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Anthrax: The Forgotten Lie

OffGuardian | March 20, 2018

Fifteen years ago today, March 20, the “Coalition of the Willing” declared war on Iraq. We now know that war was based on a monumental and inexcusable lie about Iraq possessing “weapons of mass destruction”, and that the war itself was a crime under international law. But we tend to forget that WMDs wasn’t the only lie told to us at the time. There was also the lie about the anthrax attacks in the USA, which in some ways can be counted even more egregious and cold-blooded.

We were told the anthrax that killed five people and harmed 17 others had been positively identified as originating in Iraq. Colin Powell’s famous “test tube full of washing powder” was a bit of theatre designed to sell us on this alleged fact. But it wasn’t true.

Almost immediately after the attacks the FBI knew the anthrax must have been homegrown, or at least produced somewhere with sophisticated laboratory equipment. But since this fact didn’t fit with the al Qaeda narrative it was suppressed from public knowledge. By October 2001 the Guardian was reporting “Iraq ‘behind US anthrax outbreaks’.” All the usual suspects in promoting imperialist war soon followed suit.

The narrative at this time was clearly intended to be that Iraq was the state-sponsor of al Qaeda terror, and had not only been a supporter of the 9/11 attacks but had provided Osama’ boys with the goods to murder even more Americans with anthrax. This, obviously, was intended to act as the rationale for attacking those two vitally strategic countries in the the US’s project for dominance in the Middle east and Asia – Iraq and Afghanistan.

But, as so often seems to happen, this narrative was almost immediately undermined by official White House statements (perhaps originating in elements of the government anxious to preserve the administration from outright association with a lie) that the anthrax in question showed no signs of coming from Iraq, because they specifically lacked an ingredient called bentonite. Which, as we now know, was true.

This official denial, based on solid scientific evidence, should have been an end to the story. But, as the film above shows, owing to a vast campaign of distraction and deception by politicians and the media, the completely discredited story of Iraqi responsibility for the anthrax attacks continued to flourish and even gain momentum. Outlets such as ABC and, most prominently, from Judith Miller (whose pre-2001 prescience about the dangers of anthrax in the US seems truly breathtaking) in the New York Times, brazenly continued to sell the idea in feature articles, specials and endless repetition in the nightly news.

And what was the central “fact” on which the media story of Iraq’s guilt was built?

Nothing less than the completely and provably false claim the White House had already denied – that there was bentonite in the anthrax.

Even the White House, the same White House that had officially denied the presence of bentonite and therefore ruled out Iraq involvement, continue to use implications, lies by omission and weasel words to enable the opposite view to become lodged in the public mind.

These people didn’t just bend the truth, or fudge or obfuscate. They lied. They invented whole narratives, they made up whole back stories, they looked us in the camera’s eye on TV and completely deceived us. The media’s Anthrax Meme never existed. Not one single part of it. And even while Colin Powell was allowing us to believe the story he had known for more than a year that it was a complete fabrication

The UK government is currently lying to us about the Skripal poisoning. We know that already to be beyond doubt. The only question is how deep the lie goes this time.

When we look back at 2001 we have to realise it could be very deep indeed.

March 20, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | 1 Comment

The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On

Women and children at My Lai moments before they were killed. Photograph : Ron Haberle/WikiCommons
By Michael Uhl | Mekong Review | February, 2018 edition

Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.

— Primo Levy

On March 17th, 1968, The New York Times ran a brief front page lede headed, “G.I.s’ in Pincer Movement Kill 128 in Daylong Battle;” the action took place the previous day roughly eight miles from Quang Ngai City, a provincial capital in the northern coastal quadrant of South Vietnam. Heavy artillery and helicopter gunships had been “called in to pound the North Vietnamese soldiers.”  By three in the afternoon the battle had ceased, and “the remaining North Vietnamese had slipped out and fled.” The American side lost only two killed and several wounded.  The article, datelined Saigon, had no byline. Its source was an “American military command’s communique,” a virtual press release hurried into print and unfiltered by additional digging.

Several days later a more superficially factual telling of this seemingly crushing blow to the enemy was featured in Southern Cross, the weekly newsletter of the Americal Division in whose ‘area of operation’ the ‘day long battle’ had been fought. It was described by Army reporter Jay Roberts, who had been there, as “an attack on a Vietcong stronghold,” not an encounter with North Vietnamese regulars as the Times had misconstrued it. However, Roberts’ article tallied the same high number of enemy dead.  When leaned on by Lt. Colonel Frank Barker, who commanded the operation, to downplay the lopsided outcome, Roberts complied, noting blandly that “the assault went off like clockwork.” But certain after action particulars could not be fudged. Roberts was obliged to report that the GIs recovered only “three [enemy] weapons,” a paradox that surely warranted clarification. None was given. It was to be assumed that, either the enemy was poorly armed, or that he had removed the weapons of his fallen comrades – leaving their bodies to be counted – when he retired from the field. Neither of the news outlets cited here, nor Stars and Stripes, the semi-official newspaper of the U. S. Armed Forces which ran with Robert’s account, makes reference to any civilian casualties.

It would be nearly eighteen months later when, on September 6, 1969, a front page article in the Ledger-Enquire in Columbus, Georgia reported that the military prosecutor at nearby Ft. Benning – home of the U. S. Army Infantry – was investigating charges against a junior officer, Lieutenant William L. Calley,  of “multiple murders” of civilians during “an operation at a place called Pinkville,” GI patois for the color denoting man-made features on their topographical maps in a string of coastal hamlets near Quang Ngai.

With the story now leaked, if only in the regional papers – it would migrate as well to a daily in Montgomery, Alabama – the Ft. Benning public information officer moved to “keep the story low profile,” and “released a brief statement that The New York Times ran deep inside its September 7, 1969 issue,” limited to three terse paragraphs on a page cluttered with retail advertising. The press announcement from the Army flack had referred only to “the deaths of more than one civilian.”  In the nation’s newspaper of record, which also mentioned Calley by name, this delicate ambiguity was multiplied to “an unspecified number of civilians.” Yet, once again, the Times was enlisted to serve the agenda of a military publicist, and failed to approach the story independently.

An Army recon commando named Rod Ridenhour had taken it upon himself to do just that. While still serving with the Americal Division’s 11th Light Infantry Brigade from which Task Force Barker – named for its commander – was assembled for the attack on Pinkville, Ridenhour documented accounts of those who had witnessed or participated in a mass killing.  A year later in March 1969, now stateside and a civilian, Ridenhour sent “a five page registered letter” summarizing his findings to President Richard Nixon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and select members of the U.S. Congress urging “a widespread and public investigation.” General William Westmoreland, who had commanded U.S. forces in Vietnam until June 1968, reacted to Ridenhour’s allegations with “disbelief.”  The accusations were, he told a Congressional committee, “so out of character with American forces in Vietnam that I was quite skeptical.” Nonetheless an inquiry was launched.

The Times, although forewarned, had once again squandered a chance to scoop for its global readership what was arguably the most sensational news story of the entire Vietnam War. The two regional reporters had done their legwork, then, bereft of big city resources had nowhere else to go. But in late October, a seasoned freelance journalist in Washington named Seymour Hersh, acting on a colleague’s anonymous tip from inside the military, immediately “stopped all other work and began to chase down the story,” which by mid-November 1969 would be revealed to the American public and the world at large as the My Lai massacre.

This outline of the massacre’s initial falsification and suppression, followed by its eventual disclosure, is cobbled from My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness (Oxford, 2017), a thorough retreatment of the infamous Vietnam War atrocity by Howard Jones, a professor of history at the University of Alabama. The question is, to what end? Has the voluminous, careful study in the literature devoted to the My Lai massacre left something out? It’s not a matter of omissions, the historian argues, but that the record is replete with conflicting interpretations. To tell the “full story” required Jones to reorder events in their “proper sequence,” he says. His other reasons for taking us back to Pinkville are equally vague, and casually embedded among several floating asides in the author’s Acknowledgments. His debts are many, but foremost among them Jones recognizes his Vietnamese-American graduate assistant who “emphasized the importance of incorporating the Vietnamese side into the narrative and remaining objective in telling the story.”

I took this profession of objectivity as a signal to be on the alert for its potential subjective or editorial opposite. Jones insists that “everyone who has written… about My Lai has had an agenda.” The suspicion that a subtle revisionist agenda, nurtured perhaps by the resentments of a partisan of the losing side [his assistant], might underlie Jones’ intentions for revisiting this much examined massacre was heightened by the anecdote he tells about his wife’s emotionally fraught response when listening to his grim descriptions of the slaughter. However revolting, the atrocities must be detailed she insists. To do otherwise, the author agrees “would leave the mistaken impression that nothing extraordinary took place at My Lai.”

That My Lai was extraordinary I hold beyond dispute. But the privileged attention given to the massacre by historians and other commentators – not to mention its impact on the general public – which by far prefers vivid superlatives to cloudy comparisons – hangs like a curtain and obscures the broader and far grizzlier picture of the U.S. driven horrors of the Vietnam War that were commonplace and quotidian.  Would the historian tell that story too, I wondered, as I plunged into his text? Or was the only purpose to take up this subject again five decades on to ensure that the censorious curtain remained firmly in place?

Quang Ngai was a hot bed of resistance under the Viet Minh independence movement during French colonial rule. With the transition to the American War, resistance fighters – now reconstituted as the National Liberation Front, or Viet Cong – remained capable of striking at will throughout the province, which, until 1967, was under the jurisdiction of the South Vietnamese Army. But the American command found its native allies unreliable, without ever asking if perhaps their reluctance to challenge the local resistance rested, not on fear or cowardice, but familiarity or even kinship.  U.S. soldiers possessed no such scruples.

After “intelligence sources” targeted the area around My Lai as “an enemy bastion for mounting attacks” on Quang Ngai City and its surroundings, American forces were concentrated under Task Force Barker, “a contingent of five hundred soldiers” to bring the troublesome province under control of the government of South Vietnam.[i]

On the evening before the assault, Captain Earnest Medina – like Calley a principal target of the Army’s subsequent investigation – briefed the hundred men of Charlie Company under his command. “We’re going to Pinkville tomorrow… after the 48th Battalion,” he told them. “The landing zone will be hot. And they outnumber us two to one… expect heavy casualties.” Charlie Company had already taken “heavy casualties” in the two months they’d been humping the boonies of Quang Ngai. The local guerrilla unit, the lethal, elusive 48th, was all the more feared since the GIs had never seen the face of a single combatant behind the sniper bullets or booby traps that bloodied and killed their comrades. “By the last week of February,” Harold Jones reckons, “resentment and hostility had spread among the GI’s, aimed primarily at the villagers.”

Pinkville had been declared a free fire zone. The mission for the assault was to search and destroy. If the soldiers encountered non-combatant villagers the text book regulations dictated they be detained and interrogated as to the whereabouts of the enemy, and then moved to safety in the rear. But the various strands of intelligence-gathering that guided Task Force Barker were interpreted to suggest there would be no non-combatants, because the villagers had been warned to evacuate, or, given that the assault was on a Saturday, those residents who’d defied evacuation would be off to the market in Quang Ngai City. This was all Intel double talk. The true military objective was that the residents have no village to return to because the GIs were primed to slay all livestock, lay waste to every dwelling and defensive bunker, destroy the crops and foul the wells, that is, to ensure that My Lai and its contiguous hamlets were left uninhabitable, and thus utterly untenable as bases to support the guerrillas.

Beginning just before 8 a.m. on March 16th, the three platoons of Charlie Company were airlifted to the fringes of the Vietnamese hamlets where they expected to encounter fierce enemy resistance.  The hail of bullets from helicopter gunships that churned up the earth around them and aimed at suppressing potential enemy fire, created for many of these soldiers who had never experienced combat the impression that they’d been dropped in the midst of the “hot landing zone” Captain Medina had promised them. But as Army photographer Ron Haeberle, assigned to document the assault, would later testify, there was “no hostile fire.” The headquarters of the 48th and what remained of its fighters had taken refuge west into the mountains after being decimated during the Tet Offensive a month before. And the few VC who had been visiting their families around My Lai, hardly ignorant of American movements, had gotten out by dawn on the 16th.

In a state of confusion as to exactly what they were facing, Charlie Company’s platoons stepped off from opposing positions to sweep through the village, already partially damaged by artillery, intending to squeeze the enemy between them. Instead they soon confronted, not the guerrilla fighters they were sent to dislodge, but scores of inhabitants who weren’t supposed to be there. GIs immediately shot several villagers who panicked and attempted to flee. In this war such trigger happy killings were not far from the norm. But Lieutenant Calley “had interpreted Medina’s briefing to mean that they were to kill everyone in the village… Since it was impossible to distinguish between friend and foe, the only conclusion was to presume all Vietnamese were Viet Cong and to kill them all.” Calley, moreover, was being relentlessly spurred by Medina over the radio to quicken the pace of the 1st platoon’s forward sweep, and therefore, would later claim, he could neither evacuate the non-combatants, nor, for reasons of security, leave them to his rear.

Jones offers from the record a facsimile of the field radio transmission between Calley and his commander:

 “What are you doing now?” Medina asked.

“I’m getting ready to go.”

“Now damn it! I told you now. Get your men in position now.”

“And these people, they aren’t moving too swiftly.”

“I don’t want that crap. Now damn it, waste all those goddamn people! And get in the damn position.”


The idea of questioning orders, comments Jones dryly, never crossed Calley’s mind, particularly during combat.

One brief panel of the horror show will suffice to roil the imagination toward grasping what Jones styles a ‘descent into darkness,” which, given the scale of the ensuing carnage that morning, has elevated the My Lai massacre to the extraordinary status in the Vietnam War that history has bestowed upon it.

Calley, in the grip of all his embedded demons – his mental and moral mediocrity, his cracker barrel knee jerk racism, his incompetence as a leader, his slavish kowtowing to authority which clearly disgusted his commander and his troops, everything that conspired to create the monster that was him – returned from his latest whipping by Medina to where one group of villagers sat on the ground, and demanded of two members of his platoon, “How come you ain’t killed them yet?” The men explained they understood only that they were to guard them. “No,” Calley said, “I want them dead… When I say fire… fire at them.”  Calley and, Paul Meadlo – whose name would become almost as closely associated with the massacre as Calley’s – “a bare ten feet from their terrified targets… set their M-16s on automatic… and sprayed clip after clip of deadly fire into their screaming and defenseless victims…  At this point, a few children who had somehow escaped the torrent of gunfire struggled to their feet… Calley methodically picked off the children one by one… He looks like he’s enjoying it,” one soldier remarked, who moments before had been prevented by Calley from forcing a young woman’s face into his crotch, but who now refused to shoot.

The mass killing, which Harold Jones parades scene by scene with exhaustive precision, was repeated throughout the morning until the bodies of hundreds of villagers lay scattered across the landscape. Not just those killed by Calley’s platoon, but by others throughout the rest of Charlie Company. And not just at My Lai 4, but also at My Khe 4 several miles distant by members of Bravo Company. “In not a few cases, women and girls were raped before they were killed.” Jones dutifully chronicles the accounts of the few who resolutely refused to shoot, and of one man who blasted his own foot with a .45 to escape the depravity.  “Everyone except a few of us was shooting,” Pfc. Dennis Bunning of the second platoon would later testify.

But there was another man that morning who didn’t just seek to avoid the killing, he attempted to stop it.

Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson piloted his observation helicopter, a three seater with a crewmember on each flank armed with a machine gun, several hundred feet above My Lai. Thompson’s mission was to fly low and mark with smoke grenades any source of enemy fire, which would prompt the helicopter gunships tiered above him – known as Sharks – to swoop down and dispense their massive fire power on the target. Spotting a large number of civilian bodies in a ditch, Thompson at first suspected they’d been killed by the incoming artillery. Hovering near the ground for a closer look Thompson and his crew, Gary Andreotta and Larry Colburn, were stunned to witness Captain Medina shoot a wounded woman who was lying at his feet. Banking closer to the ditch, Thompson “estimated he saw 150 dead and dying Vietnamese babies, women and children and old men… and watched in disbelief as soldiers shot survivors trying to crawl out.”

Against regulations, Thompson landed and confronted Lieutenant Calley, asking him to help the wounded and radio for their evacuation. Calley made it clear he resented the pilot’s interference and would do no such thing. Thompson stormed away furiously warning Calley “he hadn’t heard the last of this.” With Medina again at his heels, Calley ordered his sergeant “to finish off the wounded,” and just as Thompson was taking off the killing resumed.

Aloft again Thompson saw “a small group… of women and children scurrying toward a bunker just outside My Lai 4… and about ten soldiers in pursuit,” and felt “compelled… to take immediate action.” He again put his craft down, jumped out between the civilians and the oncoming members of the second platoon led by Lieutenant Stephen Brooks. When Thompson asked Brooks to help evacuate the Vietnamese from the bunker, Brooks told him he would do so with a grenade. The two men screamed at each other. Like Calley, Brooks was unyielding, and Thompson warned his two gunners, now standing outside the chopper, “to prepare for a confrontation.”

“I’m going to go over to the bunker myself and get those people out. If they [the soldiers] fire on those people or fire on me while I’m doing that. Shoot ‘em.” That moment has been cast in the My Lai literature as a classic armed standoff. But Thompson’s two gunners had not aimed their weapons at Brooks and his men who stood fifty yards away, a bit of manufactured drama several chroniclers of that confrontation, among them Sy Hersh, have chiseled into the record. Harold Jones in this instance had gone beyond the dogged task of compilation. While researching his book, he had spent many hours with Larry Colburn, and befriended him. And it was Larry who told Jones that he and Andreotta did not aim their weapons directly at the soldiers who faced them. They tried to stare then down, “while carefully pointing their weapons to the ground in case one of them accidentally went off.” This verisimilitude restores a dimension of realism to a scene imagined by those who’d never been soldiers.

Checking Brooks, but failing to get his cooperation, Thompson took another extraordinary step. He radioed Warrant Officer Danny Millians, one of the pilots of the gunships, and convinced him to also defy the protocols against landing in a free fire zone. Then, in two trips, Millians used the Shark to transport the nine rescued Vietnamese, including five children, to safety. Making one final pass over the ditch where he’d locked horns with Calley, Thompson “hovered low… searching for signs of life while flinching at the sight of headless children.” Thompson landed a third time, remaining at the controls. He watched as Colburn, from the side of the ditch, grabbed hold of a boy that Andreotta, blood spilling from his boots, had pulled from among a pile of corpses. Do Hoa, a boy of eight, had survived.

Livid and in great distress at what he had witnessed, Thompson, on returning to base, and in the company of the two gunship pilots, made their superior, Major Frederic Watke, immediately aware of “the mass murder going on out there.” From that moment, every step taken to probe and verify “the substance of Thompson’s charges almost instantly came into dispute.” Although Watke would later tell investigators he believed Thompson was “over-portraying” the killings” owing to his “limited combat experience,” the major had realized that the mere charge of war crimes obliged him “to seek an impartial inquiry at the highest level.” The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) required that field commanders investigate “all known, suspected or alleged war crimes or atrocities… Failure to [do so] was a punishable offense.”  Having reported Thompson’s allegations to Task Force commander Barker, Watke had fulfilled this duty. But there was a Catch-22 permitting command authority to ignore the MACV directive if they “thought” a war crime had not been committed.

The trick here was for Barker and several other ranking officer in the division and brigade chain of command to assess if civilians had been killed during the assault, and if so, how many. Captain Medina – in addition to contributing to the fictional enemy body count – would supply a figure of “thirty civilians killed by artillery.” The division chaplain would characterize these deaths as “tragic… an operational mistake… in a combat operation.” For this line of argument to carry, however, it had been necessary for the commander of the Americal Division, Major General Samuel Koster, the “field commander” who alone possessed the authority to prevent the accusations from going higher, to put his own head deep into the sand.

When Colonel Orin Henderson, who commanded the 11th Infantry Brigade from which Medina’s Charlie Company had been detailed to the Task Force, ordered LTC Barker in the late afternoon of March 16th to send Charlie Company back to My Lai 4 to “make a detailed report of the number of men, women and children killed and how they died, along with another search for weapons… Medina strongly objected.” It would be too dangerous, he said, to move his men “in the dark through a heavily mined and booby trapped area… where the Vietcong could launch a surprise attack.” Monitoring the transmission between Barker and Medina, General Koster countermanded Henderson’s order. Later claiming he was “concerned for the safety of the troops,” Koster saw “no reason to go look at that mess.” Medina’s estimate of the number of civilian deaths, Koster ruled, was “about right.”

Not only had Koster’s snap judgement given Barker license to cook up the initial battlefield fantasy of 128 enemy dead, it ensured that the internal investigations into the charges of “mass murder,” notably by Henderson and other high ranking members of Koster’s staff, would not deviate from the conclusion voiced by the division commander. By navigating each twisting curve along a well camouflaged path toward the fictive end those in command were seeking, Harold Jones lays bare a virtual text book case of conspiracy, which must be read in its entirety to capture the intricate web of fabrication and self-deception the conspirators constructed to assure themselves the crypt of the cover-up had been sealed.[ii]

When discussing the massacre later at an inquiry, the Americal Division chaplain, faithful to the Army but not his higher calling, claimed that, had a massacre been common knowledge, it would have come out.  That the massacre was “common knowledge” to the Vietnamese throughout Quang Ngai Province on both sides of the conflict (not to mention among their respective leadership on up to Hanoi and Saigon) goes without saying. Indeed low ranking local South Vietnamese officials attempted to stir public outrage about the massacre (not to mention negotiate the urgent remedy of compensation for the victims), and were suppressed by the Quang Ngai Province Chief, a creature of the Saigon government who fed at the trough of U.S. materiel and did not wish to risk the good will of his American sponsors. My Lai was quickly recast as communist propaganda, pure and simple.

While this proved a viable method of suppression for South Vietnamese authorities, it could not still tales of the massacre in the scuttlebutt of the soldiers who had been there, who had carried it out. From motives said to be high minded, but not fueled by an anti-military agenda, and in the piecemeal fact-gathering manner typical of any investigation, the whistleblower Ron Ridenhour had thus resurrected the buried massacre, and bestowed on Sy Hersh the journalistic coup of a lifetime.

As the articles and newscasts about what took place at My Lai were cascaded before the public in November 1969, efforts to manage the political fallout by various levels of government were accelerated with corresponding intensity. Pushing back at the center of that storm were Richard Nixon and other members of the Executive; congressional committees in both the House and Senate; and not least, and in some cases with considerably more integrity than their civilian political masters, members of the professional military.

Not surprisingly, if one understands anything about American society, a substantial portion of the public, in fact its majority, expressed far greater sympathy for William Calley than for his victims. One could cite endemic American racism as a contributing factor for this unseemly lack of human decency. More broadly speaking, an explanation less charged by aggression would point to a level of provincialism that apparently can only afflict a nation as relatively pampered as my own. In such an arrangement, turning a blind eye for expedience sake toward the pursuit of global power, consequences be damned, is as good as a national pastime.

Despite the spontaneous public sympathy for Calley, Nixon, fretted that news of My Lai would strengthen the antiwar movement and “increase the opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam.” Nixon, true to form, lashed out with venom at the otherness of his liberal enemies. “It’s those dirty rotten Jews in New York who are behind this,” Nixon ranted, learning that Hersh’s investigation had been subsidized by the Edgar B. Stern Family Fund, “clearly left-wing and anti-Administration.” Nixon was strongly pressed to “attack those who attack him… by dirty tricks… discredit one witness [Thompson] and highlight the atrocities committed by the Viet Cong.” Only Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird seemed to grasp that manipulation of public opinion would not perfume the stink of My Lai. The public might tolerate “a little of this,” Laird mused, “but you shouldn’t kill that many.” There was apprehension in the White House because calls for a civilian commission had begun to escalate. Habituated to work the dark side, and unbeknownst to his Secretary of Defense, Nixon formed a secret task force “that would seek to sabotage the investigative process by undermining the credibility of all those making massacre charges.”

Nixon found a staunch ally for this strategy in Mendel Rivers, the “hawkish” Mississippi Democrat who chaired the House Armed Services Committee.  As evidence from the military’s internal inquiries mounted to prove the contrary, members of River’s committee sought to establish that no massacre had occurred, and that the only legitimate targets of interest were Hugh Thompson and Larry Colburn (Gary Andreotta having been killed in an air crash soon after the massacre), who were pilloried at a closed hearing, virtually accused of treason for turning their guns on fellow Americans.

During a televised news conference on December 8th – with Calley’s court martial already under way for three weeks – Nixon announced that he had rejected calls for an independent commission to investigate what he now admitted for the first time “appears to have been a massacre.” The President would rely instead on the military’s judicial process to bring “this incident completely before the public.” The message the Administration and its pro-war allies would thenceforth steam shovel into the media mainstream wherever the topic was raised, was that My Lai was “an isolated incident,” and by no means a reflection of our “national policy” in Vietnam.

As maneuvers to re-consign the massacre to oblivion faltered, the Army was just then launching a commission of its own under a three-star general, William Peers, whose initial charge was to disentangle the elaborate cover-up within the Americal Division that had kept the massacre from exposure for almost two years. In order to reconcile the divergent testimonies among its witnesses, the scope of the Peers Commission soon necessarily expanded to gather a complete picture of the event the cover-up sought to erase. The Army’s criminal investigation by the CID, on which charges could be based, and which would guide any eventual legal proceedings, continued on a separate track and beyond the public eye as a matter of due process.

After Lieutenant General Peers had submitted the commission’s preliminary report, Secretary of the Army, Stanley Resor moved to soften the “abrupt and brutal” language. He requested that Peers not refer “to the victims as elderly men, women, children and babies,” but as “noncombatant casualties.” And might Peers “also be less graphic in describing the rapes?” Resor further edited the word “massacre” from the report, and when presenting it to the press, had the chair of his commission describe My Lai rather as “a tragedy of major proportions.” Peers was reportedly indignant, but complied. It required no such compulsion to ensure that Peers toe the line on a far more central theme. Responding to questions from the media, Peers insisted there had been no cover-up at higher levels of command beyond the Americal Division, and echoed his Commander in Chief’s mantra that My Lai was an isolated incident. When Peers was questioned about what took place at My Khe that same day, he insisted it was inseparable from what occurred at My Lai. No reporter followed up with a challenge to that assertion.

Investigators had a long list of suspects deployed at My Lai and My Khe in Task Force Barker, as well as those throughout the Americal chain of command, who they believed should be charged and tried. Some forty enlisted men were named, along with more than a dozen commissioned officers. [iii] Only six among them, two sergeants and four officers would ultimately stand trial. There would be no opportunity to enlarge the scope of the massacre through the spectacle of a mass trial that would, moreover, conjure images of Nuremburg and Tokyo where America dispensed harsh justice on its defeated enemies only two decades earlier. It was agreed upon by both Nixon and the Pentagon Chiefs that defendants would be tried separately and at a spread of different Army bases.

If the elaborate subterfuge employed to cover-up the massacre had been the work of individuals desperate to protect their professional military careers, the court martial proceedings reveal how an entire institution operates to protect itself. George Clemenceau, French Prime Minister during the First World War, is credited with the droll observation that ‘military music is to music what military justice is to justice.” Harold Jones, using the idiom of the historian, demonstrates in his summaries of the trials the disturbing reality behind Clemenseau’s quip.

First before the bar at Fort Hood, Texas in November 1969 was Calley’s platoon sergeant David Mitchell, that witnesses described as someone who carried out the lieutenant’s orders with a particular gusto. Then in January it was Sergeant Charles Hutto’s turn at Fort McPhearson, Georgia. Hutto had admitted turning his machine gun on a group of unarmed civilians. These two men were so patently guilty in the eyes of their own comrades that theirs were among the strongest cases the investigators had constructed for the prosecution. Both men were acquitted in trials that can only be described as judicial parodies.

At Mitchell’s trial the judge, ruling on a technicality, did not allow the prosecution to call witnesses with the most damning testimony, like Hugh Thompson. Hutto had declared in court that “it was murder,” but claimed “we were doing it because we had been told.” When the jury refused to convict him because Hutto had not known that some orders could be illegal, Harold Jones nails how the court was sanctioning “the major argument that had failed to win acquittal at Nuremburg.”

Shortly after Hutto’s trial, the Army dropped all charges against the remaining soldiers, fearing their claims to have been following orders would likewise find merit in the prevailing temper of the military juries.  Heeding the judicial trend, Lieutenant General Jonathan Seaman, a regional commander exercising jurisdiction over officers above the rank of captain, dropped all charges against Major General Koster. By some opaque calculation which convinced no one, Seaman had concluded that Koster was not guilty of “intentional abrogation of responsibilities.” A hue and cry followed in the press and on Capitol Hill denouncing Seaman for “a white wash of the top man.” The outcry did prod the Pentagon to take punitive action against Koster. The general had already been dismissed as the commandant of West Point, and he was now demoted to brigadier general and stripped of his highest commendation.

Seaman informed Koster through internal channels that he held him “personally responsible” for My Lai, a kind of symbolic snub among gentlemen. But in exonerating the Americal commander, Seaman had, by design it can be argued, inoculated the higher reaches of command straight up to General Westmoreland from being held responsible for the actions of their subordinates, a blatant act of duplicity in light of the ruling at the Tokyo trials following World War II where lack of knowledge of atrocities committed by his troops had not prevented General Yamaschita from being hanged.

With Calley’s court martial already in progress, only three other officers, Medina and the Task Force Barker intelligence officer, Captain Eugene Kotouc, for war crimes, and 11th Brigade commander Henderson, for the cover-up, remained to be tried. Harold Jones deftly unspools how the flawed and self-protective system of military justice enabled trial judges in each case to provide improvised instructions to their juries which had all but dictated the acquittal of all three men. Kotouc had been charged with murdering a prisoner, whom, given the available evidence, he almost certainly had; still the jury found him not guilty in less than an hour. Asked if he would stay in the military, Kotouc gushed, “Who would get out of a system like this… it’s the best damn army in the world.”[iv]

Henderson’s and Medina’s trials were media spectacles in their own right, but mere side shows compared with the main event at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Calley trial opened in November, soon after the My Lai revelation. By the middle of March when the talented young prosecutor, Captain Aubrey Daniel, began his closing argument, a great majority of Americans had been glued to the courtroom drama for four months. Calley had a courtly elderly gent, George Latimer, a former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and later an original member of the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, to lead his defense. Clearly Latimer knew his way around the arcana of military justice; moreover as a veteran of World War II who had achieved the rank of colonel, he was of the very caste. Latimer was confident he’d prevail. As the trial progressed, the testimony of nearly one hundred witnesses so prejudiced his client that Latimer desperately veered the defense toward an insanity plea, a strategy which foundered after three Army psychiatrists judged the accused to possess “the mental capacity to premeditate.” Finally Calley took the witness stand and quickly blundered. Under a rigorous cross-examination, Captain Daniel marched Calley back across the killing fields of Pinkville, at each step recapping eyewitness accounts, including the testimony of Hugh Thompson. Before he grasped the significance of his misstep, Calley had confessed to shooting into the ditch filled with Vietnamese victims. The verdict seemed ordained.

Yet, it was no slam dunk for the prosecution. The jury took eighty hours to deliberate, in the end finding Calley guilty of murder by a vote of four to two, one ballot shy of a mistrial, if not an outright acquittal. As a capital felony, Calley might have received the death penalty, but Daniel argued only for life imprisonment. On March 29, 1970 the judge agreed and passed sentence. Calley appeared shaken as he faced the court.  Surely the shrinks had gotten it wrong in not certifying a case of mental dissociation as acutely obvious as Calley’s? He seemed the perfect robotic tool of the Cold War. Hadn’t he been madly insisting all along that he had not been killing humans, but only communists, including babes at the breast who would grow up one day to be communists themselves? Then again, maybe Calley wasn’t as clueless and out of touch as he came across. In addressing the judge at sentencing, one could read in Calley’s plea, “I beg you… do not strip future soldiers of their honor” as he had been stripped of his, a message defending the common man and shrewdly aimed at a wider audience beyond the courtroom that the defendant must have known was substantially in his corner.

The polls quickly confirmed this. 79% of the public opposed the conviction. Across an ideological divide embracing both the war’s supporters and opponents, a large majority saw Calley as a scapegoat, one man custom-made to bear the blame for the entire Vietnam fiasco. Nixon played this public frustration to his advantage. There was little opposition when the President saw fit to have the prisoner removed from the stockade, where he’d spent just one night, and returned to his own Ft. Benning apartment. Calley would serve only three and a half years under house arrest before going free, but, after the trial, he quickly faded into anonymity.

At the White House, only a week after the verdict, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger reassured Nixon that “the public furor… [had] quieted down…  Let the judicial process… take its normal course,” counselled Kissinger. Liberal efforts to stir “a feeling of revulsion against the deed,” and turn the trial into a referendum against the war, had failed. “In fact the deed itself didn’t bother anybody,” Kissinger added.  “No,” Nixon agreed, picking up eagerly on his advisor’s cynical drift. “The public said, ‘Sure he was guilty but, by God, why not?’ ” Both laughed.[v]

The “deed” these two twisted political misanthropes found so amusing is memorialized at a shrine today in the My Lai township listing the names of the massacre’s 504 victims, more than half of whom were under the age of twenty, to include “forty-nine teenagers, 160 aged four to twelve, and fifty who were three years old or younger.”

In reflecting on the sordid tale he has chosen to historicize anew, and on its reduction by the U.S. political and military establishments to a judicial farce, Harold Jones explains how, “My Lai made it imperative nonetheless that the army institute major changes in training.” And further that “to understand the importance of restraint in combat, soldiers and officers must learn to disobey illegal orders… and the importance of distinguishing between ‘unarmed civilians… and the people who are shooting at us.’” Jones documents the extensive effort undertaken to incorporate this thinking by updating the rules of war, to “make them more specific, then teach, follow and enforce them.”

But in examining the next most infamous atrocity of modern memory committed by U.S. forces at Abu Ghraib during the recent Iraq War, Jones concludes that “the central problem… lies less in writing new laws and regulations than in having officers who enforce those already in effect.” That officers may not be inclined to such enforcement underscores the apparently insoluble dilemma of an autocratic institution, the military, at the heart of a civilian democracy to which it is, in principle, subordinate. But we have already been shown over a panoply of legal proceedings that, at least in its capacity to dispense justice, the military is a power unto itself.[vi] Jones does not follow that thought directly, but rather indulges in a philosophical aside which dilutes the unhappy subject of his history in the horrors that attend all wars, concluding darkly that, in the right situation, we are all “one step away from My Lai.”

It’s not that the historian entirely buys Nixon’s aberration line; Jones does refer to other reported atrocities in VN. But he does buy Peers’ “right situation” explanation for why My Lai stands out, quoting the Peers Commission report that “none of the other [investigated] crimes even remotely approached the magnitude… of My Lai.” That would depend on how one defines “magnitude.” Peers had failed to do the math, and so has Jones. The American invasion, and occupation for over a decade, left a trail of bloodshed and destruction throughout Vietnam that led elements of the antiwar movement worldwide to level the charge of genocide against the U.S.

What one pro-war historian lamented as a veritable “war crimes industry,” had sprung up within the U.S., not from the campuses of the middle class protestors, but among the ranks of returning veterans, who for roughly two years after My Lai was exposed, brought accounts of atrocities they had participated in or witnessed before the American public. Harold Jones, to demonstrate historical balance, provides a cursory account of this effort, referring to a “sizeable segment of Vietnam veterans who considered… that My Lai was not an isolated incident and that Calley had become a scapegoat for the high ranking civilian and military officials who drew up the policies responsible for the atrocities.”

Having already established that Nixon denied the link between My Lai and “national policy,” Jones does not engage the argument further. But the war veterans (including the present writer) were not suggesting that the policy of genocide was etched in a secret covenant buried in a Pentagon vault. We were saying, in effect, don’t just look at the record body count attached to the slaughter at Pinkville, and imagine you have a true picture of American crimes in that war. Count the day to day toll of Vietnamese civilian deaths that resulted from premeditated frames like “mass population transfers” – the Strategic Hamlet program, or “chemical warfare” – the saturation of the countryside with phenoxy herbicides like Agent Orange, that were already prohibited by the conventions of war to which the U.S. was a signatory.

Other strategic tools, the Air War, and the relentless, not atypically indiscriminate, bombardment by artillery and naval guns, were employed by American forces against the “unpacified” countryside with unprecedented savagery.[vii] While these displays of massive fire power are thought to have created the highest proportion of civilian casualties during the war, the battlefield tactics – search and destroy operations in free fire zones, systematic torture and murder of prisoners, the “mere gook rule,” that turned every dead Vietnamese into an enemy body count, were a close second. These are facts available to anyone who cares to know them.[viii]

In both detail and presentation Harold Jones, with My Lai: Vietnam, 1968, and the Descent into Darkness, has produced a work of considerable value, and it is fair to acknowledge that the work, as recently characterized in a brief note by the New York Times Book Review, must now be considered the standard reference for the massacre. As for the scale and volume of terrors inflicted on the Vietnamese people during the American War, Jones, hewing close to official doctrine in the U.S., fails to acknowledge that My Lai was just the tip of the iceberg.[ix]

Michael Uhl served with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade as leader of a combat intelligence team eight months after the My Lai massacre. On return from Vietnam he joined the antiwar movement, and organized fellow veterans to make public their personal accounts of American atrocities in Vietnam. He presents this history in the war memoir, Vietnam Awakening (McFarland, 2007).


[i].  Heonik Kwon, in his study, After the Massacre: Commemoration and Consolation in Ha My and My Lai (University of California Press, 2006), attributed to allied forces operating in Quang Ngai Province, notably units of the ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines (p.44), “at least six large scale civilian massacres during the first three months of 1968… Two secret reports made by the district communist cells to the provincial authority recorded nineteen incidents of mass killings during this short period.  The tragedy of mass killings had already been witnessed in Quang Ngai in 1966.”

In their recent documentary film series on the Vietnam War, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick reported that no province suffered more than Quang Ngai during the war, and no place was more dangerous for operating militarily.

[ii]. The author’s account of the cover-up reads as definitive; Harold Jones here follows closely Seymour M. Hersh in Cover Up (Random House, 1972).

[iii].  This would not include Barker, himself, who had died a month after the massacre when his helicopter crashed during a combat mission.

[iv]. This quote (p. 347) is from Four Hours in My Lai, by Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, (Penguin, 1993), the standard work on the massacre for the past twenty-five years.

[v].  Harold Jones is reporting here from what he heard on the Nixon tapes recorded on April 8, 1971.

[vi] .  One portrait of what has been called the West Point Protective Association embodying the Army’s Spartan ethic, can be found in a highly charged expose, co-authored by a former academy graduate, West Point: America’s Power Fraternity, by Bruce Calloway and Robert Bowie Johnson (Simon and Schuster, 1973).

[vii].  An extensive account of the Air War in Quang Ngai Province is found in The Real War by Jonathan Schell (Da Capo Press, 1988).

[viii]. The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. with the names of the 58,282 American war dead is 475 feet long; a wall inscribed with the names of the Vietnamese war dead would go on for miles.

[ix]. Herbicide poisoning and unexploded ordnance are legacy issues of the war that continue to take their toll on Vietnamese victims to this day.

Michael Uhl is the author of  Vietnam Awakening

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Liberals, Conservatives Worry About Korean Peace Threat

By Gregory Shupak | FAIR | March 15, 2018

WaPo: North Korea and South Korea snooker Trump

Washington Post‘s Max Boot (3/8/18)

Commentators across the spectrum of acceptable establishment opinion are alarmed by the possibility of peace breaking out on the Korean peninsula.

Some oppose the idea of talks between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on principle. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin (3/9/18), for instance, suggested that Trump should not meet with Kim:

Is Trump now to glad-hand with Kim, treating him as just another world leader? Will Trump even bring up human rights? (You will recall that, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama was ridiculed for suggesting he’d sit down with the North Korean dictator; he prudently backed off that idea.)

Her newly hired colleague Max Boot (Washington Post, 3/8/18) concurred:

As recently as August, Trump tweeted: “The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” He was absolutely right.

Boot went on to contend:

The South Koreans claim that the North Koreans are willing to discuss denuclearization, but the likelihood is that they will only do so on terms that the United States should never accept. Kim may offer to give up his nukes if the United States will pull its forces out of South Korea and sign a peace treaty with the North.

What Boot sees as a doomsday scenario—peace between the two Koreas and the withdrawal from the peninsula of US troops, which serve as a constant threat to the North and thus ensure the permanent threat of war—is actually a formula for ensuring that there isn’t a second Korean war, one that is certain to be even more devastating than the catastrophic first one for Korea, and likely for the region and further afield.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow: "Looked at each other as if in disbelief"

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC, 3/9/18)

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC, 3/9/18) seemed flabbergasted by the prospect of a meeting between the leaders:

It has been the dream of North Korean leaders for decades now that they would advance their weapons programs and their nuclear programs so much so that the United States would be forced to acknowledge them as an equal and meet with the North Korean leader…. They got there with [Trump] and I don’t know that the administration intended it to be that kind of a gift. It’s just a remarkable time to be covering this stuff.

MSNBC blogger Steve Benen (3/9/18) says he’s “not opposed to direct diplomacy,” but he sounded like a time capsule from 1951 when he warned that

Trump has agreed to give Kim Jong-un exactly what he wants. North Korean leaders have sought this kind of meeting for decades because it would necessarily elevate the rogue state: It would show the world that North Korea’s leader is being treated as an equal by the Leader of the Free World.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof  (3/9/18) also claims to prefer that the US and North Korea exchange words rather than missiles, but he expressed relief that the threat of peace was minimal: “It’s genuinely encouraging that Kim doesn’t object to the US resuming military exercises,” he wrote, but worried that America

has agreed to give North Korea what it has long craved: the respect and legitimacy that comes from the North Korean leader standing as an equal beside the American president.

For Maddow, Benen and Kristof, a catastrophic nuclear war likely to kill millions is less threatening than the (frankly remote) possibility of America treating a small Asian country as an equal. This sort of commentary shows that liberal analysts are every bit as capable of a chest-thumping jingoism as their counterparts on the right.

In Praise of Sanctions

Sanctions on North Korea make it harder for aid organizations to operate in the country, and for people living there to obtain drugs and medical supplies, such as anesthesia used for emergency operations and X-ray machines needed to diagnose tuberculosis (Washington Post, 12/16/17). Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, says he is “alarmed by reports that sanctions may have prevented cancer patients from access to chemotherapy and blocked the import of disability equipment.”

According to Kee B. Park (12/18/17), a neurosurgeon at Harvard Medical School, the hunger in North Korea “is devastating. And it’s our fault. Led by the United States, the international community is crippling North Korea’s economy” by “banning exports of coal, iron, lead, seafood and textiles, and limiting the import of crude oil and refined petroleum products,” “punishing the most vulnerable citizens” of the country. For example, UNICEF says that “an estimated 60,000 children face potential starvation in North Korea, where international sanctions are exacerbating the situation by slowing aid deliveries.”

The Post’s Boot, however, is impressed by the sanctions, and worried that they might be lifted: “North Korea hopes at a minimum for a relaxation of sanctions just when they are beginning to bite.” In the interest of precision, he should have added “60,000 children” after the word “bite.”

He continued:

It may make sense to talk to North Korea, but at a lower level, while maintaining the “maximum pressure” sanctions policy. Eventually the regime may feel so much pain that it will be willing to bargain in earnest.

North Korea doesn’t have the capacity to pain on the US, so it’s worth asking: Who will enforce hunger on America and destroy its economy to compel it to reverse its past approach (The Nation, 9/5/17) and “bargain in earnest” with North Korea? And would Boot endorse such an approach?

Boot can rest easy, however, about “so much pain” being reduced, as the Trump administration appears poised to maintain the sanctions until it determines that there has been “real progress” in the talks (AP, 3/13/18).

Kristof, like Boot, suggests that Trump “probably does” deserve credit for using sanctions to get North Korea to suspend tests of nuclear weapons:

First, Trump raised the economic pressure on North Korea with additional sanctions and extra support from China, and the pain was visible when I visited North Korea in September. Kim has made rising living standards a hallmark of his leadership, and sanctions have threatened that pillar of his legitimacy.

Kristof has made a career branding himself a bleeding heart concerned for the world’s most vulnerable but evidently his heart doesn’t bleed for “the most vulnerable citizens” of states that defy US dictates.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

State Dept has $120mn war chest for Russia-bashing – and ex-envoy McFaul wants to spend it

RT | March 7, 2018

There is $120 million in funding for “countering Russian propaganda” stashed somewhere in the State Department. There are “Russia experts” willing to blame Russia for everything. The two are meant to be together.

The $120 million, of which Rex Tillerson’s diplomatic corps has failed to spend a cent, is funding for the Global Engagement Center – a task force originally meant to counter jihadist propaganda online. In the late days of the Obama administration, it was tasked with countering “Russian and Chinese propaganda” aimed against America’s democratic institutions. The State Department is yet to spend any of that money.

The State Department was granted $120 million to fight Russian meddling. It has spent $0.

— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 6, 2018

For people failing to read past the New York Times headline, the failure to spend these funds would appear to be a clear indicator that Tillerson and the rest if the Trump administration have no interest in doing anything against Russia. There are memes about it, and people crying “Treason!” on Twitter.

Those who do read the story will discover the small print. For instance, the Pentagon and the State Department have been wrangling for the first annual installment of $60 million for months, and have agreed on $40 million, which is not expected until April. The US military previously lead online counterpropaganda – a coordinated effort by several departments – because they also fought jihadists with more tangible means like drones. The inclusion of Russia and China put the diplomats in charge.

Also, this money is just a tiny portion of what the US government spends on its own soft power, including promoting narratives that counter those favored by Moscow. The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the parent body for outlets like Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, requested over $685 million of taxpayers’ money for FY2018. The Trump administration also wants to allocate $527 million this year for the State Department’s assistance to Europe, which is meant to strengthen “European resilience to Russian meddling,” according to the NYT. This is significantly lower than the $1.3 billion last year, set aside under the Obama administration, but can hardly be considered petty cash.

Still, there is that pile of anti-Russian money that the State Department has not spent, and there are always people who would offer their services in spending Uncle Sam’s millions. One former diplomat has already come up with a public offer.

Is the @StateDept wants to contract out its assignment to spend $120 million to combat Russian propaganda, Im sure I could put together a great team ! (& I speak Russian!)

— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) March 7, 2018

“Is [sic] the @StateDept wants to contract out its assignment to spend $120 million to combat Russian propaganda, I’m sure I could put together a great team! (& I speak Russian!)” tweeted Michael McFaul, the former ambassador to Russia under the Obama administration.

McFaul’s tenure in Moscow was somewhat awkward. He infamously invited Russian opposition leaders to the embassy in one of his first moves, more or less ensuring their reputation as American stooges in the eyes of many Russians. After returning to academia, he wrote a book on Russia, available from on May 8.

An avid social network poster, he recently pledged to never share anything in Russian – after he showed his audience a video clip of mass protests with a caption in Russian inciting people to kill security officials. Even worse, the video was shot in Bahrain and erroneously claimed by the original poster to be from the latest mass protest in Iran.

Fair point Dmitry ! Ill change that on my CV. I haven’t used Russian for over four years now, since I left in 2/14. Getting a little rusty.

— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) March 7, 2018

Good question. I just did a live tv interview in Russian. But Im sure listeners would poke holes in all of my grammatical mistakes (forgetting that hardly any Americans show respect for Russian language/history/culture & dare do interviews in Russian.)

— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) March 7, 2018

Of course, there are many other people in the West who wrote books about Russia and are willing to offer their expert opinions on why it poses such a danger to the US, and how it can be stopped. So there will be quite a competition for this $120 million stash, if State Department chooses to spend it.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

How ‘Operation Merlin’ Poisoned U.S. Intelligence on Iran

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, left, leaves the Alexandria Federal Courthouse on Jan. 26, 2016 with his wife Holly, center, and attorney Barry Pollack. Photo: Kevin Wolf/AP
By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | March 3, 2018

Jeffrey Sterling, the case officer for the CIA’s covert “Operation Merlin,” who was convicted in May 2015 for allegedly revealing details of that operation to James Risen of the New York Times, was released from prison in January after serving more than two years of a 42-month sentence. He had been tried and convicted on the premise that the revelation of the operation had harmed U.S. security.

The entire case against him assumed a solid intelligence case that Iran had indeed been working on a nuclear weapon that justified that covert operation.

But the accumulated evidence shows that the intelligence not only did not support the need for Operation Merlin, but that the existence of the CIA’s planned covert operation itself had a profound distorting impact on intelligence assessment of the issue. The very first U.S. national intelligence estimate on the subject in 2001 that Iran had a nuclear weapons program was the result of a heavy-handed intervention by Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt that was arguably more serious than the efforts by Vice-President Dick Cheney to influence the CIA’s 2002 estimate on WMD in Iraq.

The full story of the interaction between the CIA operation and intelligence analysis, shows, moreover, that Pavitt had previously fabricated an alarmist intelligence analysis for the Clinton White House on Iran’s nuclear program in late 1999 in order to get Clinton’s approval for Operation Merlin.

Pavitt Plans Operation Merlin

The story of Operation Merlin and the suppression of crucial intelligence on Iran’s nuclear intentions cannot be understood apart from the close friendship between Pavitt and CIA Director George Tenet. Pavitt’s rise in the Operations Directorate had been so closely linked to his friendship with Tenet that the day after Tenet announced his retirement from the CIA on June 3, 2004, Pavitt announced his own retirement.

Soon after he was assigned to the CIA’s Non-Proliferation Center (NPC) in 1993 Pavitt got the idea of creating a new component within the Directorate of Operations to work solely on proliferation, as former CIA officials recounted for Valerie Plame Wilson’s memoir, Fair Game. Pavitt proposed that the new proliferation division would have the authority not only to collect intelligence but also to carry out covert operations related to proliferation, using its own clandestine case officers working under non-official cover.

Immediately after Tenet was named Deputy Director of the CIA in 1995, Pavitt got the new organization within the operations directorate called the Counter-Proliferation Division, or CPD. Pavitt immediately began the planning for a major operation targeting Iran. According to a CIA cable declassified for the Sterling trial, as early as March 1996 CPD’s “Office of Special Projects” had already devised a scheme to convey to the Iranians a copy of the Russian TBA-486 “fireset” – a system for multiple simultaneous high explosive detonations to set off a nuclear explosion. The trick was that it had built-in flaws that would make it unworkable.

A January 1997 declassified cable described a plan for using a Russian émigré’ former Soviet nuclear weapons engineer recruited in 1996 to gain “operational access” to an Iranian “target.” The cable suggested that it would be for the purpose of intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program, in the light of the fact that the agency had not issued a finding that Iran was working on nuclear weapons.

But in mid-March 1997 the language used by CPD to describe its proposed covert operation suddenly changed. Another declassified CPD cable from May 1997 said the ultimate goal was “to plant this substantial piece of deception information on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.” That shift in language apparently reflected Tenet’s realization that the CIA would need to justify the proposed covert operation to the White House, as required by legislation.

With his ambitious plan for a covert operation against Iran in his pocket, Pavitt was promoted to Associate Deputy Director of Operations in July 1997. On February 2, 1998, CPD announced to other CIA offices, according to the declassified cable, that a technical team from one of the national laboratories had finished building the detonation device that would include “multiple nested flaws,” including a “final fatal flaw” ensuring “that it will not detonate a nuclear weapon.”

An official statement from the national lab certifying that fact was a legal requirement for the CIA to obtain the official Presidential “finding” for any covert operation required by legislation passed in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair.

Pavitt obtained the letter from the national laboratory in mid-1999 a few weeks after it was announced he would be named Deputy Director of the CIA for Operations.

But that left a final political obstacle to a presidential finding: the official position of the CIA’ s Intelligence Directorate remained that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program. The language of the CIA’s report to Congress for the first half of 1999, which was delivered to Congress in early 2000, contained formulations that showed signs of having been negotiated between those who believed Iran just have a nuclear weapons program and those who did not.

The report referred to nuclear-related projects that “will help Iran augment its nuclear technology infrastructure, which in turn would be useful in supporting nuclear weapons research and development.” The shift from “will” to “would” clearly suggested that nuclear weapons work was not yet an established fact.

A second sentence said, “expertise and technology gained, along with the commercial channels and contacts established-even from cooperation that appears strictly civilian in nature-could be used to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons research and developmental program.” That seemed to hint that maybe Iran already had such a nuclear weapons program.

That was not sufficient for Tenet and Pavitt to justify a covert nuclear weapons program involving handing over a fake nuclear detonation device. So the dynamic duo came up with another way around that obstacle. A new intelligence assessment, reported in a front page article by James Risen and Judith Miller in the New York Times on January 17, 2000, said the CIA could no longer rule out the possibility that Iran now had the capability to build a bomb – or even that it may have actually succeeded in building one.

Risen and Miller reported that Tenet had begun briefings for Clinton administration officials on the new CIA assessment in December 1999 shortly after the document was completed, citing “several U.S. officials” familiar with it. The Tenet briefings made no mention of any evidence of a bomb-making program, according to the sources cited by the Times. It was based instead on the alleged inability of U.S. intelligence to track adequately Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology and materials from the black market.

But the new assessment had evidently not come from the Intelligence Directorate. John McLaughlin, then Deputy Director for Intelligence, said in e-mail response to a query that he did not recall the assessment. And when this writer asked him whether it was possible that he would not remember or would not have known about an intelligence assessment on such a high profile issue, McLaughlin did not respond. Pavitt and Tenet had obviously gone outside the normal procedure for an intelligence assessment in order to get around the problem of lack of support for their thesis from the analysts.

A declassified CIA cable dated November 18, 1999 instructed the Russian émigré to prepare for a possible trip to Vienna in early 2000, indicating that Tenet hoped to get the finding within a few weeks. Clinton apparently did give the necessary finding in early 2000; in the first days of March 2000 the Russian émigré dropped the falsified fireset plans into the mail chute of the Iranian mission to the United Nations in Vienna.

Pavitt Suppresses Unwelcome Iran Nuclear Intelligence

Pavitt’s CPD was also managing a group of covert operatives who recruited spies to provide information on weapons of mass destruction in Iran and Iraq. CPD not only controlled the targeting of the operatives working on those accounts but the distribution of their reports. CPD’s dual role thus represented a serious conflict of interest, because the CPD had a vested interest in an intelligence estimate that showed Iran had an active nuclear weapons program, and it could prevent intelligence analysts from getting information that conflicted with that interest.

That is exactly what happened in 2001. One especially valuable CPD operative, who was fluent in both Farsi and Arabic, had begun recruiting agents to provide intelligence on both Iran and Iraq since 1995. His talents had been recognized by the CPD and by higher levels of the Operations Directorate: by 2001 he had been promised an intelligence medal and a promotion to GS14 – the second highest grade level in the civil service.

But that same year the operative reported very important intelligence on the Iran nuclear issue that would have caused serious problems for Pavitt and CPD and led ultimately to his being taken out of the field and being fired.

In a November 2005 court filing in a lawsuit against Pavitt, the unnamed head of CPD and then CIA Director Porter Goss, the operative, identified only as “Doe” in court records, said that one of his most highly valued “human assets” – the CIA term for recruited spies – had given him very important intelligence in 2001. That information was the subject of three crucial lines of the key paragraph in the operative’s complaint that were redacted at the demand of the CIA. For years “Doe” sought to declassify the language of that had been redacted, but the CIA had fought it.

It was assumed in press accounts at the time that the redacted lines were related to Iraq. But the lawyer who handled the lawsuit for “Doe,” Roy Krieger, revealed to this writer in interviews that the redacted lines revealed that the CIA “human asset” in question was an Iranian, and that he had told “Doe” that the Iranian government had no intention of “weaponizing” the uranium that it was planning to enrich.

It was the first intelligence from a “highly-valued” U.S. spy – one who was known to be in a position to know he claimed to know – on Iran’s intentions regarding nuclear weapons to become available to the U.S. intelligence community. “Doe” reported what the spy had said to his supervisor at CPD, according to the court filing, and the supervisor immediately met with Pavitt and the head of CPD. After that meeting the CPD supervisor ordered “Doe” not to prepare any written report on the matter and assured him that Pavitt and the head of the CPD would personally brief President Bush on the intelligence.

But “Doe” soon learned from his own contacts at CIA headquarters that no such briefing ever took place. And “Doe” was soon instructed to terminate his relationship with the asset. After another incident involving intelligence he had reported on WMD in Iraq that had also conflicted with the line desired by the Bush administration, CIA management took “Doe” out of the field, put him in a headquarters job and denied him the intelligence medal and promotion to GS-14 that he had been promised, according to his court filing. The CIA fired “Doe” without specifying a reason in 2005.

Pavitt did not respond to requests for an interview for this story both at the Scowcroft Group and, after he retired, at his home in McLean, Virginia.

The intervention by Pavitt to prevent the intelligence from Doe’s Iranian asset from circulating within the U.S. government came as the intelligence community was working on the 2001 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the Iranian nuclear program. That NIE concluded that Iran was working on a nuclear weapon, but the finding was far from being clear-cut. Paul Pillar, the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and North Africa, who was involved in the 2001 NIE, recalled that the intelligence community had no direct evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. “We’re talking about things that are a matter of inference, not direct evidence,” Pillar said in an interview with this writer.

Furthermore he recalls that there was a deep divide in the intelligence community between the technical analysts, who tended to believe that evidence of uranium enrichment was evidence of a weapons program, and the Iran specialists, including Pillar himself, who believed Iran had adopted a “hedging strategy” and had made no decision in favor or a nuclear weapon. The technical analysts at the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC), were given the advantage of writing the first draft not only on Iranian technical capabilities but on Iranian intentions – a subject on which it had no real expertise – as well, according to Pillar.

The introduction of the intelligence from a highly credible Iranian intelligence asset indicating no intention to convert its enriched uranium into nuclear weapons would arguably have changed the dynamic of the estimate dramatically. It would have meant that one side could cite hard intelligence from a valued source in support of its position, while the other side could cite only their own predisposition.

Pillar confirmed that no such intelligence report was made available to the analysts for the 2001 NIE. He noted just how rarely the kind of intelligence that had been obtained by “Doe” was available for an intelligence estimate. “Analysts deal with a range of stuff,” he said, “from a tidbit from technical intelligence to the goldmine well-placed source with an absolutely credible account,“ but the latter kind of intelligence “almost never comes up.”

After reading this account of the intelligence obtained by the CPD operative, Pillar said he is not in a position to judge the value of the intelligence from the Iranian asset, but that the information from the CPD Iranian asset “should have been considered by the NIE team in conjunction with other sources of information.”

That lead to a series of estimates that assumed Iran had a nuclear weapons program.

In 2004, a large cache of purported Iranian documents showing alleged Iranian research related to nuclear weapons was turned over to German intelligence, which the Bush administration claimed came from the laptop of an Iranian scientist or engineer. But former senior German Foreign Official Karsten Voigt later revealed to this writer that the whole story was a fabrication, because the documents had been given those documents by the Mujahedin-E Khalq, the Iranian opposition group that was known to have publicized anti-Iran information fed to it by Israel’s Mossad.

Those documents led directly to another CIA estimate in 2005 asserting the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, which in turn paved the way for all the subsequent estimates – all of which were adopted despite the absence of new evidence of such a program. The CIA swallowed the ruse repeatedly, because it had already been manipulated by Pavitt.

Operation Merlin is the perfect example of powerful bureaucratic interests running amok and creating the intelligence necessary to justify their operations. The net result is that Jeffrey Sterling was unjustly imprisoned and that the United States has gone down a path of Iran policy that poses serious – and unnecessary – threats to American security.

Gareth Porter is an independent journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of numerous books, including Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare (Just World Books, 2014).

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putin Claims Strategic Parity, Respect

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | March 3, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s State-of-the-Nation speech Thursday represents a liminal event in the East-West strategic balance — and an ominous one.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

That the strategic equation is precarious today comes through clearly in Putin’s words. The U.S. and Russia have walked backwards over the threshold of sanity first crossed in the right direction by their predecessors in 1972 with the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Amid the “balance of terror” that reigned pre-1972, sensible statesmen on both sides concluded and implemented the ABM treaty which, in effect, guaranteed “mutual assured destruction” — the (altogether fitting) acronym was MAD — if either side attempted a nuclear attack on the other. MAD might not sound much better than “balance of terror,” but the ABM treaty introduced a significant degree of stability for 30 years.

The treaty itself was the result of painstaking negotiation with considerable understanding and good faith shown by both sides. The formidable task challenging us intelligence specialists was to be able to assure President Nixon that, if he decided to trust, we could monitor Soviet adherence and promptly report any violations. (Incidentally, the Soviets did cheat. In mid-1983 we detected a huge early warning radar installation at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia — a clear violation of the ABM treaty. President Reagan called them on it, and the Soviets eventually tore it down.)

During the U.S.-Soviet negotiations on the ABM treaty, a third of the CIA Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, which I led at the time, was involved in various supporting roles. I was in Moscow on May 26, 1972 for the treaty signing by President Richard Nixon and Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. I recall not being able to suppress an audible sigh of relief. MAD, I believed, would surely be preferable to the highly precarious strategic situation that preceded it. It was.

Cornerstone of Stability

In his speech on March 1, President Putin included an accurate tutorial on what happened after three decades, noting that Moscow was “categorically against” the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from the ABM treaty. He described the treaty as “the cornerstone of the international security system.”

Putin explained that under the treaty, “the parties had the right to deploy ballistic missile defense systems in only one of its regions. Russia deployed these systems around Moscow, and the U.S. around its Grand Forks land-based ICBM base [in North Dakota].”  (He did not mention the aborted attempt to deploy a second installation at Krasnoyarsk.)

The Russian President explained: “The ABM treaty not only created an atmosphere of trust, but also prevented either party from recklessly using nuclear weapons … because the limited number of ballistic missile defense systems made the potential aggressor vulnerable to a response strike.”

Putin was saying, in effect, that no matter how bad — even mad — the MAD concept may seem, it played a huge stabilizing role. He added that the U.S. rejected all Russian proposals toward constructive dialogue on the post-ABM treaty situation, and grossly underestimated Russia’s ability to respond. The Russian President then gave chapter and verse, cum video clips, on an array of new Russian weaponry which, he claimed, rendered missile defense systems “useless.” The show-and-tell segment of Putin’s speech has been widely reported.

New York Times Skeptical

David Sanger, the New York Times’ go-to guy on key issues, who is among the best in the trade on reporting as “flat facts” things like WMD in Iraq and “Russian meddling,” wrote the lede on Putin’s speech in Friday’s NY Times together with Neil MacFarquhar. The meme this time is not flat fact, but skepticism: “Do these weapons really exist? Or is Putin bluffing?”

In support of their skepticism, Sanger and MacFarquhar blithely report that “analysts writing on Facebook and elsewhere leaned toward the bluff theory.” So, QED!

And echoing former National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s insight that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever,” Sanger and MacFarquhar remind NYT readers that “deception lies at the heart of current Russian military doctrine.”

The two NYT journalists did get one thing right at the very end of their article; namely, “For years, Mr. Putin has chafed at the perceived disrespect showed to him and Russia by the United States. ‘Nobody listened to Russia,’ he said near the end of his speech, to huge applause. ‘Well, listen now.’”

Russians, like all proud and gifted people, resent attempts to demean or marginalize them. Putin may have seen his speech, in part, as a blistering response to former President Barack Obama’s dismissive comments that “Russia doesn’t make anything” and is no more than “a regional power.”

Door Still Open to Talks

It is to be hoped that the Marine generals running U.S. defense policy, rather than calling Putin’s bluff, will now encourage President Donald Trump to take up Putin’s latest offer to “sit down at the negotiating table” and “work together … to ensure global security” — taking into account that “strategic parity” is now a reality.

Referring to what he called “our duty to inform our partners” about Russia’s claimed ability to render ABM systems “useless,” Putin added: “When the time comes, foreign and defense ministry experts will have many opportunities to discuss all these matters with them, if of course our partners so desire.”

Putin also said, “We are greatly concerned by certain provisions of the revised Nuclear Posture Review,” which envisages a nuclear response to “conventional arms attacks and even to a cyber threat.”

He described Russia’s military doctrine, as “very clear and specific”:  “Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons solely in response to a nuclear attack, or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies, or an act of aggression against us with the use of conventional weapons that threatens the very existence of the state.”

With burgeoning threats against Iran and Syria, it is to be hoped that someone in Washington thinks to ask Putin which countries he includes among Russia’s allies.

White Lies Nobody Believes

Dana White, Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters Thursday, “Our missile defense has never been about” Russia. Now, as Harry Truman would have put it, the Russians “weren’t born yesterday.”  Putin has been extremely derisive toward those promoting the bromide that ABM installations in and around Europe are designed to defend against missiles from Iran — or North Korea.

In an unusually candid remark on missile defense on April 17, 2014, the day before Crimea was annexed, Putin told a national TV audience: “Missile defense … is no less, and probably even more important, than NATO’s eastward expansion. Incidentally, our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this.

To take some liberties with Shakespeare, “The fault is not in our stars, but in our Star Wars.” Ever since President Ronald Reagan was sold on the notion that a “Star Wars” ABM system could provide the U.S. with complete protection from missile attack, exceptional opportunities to restrain — or even put an end to — the nuclear arms race have been squandered. Victory has gone to the arms profiteers — those whom Pope Francis described to Congress as the “blood drenched arms merchants.”

The ABM project has been called, with justification, the world’s largest corporate welfare program. Jonathan Marshall  today explains quite well what should scare us — still more billions likely to be thrown at the makers of systems that, most serious scientists and engineers agree, can always be defeated, and comparatively cheaply, one way or another.

Three Decade-Old Conundrum

During the mid-80s, I had a front-row seat watching President Ronald Reagan blow what appeared to be a golden chance for a comprehensive peace. I had spent most of my CIA career focusing on Soviet foreign policy and was able to tell the senior U.S. officials I was briefing that Mikhail Gorbachev, in my view, was the real deal. Even so, I was hardly prepared for how far Gorbachev was willing to go toward disarmament. At the 1986 summit with President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland, Gorbachev proposed that all nuclear weapons be eliminated within ten years.

Reagan reportedly almost rose to the occasion, but was counseled to reject Gorbachev’s condition that any research on anti-ballistic missiles be confined to laboratories for that decade. “Star Wars,” the largest and most wasteful defense-industry program in recent memory, won the day.

I know the characters who, for whatever reason, danced to the tune of “Star Wars,” Reagan’s benighted, wistful wish for an airtight defense against strategic missiles.

The naysayers to peace included ideologues like CIA Director William Casey and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, windsocks like CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates and one of his proteges, Fritz Ermarth, a viscerally anti-Russian functionary and former Northrop Corporation employee, who was a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Soviet and European Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) during Reykjavik.

According to author Jim Mann, several years after Reykjavik, Ermarth reflected on how he had been wrong in being overly suspicious of Gorbachev and how the intuition of Ronald Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz had been more perceptive.

What Now?

By all appearances, President Putin is as interested in stemming the strategic arms race as was Gorbachev. On Thursday, Putin talked about this particular moment being liminal — he called it “a turning point for the entire world.”  Will there be anyone in Washington at the other end of the phone, if Moscow calls? If, in effect, the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media complex answers, ABM developers will continue to fatten their purses and squander our children’s future.

It may be time to recall the admonition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a speech he gave 65 years ago:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. …

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. … This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. […] Is there no other way the world may live?

‘Nuff said.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington.  He served 30 years as an U.S. Army Intelligence and CIA analyst, and in retirement co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

March 3, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

In Syria, the Real Siege Is by Western Criminal Powers

Strategic Culture Foundation | 02.03.2018

In more than seven years of war in Syria, we have seen many times how Western governments and news media shamelessly invert reality.

The same was seen this week over the grim fighting around Eastern Ghouta, the suburb near the capital, Damascus, where 400,000 people are said to be trapped.

But who is trapping who?

US and European media breathlessly claim that Eastern Ghouta is under siege from Syrian “regime forces” allied with Russia. This description is posing things upside down.

The district was taken over nearly six years ago by foreign-backed extremists, like Jaysh al Islam, Ahrar al Sham, and Al Nusra Front. The latter is an internationally outlawed terror group, but they all share the same murderous ideology, as well as the same Western covert sponsors in the American CIA, British MI6, French DGSE, and lavish Gulf Arab funding. It is these illegally armed insurgents who are holding the civilian population under siege in a reign of terror.

The same situation, and Western inversion of reality, has been seen before, most notably regarding Syria’s second city of Aleppo. The Syrian and Russian forces liberated that city at the end of 2016, and since then life for the residents there has fortunately returned to the normal peaceful, pluralist coexistence which prevailed before the foreign-backed terror goons took over.

Yet, Western media and officials continually confabulate about “rebels” and civilians being besieged by Syrian state forces. This inversion of reality is of course necessary in order to push the Western false narrative that has underpinned the covert Western war for regime change in Syria, including the clandestine support for terror groups as proxies.

Further twisting the situation in Eastern Ghouta this week, the Western media blamed the Syrian “regime” and Russia for not implementing a ceasefire plan to enable evacuation of civilians.

Russia proposed a daily five-hour truce, and the Syrian government established humanitarian corridors exiting from the conflict zone. The proposal from Moscow was a reasonable counter to what the US, Britain and France had wanted, which involved a 30-day cessation of all military operations.

The Western powers had tried the same proposal during the liberation of Aleppo. Syria and its legally mandated Russian ally are within their sovereign right to take back remaining territory that has been illegally occupied by foreign-backed militants.

What the Western powers would like to impose is a No-Fly Zone over parts of Syria to enable their residual proxies time and space to regroup. Why should the Syrian government forfeit its sovereign rights by accommodating foreign enemies?

The reason why the Russian humanitarian relief plan proposed this week for Eastern Ghouta did not gain traction was simply because the militants continually shelled the designated corridors for escaping civilians. Video footage clearly showed buses and aid workers organized by the Syrian government waiting to receive the civilians. But none were permitted from the area because of sniper and mortar fire from the militants.

Evidently, the militants are holding the civilian population as hostages and human shields. The same criminal tactics were deployed in Aleppo and other towns and cities where the terrorist gangs ruled with their death-cult barbarity.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, rightly pointed out that the humanitarian relief plan for Eastern Ghouta can only be made to work if the militants commit to upholding a ceasefire. But these foreign-backed mercenaries have done nothing of the sort. They have not only cut off evacuation corridors under fire; they continue to launch rockets and mortars at nearby government-controlled Damascus inflicting dozens of civilian deaths in recent weeks.

Reliable figures cited by the Syrian Free Press network, indicate that some 85 per cent of the Syrian population live in areas under the control of President Bashar Assad’s state forces. Only a small minority – 15 per cent – live in areas controlled by insurgents. And many of those people are being held in these dwindling areas against their will in a state of fear imposed by the so-called jihadists.

The brazen Western media propaganda war – misnamed as “news” – reports totally from the minority areas, which are exalted as “rebel bastions”.

In all the so-called “reporting” by France 24, BBC, CNN, and others, the information is either sourced from the CIA-sponsored and terrorist-affiliated White Helmets media operation; or anonymous “residents” and “activists”; or it is sourced from “a UK-based monitor” who is an exiled Syrian furniture salesman who has not been in Syria for 15 years.

This pathetic Western mainstream media “journalism” has been going on for the past seven years in relation to Syria.

Significantly, when do you ever hear a Syrian government official or diplomat being aired directly and at length in these media? Or Russian officials? Never. It’s all a one-way street of lies and fabrication.

The preposterous inversion of reality that the Western governments and media have perpetrated over Syria can only be sustained through systematic distortion.

Russia’s humanitarian relief plan for Eastern Ghouta has so far been sabotaged by terror groups firing on civilians. But Western officials and media have the brass neck to claim that the long-suffering population is under siege from the very forces who are trying to liberate them from terror.

When Eastern Ghouta is eventually liberated one thing is sure. The Western media will never follow-up to ask residents what their lives were really like. Just as these same vile propaganda outlets did not follow-up on liberated Aleppo.

As if the distortion couldn’t get any worse, this week the New York Times and other Western media reported claims that North Korea had secretly supplied materials for chemical weapons to Syria. The reported claims seemed unconvincing, as usual, and the Syrian government denied the latest allegations.

Alongside that, the British government asserted this week that it would order air strikes on the Syrian “regime” if it found proof that chemical weapons were used.

Adding up the Western distortion it is obvious what the objective is: to find a pretext for overt military aggression on Syria. The covert proxy war using terrorist mercenaries has failed. Now the Western terror sponsors need to take the distortion to an even more demonic level.

In truth, there is indeed a siege in Syria. The entire Syrian nation is under siege – by criminal Western regimes and their equally criminal propaganda media, justifying war and aggression.

March 2, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

Assad, Kim & chemical weapons: NYT ties in all the ‘villains’ in story on leaked UN report

RT | February 28, 2018

What could be better to beat the drum for regime change than tying North Korean missiles to Syria and chemical weapons? Apparently, the New York Times did just that when it wrote about a leaked UN report.

The article, run by the respectable US newspaper on Tuesday, is based on a 200-page report by a group of eight experts who were tasked by the UN Security Council to monitor how sanctions against North Korea are implemented. The country was punished for developing nuclear weapons and rocket technology with serious restrictions on how it can trade with foreign nations and has been finding ways to circumvent those.

The NYT focused on two particular episodes mentioned in the report. One was the interception in January 2017 of two ships carrying acid-resistant tiles from North Korea to Syria, with three other such contracted shipments revealed via paper tracking, although whether or not they were actually made remains unclear. The UN experts said such tiles are “commonly used in the construction of chemical weapons factories.”

Another episode happened in August 2016, when a delegation of “North Korean missile technicians” visited Syria and brought with them “special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical weapons,” according to the report. Both episodes were reported to the UN panel by unidentified UN personnel.

Experts who reviewed the report on behalf of the newspaper said the evidence presented by the UN “did not prove definitively that there was current, continuing collaboration between North Korea and Syria on chemical weapons.” The NYT did not say how or when it obtained the UN document, which is not available to the public.

The publication of the report comes as the Syrian government stands accused of repeatedly using chemical weapons against civilian targets in eastern Ghouta, a neighborhood of Damascus controlled by several jihadist groups. The alleged attacks with chlorine gas – which make little sense from the military point of view – are reported by local sources with ties to the militants. They cannot be verified by independent observers, including those from the countries openly calling for the toppling of the Syrian President Bashar Assad, like the US.

This does not stop the Western mainstream media from bombarding their audiences with reports of intolerable civilian suffering inflicted by the Russia-backed “Assad regime” and “experts” calling for a US-led military intervention against Damascus. With Assad presented as a contender to the title of the world’s top villain, adding Kim Jong-un of North Korea, another figure reviled in the West, would apparently bolster the bellicose narrative.

One may almost suspect that the US media have not learned their collective lesson from the run-up for the Iraqi invasion. Joseph Kahn, the managing editor of the New York Times, assured everyone last month  that the coverage of the Iraqi WMDs was “an example of seriously flawed policy for political goal,” and that the paper has since made changes to editorial policy. We can now rest assured that the Syria coverage is a different story altogether.

Read more:

Pentagon admits zero evidence of E. Ghouta chem attack – but blames Russia all the same

February 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Syria’s East Ghouta battleground distorted by MSM propaganda

RT | February 23, 2018

The information battle on the E. Ghouta front is turning into Aleppo 2.0, with Western media, often relying on dubious sources, describing – in unison – the Syrian regime atrocities while nearly glorifying terrorists’ resistance.

Over the last few days, mainstream media have simultaneously turned their attention to the ongoing anti-terrorist operation in Eastern Ghouta, a militant-controlled suburb of Damascus, which is seeing a new wave of clashes between Syrian government forces and Islamist factions.

While the army aims to clear the area of such terrorist units as Jaysh al-Islam, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front), Ahrar al-Sham and Failaq al-Rahman, Western media, often relying on militant-embedded sources, continue to paint an ominous picture, in which the government troops are deliberately slaughtering civilians.

“Right now we see very concerted Western media attempt to paint the Syrian government as the bad guy, the evil, and giving breathing space for the terrorists who are having the last bastion,” Kaveh Afrasiabi, a former adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiation team, explained to RT. “The Syrian government has the legitimate security concerns because of the daily shelling of its capital city by the rebels.”

“A naive viewer might imagine that Assad was just bombing civilians for the hell of it because the jihadi fighters are totally absent from the picture. And the pictures are literally provided by the jihadists themselves,” Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria and Bahrain, told RT, referring to the controversial White Helmets, who have long been hailed by the mainstream western media as heroes. However, the UK-backed NGO has been plagued by allegations of having close ties with terrorist groups.

Before the Syrian government forces intensified operations against jihadist factions in the area, Russia had been trying to broker a deal with armed groups to stop using civilians as human shields and surrender their weapons. Moscow has also been working relentlessly to allow humanitarian aid in. On Thursday, however, Russia had to reject a Western-backed UN resolution for a 30-day ceasefire in Syria as “utopian,” with Russia’s envoy Vassily Nebenzia pointing out that the “propaganda-driven” approach to the coverage of the conflict was only encouraging militants to continue their armed provocations.

“As the saying goes, truth is the first casualty of war,” Afrasiabi laments. The New York Times on Tuesday, for instance, published a piece based on the information provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a one-man Britain-based war-monitoring group. The piece paints the Assad regime as pure evil, whose only intention is to butcher civilians. The British Guardian newspaper, meanwhile, went as far as to compare the civilian suffering in Eastern Ghouta to Bosnia’s Srebrenica.

Russia has also been repeatedly attacked for the failure of its de-escalation zone initiative and its support of Damascus. Together with Iran and Turkey, Russia is tasked with enforcing the ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, one of the de-escalation zones established as a result of the Astana talks in May 2017. Despite the ongoing armed provocations, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria enabled the militants to leave the area, but the proposal was rejected.

What is also being downplayed is the Syrian and Russian resolve to end the Ghouta crisis, similar to the one during the Battle of Aleppo, where special corridors were organized to evacuate civilians out of the city, before extending the offer to terrorists for a mass exodus. NYT and the Guardian are not the only western media sources to have shown bias in reporting the events in Eastern Ghouta. A number of experts have pointed out that the Western media coverage of the current events follows a pattern developed in covering the operation to liberate Aleppo, which ended in July 2016.

“We have seen this kind of atrocity level pulled over and over again a few months ago, with Aleppo for example,” Jim Jatras, political analyst, and media and government affairs specialist, told RT. “Every time the Al Qaeda linked groups are on the ropes and the Syrian army is on the verge of liberating territory, then we hear all these horror stories, some of which may have a basis in truth, some not, about how civilians are suffering but nothing on who the terrorists are who are controlling these areas and oppressing the people who live there.”

The Aleppo campaign, initially backed by Russian airstrikes, received mostly one-sided, negative coverage in the Western media, with reporters and politicians accusing Moscow of “war crimes” and causing a “humanitarian disaster,” despite the fact that Moscow and Damascus maintained a ‘no-fly zone’ over the city. The liberation of the city was presented as its “fall” and “destruction,” as media outlets chose footage of shelled-out buildings rather than scenes of Aleppo civilians celebrating in the streets. Eventually, that narrative fell apart as tens of thousands of refugees started returning to the city and rebuilding of ruined areas began.

Now the same tactic is being used by the Western media today. This week, CNN used a 15-year-old, Muhammad Najem, and selfie videos he posted on social media, to base their report on the bloody atrocities allegedly committed by the government forces in Damascus suburbs. “The children of Ghouta die every day by the bombing of the Assad regime and Russia,” Najem says, in a segment featured on CNN.

The Syrian boy with flawless English serves as a stark reminder of a seven-year-old Bana al-Abed, who became the “voice” of many civilians trapped under the government siege in Aleppo. While many had only fondness and concern for the Aleppo girl, to others her accounts raised doubt and were seen as a directed propaganda effort.

“We saw this very much with Aleppo. We saw the same kind of coverage from the Western media. Atrocities were being predicted and reported and it turned out that most of those, if not all of them, were actually false propaganda claims. And we are seeing the repeat of this situation again,” Charles Shoebridge, a security analyst and former UK army officer, pointed out.

In a stark contrast, any concern over civilians’ fate miraculously disappeared from Western media coverage during the US-led coalition’s ‘liberation’ of Raqqa and Mosul.

“There was actually no coverage of the situation of Raqqa and Mosul. There were occasional articles,” Shoebridge told RT. “The reason why these things are not being covered is because it is not conducive to supporting UK and US foreign policy which is, of course, still, even now, to destabilize and undermine the Assad government.”

“The Western media are so closely linked to information or misinformation coming out of their governments that it is really misleading the public in the Western countries,” Jim Jatras added.

Real images of destruction from Raqqa and Mosul were there for British and American media outlets to beat the drums of a humanitarian catastrophe. Yet most outlets stayed silent to the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Syrian and Iraqi cities by the US-led Inherent Resolve coalition. No objection was voiced to the lack of civilian evacuation or the refusal to negotiate a ceasefire with the hardcore Islamists holding civilians as human shields.

“There were no calls … for a ceasefire to take place” during the British and the American led bombardment of Mosul and of Raqqa, Shoebridge noted. “The US bombardment and sieges of these areas were causing immense suffering and loss of life among civilian populations.” Yet any remote calls to have a ceasefire so that civilians could leave the besieged cities were met with the response “no, this would help terrorists who are occupying that area,” Shoebridge added.

The same selective anti-Assad coverage is continuing in East Ghouta, where the Western media continues to neglect the atrocities committed by the jihadists in the region.

“What the media failed to point out also is that the Islamic State is one of the groups which hold Yarmuk camp, which is one corner of Ghouta, and then you have an affiliate of Al Qaeda which is holding another corner,” former ambassador Ford points out. “So these are really bad guys. Exactly the guys that were wrinkled out of Mosul and Raqqa, with many civilian casualties in the process.”

February 23, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

My First Day as CIA Director

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | February 22, 2018

Now that I have been nominated again – this time by author Paul Craig Roberts – to be CIA director, I am preparing to hit the ground running.

Ray McGovern

Last time my name was offered in nomination for the position – by The Nation publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel – I did not hold my breath waiting for a call from the White House. Her nomination came in the afterglow of my fortuitous, four-minute debate with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when I confronted him on his lies about the attack on Iraq, on May 4, 2006 on national TV. Since it was abundantly clear that Rumsfeld and I would not get along, I felt confident I had royally disqualified myself.

This time around, on the off-chance I do get the nod, I have taken the time to prepare the agenda for my first few days as CIA director. Here’s how Day One looks so far:

Get former National Security Agency Technical Director William Binney back to CIA to join me and the “handpicked” CIA analysts who, with other “handpicked” analysts (as described by former National Intelligence Director James Clapper on May 8, 2017) from the FBI and NSA, prepared the so-called Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Jan. 6, 2017. That evidence-impoverished assessment argued the case that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his minions “to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

When my predecessor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo invited Binney to his office on Oct. 24, 2017 to discuss cyber-attacks, he told Pompeo that he had been fed a pack of lies on “Russian hacking” and that he could prove it. Why Pompeo left that hanging is puzzling, but I believe this is the kind of low-hanging fruit we should pick pronto.

The low-calorie Jan. 6 ICA was clumsily cobbled together:

“We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence … used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

Binney and other highly experienced NSA alumni, as well as other members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), drawing on their intimate familiarity with how the technical systems and hacking work, have been saying for a year and a half that this CIA/FBI/NSA conclusion is a red herring, so to speak. Last summer, the results of forensic investigation enabled VIPS to apply the principles of physics and the known capacity of the internet to confirm that conclusion.

Oddly, the FBI chose not to do forensics on the so-called “Russian hack” of the Democratic National Committee computers and, by all appearances, neither did the drafters of the ICA.

Again, Binney says that the main conclusions he and his VIPS colleagues reached are based largely on principles of physics – simple ones like fluid dynamics. I want to hear what that’s all about, how that applies to the “Russian hack,” and hear what my own CIA analysts have to say about that.

I will have Binney’s clearances updated to remove any unnecessary barriers to a no-holds-barred discussion at a highly classified level. After which I shall have a transcript prepared, sanitized to protect sources and methods, and promptly released to the media.

Like Sisyphus Up the Media Mountain

At that point things are bound to get very interesting. Far too few people realize that they get a very warped view on such issues from the New York Times. And, no doubt, it would take some time, for the Times and other outlets to get used to some candor from the CIA, instead of the far more common tendentious leaks.  In any event, we will try to speak truth to the media – as well as to power.

I happen to share the view of the handful of my predecessor directors who believed we have an important secondary obligation to do what we possibly can to inform/educate the public as well as the rest of the government – especially on such volatile and contentious issues like “Russian hacking.”

What troubles me greatly is that the NYT and other mainstream print and TV media seem to be bloated with the thin gruel-cum-Kool Aid they have been slurping at our CIA trough for a year and a half; and then treating the meager fare consumed as some sort of holy sacrament. That goes in spades for media handling of the celebrated ICA of Jan. 6, 2017 cobbled together by those “handpicked” analysts from CIA, FBI, and NSA. It is, in all candor, an embarrassment to the profession of intelligence analysis and yet, for political reasons, it has attained the status of Holy Writ.

The Paper of (Dubious) Record

I recall the banner headline spanning the top of the entire front page of the NYT on Jan. 7, 2017: “Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says;” and the electronic version headed “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds.” I said to myself sarcastically, “Well there you go!  That’s exactly what Mrs. Clinton – not to mention the NY Times, the Washington Post and The Establishment – have been saying for many months.”

Buried in that same edition of the Times was a short paragraph by Scott Shane: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. That is a significant omission.”

Omission? No hard evidence? No problem. The publication of the Jan. 6, 2017 assessment got the ball rolling. And Democrats like Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, were kicking the ball hard down the streets of Washington. On Jan. 25, 2017, I had a chance to confront Schiff personally about the lack of evidence — something that even Obama had acknowledged just before slipping out the door. I think our two-minute conversation speaks volumes.

Now I absolutely look forward to dealing with Adam Schiff from my new position as CIA director. I will ask him to show me the evidence of “Russian hacking” that he said he could not show me on Jan. 25, 2017 – on the chance his evidence includes more than reports from the New York Times.


Intelligence analysts put great weight, of course, on sources. The authors of the lede, banner-headlined NYT article of Jan. 7, 2017 were Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger; Sanger has had a particularly checkered career, while always landing on his feet. Despite his record of parroting CIA handouts (or perhaps partly because of it), Sanger is now the NYT’s chief Washington correspondent.

Those whose memories go back more than 15 years may recall his promoting weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as flat fact. In a July 29, 2002 article co-written with Them Shanker, for example, Iraq’s (non-existent) “weapons of mass destruction” appear no fewer than seven times as flat fact.

More instructive still, in May 2005, when first-hand documentary evidence from the now-famous “Downing Street Memorandum” showed that President George W. Bush had decided by early summer 2002 to attack Iraq, the NYT ignored it for six weeks until David Sanger rose to the occasion with a tortured report claiming just the opposite. The title given his article of June 13 2005 was “Prewar British Memo Says War Decision Wasn’t Made.”

Against this peculiar reporting record, I was not inclined to take at face value the Jan. 7, 2017 report he co-authored with Michael D. Shear – “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds.”

Nor am I inclined to take seriously former National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s stated views on the proclivity of Russians to be, well, just really bad people — like it’s in their genes. I plan to avail myself of the opportunity to discover whether intelligence analysts who labored under his “aegis” were infected by his quaint view of the Russians.

I shall ask any of the “handpicked” analysts who specialize in analysis of Russia (and, hopefully, there are at least a few): Do you share Clapper’s view, as he explained it to NBC’s Meet the Press on May 30, 2017, that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever”? I truly do not know what to expect by way of reply.

End of Day One

In sum, my priority for Day One is to hear both sides of the story regarding “Russian hacking” with all cards on the table. All cards. That means no questions are out of order, including what, if any, role the “Steele dossier” may have played in the preparation of the Jan. 6, 2017 assessment.

I may decide to seek some independent, disinterested technical input, as well. But it should not take me very long to figure out which of the two interpretations of alleged “Russian hacking” is more straight-up fact-based and unbiased. That done, in the following days I shall brief both the Chair, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and ranking member Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee, as well as the Chair and ranking member of its counterpart in the Senate. I will then personally brief the NYT’s David Sanger and follow closely what he and his masters decide to do with the facts I present.

On the chance that the Times and other media might decide to play it straight, and that the “straight” diverges from the prevailing, Clapperesque narrative of Russian perfidy, the various mainstream outlets will face a formidable problem of their own making. Mark Twain put it this way: “It is easier to fool people than it is to convince them they have been fooled.”

And that will probably be enough for Day One.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Savior in inner-city Washington.  He served 30 years as an U.S. Army Intelligence and CIA analyst, and in retirement co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Steele an Election

Christopher Steele’s Other Job: He Ran an Info Op Against the United States

By Peter Van Buren | We Meant Well | February 18, 2108

Christopher Steele did far more than simply provide an opposition research dossier to the Democratic National Committee, his Job One. As a skilled intelligence officer, Steele ran a full-spectrum information operation against the United States, aided either willingly or unwittingly by the FBI. His second job was the more important one: get his information into the most effective hands to influence the United States in the most significant way.

To understand how effective Steele has been in his op, we need to understand he had two jobs. The first was to create the dossier. The second job was to disseminate the dossier. Steele had to get the information into the most effective hands to influence the United States in the most significant way.

Job One: Create the Dossier

Job One was to create the opposition research. “Oppo” is not a neutral gathering of facts, but a search for negative information that can be used against an opponent. The standards — vetting — vary with the intended use. Some info might be published with documents and verification. Some leads discovered might be planted in hopes a journalist will uncover more “on her own,” creating credibility. Some likely near-falsehoods might be handed out to sleazy media in hopes more legit media will cross report — the New York Times might not initially run a story about a sexual dalliance itself, but it will run a story saying “Buzzfeed reports a sexual dalliance involving…”

Oppo research follows no rules; this is not peer-reviewed stuff that has to pass an ethics board. One goes out with bags of money shouting “Anyone got dirt on our opponent? We’re paying, but only for dirt!” You look for people who didn’t like a deal, people with an axe to grind, the jilted ex-wife, not the happy current one. So to say oppo research might be biased is to miss the point.

You’re not required to look too far under a rock that hides something naughty — stop when you’ve got what you came for. It all depends how the information will be deployed. The less sure you are about the veracity of the information you acquire the more you need that info to be inherently palatable; it has to feel right to the intended audience. The old political joke is you need to find a live boy in bed, or a dead girl, to really smear an opponent with a sex scandal. So if you’re going to run with info that supports what the public already sort of believes, the standards are lower.

What Does the Dossier Say?

Turning to Christopher Steele’s dossier, it looks like he read the same espionage textbook as everyone else. So while it would have been a game-changer had Steele found unambiguous evidence of financial transactions between Trump and the Russian government, that would have required real evidence. Steele’s sources claim money changed hands, but never provide him with proof. On dossier (page 20) one source goes as far as to say no documentary evidence exists.

That means instead of the complex financing scams you might expect out of Trump, the big takeaway from the dossier is the pee tape, sources claiming the Russians have video to blackmail Trump at any moment. The thing reaches almost the level of parody, because not only does the dossier claim Trump likes fetish sex, the fetish sex occurred in the context of an anti-Obama act (Trump supposedly for his pleasure employed prostitutes to urinate on a bed Obama once slept in.) As for other sex parties Trump supposedly participated in, the dossier notes all direct witnesses were “silenced.” You couldn’t do better if you made it all up.

In fact, the thing reads very much like what lay people imagine spies come up with. In real intelligence work, documents showing transactions from cash to commercial paper to gold run through a Cayman Islands’ bank are much more effective than dirty video; the latter can be denied, and may or may not even matter to a public already bored by boasts of pussy grabbing and rawdog sex with porn stars. The former will show up in court as part of a racketeering and tax evasion charge that dead solid perfect sends people to jail. Intelligence officers who pay out sources maintain meticulous receipts; you think their own agencies trust them with bags of cash? And in the dark world, prostitutes don’t need to be “silenced.” They have no credibility in most people’s’ minds to begin with, and a trail of bodies just attracts attention. And unlike Steele’s product, real intel reporting is full of qualifiers, maybes, liklies and so forth, not a laundry list of certainties, because you know your own sources have an agenda. The dossier is also short of the kind of verifiable details of specific dates and places you’d expect. It is a collection of unverifiable assertions by second-hand sources, not evidence. Steele is a smart man, an experienced intelligence officer, who knew exactly what he was writing — a dossier that will read true to the rubes.

So it is not surprising to date there has been no public corroboration of anything in the dossier. If significant parts of the dossier could be proven, there would be grounds for impeachment with no further work needed. At least one fact has been disproven –Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, produced his passport to rebut the dossier’s claim that he had secret meetings in Prague with a Russian official.

Job Two: Run the Info Op, Place the Dossier

Steele excelled at turning his dossier into a full-spectrum information operation, what some might call information warfare. This is what separates his work creating the dossier (which a decent journalist with friends in Russia could have done) from his work infiltrating the dossier into the highest reaches of American government and political society. For that, you need a real pro, an intelligence officer with decades of experience running just that kind of op. You want foreign interference in the 2016 election? Let’s take a closer look at Christopher Steele.

Steele’s skill is revealed by the Nunes and Grassley memos, which show he used the same set of information in the dossier to create a collaboration loop, every intelligence officer’s dream — his own planted information used to surreptitiously confirm itself, right up to the point where the target country’s own intelligence service re-purposed it as evidence in the FISA court.

Steele admits he briefed journalists off-the-record starting in summer and autumn 2016. His most significant hit came when journalist Michael Isikoff broke the story of Trump associate Carter Page’s alleged connections to Russia. Isikoff did not cite the dossier or Steele as sources, and in fact denied they were when questioned.

Isikoff’s story didn’t just push negative information about Trump into the public consciousness. It claimed U.S. intel officials were probing ties between a Trump adviser and the Kremlin, adding credibility; the feds themselves felt the info was worthwhile! Better yet for Steele, Isikoff claimed the information came from a “well-placed Western intelligence source,” suggesting it originated from a third-party and was picked up by Western spies instead of being written by one. Steele also placed articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, Mother Jones, and others.

At the same time, Steele’s info reached influential people like John McCain, who could then pick up a newspaper and believe he was seeing the “secret” info from Steele confirmed independently by an experienced journalist. And how did McCain first learn about Steele’s work? At a conference in Canada, via Andrew Wood, former British Ambassador in Moscow. Where was Wood working at the time? Orbis, Christopher Steele’s research firm.

A copy of the dossier even found its way to the State Department, an organization which normally should have been far removed from U.S. election politics. A contact within State passed information from Clinton associates Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer (both men played also active roles behind in the scenes feeding Clinton dubious information on Libya) to and from Steele. The Grassley memo suggests there was a second Steele document, in addition to the dossier, already shared with State and the FBI but not made public.

The Gold Medal: Become the Source of Someone Else’s Investigation

While seeding his dossier in the media and around Washington, Steele was also meeting in secret with the FBI (he claims he did not inform Fusion GPS, his employer), via an FBI counterintelligence handler in Rome. Steele began feeding the FBI in July 2016 with updates into the fall, apparently in the odd guise of simply a deeply concerned, loyal British subject. “This is something of huge significance, way above party politics,” Steele commented as to his motives.

The FBI, in the process of working Steele, would have likely characterized him as a “source,” technically a “extra-territorial confidential human source.” That meant the dossier’s claims appeared to come from the ex-MI6 officer with the good reputation, not second-hand from who knows who in Russia (the FBI emphasized Steele’s reputation when presenting the dossier to the FISC.) Think of it as a kind of money laundering which, like that process, helped muddy the real source of the goods.

The FBI used the Steele dossier to apply for a FISA court surveillance warrant against Carter Page. The FBI also submitted Isikoff’s story as corroborating evidence, without explaining the article and the dossier were effectively one in the same. In intelligence work, this is known as cross-contamination, an amateur error. The FBI however, according to the Nunes memo, did not tell the FISA court the Steele dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee as commissioned opposition research, nor did they tell the court the Isikoff article presented as collaborating evidence was in fact based on the same dossier.

Steele reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him $50,000 to continue his “research,” though the deal is believed to have fallen through after the dossier became public (though an intelligence community source tells The American Conservative Steele did in fact operate as a fully paid FBI asset.) Along the way the FBI also informed Steele of their separate investigation into Trump staffer George Papadopoulos, a violation of security and a possible tainting of Steele’s research going forward.

Gold Medal Plus: Collaborate Your Own Information

The Nunes memo also showed then-associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr back-channeled additional material from Steele into the DOJ while working with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and her replacement, Rod Rosenstein. Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned the dossier, on Steele’s project. Ohr’s wife would be especially valuable in that she would be able to clandestinely supply info to corraborate what Steele told the FBI and, via her husband, know to tailor what she passed to the questions DOJ had. The FBI did not disclose the role of Ohr’s wife, who speaks Russian and has previously done contract work for the CIA, to the FISA court.

Ohr’s wife only began work for Fusion GPS in September/October 2016, as the FBI sought the warrant against Page based on the Steele dossier. Ohr’s wife taking a new job with Fusion GPS at that critical juncture screams of the efforts of an experienced intelligence officer looking to create yet another pipeline inside, essentially his own asset.

Steele’s Success, With a Little Help From His Friends

All talk of Russia aside, it is difficult to find evidence of a foreigner who played a more significant role in the election than Christopher Steele. Steele took a dossier paid for by one party and drove it deep into the United States. Steele’s work formed in part the justification for a FISA warrant to spy on a Trump associate, the end game of which has not yet been written.

Steele maneuvered himself from paid opposition researcher to clandestine source for the FBI. Steele then may have planted the spouse of a senior DOJ employee as a second clandestine source to move more information into DOJ. In the intelligence world, that is as good as it gets; via two seemingly independent channels you are controlling the opponent’s information cycle.

Steele further manipulated the American media to have his information amplified and given credibility. By working simultaneously as both an anonymous and a cited source, he got his same info out as if it was coming from multiple places.

There is informed speculation Steele was more than a source for the FBI, and actually may have been tasked and paid to search for specific information, essentially working as a double agent for the FBI and the DNC. Others have raised questions about Steele’s status as “retired” from British intelligence, as the lines among working for MI6, working at MI6, and working with MI6 are often times largely a matter of semantics. Unless Steele wanted to burn all of his contacts within British intelligence, it is highly unlikely he would insert himself into an American presidential campaign without at least informing his old workmates, if not seeking tacit permission (for the record, Steele’s old boss at MI6 calls the dossier credible; an intelligence community source tells The American Conservative Steele shared all of his information with MI6.) It is unclear if the abrupt January 2017 resignation of Robert Hannigan, the head of Britain’s NSA-like Government Communications Headquarters, is related in any way to Steele’s work becoming public.

As for the performance of the DOJ/FBI, we do not have enough information to judge whether they were incompetent, or simply willing partners to what Steele was up to, using him as a handy pretext to open legal surveillance on someone inside the Trump circle (surveillance on Page may have also monitored Steve Bannon.)

How to Steele an Election

The Washington Post characterized Steele as “struggling to navigate dual obligations — to his private clients, who were paying him to help Clinton win, and to a sense of public duty born of his previous life.” The Washington Post has no idea how intelligence officers work. Their job is to befriend and engage the target to carry out the goals of their employer. When they do it right, the public summation is a line like the Post offered; you never even knew you were being used. In the macho world of intelligence, the process is actually described more crudely, having to do with using enough lubrication so the target didn’t even feel a rough thing pushed up a very sensitive place.

Steele played the FBI while the FBI thought they were playing him. Or the other way around, because everyone was looking the other way. Steele ran a classic info op against the United States, getting himself inside the cycle as a clean source. Robert Mueller should be ashamed of himself if he uses any of Steele’s dossier, or any information obtained via that dossier. That’s where our democracy stands at the moment.

February 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-CIA operative says US has long meddled in elections, but it’s OK since they are ‘god cops’

RT | February 18, 2018

In an article published in the New York Times on Saturday, former CIA officers and several researchers, who have been studying covert US intelligence operations for years, say that the while methods allegedly used by Russians to meddle into the US elections might slightly differ from the old school CIA operations overseas, there is nothing in the allegations against Russians that Americans haven’t done themselves.

“If you ask an intelligence officer, did the Russians break the rules or do something bizarre, the answer is no, not at all,” retired CIA veteran Steven Hall told NYT’s Scott Shane.

Hall, who left his job as CIA Chief of Russian Operations in 2015 after 30 years of service, noted that the US has never shunned attempting to meddle in other countries’ elections.

Saying that the CIA had “absolutely” engaged in such operations in the past, Hall added that he hopes “we keep doing it.”

Thirteen Russian nationals and three entities were indicted on Friday as part of the special FBI counsel Robert Mueller’s lingering probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential elections, and collusion between Moscow and US President Donald Trump’s campaign. As proof to support either of the two allegations is still scant, the Russians listed in the indictment were accused of waging “information warfare against the United States of America,” including by sowing discord on social media with “divisive” posts on Facebook and Twitter.

While the social media boom is a recent phenomenon, the US intelligence has a long record of weaponizing information, albeit in a more conventional form, Loch Johnson, a scholar at the University of Georgia, who has been investigating the CIA since the 1970s, told the Times.

“We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners — you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash,” Johnson said, recounting that in the late 1980s he was told by CIA operatives that they used to plant reports that fit the US agenda or bluntly fake news in foreign newspapers by the dozen. The number of such daily “insertions” ran in as many as 70 to 80 publications, he recounted.

But when the US does it, it’s for the greater good, the scholar and the CIA officers claim.

Likening the American operations to what Russia is accused of, “is like saying cops and bad guys are the same because they both have guns — the motivation matters,” Hall said. Because, just like the bloody wars the US is waging around the world, it is being done for the sake of democracy.

Contrary to the supposed Russian onslaught on the American democracy, which, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, did not affect the outcome of the presidential elections, some US meddling did lead to actual changes of power across Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

According to a survey by Researcher Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy, the US meddled in elections at least 81 times from 1946 to 2000, including in Yugoslavia in the 2000 against Slobodan Milosevic.

The number, however, does not include the military coups orchestrated by the US, or regime changes as a result of the US interventions, some of which had precious little to do with democracy, such as the rise of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet after the violent overthrow of President Salvador Allende in 1973. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the US did not give up on its interventionist policy. The most recent examples include the US-led NATO intervention in Libya that brought down strongman Muammar Gaddafi, but failed to deliver a semblance of democracy. The war-ravaged country is being torn between three different power centers seven years after the military incursion.

The US role in the coup in Ukraine, which paved way for bloodshed in the country’s east, has been widely reported. Last year, former US Vice President Joe Biden admitted in his memoir that he demanded former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich resign in 2014, telling him that his “time was over.”

Biden also boasted that he played a part in the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor during a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk in March 2016.

Read more:

Venezuela’s Maduro may be kicked out by own military & get ‘nice’ exile in Cuba, Tillerson hints

‘Democrats & MSM wreaked far more havoc than Russians’ – White House spokesman

February 17, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments