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Media Support US Violence Against Syria, but Long for More

By Gregory Shupak | FAIR | April 20, 2018

Corporate media outlets were glad that the US, France and Britain bombed Syria in violation of international law (FAIR.org, 4/18/18), but lamented what they see as a dearth of US violence in the country.

In The Atlantic (4/14/18), Thanassis Cambanis described the war crime as “undoubtedly a good thing,” and called for “sustained attention and investment, of diplomatic, economic and military resources”—though the latter rubbed up against his assessment in the same paragraph that “a major regional war will only make things worse.” Moreover, he described “the most realistic possibility” for the US and its partners in Syria as “an incomplete and possibly destabilizing policy of confrontation [and] containment. But a reckoning can’t be deferred forever.”

This “reckoning” was his somewhat oblique way of referring to a war pitting the US and its allies against the Syrian government and its allies, the very “wider regional war” he just warned against. In Cambanis’ view, “confrontations” between nuclear-armed America and nuclear-armed Russia are “inevitable,” which implies that there is no sense in trying to avoid such potentially apocalyptic scenarios.

A Washington Post editorial (4/14/18) said that “Mr. Trump was right to order the strikes.” The paper was glad that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Donald Trump “properly left open the possibility of further action.” The Post’s rationale for continuing to attack Syria was that “the challenge to vital US interests in Syria is far from over,” and that Trump was therefore wrong “to call Friday’s operation a ‘Mission Accomplished.’” These “interests” include ensuring that Iran does not “obtain the land corridor it seeks across Syria.” (Cambanis, similarly, described as “justified” US efforts to “contain Syria and its allies.”)

The paper was concerned because Trump says that he’d like to subcontract US activities in Syria to US regional partners like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt. None of these states, the Post fretted, “are capable of working with local forces [in Syria] to stabilize and hold the large stretch of [Syrian] territory now under de facto US control east of the Euphrates River.”

The editorial failed to note that this territory amounts to “about one-third of the country, including most of the oil wealth” (New York Times, 3/8/18) and “much of Syria’s best agricultural land” (Syria Comment, 1/15/18). The legitimacy of “de facto US control” over Syrian territory and some of its most valuable resources is apparently beyond question, as is the US’s alleged right to determine which governments are allowed to be friendly with each other: The Iranian “land corridor” refers to the Iranian government having warm relations with the governments of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, something the Post appears to regard as a grave danger.

The editorial says that the US and its allies sought to “minimize the risk of a direct military confrontation with Russia or Iran” and that this was “prudent,” but that “if Russia takes retaliatory action, including in cyberspace, the United States must be ready to respond.” According to this view, projecting US power in Syria is so essential that no form of opposition to US violence in Syria can be brooked, the concern for prudence having vanished.

The Post contended that the US must demand “an acceptable political settlement brokered by the United Nations”—“acceptable” signifying “the departure” of the Syrian government. Functionally, this means keeping the war going: Saying that negotiations should take place but that the only “acceptable” outcome is the dissolution of the Syrian government amounts to the same thing as saying that no negotiations should take place, particularly now that the Syrian government is working from a position of strength and unlikely to agree to its own surrender as a pre-condition for talks.

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Guardian (4/15/18), supported US violence in Syria by attacking its critics. He said that those who oppose the Anglo-American-French airstrikes on Syria out of “indifference” to Syria’s plight have the “sole merit of being candid,” unlike those who are

less honest . . . the self-proclaimed peace-lovers. Mainly to be found on the hand-wringing left, they are too busy looking in the mirror admiring their own halos to face the moral challenges posed by a situation like Syria.

Luckily Rawnsley has the requisite courage to meet “the moral challenges” and advocate more war: He says that the West should have “impos[ed] no-fly zones” early in the war in Syria, a policy that would have entailed attacking Syria’s air forces, an act of war by any definition. No-fly zones over Iraq and Libya ultimately led to regime change in both countries, with hideous results for their people.

Rawnsley’s complaint that the West applied “no meaningful pressure” to “bring [the Syrian government to the negotiating table” is wildly misleading; the Western powers in fact applied “meaningful pressure” to prevent negotiations.

Rawnsley also legitimized US violence against Syria by expunging the damage it has inflicted. He trotted out the well-worn lie that the West “stood by” and “fail[ed] to act” in Syria, a canard that FAIR has repeatedly de-bunked (e.g., 9/20/15, 4/7/17, 3/7/18). He characterized the West’s approach to seven years of war in Syria as “years of unmasterly inactivity,” having their hands “wedged firmly under their bottoms,” an “impotent posture,” “failures to act,” making the “grav[e] decision not to act,” “inaction,” “non-interventionist” and as “inaction” a second time. Yet the CIA’s effort to oust the Syrian government has been one of the costliest covert-action programs in the agency’s history; has built ten military bases in the country, with two more on the way; and has killed thousands of Syrian civilians in a bombing campaign ostensibly aimed at ISIS (Jacobin, 4/18/18).

“Non-interventionists,” Rawnsley concludes his article, “the horrors of Syria are on you.” Yet there is no shortage of horrors that are on the interventionists. Sanctions imposed by the US and its allies have punished the Syrian population (9/28/16). These states are implicated in sectarian violence that anti-government armed groups have carried out against minorities (Electronic Intifada, 3/16/17). The US bombed a mosque in Aleppo, Syria, in the name of fighting Al Qaeda, killing almost 40 people (Independent, 4/18/17), and America used toxic depleted uranium against ISIS-held territory in Syria (Foreign Policy, 2/14/17): It would be rather difficult to claim that these horrors were caused by “non-interventionists.”

Cambanis, moreover, exclusively listed Syria, Iran and Russia among those governments who “have serially transgressed the laws of war” and “gotten away with murder” in Syria, but the atrocities attributable to the US and its allies surely constitute “serially transgress[ing] the laws of war” and having “gotten away with murder.”

The Syrian government and its partners are also responsible for a substantial share of carnage in the war, but Rawnsley’s accusation that “non-interventionists” are to blame for Syria’s bloodshed is completely untenable. His argument that Western states have inflicted insufficient harm on Syrians amounts to war propaganda.

And he’s far from the only media figure about whom this can be said.

Gregory Shupak teaches media studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto.

April 21, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump: Prisoner of the War Party?

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • April 17, 2018

“Ten days ago, President Trump was saying ‘the United States should withdraw from Syria.’ We convinced him it was necessary to stay.”

Thus boasted French President Emmanuel Macron Saturday, adding, “We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term.”

Is the U.S. indeed in the Syrian civil war “for the long term”?

If so, who made that fateful decision for this republic?

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley confirmed Sunday there would be no drawdown of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, until three objectives were reached. We must fully defeat ISIS, ensure chemical weapons would not again be used by Bashar Assad and maintain the ability to watch Iran.

Translation: Whatever Trump says, America is not coming out of Syria. We are going deeper in. Trump’s commitment to extricate us from these bankrupting and blood-soaked Middle East wars and to seek a new rapprochement with Russia is “inoperative.”

The War Party that Trump routed in the primaries is capturing and crafting his foreign policy. Monday’s Wall Street Journal editorial page fairly blossomed with war plans:

“The better U.S. strategy is to … turn Syria into the Ayatollah’s Vietnam. Only when Russia and Iran began to pay a larger price in Syria will they have any incentive to negotiate an end to the war or even contemplate a peace based on dividing the country into ethnic-based enclaves.”

Apparently, we are to bleed Syria, Russia, Hezbollah and Iran until they cannot stand the pain and submit to subdividing Syria the way we want.

But suppose that, as in our Civil War of 1861-1865, the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, and the Chinese Civil War of 1945-1949, Assad and his Russian, Iranian and Shiite militia allies go all out to win and reunite the nation.

Suppose they choose to fight to consolidate the victory they have won after seven years of civil war. Where do we find the troops to take back the territory our rebels lost? Or do we just bomb mercilessly?

The British and French say they will back us in future attacks if chemical weapons are used, but they are not plunging into Syria.

Defense Secretary James Mattis called the U.S.-British-French attack a “one-shot” deal. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appears to agree: “The rest of the Syrian war must proceed as it will.”

The Journal’s op-ed page Monday was turned over to former U.S. ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker and Brookings Institute senior fellow Michael O’Hanlon:

“Next time the U.S. could up the ante, going after military command and control, political leadership, and perhaps even Assad himself. The U.S. could also pledge to take out much of his air force. Targets within Iran should not be off limits.”

And when did Congress authorize U.S. acts of war against Syria, its air force or political leadership? When did Congress authorize the killing of the president of Syria whose country has not attacked us?

Can the U.S. also attack Iran and kill the ayatollah without consulting Congress?

Clearly, with the U.S. fighting in six countries, Commander in Chief Trump does not want any new wars, or to widen any existing wars in the Middle East. But he is being pushed into becoming a war president to advance the agenda of foreign policy elites who, almost to a man, opposed his election.

We have a reluctant president being pushed into a war he does not want to fight. This is a formula for a strategic disaster not unlike Vietnam or George W. Bush’s war to strip Iraq of nonexistent WMD.

The assumption of the War Party seems to be that if we launch larger and more lethal strikes in Syria, inflicting casualties on Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah and the Syrian army, they will yield to our demands.

But where is the evidence for this?

What reason is there to believe these forces will surrender what they have paid in blood to win? And if they choose to fight and widen the war to the larger Middle East, are we prepared for that?

As for Trump’s statement Friday, “No amount of American blood and treasure can produce lasting peace in the Middle East,” the Washington Post Sunday dismissed this as “fatalistic” and “misguided.”

We have a vital interest, says the Post, in preventing Iran from establishing a “land corridor” across Syria.

Yet consider how Iran acquired this “land corridor.”

The Shiites in 1979 overthrew a shah our CIA installed in 1953.

The Shiites control Iraq because President Bush invaded and overthrew Saddam and his Sunni Baath Party, disbanded his Sunni-led army, and let the Shiite majority take control of the country.

The Shiites are dominant in Lebanon because they rose up and ran out the Israelis, who invaded in 1982 to run out the PLO.

How many American dead will it take to reverse this history?

How long will we have to stay in the Middle East to assure the permanent hegemony of Sunni over Shiite?

Copyright 2018 Creators.com.

April 17, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

US Media Keeping Americans Blissfully Ignorant over Syria As Washington ‘Weighs Options’

By Robert BRIDGE | Strategic Culture Foundation | 12.04.2018

Americans desperate for news from the Syrian front, where an alleged chemical attack has prompted the Trump administration to consider a military strike against Damascus, are in for a real disappointment. Any balanced discussion of a possible military offensive against Syria, which Moscow has warned would have “grave consequences,” has been swept clean from the news slate.

On Wednesday morning, in an apparent state of wishful thinking mixed with a dash of masochism, I consulted multiple US news sites to see how the Syrian crisis was being reported. Expecting to find large-font headlines warning of a possible military offensive, not to mention World War 3, I was greeted instead with multi-layered stories on former porn star, Stormy Daniels, and her 10-year old affair with Donald Trump. I’m guessing there was a Russian connection to that salacious story somewhere, but exactly where I could not immediately say.

The lead story in the Bezos-owned Washington Post, for example, was headlined, “Investigators sought Trump lawyer’s records on two women who alleged affairs with president.” Next to that salacious piece of bozo journalism was another nothing burger, at least as far as the Syrian crisis is concerned, which discussed the current trials and tribulations of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (“Zuckerberg apologizes, promises reform during hours-long Senate grilling over Facebook’s failings”). While that may seem like important news to some, it pales in comparison with the prospect of the US launching an attack on the Syrian government.

Buried deep below that media debris and detritus was a single story devoted to Syria, headlined: “Nerve gas in Syria attack, leaving victims ‘foaming at the mouth,’ evidence suggests.” This glaringly one-sided narrative, much like the one used last month in the Salisbury ‘chemical attack’ that allegedly sickened Sergey Skripal and his daughter, is tenuous at best, a bald-faced lie at worst. Indeed, judging by an examination of the site carried out by Russian experts and the Syrian Red Cross, no trace of chemical weapons could be found.

A switch to CNN provided a near duplicate of The Post’s paucity of pickings, albeit with a slightly different twist. “Trump considering firing Rosenstein, sources say,” was the headline of the main story, which shows that the ‘Russiagate’ show trial is beginning to eat its tail, yet the media – after almost two years – just can’t resist reporting on it. Next to that show-stopper, US media consumers are provided yet another cure for insomnia with riveting details on Zuckerberg’s 5-hour grilling by the US Senate.

Finally, a CNN article on Syria. Yet the headline says everything we need to know as far as what the American consumer of mainstream media fare is permitted to think: “Haley says Russia chose ‘protecting a monster’ over Syrian people” (Incidentally, this is same way US political elections are carried out. There is freedom, but only a severely limited freedom that allows the populace to ‘freely’ choose between candidates that have already been carefully selected by the powers-that-be).

Below that gratuitous bugle blast for war is an open letter to the US leader, entitled, “President Trump, now is not the time for half-baked military action.” Translation: “President Trump, now is the time for full-blown military action”

Here is CNN opinionator Sam Kiley inveighing against the Syrian government, using cheap emotional imagery as a substitute for hardnosed facts: “Outrage over the images of children frozen in death, their mouths gagged with foam as the alleged victims of another Syrian government gas attack on its own people, has led Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, to call the perpetrator behind the attack “a monster.”

“Such passionate intensity is understandable,” Kiley continues, building up momentum for a hysterical Hitler analogy. “There’s something visceral about killing with gas. It recalls the Holocaust. It conjures up almost identical photographs of Saddam Hussein’s attack on the Kurds of Halabja.”

Ah, yes. The sweet sound of impartial journalism. What is so deplorable about this brand of so-called reporting is that it refuses to consider the very high probability that it was not the Syrian government that resorted to chemical weapons in Douma, but rather the rebel forces, who were suffering on every military front up until that point. Would President Bashar Assad really be so reckless to risk a chemical attack at the very moment he was bringing to an end an 8-year struggle against terrorist-infiltrated militants in his country? Common sense would say no.

It’s not that the American people are inherently stupid to believe such absurd claims; it’s that they are woefully misinformed by a media machine that is marching in lockstep – sometimes even owned – by the military industrial complex. Mark Twain summed up the Catch-22 situation confronting Americans: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

And it is not just the run-of-the-mill news sources that are serving as cheerleaders for imperialistic regime change operations. The purportedly intelligent ‘thinking man’ publications are also peddling a shameless pro-war stance, which takes the government line for granted.

In this month’s issue of The Atlantic, for example, investigative journalism is reduced to roadkill in the rush to war. In an article entitled, “The Logic of Assad’s Brutality,” it is obvious that the magazine has already predetermined Assad’s guilt. Yet the UN weapons inspectors have not even reached Syria to begin their investigative work? What kind of journalist could put his name on an article that could only be called an elaborate piece of pro-war propaganda?

And then there is the ‘conservative’ journal Foreign Policy, which argued in an article entitled ‘Macron needs to Attack Syria’: “It’s not clear whether France can count on the United States to commit to the enforcement of any red lines against the Assad regime. But this should only concentrate Macron’s mind. If the United States abstains, he should prepare, for the sake of not only his personal credibility, but French national interests, to strike alone.”

No call for restraint, no call for evidence, no suggestion that the terrorists may have been to blame. Just a reckless gunshot from the hip to settle matters, and who cares if it may trigger a global conflagration.

This only serves to prove that the United States, and its people, learned absolutely nothing from the Iraq War, which saw the same brazen disregard for legal precedent by launching an attack against Saddam Hussein in 2003, the consequences of which we are experiencing to this day. As the UN weapon inspectors were on the ground, practically screaming that they could not locate weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration shrugged off these uncomfortable truths and carried out its diabolical designs anyways.

In reality, the US did learn one valuable lesson from the Iraq War. It learned it can manipulate the opinions of the people to an astonishing degree. By using the entire media leviathan to coordinate a hate campaign against one state leader, in this case Bashar Assad, it can make the people forget legal precedent, not to mention common sense.

Wake up, America, before it’s too late.

April 12, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 3 Comments

Media Boosts Obvious Saudi Front Group as Neutral ‘Think Tank’

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | March 28, 2018

WaPo: Scapegoating Saudi Arabia Won't Help Us Fight Terrorism

Washington Post, 5/31/17

The Arabia Foundation appeared in spring 2016, seemingly out of nowhere, as a Saudi-focused think tank with “ties to Riyadh,” but vaguely independent of the regime. Or at least independent enough so that media wouldn’t represent it as an extension of the kingdom. But the past few weeks have clearly shown it to be little more than a PR outlet for de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman and his sprawling, opaque business interests.

After multiple requests by FAIR for its donors, the Arabia Foundation refused to give any, other than its founder, Saudi investment banker Ali Shihabi. It insists it doesn’t take money from “the Saudi government,” but instead is backed by unnamed private Saudi citizens.

The distinction between private citizens and the “government” in the hereditary monarchy of Saudi Arabia is notoriously blurry, but one connection is worth noting: The registered agent and legal counsel of the Arabia Foundation, Eric L. Lewis, represented the Saudi government and related “charities” in the lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims over the Saudi royal family’s role in the September 11 attacks. The website of Lewis’ law firm, Lewis, Baach, Kaufmann and Middlemiss, boasts it has “extensive experience representing and advising foreign sovereigns, including the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt.”

The New York Times (11/30/18) has described the group as “close to the Saudi government,” while the Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor (11/6/17) noted it had “close ties to the kingdom.”  That doesn’t stop the Post opinion section from running multiple op-eds from Arabia Foundation figures (5/31/17, 12/20/17, 1/4/18, 1/22/18). In most press appearances, the group is simply identified as “a Washington-based think tank.” Absent documented evidence of who exactly funds the group, why should media not assume—based on its connections to the government and cartoonishly pro–bin Salman line—that the Arabia Foundation is a front group for the government?

In repeated interviews (BBC World News, 3/20/18; Morning Joe, 3/20/18; CNN, 3/19/18) last week, Shihabi, the head of the nominally independent group, spun for war crimes, human rights abuses and a whole host of morally dubious activities carried out by the increasingly despotic Saudi ruler. The Arabia Foundation’s ties to the Saudi government are never noted or even vaguely referenced in these interviews.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, after saying the “crown prince” has engaged in a “massive corruption crackdown” (a wholly PR frame discredited earlier this month by the New York Times, 3/11/18), host Mika Brzezinksi teed up Shihabi to comment on Saudi Arabia. The softball interview that followed hit all of the regime’s central premises without question: as well as “cracking down on corruption,” bin Salman is “modernizing Saudi Arabia” and “taking on the religious establishment.”

No one on the panel brought up Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war crimes in Yemen—consistent with MSNBC’s network-wide virtual blackout on one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises (FAIR.org, 3/20/18). The Council on Foreign Relations’ Richard Haas made one opaque reference to Saudi “war with Yemen,” but didn’t note the thousands killed or up to one million infected with cholera; the US-backed war was was simply dismissed as a “strategic overreach.” The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller, another panelist, did get in a question about torture, which Ali Shihabi dismissed as having “no evidence” despite Bumiller speaking with several doctors who witnessed it.

Reliable Saudi stenographer David Iglesias who, as FAIR (4/28/17) noted last year, has been running the same reformist press release for the royal family for 15 years, continued his unique brand of faux criticism, insisting that the Saudi prince was too “bold”—the political commentary equivalent of answering “I work too hard” when asked on a job interview what your biggest flaw is.

Shihabi claimed without irony that what Saudi Arabia needed was “autocracy to affect change,” and a “benevolent autocrat.” His evidence that the masses approved of bin Salman’s “bold, needed” leadership was approved of by the masses? That there has been “no bloodshed, there’s been no demonstration, no domestic strife.” Of course, the last time there were anti-government demonstrations, in 2011, the Saudi military opened fire on protesters, and snuffed out resistance with torture and extrajudicial killings. In 2017, when one Shia town resisted the regime, Riyadh flattened an entire neighborhood. This could perhaps be why the general population isn’t quick to take to the streets, but the Arabia Foundation insist it’s an implicit admission the crown prince is loved and popular.

The CNN and BBC interviews, likewise, didn’t note the Arabia Foundation’s obvious ties to the Saudi regime.

Forbes keeps running “op-eds” by Arabia Foundation fellow Ellen Wald that amount to little more than press releases for Saudi investment opportunities (e.g., 12/11/17, 2/1/18, 3/13/18). Another pundit on the Arabia Foundation’s payroll, Bernard Haykel, writes fawning profiles of bin Salman in the Washington Post (1/22/18) without disclosing he’s a founding director of the organization—instead listing his more benign academic credentials.

The Arabia Foundation is so satisfied with the media’s presentation of its messaging that it routinely tweets out articles it’s featured in and TV appearances it’s had, knowing its messaging is syncing up nicely with bin Salman’s PR tour to the United States. “Yemen is a tragedy. Wars are a tragedy. Saudi is aware of that and is going out of its way to try to address humanitarian issues there,” boasted one tweet, quoting Shihabi’s interview with the BBC.

By contrast, this obtuse inability to connect dots is absent when discussing think tanks “close to” the Syrian government. Never is the Assad-connected British Syrian Society set up as a neutral arbiter of affairs of the Syrian conflict. It is met with disdain, painted as “little more than a Syrian regime propaganda exercise” (Guardian, 10/26/17), the “mouthpiece in the West” (Middle East Eye, 10/19/17) for a war crime–committing tyrant. Those who associate with it, including academics, journalists and British members of parliament, are publicly shamed for participating in a “regime PR exercise” (Independent, 10/29/16). Yet somehow the “Saudi-connected” Arabia Foundation, which cheers on a “benevolent autocrat” as he rains bombs on Yemen and uses hunger as a weapon of war, receives no such moral banishment. Instead, it is dressed up as just another respectable think tank.

The fact that the Arabia Foundation is a thinly veiled PR firm for the Saudi government matters. The average reader or viewer would take Shihabi and his network of mercenary “fellows” less seriously if they were presented as spokespeople for a repressive government rather than quasi-academics from a impressive-sounding “foundation.”

With all the hysteria surrounding RT and foreign influence on the American public, one might think such an obvious racket would give editors and TV producers pause. But the same rules don’t apply to American allies. Their propaganda is treated not like a sinister “influence operation,” but like a respectable group of academics calling balls and strikes on international affairs.

March 30, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Former CIA Chief Brennan Running Scared

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | March 19, 2018

What prompted former CIA Director John Brennan on Saturday to accuse President Donald Trump of “moral turpitude” and to predict, with an alliterative flourish, that Trump will end up “as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history”? The answer shines through the next sentence in Brennan’s threatening tweet: “You may scapegoat Andy McCabe [former FBI Deputy Director fired Friday night] but you will not destroy America… America will triumph over you.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan

It is easy to see why Brennan lost it. The Attorney General fired McCabe, denying him full retirement benefits, because McCabe “had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor — including under oath — on multiple occasions.” There but for the grace of God go I, Brennan must have thought, whose stock in trade has been unauthorized disclosures.

In fact, Brennan can take but small, short-lived consolation in the fact that he succeeded in leaving with a full government pension. His own unauthorized disclosures and leaks probably dwarf in number, importance, and sensitivity those of McCabe. And many of those leaks appear to have been based on sensitive intercepted conversations from which the names of American citizens were unmasked for political purposes. Not to mention the leaks of faux intelligence like that contained in the dubious “dossier” cobbled together for the Democrats by British ex-spy Christopher Steele.

It is an open secret that the CIA has been leaking like the proverbial sieve over the last two years or so to its favorite stenographers at the New York Times and Washington Post. (At one point, the obvious whispering reached the point that the Wall Street Journal saw fit to complain that it was being neglected.) The leaking can be traced way back — at least as far as the Clinton campaign’s decision to blame the Russians for the publication of very damning DNC emails by WikiLeaks just three days before the Democratic National Convention.

This blame game turned out to be a hugely successful effort to divert attention from the content of the emails, which showed in bas relief the dirty tricks the DNC played on Bernie Sanders. The media readily fell in line, and all attention was deflected from the substance of the DNC emails to the question as to why the Russians supposedly “hacked into the DNC and gave the emails to WikiLeaks.”

This media operation worked like a charm, but even Secretary Clinton’s PR person, Jennifer Palmieri, conceded later that at first it strained credulity that the Russians would be doing what they were being accused of doing.

Magnificent Diversion

On April 6, 2017 I attended a panel discussion on “Russia’s interference in our democracy” at the Clinton/Podesta Center for American Progress Fund. In my subsequent write-up I noted that panelist Palmieri had inadvertently dropped tidbits of evidence that I suggested “could get some former officials in deep kimchi – if a serious investigation of leaking, for example, were to be conducted.” (That time seems to be coming soon.)

Palmieri was asked to comment on “what was actually going on in late summer/early fall [2016].” She answered:

“It was a surreal experience … so I did appreciate that for the press to absorb … the idea that behind the stage that the Trump campaign was coordinating with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton was too fantastic for people to, um, for the press to process, to absorb….

“But then we go back to Brooklyn [Clinton headquarters] and heard from the — mostly our sources were other intelligence, with the press who work in the intelligence sphere, and that’s where we heard things and that’s where we learned about the dossier and the other story lines that were swirling about; and how to process … And along the way the administration started confirming various pieces of what they were concerned about what Russia was doing. … So I do think that the answer for the Democrats now … in both the House and the Senate is to talk about it more and make it more real.”

So the leaking had an early start, and went on steroids during the months following the Democratic Convention up to the election — and beyond.

As a Reminder

None of the leaking, unmasking, surveillance, or other activities directed against the Trump campaign can be properly understood, if one does not bear in mind that it was considered a sure thing that Secretary Clinton would become President, at which point illegal and extralegal activities undertaken to help her win would garner praise, not prison.

But she lost. And a month ago, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) threw down the gauntlet, indicating that there could be legal consequences, for example, for officials who misled the FISA court in order to enable surveillance on Trump and associates. His words are likely to have sent chills down the spine of yet other miscreants. “If they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial,” he said. “The reason Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created.”

John Brennan is widely reported to be Nunes’s next target. Does one collect a full pension in jail?

Unmasking: Senior national security officials are permitted to ask the National Security Agency to unmask the names of Americans in intercepted communications for national security reasons — not for domestic political purposes. Congressional committees have questioned why Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power (as well as his national security adviser Susan Rice) made so many unmasking requests. Power is reported to have requested the unmasking of more than 260 Americans, most of them in the final days of the administration, including the names of Trump associates.

Deep State Intimidation 

Back to John Brennan’s bizarre tweet Saturday telling the President, “You may scapegoat Andy McCabe but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you.” Unmasking the word “America,” so to speak, one can readily discern the name “Brennan” underneath. Brennan’s words and attitude are a not-so-subtle reminder of the heavy influence and confidence of the deep state, including the media — exercised to a fare-thee-well over the past two years.

Later on Saturday, Samantha Power, with similar equities at stake, put an exclamation point behind what Brennan had tweeted earlier in the day. Power also saw fit to remind Trump where the power lies, so to speak. She warned him publicly that it is “not a good idea to piss off John Brennan.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post is dutifully playing its part in the deep-state game of intimidation. The following excerpt from Sunday’s lead article conveys the intended message: “Some Trump allies say they worry he is playing with fire by taunting the FBI. ‘This is open, all-out war. And guess what? The FBI’s going to win,’ said one ally, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid. ‘You can’t fight the FBI. They’re going to torch him.’” [sic]

The Post, incidentally, waited until paragraph 41 of 44 to inform readers that it was the FBI’s own Office of Professional Responsibility and the Inspector General of the Department of Justice that found McCabe guilty, and that the charge was against McCabe, not the FBI. A quite different impression was conveyed by the large headline “Trump escalates attacks on FBI” as well as the first 40 paragraphs of Sunday’s lead article.

Putting Down a Marker

It isn’t as though Donald Trump wasn’t warned, as are all incoming presidents, of the power of the Deep State that he needs to play ball with — or else. Recall that just three days before President-elect Trump was visited by National Intelligence Director James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Michael Rogers, Trump was put on notice by none other than the Minority Leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer.  Schumer has been around and knows the ropes; he is a veteran of 18 years in the House, and is in his 20th year in the Senate.

On Jan. 3, 2017 Schumer said it all, when he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, that President-elect Trump is “being really dumb” by taking on the intelligence community and its assessments on Russia’s cyber activities:

“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told Maddow. “So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.” Did Maddow ask Schumer if he was saying President of the United States should be afraid of the intelligence community? No, she let Schumer’s theorem stand.

With gauntlets now thrown down by both sides, we may not have to wait very long to see if Schumer is correct in his blithe prediction as to how the present constitutional crisis will be resolved.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He served as a CIA analyst under seven Presidents and nine CIA directors and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

March 19, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Dictator’ Putin wins ‘fraud-tainted’ vote: Western media sticks to narrative on Russian election

RT | March 18, 2018

From Soviet comparisons to accusations of authoritarianism, mainstream coverage of Russia’s presidential election has barely changed since 2004, though mentions of the UK spy poisoning scandal did add a fresh layer of insinuation.

As Putin was thanking his supporters for a landslide victory from the stage in Red Square, Western outlets rolled out long, pre-written news stories, liberally mixing reporting and opinion.

“The vote was tainted by widespread reports of ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but the complaints will likely do little to undermine Putin,” wrote AP’s lead report. “The Russian leader’s popularity remains high despite his suppression of dissent and reproach from the West over Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance in world affairs and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election.”

The Washington Post called Sunday’s vote an “elaborate presidential-election-day spectacle” that sought “to legitimize the election,” which “critics described as a charade,” by boosting the turnout as “a lack of suspense or popular opposition candidates threatened to keep people home.”

Calling the election a “hollow exercise,” the New York Times reached for the most predictable of parallels.

“Gone were the Soviet days when there was just one name on the ballot and the winner habitually harvested 99 percent of the vote. The spirit was similar, however, with pictures of Mr. Putin and his campaign slogan, ‘Strong president, strong Russia,’ blanketing the country,” it wrote.

In its top report. CNN said that Putin “seeks tighter grip on power,” while also reminding its readers that “he is already the country’s longest-serving leader since the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin” (which is not actually true – that would be Leonid Brezhnev). CNN added that Putin is “banking on confrontation with international players this election.”

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp Australia didn’t even bother with such nuances, calling Putin a straight-up “dictator,” though the article was later amended to merely describe the vote as “inevitable.”

For the Guardian, “paradoxically, the first order of business now… is for Putin to set up an escape plan.”

“Kremlin politics have become a bloodsport,” wrote Andrew Roth, the Guardian’s correspondent for Moscow. “With a shrinking economy [also untrue] and elites manoeuvring before a possible succession battle, the knives are out.”

This year, the usual analysis was also sprinkled with allegations that a Moscow agent poisoned Sergei Skripal with the toxin “Novichok, a gruesome calling card” to provoke a British response, according to the Guardian.

“A row with London can do Putin no harm, especially among voters who share his uncompromising nationalist worldview and his smouldering sense of victimhood,” an article in the Guardian said this week.

“The diplomatic crisis this poisoning case has caused may help him get more people into polling booths,” echoed Australia’s ABC.

March 18, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 2 Comments

Liberals, Conservatives Worry About Korean Peace Threat

By Gregory Shupak | FAIR | March 15, 2018

WaPo: North Korea and South Korea snooker Trump

Washington Post‘s Max Boot (3/8/18)

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

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

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

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

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

Boot went on to contend:

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

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

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

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC, 3/9/18)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Praise of Sanctions

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

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

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

He continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollywood hoopla ignores media’s history of servility

By James Bovard – The Hill – 03/02/18

Much of the media nowadays is portraying itself as heroes of the #Resist Trump movement. To exploit that meme, Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg rushed out “The Post,” a movie depicting an epic press battle with the Nixon administration. But regardless of whether Spielberg’s latest wins the Academy Award for best picture on Sunday night, Americans should never forget the media’s long history of pandering to presidents and the Pentagon.

“The Post” is built around the Pentagon Papers, a secret study begun in 1967 analyzing where the Vietnam war had gone awry. The 7000-page tome showed that presidents and military leaders had been profoundly deceiving the American people ever since the Truman administration and that the same mistakes were endlessly repeated. Like many policy autopsies, the report was classified and completely ignored by the White House and federal agencies that most needed to heed its lessons.

Daniel Ellsberg, a former Pentagon official, heroically risked life in prison to smuggle the report to the media after members of Congress were too cowardly to touch it. The New York Times shattered the political sound barrier when it began courageously publishing the report despite a profusion of threats from the Nixon administration Justice Department. After a federal court slapped the Times with an injunction, the Washington Post and other newspapers published additional classified excerpts from the report. Likely because the Washington Post had a female publisher, Spielberg made it, rather than the Times, the star of the show.

Spielberg’s movie portrays Post editor Ben Bradlee denouncing dishonest government officials to publisher Katharine Graham: “The way they lied — those days have to be over.” Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, who deluged the media with falsehoods about battlefront progress, did more than anyone else (except perhaps President Lyndon Johnson) to vastly increase the bloodbath for Americans and Vietnamese. McNamara’s disastrous deceits did not deter the Washington Post from appointing him to its Board of Directors. As author Norman Solomon recently observed, “The Washington Post was instrumental in avidly promoting the lies that made the Vietnam War possible in the first place.”

The Pentagon Papers proved that politicians and their tools will brazenly con the American public to drag the nation into unnecessary wars. But that lesson vanished into the D.C. memory hole — conveniently for obsequious journalists like Post superstar Bob Woodward.

On March 17, 2003, President George W. Bush justified invading Iraq by invoking UN resolutions purportedly authorizing the U.S. “to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.” A year later, Bush performed a skit at the Radio and Television Correspondents annual dinner featuring slides showing him crawling around the Oval Office peeking behind curtains as he quipped to the poohbah attendees (Donald Trump among them, incidentally): “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere… Nope, no weapons over there… Maybe under here?” The crowd loved it and the Post headlined its report on the evening: “George Bush, Entertainer in Chief.” Greg Mitchell, the editor of Editor and Publisher, labeled the performance and the press’s reaction that night as “one of the most shameful episodes in the recent history of the American media, and presidency.”

Most of the media had embedded themselves for the Iraq war long before that diner. The Post buried pre-war articles questioning the Bush team’s shams on Iraq; their award-winning Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks complained, “There was an attitude among editors: ‘Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?’” Instead, before the war started, the Post ran 27 editorials in favor of invasion and 140 front-page articles supporting the Bush administration’s case for attacking Saddam.

It wasn’t just the Post. Former NBC news anchor Katie Couric revealed in 2008 that there was pressure from “the corporations who own where we work and from the government itself to really squash any kind of dissent or any kind of questioning of” the Iraq war.

Despite the Iraq fiasco, the media happily resumed cheerleading when the Obama administration launched assaults in Libya and Syria. Even in the Trump era — when the press is openly clashing with a president — bombing still provides push button presidential redemption. Trump’s finest hour, according to much of the media, occurred last April when he attacked the Assad regime with 59 cruise missiles, raising hopes that the U.S. military would topple the Syrian government.

When Trump announced he was sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the Washington Post editorial page hailed what Trump calls his “principled realism” — regardless of the futility of perpetuating that quagmire. At a time when Trump is saber-rattling against Iran and North Korea, the media should be vigorously challenging official claims before U.S. bombs begin falling. Instead, much of the coverage of rising tensions with foreign regimes could have been written by Pentagon flacks.

Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, in his 1971 opinion on the New York Times’ right to publish the Pentagon Papers, declared: “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” Unfortunately, the media often chooses to trumpet official lies instead of fighting them. Permitting glorious tales from eight presidencies ago to absolve subsequent media kowtowing would be as foolish as forgetting the lessons of the original Pentagon Papers. Worshipping the media is as foolish as worshiping politicians.

James Bovard is a USA Today columnist and the author of 10 books, including “Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty” (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).

March 2, 2018 Posted by | Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

How to Steele an Election

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

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

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

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

Job One: Create the Dossier

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

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

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

What Does the Dossier Say?

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

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

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

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

Job Two: Run the Info Op, Place the Dossier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gold Medal Plus: Collaborate Your Own Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Steele an Election

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

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

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

Washington Post Editorial Writer Disturbed to Discover the Importance of Precedent in Court Decisions

Charles Lane Continues Attack on Unions

CEPR | February 15, 2018

The Washington Post has long had a hostile attitude toward unions, which it expresses in both its opinion and news sections. (As an example of the latter, this front page article complaining about high pensions for public sector workers in California, highlighted the case of Bruce Malkenhorst Sr., a retired city administrator, who received a pension of more than $500,000 a year. Only after reading down in the piece do readers discover that Mr. Malkenhorst was awaiting trial for misusing public funds. Of course, as an administrator, he was not a typical public employee or a union member.)

The latest expression of hostility is from editorial writer Charles Lane. Lane is upset that public sector employees can be required to pay representation fees to the unions that represent them as a condition of working in a unit that is represented by a union. There is much about the current situation that draws his wrath.

First, he complains that the unions arguing the case currently before the Supreme Court are citing the precedent of a prior ruling supporting this practice. Apparently, Lane didn’t realize that US courts are governed by precedent.

Lane then makes the argument that there is a serious problem with public sector unions collecting representation fees and dues (dues are paid only by those who choose to join the union), which come out of their paychecks, and then use some of this money to support their favored political candidates. (Only dues can be used for political campaigns, not representation fees, which can only be used for the cost of running the union.)

Lane argues that this creates a conflict of interest because the government is effectively paying money to unions, who then support candidates that are favorable to the union. It’s not clear how this is different from government contractors who give campaign contributions to candidates who support giving them government contracts, or from oil companies who give campaign contributions to candidates who give them favorable access to government land, or from drug companies who give campaign contributions to candidates who will give them stronger and longer patent monopolies on their drugs.

For some reason, Lane thinks we should be troubled by workers who get a public sector paycheck supporting candidates who represent their interests. When private corporations use profits derived from government actions to support candidates who will increase their profits further, this is fine.

Of course, the immediate issue before the court is whether the government can sign a contract with a union that requires that everyone who benefits from union representation has to share in the cost of the representation. Lane wants to deny workers the right to have a contract that imposes conditions on their co-workers.

Interestingly, the court has explicitly gone the other way in allowing employers to impose terms on their employees with which they may not agree. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that a company can require its workers to have insurance that does not cover contraceptives if the company’s owners have a religious objection to the use of contraceptives. In this case, the remedy for workers who believe that it is important that contraceptives be covered by insurance is to work somewhere else.

Under current law, companies can impose all sorts of conditions on their workers, such as wearing stupid hats, smiling at customers and giving overly friendly greetings, and even having insurance that comports with the boss’s religious beliefs. But Lane wants us to think that it interferes with workers’ individual freedom if their co-workers vote to put any conditions on employment.

February 18, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

When is there Going to be Accountability for US Wars and Aggression?

US makes new claims of WMD in Syria

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | February 3, 2018

It’s WMD all over again.

Anonymous “US officials” are once again accusing a targeted “regime” of using “chemical weapons” and threatening that the U.S. military may have to “hold it accountable”. Once again, western media is broadcasting these accusations and threats without skepticism or investigation.

The Washington Post story is titled “Trump administration: Syria probably continuing to make, use chemical weapons”.  Jane’s Defence Weekly quotes a U.S. official saying “They clearly think they can get away with this …”

Jerusalem Online says “A US official says Syrian President Assad’s forces may be developing new types of chemical weapons, which which could reach as far as the US…”

The Reuters story in the New York Times says “US officials have said the Syrian government may be developing new types of chemical weapons, and President Donald Trump is prepared to consider further military action…. President Bashar al Assad is believed to have secretly kept part of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile…”

The Washingon Post article concludes with the threat, “If the international community does not take action now . . . we will see more chemical weapons use, not just by Syria but by non-state actors such as ISIS and beyond,” the first official said. “And that use will spread to U.S. shores.”

Based on a review of facts from recent history, it is very likely the story is false and is being broadcast to deceive the public in preparation for new military aggression. Anyone who thinks that politicians don’t consider timing and marketing needs to only recall the statement of a GW Bush official that “from a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” The “product” was the PR campaign to get the American public to accept the invasion of Iraq.

When is there going to be some accountability for the US military industrial complex and their political and media enablers and promoters?

The invasion of Vietnam with over 500 thousand US soldiers was preceded by the phony Gulf of Tonknin incident where a US ship was supposedly attacked by a North Vietnamese vessel. It was untrue and President Johnson knew it. The resolution was passed unanimously (416-0) in the House and only Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening had the integrity and insight to oppose it in the Senate. Was anyone ever held accountable for the lie that led to over 58 thousand dead US soldiers and millions of dead Vietnamese? No.

The 1991 attack on Iraq and subsequent massacre of Iraqi soldiers and civilians was preceded by the fabricated testimony of the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s daughter pretending to be a nurse who had witnessed Iraqi soldiers stealing incubators and leaving Kuwaiti babies on the floor. Were the marketing officials Hill & Knowlton and politicians such as Tom Lantos who managed this deceit ever held accountable? No.

In 2003 the US launched the invasion of Iraq leading to the death of over a million Iraqis based on the false and fabricated evidence provided by the CIA and uncritically promoted by the mainstream media. For example,  Michael Gordon and Thomas Friedman promoted and lauded the invasion at the NYTimes. Were they held to account?  No, they carry right on to today.

In 2011 the US led NATO attacks on Libya with the stated purpose to “protect civilians” from massacre. This was explained and encouraged by journalists and pundits such as Nicholas Kristof and Juan Cole. NATO officials bragged about their operation. After the brief western euphoria, it became clear that the campaign was based on lies and the real result was an explosion of extremism, massacres and chaos which continues to today. Accountability? None. One rarely hears about Libya today. Out of sight, out of mind.

In August of 2013 we heard about a massive sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Human Rights Watch and others promoting a western attack quickly accused the Syrian government. They asserted that Assad had crossed Obama’s “red line” and the US needed to intervene directly. Subsequent investigations revealed the gas attack was not carried out by the Syrian government. It was perpetrated by a Turkish supported terrorist faction with the goal of pressuring the Obama administration to directly attack Syria. Two Turkish parliamentarians presented evidence of Turkey’s involvement in the transfer of sarin. Some of the best and most time-proven US investigative journalists, including the late Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh, researched and discovered the evidence points to Turkish supported “rebels” not Syria. Despite the factual evidence exposing the “junk heap” of false claims, mainstream media and their followers continue to assert that Assad committed the crime.

In April 2017 it was the same thing: US and allies made accusations which were never proven and ultimately discredited. The UN/OPCW investigation team never visited the scene of the crime. They discovered the curious fact that dozens of victims in multiple locations showed up at hospitals with symptoms of chemical injuries before the attack happened. This is strong evidence of fraud but that investigation was not pursued. With or without awareness of the deceit, Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base which killed 13 people including four children. Accountability? None.

Recently it has become clear that dark forces in the US government ad military do not intend to stop their efforts to destroy Syria. Despite confusion and contradictory claims in the US administration, a core fact is that the US is training and supplying a sectarian military militia inside northern Syria against the wishes of the Syrian government. The US said they were in Syria to get rid of ISIS but now that ISIS is largely gone, the US military says it is not leaving. On the contrary, the US military helped escort ISIS fighters from Raqqa to al Bukamal and the US is now training ISIS fighters to be reincarnated as yet another anti-Assad “rebel” force.

As always, US aggression needs some measure of political support. To gain that, they need a justification. Thus it’s WMD all over again. Once again. the “bad guys” are using chemical weapons on their own people. Supposedly the Syrian government is incredibly stupid … they just keep on using chemical weapons and giving the US a justification to act as judge, jury and executioner.

Most of the American public is too busy, distracted or overwhelmed with problems to investigate U.S. government claims. Mainstream media, including some alternative media, are failing badly. They are supposed to be holding government to account, critically questioning the assertions, investigating the facts, exposing contradictions and falsehoods. Along with the politicians and government, they have some responsibility for the ongoing wars and aggression. They all should be accountable. When is that going to happen?

Rick Sterling can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com.

February 3, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

U.S. Media’s Objectivity Questioned Abroad

By Andrew Spannaus | Consortium News | February 2, 2108

Pick up a major newspaper or watch the television news in a European country, and it’s more likely than not you’ll quickly find a reference to the New York Times, the Washington Post, or CNN in reporting about the United States. In the era of Donald Trump, this mainstream media “Triad” continues to set the agenda for many foreign news organizations following events in the U.S., providing them with a viewpoint that is promptly transmitted to their readers and viewers as the authoritative interpretation of what’s going on in America.

A funny thing is starting to happen though: well-known public figures and journalists are beginning to point out the obvious, that these important news outlets no longer look objective. Rather, it seems they see themselves as part of the “resistance” against the President.

In just the past month, this writer has heard radio hosts, political analysts and even diplomatic personnel in Italy and Switzerland couch their public remarks about Trump with the observation that the U.S. mainstream media can no longer be considered objective. This is a notable shift, because even among those who are decidedly anti-Trump, the Triad is increasingly seen as representing the voice of a certain “establishment,” a grouping that does not speak for the majority of the American people.

Across Europe, many follow U.S. politics closely, due to a mix of cultural fascination and the fact that decisions in America continue to have a major impact around the world, of course. People look to the United States as an example and an indicator of economic and social trends, whether they approve of them or not. And in terms of news, they look in particular to the newspapers “of record”, long considered to provide quality and influential reporting and opinions on both domestic and foreign affairs.

Some news organizations take this veneration for the Triad to extreme lengths. In Italy, where I live, the references to the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN are constant, often presented as key interventions likely to shift the political situation in the U.S. A new revelation in one of those outlets regarding Russiagate, for example, might be considered a game changer, bringing us closer to impeachment.

The concentration on these publications has gotten to the point that it heavily limits the perception of what’s going on in the country. In the past, this distortion was harder to detect; getting direct news meant reading a few major newspapers – often delivered late in the day – without having many points of comparison. Yet now, in the era of the internet, an American abroad can follow whatever news and events he or she wants, without suffering from a limitation on direct sources or the filters of a foreign press organization.

This new situation led me to the following realization some years ago: many foreign news outlets get much of their news from the Triad, rather than from their own direct reporting. Often I could read the Washington Post and the New York Times online, and already know what would be reported to Italians on the major evening news programs.

For journalists it is of course essential to be aware of how the news is reported in the country they are covering; but if one does only that, information becomes limited by what certain outlets report, and also by their editorial line. There appear to be two different kinds of foreign correspondents covering the United States: those who spend their time in New York or Washington and dedicate most of their attention to establishment sources and events, and those who attempt to get a fuller sense of what’s going on outside of those venues as well.

By way of example, consider the difference between a correspondent from the major television networks whose contacts are mostly other journalists and opinion leaders in the principal power centers, and a correspondent who periodically takes trips to other areas of the country.

I saw a positive example recently when a journalist from RSI (Swiss Italian Radio and Television) spent several days in the former steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; the opinions he gathered from residents of that area gave a different view than the more common interviews of Fifth Avenue shoppers or financial analysts in New York. Everyone’s opinion counts, of course, but if you never get out of the bubble, you tend to miss what’s going on in the rest of society.

This blindness was the dominating characteristic of the 2016 election campaign, when major media outlets around the world failed to recognize the deep currents that led to the strong support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and ultimately carried the former to the White House. The same inability to grasp the depth of the revolt of the voters against the political and financial elites expressed by pro-establishment media outlets was almost automatically transferred abroad, due to the slavish imitation of the Triad by foreign news outlets.

The 2016 presidential election was a jolt to the system. Suddenly everyone was forced to confront the fact that almost all of the respected media and commentators had gotten it wrong, clearly failing to understand how so many could vote for a candidate considered dangerously unprepared and offensive.

Outside of the United States, people were forced to reassess whose news and opinions they could trust, leading to a period of more serious discussion of the economic and social dynamics in the United States and beyond. If half of the voters – combining the support for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and others with that for Trump – were willing to give their vote to outsiders promising deep changes in the system, then clearly things must not be going as well as the media had been saying.

Never fear, the same media outlets and commentators quickly came up with a new narrative that papered over their previous mistakes: the Russians did it. Thus, in addition to the allegedly racist and ignorant voters outside of urban areas, the fault for Hillary Clinton’s embarrassing loss was pinned on Vladimir Putin. A convenient way to forget the reasons why so many Americans rejected the political establishment.

So rather than a discussion of decades of favoring finance over the real economy, and how “free trade” policies have caused a race to the bottom, the debate focuses on the perils of protectionism, and how important it is to defend globalization. And instead of stigmatizing the disastrous policies of continuous war, we are treated to a steady stream of neocon narratives, including from the numerous representatives of the interventionist camp who have found their way into the Trump administration.

The most recent example of this phenomenon is the sudden return to essentially the same economic narrative heard before the elections. In recent weeks media outlets and experts in Europe have begun to once again sing the praises of the U.S. economy. The stock market is doing great, and unemployment is low, so boom times must be back.

The coverage seems eerily familiar to that during the end of the Obama administration, which of course many people didn’t believe. It’s easy to imagine how Americans who rejected such talk before will react if they don’t see a tangible improvement in their lives in the coming months and years. A low official unemployment rate and modest wage growth is better than the alternative, but far from sufficient to deal with structural problems such as harsh inequality, unstable employment, the lack of social welfare protections and low purchasing power.

The White House is now complicit in this narrative, of course, as Trump wants to believe, and declare, that his policies are making things better. The mainstream media’s obfuscation of the truth should be a lesson to the President, lest he find himself on the wrong end of the revolt before long.

Andrew Spannaus is a journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of Transatlantico.info, that provides news and analysis to Italian institutions and businesses.

February 2, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments