo. But the operation went far wider – in fact, only Britain was specifically named as a country to be exempt from the ‘surge’.”
Verifying the document as genuine proved the most difficult task and Blairite journalists embedded in the Observer newsroom continued to whisper in the editor’s ear about conspiracy theories, Russian forgeries and even a double bluff scenario by GCHQ spy chiefs to flush out traitors.
In the end, Vulliamy simply telephoned the NSA’s Maryland HQ and asked to speak to the author of the email. Within seconds he was put through to Frank Koza’s office and the man himself answered the phone. Although he refused to comment on the story, the call proved that Koza did indeed exist and was not some invention of the Kremlin’s spooks.
The story was published on 2 March 2003 but it became clear that the US president was going to go to war come what may and that he wasn’t going to rely on UN support. Thanks to Chilcot, we now know that Blair had already given his unconditional support to Bush in September 2002.
Gun and “Isobel” were arrested for alleged offences under the Official Secrets Act, but the attorney general at the time, Lord Goldsmith, dropped the case at the 11th hour on 26 February 2004. Had the case gone ahead, it would have been both sensational and embarrassing for the US and Britain. Today I wonder if that is why Chilcot chose to ignore the story, which has been recounted in part by Bright. The shenanigans of what went on inside the Observer newsroom were provided in more detail by award-winning journalist Nick Davies. He decided to break Fleet Street’s unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, in order to expose how the mainstream media subverts the truth.
In his book “Flat Earth News”, Davies gave us a scathing critique of the media; not just some of it, but all of it. Davies’ most damaging dirt is reserved for Kamal Ahmed, the man who – with no prior experience – was appointed as political editor of the Observer after Patrick Wintour moved to the Guardian. The more obviously qualified Andy McSmith was overlooked by the new editor, Roger Alton, whose sympathies were generally right-wing. According to Davies, both Alton and Ahmed were open to endless manipulation by Downing Street, which resulted in uncritical stories about the “findings” of the now notorious “dodgy dossier”.
There were other blatant lies published about Saddam’s alleged connections to Al-Qaida and his arsenal of WMD. Journalists like myself who supported the anti-war movement and individuals like Blix and the US’ Scott Ritter were demonised and ridiculed for holding to a narrative which differed from that of the pro-war lobby.
The British and American media ware manipulated by people inside newsrooms who were under the influence of the Bush and Blair camps, manipulation the like of which we can see continuing today in the attacks against anti-war Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The pro-war lobby appears to be infecting all walks of life, including the media and government.
I don’t know if Chilcot was persuaded to ignore the story of the GCHQ leak or if he simply over-looked it, but as whistle-blower Kathryn Gun writes here, it was a missed opportunity. If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale which serves as a warning about the kind of desperate measures that the US and British governments are prepared to take to get their own way, especially on matters relating to the Middle East. If that means blackmailing, eavesdropping and intercepting the private communications of UN Security Council members, there are those in Washington and London ready, willing and able to do it.
In recent years we have seen the growth of an enormous infrastructure for routine commercial surveillance on the internet. This infrastructure includes not only “free” advertising-based services like Google and Facebook, but also a largely invisible system of ad networks that track people across the different sites they visit. While most people are not familiar with the extent of tracking and/or are uncomfortable with it, the advertising industry would like to normalize this surveillance and have us believe that humanity has reached some new phase where privacy is not as important as it once was.
I have seen this firsthand in the current battle over whether the FCC should extend longstanding privacy protections from old communications networks like the telephone, to the newest communications network, broadband internet service.
As I have discussed before, when an American picks up the phone to call a suicide hotline, an outreach service for gay teens, or a cancer doctor, he or she doesn’t have to worry that the phone company will sell that information to others, thanks to a privacy law (section 222 of the Communications Act) that prohibits such privacy invasions. There is no reason why that same privacy protection should not apply to the internet, which has superseded the telephone system as the most important communications network in Americans’ lives. Chairman Tom Wheeler of the FCC is moving to do just this — apply the traditional privacy protections of the Communications Act to broadband internet access service — and on Friday the ACLU filed comments with the FCC supporting that agency’s proposal.
The influence and example set by the advertising-based services that use the internet have loomed large in the efforts of industry to convince the FCC not to apply the law as clearly written. And some of the people I’ve discussed broadband privacy with have just shrugged their shoulders at the issue, as if privacy has already been so compromised online that one more set of rules won’t really make a difference.
The broadband providers are trying to milk that attitude for all it’s worth. They’re asking the FCC not to enforce the law precisely because they want to get in the game — grab short-term profits by monitoring communications as they provide internet service, just like many of the companies that use the internet do. They are pointing to the Googles and Facebooks of the world and saying, “why should we be subject to stricter rules than they are?”
It’s a big mistake to view things that way. There is a fundamental difference between the destinations at the edges of the network that people choose to use online, and can abandon for a competitor virtually at the click of a mouse, and the internet infrastructure itself. Broadband providers have the potential to monitor not just one area of a customer’s internet use, but all of them. We pay for broadband, it is not a free, ad-supported service. And the state of competition among broadband carriers (oligopolistic at best) is such that they have significant market power, and even where equivalent competitive options are available, the switching costs can be considerable. Most importantly, perhaps, the broadband providers are clearly covered by those privacy protections in the Communications Act, and the edge providers are not.
But there’s one more big reason that we should not consider the online advertising system to be a normalized part of life: it is far from clear that it is here to stay. As we stressed to the FCC in our comments, the online ecosystem is a fluid, rapidly changing environment, where consumers can stampede from one web service to another at a whim, where empires rise and fall seemingly overnight (for example Myspace, Friendster, Netscape, RealNetworks, Orkut, and Digg), or across a decade (for example AOL or Yahoo). The ad-based regime of today may look completely different in a few years.
There’s reason to think it will. While some communications infrastructures have been regularly spied upon from time to time throughout history, in the end people need, and always demand, privacy. As historian David Kahn put it, invasions of privacy contradict
a long evolution toward the secrecy of communications. Centuries ago, people in England, France and the German states fought for the right to send letters without their being opened by the ‘black chambers’ of absolutist monarchs.
Across Europe, Kahn writes,
the public knew about the letter-opening and hated it. The pre-revolutionary French assembly, the Estates-General, received complaints from all regions of France and from all classes of society about this invasion of their thoughts. A month after the fall of the Bastille, Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man held that citizens may write with freedom — in effect nullifying the right of the government to read letters. In the United States, the 1792 law establishing the Post Office forbade its agents from illegally opening the mail entrusted to it.
In 1794 Prussia enacted a law punishing letter-opening, Kahn writes, and “other states of Germany and elsewhere in Europe followed.” In 1844 the British Parliament “exploded” when an Italian visitor learned his letters had been opened, and the resulting “uproar” ended the practice.
More recently, the revelations about wholesale spying by the NSA have created a new firestorm of controversy—and a worldwide movement toward increasing the protection of privacy through both political and technological means.
In the end, people demand privacy. Confidentiality and control over the information about oneself that one disseminates are an inherent part of human life, and privacy is a core human need. When communications media are not regarded as trustworthy and private, people seek out other means of communicating — or demand change in the media they do use.
Often there is a lag, sometimes substantial, between when people first lose their privacy and when they begin to understand and resent that loss, and demand its correction. It is just this lag that the advertising industry is currently depending upon in today’s online edge-provider ecosystem. But this ecosystem, in which millions of people appear to have traded their privacy for free online services, evokes profound discomfort in many people, according to numerous polls.
In short, while many industry players would like to proclaim the advent of a “new era” in which privacy matters less, nothing could be further from the truth. The current prevalence of privacy invasions among certain edge providers does not enjoy wide legitimacy and should not be used to justify a betrayal of legally clear, culturally deep, and historically longstanding protection for privacy in our essential communications infrastructure. We must not let the essentially corrupt practices that happen to dominate our online ecosystem at the current moment in time be imported into the essential communications infrastructure on which that ecosystem lives. As one commentator put it, “we are only in the Middle Ages of digitization. The Renaissance has yet to come.”
After a big announcement on May 16, 2016, The Intercept made 166 documents available to the public. At this rate, it will take an estimated 600 years to read all of the documents! I would like to ask The Intercept, ‘Where’s the beef?’
Last updated on May 16, 2016, Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept released its first data dump of the Snowden NSA files. For a long time, I wondered why the Snowden files weren’t available to us like the WikiLeaks files were. After all, the information could further research on US “asymmetric warfare.” I wanted to search them just as I had done with WikiLeaks. And then, perhaps it was fate that gave me a partial answer: I used Wikileaks documents for my dissertation and was forced to scrub every WikiLeaks reference in order to get my dissertation published and receive my Ph.D.
You see, in its zeal to crack the whip on whistle blowers revealing the government’s multitudinous dirty dealings and to deter even more acts of conscience from potential whistle blowers, the Obama Administration chose to prosecute and imprison journalist Barrett Brown who had merely republished via hyperlinks some of the same WikiLeaks sources found in my dissertation.
Thus, my institution foreclosed a similar fate for me and I can write this article from a comfortable room rather than the federal penitentiary—where Barrett Brown currently is located. In one place, I had compiled Operation Condor, COINTELPRO, and WikiLeaks documents pertaining to America’s use of “asymmetric warfare” against inconvenient states and their leaders, as well as US actions against inconvenient civil society leaders.
Our knowledge of COINTELPRO helps us to understand that what was done at home to organizations like the Black Panther Party is also done abroad. In fact, many US political prisoners today are incarcerated as a result of the illegal actions of the US government against organizations like the American Indian Movement as well as the Black Panther Party. If the US would carry out such actions against its own citizens, why wouldn’t it do such things to foreigners?
My dissertation captures some of what was done abroad to President Hugo Chavez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and places these actions in the larger context of US practice of asymmetric warfare against people and states it doesn’t like. Therefore, I relished the new information revealed in WikiLeaks about US attitudes toward Venezuela and Chavez written by American bureaucrats who believed that their words would be cloaked by classification.
So, when the Snowden leaks became known, I rushed to all sites political to find the treasure trove of US misdeeds—er, asymmetric warfare – that I knew would be buried inside the raw data. But, alas, it was nowhere to be found! I wrote e-mails to everyone I could think of who might have access to the information, but continued to draw a blank. The dribble of stories, sanitized by a suspect press, was not good enough for me. I began to have my doubts about whether I would ever see the data for myself and search it for my research needs. Indeed, articles began to question if we would ever see the Snowden data.
Cryptome, a digital library site especially for whistle blowers, began to keep a count of the released data versus the total number of pages. On May 14, 2016, Cryptome estimated that at its current rate of release, it would take as many as 620 years for the public to see all of the Snowden documents. On May 16, 2016, Omidyar’s Intercept released a fully-searchable tranche of 166 Snowden documents and promised that more are on the way. Sadly, this pace may take more than six hundred years as there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of documents to be released.
The Intercept has set aside a special section for its signals intelligence directorate newsletter releases, known in the National Security Agency (NSA) as SIDtoday. By scrolling down the page, one can find a download button to download all 166 documents, which I have done. Here, The Intercept explains its methodology of unveiling the oldest documents from 2003 first and then working its way through to its most recent 2012 articles.
The Intercept requests readers to contact them if something of public interest is found, while also noting that the names of low-level functionaries have been redacted by its staff. Additionally, it writes that its innovative approach is to partner with newspapers like Le Monde to go through the documents. The Intercept warns that some documents will not appear because of the speculative nature of accusations leveled against individuals by government operatives at NSA. The Intercept maintains that it chose a different route from WikiLeaks (fully searchable complete archive of all documents) because of different conditions set for release of the documents by different whistle blowers which The Intercept is bound to honor.
The Intercept accompanies release of the 166 documents with a story highlighting the “most intriguing” NSA reports. This first release of documents demonstrates how closely the NSA worked alongside the CIA and the Pentagon and other government departments to fight the US ‘war on terror.’ One example is the April 14, 2003 SIDtoday that boasts of the NSA role in the rescue of Jessica Lynch. What is not mentioned (how could it be?) is the role played by signals intelligence in the fabrication of the ‘Jessica-Lynch-is-an-American-hero’ story! Politifact, in reconstructing the false story, finds that the faked intelligence didn’t come from the Pentagon, and came from Iraqi “intercepts.”
The SIDtoday boasts that six government agencies, most from NSA, contributed to the successful rescue of hero Jessica Lynch. It wrote, “Such information assists the warfighter in planning operations to destroy or disable an underground facility, or, in this case, to rescue U.S. personnel and save lives.”
Recently, another leak came to our attention, the results of which are still reverberating throughout the international scene. The Panama Papers came to our attention and caused quite a stir about off-shore bank accounts, usually used to stash tax-free, ill-gotten cash abroad. Even David Cameron, the U.K. Prime Minister was found to have an off-shore account—even while calling an anti-corruption summit!
The Guardian calls the Panama Papers, at over eleven million documents, “history’s biggest data leak.” The Panama Papers contain a who’s who and a how to stash cash offshore. At 11 million plus documents, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has made the database available to the public in a fully-searchable format. I can go there and find any information that I want. The possibilities for research are phenomenal. So, what’s up with the Snowden documents and why can’t I search the approximately one million or so of them?
Well, as of May 16, the situation is improved, somewhat. Only 166 documents can be found in chronological order here; 166 documents are not going to create the kind of consciousness for which I believe Edward Snowden made his tremendous sacrifice. He is now marooned in Russia when he would much rather be at home with his family and friends, I would imagine.
Still, I believe he was right to inform us about what the US government is doing with our tax dollars, to its citizens at home and to the rest of the world. In my opinion, the US government is a rogue state and COINTELPRO, Operation Condor, WikiLeaks, and what little we know of the Snowden documents amply demonstrates that. The time for keeping secrets from the people who are paying for them is long over, in my opinion.
Edward Snowden said that he wanted to start a bottom-up revolution. The drip-drip-drip of the Snowden documents is the best way to ensure document release without revolution! I can’t help but wonder what’s going on with The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald, whom Vice called “Snowden’s journalist of choice,” and the documents that I can’t wait to review! The researcher in me still wishes that, after doing its due diligence, The Intercept will see to it that Snowden’s more than one million documents will be made available to the public on a fully searchable platform in the manner that WikiLeaks and the Panama Papers has provided to the world.
After serving in the Georgia Legislature, in 1992, Cynthia McKinney won a seat in the US House of Representatives. She was the first African-American woman from Georgia in the US Congress. In 2005, McKinney was a vocal critic of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and was the first member of Congress to file articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. In 2008, Cynthia McKinney won the Green Party nomination for the US presidency.
German intelligence agencies and police have granted asylum to roughly 1,000 refugees in exchange for sensitive information, often by means of “intervention” in the decisions of the national immigration authority, the government has said.
Intelligence services and the federal police have granted asylum to almost 1,000 migrants over the past 15 years, the government’s official response to a parliamentary request for information said. According to the paper, between 1958 and 2013 Germany’s main intelligence agency, the BND, operated a so-called Main Questioning Facility (HBW) which was in charge of collecting specific intelligence from migrants entering the country.
Many “questioning” sessions involved US officers from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), though respondents were not aware of the officials’ real identities. Other German agencies such as the federal police, customs service and regional domestic intelligence authorities were also said to have access to recruiting their own informants among migrants.
The HBW would then ask the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) to grant asylum to each migrant deemed suitable to become a BND source. Such requests, described in the paper as “interventions,” were justified by the claim that the migrants would face imminent death or torture if forced to return to their countries of origin.
Most informants came from the Middle East – with the peak figures in 2001-2002 after 9/11 – followed by nationals of post-Soviet countries, Africa, Asia and the Balkans, the document says. Notably, the immigration service rejected two asylum “interventions” in 2002, even after those informants had been recruited by the BND.
The BND’s “questioning facility” allegedly maintained close contact with both the DIA and NSA, allowing them to access intelligence collected from migrants. In several cases, the intelligence was used to identify targets for US drone strikes in the Middle East and Africa. The government document described the information as extremely valuable for military use.
But Martina Renner, an MP from Die Linke party who co-authored the request for information, told Die Zeit newspaper that “the quality of information obtained could be very questionable.” She argued that refugees – keen to get permission for their stay in Germany – would say anything they believed their questioners wanted to hear.
One of the most dramatic examples, Renner said, was the DIA agent codenamed “Curveball” (real name Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi), who initially defected from Iraq to Germany in 1999.
His fake testimonies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program were used by the US as a rationale to invade Iraq in 2003, despite both the BND and British MI6 questioning the authenticity of the claims.
Although the BND’s questioning facility was officially closed in 2013, the recruitment of agents from among migrants did not stop. Germany’s domestic intelligence, the Federal Service for the Protection of the Constitution, contacts asylum seekers on a “case-by-case” basis, while the BND still monitors refugee hostels to look for prospective informants, Die Zeit reported.