It was almost ten years ago when, before the House International Relations Committee, I objected to the US Government funding NGOs to meddle in the internal affairs of Ukraine. At the time the “Orange Revolution” had forced a regime change in Ukraine with the help of millions of dollars from Washington.
At that time I told the Committee:
We do not know exactly how many millions—or tens of millions—of dollars the United States government spent on the presidential election in Ukraine. We do know that much of that money was targeted to assist one particular candidate, and that through a series of cut-out non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—both American and Ukrainian—millions of dollars ended up in support of the presidential candidate…
I was worried about millions of dollars that the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its various related organizations spent to meddle in Ukraine’s internal affairs. But it turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg.
Last December, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland gave a speech in which she admitted that since 1991 the US government has:
[I]nvested more than 5 billion dollars to help Ukraine…in the development of democratic institutions and skills in promoting civil society and a good form of government.
This is the same State Department official who was caught on tape just recently planning in detail the overthrow of the Ukrainian government.
That five billion dollars appears to have bought a revolution in Ukraine. But what do the US taxpayers get, who were forced to pay for this interventionism? Nothing good. Ukraine is a bankrupt country that will need tens of billions of dollars to survive the year. Already the US-selected prime minister has made a trip to Washington to ask for more money.
And what will the Ukrainians get? Their democracy has been undermined by the US-backed coup in Kiev. In democracies, power is transferred peacefully through elections, not seized by rebels in the streets. At least it used to be.
The IMF will descend on Ukraine to implement yet another of its failed rescue plans, which enrich the well-connected and international bankers at the expense of the local population. The IMF adds debt, organizes sweetheart deals for foreign corporations, and demands that the local population accept “austerity” in exchange for “reform” that never seems to produce the promised results.
The groundwork for this disaster has been laid by NED, USAID, and the army of NGOs they have funded over the years in Ukraine.
Supporters of NED and its related organizations will argue that nothing is wrong with sending US dollars to “promote democracy” overseas. The fact is, however, that NED, USAID, and the others have nothing to do with promoting democracy and everything to do with destroying democracy.
It is not democracy to send in billions of dollars to push regime change overseas. It isn’t democracy to send in the NGOs to re-write laws and the constitution in places like Ukraine. It is none of our business.
How should we promote democracy overseas? First, we should stop the real isolationists — those who seek to impose sanctions and blockades and restrictions that impede our engagement overseas. We can promote democracy with a US private sector that engages overseas. A society that prospers through increased trade ties with the US will be far more likely to adopt practices and policies that continue that prosperity and encourage peace.
In 2005, arguing against funding NED in the US foreign assistance authorization bill, I said:
The National Endowment for Democracy…has very little to do with democracy. It is an organization that uses US tax money to actually subvert democracy, by showering funding on favored political parties or movements overseas. It underwrites color-coded ‘people’s revolutions’ overseas that look more like pages out of Lenin’s writings on stealing power than genuine indigenous democratic movements.
Sadly, matters are even worse now. To promote democracy overseas, NED and all other meddling US government funded NGOs should be disbanded immediately.
The official story of 9-11 is collapsing almost as fast as the Obamacare website. Most Americans are now well aware of the strange collapse of WTC Building 7, the video that captures the sound of the actual explosion that initiates the collapse of WTC7, the very strange behavior of the Secret Service as President Bush read about goats at Booker Elementary School. We have all seen the photographs that confirm the remains of demolition “cutter charges” in the remains of the towers. And we all know how the BBC reported that Building 7 collapsed 26 minutes before it actually happened. indicating a script was being followed (but alas, not carefully enough).
With the official story in free fall, Americans are wondering just who did this heinous deed. With the US Government itself the prime suspect, many are asking if the US Government had help from an outside nation, one with a long track record of world-changing dirty tricks.
There is a great deal of evidence that implicates the nation of Israel as a co-conspirator with the Bush administration. First, there was the massive Israeli spy ring uncovered in the United States just before 9-11, and how some of the “Dancing Israelis” arrested after being seen cheering and dancing as the World Trade Towers collapsed turned out to be Mossad spies! Then there was the strange case of Odigo, an Israeli-owned company whose New York offices received a warning about the attacks before the planes used in the attacks had even left the ground! All four of the hijacked planes departed from airport gates whose security was provided by the same Israeli security company. Israel has a long track record of playing dirty tricks against the United States and other countries, including the Lavon affair (framed on Egypt), Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty (initially framed on Egypt), and Israel’s smuggling a radio transmitter into Libya that was used to send fake messages that tricked President Reagan into bombing Libya.
As people start to seriously examine the plethora of evidence regarding Israel’s numerous perfidies it comes as no surprise that recently we have seen Israel’s “useful idiots” launch a propaganda campaign to claim that Saudi Arabia was behind the 9-11 attacks, based on a lawsuit brought against Saudi Arabia by the families of the victims. But anyone can bring a lawsuit against anyone for anything. That does not mean the lawsuit allegations are true. Nonsense lawsuits are a reality of the modern US court system, as are lawsuits staged primarily as political and propaganda stunts, which is what this appears to be. At the very least this propaganda is intended to deflect interest away from Israel. At worst, it is the start of the campaign to justify military invasion of that country, just as Saddam’s nuclear weapons were the excuse to invade Iraq, and the more recently (and thankfully failed) attempt to justify invasion of Syria by claiming Syria’s government was gassing their own people.
As I have mentioned before, the best way to tell if you are being lied to is to look for what should be there but isn’t. In the case of the claim that Saudi Arabia was behind 9-11, what should be there and isn’t is a motive for Saudi Arabia to do something like that.
George Bush had a motive to do 9-11. He needed that “new Pearl Harbor” to enrage Americans into the century of war called for by the Project For The New American Century. Israel certainly had a motive to do 9-11 and frame Muslims for it, to trick Americans into siding with Israel’s continued land grabs and wars against Israel’s enemies, with Israel’s agenda being (as it was with the Lavon affair, the USS Liberty, and the Libyan radio hoax) that Americans fight those wars for them!
Saudi Arabia does not have a history of dirty tricks, nor a demonstrated ability to carry out such deceptions. More to the point, Saudi Arabia has no motive to attack the United States. The Saudi princes have grown very rich indeed through the Petrodollar arrangement. Saudi Arabia buys many American products and weapons ($61 billion in 2011), and unlike Israel, the American taxpayer does not have to give them the money first with which to buy those weapons. Whereas Israel constantly takes money out of the US, the Saudis pour it in! Private Saudi investment in the US economy is over $400 billion. Saudi Arabia is a major creditor to the US Government. Exact figures are hard to find but Saudi Arabia has loaned the US Government hundreds of billions of dollars.
Saudi Arabia is not going to risk an attack on the US because all that wealth would vanish. The Saudi wealth inside the US would be frozen or seized, and the outstanding loans to the US would never be repaid. The “useful idiots” trying to save Israel by blaming 9-11 on Saudi Arabia have yet to come up with a motive for the Saudis to do something like 9-11 that risks losing all that cash.
Remember that Saudi Arabia was being framed for 9-11 right from the start. One of the accused hijackers, a Saudi Pilot named Saeed Al-Ghamdi, was still alive after 9-11 and sued the US Government for defaming him.
And finally, here is some common sense that totally undermines the attempt to frame Saudi Arabia for 9-11. If Saudi Arabia really wanted to hurt the United States, they don’t need to fly airplanes into skyscrapers to do it. All they have to do is ask for their money back, all at once. The resulting damage to the US financial system would make 9-11 look like a minor inconvenience in comparison.
And it would be perfectly legal for Saudi Arabia to ask for their money back.
Which is why we know that the claim that Saudi Arabia was behind 9-11 has no more basis in fact than the claim that Saddam had nuclear weapons or that Assad gassed his own people right in front of the UN chemical weapons inspectors.
As the media tries to blame Saudi Arabia for 9-11, it is worth recalling that the Bush administration initially claimed that Iraq was behind 9-11 to sell the 2003 invasion, then later admitted Iraq had actually been innocent. So there is a pattern of the US simply using 9-11 as a “one size fits all” excuse to invade yet another oil rich nation.
The US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee has proposed a nearly half a billion dollar increase in military aid to Israel even as the United States is struggling with domestic economic issues.
The committee approved $488 million last week to fund Israel’s development of two missile systems and to finance the purchase of extra batteries for 2014.
The proposal must now be approved by the House Appropriations Committee and then submitted to the Senate.
The proposed aid is in addition to the $3.1 billion in military assistance that Washington provides to the Zionist regime annually.
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel promised that the current aid would not be reduced even while significant cuts are being made to the US defense budget.
This comes as the US government has recently cut $5 billion dollars from the food assistance program, forcing nearly 48 million Americans to cut back on their food purchases.
The US government is pressured to serve Israel’s interests due to the influence of the powerful Zionist lobby in the United States. The pro-Israel pressure groups actively work to steer US foreign policy in favor of Israel.
Rendition of Libyan Terror Suspect: What If Abu Anas al-Liby Had Nothing to Do With the Embassy Bombings?
A Libyan terror suspect kidnapped from Libya in a raid by US special forces on October 5 was transferred from the naval ship, where he was being detained and interrogated, into “law enforcement custody” over the weekend.
The Justice Department indicated in a press release that he was “brought directly to the Southern District of New York, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade.” He was expected to be brought before a judge on October 15.
Al-Liby is suspected of being involved in the bombings of US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Last week, a chief federal public defender, David E. Patton, according to the Los Angeles Times, had pressed a federal judge to order that he be “brought to court immediately,” as he was aboard a ship being interrogated by the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which is a special task force of personnel from the Pentagon, FBI, CIA and other agencies. He had not been read Miranda rights, which he and other terror suspects have a right to be read if they are being prosecuted under US law. But a federal judge would not issue such an order and would not appoint a defense lawyer to represent him either.
A more critical issue is that al-Liby, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, may not be the dangerous al Qaeda terrorist the United States government believes he happens to be.
American-British foreign correspondent Jamie Dettmer interviewed family members of al-Liby, who suggested just last month he had “talked with the Libyan attorney general and the head of intelligence to say he was keen to clear his name of the bombing accusations and was ready to face any Libyan judicial inquiry they deemed necessary. He was prepared for an American interrogation—in Libya. [Dettmer saw a copy of a letter from the attorney general’s office dated September 15, 2013, that confirmed his father’s discussions.]
Umm Abdul Rahman, al-Liby’s wife, explained to Dettmer that in the 1990s, at the same time as the bombings, they were living in Britain and “under tight surveillance, with their home being raided frequently and her husband’s computers seized.” Rahman was “sure that if British intelligence had any evidence, they would have acted and the British authorities would have agreed to an extradition request made by the Americans during their stint in the UK.” Al-Liby’s family essentially decided to flee Britain because the surveillance and harassment was no longer tolerable and were allowed to legally leave the country.
Although she admitted he had been affiliated with al Qaeda and was a member for a period, he left at some point in the mid-1990s to join the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was formed by Islamic dissidents to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. She contended that allegations by the US government that he was now overseeing al Qaeda groups in North Africa were “untrue.” She showed Dettmer a copy of a document that showed he was trying to get back his job as a computer engineer for the Ministry of Oil. [Gaddafi convinced President George W. Bush’s administration that LIFG members were jihadists and a number were victims of rendition, detention and torture. They were transferred to Libya where they were abused.]
Dettmer’s story suggests that the rendition of al-Liby deprived him of a key due process he should have had in Libya. Al-Liby was obviously ready to offer up any information on his past and evidence of crimes could have been passed on to the US government. Rather than allow this to take place, he was abducted.
If the US had requested that he be extradited to face charges for his alleged role in the embassy bombings, he could have challenged the allegations in a court in Libya. He could have argued that if he was tried in the US he would not receive a fair trial and, if convicted, he would likely be held in a supermax prison and subjected to conditions of solitary confinement that were cruel and inhuman. He could have also argued that he might be deprived other due process rights, like a right to a lawyer.
This is what makes rendition a violation of international human rights law. The abduction of a person is clearly intended to bypass a process that he should have been afforded because President Barack Obama’s administration was unwilling to wait for the Libyan government to extradite him.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan, who was kidnapped and released by militants angry the US raid had occurred, has called the snatch and grab of al-Liby a “kidnapping.” But no clear proof exists yet that Zidan did not privately grant consent to US forces to conduct a raid and remove him from Libya.
Even if Zidan granted consent to the US government, that does not necessarily make it any more lawful. It would mean Zidan had agreed to deprive due process rights to al-Liby and allow him to be transported to a navy ship vessel, where he could not guarantee that al-Liby’s human rights would be protected.
Al-Liby may be suspected of bombing US embassies, and, if there is any evidence to support this serious allegation, he should have been able to defend himself in a court of law before being handed over to US custody.
As Jeremy Scahill has eloquently stated, “Our values are not defined by how we treat the rich and the powerful and the popular. It’s defined by how we treat the least of our people, how we treat the poorest. And it’s also how we treat the most reprehensible.”
Unfortunately for al-Liby, a process may have been set in motion that virtually guarantees he will be imprisoned for a lengthy period of time. He may not be responsible for the bombings but his past history with al Qaeda—even though Britain found no evidence of crimes—may discourage a judge from letting him return to Libya.
That the due process he will be given in the United States is likely to take place under a cloud of fear is why renditions of terrorist suspects should be opposed.
News reports of an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces in the suburbs of Damascus in the early morning hours of August 21 spreaded like wildfire. As reports were coming in, the US, French, and the British governments began to claim that there was a massacre. U.S. Government claimed that exactly 1429 people had died including 426 children. In the ensuing days and weeks the media repeatedly showed video images of ghastly scenes of dead and dying. Most of these videos were posted on the Internet and their authenticity could not be verified. Yet, those governments pronounced that the Syrian military was responsible for the massacre. As the U.S. and France prepared to carry out a military strike against Syria to punish President Assad, a UN team of chemical weapons experts were allowed after a few days to visit the sites in the Damascus suburbs called Ghouta where the attacks reportedly took place. The UN team visited Ghouta on August 27 and again on August 29. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who called it a war crime, released their report on September 16, 2013. The report’s basic conclusions were that sarin gas was used in a large-scale attack in Ghouta on August 21 and that surface to surface rockets were used to deliver the nerve agent. In making their determination about the rockets, the inspectors examined rocket parts and other ordnance. In my analysis, I examined the UN report carefully, especially its Appendix 5, which describes in some detail, with photographs and drawings, the two types of rockets they found in Ghouta. Prior to the publication of the UN report, two other significant reports were made public. One was reported in the New York Times and the other a report by the Human Rights Watch. Both these reports presented details of a warhead that could have carried between 50 and 60 liters of sarin – an amount that could explain the high casualty figure above quoted by the US government. The UN report, which was issued some time after these reports, repeated their conclusions. From my careful study and analysis of all these reports, I found that the UN report included diagrams and photographs that were in the said reports without referencing them. There was striking agreement between estimated and measured dimensions of the large warhead, which was merely a concept described in the New York Times article. It took center stage in the UN report. I describe in detail how I arrived at my conclusion. I believe there was communication between the UN team and the analysts outside, which prejudiced the report. The US Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the UN inspectors as irrelevant because they would not bring to light any new information that the US did not already know. He was right. The purpose of my analysis is not to prove or disprove anything. The sole purpose is to raise questions about the integrity of the UN team’s report. Decisions on war and peace depend on it.
Detailed Analysis of the Published Reports
Alleged Chemical Attack in Ghouta on August 21, 2013
News reports of an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces in the suburbs of Damascus in the early morning hours of August 21 spreaded like wildfire. Social media exploded with Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and YouTube video uploads. As reports were coming in, the U.S., French, and the British governments were starting to claim that there was a massacre. The most stunning of these claims was an assertion by John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State that 1429 people died apparently from nerve gas inhalation of which 426 were children. Ghastly videos circulated with all mainstream TV channels showing the videos of victims. There was strangeness in the certainty of such a precise number in the chaos that would ensue after a poison gas attack. Noam Chomsky remarked during a lecture at MIT on September 10, 2013 that it reminded him of similarly precise body counts that Pentagon used to issue after encounters with the Viet Cong. They were largely made up, he said.
Internet Videos and “Independent” Media Experts
While the authenticity of these videos could not be verified, it was impossible to raise such an impertinent question in the midst of the media onslaught accompanied by commentary from “independent” experts. Several of them were veterans of the UN inspection team before the invasion of Iraq. For example, Charles Duelfer, the Deputy Head of the UN team and later Chief of the CIA’s Iraq Survey Group after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, was a regular. A veteran of the U.S. Government programs in space and nuclear weapons, he was the top CIA officer directing the investigation of Saddam’s regime and its WMD programs, his website says.
Another was David Kaye, who was the Chief UN inspector for Iraq, who is now at the Potomac Institute – a beltway think tank funded mainly by the Pentagon. A third was Raymond Zilinskas, a former inspector with expertise on chemical and biological weapons, who is now at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. He once spoke enthusiastically about the evidence presented at the UN Security Council by Gen. Colin Powell about WMD in Iraq, which was discredited later as false.
These experts were seemingly speaking in unison that there was overwhelming evidence showing that Syrian government forces were behind the chemical weapons attack. Neither the U.S. government, nor its allies like Britain and France could wait for the report of the UN inspection team, which was in Damascus at the time. They pronounced their judgment based on information supplied by their own intelligence agencies and also relied on so-called “open source” information. They condemned President Assad for not allowing the inspectors immediate access to the alleged sites and pointed to his guilt in the alleged atrocity. A common refrain was why would he not allow immediate access if he had nothing to hide.
The UN Inspectors’ Report: of questionable integrity
However, a few days later, when the UN inspectors were able to travel to the sites, the tone of the U.S. government changed. Secretary of State Kerry remarked at a press conference that the UN team was “irrelevant” since they would not bring to light any more information than what the U.S. already knew. Ironically, the UN team’s report proved John Kerry’s point and here is why.
From my research and analysis, I have come to the conclusion that the UN report as well as human rights organizations like the Human Rights Watch were influenced by bloggers and analysts closely tied to the U.S. and its allies to prove that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical attacks. Consequently, they produced reports that are of questionable quality and not above reproach. This is especially true about the UN team’s comments about the rockets being the delivery vehicles for the nerve agent.
The UN team had the mandate to determine if chemical weapons were used in the alleged attack on August 21, but not who was responsible for it. In order to carry out its mandate, the team relied on laboratory reports of analysis of collected blood, urine, soil and other environmental samples. It also analyzed samples from rocket parts, munitions, etc. In addition, it conducted a limited number of interviews with survivors and doctors. It finished its work on September 13 and Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, released the report on Monday, September 16 calling it a “war crime.”
The report said the following in the Letter of Transmittal:
Although the news of the discovery of sarin gas was by then an anticlimax, what was surprising was the UN team’s assertion that it found “clear and convincing” evidence that “surface-to-surface rockets” containing sarin were used. This was clearly going beyond the original mandate. The report also described certain details of the rockets along with the direction in which they were found to have penetrated the ground at the points of impact. There were a few pieces of evidence that would be crucial at the least to point the finger, if not outright implicate the Syrian government. One of them was the bearing of the tail end of the rocket protruding from the ground. From this data, the rocket’s firing point could be estimated. A second piece was the size of the payload that could be carried by the rocket, including other details that would reveal that the payload indeed was something other than high explosive. A third piece was markings on some rocket parts which could tell where they were made.
The Role of a Blogger named Elliot Higgins
The so-called “independent” experts had already gone on overdrive giving numerous TV and radio interviews and sending Twitter messages soon after the reports of the alleged attack surfaced. Their analysis and commentary were primarily based on video that appeared on the Internet on sites like You Tube, which were supposedly uploaded by eyewitnesses. There are certain bloggers who specialize in watching the social media on particular topics, compiling such information, and then making them available with their own commentary on their own websites called blog spots in web parlance.
The BBC says that the bloggers have been providing important analysis to governments and human rights groups based on their exhaustive monitoring of social media. Eliot Higgins, known online as Brown Moses, is one of a number of specialist bloggers from around the world who have been analyzing the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It appears that Eliot Higgins was the source of much of the video information about the alleged attack on August 21.
His website has literally hundreds of video clips from different times and places that are spliced together. For instance, while reviewing a file called “Syrian Government Chemical Attacks,” I found myself watching items from events that took place in January 2013 in Adra. Photographs of rockets in this video are similar, if not the same, as in the video uploaded on August 22 following the events in Ghouta. It might be reasonable to argue that multiple instances of chemical weapon use prove the brutality of President Assad. However, from an evidentiary point of view (I am mindful of it having worked at GAO for nearly ten years as a senior analyst), interspersing photographs from different incidents would be misleading at best.
New York Times Story on September 4
On September 4, well before the publication of the UN inspection team report, the New York Times published a major story written by its science writer William J. Broad. It was based on what the paper characterized as a new study by “leading weapons experts.” The new study reportedly solved the apparent disconnect between the reported large casualty figures and the known small payload capability of rockets in question. The article alluded to “some weapons experts” who had earlier estimated toxic payloads of one or two liters, which could not explain the casualty figures. The Times did not name or quote any of these experts, nor explain how they had arrived at their conclusion. The new study claimed that its analysis showed the rockets could carry a much larger payload of gas – about 50 liters. This made the casualty figure of 1429 plausible, the study indicated.
One of the two authors of the study is Professor Theodore Postol of MIT. He is known worldwide as a critic of the U.S. missile defense program. The other is Richard Lloyd, an engineer with long experience in the defense business, who describes himself as a warhead specialist. He spent nearly twenty years working for Raytheon and now works for Tesla Laboratory, Inc. located in Arlington, Virginia near the Pentagon – another “beltway” contractor. It is a technology company largely funded by the Pentagon and claims as one of its clients the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The New York Times made available Richard Lloyd’s analysis, which consisted of seventy Power Point slides, mostly snapshots from videos, which he most likely presented to someone in the “building” as the Pentagon is fondly called in the business. He is also a former UN weapon inspector. So, knows the business and people in it well. The article featured a drawing reproduced below of the rocket with “estimated dimensions” an artist’s impression of the nerve agent cloud rising after a rocket impact.
Rockets With Deadly Chemicals
Weapons experts believe this is the design of the rockets used in a suspected chemical attack last month in Syria, based on videos and photographs posted online. Related Article »
Human Rights Watch Report dated September 10
In a report called Attacks on Ghouta published on September 10, 2013, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) credited Elliot Higgins as the source of a collage of photographs of rocket parts related to Ghouta that were included in a figure bearing the title “Diagram of 330 mm chemical rocket variant.” It also included a scaled drawing of the rocket based on what it called “field measurements” without saying who made the measurements. One of the video clips from Higgins showed two men wearing gas masks, who looked like UN inspectors, making measurements with a regular measuring tape, which is also visible in four out of the six photographs in the HRW diagram shown later. It would be difficult to make precise measurements with such a tape. Also the exercise appeared rather cursory. However, the drawing shows precise dimensions including those of the internal parts of the rocket not visible from outside. It would be quite a feat to produce such a drawing without either actually examining a disassembled rocket, or X-raying it.
The UN Report describes two types of ordnance found at the sites they visited. At one of the sites they found an ordnance which had markings in Cyrillic and the number 179. This fact was already producing buzz on the Internet with experts knowledgeable in Russian weapons pointing out that only the Syrian government could have possessed such weapons.
Analysis of Igor Sutyagin from the U.K. Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)
One such expert is Dr. Igor Sutyagin of the U.K. Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). It advertises itself as an independent think tank, but it is obvious from its website that it is pretty close to the British government. Dr. Sutyagin made a presentation on September 9 entitled “Assessing Chemical Weapons Use in Syria.”
He cuts an impressive figure with his Russian accent, and a wonkish style. He said that the UN inspectors had found an ordnance that could carry a chemical payload. After showing its similarity with the Russian M14 rocket and describing certain details, he homed in on the number “179”, which the UN report also highlighted as discussed later. He said it is a code for a plant in Novosibirsk, Russia that builds non-standard rockets. There are two points that are interesting in this context.
First, he gave credit to the blogger Brown Moses for having made accurate measurements on this rocket from the videos. It was a bit strange because Moses, a.k.a. Elliot Higgins, has reputedly no technical qualification and is based in the U.K. Why Sutyagin thought Moses could make such measurements is not obvious. Also which video was he referring to? Were they from the inspection team? The second point is that one can find very close resemblance between the photographs in the RUSI video presentation and those appearing in the UN report. In fact, there are red circles on the highlighted areas in both documents giving the impression that they are the same photographs.
The RUSI event was more than a week after the site visit of the UN inspectors, and a week before the publication of the UN report. Could it be possible that Dr. Sutyagin had access to the UN inspector’s photos and the Brown Moses reference was only a ruse to throw off the viewer? In return, perhaps he provided some tips to the inspectors about the no. “179” and certain other things, which made it into the report thus compromising its integrity. Whatever the motivation, the UN team should clarify how its information got out, as it seems it did.
Detailed Comparison of the UN and other Reports
Diagram in the UN Report (p/18) of the ordnance found in Ghouta
The UN report did not mention the ordnance’s similarity with the Russian M-14 munitions for obvious reasons, a point repeatedly stressed by Dr. Sutyagin in his presentation. However, it highlighted all other points he made about the non-standard characteristics of this particular rocket such as the circular nozzles as seen below in the relevant section of the UN report reproduced below.
The HRW report also made the same points about these munitions with strong hints about their Russian origin again citing unnamed independent sources, but again highlighting the same points made by Dr. Sutyagin. Coincidentally, Sutyagin said that “American sources” confirm his analysis hinting at a collaborative effort.
The second rocket that the inspectors found was the one that Richard Lloyd described in his study reported in the New York Times. Here, the report gives considerable importance to the measurement of bearings of the rocket ends and hints at the direction of their origin as “northwest” – a strong hint at the culpability of the Syrian military, whose base was in that direction. This despite scanty data from only two out of four sites, and its own expression of concern that “potential evidence was being moved and probably manipulated.” Whoever reads such fine print anyway?
50-60 Liter Warhead Design
However, the most significant point the UN report made was the confirmation in the report of Lloyd’s concept of a large annular-shaped warhead with crucial measurements that validated so to speak what was reported by the Times and then repeated by HRW and others. The strange coincidence is that the Times article, the Sutyagin analysis, and the HRW report all were published after the field measurements by the inspectors, but before the publication of the UN report.
Here are copies of drawings in the Times report (bottom) and the UN report. The similarities are striking.
Below Diagram in Lloyd report referenced in the New York Times.
Below is the diagram from the UN Report showing the dimensions of the warhead and photographs identifying various parts of the rocket and the warhead. Nearly same photographs also appear in the Lloyd report.
Here is one such snapshot from the Lloyd report:
Compare the above with the diagram below from the UN Report (p.21)
Below is a drawing reproduced from the HRW report. There is a lot of similarity among the HRW drawing, the one by Lloyd, and the UN Report above.
Finally, here is the drawing with detail dimensions of the rocket and the warhead from the New York Times article that credited MIT Professor Postol as the source.
Notice, the HRW report said that its dimensions were based on actual field measurements. So are those in the UN report. The Lloyd and Postol report provide just estimates gleaned supposedly from random You Tube videos. The table below is a comparison of the three reports .
A Comparison of warhead dimensions given by Lloyd, HRW, and UNSC Reports
How were they determined?
Payload Canister OD (cm)
Payload Canister ID (cm)
Payload Canister Length (cm)
|Human Rights Watch (HRW)||Actual measurement||
|UN Report||Actual measurement||
Striking Agreement between Estimated and Measured Values: too good to be true?
As is evident from the above comparison, there is stunning agreement between the measured and the estimated values for the most crucial dimensions of the warhead. Interestingly, there are some differences among the three reports when it comes to certain non-critical dimensions (not shown on the table) such as the length of the rocket motor. For example, Postol/Lloyd estimated the length of the rocket motor or engine as 125 cm whereas the corresponding HRW number is 155 cm and the UN figure is 134 cm.
In science or engineering, differences between estimated and measured values are routine. It would be more so in this case given the imprecise nature of the measuring tape. If any caliper or any other instrument were used, they were not visible in the video. So, the absence of any real difference makes them look suspect. The small difference between the UN data and the other two may be explained by a careful look at the drawings. The UN appears to have included the width of end flanges making their length 5 cm longer. Similarly, the UN measured the outer diameter of the canister, which includes the wall thickness. Hence, the difference in 1 cm for an estimated wall thickness of 5 mm or about 0.2 inch. It is also interesting how the other two studies estimated so accurately from video footage.
The real point is there are differences in measurements in certain non-critical dimensions (perhaps to show that they were independent), but near-exact agreement in others that matter. This dichotomy begs an obvious question. Could they have been manufactured to provide a scientific explanation to fit the casualty figure? Is it too good to be true? Alternatively, could there be one source for them, why are they almost identical? Then everybody could sing from the same hymn sheet, which appears to be the case.
Two types of munitions were found in Ghouta by the UN team. One was a rocket with 14 cm diameter. The second was a larger rocket with a 36 cm warhead. The UN report did not mention anything about a chemical payload for the smaller rocket. However, it estimated that the larger rocket was capable of delivering 50-60 liters of liquid payload.
It appears that the UN team provided photographs and physical measurements of the smaller rocket to Dr. Igor Sutyagin for analysis. His analysis was then incorporated in the UN report as its own. HRW also incorporated his analysis without crediting him.
It seems a similar process took place with the analysis of the larger rocket and its warhead. Here the outside analysts were Richard Lloyd and Theodore Postol. What was only a concept a few days ago, became the gospel after New York Times published the referenced article with enough scientific jargon and the obligatory mathematical equations and computer simulations to scare the lay reader from questioning the underlying assumptions. HRW did the same once again and claimed its analysis was independent, but the facts show otherwise.
Finally, there is no way to determine the truth behind the alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta in the middle of fierce fighting. As expected, there is no independent confirmation of the casualty figure. That has not stopped the U.S. and its allies from claiming that it was a crime against humanity. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has lent his voice to these claims and stopped just short of accusing the Syrian President for these crimes. But, his UN team is not free of blemish. In the past two decades, the UN has lost a lot of credibility around the world. It is time for some house cleaning. Needless to say, respected NGO’s like Human Rights Watch need to do the same if they are to be credible in the future.
To restore credibility of the UN process, all results of the UN team’s findings should be made public. During Syria’s chemical arsenal demilitarization it would be essential to verify the UN team’s comments about the munitions that are supposed to be part of inventory. The inspectors are going back to Syria. It behooves them to do so.
Chronology of Events
August 21 Alleged chemical weapons attack in Ghouta in the early hours of the morning reported
August 22 Brown Moses blog spot makes available You Tube videos of the attack. The video includes gruesome photographs of dead people, children, first aid workers. It also includes photographs of rocket parts and munitions.
August 27 The first UN inspectors travel to the sites of alleged attack, Videos of the UN inspectors collecting environmental samples and making measurements become available on “Brown-Moses” and other websites soon thereafter
August 29 UN inspectors make a second visit to the affected areas
August 30 U.S. Government publishes an Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013
August 30 Richard Lloyd of Tesla, Inc. makes a presentation on the rocket payload of Syrian warheads based on videos found on the internet (does not credit Brown-Moses blog although many are obviously from there), Makes the following key conclusions:
– Damage to the ground and rocket body inconsistent with large explosive payload
– Chemical payload requires a small explosive to disperse
– Rockets showed chemical filling ports.
– Dead animals nearby without visible injury indicates chemical attack
Sept. 3 Lloyd makes another presentation outlining his concept of the Syrian warhead, which he derived from the videos. He provides drawings of the rocket and the warhead with a fair amount of details, but significantly no dimensions.
Sept. 4 The New York Times publishes an article based on the Lloyd study. The article includes a drawing of the conceptual Syrian rocket and warhead, but this time with dimensions of various parts and the crucial warhead concept, which are then repeated elsewhere and described as independently developed. The drawing also includes an artist’s rendering of a rocket making a shallow penetration with the toxic chemical cloud above the rocket. The Times makes both Lloyd and Postol presentations available on the web.
Sept. 10 Human Rights Watch releases its report and shows a diagram of the rocket with exactly the same warhead dimensions as Postol/Lloyd, but claiming that theirs was developed from actual field measurements, not photographs, but copying the Lloyd concept in ditto. HRW did not reference the Lloyd study.
Sept. 16 UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon releases the UN inspectors’ interim report that confirms that sarin was used in a large-scale attack on August 21. The report also stated that it was clear surface-to-surface rockets were used to deliver the gas. It went further and confirmed the concept and dimensions of the warhead described by Lloyd and Postol without, however, referencing the published study just like HRW.
Subrata Ghoshroy is currently a Research Affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS). His research includes global peace and security, nuclear disarmament, and energy security with particular reference to South Asia. He is a keen analyst of the U.S. defense budget and policy and the military-industrial complex. He spent many years as an engineer and later transitioned to the policy world. He worked as a professional staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Senior Defense Analyst at the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress earning the distinction of its first and so far its only whistle-blower. He also served as a Congressional Science Fellow and a Senior Associate at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
A recent video released by hacktivist group Anonymous presents compelling evidence which claims that Apple’s TouchID technology is linked to the FBI and NSA and is involved in the provision of information on users for a large-scale biometric database under construction by the US Government for use “both domestically and on the battlefield”.
This biometric database is due to be populated by any personal information retrieved by government agencies, leading to fears that Big Brother’s eye is following us wherever we go and whatever we do, even in the privacy of our own homes.
Anonymous alleges that they have uncovered proof of a corrupt alliance of Department of Defense contractors, NSA and CIA-related venture capital which led to the development of technologies subsequently purchased by Apple.
These findings were the result of investigation by Barrett Brown, the jailed and gagged journalist and links to further enlightening material have been posted on the Pastebin website and were largely based on documents obtained by the US defense contractor ManTech in 2010.
So what exactly are these revelations? Firstly, Anonymous claim that there are links between AuthenTec (the company bought by Apple to enable them to develop the TouchID technology) and the “most powerful and corrupt” Defense Department and intelligence community contractors and officials. Anonymous concentrate largely on one individual – Robert E Grady, a prominent figure and political speechwriter under both Bush administrations – when delineating and highlighting the opaque relationships between big business and the US government.
During his time sitting on the board of AuthenTec, Grady was a formerly leading partner in The Carlyle Group, an investment firm which previously owned not only Authentec, but also was the main shareholder of Booz Allen Hamilton, the NSA contractor and erstwhile employer of whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Anonymous presents further claims that the Authentec board of directors ensured that the company would be sold exclusively to Apple, due to the company’s position as market-leader, as this in turn would encourage rival companies to adopt the same technology in order to compete. They state that the launch of the Apple iPhone 5S has meant that secret surveillance and biometric collection has heightened into a full-scale assault on personal data and privacy.
However, other commentators suggest that Apple’s fingerprint security feature may be the thin end of the wedge in terms of biometric collection and consumer devices. Internationally, increasing numbers of countries are deploying biometric technology within organs of the state and rumours abound that biometrics – such as fingerprinting and facial recognition – will soon be a standard feature on game consoles and other electronic leisure products and household gadgets.
Apple’s lack of transparency regarding their usage of data obtained secretly from their customers is not restricted to their newest innovations, either. As far back as 2011 technological researchers were warning that the company could face law suits for breaches of privacy in relation to the storing of users’ locations and other personal information in secret files, which stores location coordinates with a timestamp to effectively map and record the precise movements of individuals.
The implication of this would be the danger this data could fall into the wrong hands if someone was able to hack the system. It is unclear why Apple is storing this data, but it is clearly intentional as such information on the database is being restored across backups and even device migrations. In 2010 Apple was once again the target of claims of privacy violation when a class-action suit was filed against them in a US Federal Court. The claim was that earlier models of the iPhone and iPad contained unique identifying elements, known as Unique Device Identifiers, which allowed advertising agencies track which applications were being downloaded by users, how frequently they were being used and for what period of time.
Users are unable to block the transmission of the UDID, a 40-character string that uniquely identifies each device. The lawsuit alleged: “Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views.” Apple has continuously denied that it transmits user-data without consent, but this has done little to ease fears that the company’s actions constitute an intrusive tracking scheme which aids and abets serious invasions of privacy.
This past Tuesday, investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald testified before the Brazilian Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense (CRE) at a public hearing on the clandestine surveillance activities of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in Brazil.
Greenwald, who has published many top-secret NSA documents leaked to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden, explained how the agency’s surveillance programs go far beyond gathering intelligence related to terrorism and other national security threats, as the U.S. government has suggested. According to Greenwald, NSA spying has focused on foreign business interests as a means for the U.S. government to gain a competitive advantage in negotiations. Greenwald mentioned that he has information regarding instances of NSA surveillance of the Organization of American States (OAS) and secret intelligence documents on economic agreements with Latin American nations. He explained that this type of surveillance has helped the U.S. to make the agreements appear more appealing to Latin American countries. Brazil’s concern about this economic espionage is particularly understandable given that it is the U.S.’s largest trading partner in South America.
During the hearing, Greenwald made reference to a 2009 letter wherein Thomas Shannon, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (from November 2005 – November 2009) and current U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, celebrated the NSA’s surveillance program in Latin America and how it has helped advance U.S. foreign policy goals in the region. Greenwald wrote a detailed account of his findings in an article entitled “Did Obama know what they were thinking?” in the Brazilian print magazine, Época. In this piece, Greenwald explains that Shannon’s letter, addressed to NSA Director Keith Alexander, discusses how the spy agency obtained hundreds of documents belonging to Latin American delegations detailing their “plans and intentions” during the summit. Shannon asserted that these documents were instrumental in helping the Obama administration engage with the delegations and deal with “controversial subjects like Cuba” and “difficult counterparts” like former President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and Bolivian President, Evo Morales. In the same letter Shannon encouraged Alexander to continue providing similar intelligence as “the information from the NSA will continue to give us the advantage that our diplomacy needs,” especially ahead of an upcoming OAS General Assembly meeting in which he knew discussions on Cuba’s suspension from the OAS would ensue.
Greenwald went on to explain the functioning of the NSA’s XKeyscore program to the Brazilian senators, which he referred to as the most frightening of all the programs revealed thus far. He also discussed the first U.S. secret surveillance program revealed to the world, PRISM. In the next 10 days, Greenwald said, he will have further reports on U.S. surveillance and “[t]here will certainly be many more revelations on spying by the U.S. government and how they are invading the communications of Bra[z]il and Latin America.”
When asked by the current CRE President, Senator Ricardo Ferraço, what the international community should do if the U.S. continues its mass surveillance programs, Greenwald said that although many governments around the world have expressed indignation, it has been a “superficial indignation.” He called on foreign governments to put pressure on the U.S. by granting Snowden asylum, which would be most effective if many countries were to do so.
According to Reuters, Greenwald also told reporters that “[t]he Brazilian government is showing much more anger in public than it is showing in private discussions with the U.S. government,” but that “[a]ll governments are doing this, even in Europe.” Although some Brazilian senators have questioned President Rousseff’s upcoming trip to Washington, yesterday, Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota told reporters that “the trip is still on.” Nevertheless, Patriota added that the NSA revelations are “an issue that cannot be left out of the bilateral US-Brazil agenda,” and that he would raise the issue when John Kerry travels to Brasilia early next week.
Analysis from National Endowment for Democracy Used in The Atlantic, with Significant Errors and Omissions
This month, readers of The Atlantic were treated to a lengthy article documenting alarming threats to democracy in certain Latin American countries with progressive and leftist heads of government. The piece, written by Kurt Weyland and titled “Why Latin America is Becoming Less Democratic,” is riddled with significant errors and mischaracterizations. Perhaps even worse, editors at The Atlantic didn’t make clear that the article was first published in a “journal” that is funded by the U.S. government.
The original article was published in the Journal of Democracy, which has long focused on providing analysis to justify U.S. government intervention abroad. The Journal of Democracy is an official publication of the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) International Forum for Democratic Studies. Although nominally a “nongovernmental” organization, the NED receives most of its funding from the U.S. Congress. In 1991, Allen Weinstein, who helped found and then became the NED’s acting president, told the Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA” .
Some examples of the NED’s work include using U.S. government resources to fund groups and individuals involved in the short-lived 2002 coup d’état in Venezuela, and two years later funding organizers of the recall effort against then-president Hugo Chávez. One of the NED’s core grantees is the International Republican Institute, which played a major role in overthrowing the democratically-elected government of Haiti in 2004.
These are just a few examples that highlight the NED’s disreputable history in Latin America, which would take far more space than a blog post to tell. While it clearly would have been worth noting the source of the article, the article itself is full of both factual errors and egregious mischaracterizations. To keep this post brief, I’ll only review a few of the most egregious errors here.
- Weyland writes: “Since the third wave reached Latin America in 1978, the region had seen only occasional threats and temporary interruptions of democracy in individual nations.”
This statement is only reasonable if one completely ignores the U.S. government’s role in the region, which constituted a threat to democracy that was neither “temporary” nor limited to “individual nations.” Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. conducted a massive and well-organized campaign, especially in Central America, using Cold War pretexts to install and support leaders who would foster favorable conditions for U.S. business interests.
In Nicaragua, the campaign involved massive illegal military aid to the contra paramilitary forces who used those weapons to kill health care workers, teachers and elected officials in their fight against the democratically-elected Sandinista government, bringing condemnation from the World Court, as well as Amnesty International, Americas Watch and other human rights groups and international bodies.
At the same time, the U.S.-backed Guatemalan General José Efraín Ríos Montt, massacred and tortured the people of Guatemala — with U.N. estimates indicating over 200,000 were killed or disappeared in acts of genocide. The same Cold War premise of fighting “communists” was used to justify large-scale atrocities in El Salvador and Honduras. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the U.S. supported brutal dictatorships in Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, and other countries, and militarily invaded Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989). More recently, of course, the U.S. supported coups in Venezuela, Honduras and Haiti.
It could not be more clear that democracy in Latin America is threatened and actually has been compromised on many occasions by the U.S.’s foreign policy, especially in the post-1978 period that Weyland names. Rewriting history to minimize and erase these events serves the interests of the U.S. government, so it is perhaps no surprise that publications like the Journal of Democracy carry out this work diligently, but when government propaganda makes its way into independent publications like The Atlantic without comment, it is cause for alarm, especially when there are numerous factual errors.
- Weyland writes that “Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina (2007-), whose fervent supporters take inspiration from Chávez, is eyeing constitutional changes and renewed reelection.”
Fact check: President Cristina Fernández has not said anything to this effect. She has proposed constitutional amendments focused on reforms to the judiciary, and she has already addressed the Argentine congress specifically, saying that she is not planning to pursue reforms that would allow her to run for a third consecutive term. Weyland would be right in noting that some of her supporters floated the idea of a third term, but Weyland’s claim as written is simply not true. If this seems like a minor point, consider that Honduran ex-president Manuel Zelaya’s support for a non-binding referendum on a constituent assembly was misreported in the media as a bid to extend his presidency and was used as a justification for his removal both within Honduras and internationally. Weyland perpetuates this myth, saying that Zelaya “was stopped” before he could “boost the presidency’s powers and pave the way toward indefinite reelection to that office.” By presenting the coup that removed Zelaya as an event that forestalled a nondemocratic turn, in particular saying nothing about events following the coup, much of Weyland’s argument supposedly in favor of democracy in Latin America is rendered moot.
- “That Venezuela had already fallen under nondemocratic rule was confirmed in October 2012 by Chávez’s unfair reelection, achieved with the help of intimidation tactics, tight restrictions on the opposition, and the massive misuse of the state apparatus.”
The 2012 elections in Venezuela were declared free and fair by election accompanying groups and by monitors such as the Carter Center, which noted that “the whole opposition leadership, including, most importantly, Capriles himself, unequivocally reject those claims [of election fraud favoring Chávez], stating that the results reflected the will of the electorate.” Journalists and human rights watchers monitoring the electoral process praised the system while giving detailed reports about what they saw.
- “With its electoral façade and progressive rhetoric about helping the excluded, the soft authoritarianism that is taking hold in parts of Latin America has an attractive face.”
In sweeping statements such as this one, Weyland casts doubt on both the electoral victories and the policies of progressive and left governments in Latin America. He suggests that the people’s will is not represented in the official outcomes of national elections, and even if left-wing politicians seem popular that is because they trick and/or intimidate citizens and do not deliver on promises to the poor and other disenfranchised sectors of society.
Actually, these are not elections whose legitimacy is seriously questioned by any but those on the extreme right. And the implication that progressive and left governments are limiting their policies to “progressive rhetoric,” is absurd. The overall trend in the countries that have elected progressive and left leaders has been the enactment of policy alternatives to neoliberalism, and their effect has been large reductions in income inequality, a reduction in poverty, and provision of health care, education and important services to many people who previously could not access them. These policies have included reforming and regulating the financial sector in Ecuador, investing oil profits into social missions in Venezuela, and successfully managing a large financial crisis and debt default in Argentina — resulting in only one quarter of negative economic growth followed by nine years of some of the highest growth in the region.
Weyland’s reference to an “electoral façade” betrays the central goal of the NED: what sociologist William Robinson refers to as “promoting polyarchy.” As opposed to experiments in direct democracy occurring on various levels in countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, the NED ultimately promotes only representative forms of democracy, or polyarchy. In Robinson’s definition, this is “a system in which a small group actually rules, and mass participation in decision-making is confined to choosing leaders in elections that are carefully managed by competing elites.” In Venezuela, Chávez’s Bolivarian project did away with a polyarchic system, and across much of the continent NED-backed parties and candidates have failed in election after election. When Washington’s candidates don’t win, often the elections are depicted as illegitimate and sometimes the electoral process is attacked – as seen with the most recent Venezuelan election, or with the U.S.’ interference, via the OAS, in Haiti’s last presidential election.
- “As soon as [Chávez] was elected president of Venezuela, he set about revamping the country’s institutional framework. First, he called a constituent assembly.”
Weyland’s claims here come after stating that “graver and more sustained danger is coming from the leftist variant” of populism than the rightist version, but is the Venezuelan constituent assembly really evidence of anti-democratic tendencies? No again. Calling for a constituent assembly was exactly what Venezuelans elected Chávez to do. Ending the ossified political arrangement known as “Punto Fijo” – in which political parties routinely alternated in and out of power – and calling a constituent assembly were key campaign promises he made ahead of the 1998 elections. Chávez was fulfilling his campaign promises– a much more infrequent phenomenon in the U.S.
- “[Ecuadorean president Rafael] Correa also seized on a 2010 police rebellion—painted by him as a coup attempt—as a pretext for cracking down on independent social and political forces.”
Many observers both in and outside of Ecuador characterize the events of September 30, 2010 as an attempted coup d’état: after assaulting him with tear gas, rebelling police officers later held the president hostage in the hospital where he was being treated. The coup attempt was condemned as such by presidents and representatives of UNASUR, foreign dignitaries such as the president of Spain, and the OAS. Weyland and The Journal of Democracy may be taking the U.S. government’s line, one of the few countries that declined to recognize the events as a coup attempt, even though then-Secretary of State Clinton did issue a statement in expressing “our full support for President Rafael Correa.”
- “Bypassing or subjugating intermediate institutions such as firmly organized parties, the leader—often a charismatic figure—establishes face-to-face contact with large number of citizens. In earlier decades, mass rallies were crucial; now-a-days, television allows populists to reach their followers ‘in person.’ Chávez hosted a regular Sunday talk show.”
Calling for respect of “firmly organized parties” in Venezuela in the context of Chávez’s rise in politics obscures that one of the central political problems in Venezuela during the 90s was deep distrust in the main political parties and their “Punto Fijo” arrangement, which Robinson describes as a polyarchic system.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that President Obama has a weekly address on YouTube, and yet he is not derided as an illegitimate president because of his use of social media. Presidents and major politicians all over the world have Twitter and Facebook accounts that they use to communicate with constituents, and many even make appearances on talk shows. Is such “face-to-face contact” somehow nefarious?
- “In Bolivia, the Morales government shut the opposition out of decisive stages of the constitution drafting process.”
Weyland is again telling only half the story, which in this case is worse than none. The truth is that opposition legislators boycotted stages of the constitution drafting process because they disagreed with the direction in which things were going. Bolivia had elected its first indigenous president, with massive support from the country’s social movements, and he was facilitating a transformation of society to one in which a racial minority and tiny elite did not wield power over the majority of Bolivians. Evo Morales’s election drew comparisons to the symbolic end of apartheid in South Africa with the election of Nelson Mandela, and the new constitution was compared to the Freedom Charter.
It is not surprising that extreme elements in the opposition boycotted the process of installing a new constitution that cemented the rights of the indigenous majority, and it is misleading to describe these events as a “populist” power-grab.
This has been a brief review of some major claims that Weyland uses in arguing his point, namely that “democracy in the region is facing a sustained, coordinated authoritarian threat” from the progressive and left governments in Latin America. I have detailed not only mischaracterizations and significant omissions, but also argued for more independence in the practice of journalism. One of the responsibilities of a well-functioning press is to clearly indicate when articles are reused from sources funded mostly by the U.S. government.
 Ignatius, David. “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups.” The Washington Post. Sep 22, 1991: C1. Print.
- Laughing at Snowden’s Asylum Requests (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Washing U.S. Hands of the Dirty Wars: News Coverage Erases Washington’s Role in State Terror (alethonews.wordpress.com)
An American Muslim man has sued the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the State Department over the claim that he was subjected to torture at their behest while being held abroad.
On Thursday, Yonas Fikre, a Sudanese man of Eritrean descent, filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Oregon seeking USD 30 million in compensation as well as injunctions to prevent the US government from treating anyone else the way he was treated.
The plaintiff says that the FBI took an interest in him in 2009, when he decided to move from Portland, Oregon, to Sudan in order to open an electronics retail business in the North African country.
In April 2010, Fikre was summoned to the US embassy in Khartoum by a man claiming to be an official requiring advice on “how Americans might stay safe during a period of political turmoil in Sudan.”
Upon arrival, he was ushered into a small room and interrogated by FBI agents David Noordeloos and Jason Dundas for information on worshippers at Portland’s largest mosque, Masjid al-Saber.
The agents sought to recruit Fikre as an informant at the mosque, and were angered when he refused.
Fikre left Sudan in June 2010 and arrived in the United Arab Emirates in September 2010, where he obtained a residency permit.
He was apprehended by Emirati police in June 2011, when they “invaded” his house in Abu Dhabi.
Fikre was then incarcerated for 106 days in solitary confinement in a windowless cell, and was beaten repeatedly during the period.
Named in Fikre’s suit are US Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State John Kerry, FBI Director Robert Mueller, FBI Terrorism Screening Center Director Timothy Healy, and FBI agents Noordeloos and Dundas.
Fikre’s story echoes those of Naji Hamdan, Amir Meshal, Sharif Mobley, Gulet Mohamed, as well as Yusuf and Yahya Wehelie.
The six American Muslim men say that, while traveling abroad, they were arrested, questioned, and in some cases abused by local security forces at the behest of the US government.
In doubling the bounty on former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shakur’s head, the Obama administration is announcing that Black radicals are candidates for his Kill List. The message is as unmistakable and dramatic as the billboards that have been erected in Newark, New Jersey, and elsewhere screaming for the exiled freedom fighter’s blood.
One does not wind up on the FBI’s Most Wanted list based on the number of murders committed or millions of dollars stolen. The Most Wanted list is among the nation’s most political documents, in which individuals are meant to personify the scope and type of offenses that the U.S. government considers most in need of stamping out. The list is a kind of propaganda, a symbolic display of what the state considers dangerous behavior.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, the two Black men who are most responsible for making Assata Shakur the face of domestic terror in the United States, are fully conversant in the language of symbolism. They are publicly defining the Black liberation movement – or what’s left of it, or those who might attempt to revive it – as a priority domestic target for repression. Shakur, a 65-year old grandmother who has not left Cuba for the past 29 years, poses no physical danger to the American state. She represents a political threat, through her “ideology,” as brazenly stated by the FBI. The Bureau has marked Shakur for priority assassination on the basis of, in the FBI’s words, her “anti-U.S. government speeches espousing the Black Liberation Army message.” “Terrorism” is somehow inherent in the message of Black liberation. Advocacy of Black liberation, is the threat. The reward of $2 million is meant to silence Assata Shakur’s political speech, and remove her as a symbol of resistance to the U.S government.
For the National Security State, “terror” is a powerful word, with vast legal ramifications. The Obama administration is informing Americans and Cubans that Assata is as much fair game for assassination by drone as the late Anwar al-Awlaki. Barack Obama and Eric Holder are serving notice that those who share Assata’s ideology – as understood by the FBI – are subject to eradication as well, because it is an ideology of terror. And they are telling those who give “substantial support” to Assata that they are subject to detention by the U.S. military without trial or charge, for the duration of the war against “terror.”
The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will hold a demonstration on Thursday, May 9, from 5 to 7pm, in front of the Harlem State Office Building in New York City, to give substantial and unwavering support to the safety and freedom of Assata Shakur; Freedom for Sundiata Acoli and Sekou Odinga, Black Liberation Army members held in U.S. prisons; and Freedom for All Political Prisoners.
They tried to kill Assata in 1973, and their still trying. They tried to kill the Black liberation movement, but its not dead yet. Join the Black is Back Coalition and a host of other concerned organizations at the Harlem State Office Building, on 125th Street, at 5pm, on Thursday. Tell the real terrorists what you think about them, their austerity, their mass incarceration, and their wars.
Glen Ford can be contacted at GlenFord@BlackAgendaReport.com.
For more information, go to Black Is Back Coalition event Facebook page:
Twitter has released its second transparency report, which demonstrated a frightening increase in requests for user data by the US government and ignited serious concerns over privacy and free expression.
The list disclosed data requests from over 30 nations, and revealed that the US government was responsible for 815 of the 1,009 information requests in the second half of 2012 – just over 80 percent of all inquiries.
Twenty percent of all US requests were ‘under seal,’ meaning that users were not notified that their information was accessed.
The overall number of requests worldwide also steadily increased last year, rising from 849 in the January to June 2012 period to 1009 in the July to December 2012 period.
Twitter’s legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel blogged that, “it is vital for us (and other Internet services) to be transparent about government requests for user information.”
“These growing inquiries can have a serious chilling effect on free expression – and real privacy implications,” he wrote.
He went on to express hopes that the publication of the transparency data would be helpful in two ways – “to raise public awareness about these invasive requests,” and “to enable policy makers to make more informed decisions.”
The majority of US requests were subpoenas, which comprised 60 percent of government demands for information. Subpoenas usually seek user information such as email addresses affiliated with accounts and IP logs. A user’s whereabouts can generally be located by the IP address they are using.
Twitter complied with US government requests 69 percent of the time, according to the report.
Twitter released its transparency report on January 28, dubbed ‘Data Privacy Day.’ The US National Cyber Security alliance said it founded the day to “empower people to protect their privacy.”
According to Twitter’s report, several other governments made over 10 requests each for personal information, including Brazil, Canada, France, Japan and the UK. Japan ranked the second-highest on the list after the US; however, the US made 753 more demands for information than Japan.
Google released a statement marking the occasion, saying that the company “[doesn’t] want our services to be used in harmful ways,” and that it is “important that laws protect you against overly broad requests for your personal information.”
Earlier this month, France ruled that Twitter must disclose to authorities the identities of people writing anti-Semitic tweets using the hashtags #UnBonJuif [A Good Jew] and #UnJuifMort [A Dead Jew]. The social networking platform will be fined 1,000 euros a day until it complies.
The publication of the survey came shortly after Google published its own transparency report, which showed a similarly disturbing 25 percent rise in data requests from government authorities. The report also revealed that the US had made the most requests for private information to Google of any government: Over 8,438 in the second half of 2012.
UK-based rights group Privacy International later commented that “Google, Facebook and Twitter are highly vulnerable to government intrusion.”
“I am alarmed by the number of government requests and concerned that so many are done with merely a subpoena,” said John Simpson, a consumer advocate with the California-based group Consumer Watchdog. “A warrant should be required.”
- Twitter Transparency Report v2 (twitter.com)
- Twitter: Government user data requests have risen 20 percent (sott.net)
The U.S. is ramping up pressure on the American public to accept an attack on Iran, with not one but two stories in today’s news. It wasn’t enough to accuse Iran of producing nuclear weapons based on no evidence, now we’re throwing into the mix accusations of cyberattacks and hostage taking as well.In perhaps the more serious charge, an AP story accuses Iran of holding retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in 2007 on an Iranian island. Iran has repeatedly denied holding Levinson, which would seem reasonable on two counts — one, they never denied holding the three American hikers, nor journalist Roxanna Saberi; why would they deny holding Levinson? And two, considering they have made no demands for a “spy swap” or anything of the sort, to what end would they be holding him?
Logic, of course, doesn’t deter the U.S. authorities who planted this story. And what exactly is their “evidence”? “The tradecraft used to send those items [videos and pictures of the hostage] was too good, indicating professional spies were behind them.” An example of that “professional tradecraft”? They used a cybercafe to send the video and never used that email address again! Oh, the amazing professionalism! The wondrous “tradecraft” of anyone who could pull off such a daring feat! Yes, you read right, this is the evidence on which “the U.S. government’s best intelligence analysis” says that Iran is holding Levinson.
The second story comes with an equal lack of significant evidence. The U.S. government (through the accommodating auspices of the New York Times) is accusing Iran of being behind recent DDoS attacks on American online banking sites. And here comes the “evidence”:
American officials have not offered any technical evidence to back up their claims, but computer security experts say the recent attacks showed a level of sophistication far beyond that of amateur hackers. Also, the hackers chose to pursue disruption, not money: another earmark of state-sponsored attacks, the experts said.
Again, two things. One, amateur hackers are pretty much capable of doing anything these days. And two, many amateur hacking attacks, probably most of them, are done for the purpose of disruption, not money.The most interesting aspect of this story is actually this admission:
American intelligence officials…claim Iran is waging the attacks in retaliation for Western economic sanctions and for a series of cyberattacks on its own systems.
Needless to say, Iran would be perfectly justified in doing so, given that the U.S. is waging an all-out non-military war against Iran. It’s no accident that sanctions are referred to as “tightening the noose.” U.S. “officials” even admit that the sanctions are “designed to…threaten the country with economic collapse.” This is war, and Iran would be perfectly justified in retaliating by a lot more serious means than these cyberattacks. That said, it must be noted again that the “evidence” that Iran is behind these attacks borders on the laughable.But the U.S. government is not laughing. It is deadly serious in its intent to bring down the Iranian government, and remove from the world one more pole of independence from imperialism.