All posts by Philip Giraldi

When Former Spies Turn into TV ‘Experts’

undefined

Once upon a time in the United States there was a general perception that organizations like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were both apolitical and high-minded, existing only to calmly and professionally promote the safety and security of the nation. Directors of both organizations often retired quietly without fanfare to compose their memoirs, but apart from that, they did not meddle in politics and maintained low profiles. There was a widespread belief at CIA that former officers should rightly retire to a log cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains where they could breed Labrador retrievers or cultivate orchids.

But the relative respectability of America’s national security agencies largely vanished in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist incidents. It was learned that both the CIA and FBI had made fatal mistakes in their investigations of the al-Qaeda group, putting in question their effectiveness, and the leaders of both organizations began to focus on pleasing their political masters. The appearance of CIA Director George Tenet at the United Nations supporting lies promoted by Secretary of State Colin Powell was a low point, but there were many more to follow.

The 2016 election brought out the worst in the CIA’s leadership, with its Director John Brennan lining up behind Hillary Clinton together with former Acting Director Michael Morell and former Director Michael Hayden. Morell even claimed that Trump was a Russian agent. Indeed, there has been remarkably little speculation regarding the possible roles of some senior intelligence officials, most notably CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, both of whom were in office during the electoral campaign. In September 2016, the two men reportedly were involved in obtaining information on Page and it has also been suggested that Brennan sought and obtained raw intelligence from British, Polish, Dutch and Estonian intelligence services, which might have motivated FBI’s James Comey to investigate the Trump associates. Brennan and Clapper, drawing on intelligence resources and connections, might have helped the FBI build a fabricated case against Trump.

Currently the senior officials who were so hostile to Donald Trump have decided against going quietly into their generously rewarded retirements. Morell has long been a paid contributing “expert” for CBS news, Hayden has had the same role at CNN, and they are are now being joined by John Brennan at NBC. Brennan, an NBC “senior national security and intelligence analyst,” is an Obama-Clinton loyalist who can be relied upon to oppose policies and actions undertaken by the Trump Administration, admittedly not a bad thing, but he will be doing so from a strictly partisan perspective. And the danger is that his tag as former DCI will give him a certainly credibility, which, depending on the issue, might not be deserved or warranted. To be sure CIA interests will be protected, but they will be secondary to commentary from a partisan and revenge seeking John Brennan who is out to burnish his own sorry reputation. He looks perpetually angry when he is on television because he is.

Brennan has behaved predictably in his new role. In his first appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday he said that the Steele dossier did “not play any role whatsoever in the intelligence community assessment that was presented to President Obama…” which is a lie.  He denounced the release of the so-called “Nunes memo” by the House Intelligence Committee because it was “exceptionally partisan,” which is true, and because it exposes secrets, which it does not. Brennan is also a leader of the blame Russia movement. He has claimed without providing any evidence that Russia “brazenly interfered” in the 2016 election and he can be counted upon to be yet one more anti-Russian voice on the mainstream media.

Brennan, who was hated by much of the CIA’s rank-and-file during his tenure as director, does not have much of a reputation for truth-telling. He lied  about how the Agency under his leadership tried to spy on and disrupt the Senate’s investigation into CIA torture. He was also the driving force behind the Obama administration “kill list” of US citizens selected for assassination. Concerns that Brennan will represent the Agency’s viewpoint on NBC News are largely irrelevant as the network should have instead considered his credibility and judgment before hiring him.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Nunes Memo: Another Step Towards Proving Russiagate Is a Hoax

undefined

The so-called Nunes memo prepared for the Republican majority on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, even if overblown, clearly suggests that there might have been an unwarranted and quite possibly illegal Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) surveillance of a former Trump staffer over his completely legal Russian business ties. Meanwhile, the nine month-long Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation into Moscow’s possible interference in the US election has so far only demonstrated that it was Israel rather than Russia that meddled with the campaign by meeting with Trump associates and seeking favors. Notably missing is any evidence that the Russian government did anything beyond the usual probing that intelligence agencies worldwide do when confronted by important developments in another country that is either a competitor or adversary.

An aspect of the Republican memo that has been scarcely commented upon in the avalanche of news reporting centered on the story is how the mainstream media is continuing to exercise a dangerous obsession with Russia and is insisting that the Russiagate inquiry should continue even more aggressively in spite of the concerns raised by the Republican memo that the entire process has been politicized. There is absolutely nothing in the memo itself that indicates that Moscow actually tried to recruit any Trump associate as an agent or interfere in the US election. The raison d’etre for both the Congressional and Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigations appears to be lacking. It might eventually emerge that Russia did little or even nothing beyond the usual probing and nosing around that intelligence agencies routinely do.

President Donald Trump, who ran for office on a sensible pledge to seek better relations with Moscow, has provided only feeble resistance to the media and political class onslaught. He has recently allowed the Justice Department and Treasury to punish Russia’s two major news outlets operating in the United States, RT America and Sputnik. They both have been forced to register as foreign agents, even though no other non-American news service operating in the United States has been compelled to do the same, while new allegations about perfidious Moscow surface weekly.

Two recent news reports illustrate perfectly just how out-of-control the Russia inquiry has become. At the end of January, the US Treasury Department released the names of 210 alleged Kremlin insiders, including government ministers, who were being included on a list for possible sanctions, though it was also announced that no sanctions would be put in place pending further ongoing review of the behavior of those individuals under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The so-called “Kremlin List” was clearly designed to put pressure on the inner circle of the Russian government as many of those named have major business dealings with the United States and Western Europe that could be severely damaged through sanctions. The intention may have been to encourage those individuals to lessen their support for President Vladimir Putin in the upcoming Russian national elections, beginning on March 18th.

The Kremlin List is clearly an attempt to interfere in Russian internal politics and should be regarded as such. It comes on top of an obviously coordinated British government claim that Moscow intends to rip British “infrastructure apart, actually cause thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths,” and create “total chaos within the country.”

The second story, which is more bizarre than the first, describes how Congressman Adam Schiff told a University of Pennsylvania audience that Russian-promoted ads during the 2016 election encouraged people to exercise their Second Amendment rights to own guns. Per Schiff, “the Russians would be thrilled if we were doing nothing but killing each other every day, and sadly we are.”

Neither Congressman Adam Schiff’s meanderings nor the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act serve any conceivable United States national interest and the Nunes Memo demonstrates, if anything, that the evidence for Russian interference in the US election is somewhat elusive. If the alleged Russiagate conspiracy is never actually demonstrated, which looks increasingly likely, it would certainly disappoint the many American talking heads and media “experts” who have been making a living off of bashing Moscow 24/7, but it might also provide a window for the White House to fulfill its electoral promise to fix the Russia relationship.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Meet the Corrupt Billionaire Who Has Brought About a New Cold War

undefined

One has to ask why there is a crisis in US-Russia relations since Washington and Moscow have much more in common than not, to include confronting international terrorism, stabilizing Syria and other parts of the world that are in turmoil, and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In spite of all that, the US and Russia are currently locked in a tit-for-tat unfriendly relationship somewhat reminiscent of the Cold War.

Apart from search for a scapegoat to explain the Hillary Clinton defeat, how did it happen? Israel Shamir, a keen observer of the American-Russian relationship, and celebrated American journalist Robert Parry both think that one man deserves much of the credit for the new Cold War and that man is William Browder, a hedge fund operator who made his fortune in the corrupt 1990s world of Russian commodities trading.

Browder is also symptomatic of why the United States government is so poorly informed about international developments as he is the source of much of the Congressional “expert testimony” contributing to the current impasse. He has somehow emerged as a trusted source in spite of the fact that he has self-interest in cultivating a certain outcome. Also ignored is his renunciation of American citizenship in 1998, reportedly to avoid taxes. He is now a British citizen.

Browder is notoriously the man behind the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which exploited Congressional willingness to demonize Russia and has done so much to poison relations between Washington and Moscow. The Act sanctioned individual Russian officials, which Moscow has rightly seen as unwarranted interference in the operation of its judicial system.

Browder, a media favorite who self-promotes as “Putin’s enemy #1,” portrays himself as a selfless human rights advocate, but is he? He has used his fortune to threaten lawsuits for anyone who challenges his version of events, effectively silencing many critics. He claims that his accountant Sergei Magnitsky was a crusading "lawyer" who discovered a $230 million tax-fraud scheme that involved the Browder business interest Hermitage Capital but was, in fact, engineered by corrupt Russian police officers who arrested Magnitsky and enabled his death in a Russian jail.

Many have been skeptical of the Browder narrative, suspecting that the fraud was in fact concocted by Browder and his accountant Magnitsky. A Russian court recently supported that alternative narrative, ruling in late December that Browder had deliberately bankrupted his company and engaged in tax evasion. He was sentenced to nine years prison in absentia.

William Browder is again in the news recently in connection with testimony related to Russiagate. On December 16th Senator Diane Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee released the transcript of the testimony provided by Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS. According to James Carden, Browder was mentioned 50 times, but the repeated citations apparently did not merit inclusion in media coverage of the story by the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico.

Fusion GPS, which was involved in the research producing the Steele Dossier used to discredit Donald Trump, was also retained to provide investigative services relating to a lawsuit in New York City involving a Russian company called Prevezon. As information provided by Browder was the basis of the lawsuit, his company and business practices while in Russia became part of the investigation. Simmons maintained that Browder proved to be somewhat evasive and his accounts of his activities were inconsistent. He claimed never to visit the United States and not own property or do business there, all of which were untrue, to include his ownership through a shell company of a $10 million house in Aspen Colorado. He repeatedly ran away, literally, from attempts to subpoena him so he would have to testify under oath.

Per Simmons, in Russia, Browder used shell companies locally and also worldwide to avoid taxes and conceal ownership, suggesting that he was likely one of many corrupt businessmen operating in what was a wild west business environment. My question is, “Why was such a man granted credibility and allowed a free run to poison the vitally important US-Russia relationship?” The answer might be follow the money. Israel Shamir reports that Browder was a major contributor to Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, who was the major force behind the Magnitsky Act.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

America’s National Defense Is Really Offense

undefined

On Friday, the Pentagon released an unclassified summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy report. On the same day, Secretary of Defense James Mattis delivered prepared remarks relating to the document.

Reading the summary is illuminating, to say the least, and somewhat disturbing, as it focuses very little on actual defense of the realm and relates much more to offensive military action that might be employed to further certain debatable national interests. Occasionally, it is actually delusional, as when it refers to consolidating “gains we have made in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.”

At times Mattis’ supplementary “remarks” were more bombastic than reassuring, as when he warned “…those who would threaten America’s experiment in democracy: if you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day.” He did not exactly go into what the military response to hacking a politician’s emails might be and one can only speculate, which is precisely the problem.

One of the most bizarre aspects of the report is its breathtaking assumption that “competitors” should be subjected to a potential military response if it is determined that they are in conflict with the strategic goals of the U.S. government. It is far removed from the old-fashioned Constitutional concept that one has armed forces to defend the country against an actual threat involving an attack by hostile forces and instead embraces preventive war, which is clearly an excuse for serial interventions overseas.

Some of the remarks by Mattis relate to China and Russia.  He said that “We face growing threats from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models - pursuing veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions.” There is, however, no evidence that either country is exporting “authoritarian models,” nor are they vetoing anything that they do not perceive as direct and immediate threats frequently orchestrated by Washington, which is intervening in local quarrels thousands of miles away from the U.S. borders. And when it comes to exporting models, who does it more persistently than Washington?

The report goes on to state that Russia and China and rogue regimes like Iran have “…increased efforts short of armed conflict by expanding coercion to new fronts, violating principle of sovereignty, exploiting ambiguity, and deliberately blurring the lines between civil and military goals.” As confusing civil and military is what the United States itself has been doing in Libya, Iraq and, currently, Syria, the allegation might be considered ironic.

The scariest assertion in the summary is the following: “Nuclear forces - Modernization of the nuclear force includes developing options to counter competitors’ coercive strategies, predicated on the threatened use of nuclear or strategic non-nuclear attacks.” That means that the White House and Pentagon are reserving the option to use nuclear weapons even when there is no imminent or existential threat as long as there is a “strategic” reason for doing so. Strategic would be defined by the president and Mattis, while the War Powers Act allows Donald Trump to legally initiate a nuclear attack.

What might that mean in practice? Back in 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney had requested "a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States... [including] a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons ... not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States."

Possible employment of “weapons of mass destruction” responded to intelligence suggesting that conventional weapons would be unable to penetrate the underground hardened sites where Iran’s presumed nuclear weapons facilities were reportedly located. But as it turned out, Iran had no nuclear weapons program and attacking it would have been totally gratuitous. Some other neocon inspired plans to attack Iran also included a nuclear option if Iran actually had the temerity to resist American force majeure.

Pentagon planners clearly anticipate another year of playing at defense by keeping the offense on the field. An impetuous and poorly informed president is a danger to all of us, particularly as he is surrounded by general-advisers who see a military solution to every problem. Hopefully wiser counsel will prevail.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Why Does Washington Hate Bashar al-Assad?

undefined

The Donald Trump administration is planning to install a 30,000 strong armed “security force” in northern Syria along the borders with Turkey and Iraq. This presumably will tie together and support the remaining rag-tags of allegedly pro-democracy rebels and will fit in with existing and proposed US bases. The maneuver is part of a broader plan to restructure Syria to suit the usual crop of neocon geniuses in Washington that have slithered their way back into the White House and National Security Council, to include renewed demands that the country’s President Bashar al-Assad “must go,” reiterated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last Wednesday. He said “But let us be clear: The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge.” Tillerson also claimed that remaining in Syria would prevent Iran from “reinforcing” its position inside Syria and would enable the eventual ouster of al-Assad, but he has also denied that Washington was creating a border force at all, yet another indication of the dysfunction in the White House.

A plan pulled together in Washington by people who should know better but seemingly don’t is hardly a blueprint for success, particularly as there is no path to anything approximating “victory” and no exit strategy. The Syrians have not been asked if they approve of an arrangement that will be put in place in their sovereign territory and the Turks have already bombed targets and sent troops and allied militias into the Afrin region, also a US supported Kurdish enclave on the border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated clearly that Ankara will disrupt any US devised border arrangement. From the Turkish point of view the border security force, which reportedly will largely consist of Kurdish militiamen, will inevitably work in cooperation with the Kurdish terrorist group PKK which is active on the Turkish side of the border, in seeking to create an autonomous Kurdish state, which Turkey reasonably enough regards as an existential threat.

And then there is one other little complication, which is that the United States presence in Syria is completely illegal both under international law and under the US government’s War Powers Act. Syria is a sovereign state with a recognized government and there is no UN or Congressional mandate that permits Washington to station its soldiers, Marines, and airmen within the country’s borders. The argument that the recent Authorizations to Use Military Force (AUMF) permitted the activity because groups linked to al-Qaeda were active there and the local government was unable to expel them is only thinly credible as the US has also attacked Syrian Army forces and the militiamen linked to Syria’s ally Iran. That constitutes a war crime.

Trump can under the War Powers Act take military action to counter an imminent threat, which was never the case from Syria in any event, but after 60 days he has to cease or desist or go to Congress for authorization up to and possibly including a declaration of war. The military offensive against Syria began under President Barack Obama and it is far beyond that two-month window already, so egregiously in violation that some Congressmen are actually beginning to take notice. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia has demanded that no military initiatives in Syria be undertaken without a Senate vote. He said on Thursday that “I am deeply alarmed that yet again, the Trump administration continues to raise the risk of unnecessary war, disconnected from any firm policy objectives and core national security interests. To be clear, neither the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs provide authority to target Assad or Iranian proxies in Syria, and it is unacceptable for this action to be taken absent a vote and approval of Congress.”

The animus against Syria runs deep, to include questionable claims from generally hostile sources that al-Assad has deliberately massacred hundreds of thousands of his own people as well as dubious assertions about the use of chemical weapons that led to a US cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase in Shayrat. A perfect example of how brain dead the western media is over the issue was provided by last week’s article by David Brunnstrom of Reuters on the Tillerson speech, where he wrote “US forces in Syria have already faced direct threats from Syrian and Iranian-backed forces, leading to the shoot-down of Iranian drones and a Syrian jet last year, as well as to tensions with Russia.” The uninformed reader would assume that Americans were the victims of an attack and aggression by Moscow whereas the reality is quite different. Iran and Russia are allies of the legitimate Syrian government that are in the country by invitation to help in its fight against groups that everyone acknowledges to be terrorists. The United States is there illegally and is as often as not using its proxies to fight the Syrian Army.

Syria-phobia goes back to the George W. Bush Administration in December 2003, when Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act, House Resolution 1828. Syria at that time was already in the cross-hairs of two principal American so-called allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both were actively working to destabilize the regime, though for different reasons. The Saudis were fearful of Iranian influence over Damascus but also had a religious agenda in that the secular Syrian regime was protective of religious minorities and was itself an offshoot of Shi’a Islam referred to as Alawites. The Saudis considered them to be heretics.

The Israelis for their part were enamored of the Yinon Plan of 1982 and the Clean Break proposals made in 1996 by a team of Jewish American neocons. Their intention was to transform most of Israel’s neighboring Arab states into warring tribes and ethnicities so they would no longer be a threat. Israeli leaders have stated openly that they would prefer continued chaos in Syria, which remains a prime target. Israel is, in fact, currently bombing Syrian Army positions, most recently near Damascus, while also supporting the ISIS and al-Nusra Front remnants.

The Syrian Accountability Act does indeed read at times like the completely bogus indictment of Saddam Hussein that had led to the invasion of Iraq earlier in 2003. It cites development of weapons of mass destruction and missiles, but its main focus is related to the alleged support of terrorist groups by Damascus. It “Declares the sense of Congress that the Government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally halt support for terrorism, permanently and openly declare its total renunciation of all forms of terrorism, and close all terrorist offices and facilities in Syria, including the offices of Hamas, Hizballah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.”

One might note that the groups cited by name are not identified as being a threat to the United States. Rather, they are organizations hostile to Israel, which suggests that the motivation for the bill was the usual dominant pro-Israeli sentiment in Congress. The bill’s sponsor was Eliot Engel of New York, a passionately pro-Israeli legislator.

Be that as it may, the drive to “get” Syria has remained a constant in American Foreign Policy to this day. When the US still had an Embassy in Damascus, in December 2010 President Barack Obama maladroitly sent as Ambassador Robert Ford. Ford actively supported the large demonstrations by anti-regime Syrians inspired by the Arab Spring who were opposed to the al-Assad government and he might even have openly advocated an armed uprising, a bizarre interpretation of what Ambassadors are supposed to do in a foreign country. He once stated absurdly that if the US had armed opponents of the regime, al-Qaeda groups would have been “unable to compete.” Ford was recalled a year later, after being pelted by tomatoes and eggs, over concerns that his remaining in country might not be safe, but the damage had been done and normal diplomatic relations between Damascus and Washington have never been restored.

The desire to bring about regime change in Damascus gathered considerable steam in 2011. Harsh government efforts to repress the demonstrations that did take place inevitably led to violence in both directions and the United States, Saudis, and the Gulf States subsequently began to arm the rebels and support the formation of the Free Syrian Army, which Washington assured the American public consisted of only good people who wanted democracy and fundamental rights. To no one’s surprise many of the fledgling democrats accepted US training and weapons before defecting to the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front or to ISIS.

Currently, the reconstruction of Syria is proceeding. The Syrian Arab Army is wiping out the last few enclaves controlled by ISIS in Idlib Province and the so-called Syrian Civil War will soon be over but for the mopping up. Many internal refugees have returned to their homes after the government reasserted control and also thousands who fled overseas have reportedly come back. Note that they are returning to areas where the al-Assad government is firmly in charge, perhaps suggesting that, while there were legitimate grievances among the Syrian people, the propaganda insisting that most Syrians were opposed to the regime was grossly overstated. There is considerable evidence that Bashar al-Assad is actually supported by a large majority of the Syrian people, even among those who would welcome more democracy, because they know the alternative to him is chaos.

One would like to think that Syria might again be Syria but Washington is baying for blood and clearly would like to see a solution that involves a fragmentation of the state enabling containment and rollback of Iranian influence there while also satisfying both its clients Israel and the Saudis as well as creating a possible mini-state for the Kurds. The destruction of Syria and the Syrian people will just be regarded as collateral damage while building a new Middle East. Hopefully the Syrians, backed by Iran, Russia and China will prevent that from happening and as the US did not directly engage in much of the hard fighting that destroyed ISIS, it thankfully has little leverage over what comes next.

Whether it is the Riyadh or Tel Aviv leading Washington by the nose is somehow irrelevant as the blame for what is taking place is squarely on the White House. The United States has no coherent policy, nor any actual national interest in remaining in Syria, but the strange political alignments that appear to be playing out in and around the Oval Office have generated a desire to destroy a country and people that in no way threaten the US Someone should remind the president that similar scenarios did not turn out very well in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. No one should expect that Syria will be any different.

Reprinted with permission from Unz Review.

How the Establishment Undermines American Democracy

undefined

There is a growing consensus among many observers in Washington that the national security agencies have become completely politicized over the past seventeen years and are now pursuing selfish agendas that actually endanger what remains of American democracy. Up until recently it has been habitual to refer to such activity as the Deep State, which is perhaps equivalent to the Establishment in that it includes financial services, the media, major foundations and constituencies, as well as lobbying groups, but we are now witnessing an evolutionary process in which the national security regime is exercising power independently.

In a devastating critique former Central Intelligence Agency operations officer John Kiriakou has described how the Democratic Party, as part of its frenzied effort to bring down President Donald Trump, has embraced a whole group of former intelligence and law enforcement officers who appear to be on the same side in seeking a more responsible and accountable executive branch but who are in reality pursuing their own agenda.

Formerly intelligence and law enforcement agencies acted under the direction of the White House but without any political bias. Transitions from Democratic to Republican administrations were consequently seamless for the employees of CIA, FBI, DIA and the NSA, but this has changed. In the 2016 election a line-up of retired senior officers from those organizations openly supported the Clinton campaign and even went so far as to construct elaborate conspiracy theories regarding Trump and his associates, including the claim that Donald Trump is actually an agent of Russia.

The desire to discredit and ultimately delegitimize Trump even involved some active duty senior officers, including John Brennan, Director of CIA, who exploited Agency relationships with foreign intelligence services to develop information on Trump, and James Comey of the FBI who initiated an investigation of Trump’s associates. Both were involved in the later surfacing of the notorious Steele Dossier, a collection of fact mixed with fiction that sought to destroy the Trump presidency even before it began.

Kiriakou cites recent activity by Brennan as well as former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden as well as former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, all of whom have been politically active. The three men appear frequently on television as self-described “senior statesmen,” but, as Kiriakou observes they are “…monsters who have ignored the Constitution…and international law. They have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.” They together with lesser figures like George Tenet, Jose Rodriguez, Michael Morell and John McLaughlin authorized technical spying on nearly everyone, torture, rendition of suspects so they could be tortured by others, random killing of “profiled” foreigners and targeted killing of American citizens. Brennan was in charge of a “kill list” for President Barack Obama.

Former Reagan Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts meanwhile asks why liberal international organizations like Amnesty International are fundraising to oppose Trump when the real threat to a better and safer world and country is coming from the largely unaccountable “security agencies, the police, the neoconservatives, the presstitute media and the Republican and Democratic Parties?”

Antiwar activist Justin Raimondo also picks up the gauntlet, describing how the national security agencies and the Democratic Party have joined forces to create a totally false narrative that could lead to nuclear war. They and the media appear to truly believe that “…the country has been taken over by Vladimir Putin and the Russian State…Trump is an instrument in their hands, and the independence of the United States has been fatally compromised: the president and his top aides are taking their orders from the Kremlin.” He concludes that “Our intelligence agencies are at war with the executive branch of government…to reverse the [2016] election results.” Raimondo believes that Trump is being particularly targeted because his unpredictability and populism threaten the wealth and power of the elites and he notes “If you think they’ve ruled out assassination you’re being naïve.”

Raimondo believes that something like a civil war is coming, with the war party Establishment fighting to defend its privileged global order while many other Americans seek a return to normal nationhood with all that implies. If true, the next few years will see a major internal conflict that will determine what kind of country the United States will be.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

70 Years of Disinformation: How the CIA Funded Opinion Magazines in Europe

undefined

When an intelligence agency arranges to disseminated fake news it is called “disinformation” and it is a subset of what is referred to as covert action, basically secret operations run in a foreign country to influence opinion or to disrupt the functioning of a government or group that is considered to be hostile.

During the Cold War, disinformation operations were run by many of the leading players in both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and in the opposition Warsaw Pact. Sometimes the activity and the sponsorship were clearly visible, as when Radio Free Europe and Radio Moscow would exchange barbs about just how bad daily life was in the opposition alliance. Sometimes, however, it took the form of clandestinely placing stories in the media that were clearly untrue but designed to shift public perceptions of what was taking place in the world. The Vietnam War provided a perfect proxy playing field, with stories emanating from the US government and its supporters presenting a narrative of a fight for democracy against totalitarianism while the Communist bloc promoted a contrary tale of colonial and capitalist oppression of a people striving to be free.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) inherited the mantle of covert action operations as a legacy from its OSS predecessor, which had had considerable success in conducting disinformation operations during World War 2. But there was from the start considerable opposition to continuing such programs as they were both expensive and subject to devastating blowback when they were identified and exposed. In Western Europe, powerful domestic communist parties were quick to publicize US intelligence missteps, but nevertheless the ability to manipulate the news and information media to place stories critical of the Soviets and their allies led to major programs that funded magazines and books while also seeking to acquire a cadre of journalists that would produce pieces on demand proved too tempting to ignore.

There has been considerable ex post facto examination of the CIA’s use of covert funding mechanisms including the Congress of Cultural Freedom to fund writers and magazines in Europe, the best known of which were The Paris Review and Encounter out of London. As there was a low intensity war going on against communism, a conflict which many patriotic writers supported, funding magazines and finding contributors to write appropriate material was relatively easy and hardly challenged. Some senior editors knew or strongly suspected where their funding was coming from while some did not, but most didn’t ask any questions because then as now patrons of literary magazines were in short supply. Many of the writers were in the dark about the funding, but wrote what they did because of their own personal political convictions. The CIA, seeking value for money, would urge certain editorial lines but was not always very aggressive in doing so as it sought to allow the process to play out without too much interference.

Opinion magazines were one thing, but penetrating the newspaper world was quite a different story. It was easy to find a low or mid-level journalist and pay him to write certain pieces, but the pathway to actual publication was and is more complicated than that, going as it does through several editorial levels before appearing in print. A recent book cites the belief that CIA had “an agent at a newspaper in every world capital at least since 1977” who could be directed to post or kill stories. While it is true that US Embassies and intelligence services had considerable ability to place stories in capitals in Latin America and parts of Asia, the record in Europe, where I worked, was somewhat mixed. I knew of only one senior editor of a major European newspaper who was considered to be an Agency resource, and even he could not place fake news as he was answerable both to his editorial board and the conglomerate that owned the paper. He also refused to take a salary from CIA, which meant that his cooperation was voluntary and he could not be directed.

CIA did indeed have a considerable number of journalist “assets” in Europe but they were generally stringers or mid-level and had only limited capability to actually shape the news. They frequently wrote for publications that had little or no impact. Indeed, one might reasonably ask whether the support of literary magazines in the fifties and sixties which morphed into more direct operations seeking journalist agents had any significant impact at all in geopolitical terms or on the Cold War itself.

More insidious was so-called Operation Mockingbird, which began in the early 1950s and which more-or-less openly obtained the cooperation of major American publications and news outlets to help fight communist “subversion.” The activity was exposed by Seymour Hersh in 1975 and was further described by the Church Commission in 1976, after which point CIA operations to influence opinion in the United States became illegal and the use of American journalists as agents was also generally prohibited. It was also learned that the Agency had been working outside its founding charter to infiltrate student groups and antiwar organizations under Operation Chaos, run by the CIA’s controversial if not completely crazy counterintelligence Czar James Jesus Angleton.

As the wheel of government frequently ends up turning full circle, we appear to be back in the age of disinformation, where the national security agencies of the US government, including CIA, are now suspected of peddling stories that are intended to influence opinion in the United States and produce a political response. The Steele Dossier on Donald Trump is a perfect example, a report that surfaced through a deliberate series of actions by then CIA Director John Brennan, and which was filled with unverifiable innuendo intended to destroy the president-elect’s reputation before he took office. It is undeniably a positive development for all Americans who care about good governance that Congress is now intending to investigate the dossier to determine who ordered it, paid for it, and what it was intended to achieve.

Reprinted with permission from the American Herald Tribune.

Who or What Is Feeding the Unrest in Iran?

undefined

There are two general theories about the protests that are taking place in Iran. One, unfavorable to the Iranian government and establishment, is that the widespread discontent and rioting is over mismanagement of the economy that has particularly hurt poorer Iranians. The other is that we are seeing a contemporary replay of 1953 Iran and the downfall of Mohammad Mossadegh, which was orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British MI-6.

The Iranian public’s expectation that the nuclear deal would lead to improvements in their lives were wrecked by Donald Trump’s decertification of the agreement and expectations that the pact would be wrecked by America’s renewing sanctions on Iran later this month. All of Trump’s advisers are hostile to Iran and it has also been reported that tearing up the agreement derived from a personal pledge made by Trump to Israeli/American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who also demanded that the US Embassy be moved to Jerusalem.

The vanishing nuclear deal and struggling economy bore fruit in the 2018 government budget that cut subsidies on food and government services while increasing fuel and commodity prices. Religious institutions controlled by the Supreme Religious Council and the business entities run by the Revolutionary Guards were reportedly spared the cuts, fueling popular anger.

If Donald Trump had really cared about the protesters or democracy, he would have said nothing about the protests. Instead, he appears intent on using the Iranian government suppression of the demonstrations to finally kill the nuclear deal by reinstating sanctions. He has tweeted five times, supporting the Iranian people who are seeking democracy but also giving the Tehran government a club to use against the demonstrators by claiming that they are tools of foreign governments, which is exactly what it is doing.

But given the history of foreign interventions in the Middle East, is the United States or Israel plausibly involved in the demonstrations? The answer to that is both yes and no. There is considerable evidence that the United States and possibly Israel, joined by Saudi Arabia, have set up several command centers in Iraq and Afghanistan to support the protests. They have been using social networking as well as radio broadcasts to encourage the people to get out and demonstrate. One such station called AmadNews, broadcasting from outside Iran, called on demonstrators to attack police stations and government buildings. It appears to be a US government front manned by Persian speaking Israelis. It’s actual ability to drive the demonstrations appears, however, to be questionable.

On the covert action front, neither the CIA or Mossad has the resources on the ground to infiltrate and direct crowds of people to act, so the Iranian government claim that there are outside agitators can largely be regarded as propaganda for its own domestic audience. The CIA’s infrastructure in Iran was devastated in the 1990s and was never effectively reconstituted. The Agency post-Director George Tenet also concentrated heavily on paramilitary activity and lost much of its ability to spot, assess, recruit, train and run agents. Developing a spy network in a country like Iran where the United States lacks any physical presence and does not even have an Embassy is a daunting task.

This is not to say that the US and Israel are not heavily focused on Iran. In a recent conference, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster claimed, completely inaccurately, that Iran is the source of sectarian violence and supports jihadist networks “across the Arab world.” Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the National Security Council’s former senior director for intelligence had previously commented that the White House intended to use American spies to “regime change” the Iranian government.

With that objective in mind, in June new CIA Director Mike Pompeo created a special Iran combined task force under Michael D’Andrea, nicknamed the Dark Prince or Mike Ayatollah, a controversial but highly regarded Middle East specialist who is himself a convert to Islam. D’Andrea has reportedly been very active, but reconstituting a network takes time and is, of necessity, work done carefully and methodically. Pompeo, in his desire to relearn old fashioned spying and covert action, has more recently announced that the Agency will be working to recover its “viciousness,” but it is presumably not there yet.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Expect Even Less Freedom of Internet in 2018

undefined

Users of social media have been increasingly reporting that their accounts have been either censored, blocked or suspended during the past year. Initially, some believed that the incidents might be technical in nature, with overloaded servers struggling to keep up with the large and growing number of accounts, but it eventually emerged that the interference was deliberate and was focused on individuals and groups that were involved in political or social activities considered to be controversial.

At the end of last year a number of Russian accounts on Facebook and elsewhere were suspended over the allegations that social media had been used to spread so-called false news that had possibly materially affected the 2016 presidential election in the United States. Even though it proved impossible to demonstrate that the relatively innocuous Russian efforts had any impact in comparison to the huge investment in advertising and propaganda engaged in by the two major parties, social media quickly responded to the negative publicity.

Now it has been learned that major social media and internet service providers have, throughout the past year, been meeting secretly with the United States and Israeli governments to remove content as well as ban account holders from their sites. The United States and Israel have no legal right to tell private companies what to do but it is clearly understood that the two governments can make things very difficult for those service providers that do not fall in line. Israel has threatened to limit access to sites like Facebook or to ban it altogether while the US Justice Department can use terrorist legislation, even if implausible, to force compliance. Washington recently forced Facebook to cancel the account of the Chechen Republic’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin loyalist that the White House has recently “sanctioned.”

Israel is not surprisingly most active in patrolling the Internet as it is keen to keep out any material sympathetic to the Palestinian cause or critical of Israeli treatment of Arabs. Its security services scan the stories being surfaced and go to the service providers to ask that material be deleted or blocked based on the questionable proposition that it constitutes “incitement” to violence. Facebook reportedly cooperates 95% of the time to delete material or shut down accounts. Palestinian groups, which use social networking on the internet to communicate, have been especially hard hit, with ten leading administrators’ accounts being removed in 2017. Israeli accounts including material threatening to kill Arabs are not censored.

Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are all also under pressure to cooperate with pro-Israel private groups in the United States, to include the powerful Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL seeks “to engineer new solutions to stop cyberhate” by blocking “hate language,” which includes any criticism of Israel that might even implausibly be construed as anti-Semitism. Expanding restrictions on what is being defined as “hate speech” will undoubtedly become common in social media and more generally all across the internet in 2018.

The internet, widely seen as a highway where everyone could communicate and share ideas freely, is actually a toll road that is increasingly managed by a group of very large corporations that, when acting in unison, control what is seen and not seen. Search engines already are set up to prioritize information from paid “sponsors,” which come up prominently but often have nothing to do with what material is most relevant. And the role of intrusive governments in dictating to Facebook and other sites who will be heard and who will be silenced should also be troubling, as it means that information that would benefit the public might never be seen, particularly if it is embarrassing to powerful interests. And speaking of powerful interests, groups like the ADL with partisan agendas will undoubtedly be able to dictate norms of behavior to the service providers, leading to still more loss of content and relevancy for those who are looking for information.

All things considered, the year 2018 will be a rough one for those who are struggling to maintain the internet as a source of relatively free information. Governments and interest groups have seen the threat posed by such liberty and are reacting to it. They will do their best to bring it under control.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Who Are the Leading State Sponsors of Terrorism?

undefined

As 2017 draws to a close, it is difficult to be optimistic about what will be coming in the new year. The American President, whose margin of victory was certainly based on his pledge to avoid unnecessary wars, has doubled down on Afghanistan, refuses to leave Syria even though ISIS has been defeated, and is playing serious brinksmanship with a psychopathic and unpredictable regime in Pyongyang. The White House has also bought into the prevailing largely fabricated narrative about a Russia and has decided to arm Ukraine with offensive weapons, which has already resulted in a sharp response from Moscow and will make détente of any kind between the two leading powers all but impossible in the upcoming year.

But, as I have observed before, the red hazard light that continues to be blinking most brightly relates to Washington’s relationship with Iran, which has unnecessarily deteriorated dramatically over the past year and which brings with it collateral problems with Russia and Turkey that could trigger a much wider conflict. I say unnecessarily because all the steps taken to poison the relationship have come out of Washington, not Tehran. The Trump administration refused to certify that the Iranians had been in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated in 2015 and has since escalated its verbal attacks, mostly at the United Nations, claiming that the regime in Tehran is the major source of terrorism in the world and that it is seeking hegemony over a broad arc of countries running westward from its borders to the Mediterranean Sea.

The only problem with the allegations being made is that none of them is true and, furthermore, Iran, with limited military resources, poses no serious threat to gain control over its neighbors, nor to attack the United States or Europe. The invective about Iran largely derives from Israel and Saudi Arabia, which themselves have hegemonic ambitions relating to their region. Israel’s friends in the US Congress, media and White House have not surprisingly picked up on the refrain and are pushing for military action. Israel has even threatened to bomb any Iranian permanent presence inside neighboring Syria.

A recent detailed analysis by former US intelligence officers has demonstrated just how the claim that Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism is almost completely fabricated. The analysis explains how these false narratives are contrived and how they become part of the Washington background noise. The White House’s recent National Security Strategy Report for 2018 stated that “Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has taken advantage of instability to expand its influence through partners and proxies, weapon proliferation, and funding.” But another US government report, the annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 cites no actual terrorist incidents initiated by Iran in that year. In fact, the most recent terrorist incident attributed to Tehran was in 2012, and that was retaliatory against Israel, which was at the time assassinating its scientists and technicians and attacking its computer systems.

America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s has recently claimed that it is hard to find a “terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” But in reality, the overwhelming majority of terrorist groups in the region, to include ISIS, Al-Qaeda and al-Nusra, are Sunni Muslims, who believe Iran’s Shi’ism is heretical, and are both tied to and funded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) is indeed an ethnic Iranian terrorist group, but it has been funded and supported by Washington and Tel Aviv to carry out attacks inside Iran.

The reality is that terrorism, defined by the United Nations as “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public,” is most employed at the state level by the United States and its allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, not by Iran. All have used violence directed against civilians in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, and all three have supported organizations that fit the definition of terrorists. Iran may indeed be guilty of actions that much of the world disapproves of, but it is not the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism as has been alleged.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.