At moments like these, when every good responsible and enlightened liberal is recognizing the need to destroy the world in order to save it, by getting World War III started with Russia before Trump can move in and damage anything, I believe it is important to remember a few facts that will strengthen our resolve:
The oligarch who owns the Washington Post has CIA contracts worth at least twice what he paid to buy the Washington Post, thus making the Washington Post the most reliable authority on the CIA we have ever, ever had.
When the CIA concludes things in secret that are reported to the Washington Post by anonymous sources the reliability of the conclusions is heightened exponentially.
Phrases like “individuals with connections to the Russian government” are simply shorthand for “Vladimir Putin” because the Washington Post has too much good taste to actually print that name.
Claims to know extremely difficult things to know, like the motivations of said individuals, are essentially fact, given what we know of the CIA’s near perfect record over the decades.
Getting this wrong, much less questioning something or asking to see any evidence, would endanger us all and threaten innocent children with having false statements made about them in a Russian accent.
The fact that the group of people producing our information is referred to as “the Intelligence Community” means it is intelligent and communal, while the fact that people within that community refused to go along with its claims or allow them to become a so-called national intelligence estimate means that there are traitors right in the heart of our holy warriors’ sanctuary.
If you doubt that the CIA is always, always right you need only focus your attention on the fact that there are Republicans questioning these claims, including Republicans who are terrible people, on top of which Donald Trump is a racist, sexist pig.
Good people are loyal Democrats, and when the Democrats did the thing that we now know was revealed by Putin in order to make Trump president (namely cheating its politically and morally superior candidate out of its nomination) that was done as a generous sacrifice for us and our children.
Claims made without public evidence have never turned out to be false or exaggerated in the slightest in the past, certainly not in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Vietnam, Nicaragua, or any other part of the earth.
When I looked into every past war and discovered that they were always preceded by lies, it was because I had secret psychic information that at some future date Vladimir would reward me. I should wait patiently for his payment and then report it to the CIA/Washington Post.
In recent months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have sought access to private data on the cell phones of two journalists. Such incidents are offensive because they threaten the independence of the press and pose specific risks to confidential sources. This government overreach also highlights how weak legal protections at the border for digital devices threatens the privacy of all travelers to and from the U.S., including Americans.
In October 2016, CBP airport agents denied Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou entry into the country, after detaining him for over six hours and seizing his three cell phones. According to Mr. Ou’s ACLU attorney, “When the officers returned the phones to him several hours later, it was evident that their SIM cards had been temporarily removed because tamper tape covering the cards had been destroyed or altered.” Similarly, in July, CBP airport agents detained U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter Maria Abi-Habib for an hour and a half. When they asked for her cell phones, she refused and referred them to the newspaper’s lawyers. Fortunately, the agents eventually released her without seizing or searching her devices.
Regular travelers are also at risk. We wrote an amicus brief in the case of Ali Saboonchi, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Iran whose cell phones and flash drive were seized at the U.S.-Canadian border after returning from a vacation to Niagara Falls. Mr. Saboonchi had been under investigation for violating the trade embargo with Iran and federal agents took advantage of his presence at the border to invoke the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment generally requires the government to obtain a warrant from a judge, based on probable cause that evidence of a crime will be found, before seizing and searching personal property. Thus, if federal agents had wanted to confiscate and rifle through Mr. Saboonchi’s digital devices while he was at home in Maryland, they would have needed to obtain a probable cause warrant to do so.
Decades ago, as we discussed in our brief, the Supreme Court created the border search exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, permitting government agents to search travelers’ luggage, vehicles or persons without a warrant and almost always without any individualized suspicion of wrongdoing.
The Supreme Court made clear, however, that a warrantless and suspicionless search must be for a discrete public interest purpose. Should a search instead be for the purpose of ordinary law enforcement, the government must first secure a probable cause warrant. For example, the government may set up a warrantless and suspicionless vehicle checkpoint to find drunk drivers for the narrow purpose of roadway safety (notwithstanding the fact that drunk drivers may be arrested and prosecuted)—but the government may not set up a warrantless and suspicionless vehicle checkpoint to find illegal narcotics, which amounts to uncovering “evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.”
Thus the Supreme Court created the border search exception only for the narrow purposes of enforcing the immigration and customs laws, including ensuring that duties are paid on imported goods and that harmful people (e.g., terrorists) and harmful goods such as weapons, drugs, and infested agricultural products do not enter the country.
As we discussed in our Saboonchi brief, there is serious doubt as to whether searches generally of cell phones and similar digital devices meaningfully advance the narrow purposes of the border search exception so as to justify the categorical rule that no warrant or suspicion is required, especially in light of the significant privacy interests at stake.
The seizure and search of Mr. Saboonchi’s digital devices specifically was egregious because CBP agents used the border search exception as a loophole around the general Fourth Amendment rule. CBP agents were not acting to enforce the immigration and customs laws—but instead used Mr. Saboonchi’s presence at the U.S.-Canadian border as an excuse to conduct a warrantless search for the purpose of advancing a preexisting law enforcement investigation. Similarly, CBP agents seemed to use the journalists’ presence at international airports as an excuse to gather intelligence. CBP agents interrogated Mr. Ou about the “extremists” he had come into contact with as a journalist. And as Ms. Abi-Habib recounted, the CBP agent who asked for her cell phones stated, “We want to collect information,” presumably related to her foreign reporting.
Warrantless and suspicionless searches of digital devices at the border (or the functional equivalent of the border, such as international airports and other ports of entry) are particularly invasive given the vast amounts of personal information they can store or connect to in the “cloud”—beyond what any piece of traditional luggage can hold.
Courts have recognized the significant privacy interests in today’s digital devices, placing the law related to the border search exception in flux.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in U.S. v. Cotterman (2013) held that border agents needed to have reasonable suspicion—somewhere between no suspicion and probable cause—before they could conduct a “forensic” search, aided by sophisticated software, of the defendant’s laptop. Unfortunately, the court held that a manual search of a digital device is “routine” and so the standard border search rule applies (i.e., no warrant or suspicion is needed)—even though the privacy interests in any given device do not change.
The Supreme Court held in Riley v. California (2014) that the police may not invoke another exception to the warrant requirement, the search-incident-to-arrest exception, to search a cell phone possessed by an arrestee—instead, the government needs a probable cause warrant. The Court stated, “Our holding, of course, is not that the information on a cell phone is immune from search; it is instead that a warrant is generally required before such a search, even when a cell phone is seized incident to arrest.” The Riley Court focused on the vast amount of personal information stored on or accessible via modern devices: “The United States asserts that a search of all data stored on a cell phone is ‘materially indistinguishable’ from searches of these sorts of physical items. That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon… Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse.”
While Riley was not a border search case, the Court’s ruling was reasonably broad, thus we argued in our Saboonchi brief that the border search exception should not apply to cell phones and similar digital devices.
In light of these decisions, CBP’s 2009 policy related to searching digital devices at the border is woefully out of date and should be updated.
However, we are eager to further the law in this area—to make it clear that the Riley decision applies at the border. So we are interested in hearing about instances where CBP agents search cell phones, laptops, tablets, or similar digital devices without consent (including whether they access “cloud” content such as social media profiles), either manually or with the aid of software, either at the land borders or following international flights and cruises.
In the meantime, to protect your data when traveling consider some of our quick tech tips, our longer border search whitepaper, our more recent set of tech tips related to encountering the police during protests, and our very comprehensive guide to Surveillance Self-Defense.
The lists of alleged “fake news” sites being disseminated by the Washington Post and other corporate media outlets as well as bureaucrats at the US Department of State are a direct threat to continued freedom of speech in the United States, US analysts told Sputnik.
According to Beau Grosscup, California State University Professor Emeritus of Political Science, the lists of fake new promoted by The Washington Post and State Department “are direct threats to free speech and critical thinking and independent journalism.”
On Thursday, defeated US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton warned about the dangers of fake news. In a call for censorship, Clinton insisted that leaders in both the private and public sectors needed to aggressively expand their efforts to crack down on alleged fake news sites — necessarily involving independent and alternative media — in order to protect democracy in the United States.
US analysts reacted with alarm to possible congressional allocations for State Department and other bureaucrats to determine what is fake news, especially given the fact that the now discredited corporate media, in collusion with the establishment, have knowingly spread fake news for years.
Grosscup pointed out that the US corporate mainstream media had systematically disseminated fake news on behalf of both, the US government and big business for generations.
“As powerful corporate and government institutions long in the business of ‘fake news’ on behalf of powerful people and institutions, the hypocrisy and political nature of their effort [to accuse independent news sites] is self-evident,” Grosscup said.
The US government and major corporations had constantly sought to discredit or make invisible “non-establishment” news outlets and investigative journalists especially of the political Left, Grosscup recalled.
The new blacklists went one step further in narrowing the scope of “responsible journalism” by institutional fiat, Grosscup explained.
“Unlike fake news lists produced by individual citizens, due to their corporate/government power base, these essentially secret ‘official black lists’ have instant credibility to many citizens,” he warned.
The new blacklists now being circulated were products of powerful self-anointed guardians of constitutional freedoms and so-called “responsible journalism” who had long sought to control critical discourse, Grosscup observed.
“Their effect is immediate and unless challenged, will further escalate the assault on what is left of North American democracy,” he predicted.
Pittsburgh University Professor of International Affairs Michael Brenner recommended that clear thinking and sensible US policy on the fake news issue should be based on some simple premises:
“Social media, in functional terms, are no different from the telephone. They are a neutral instrument that should be treated as a public utility,” Brener stated.
Grosscup recommended that technical means should in no way be compromised because of its potential use in criminal activity.
He also noted that communications between two or more parties were no business of anyone, least of which State Department or other government bureaucrats, except those participating — unless they were illegal.
“If party ‘X’ doesn’t like the communications they receive, they should have the means to shut it off [through] unlisted phone numbers [or] putting down the receiver,” Brenner said.
It was up to public authorities to determine whether illegal activity had taken place — not Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg or any other party, Grosscup cautioned.
Over the past 48 hours, up to 50,000 people have been evacuated from eastern Aleppo, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov has reported.
“More than 20,000 residents left eastern Aleppo in the first part of Saturday, and 1,217 militants laid down their weapons,” Konashenkov said.
“The Russian Center for Reconciliation, through humanitarian corridors near Karim El-Hun and Mahayar, has organized the evacuation of civilians from the eastern parts of Aleppo to the safe areas of the city,” Konashenkov added.
“We warn terrorists and militants of the so-called ‘moderate opposition,’ and also their patrons: Do not attempt any provocations, especially attacks on civilians leaving through humanitarian corridors,” the Russian Defense Ministry statement says.
Konashenkov also addressed those who, over the past few months, have declared their readiness to send humanitarian aid to Aleppo.
“Representatives of the US, UK, France, Canada, the European Union, and international organizations: Over the past two days, nearly 50,000 civilians have been evacuated by the Russian Reconciliation Center from the eastern parts of Aleppo. They are in need of the humanitarian assistance you promised. It is time to check the validity of your intentions.”
The statement added that the Syrian government now controls 93 percent of Aleppo, and the civilians who exited eastern Aleppo have been placed in special humanitarian centers where they are provided with hot food and medical help.
The Russian Reconciliation Center is monitoring the evacuation of civilians from the blocked districts round-the-clock with the use of drones.
Earlier this week, Moscow slammed a statement by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who said the EU was the only party providing aid to Syria.
“It’s outrageous twisting of facts which ignores what Russia has been doing for a long time,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Russia, “unlike other international players, has been actively supplying thousands of tons of humanitarian aid to various regions across Syria, including the liberated areas in eastern Aleppo, at the risk of Russian military lives.
“If the high representative [Mogherini] means providing assistance to terrorists and extremists, then we don’t participate in this, indeed,” the statement added.
Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman claimed that Russia was blocking aid intended for Aleppo’s civilian population.
“The Syrian regime and their influencers [Russia, among others] are preventing aid” from reaching the city, the Daily Mail quoted her as saying.
“It seems that the UK government has lost an objective view of what is happening in Syria, including Aleppo, due to Russophobia,” Konashenkov responded, noting that the UK has not sent “a single gram of flour, any medicine or blankets to help” civilians in Aleppo during the entire Syrian conflict.
“If the UK government really wants to send humanitarian aid to residents in the eastern neighborhoods [of Aleppo], it has all the conditions for doing this, just tell us where it [the aid] has been held up,” he added.
PCB pollution is in “every waterway in the state,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said as he announced a lawsuit against Monsanto. It is the first time the agricultural biotech giant has ever been sued by a state.
Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been at the heart of multiple lawsuits brought against the multinational agrochemical corporation Monsanto by Seattle and Spokane, Washington, as well as cities in California and Oregon. However, this Thursday marked the first time a state government has sued the company over the potentially carcinogenic chemicals.
The lawsuit, which seeks monetary restitution for damages and cleanup caused by the use of PCBs, was filed in King County Superior Court. Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) and the state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson jointly announced the lawsuit in a press conference, claiming that Monsanto knew for years that it was polluting bays, lakes and rivers when it used the chemicals in coolants, hydraulic fluids, paints and sealants, Associated Press reported.
A win for the state could potentially reap hundreds of millions of dollars from Monsanto as well as two subsidiaries, Solutia Inc. and Pharmacia LLC.
Monsanto quit using PCBs when Congress banned them in 1979, but many say the damage had already been done and the chemicals’ impact are still felt today. From 1935 to 1979, Monsanto was the only company to produce PCBs, described by Ferguson as “one of the most pervasive pollutants in history,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
Inslee called the chemicals “omnipresent and terrifically toxic,” adding that “one of the highest recorded [PCB concentrations] for any place on Earth” was in Washington’s southern resident orca population, according to the Post-Intelligencer.
The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies PCBs as a likely human carcinogen that also pose a risk of severe damage to the endocrine, immune, nervous and reproductive systems. Washington state’s Department of Health posted 13 different advisories against fish consumption due to risks of PCB pollution. Seattle’s Duwamish River is an EPA Superfund cleanup site, and one of its hazardous contaminants is PCB.
“Monsanto is responsible for producing a chemical that is so widespread in our environment that it appears virtually everywhere we look – in our waterways, in people and in fish – at levels that can impact our health,” Inslee said at the Thursday press conference, the Post-Intelligencer reported.
During the presser, Ferguson reportedly quoted from an internal Monsanto memo from 1937, which acknowledged lengthy exposure to PCB vapors having “systemic toxic effects.” Ferguson cited other records as well, charging that the corporation hid this sort of information from the public even though it knew of global PCB pollution in the 1960s.
There is no doubt that the 2016 Presidential election may ultimately be declared the most divisive and the most problematic election in American history, indeed the beginning of an unwelcome but perhaps necessary watershed event.
As the 2016 election approached, the importance of the Electoral College was never an unknown obscurity of American politics. Everyone knew the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Certainly that fact should have been of uppermost importance in the HRC and Trump campaigns. As should be completely obvious, a campaign based on reaching that Electoral College number is a very different campaign than one conducted simply to achieve the highest total of popular votes. That is Lesson #1 in Elementary Presidential Campaign Organizing 101 but HRC never grasped that she could not manipulate the final result, whatever the outcome.
My first indication that there would be an ultra-upset with the results was a very late election evening call from an east coast Dem-Lib friend who had supported Bernie – sobbing and wailing; at times it was difficult to understand her; Initially I thought she had tragically lost a member of her family, perhaps the family dog had been hit by a car. “What is happening to our country? I can’t believe it,” she cried. She was inconsolably distraught that the nation was about to be taken over by gangs of the indescribable ‘deplorable’ type running wild through the streets; setting cars on fire, blocking traffic, burning the American flag, breaking store windows and causing general mayhem while committing acts of civil unrest and even threatening Constitutional order.
Well, she was correct; some of that happened but it was not the deplorables who took to the streets, gloating in triumph or taunting the losers with defeat. To consider the anti Trump street protests as ‘resistance’ may be more about wishful thinking since they were clearly orchestrated by Soros-sponsored groups like MoveOn.org which will continue their ‘group think’ campaign to manipulate a public response to The Donald.
Like many of us during our voting years, there has been no candidate whom we truly believed would make a Great President. Many of us have spent a decade or two of disillusionment on election night and yet our inner Snowflakes never cried, spun off into hysterics nor did most of us ever have the luxury of having a tantrum or an emotional breakdown. Disappointment yes – like when Ralph lost the 2000 election and then again in 2004. What was wrong with the country? Why would anyone vote for a Democratic party that had dismantled welfare reform, throwing single moms and their kids off their monthly pittance and do nothing to initiate a modern day Reconstruction for the inner cities? Why would anyone vote for a Democrat who was, at best, an undercover Republicrat? Why couldn’t the rest of the country see through the partisan platitudes and lies?
If the response to Trump’s election had been spontaneous and independent uprisings as acts of defiance, the opposition would be validated as authentic and powerful glimmers of a true democratic movement. Unfortunately, they are more reminiscent of the coordinated Color campaigns that have taken place around the globe with one goal in mind – regime change.
It has been stunning to observe the outpouring of easily-led, well-meaning adolescents who continue to be betrayed by Bernie, the Senate’s new Outreach Chair as well as adult Dem-Libs convinced of their own superiority that they know best for every other American and who yet believe themselves to be tolerant and respectful of differences.
To understand that the street protests were coordinated, predetermined efforts rather than spontaneous, instinctive events is one thing (authentic taking-to-the-streets response are the backbone of democracy), but then to witness the emotional, cultural breakdown of a weeping, traumatized generation with an inability to cope with reality, their immediate environment or life’s vagaries is more than worrisome. The videos of students in need of play doh, arts and craft classes, group counseling, excused absence from class, coloring books and safe spaces are indicative of a coddled generation sheltered from the ‘real’ feelings of failure and pain and with little developed sense of self-reliance. Have we created a generation raised with an expectation that they earned a soccer trophy for losing and deserve the latest cd and the newest digital toy at their fingertips.
Will this be a generation with the fortitude, the intellect and the inner core of strength to some day take the reins of government or, in the meantime, to stand up in a powerful way against the established order or will they crumple when truly confronted with the brick-wall of opposition to their egalitarian ideals.
So far, from what we have seen, protest violence, albeit a minority, has been a response which begs the question of who is committing the violence? Is there an SDS off shoot on the horizon or is there an undercurrent of something more sinister?
To those who see Trump’s election as a dire misdirection for the country and that all he represents as objectionable (and yes, many of his Cabinet appointments are objectionable but then some of us elders felt the same about Obama’s cabinet), then man the barricades and dig in with some strategic thinking; preferably not at the knee of MoveOn or other oligarch funded ‘non-profits’ which have their own agenda to control a protest movement.
A Constitutional response is that this is what Election Day is all about and that, like it or not, Donald Trump is the democratically elected President and who can forget as HRC so eloquently put it that whoever does not accept election results is a “direct threat to our democracy.” Et tu, Hillary? As a refresher, we have an Electoral College process to protect the concept of “one person, one vote;” that is a vote in Los Angeles is no more important than a vote in Wood River, Illinois and the transparent efforts to delegitimize the Trump election with specious, frivolous claims of hacking represents a self-serving, inappropriate intrusion into our Constitutional democratic process. I don’t buy Stein’s assertions for a moment.
While ‘Deport Trump’ signs have been evident throughout the protests as a major objection to a Trump Presidency, my grasp of the President-elect’s immigration policy has been sketchy, encouraged some of my own research. Check this out:
“All Americans not only in the states most heavily affected by and in every place in this country are rightly disturbed by the large number of illegal aliens entering our country. The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefit to illegal aliens. In the budget I will present to you, we will try to do more to speed the deportation of illegal aliens who are arrested for crimes, to better identify illegal aliens in the work place as recommended by the commission head by former Rep Barbara Jordan. We are a nation of immigrants but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years and we must do more to stop it.”
Sounds like Trump right? Actually that was President Bill Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union Address to Congress for which he received a standing ovation. Needless to say, neither Obama who has deported two million illegals and Clinton were never accused of being racist but we now know that the Democrats have realized what a trove of potential registered Democrats the immigrant community represent.
And then there is the issue of Trump’s plan to register Muslims in a database from specific countries with a history of terrorism which has been criticized as further evidence of Trump’s racism. Trump’s proposal sounds similar to the Entry-Exit Registration System established by President GW Bush in 2001, the system later morphed into the Department of Homeland Security and was operational until 2011.
During the Iranian hostage crisis of 1980, President Jimmy Carter adopted a ban of Shiite Muslim immigrants from Iran entering into the US in an effort to ‘protect the country.” He ultimately deported 15,000 Iranian students. Carter’s ban “invalidated all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States.”
So if we accept that there is common ground amongst Presidents Clinton, GW Bush, Carter and President elect Trump that the impact of illegal immigration on our public school system and other social institutions is a legitimate concern for the nation, why the double standard? It is not just because Trump does not fit into the image of a sleek, urbane President; he is not a smooth, sugar coated talker like Obama while a rough-around-the-edges Trump may actually act on immigration reform.
On the campaign trail, the President-elect has been hyperbolic and straightforward, sometimes crude and discourteous and yet Trump has questioned the globalized economy and trade deals, the existence of NATO and the Fed Banks, a desire to get along with Russia and in his Cincinnati speech, establish a “new foreign policy that will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. Our goal is stability; not chaos” and more recently in North Carolina to “reestablish the Rule of Law and defend the Constitution of the US.”
When was the last time a Democrat talked like that or are those peace-niks among us being conned? Who does that kind of language threaten?
Renee Parsons has been a member of the ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, an environmental lobbyist and staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC. She can be found on Twitter @reneedove31
The United States military says it will deploy an armor brigade and an aviation brigade totaling about 2,300 soldiers to Afghanistan this winter.
The Pentagon made the announcement in a statement released on Thursday, saying 1,500 soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan this winter, in addition to another 800 troops that will be deployed in support of a training mission known as Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
“This deployment is part of a regular rotation of forces in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” the press release stated, adding that the soldiers were “well-trained, well-led and fully prepared for the challenges this mission will bring.”
No exact date was given in the announcement for when the US troops will leave for the deployment to Afghanistan.
The United States — under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency — and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after about one and-a-half-decade, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.
After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war — one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.
US President-elect Donald Trump, who speaks against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as “Obama’s war”.
Obama has ordered the military to take on the Taliban more directly and enable Afghan forces battling the militant group.
In October last year, Obama announced plans to keep 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan through 2016 and 5,500 in 2017, reneging on his promise to end the war there and bring home most American forces from the Asian country before he leaves office.
According to US officials, Washington would also maintain a large counter-terrorism capability of terror drones and Special Operations Forces to fight militants in Afghanistan.
There are now about 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan, as well as some 6,000 NATO service members, to “train and advise” Afghan security forces fighting Taliban.
Over the past several months, Taliban militants have intensified their pressure with numerous offensives on other key Afghan provinces, including Kunduz and Takhar.
President Obama has ordered US spy agencies to prepare “a full review” of election-linked cyberattacks, but the public may never see it. The report should be ready before Obama vacates office and it is likely to be disclosed only to “a range of stakeholders.”
“The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process,” presidential aide Lisa Monaco told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. She said the review’s aim is “to capture lessons learned from that.”
“That’s going to be first and foremost a determination that’s made by the intelligence community,” she said.
Despite the headline-capturing hacking, which the US intelligence authorities blamed on Russia, the public may never have a chance to review the findings.
According to Monaco, the results will be only available “to a range of stakeholders to include Congress.”
“We want to do so very attentive to not disclosing sources and methods that may impede our ability to identify and attribute malicious actors in the future,” she explained.
Monaco has also admitted that the Obama administration is determined to “impose costs” on those behind cyberattacks and use “all elements of national power against the cyber threat.”
In a possible attempt to head-off a public outcry, Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz has also assured that the review is “not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election,” but rather “a major priority for the president of the United States.” The latter being a reason for the agencies to finish their work before President Obama hands over the White House keys to President-elect Donald Trump on January 20.
Schultz said that the US intelligence agencies will go as far as 2008 to examine patterns of “malicious cyber-activity timed to election cycles.”
In October, the US officially accused Russia of the hacks that targeted emails of Hillary Clinton, her team and members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). However, since than, Washington has presented no proof of Moscow’s involvement in hack attacks.
Moscow has consistently denied allegations about its possible role, with President Vladimir Putin accusing the US government of dragging Moscow into the presidential election to manipulate American voters.
As the race between Trump and Clinton, heated up, the former Secretary of State directly accused Russia of meddling with the process.
The accusations, however, fell flat both with her rival and his supporters.
In a recent interview with Time magazine, Trump again said that he does not “believe they interfered.”
“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” he told the magazine that just named him “the person of the year.”
The nature of international politics is often considered to be such that it continuously defies clear and absolute judgement; however, notwithstanding the complexity of inter-state relations, very often we come across such instances where understanding of the policy of a state, or of an alliance, does not defy understanding and judgement. From the very beginning of the crisis, it has been absolutely clear that the US and its allies are pursuing a regime-change policy in Syria—a policy that not only is still valid but also continues to define their strategy. Materialization of this objective pits the US against Syria and its allies and engages both parties in war—and in war soldiers are killed. Therefore, the US clarification about striking Syrian soldiers due to the so-called “human error” is only an attempt on its part to mystify the actual nature of its objectives in Syria. Nothing else can better explain the strike that killed around 80 soldiers than the fundamental reason for the US’ military engagement in Syria i.e., execution of regime change policy in Syria.
While one strike in itself was, and always is, far from sufficient to achieve this objective, a strike, however, does convey to its targets and to those who observe it the objective being pursued. In this case, the immediate objective was to inflict heavy damage on the Syrian army and render it vulnerable to attacks by other, western supported, militant groups. The objective was, to an extent, achieved. This is evident from the developments taking place immediately after the US-led strike. A weakened Syrian army unit enabled an ISIS advance on a hill overlooking the air base, which was specifically targeted by the US-led coalition. While the objective of this co-ordinated operation was to quickly capture the base, it was thwarted by timely action on the part of Russian warplanes that were called in to hit ISIS positions.
Had the attack been successful, it might have caused massive destruction. ISIS had, prior to the attack by the coalition, repeatedly attacked and failed to capture the government-held air base, which is an isolated enclave deep in extremist-held territory. The government controls the air base and parts of Dayr az Zawr city, while ISIS controls the entire province by the same name. An ISIS advance in Dayr az Zawr would have, and would still, endanger the lives of tens of thousands of civilians living in government-held areas and force the Syrian army out of the territory.
What would have such a scenario implied for the over-all situation of Syria is not so difficult to grasp. While the US has now stated it “regrets” the bombing, it has not, in any way, apologized to Syria for this wanton act of mayhem, thus confirming its unchanged position vis-à-vis Syria, which continues to remain a clear cut target of the regime-change conspiracy—a policy that has been applied by NATO in many countries since the end of the Second World War. The most recent cases of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria confirm that this policy has remained unchanged.
The latest confirmation to the unabated continuation of this policy has come from one of the most important NATO allies, Turkey. On November 29, Turkey’s self-styled “caliph” said, reiterating NATO’s long held objective, that the Turkish military had launched its operations in Syria to end the rule of (the cruel) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He further said, “Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice. We entered there to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason.”
While this statement has come as a surprise to Russia, leading Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to say that they were hoping “our Turkish partners will provide us with some kind of explanation about this”, the move itself not only largely reflects the dual game Turkey is playing in Syria but also shows how the former fundamentally continues to adhere to NATO’s central objective in Syria, thus debunking the myth of Turkey’ estrangement with the US or the EU or the NATO itself.
The tacit continuity of co-operation between Turkey and the US is not limited to the perusal of identical objectives. On the contrary, it is co-operation on the ground that speaks volumes about Turkey’s actual position and policy vis-à-vis Syria. For instance, Turkey’s operation Euphrates Shield, which begun in August and which is supposedly aimed at rolling back ISIS from the Syrian region bordering Turkey, had actually begun, succeeded and territorially spread under the protection, assistance and advice provided by the US military. The US advisers assisted the operation from inside Turkey, while US warplanes conducted airstrikes alongside Turkish ones in support of the offensive. Could we still say that Turkey and the US were, or are, on a collision course since the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016?
This co-ordinated attack was followed, in September, by a welcome note by the NATO chief about Turkey’s enhanced role in Syria against “terrorism” and attacks of all kinds.
The continued co-operation between Turkey, which had initially officially sent troops to Syria to fight ISIS, and the US and Erdogan’s recent claim that they are in Syria to send Assad home unambiguously show the way this alliance is working in the region. With Turkey’s operation Euphrates Shield expanding into operation occupation, and with Turkey equally seeking to enlist US support to capture al-Bab, there remains hardly any room to doubt that the US and Turkey are seeking to achieve what the ISIS had earlier achieved, and then lost, in terms of capturing Syrian territory.
With ISIS being itself unable to withhold the Syrian offensive being backed the Russian forces and Iran backed militias, Turkey and the US, as also their Arab and Western allies, were left with no other choice but to directly intervene in Syria to deny the Syrian army the opportunity to have the whole of Syria under its control.
This being the case-scenario of Syria, the Pentagon’s clarification about the September strike being a result of “human error” is erroneous. What, on the contrary, perfectly corresponds with the US policy and objectives it is pursuing in Syria is not this clarification but the strike itself—something that, had it been successful, might have allowed IS to bring an entire province under its sole control and considerably damage the Syrian army.
What this scenario reveals is that the earlier policy of bringing regime change in Syria through proxy groups is now being replaced by a policy of direct intervention and gradual insertion of NATO in the conflict via Turkey. Conflict in Syria is therefore not ending, only its dynamics are changing from in-direct to direct intervention.
Russia says Moscow and Washington are close to reaching an understanding over the crisis in Aleppo. The Western side is pushing for a ceasefire in eastern Aleppo just as Syrian troops are coming close to liberating the city.
Kevin Barrett, author and Middle East expert from Madison, told Press TV on Thursday night that the US-led front and media are waging a propaganda campaign to force Syria to stop retaking eastern Aleppo.
Barrett said since the United States needs to continue its proxy war in Syria, Washington resorts to any kind of tactics to impede the annihilation of the foreign-backed terrorists who are besieged in eastern Aleppo.
“These folks (the US and allies) who are dedicated to keeping this war going as long as possible and destroying Syria as long as possible find that very convenient to call for a ceasefire right at the moment that the [Syrian] government is taking the city,” he said.
Barrett said Syria’s “legitimate government has been targeted for overthrowing and regime change by a group of countries that created this horrific extremist ISIS-style mercenaries.”
“The US empire with its Zionist controllers are destroying Syria in an act of aggression,” he said, adding “the biggest winner of all of this destabilization of course is the expansionist [regime] in Tel Aviv.”
“This is an intentional destruction and destabilization of Syria along a kind of US imperial and Zionist doctrine that calls for the actual destruction and Balkanization of the Middle Eastern countries to make them more penetrable by the empire and to make them less of a potential long- and immediate-term threat to Israel,” Barrett added.
The analyst said the Syrian government is justified in its war on terrorists despite the “horrific destruction in Aleppo and all over Syria,” while it has also offered an amnesty for all Syrians.
“Any country in the world is going to use counter-insurgency warfare to preserve its territorial integrity if there is this kind of foreign-sponsored rebellion going on.”
According to Barrett, “a lot of people in the region and a few people outside the region like Russian President Vladimir Putin” have got in the way of the US-led coalition which tried to turn Syria into a failed state.
Brent Budowsky, a columnist with US newspaper The Hill from Washington, called on Syria and Russia to halt military operations in the eastern Aleppo.
“We need a ceasefire today. We should have had it a year ago or two years ago,” he said.
The Syrian army troops and their allied forces are now in control of about 85 percent of militant-held eastern part of Aleppo as they press ahead with an all-out offensive to fully dislodge foreign-backed terrorists from the northwestern city.
Journalist Brian Williams has become the latest person to slam ‘fake news,’ claiming it influenced the US election. But there’s some irony in his apparent defense of quality journalism, as he was let go from his NBC gig last year for… reporting fake news.
“Fake news played a role in this election and continues to find a wide audience,” Williams said on MSNBC on Wednesday night.
He went on to mention retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn – President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser – for promoting links to fake news stories on his Twitter account.
Those “gems,” as Williams called them, included claims that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring and that US President Barack Obama laundered money from Muslim terrorists.
But they say those in glass houses should not throw stones – and when it comes to spreading fake news, there is no denying that Williams has done the same.
The former anchor of NBC Nightly News was suspended without pay in 2015, eventually losing his job, after admitting that he had lied about a story in which three Chinook helicopters came under fire in Iraq in 2003.
Although Williams claimed that he was in one of the helicopters, it later emerged that he was actually traveling in a different helicopter, located about an hour behind the other three.
He was caught out after crew members from the helicopters that were actually hit came forward.
“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft with another,” Williams told Stars and Stripes newspaper in 2015.
Following Williams’ apology on his Nightly News program, NBC launched an internal investigation to look into other statements made by the journalist.
Although the results of the investigation were never made public, The Washington Post reported at the time that the Iraq claim was one of 11 “suspect statements” made by Williams.
Despite his problems at NBC, another station later gave Williams another chance, awarding him the position of chief breaking news anchor a few months later.
“I am fully aware of the second chance I have been given,” Williams told NBC’s ‘Today Show’ after being hired by MSNBC.
Meanwhile, the notion of ‘fake news’ continues to dominate headlines, with Hillary Clinton – the target of several false stories – calling the situation a “danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly” on Thursday.
“This is not about politics or partisanship,” Clinton said during a tribute to departing Senate minority leader Harry Reid. “Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days to do their jobs, contribute to their communities.”
Clinton’s statements come after a fake news story alleging that she was running a child sex ring from the backrooms of a Washington DC pizzeria led to a dangerous incident inside the restaurant, after a man who believed the story began shooting a rifle in an effort to “self-investigate” the claim. The story, dubbed ‘Pizzagate,’ has led to the pizzeria’s staff and other nearby business owners receiving death threats.
Donald Trump fired the son of his national security adviser choice, Michael T. Flynn, on Tuesday, allegedly for his role in spreading the ‘Pizzagate’ scandal online.